A Florida Family Moves Forward After Struggling With Addiction
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Shenika Morrison is 17 years old. She has worried about her mother and father for a long time. They've both fought addiction. Shenika is a reporter with WLRN's Youth Project, and she decided to talk to her parents about their struggle as part of a story with Youth Radio.
SHENIKA MORRISON, BYLINE: My mom, Sherolyn Harmon, and I are going through these pictures of me when I was little.
That's a ugly picture of me. I'm serious.
There's this one picture of me when I was, like, 8 with these ugly pink hair bows my mom forced me to wear. I looked like a Pepto-Bismol bottle. No one is seeing that one. There's another picture of my mom kissing my cheek on my sixth birthday. But two things you won't find for the most part in pictures of me as I got older - One, pictures of my mom because she had cancer and, two, pictures of my dad.
Momma, when I was a baby, I had all these pictures of my dad. And then, like, when I grew up, I don't see them anymore because maybe he wasn't there.
SHEROLYN HARMON: Sometimes.
S. MORRISON: My dad, Ronald Morrison, always lived in Homestead, Fla., and we've always lived in Liberty City 40 miles away. When I was younger, he would come around, but eventually that stopped. When I would see him, I really don't remember a time when a beer bottle wasn't in his hands or a pack of cigarettes in his back pocket. He smoked his favorite - Craven A cigarettes that he used to smoke in Jamaica - a pack and a half a day. And he drank Heineken.
RONALD MORRISON: I mean a lot. If it's beer, I would drink, like, a dozen beer, you know, a day. And the liquor, I would drink, like, about one bottle a day.
S. MORRISON: I talked with my dad on the phone because he kept canceling my interviews and giving me lame excuses for it. But he remembers I always hated that he smoked.
R. MORRISON: When you were small, you said to me, you're smoking; you're going to die.
S. MORRISON: He hated that I kept telling him he was going to die. The last time my dad was around a lot was when my mom had cancer. I was 9. My mom said she got sick because for 20 years, she was addicted to drugs, starting when she was a teenager. She smoked crack cocaine and cigarettes, stuff that I can't imagine her touching now. She's been sober all my life, but it's time that still haunts her.
HARMON: Emotionally, I went through a lot 'cause it affected my family as well as my kids. Physically, I had developed lung cancer at the age of 49.
S. MORRISON: Here I was, facing the possibility of losing my mom to cancer. And there's my dad, at the same time, smoking and drinking. I was scared of losing them both. I always wondered if I wasn't good enough for him to stop. Finally, three years ago, my dad's doctor told him he needed to quit or else, so he did. There was a part of me that was like, why couldn't he quit when I was little, all those years when I was asking him to stop? But my mom understood because she beat addiction.
HARMON: You've got to want to stop, and you've got to want to stop for yourself.
S. MORRISON: And I'll just have to live with that. I always thought him giving up the alcohol and smoking meant he would come around more, but I still don't see him much. But one thing I do think about is that he'll probably around longer now. I don't worry as much about him getting cancer or anything, so seeing him more is something we'll have time to work on.
R. MORRISON: I love you, and I always will do, and I will never ignore you. I've never leave you yet. I always check up on you. I always do. You don't know, girl.
S. MORRISON: Maybe I don't know the struggle of addiction, and I never plan to. But now, being able to work on my relationship with my dad - that is one thing I will keep in my prayers. For NPR news, I'm Shenika Morrison.
SHAPIRO: Shenika's story comes to us from WLRN's Youth Project and Urgent, Inc produced with Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.