It’s been about a year since your last visit and even longer since I’ve written you a letter. The last time I wrote you I was in jail. I know that I haven’t become all that you had hoped and dreamed for me, but I’ve still got a long time to accomplish things in my life. I’m practically still a kid.
I want you to know what I do to take responsibility for the way my life has become. I sometimes get the feeling that you blame yourself for the things that I’ve done. You raised me the best way that you knew and never turned your back on me no matter how low I sank, and I appreciate that.
Your support means a lot to me even though I take it for granted sometimes. Like when I hurry our conversations along when we are on the phone. should treasure those times. I know if my girlfriend Kari could just talk to her mom for five minutes, get a letter, or have someone tell her that they’ve at least seen her mom and she is alive, she would give the world for that. And I just get bored. It’s just always been there for me and I expect it always will be. But it won’t and I don’t want to wait until it’s too late.
I really would love to become good friends with you but it’s so hard. We are from two totally different worlds. The only thing you know about the drug culture you learned from me and my escapades. The only thing I know about responsibility and being a self-made success in life I’ve seen but not really learned from you. Even the places we live reflect our differences. Me in San Francisco and you in Louisiana — that alone says a lot. But we share the same blood and a 25-year-relationship so far and that says a lot, too.
I wish you could understand why I am the way I am, but that is virtually impossible, because i don’t fully know. I do know that it began as a reach of freedom. But the further along I got, the more freedom i lost. I gained responsibilities and obligations but not ones that would be considered the right ones.
I now have a responsibility to my girlfriend to take care of her, make sure she’s fed and warm at night. I have a shoulder to cry on and a best friend to get drunk and party with and panhandle with to make sure we make it until her check comes. Also I now have a dog to look after. I have to make sure he’s happy, healthy and well-exercised. Without having a job, it’s a handful. I’m unemployed, yet constantly busy. Why?
Here’s why, and this is the hard part for you as for me. I don’t even know how to say it. I guess I just should. Here goes. I’m strung out again. I’ve been for about a year now. I never wanted to hurt you the way I have. That’s why I didn’t tell you and would avoid your questions whenever we talked on the phone. I thought telling you would hurt you the way I have. I thought telling you would hurt you more than lying. I’m sorry.
You just can’t and probably never will understand me. This addiction is a trap that I keep falling into. Every time I get clean, I start thinking that maybe I could do just a little bit and that it wouldn’t hurt and then the cycle starts all over again. And before you know it I’m strung out again.
What kind of life is this? I want out, I really do, but I don’t know how. The only way I’ve kicked before was in jail where you don’t have a choice. I can’t even get on methadone because I don’t have the time. I’m too busy panhandling to make sure we stay well to go to the clinic and wait there for four to five hours. I’d be too sick to beg when I was done. I’ve thought about going in-patient but who would watch after Kari and our dog Bailey? I’m afraid to leave them for three weeks. Plus Kari works and what would she do with Bailey?
So in summary, Mom, in an attempt to become free, I have become a prisoner. I don’t know if I will ever send you this letter. I’m not ready to break your heart yet. But it was nice to get these thoughts out of my head for a little while. Maybe someday after I’m clean I’ll show this to you just so you’ll know what I went through.
Your prodigal son,
Dustin “Brett” Snyder
This was first printed in “The Freedom Manual,” which was published by Roaddawgz and the Pacific New Service. Roaddawgz was located in our office for several years, providing homeless youth with a creative, safe space where they could express themselves. While the organization no longer exists, these powerful youth narratives live on.