[I've been corresponding with SnarKassandra at the blog firedoglake since she was 14 or 15. Her winning struggle against some fierce odds have inspired thousands of adults around the world as we've read her experiences of growing up, and becoming very politically aware, too. This is reprinted with approval of one of Cassie's adult friends where she lives]
Dear Levi & Mercede,
I was sorry to hear about your mom’s arrest and plea for drug use and selling drugs. I was even more sorry that it’s in the newspapers and on the blogs, and that people are making fun of her.
I am around your age (nearly 18) and my mom has been in jail for almost eight years on drug charges, so I know some of what you are going through.
I am also completely a busybody and am going to use this blog post to give both of you some advice.
1. Go to Alateen. Or ACOA. Or someplace that’s NOT your church where you can learn about addicts and addiction how none of this is your fault and that you can’t cure your mom. Also, Mercede, if there’s a support group in your town or in your HS for kids who have a parent in prison, GO!
2. Mercede, I don’t know who you are living with these days, but my brother became my guardian when he was 18, and he was way too young. And that’s without being a father himself or having reporters and photographers following him around. I hope that you stay with a family, a whole, real family, at least until you finish HS.
3. You will find out really soon who your real friends are and who thinks a lot less of you because your mom is in jail. Sometimes even good friends can be insensitive, but at least they still like you for who YOU are. Some kids are incredibly creepy and think it’s cool to know someone who knows someone in jail. Stay away from them. Same thing with overly curious adults.
4. People will ask you what they can do to help. It’s a dumb question, but if they ask twice, tell them to do something to improve life for prisoners and provide treatment for addicts. You may even want to join organizations that encourage treatment instead of prison for addicts.
Stand up for your mom. Make sure that the lawyers and guardians and corrections people all know that someone is watching and that someone cares. I don’t visit anymore, but I do have an adult in my life who communicates with my mom and with the prison.
5. Because your mom is an addict like my mom, and because we watched our moms use drugs instead of facing problems head-on, all three of us can become an addict more easily than most people. So learn what the signs are, and be careful, and watch out for each other.
We all need to work on making this country less inclined to incarcerate addicts and more inclined to help them find treatment. And that starts with making sure that drug use is not a crime. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it’s not working for drugs.
I hope you do go to Alateen and counseling and get all the help you need to not have to ride your mother’s roller coaster addiction. You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it, but you can learn healthy ways to get through the next few years.
image - Levi & Mercede in a Jeep