Through my eyes
December 1, 2006
Editor’s note: The following is an essay Cassandra Gonzales, 16, wrote for school about her older sister Raquel, now 18. Raquel, who had been living with her father in Dallas, overdosed on heroin at age 15 then ran away to live on the streets where she became a prostitute. After being arrested and sent to rehab, she returned to Carson City to live with her mother and sisters. This is Cassandra’s account, beginning when they picked up Raquel from the airport:
There she was. A ghost. She had on some dirty, men’s clothing with a hat that had her name spray-painted on it. She was very pale. Her eyes had big blue bags, and they seemed to have sunk in. She was very skinny, and her face looked as if it had been burned by cigarettes.
I smiled at her.
Hundreds of thoughts and memories raced into my mind. I tried hard not to cry. I was in shock to see her, and I felt if I said anything to her she wouldn’t understand me.
But then she said, “Could you help me?” She had a lot of luggage.
My hopes and feelings went away. For some reason, I felt like she wasn’t happy to see her family, but happy to be out of rehab.
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During our way home, she talked about her so-called friends, and she talked as if she were black. I tried not to cry. I was feeling so sad because she didn’t hug me or even say she missed me or was happy to see me.
It’s strong enough to break a friendship, to break a family, to break my family.
She’s not herself and she even looks different. She hears but doesn’t listen. I know what’s going on but if I tell, she won’t trust me.
My sister Raquel slowly grows apart from me and becomes a stranger. She’s in and out of the Carson City Juvenile Center. She doesn’t stay home.
She found people that share her addiction. She’s a runaway once again, but this time she let me know where she’s at. She comes home when no one’s there. She changes clothes, maybe eats, then leaves again.
One day when I came home, the door to my bedroom was locked. It happened before, so it didn’t take long for me to open it. I saw that my TV, VCR, and DVD player were missing.
It didn’t take long for me to realize who it was.
It was her. Raquel.
It was shocking. I knew that she stole, but I never believed that she would do it to me. When she got home, she tried to talk to me, but I ignored her. I didn’t say anything to her. I tried to look at her and show her how she hurt me.
Raquel, more than anyone knows how I look when I am upset. She brought back the things later on in the day, but I never forgot what she tried to do.
Now I realized that she needs help, and I will no longer help her.
A couple of weeks later, she was caught. This time they weren’t going to let her out. They put her in a rehab where only her family could visit every other Thursday. I don’t think my mom ever missed a day.
We went to help her – we encouraged her to do well. We quickly saw the change. She started to gain weight. She looked healthy, and she was acting differently.
I was always happy to see her. The one thing I liked the most about visiting her was when we hugged. When we got there and when we left, we hugged. To me, that was the one thing I was expecting when I saw her. It meant so much to me.
Every now and then, they let her out for a couple of hours in which we went out and tried to have the most fun we could. It was weird at first because she was like a baby bird exploring what she never saw. But after a while she got used to it.
She quickly began to change. The old Raquel was coming back, and soon enough they let her out.
She’s changed a lot. I try not to think about what happened in the past. I get emotional. But I am really happy that she is alive and safe. I know that she won’t ever go back to her addiction.
She is no longer a stranger. She is now my friend, and best of all, my sister.