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Learning to Smoke Crack: Defining Moments of Life

This Instrument is used to smoke an illegal substance known as crack cocaine.
This Instrument is used to smoke an illegal substance known as crack cocaine.

This Instrument is used to smoke an illegal substance known as crack cocaine.

My job is very interesting at times. It brings me in contact with all types of people from different circumstances and cultures. This past week I met a patient who had simply given up the fight against drug abuse. She was a bonafide crack addict and she wasn’t ashamed. As we rode down the bumpy streets of Downtown together, she expressed that she wanted me to take her crack pipe and throw it away before we made it inside the emergency room.

I was shocked, and a little grossed, out to be honest. However, I was not going to let this moment pass without educating myself- in case I ever ran into this type of paraphernalia in the field again. Ironically, this woman was eager to share her knowledge of this crack smoking device with me. The crack pipe was a small glass tube, that had been broken on each end. inside it was dark brownish black material shoved in one end. I was curious about this, I thought it may have been unsused drugs. I was afraid. I asked her what it was. She explained it was a piece of Brillo pad. It had been stuffed in there to serve as somewhat of a filter to keep the burning crack rock from being inhaled into the mouth. She also informed me that you could mix marijuana in the tube as well, and smoke the crack and weed together.


I was very sad for this woman. Her life, and her health had been jeopardized by a powerful drug. Sadly, in my line of work, you have to come to the realization that you cannot save everyone, and this woman was too far gone, and she probably would not be saved at this point in her life. Conversing with her, however, caused me to reflect on my own life.

It was about 13 years ago that I found myself in a relationship with a man who sold crack cocaine for a living. I was in love. I didn’t care about any of his man’s flaws or vices. All I knew was that I wanted to be in his life-Forever. I was young, and green. I had no idea how the decisions I was making then could affect my life later. I thought back over my life in the back of the ambulance, and wondered, where I would have been had I stayed in that relationship.

Would I be mixing cocaine in his kitchen, helping him make a more profitable dilution of crack? Would I be poisoning those in my community around me versus trying to help and heal? Would I have an extensive criminal background? Would I have become addicted to crack myself?

As we bumped up and down the rugged streets, I thought about the turning point that led me out of that relationship. I reflected on the actual moment that I was freed and able to move on with my life. I thought about all the moments that I had taken advantage of- the moments that helped me get to where I am now, and the moments that led me away from danger along the way.

It is impossible to know all of the “Should Haves”  and  “Could Haves” in life. It is unrealistic to know where you would have been if you had  turned left and not right, or if you had married this person and not that person. It’s impossible to know fully what your life would be like if you had waited on children, or if you had had them earlier.

I can however say that, sitting in that ambulance, holding a crack pipe, and talking to a woman is was no more or less worthy than me-It made me appreciate some of the moments, the minutes, and the seconds, that were presented to me in life. The turning points that allowed me to be rescued from a dreadful future. And although there were times that I didn’t always take the higher road- I think I’ve done pretty well in life so far. My mistakes have not been too damaging and I’ve had plenty of moments to rethink potentially bad decisions.

Looking back over your life, can you find any one particular defining moment in your life? An instant where making the wrong decision could have altered the entire course of your life?

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