If it all went according to my parents’ perfect plan, I would’ve been riding horses, living in boarding schools, spending summers at overnight camps and, one day, working as a lawyer, just like my dad.
But at 5 years old, my destiny for this perfect, privileged life fell apart along with my parents’ marriage. They broke the news to us on the car ride home after my brother’s bar mitzvah. Bam! The silver spoon was yanked out of my mouth.
I moved from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom apartment with my mother, who worked a couple of jobs and did her best to support us. My brother, 13 at the time, stayed with my father until he was kicked out for using drugs a few months later. When he moved in with us, my mother moved into my bedroom.
Money was always an issue. Child support was not enough. For years, I watched my mother struggle, and what little extra she managed to borrow, my brother would wrestle from her.
Finally, when I was 11, my mother remarried and it seemed like things would get better. But they didn’t. My stepfather got sick with cancer, and my mother had a nervous breakdown. Both of them were hospitalized.
That’s when all hell broke loose. My stepbrother and his friends, all drug dealers, took over our home. We had no money for food. My stepbrother told me we had to steal if we wanted to eat. He came up with a “divide and conquer” strategy, and I played along. I remember going into the supermarket one time with the task of stealing two steaks. Petrified, I forced myself to slide the frozen steaks up my jacket when no one was looking. I kept telling myself that this was a game, then walked slowly out of the store and into the car.
Photo Credit: Caroline White Photography