September is typically one of my favorite months. My town, like most, is fairly busy with school back in session, fall sports starting and preparing for all the fall events like the corn maze and apple picking. I clearly remember when I stepped out of the therapist’s office which is in the center of our town, looking around realizing that life was continuing around me. Didn’t everyone know that a terrible thing was happening to my family? I was losing my daughter to heroin and the fruit market was still selling apples? Like nothing was happening? The horror! The balls! It was because of the Fear I was struggling to piggy-back to my car and the complete shock that the world hadn’t stopped, that I never noticed Denial walking with us.
Denial is a real beauty. Quiet, sleek, unassuming. It just waits patiently for someone to realize it is there. One might think that Denial was evil but in fact, Denial is wonderful. For a while. Denial is a bridge that helps you cross into another world. It waits with you while your brain catches up and helps you focus on what’s really happening. While I was thunder struck that the world wasn’t coming to halt, Denial shook its head, climbed in the car behind me, and waited.
When we left the office on that day, we were heading home only long enough to pack some items before delivering JoDee to her first of many detox stays. Already she was getting dope sick, which was a new encounter for me. I was not at all prepared for the sweats, crying, vomiting, and cramping, skin-burning, hallucinating and violent outbursts. Even when I was caring for her and “tossed” her room for drugs and found several trash bags worth of booze bottles, needles, baggies, tourniquets and other drug paraphernalia, I kept thinking this isn’t as bad as she thinks. This isn’t as bad as I think. We are all over-reacting. I innocently, dangerously, thought there is no way my daughter, Melanie’s daughter, was going to be like one of those junkie’s that Lynne and I criticized numerous times while watching Intervention. I flipped her mattress and found a needle with HEROIN STILL IN IT, and still couldn’t admit to the magnitude of the situation we were facing. But that was Denial. It stayed with me until I was ready.
In one of JoDee’s many institutional stays, she cleverly managed to sneak her drug-runner boyfriend on to a locked unit to which he brought her a needle full of black-tar heroin. By the time I came to visit JoDee, she was barely conscious. I fought with the staff until they finally told me she had a visitor. I told them she was high and her visitor brought it, they denied it. After a strongly worded altercation I was asked to leave. By this point, hysterical wouldn’t even do justice to the state of mind I was in. Later that night, I received a phone call that JoDee wasn’t breathing well and they had sent her to the hospital. I got out of bed and got dressed, AC asking if he should come. I told him that this was just another round of heroin craziness, over-doses don’t happen slowly (what a mistake that was!) and I would call with an update. Denial helped me drive to the hospital. Denial sat with me while I waited for the doctor or nurse. Denial waited with me when they told me she was unresponsive and they weren’t sure how much longer they could work on her. At one point, Denial slide a hand down my back to comfort me and with the other hand gently lifted the veil covering my eyes, allowing me to see Reality. Reality was standing in front of me telling me my daughter is dying. I was alone and would have to see her dead, by myself, in the middle of the night. Reality stood in the corner of her hospital room, watching me cry, alone, standing over her as she slept, once they got her heart and breathing regulated. Reality laughed at me when I asked the nurse how this happened. Reality sucks.
Denial lingers so not to be intrusive. Fear, Reality’s cousin, wants you to know it’s there. Makes sure I see it, and feel it, reminding me that if I let my guard down, and stop being afraid, Fear can swoop in and the unimaginable can happen. Denial isn’t as shocking. Denial knows it will never stay with you forever, it’s just preparing you for the next step. The step no one wants to face. The thing that is the hardest to surrender too, and even when you do, Denial comes back frequently. Reality takes the place of Denial when you come out of the stupor to realize life as you know is over. Living in Denial forever is dangerous. I am glad that I was able to bridge from Denial to Reality, for the sake of me and my family. Now that I have seen Reality, and know that it’s there, watching me, I am better able to face it. With each of JoDee’s relapses, Denial has been around, not judging, just waiting until I see Reality. And each time, I see Denial a little less, and see Reality a little more.
Reality is a part of my family now. Just like Fear. They walk hand in hand through events in my life. Every time I go down to the basement, past JoDee’s room, to the laundry, Fear and Reality are sitting on her bed smirking at me. At Thanksgiving, when I was picking at my food and watching the clock, waiting for JoDee’s plane to land to return her home after she ran away for 3 weeks and I had to pay a drug-dealer an extortion fee to get her back, Reality and Fear were sharing her empty chair. There are times I want to throat punch both of them, but like it or not, they are here to stay.
I hope someday I can replace Fear with Joy or Happiness. Reality is here to stay because the reality is JoDee will always be an addict, for the rest of her life. That will never change.