Who Knew?

I didn’t. I had no idea. My daughter lived under my roof, along with her drug-dealing boyfriend, day in and day out and I had no idea. How did I not know? I thought, I was a good mother. I thought I paid attention to my kids. I thought I knew what was happening in my own house. I didn’t know. I didn’t know when she was nodding off in front of me. I didn’t know when she stopped coming out of her room. I didn’t know when she was pasty white, terribly thin, and nasty to everyone. I didn’t know.

In September of 2013 my daughter, JoDee, asked me to go with her to an appointment at her therapist. I should have known then. I asked her if she was pregnant. She laughed and said no. When we showed up for the appointment, immediately, JoDee began crying. I should have known then. Her therapist, a thin, kind woman with a very calming voice, asked JoDee to tell me “what was happening”. JoDee shook her head no and replied that she couldn’t’ say it. So, without much hesitation, the therapist, with her calm, now seemingly patronizing voice, told me that my beautiful, athletic, smart daughter was a heroin addict. Oh, and there is more. She shoots up. I didn’t know.

That was the beginning. Or the end. Or the end of the beginning. Or the beginning to the end. It was the end of the daughter I knew. As I sat in that over-sized, arm chair with the floral pattern that looked like it belonged in a nursing home waiting room, I realized my daughter was gone, and in her place was a junkie. Good-bye to the girl I put on the bus on her first day of kindergarten. Good-bye to the girl that I held all night after she had her tonsils out. Good-bye was the girl I watched sing in her school concert, win award after trophy after medal in gymnastics, and taught how to drive. Sitting on the couch in front of me crying and refusing to look in my direction, morphed a lying, stealing, self-loathing, hating, sickly woman whom I did not know.

That was the beginning of our new normal. Our new normal was my boys spending time taking care of themselves because I was at the hospital for another relapse/over-dose. It became my cell phone being basically stuck up my ass for fear of missing a call when she was missing and on the run. It became checking pupils, searching rooms, alienating from friends so not having to tell them about my failure as a parent. It became my personal vengeance to have her drug dealer boyfriend arrested. And enjoying it when it happened. It became let down after let down when she relapsed after months and months of clean time. It was relishing the joy of the times when she was clean, and working and going to school.

The most tangible thing that changed, that day in the therapist office, is fear. It climbed on my back and stayed there. It is tangible. It is present. It never lets me rest, or forget it is there. I see it when I drive. It sleeps in between AC and me, right next to the cat. It rides with me to work. It whispers in my ear. It reminds me I can never let go of my biggest fear.

The biggest fear is that my beautiful daughter won’t be able to fight off the junkie, and I will bury her.

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9 thoughts on “Who Knew?

  1. Blake says:

    This is a brave, soul-sharing blog. I commend you for helping others in the process of opening up to others. Nar-Anon is extremely helpful if you haven’t tapped into it and there are some fantastic resources/meetings in MA I can put your daughter in touch with. You have my email now. I wish her well.

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  2. Toni says:

    I understand that NAR anon is helpful for a lot of people. But in my experience is I have found it to be extremely judgemental, especially when we are at our weakest point. As you might put it, Denial is in charge, and we make our biggest mistakes like searching for loved ones, paying for things we shouldn’t be paying for, begging, pleading, fighting, searching, wondering, praying, the list goes on. When I have turned to NAR anon, I’ve gotten nothing but reasons why I’m a bad parent and a “codependent enabler.” Vomit. I’ve seen parents even greener than I walk into these NAR anon meetings and feeling completely overwhelmed by the barage of painful accusations and advice they’re not really ready for. Like them, I went to NAR Anon with the hope that I could find people that I could open up to and relate to, since my friends, even my nearest and dearest friends, cannot truly be there for me because they are not going through what I am going through as a parent of a heroin addict. But alas, my confessions were received with brutal “truths” and unsolicited advice about how to lock my child out and leave her on the street.

    My point to my rant is simply as a parent of an addict, especially a heroin addict, sometimes I just needs a shoulder to cry on, an unjudgemental ear to listen and especially the ability to talk to, or simply read about as is this case, a fellow parent who is also living this nightmare.

    This blog is inspirational to me. You are finding your truth and your ability to face reality and somehow move forward in the most brave way I have ever seen, heard, or read about. My daughter has been a heroin addict for 6 years now. Somehow she has never overdosed, at least that I’m aware of. But I have been through everything else that you have talked about, including her many stints in rehab, her stealing, lying, the addict boyfriend and her living with me, my thinking that she’s just burning the candle at both ends because she’s nodding off, the losing interest in life’s activities, shutting out my friends, not participating in my job that I’ve had now for 18 years and surely will be fired from soon if I keep up the way that I am, etc.

    So thank you for your honesty, and more importantly for your ability to verbalize what those of us all are feeling, thinking, and going through. My heart goes out to you, all of you that have found your place here at this blog. It’s obviously for a painful reason. I think we are all looking for people that can truly relate to our situation.

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    • There are very few Nar-Anon meetings in my area. I went Al-Anon meetings, and I was very skeptical about them but for me, it was a positive experience. The message is, exactly as you said, lock your child out, put them on the street, if they don’t hit rock bottom they have no reason to get better. And there probably is some truth to that. However, because I still have/had/will always have so mcuh guilt about doing that, I could not just throw JoDee to the wolves. I couldn’t do it. And it’s such a contradiction because I don’t want to enable her drug use, but at the end of this, if it ended with her in a coffin, I would not be able to walk away and say I tried everything, if I threw her on the street. That being said, I know there are circumstances may call for that. I believe everyone had a limit and I understand and do not judge anyone who has already reached that point. At some point, I may have no choice (I hve said I may have to severe the finger to save the hand). Parenting does not come with a handbok, and it certainly doesn’t come with a section about “what to do when your child becomes a heroin addict”. I can honeslty say I do not know what is right or wrong in the process of helping JoDee pull herslef together. I just know that I gauge each move by looking in the mirror and seeing my own face staring back. Not the face of someone at Al-Anon, not my Dad, or my neighbor, or any of my friends or anyone who offers me adivce, good, bad or indifferent. I need to make the decision that is right for me, and not neccessarily right for my child. So, I went to Al-Anon because it was comforting for me to know that there were other people there who had similar struggles, and I listen to their stories, and I prayed for their loved ones, and then I did exactly what they suggested: take what I liked and leave the rest.

      Also- I found a support group in my area that is specifically for parents of opiate users. One in Massachusetts is Learn to Cope. They even teach you how to use narcan- something every parent of an addict should know how to do.

      All of that being said, I started this blog for exactly this reason. All of us that are parenting addicts need to hear that we can only do the best we can, parent the best we can, and support each other. I’m so sorry your family is going through this, and I’m glad you find support here. I will be thinking of you and your family.

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      • Toni says:

        Oh yeah, I guess I left out the part where I finally did have to kick her out. But it took me 6 years to get here. Well I’ve kicked her out before but of course I folded and let her back in after many promises and lies. Right now she and her loser boyfriend are living in a pay by the week motel with a bunch of other drug addicts in that motel, I’m sure. She is an unusual case, as far as drug addicts go, as she is usually able to hold down a job. We’re talking barely hold down a job, but that’s because she literally still manages to maintain her effervescent personality. People absolutely love my daughter so she gets a LOT of 2nd chances at her jobs. And often times they get to know her while she’s going through a clean phase. I can just only imagine what they must think when she goes through her using phases, seeing her arms and seeing her skin turn gray as she shows up late and sometimes not at all to her job. But I digress…

        The sad thing is that she was 10 months clean this year. Then her boyfriend got out of state rehab (court-assigned, he was in jail for six months, then state rehab for six months), and initially he was doing really well also. Then, of course, tragedy strikes, he fell off of a bridge, shattered his pelvis and his wrist and cracked his back. He was in the hospital for 3 weeks, opiates being shoveled into his veins and down his throat. Then the pain meds ran out and he relapsed, then my daughter relapsed yet again… after the longest period of time that she has been clean since this whole mess started. I’d had so much hope that this was going to be the time that she was going to move past all this and we were going to get our lives back. Ha! What a cruel, horrifying joke.

        So here we are. She is out of my house and that does bring me a lot of peace to some degree, but probably because I know she has a roof over her head. But there’s always some new drama, some reason to call me and beg for money. And like you said, its always no, no, no, no, and it’s exhausting when our parental instincts tell us to help them meet their needs!

        Admittedly I sometimes buckle and pay for certain things like help with her motel rent, etc. You see I have two cats. Well technically I HAD one cat. Then years ago before I knew my daughter had a habit she was bouncing around staying with her dad staying with me and at one point she was moving out of my house and wanted to leave me her cat. This cat was a very mean cat and certainly didn’t get along with my cat. But I had finally broken through to this cat and we got along fairly well. My daughter said it was between the pound or my house and so I took her cat. Now she has two MORE cats that were staying with me when she and her boyfriend were staying with me the last couple of times that they lived here. Horrible, horrible cat fights here in the house. MY house with brand new carpet and new hardwood floors was now covered in territorial cat pee. My BEAUTIFUL guest room, was trashed (you know what an addict’s room looks like). I had to get a new stove because all of the cats loved shitting and pissing on my stove. Absolutely disgusting. You spend a ton of money on something to call your own (I divorced 23 years ago, and the idea of remarrying or even dating is just a cruel joke – having a heroin addict for a daughter just doesn’t allot me such luxuries).

        So last year she and her boyfriend got a nasty apartment and the cats moved out with them. My initial cat’s stress levels drop dramatically and we started to have a home again. Then the boyfriend got sent to jail / rehab last summer and about 2 months later my daughter got clean and stayed clean until July of this year. I think it was the most wonderful time I have ever had in my entire life. I was having her (AND her damn cats – who are pretty much the sweetest cars that ever existed, by the way) stay here with me until she could save up enough money to get an apartment. She had some legal things to take care of and paid for those first, all by herself, with HER own money! So she may be one of the only heroin addicts on earth who does not have a criminal record, at this moment, thanks to some lucky court appointed attorneys and one attorney that she hired for one case.

        Anyway when her boyfriend had the accident he too moved back in with me while he recovered (we are talking bed ridden for 2 months, bedside toilet, etc.). It was just stress on top of stress on top of stress on top of stress.

        My point about the cats is that’s why I have helped with her rent a couple of times recently. I can’t have those cats back in my house. As lovely as they are (people would actually come to my house with visiting those cats as part of the reason!), I’m now to the point where whatever happens happens to them. I didn’t cause their duress, my daughter did. I felt like you would understand my cat dilemma since you too are a cat person.

        Like you, there are not many NAR anons around here. I went to several AL anons, and still got the same harsh treatment, but with the added issue that they really can’t relate to walking in on your loved on shooting up. But that’s my issue, not theirs. So I drove the 25 miles away to the nearest NAR anon thinking they could relate to me more. They were even meaner. Please don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, they would embrace me and listen to me, and let me unload. And those were the times I wanted to continue going. But when the judgements were laid on me, I just wanted no part of it. If I wanted to be judged I could just talk to any one of my family members.

        Now that I’m comfortable with my daughter being forced not to live her by me, maybe it’s time to give AL/NAR anon a try again. I’m in desperate need of support (which is how I found you, thank you Google). I just feel like it’s ok to tell parents that having their children leave their homes will relieve a lot of stress in the family and help in so many other ways. But its not right to lay judgement on them or treat them like they’re bad parents simply because they’re just not ready to take that step.

        I make $92,000 a year, but I am living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes resorting to payday loans (if pay one back in 3 days, there’s no interest, you find these loopholes when your desperate to put food on your table) because of my $54,000 in credit card debt, which is directly related to my daughters addiction. Even with insurance, rehab is very expensive. And before that, before I knew she was a heroin addict, I shoveled money at her to help her with car payment and rent and various other things, thinking she just needed a leg up. You see, I was a single mom by the time I was 23 years old. My mother never, ever helped me with anything. I was never an addict, but that was just her manner of parenting: She’s an adult now and needs to manage her own life all by herself. So I just wanted to be the opposite of my mom. I wanted to do for my children what my mom would not do for me. Mistake. But who knew? I certainly found out… eventually.

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