One of the best things about being an author is getting the opportunity to meet other authors and interacting with them. Steven Luna is someone I hold the utmost respect for. He’s the author of JOE VAMPIRE and someone who stands out from the crowd. It’s not just his outstanding personality that caught my attention or his ability with words (although his words ROCK), he has the most generous soul. Steven and I were in deep discussion one day about Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales and he mentioned he has a *Nicole* in his life. I asked him to tell his story and here it is. Grab a tissue, friends.
My Nicole is actually a Nicholas. My nephew. His substance issues came to light in early spring about two years back, when his mother (my sister) was clued in by his girlfriend’s mother. It became very Sixth Sense for the whole family; everyone wandered back through their memories wondering if they had seen – and missed – all the signs.
They had, of course.
So had I.
I’d spoken to him in the weeks prior to The Discovery. Celebrating his 18th birthday, he had gotten a tattoo, and he called to tell me how happy he was with the results…and there was something terribly not right about his speaking. Slurred, though not entirely incoherent. Slow, like he was speaking through a mouthful of toothpaste foam. Sleepy, as if he’d taken allergy medication, only…too much. After the call I discussed this with my wife, who had answered the phone and heard the same thing. “Sounds like he’s on something,” she said.
“Probably pain meds for the tattoo,” I replied. But who takes pain meds for a tattoo?
“We should tell his mom,” she insisted.
“She lives with him; I’m sure she’s there and everything’s fine,” I demurred.
It was light years away from fine.
We just had no idea at the time how far away it actually was.
Two months later, another call came, this time from my sister. “Nicholas is going to detox,” she told me. “He’s been using drugs.” One word; a million meanings.
“What kind of drugs are we talking about?” I asked.
“The worst kind of drugs you can think of,” she told me.
Funny, the way she said that. I’m as virginal as it comes where illicit substances are concerned. And so is she. So, to me, pretty much everything in the pantheon implied by the word drugs can be qualified as the worst kind.
But I figured it out.
Having been a psychology major helped a little. Entire courses devoted to dealing with the substance-dependent give you a cursory acquaintance with drug use and its effects. None of it really prepares you for finding out one of your own is shoulder-deep in heroin abuse, though. At least it gave me bearings for what came next. Nicholas went to the hospital.
And there, he detoxed.
And four days later, he came home.
We knew it was too early, but the choice had been made. The whole family went into Mother Duck mode. If before The Discovery I had spoken to him every few months, now I was reaching out weekly, if not daily. And he was responding, eager to convince us all that he was on the right path now. He took online courses and graduated high school – huge hurdle: overcome. By late summer, he and I were pretty tight. We’re similar in many ways: we’re both creative, and musical. We’re both smart-asses. It was an easy fit. I helped him get into a community college, set him up with a schedule and checked him through the first semester to make sure everything was rolling along. He said it was. I had to trust him. Otherwise, I was telling him his efforts weren’t sincere.
By October, he was in full-blown rehab – where he should have been from the first.
By the next spring, he was home.
And the cycle began again.
Relapse, rehab; repeat. Relapse, rehab.
Stories surfaced of horrible things that he’d gone through, and put himself through, the finer details of which I have never been privy to. Maybe I didn’t want to know – or ask, even. At the time, I was focused on his recovery, not his mistakes.
That was my mistake. Maybe.
I didn’t know another way to do it.
Not having heard first-hand the Real Deal about his experiences, I was still clueless. So when I learned about MEMOIRS through Twitter, it didn’t just speak to me; it sang. Like heavy metal opera, minus the leather. Gender differences aside, I was able to see through the eyes of Nicole much of what I’m sure Nicholas had gone through, though I hope to my core that his darkest days weren’t half as harrowing as what I read about. But the downward spiral detailed in the book was illuminating. And now I know.
And so, I can never be ignorant again.
Nicholas is currently in Florida, in continued rehab. Looking healthy, sounding clean. A thousand miles from home, reinventing his life with others who know exactly what his struggle is. Something I could never know. Most likely, something I could never really help him with, psych degree or no psych degree. But that’s okay. He has to walk this path and fix his own soul. I believe he’ll do it this time. I have faith in him.
It’s the only offering I can make that I know he’ll accept from me.
May his spiral – and that of everyone else in the same situation – continue in upward fashion.
Steven Luna was relatively quiet when he was born, but that all changed once he learned to speak. Now? Good luck getting him to shut up. He’s a lover of words, some of his favorites being “askew”, “rhinoceros”, and “plexiglas”. He’s written for children before, and now he’s writing for adults. Someday he may write for the womb-bound or the elderly, but he’ll need a little more convincing before he pulls the ripcord on that parachute. For now, he’s hard at work on his next big novel…but it probably won’t feature the word “plexiglas”. “Askew” and “rhinoceros”, however, are still on the table.