They say everyone has a story.  Here is mine.

Do you remember the best thing you ever got for Christmas? For me, it was a fish aquarium.

I was 7 years old, sneaking down the stairs in the still dark house to take a peek at my gifts.

It lit up the room, the busy fish swimming around the brightly coloured plastic coral. It seemed like magic. Looking back, in reality, it was a small ten gallon inexpensive tank with goldfish.

My mom had just bought our first house after leaving my angry and abusive father. The house had a yard that seemed as big as a football field and brothers and I played there constantly. Although I was only seven, I was the oldest of three kids. My mom worked long hours so I had to feed, clean and babysit to fill in for her. I did not know we were poor because most of my friends were poor too. I have fond memories of when it was just my mom and brothers.

Life changed for me at thirteen. My mom remarried a man. He owned a successful business and we moved to a big house with a pool. Everything should have been fine – right?  As he became more comfortable around us, the verbal abuse began. We were collectively addressed as “you fucking stupid kids” and reminded daily that we were lucky to live there.

We hid in our rooms when we were home which was not often. I stayed over at friends’ houses most nights. My mom did not question me. I think she was just relieved to not have the conflict. As a result, my schooling suffered. I was busy hanging around the wrong crowd and learning how to do drugs. Lots of drugs. Nobody noticed – ever. I came home so high I didn’t even know where I was.

I’ll call my two best friends at the time Blue and Green.  It’s important that I respect their privacy.  I would never share their story without permission.  Blue and I got our own little basement apartment at seventeen. She already had a child who lived with us. I had no money but somehow could always find a way to party. Blue always had money but did not work. I was too uninvolved in life to question it. One day Blue asked me “Have you ever had sex for money”?

I scoffed, of course not. I finally decided to try it.  I had no other options.  That was the life we led from the time I was eighteen until I was twenty-three.  Three to four old guys a week. I guess you could call Blue my pimp. And then we got caught. Thank God. Blue’s daughter told her Grandma what was going on without realizing what she was telling. The child went to live with her Grandma. Blue did not even seem to care.

At twenty-three I decided to move to Toronto. I was heavy into the punk rock scene. I met a biker and we had a child.  I figured the responsibility that comes with having a child would save me. Oddly I had no problem quitting drugs, – none. I was going to be a much better mom then mine was. I was still blaming my mom for everything that was wrong in my life.

I went back to night school and finished grade twelve and went on to college. Everything should have been fine – right? In my early thirties I started a great job and was making great money. My life was good. My child was well taken care of and although it was now just the two of us, we wanted for nothing. It was at this job that I met “Green”. She was full of confidence and life. At forty she was living at home and never had any money. That should have been a warning sign.

We started to hang out together and I would do the occasional line of coke. Just for fun. That became more frequent and after six months we were high every day. For 3 years I was doing drugs again and nobody noticed. I did well at work. Trust me; you can get a lot done while you’re high on cocaine!

I told myself that I have a nice place and I look after my kid. I’m good to go. One day Green called in to work and quit. Just like that. She moved to Fort McMurray. I will never forget the card she sent me for my birthday. Written in it was “Your past does not have to your future”.

One month later, she was dead of a drug overdose. That night I said out loud “If I ever do another line I am going for help”.  I do not believe in God, but could feel my long passed away, beloved Grandfather standing in the room with me. That was 13 years ago and I have never touched the drug again. I am lucky in that I have no desire to even do so.

Last year Blue’s daughter hung herself in the closet. My phone rang early one morning. “Jill is gone” I asked “Gone where”? Nobody dies at seventeen – right?  We have talked many times about the terrible guilt. The guilt of not raising our kids the right way. My own child has also had issues with drugs.  It’s all my fault.

She’s doing OK now.  She lives in Toronto and has a steady job. We are close and I have told her of my regrets. I got that chance with my own mom too.

My mom passed away last Sept. While she was still coherent, I apologized for all the things I had done.  I told her she was a good mom to me. I know now, she did what she knew how to do. The day before she died, she told me her father had molested and beat her when she was growing up. So many things made sense after that.

My mom also talked about the guilt. I struggle every day for the part I played in Jill’s suicide.  I should have been a better role model.  I struggle with Green’s death. I should have been a better friend. I struggle with mistakes I have made and how they have affected others  – most of all my precious child.

Green was right though, my past is NOT my future.