Mike was eventually paroled to the YMCA in Aurora Illinois where he continued to attend junior college. Because of the temptations and pressure of friends in his old neighborhood, he agreed not to be paroled to Chicago. The realization that Chicago wasn’t a good option came after Mike visited his family on furlough. He’d smoked pot and excitedly told me on his return, “My fence was so glad to see me!”. The parole to Aurora didn’t last. He called frequently complaining that he hadn’t heard from his parole office who he expected to link him to the community and find a permanent place to live. I sensed that he was lonely.

His downfall came when he decided to visit his grandmother who lived upstairs from his mother and sister in Chicago. He never went back to Aurora. After a while, his mother called me concerned. She thought he was living in the basement, crawling in through the window late at night. She was also concerned that he might steal their TV and sell it for drugs. It was likely Mike was back on heroin and she pleaded with me to do something. I wasn’t able to contact his parole officer and after discussing it with my supervisor, I went to see Mike at his mother’s home. He arrived shortly after I did and was very agitated. His mother and sister left the house so we could talk but all the talking was going no where. Mike was complacent and non-committal. Some friends arrived and waited in the kitchen for him. Shortly afterward, his mother called me to see how things were progressing. While I was on the phone, Mike went into the bathroom and his friends were no longer in the kitchen. I knew something was up and quickly got off the phone.

Pounding on the bathroom door, I asked Mike what he was doing. “Taking a shit!” he yelled. “Well I’m coming in” I told him. I pushed the door open only to be stopped by a foot. I found out later that all the young men were in the bathroom divvying up the heroin they’d scored after burglarizing several homes earlier in the evening. When I’d pushed the door open, I’d knocked some of the heroin out of a spoon they were using. Mike told me his friends freaked, “She’s so straight. I’m getting out of here.”

We all do foolish things when we’re young and invincible. Mike was taking heroin; I was doing what I thought was right but what could have ended up violently. Fortunately, the young men all left and Mike sat down with me to talk. I was trying to give him insight into what he was doing to himself and to make a decision to go into drug rehab. He wasn’t responding or engaging at all. I was ready to leave but impulsively decided to tell him a story about my cousin, Kris, who is paralyzed below the waist. Her brother was very proud of how she had managed the accident-caused paralysis a year earlier but frustrated by his friends that led reckless, useless lives. He told Kris ‘they are more paralyzed than you are; they are paralyzed in the mind’. I looked at Mike and told him he was paralyzed in the mind. That was what he needed to hear. He decided to go into rehab.

In reflection, the decision was relatively easy to make because Mike wasn’t craving the drug at the time; he’d recently shot up. The next day, he went into the rehab center. I don’t know how long he lasted but it wasn’t the end of his struggle with drugs and burglarizing to support his habit.