Tracing a mother’s fall into drugs

This New York Times article simply reminds me to keep in check how easy it is to judge someone else’s situation with one quick glance. Here, a mother rapidly gets swept up with selling heroin from her Staten Island home, and four months later she’s in jail at Rikers Island awaiting sentencing. This is not to condone that selling drugs is OK if your life has hit hard times. It’s more to take into consideration the specific reasons for why one has gotten there, and to acknowledge that jails or prisons need to treat those reasons, too, not just control the punishments.

The situation reminds me that though we can’t control what happens when we are growing up and into early adulthood, we are forever shaped by family interactions, the good and the bad—the things we see, the things we do, and the things done to us. They do not leave us, not willfully.

From the piece:

Ms. Sperring’s fall from life as a suburban mom and a wife played out with dizzying speed. By the end, her modest condominium was a locus for a borough’s ravenous heroin demand. Dealers set up there; Staten Island’s bands of addicts, linked by word of mouth and cellphone connections, descended en masse; the police followed.

And later:

The deaths left Ms. Sperring reeling. “Everyone went back to their normal lives,” she said, “and I was like, ‘How could you do that? My aunt’s not here anymore.’ ”

“I went crazy,” she added. “I was drinking, getting high.”  She sold her jewelry for money to buy cocaine. When that was gone, she turned to her daughter’s. “She stole my tennis bracelet,” Ms. Potter said. It was engraved, a gift from her mother.


Life in jail has frayed her nerves. But without the heroin, she said she feels healthy again, staying busy with drug treatment programs, classes, a job in the jail and church services.

What seems to frighten her most is the prospect of getting out. She has no idea where she will stay. She hopes her ex-husband helps her so she can rent a room somewhere. Asked if she would contact Mr. Patterson, she paused for several beats.


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