My sister's step-daughter is dying.

My sister, two years younger than me and in her early 30s is sleeping in a hotel room in Baton Rouge while her husband's oldest daughter, mother of the child my sister now raises with her husband, is in intensive care as a result of a night of alcohol, valium and crystal meth.

The daughter has already survived longer than the doctors' expected, but they still only give her about a 5% chance of making it. She has liver, pancreas and kidney failure, and even if she survives and gets some organ function back, she's permanently damaged her heart and likely has kidney, liver, and pancreas transplants in her future. She survived dialysis this evening, but had to have a blood transfusion because since her organs have shut down, her red blood cells are dying as well.

There's no moral to this story, and while it's unbearably sad, I don't think it's a tragedy. But when I talked to my sister yesterday, I couldn't help but think that five years ago, that could have been me.

When I left the church--I was raised a Jehovah's Witness--I left behind pretty much every moral code I had ever lived by. I drank to excess. I smoked weed. I tripped on acid. I had unprotected, indiscriminate sex as often as I could.

Augustine once said "Give me chastity and continence, Lord, but not yet"--I was the opposite. I'd lived chastity and continence and I'd had my fill of it. One night while I was out with a friend, I ate some mushrooms he gave me, took a pill (I have no idea what it was), drank a lot of cheap vodka out of a plastic cup and ended the night by smoking weed through an army-issue full-face gas mask. My memory of the next two days is hazy.

I got lucky. I had just enough fear of the extraordinarily dangerous drugs that I never tried them. Never tried meth, or X, or coke, or heroin. And I'm certainly no prude now--I'll knock back Black Bush like a champ and wake up in the hallway on occasion, and don't try to skip me in the puff-puff-give rotation.

I rebelled against the code of conduct I had been raised with and it took me a couple of years to reformulate one. My fear served me well during that time, and I can't help but think it kept me alive.

But this isn't about me--it's about that girl sleeping in ICU in Baton Rouge tonight. I hope she pulls through. For my sister, for their son--I hope she makes it.

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