It is a safe assumption to say everyone has dealt with the effects of drug addiction in their lives. Maybe not by being an addict, but at least by knowing someone close to them who has struggled.
My life story is filled with that struggle.
Luckily, I was raised by a single grandmother who taught me the rights and wrongs of life and steered me in the right direction.
That doesn't mean I haven't struggled with seeing the grapple addiction has on loved ones.
My mother was a longtime addict who has since turned her life around for good. That U-turn did not come without a come-to-Jesus meeting.
I went years without speaking to her due to her addiction and I do not regret that.
She was not invited to my college graduation or my first wedding. I chose to make those difficult decisions.
However, with a threat of not allowing her to see her grandchildren, everything changed.
She has since been clean going on seven years and I could not be more proud.
But addiction has a trickle-down affect.
My grandmother's favorite line was, "If you play with poop, you likely are going to get some on you."
This could be the motto for a few others in my family tree.
I lost my brother on his 30th birthday a couple years back due to a drug overdose.
I have watched my uncle be incarcerated for more than half his life with multiple trips to prison, including being behind bars when his father and mother died.
I have been in the car during drug deals. I have watched how meth is used, how joints are rolled and the many ways prescription medication can be consumed.
I was once sent to the principal's office in seventh grade for explaining to my fellow classmates how a roach clip should be used and what the spoon and cotton ball were for during a Red Ribbon Week assembly.
Though I have never used, that is not the same story for my oldest sister, Kailey.
Until five years ago, I didn't have a bond with her. She was strung out and living the wrong life. She was using heavily and at one time was left for dead out west.
Years have been lost in our brother-sister connection that can't be replaced.
It wasn't long after I began working for this publication that I received a call about a possible suicide attempt at a local motel.
It was right down the road, maybe a minute away.
I jumped from my desk and sped to the location.
Not for a story, but to help.
As I made contact with the police officers and notified them of who I was to the person, they allowed me to stand by. I intentionally hid behind a wall so she couldn't see me until the officers were able to get her in the car.
It was my sister.
As I opened the door and she saw me, tears were all she could muster. She never wanted her brother to see her like that. Even after years of not talking, the brother-sister spark was there.
I believe that was the day she knew something had to change.
The past five years have been the greatest in her life. She has since turned her life around for the better and without a trace of looking back.
There are still struggles when times get hard and stress is unbearable, but she has learned she is stronger today than at any other point in her life.
Instead of turning to drugs, she has a much stronger addiction in her life — her daughter.
Genesis Marie turned my sister into a woman and the most-loving mother a child could ask for. She lives and breaths this little girl like every mother should — all the while doing it on her own.
She will be the first to admit her past was a dark and ugly truth, but she will also be the one to tell anyone who listens that Baby G saved her.
Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of Kailey's sobriety. Each day gets a little easier for her. Each day brings more joy than the last. She now knows she is strong. She has a good-paying job and provides for her little family knowing that it doesn't take and army to live.
Her support system is stronger than it has ever been and she cherishes every moment she has with her loved ones.
This woman is a hero to her daughter, of course, but she is also a hero to anyone who is struggling and wants to turn their lives around.
Kailey, I love you. We love you. You are an amazing woman and deserve to live the life you began building five years ago. Stay strong and keep going. Your story will change lives, you just have to tell it.
Josh Briggs is the managing editor of The Saline Courier. He may be reached at email@example.com.