Can I Survive a Family Crisis Without Cocaine?
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Can I Survive a Family Crisis Without Cocaine?


Recovering from an addiction is really fucking hard.

If that doesn’t state the obvious, I don’t know what does. I’ve been clean off cocaine for about four months now and I still struggle every single day. Sure, the craving is not as bad as it was the first day or the first week or the first month, but it’s still there. Maybe I don’t think about it every minute like I used to, sometimes I’ll even go a good 10 or 11 hours without obsessing, but at the end of the day when I’m lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, it’s there.

It comes in waves. I’ll go a while feeling just fine and then it’ll snap back into me like a rubber band, taunting me with memories of feeling invincible and instantly happy. As of right now, the rubber band just snapped back.

That’s what happens when your 25-year-old sister is hospitalized again for brain cancer.

My sister was the picture of health up until a year ago. She was never sick, never had allergies, had never broken or sprained anything. The only time she was ever in the hospital was to visit me for one of my endless series of injuries and ailments. And then she got a migraine that didn’t go away for a week.

I walked around Silver Lake Reservoir with my sister and our half-sister as we waited to hear the results of the MRI. My sister’s cell phone rang and I remembered thinking, “It’s gonna be nothing, they’re gonna tell her they didn’t see anything wrong with her perfect brain and she probably just got the migraine because she studies for too long,” and we were gonna laugh about her being such a brilliant little nerd. And then something happened that I thought only happened in books. My sister’s face literally drained of all color.

By the end of the phone conversation, my sister was having trouble speaking because she was clearly trying not to cry on the phone. I was so scared I was on the verge of tears myself because my sister never cries.

When she told us that they found a tumor in the middle of her brain and she needed to go directly to the hospital to prepare for surgery, we all sat down in the grass and cried. It was the worst day of my life. The weeks that followed weren’t much better. The only thing that helped me stay awake for days on end when my sister was in the hospitaland helped me not to break down and cry every other minutewas cocaine.

Well, now I’m sober and my sister was just hospitalized again and I have no idea how to help her get through it without my little powdery friend.

I was her rock before. I stayed up with her for hours when she couldn’t sleep because of the pain, I made her laugh with my stupid jokes and goofy dance moves, I kept my cheery and happy disposition so she wouldn’t have to deal with me crying like most of the rest of my family. But I was only able to do all of that because of the coke. And now she’s in the hospital again for another surgery and she’s going to need me to be her rock again and I’m not sure if I can without coke.

It’s not that I just want coke so I can be that rock for my sister. I want coke because I’m so sad and angry and I know it will take those feelings away, even it’s just for a little while. Coke to me is kind of like water is to instant coffeejust add a little and you get a hot cup of coffee. Just add a little coke to Tiernan and you get a happy, confident human being.

As I’m writing this, I also feel like the biggest piece of shit in the world. My sister’s in the hospital for brain cancer and I’m complaining because I can’t have cocaine anymore. And now I want it even more because I feel guilty. It’s like, no matter what, my mind always goes back to needing coke.

But my sister needs me more than I need coke right now. And if recovery has helped me with one thing, it’s to comprehend that I’m better without coke than I am with it. It makes things easier sometimes, sure, but it also changes me. My sister doesn’t need some coked-out Energizer bunny, she just needs someone to be there with her and support her. I’m going to have to remind myself of that every single day, because I do honestly believe it. But it’s also much easier to convince myself that Tiernan-on-coke will help her get through it better than Tiernan-off-coke could.

It’s funny. When you’re an addict, you can easily convince yourself that doing drugs is the best option to take even when it’s not, and it takes focused, determined thinking to remind yourself that it obviously isn’t. Shouldn’t the obvious path be more obvious? I’m hoping the path gets more obvious not only for my sakebut, more importantly, for my sister’s sake.

Photo courtesy of Beverly & Pack [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Tiernan Hebron graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Psychology and minor in Anthropology. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes for Elite Daily, Feministing and Skirt Collective.