An Errant Son Returns
I woke up at five o'clock that morning. It made little difference. I barely slept a wink the previous night.
I had been thinking of going back home for the past few months. I knew that I should do it and the sooner I did it, the better it would be, but each time a small voice whispered in my head: "Do you think that you should? How would they welcome you after all this time, after almost three years?"
Three years earlier, I had walked out of the family home. I had been rebellious even before that but only in small ways, for example, staying up late or smoking cigarettes. I had been a kid then, aged about fifteen. At eighteen, I got into more serious stuff. I started dabbling in drugs, buying them from a local dealer at about £5.00 a packet. It was cannabis at first, then it became cocaine and some other nasty stuff.
Cocaine exhilarated and depressed me at the same time. There were times when I felt as high as a kite and was unnaturally cheerful and there were also times, when I was down in the dumps, unable and unwilling to communicate with anyone. I was just one big mess.
The last straw for my parents' came when I came home clearly heavy on cocaine. I became violent. I beat up my father and smashed the furniture. The police were called and I spent four weeks in jail. I swore that I would turn over a new leaf, but drugs were smuggled in by my cellmate's friends, who somehow managed to get past the jailors with the stuff and I found it hard to resist it and smoked more and more.
My cellmate was just as bad as I was and we often fought, heavy under the influence of cocaine. Eventually we were given separate cells and spent our time in solitary confinement. Perhaps the solitary confinement was good for me, as I received no visitors. Those who provided my former cellmate with drugs no longer saw me and my parents had long since rejected me.
But, my goodness, was I depressed. I would often sit in my cell with my head in my hands, just shivering from withdrawal symptoms, even though it was summer and quite hot. I was too depressed to do anything, not even jog around the prison during lunchhour. Jogging was a sport I loved when I was free, now I was too miserable to be bothered to do it. I could not bear to face another day.
I had to clean up my act, there was no doubt about it.
The date of release had arrived. No-one was there to take me home.
I decided there and then to make a fresh start. There were days when I craved more cocaine, but I pulled myself together. Tempting though it might be, it was no good to slip into the old ways, so I decided to get a job and somewhere to live, even if it meant that I would live alone and thus be responsible for my own life. Responsibility was the road to my recovery.
At first, it was hard to find a job. Employers saw my pinched, slightly glazed look and knew that I was an addict, or at least, a recent former addict and they expected me to relapse into my old ways. More than once, was I shown the door. Eventually, I found work as an assistant at a butcher's. I hated the work. I hated the sight of blood and those helpless animal carcasses chopped up into pieces, but that was the only work that I could get for the time being.
I hired a small flat above the butchery. It was a one-bedroom flat with scarcely any furniture, but it would do. I lived alone and did not need much. I had no social life. Firstly, I could not afford it and secondly, I did not want to be led again into the path of drugs or other temptations that could destroy my resolve to rebuild my life. I was quite happy spending my evenings and weekends indoors.
I lived like that for almost three years. By now I was twenty-one. I was not lonely, but I was homesick. I decided to patch up my relationship with my parents before it was too late. Perhaps they would welcome me with open arms, perhaps not. It was worth a try, though.
I phoned them from my mobile phone. It was my father who answered. When I talked about my plans to come home, there was a long pause at his end, as if he remembered my deviant behaviour and did not trust me, but eventually he agreed to give me another chance. My parents still lived at the same address, about an hour away from my flat.
The journey was fraught with a mixture of elation and tension. Even if he did give me another chance, having spent time in jail and having left home under a cloud, how would I be able to expect him to forgive me and be able to persuade him that I had really changed?
So on that morning that I got up so early after a sleepless night, I made my way back home. My mother answered the door. She looked somewhat thinner than I remembered, her hair a little greyer.
"Mum," I ran towards her and embraced her. She held me and I felt her tears against my face. "I am so sorry for all the trouble I caused you."
"Son," she said. "Your father is waiting for you."
I hugged my father and apologized for my errant behaviour. Then we headed towards the kitchen for breakfast.