Anything for the next high

At first blush, 38-year-old Tim F. looks like he must have had an All-American childhood growing up in a small town in Delaware. But looks, in this case, are deceptive. He grew up in a working class neighborhood where, he says, getting drunk in high school was the norm. Unlike his peers, he was one of the few to attend college after graduating high school. He is now a successful editor in the publishing industry.

In many ways, he succeeded despite great personal obstacles. His father abandoned the family and his mother’s attention shifted permanently to his younger brother who became addicted to heroin and crack as a teenager. Four years younger than him, his brother was often dumped on the front lawn of their house when he overdosed on heroin—at one point, three days in a row.

When his brother was 18, he was sentenced to prison for the crimes he committed to feed his drug addiction. He spent the next 10 years in and out of prison, but “more in than out,” says Tim.

The story of Tim’s family is similar to that of an untold number of families in the United States. A study published in April 2007 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that in 2004, 17 percent of state prisoners and 18 percent of federal inmates said they committed their crimes to buy drugs to temporarily satiate their addictions. These numbers represent a slight increase for federal prisoners (from 16 percent in 1997) and a slight decrease for state prisoners (from 19 percent).

In this raw three-part audio interview, Tim describes how his brother’s addiction and incarceration altered his relationship with his mother; he shares how he realized that prison was the best and only option for his brother; and he contemplates whether he would trust his brother today now that he is out of prison and clean.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What role has drug addiction played in the incarceration of your family member? What advice do you have for others based on your family’s experience?

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About Sandeep Junnarkar

Sandeep Junnarkar is the founder and editorial director of Family Lives Behind Bars.