“Question Marked Innocence”: A Revealing Poem About Substance Use and Recovery

By a client of  First Step Recovery Program at Arundel Lodge.

38233853 - portrait of a mother with her 4 months old baby

I crept in for just a moment to watch his chest rise and smell his sweet breath, I gently kissed his forehead and prayed a silent prayer, thanking God for my perfect gift.

I knew as I left for the streets to make ends meet, I was already forgiven for the sins that awaited me.

See, desperate times call for desperate measures and where I’m from there are two lives one must live: One that is socially acceptable of lies and deceit and one that is real and lived on the streets.

With hoody and sweats for warmth and my boots laced up tight in case the police decide to score, Mary J. Blige and Method Man echo in my mind, “You’re all I need to Get By,” for music helps to soothe the soul and clear the conscience and is my only friend on these lonely strips.

I was not brought up to sell drugs, it was never even addressed. But a lengthy list of life’s hard knocks deemed it my only quest.

Once a scholar dressed to impress, then came the façade of true love, a swollen belly, madness and stress.

Now my only awareness is my child doing without and me understanding it takes way more than a simple hand out.

Some quick to judge, refuse to comprehend that a hustler can be a poet, a teacher, a mother, a friend.

See, in my shoes you’ve never walked nor could you survive, it takes way more than a degree or with whom you socialize.

So as the $50 from the fiends hand passes to mine, I realized then it would be another or it’s mine.

I didn’t make the game nor its many rules, but sat back in silence…for once I couldn’t lose.

I watched a many fool make a dollar outta fifteen cents, and I realized I too could do this for I had to pay rent.

I ask you this, have you ever had to stand in a social service line? To be told, “Sorry Miss, we can’t help you at this time.”

Have you lived off Oodles of Noodles and eggs for weeks and wiped tear stained cheeks off a child who deserves to eat?

Have you read to a child by flashlight because your electricity was cut off?

Have you contemplated suicide because you felt you played the game and lost?

Question Marked Innocence is how I label myself, there’s no other way to deal with this hand I’ve been dealt.
It’s not an easy profession or a simple cop out.

It’s reality and what this world is about.

As dawn breaks, it’s home again and my title changes back to mother slash friend, and as I quietly enter in…

I pray another prayer that the lifestyle I’m in will come to a swift end.
– Darla Lehnert

“My name is Darla Lehnert and I have been coming to the [First Step Recovery Program at Arundel Lodge]. It has saved my life!” 

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