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Hope and despair for those who wait

Jails and PrisonsDiseases and Illnesses

I call them "ladies in waiting," the mothers and grandmothers, sisters,wives and fiancees who, with hope and prayer and superhuman patience, keep thefaith that one day their men will straighten up, emerge from the drug life orprison and come safe home. I hear from them frequently.

Saturday morning it was the mother of a suspected drug dealer in Baltimore,worried about her son's upcoming court appearance. A few minutes later, it wasthe sister of a dealer. We had been tracking her brother's rehabilitation, andhe'd been doing well, training to be a cook. But he was back in jail again,his sister said, picked up on a trespassing charge and held on an outstandingwarrant in Baltimore County.

Another woman called to tell how her 21-year-old grandson, who had lost hisbest friend to gunfire, moved away from East Baltimore to a suburbanneighborhood where he had little to do but think about his future and take alow-paying job in a big-box store. And that, she said triumphantly,constituted a huge step in her grandson's life.

Dozens of men caught up in the drug life, or one step out of it, havecalled here for help in finding a job. But almost as frequently, the ladies inwaiting call, or write letters, to share a story about the drug life, expressa frustration, or reflect on the hard, immediate past. Here's a sample, withfull names withheld where requested.

From Melissa Beckette in Harford County: "My fiance was an addict of 10years. He was murdered January 7 trying to purchase heroin in O'DonnellHeights. He tried to wean himself off of it but couldn't deal with thesickness and was murdered trying to get a drug to make himself feel better. Iwould take him around to many places to find employment but no one would hirehim because of his criminal record. That would make him feel bad and he wouldstart using again. ... I tried for many years to help my fiance with hissickness but he wasn't strong enough to beat his addiction. I miss him everyday that passes by. But when I ride through the city and see all the addictsthat are living a slow hell I feel at ease for him that he is in heaven nowand he is not suffering from that terrible disease anymore."

Mary Olwine, from Masontown, Pa., wrote for help in locating a man namedBruce, whom she had once considered marrying: "Bruce - we call him Joker - ispart of the drug life. He left Pennsylvania right out of rehab and went backto the Baltimore City streets because it's easier to get the drugs there. Heis wanted by the Pennsylvania police for violation of parole. I want to helphim but I am lost. I don't know what to do. He was in jail here for eightmonths, then one month in rehab, and he was out one month and back doingcrack. Now he's in Baltimore and people tell me he is really horrible looking,that he weighs about 100 pounds, and standing on corners selling himself formoney. Help me. I don't want to see him die on the street."

A federal employee named Linda wrote: "I have a son who is currently injail due to that `revolving door' of drugs/prison. He went to Mount St. Joe's,where he was the star of the soccer team. His grades were good as well. Then,we moved to Woodlawn and he hooked up with the drug crowd. After we cut himoff financially, he turned to crime, robbing etc. He is 34 years old andshould have his own life by now. But drugs - he snorted heroin - has kept himfrom this life. You would be surprised how many middle-upper class people areaffected by this nightmare. It's not only the poor and weak."

A woman named Mary, in Harford County, had been trying to locate herheroin-addicted son, Brian, for months. In August, he finally phoned home fromBaltimore and said he wanted help but didn't know how to get it. The Sun puthim in touch with Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, which oversees drugtreatment in Baltimore. Last week, his mother wrote: "Brian is now in the drugtreatment program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. All we had to dowas find him at a time that he was ready to consider treatment. He will be inBayview for 10 days, and then to a recovery house. Now it is up to him."

A woman named Donna wrote: "The only way I can describe my life for thelast 12 years is a horrible roller coaster ride. My son is one of the manyonce-promising, hopeful young people to be raised in the city. Then theunthinkable happened - he got involved with drugs. I saw the son I raised withgood family values, morals, and faith slowly being taken from our family bydrugs. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was put him out, hoping that itwould wake him up to the path he was on. He has struggled since then. Likemany other families of addicts or alcoholics, hope and faith is what we liveby."

dan.rodricks@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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