Inner City Diary
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A son's addiction and a mom's guilt
March 30, 2003
The other day I got a call from a desperate mom of a prodigal son. Two hours away from Winnipeg, this mom knew her son was in trouble somewhere on our streets.

"My son got involved with drugs. Now he tells me he owes four hundred dollars to some dealers. He told me they have his wallet and his car. He’s worried about losing his life. He’s not that bad a boy. I want to pay his debt and have him come home."

As we discussed the boy’s story, I didn't have a good feeling about the situation. But it’s tough sharing cynicism with a worried mom.

His family told him to come see me at the church. Once he got here, I phoned his mom again. Her boy, I’ll call him “Joe,” stood close and listened carefully as I tried to convince her not to pay his drug debt.

“You may not want to hear this,” I started, “but I hope you don’t give him the money. He’s probably just milking you for cash to buy his drugs. Covering his tracks and paying his debts is just enabling his addiction. I’m figuring this isn’t the first time you’ve done this.”

“No, it’s not the first time. But what if he’s telling the truth this time? I feel like I have to help him. They have his car, his wallet, and I don’t want him getting hurt. But I know you’re probably right and I shouldn’t give him the money.”

Joe must have sensed his mom’s weakness. He motioned for me to pass him the phone. I did, and almost instantly regretted the decision. His first words to his mom were, “What are you doing to me? Just get me the money.”

I couldn’t believe the nerve of the guy! For a fleeting moment, I was consumed with the very un-pastoral thought that maybe a good beating would be the best thing for Joe. Most kids make mistakes.  Lots of kids commit crimes. But you can’t get much lower than abusing the love of a parent.

I suggested to the mom that she report the car and wallet as stolen, and have her boy check himself into a detox unit before coming home. “Don’t give him any money. If he’s serious, he’ll do what you tell him. If not, it should be clear he’s trading your heart for his drugs.”

Mom, however, decided to pay. I told her that if she wired me the money, I would pay the guy’s dealers directly, making sure he had his wallet and car so he could get on his way. After that, I said, he’s on his own.

A half-hour later I was instructed to go the bank, give the teller my name and tell them my password was “scruffy.” At that point, they would give me the $400. I did as I was told.

After my trip to the bank, Joe took me to meet some dealers seated in a car behind Safeway. After they gave him his wallet, I gave them half the money he supposedly owed them.

An hour later, two other guys drove up behind the church with his car. They wanted the money before he got the car. I flashed the remaining $200 and said, “You guys get out of the car. When he gets in and drives off, you get the money.” I saw their skepticism and added, “Don’t worry, I’ll give you the money. Besides, you could jack me for it if I don’t.”

Joe got into the car and started it up. I then gave the two guys the other half of the money. As they started walking away with the cash, I tried to get them to consider the problems they were causing with their drug dealing. They dismissed my concern as easily as they dismissed their conscience. “Hey, his problem is not our problem. We’re just doing business.”

I looked down the street and saw Joe driving away. I hoped he would use the opportunity to make a clean break, drive back home and get his life together. But I was fully aware that he could just drive right around the block, score some more cocaine, and try to figure a new way for his mom to pay the next bill.

For every prodigal, there’s a parent waiting, crying, and hoping that their child will make it home alive.

I’m hoping Joe doesn’t blow his opportunity. He won’t get many more, especially if his mom keeps raising his credit limit with the dealers.
Copyright 2003
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929