The pictures go through my mind and smack me with reality. For 14 years, Cliff has taken me on the ride of my life. I've gone along unwillingly, unknowingly, kicking and screaming for a good portion of the ride. I must have had my hand stamped that allowed me to ride this ride as many times as I wanted. Just when my stomach would gather itself back together and my head would quit spinning, the regurgitation would start all over again.

Cliff became more bold or more addicted; enough to begin to leave trails and residue behind that took my breath away each time I found something questionable. I questioned myself repeatedly about what I was seeing if it was something other than needles. After all, I was a "Pollyanna" and in my naivete lifestyle I just wasn't sure at times what it was or how it might be used. I didn't have anyone to ask because I didn't know anyone who'd been a user, lived with a user or loved a user.

The years go by....he drifts in and out of my life and my thoughts. He's lived with me and he's lived in rescue missions. I teasingly told him, during one of his better clean times, that he could write a book about the shelters in the Detroit area. We laughed as we discussed how he could give the "highs and lows" of each residence, scoring them according to the best mattresses and food. We called it "A Visitor's Guide to Detroit's Shelter's and Missions." Funny, but in a sick sort of way. You look for reasons to share laughter and have moments of closeness no matter how sick it may seem. We don't have memories to discuss of wonderful years in high school and his winning touchdown. We have only a few moments of trips taken that were untainted by our ghostly family member, the needle.

Years later, the visions of him lying in a heap by the house....totally out of it. A junkie at my door in a suburban neighborhood. Worrying about the appearance to the world and scared to death about the life of my son. Another year near my birthday, seeing him lying in a hospital bed following an overdose. Feeling so surreal, listening to the beeps of the monitors while Cliff is hooked up to needles of another sort to sustain his life. Still scared to death about the life of my son. Years of walking around with my heart in my throat...waiting, waiting and expecting the phone call to say that Cliff was gone.

No matter how old he is, no matter how many people tell me "he's an adult now", the ties that bind are thicker than any other relationship I've ever had. He is my flesh and blood. I'll never give up thinking he'll make it. I'll never stop praying for a spiritual intervention that takes hold forever. I'll never forget the images that are planted in my memory that won't let go of nearly every phone number I've ever had.

The mind...it's a terrible thing to waste.