In August of 2013 my little sister wrote me a letter. She was sober, she was clear-headed and she was looking past her current circumstances when she wrote it. In part, she says…."My life is surrounded by fences and barbered wire. I know you don't really understand addiction and I'm so glad that you don't. It's a sickness that kills, steals and destroys just like the Devil. I hate what I have let myself become. … What started as a party here or there became my existence. All for what, a good feeling and now a department of corrections number? I'm so tired of this life. I wasn't actually living, I was just existing. It's a never ending vicious circle. I'm breaking it. Every day I'm getting a little better. I've had to grow up. I was still living like I was a teenager instead of realizing that I'm a mom. I haven't been happy in a long time. This time I have been doing has given me time to work on myself. I was in major denial. … I don't want to come back here or worse DIE. That's all that can come of the life I was living. … As hard as life is here inside these walls it's 30x harder out there free. I'm so scared to come home. … I want to stay sober. I need it. I finally love myself again. … I don't have one friend in my life that doesn't use, whether drugs or alcohol. … I have to change everything when I get out. … You can't even fathom the stuff I was doing. … I completely lost myself." She goes on by telling me how proud she is of Taylor, my daughter, and how handsome my son, Ryder, is. She talks about funny memories and what she misses most. She ends her letter by saying …."The only happy memories in my life are because of you. I love you the most. I respect you more than you'll ever know. … Just pray for me and don't give up on me. I can't wait to make up for lost time with you. … I miss you and love you Sissy. I'm ready to be your sister again! … Love you always - Kadi."
Sadly, her addiction was too strong for her to overcome and on May 2, 2017, just one day shy of her 27th birthday, I lost my baby sister forever. Now, after she has left this life for an eternity of sobriety, safety and unconditional love, this letter is one of the few things I have left of her. I feel cheated. I feel like she was stolen from us. I am so sad in knowing that her daughter, Kadence, will never truly know how wonderful her mother was and that she'll never know her as I did. It is not fair. She was right though, I do not understand addiction; I don't get it at all. I don't understand how any drug is worth doing when it can take over you and make you say and do things you never would in a different state; how they are worth doing when you know they can cloud your judgment and confuse your priorities. And I will never understand, when prison or death is the ultimate outcome, why any drug is worth it and why you can't walk away from it.
Just 11 months after losing my sister, my mother died. The cause being a lifetime of addiction, bad habits and not living healthy. Yet another person in my family we've lost to a lifetime of addiction. Again I ask, how is it worth it? How is any moment of being high or drunk worth it? - Though my mother and I had an estranged relationship, at best, for years, there are happy memories from long ago that remind me of a mom I felt so much love for who was so beautiful and smart. But her addiction caused unrepairable damage to our relationship and the lives of my siblings and I. It clouded so many of the good memories from my early childhood. I blame her for so much that happened - my being molested for years, foster homes, having to live with relatives and being separated from my brother and sister, my being forced to grow up so fast and raise my baby brother and sister for several years, my brother and sister's addictions and life choices, and mostly Kadi's death. Addiction made my mother a monster. And now that she's gone, that can never be made up for. I wonder if I will ever find the peace I need to forgive her.
My heart hurts daily for my baby brother, Burks, who lost his twin sister and our mom within just a year of each other and now sits behind the very same fences and wires my sister did because of his choices. Our sister was his best friend. They had a bond that I did not share in. She was his other half. He will have to find his way in this life without her by his side. All this after us having lost our dads at young ages to alcoholism, both of them only 47 years old when they died (my step-dad in 2001 and my dad in 2004). My brother has a heart so tender and good. When I look at him, I see the 8 year old boy that I was given custody of when I was just 18 years old. I see someone lost and hurt with no sense of direction because he's watched chaos unfold throughout his life. Though I tried, during the years he and my sister lived with me, to help change that course and break the cycle, I was unsuccessful and that consumes me with guilt more days than I can count. What could I have done differently or better to keep this from happening to both of them?
I share this not to demean the memory of my sister in any way. She was a phenomenal person and I only wish she had known how amazing she was and how much potential she had. I share this to bring light to this sickness, this addiction that ultimately will end in no other way than tragedy if you let it continue. I pray that everything that has happened keeps my baby brother from ever going back down that road of addiction when he is released from prison. And I can only hope that my sister's life and her death have touched someone going through the same thing and helped them in some way. I hope that our tragedies and loss may help save someone else and prevent their family from the pain that we continue to feel daily since losing her. I wanted so badly to grow old with my sister and have many more fusses, laughs, battles, and raise our children together. I will miss her forever. The thought of never hearing her call me "Sissy"again just breaks my heart into pieces. Despite her struggles, Kadi was so full of life and promise. I told her all the time how I knew that she could be anything she set her mind to. Beautiful, intelligent, witty, audacious, strong willed... these attributes would have taken her far in life. I can only hope her daughter someday knows how wonderful her mom was and that her spirit was bright and her heart was so good. I know Kadence has so much of her mom in her and she will continue to shine the light that Kadi did so radiantly in this world. I love you so much baby sister and I will see you again. I know you're making Heaven a better place for the rest of us already. Tell our dads I love them. We miss you and think of you every day.