Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. One my favorite Thanksgivings ever was when my very good friends, Karen and Fred, spent it with my family and me. Karen was preggers with baby number 1 and we basically spent most of the day eating, sleeping, watching football and eating again. We had a big breakfast, we made a bigger Thanksgiving dinner and had leftovers after that. It was before the days of heroin and lost children. I miss those days. The Thanksgiving of 2013 will be extremely different from that Thanksgiving.
When I heard her say “word’, it took me a heart-beat to realize what she was really saying. I asked her if she was talking in code, she casually said “oh, yeah” so I asked if she was safe, again, like I asked if she wanted to go to the mall, almost yawning she was so casual she answered “not really”. That is the stuff that makes a parent’s blood run cold. I know control is an issue for me, or I wouldn’t try to control JoDee into recovery, but the ultimate torture on a control-freak is having your child, most likely high, in danger, basically light years away from home. My uncle, my dad’s brother, lived an hour from where she was. While she was missing we were in constant contact about whether they had heard from her, if we had. I called him and he was willing to go get her. To say that my dad, the big brother to this uncle no less, was less than thrilled at the idea of his brother heading into the unknown to pick up his estranged granddaughter, might be the understatement of the century. He was convinced that Uncle Bill would be robbed, murdered and dumped somewhere and to be honest, the thought had crossed my mind.
After numerous phone calls, none of which was getting her a plane ticket, I was more concerned about getting her somewhere safe, we determined that my uncle would drive to the center that JoDee escaped from, and an un-named person, and I won’t use his real name here so I will call Dingbat#1, would drop her off. Like it was going to be that easy. Dingbat#1 decides he isn’t going to drop JoDee off unless I am willing to give him money. He feels as though I owe him. I. Owe. Him. Let’s take a minute to digest that. Apparently Miss JoDee jumps previously mentioned wall, runs with a girl who dates “DingBat#1’s friend, and shows up on his door step. Dingbat#1 then takes JoDee in, buys her clothes when I refused to give her money, and some personal items (toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant, drugs, and alcohol) and somehow thinks that I should repay him for this. He wanted a lot of money. Not a little money. A good size amount. And after a strongly worded conversation I said the words I thought I would never say. Keep her then. Keep. Her. Then.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I thought they were playing me. I would Western Union this joker a bunch of money and somehow JoDee never shows up at her designated spot. Reality was pacing behind me, and Fear was chewing its nails, both making me extremely nervous. Even my wallet was scurrying away in an effort to hide under the bed! Reality was certain that this was extortion and JoDee wanted to come home but Dingbat#1 wasn’t happy about it. Reality said JoDee called to come home. Something had her afraid. Her own Fear was sitting in her lap telling her to get the hell out of dodge, or Phoenix as it were. Fear was convinced that JoDee was using, and this was the only way she was going to get money from me, or worse. And don’t think Despair wasn’t around. I could see the maniacal face leering at me through my sliding glass door. But there was no time to think about how completely outrageous and overwhelming this entire thing was. Sometimes you just have to take a chance. If I was wrong, I might pay the ultimate price, JoDee could over-dose and die, or just disappear never to be seen or heard from again. But if I turned my back and did nothing, I would never know. I had to trust Reality. And my Uncle. I told him if he didn’t feel safe that he shouldn’t go, but he reminded me that everyone needs a chance. If we don’t get her, she has no chance, and I wasn’t in a place to get her myself, something I would have done if I could, what parent wouldn’t risk their life for their child?
Dingbat#1 and I agreed on an amount, a fraction of his original asking price. He wanted to pick it up from Western Union and then bring JoDee to my uncle. No. No way. When my uncle calls me to report that he and JoDee were in the car and driving away I would send it but not a minute more. This went on and on. He wanted it first, I said no. He thought I was setting him up. I reminded him that she was a person, not an object you could return to the store, but the truth is he is also an addict and she was a means to get money. It could have been his infant child but would still have a tag for a price. Addiction is so cunning and conniving. It is so hard for anyone in active addiction to see the enormousness of the wrongs being committed. I have often said hate the addiction, hate the drug, but not the addict. This is true even in this situation. If this guy ever finds recovery, if he ever is able to pull himself together, he may reflect back on this situation with a degree of regret. He may not give a flying shit too. Who the hell knows? All I know is I felt bad for him. Not bad enough that I wanted to help him. Certainly not bad enough to try calling every police station, probation officer, the Center, to try to get someone to go to the Western Union to arrest the girl and Dignbat#1 if he had a warrant. Unfortunately, it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, it was late and I couldn’t get a single person on the freaking phone! Needless to say, JoDee called me from my Uncles phone, I pressed send on the Western Union online submitter and Reality, Fear and I all hoped for the best.
The next few hours were plane tickets, details with my uncle to get her to the airport, listening to JoDee claim she was clean and hadn’t used, and trying to figure out Thanksgiving. During all of this, the kids were afraid for JoDee and then excited she was coming home. AC ran around grabbing me pens, paper, my purse, a diet coke, and otherwise doing my biding as I yelled commands, without hesitation. By the time AC and I had gotten the other 4 kids settled for the night, and laid down in bed it was after midnight. Neither of us slept. What if she used? What if she was worse than when she left? What do we do with her now? Another detox? Detox at home? More meetings? Work? School? Reality and Fear sat on the end of our bed, pontificating with us on what would come next.
The next day, we cooked dinner, we cleaned the house, we paced, and we watched the clock. When I would start to get anxious, Reality would remind me that it could be worse. Fear reminded me that it might get worse and AC reminded me that there was nothing we could do until she got here. Her plane landed at 11 at night. AC, JoDee’s Dad, Reality, Fear and someone I didn’t recognize, and I all rode together in the car, in silence. I stared, I questioned but I couldn’t figure out who was tagging along. It wasn’t until I was staring at the arrival board, watching change from In Route, to Landed, to Arrival, that I realized it was Relief. Relief that she had survived this relapse. Relief that she would soon be home where I could watch her myself. Relief that I didn’t have to worry anymore about her being found dead. Relief is face-less, color-less, it has no form or texture. It is a mirage that shimmer gracefully, quietly, comes in like a wave. And leaves just as quickly. As soon as I saw JoDee step off the escalator, as soon as I saw her start running to me, I knew. I knew when she jumped into my arms, saying thank god I made it alive. Even though, for a split second, she looked just like she did when she was 7 or 8 with her blond hair flying behind her when she ran, and arms stretched out for me to pick her up. Now, she was 19 and her hair was black, and the circles we back, her face was picked and scabbed, she was thin. She had used. And she was sick.
With a heavy heart and a weaker resolve, I saw Fear began to circle around me like a shark in the water. Reality slipped its hand in mine, and attempt to soothe my anxiety, as we began to walk out of the airport. I watched JoDee walk with her father and AC, with Fear following closely behind. I looked around but Relief was gone. Reality looked at me with sympathy, as we both settled in for our next round of Life as the Parent of An Addict.