I’m a crack baby, and my story reveals a frightening future for young families

I’m a crack baby, and my story reveals a frightening future for young families

VicesJuly 21, 2017

Although she’d never have the guts to admit it, I know my mother got high while she was pregnant. Not only with me, but with my little sister, too. Crack or heroin, uppers or downers — she’d smoke, snort and swallow any drug she can get her hands on. However, it was her Xanax and opioid cocktails that inevitably stripped me of my childhood, dismantled my family, and turned my mom’s mind into applesauce.

Recognizing my generation’s infatuation with Vicodin and OxyContin — responsible for forging the most deadly and pervasive drug epidemic in American history — I fear a future in which our families are steadily torn apart by the catastrophic fallout of parents hooked on painkillers. I fear a new era of children raised in opioid-riddled households, maturing to become fucked-up adults like myself.

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My grandmother was an original Playboy bunny. All throughout the '60s, she wore skin-tight satin onesies and bunny ears as she entertained rich men and celebrities at the Playboy Clubs in Miami and New York. She drank vodka as if it were water, played around with all sorts of dope, and maintained a consistent social circle of wealthy drug dealers. She raised my mom in this environment, one of sex and partying and endless intoxication.

In her late teens, momma was working as a dancer at a strip club in Ft. Lauderdale. There, she met my father, who got her out of the sex industry and knocked her up. I was their miraculous little accident.

Mom was almost always doped up. Here and there, she’d get sober for a spell and show me what it’d be like to have some semblance of a mother. But she’d invariably relapse, and when my dad got fed up with it, he kicked her out of the house. One of my earliest and most distinct memories was watching my mother try to break into my bedroom window to steal me.

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Sometimes, the state takes care of separating addicted mothers from their children. If their babies are born drug-addicted, doctors need to wean them off slowly or risk inducing life-threatening withdrawals. After the treatment, the babies can be placed in foster care, rather than being returned to their mothers. But since every single case is unique, there’s no overarching law to enforce which choice is made. For reasons I’ll never know, I was returned to my mother. I ended up in foster care eventually, anyway.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the number of babies born with drug addictions nearly quadrupled since 2004. Today, in the midst of our prescription painkiller scourge, a baby is born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes. They can kick the addiction and still be threatened by their parent’s habits, however. The rate of toddlers hospitalized by mistakenly taking their parents’ opioids more than doubled between 1997 and 2012, says a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and hundreds of kids have died.

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I survived, because my mother was never around to endanger me. But not long ago, an aunt or uncle gave her my cell phone number, and she tried calling me for the very first time. I answered, and instantly knew she was all doped up, so I didn’t want to talk to her.

But she keeps calling — while I’m in school, while I’m at work, while I’m sleeping, every day and at all hours of the night. Sometimes, I’ll answer and scream and curse the most hateful things I can think to say, just so that she’ll leave me alone. I’ll block her number, and she’ll call from a new one. She’ll call my best friend and ask to speak to me.

In one weak moment, I agreed to spend Christmas with her. She seemed sober that day, and our time together was civil ... until a blonde-haired woman with a battered head runs in through the front door, leaving a trail of blood behind her. It’s my mom’s best friend, Missy, and she’s shrieking that my mother’s boyfriend raped her, hit her, and nearly killed her. See, mom’s boyfriend had robbed a Bank of America, and Missy had turned him in to the FBI for the $1,000 in reward money, so he was understandably upset. But I didn’t stick around to empathize. I left, and that was the last time I ever saw my mother.

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These are my horrendous memories, but I suspect they’re foretellings of the future, as well. In several years’ time, as a direct outcome of our opioid dependency, many of my generation’s children will be born at a severe disadvantage from which they may never recover. They’ll be deprived of family dinners, trips to the park, tickle wars, Little League games and birthday parties. They’ll forever feel the chasmal absence of love that their parent couldn’t provide.

I know, because it happened it me.