Where were we? Oh, yes, the infamous N/A convention near death experience. Ah. Last March. A lot has happened since then. There is a difference between an addict in recovery and an addict in active addiction. The family members (and as a caveat when I say family member that encompasses all that love an addict, blood related or not) know the difference. When JoDee is in active addiction she cares very little, to her own peril. But that is a true symptom of addiction. Addicts in recovery care about family, friends, having gainful employment and being an active member of society (this is a generalization. There are always people, addicts or not, that have no ambition to get off the couch and turn off Jerry Springer). In active addiction JoDee steals, takes off, and is nasty, confrontational, entitled and otherwise uncomfortable to be around. She uses and uses and uses with no regard for her health or life, until she not just flirts with death, but gives it her number and waits by the phone in case he calls. It’s scary to watch. And scarier to be the parent of. But she has come a long way from that. Even if she has relapse. It’s been almost a year since the last near death experience. It doesn’t seem it but that’s progress.
There are so many things I never thought would happen. Or that I would do. Or that would happen so I would have to do. Every relapse is the same and unique. Denial and I do a waltz, a ballroom dance routine, until Reality taps Denial on the shoulder and steps in. Reality is this mysterious character that at a glance looks like the villain but the more you walk through addiction you realize that it’s a necessary villain. That you like. And learn to love. Like V in V is for Vendetta. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. You think you won’t like V. You think he is this evil, murderous character but then you realize, while his ways are somewhat unorthodox, they are affective. And helpful. And you begin to love him. At least I did. Oh, and the ending!!! I won’t spoil it, but it made me cry. Which says a lot because I’m not a huge crier, contrary to the things you have read here. At any rate, the point of that rant was Reality is like that. Without Reality it’s hard to continue to function safely and successfully.
It would be almost impossible for me to walk away from that metal door, knowing JoDee, my barely 20 year old daughter, is on the other side without Reality telling me that it is the only way. With demented residents, other active addicts, general psych patients and who the hell knows what else, instead of coming home with me. There just aren’t words to explain how that feels. Of course, there aren’t words to express how it feels to walk into an emergency room, in a hospital I used to work and know many current staff, and say that I need my daughter to be seen because she is high on heroin and possibly suicidal. It’s those moments that make me say out loud, to Reality, in the car on the way home, whose life is this? Like, huh?? But Reality, always at the ready with a sharp word, reminds me that this is my life and I better gear up to prepare for what comes next or it will only get worse. Addiction is not something you can ignore and cross your fingers. Pretending it isn’t happening is dangerous. For everyone involved, not just the addict. That couldn’t be truer than when I was staring at that crap-ass metal door. Knowing I have to walk away from it. This relapse was no different than any others inasmuch as she used and she needed to do something different. But it was much different because she had so much clean time going into it. We had done rehabs, we had done detoxes, we had done, well you know everything we have done. The very first IOP she tried, she literally, with no exaggeration, walked in the front door when I dropped her off and out the back door to a waiting boyfriend/drug-supplier and used until it was time for me to pick her up. But that was round one of this madness back in September.
Before we even got to that point, I had to leave the hospital, walk away from that door, and drive home. Believe it or not, it really does start there. One foot in front of the other. Press the button for the elevator. Get in it. Go down to the first floor. Get out of the elevator. Remember where I parked the car. Get in the car. And then punch steering wheel repeatedly until your hand throbs and you’re sweating. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person. I’m also sure I didn’t care. I did not want to go through this again. I did not. I was getting angry. I could see Anger prowling around. It took every ounce of willpower I had, not to let Anger take over. Reality reminded me, often, that Anger would not help me. Anger would only cloud my judgment and I needed to be on my game to know what to do next. Do I kick her out? Do I refuse to have contact? Probably and probably. But I wasn’t ready for that. I knew that as soon as I started thinking about it. I know it’s something that needs to be done in so many cases but you have to be ready and committed to that. I knew that it wouldn’t do me any good to say she was kicked out and banished from our family unless I was willing to stand by it. And I wasn’t.
I had already tried that once. When JoDee went into the locked unit that she used and subsequently over-dosed on, I had told her if she used again she was out. When we were in the emergency room that night, after she was finally stable, she kept repeating I don’t want you to kick me out, where will you put my stuff, over and over and over. It was so heart-breaking. I couldn’t stand it. She was so pathetic. Laying there, looking like a child, not a drug-using adult. I just kept saying don’t think about that now and I’m pretty sure, if asked, she probably doesn’t even remember that. So, I was not going down that road again yet. I just wasn’t mentally ready. And Reality reminded me that is ok too. I need to be ready. I need to look in the mirror and see myself, and understand my decisions. I can’t look in the mirror and see the result of other people’s unsolicited advice and resent myself for not doing what was right for me. And that is the important part. Not kicking JoDee out was not about what was right for her, it was what was right for me. Most of what happens, decisions that are made, are less about JoDee and more about me. Her addiction, her processes, is her process. I can’t control that, even if I want too. She is going to do her, I need to do me. It takes a long time to figure that out. At first, I believed I could save her, I could guide her, I could punish her or I could do something to make her not use drugs but I can’t, I couldn’t and I never would be able too. There is some comfort in knowing that it’s ok to do the thing that’s right for you. But there is also some guilt in it. It feels like abandoning your child. But the child abandoned her own life and without her participation there was no bringing her back.
When I first attended Al-Anon meetings (I am not an Al-Anon representative and this is not an endorsement of Al-Anon, just sharing my experience) I remember hearing other families’ stories thinking thank god JoDee hasn’t done this or JoDee hasn’t done that. That was extremely naive of me because to date, she has done every single one of the things I had said she hadn’t, except fatally over-dose. Needless to say, I do not say thank god she hasn’t done anything. Instead I thank god that she has done things that have supported recovery. I concentrate on the progress she has made and I commend both of us for working our own process. She doesn’t always do the right thing, or say the right thing. And there are still lots of people who judge her, or me, or our family. But I take pride in our success no matter how small or trivial they may seem to the outside world.
So, once I was done assaulting my steering wheel, with no remorse, I started the car, waited for Reality to buckle up and drove home. The next few days were visits in the hospital, plans for after-care, Anger shimmering in the not-so-distant distance. And once again, we figured it out. Another sponsor, another IOP, another job, this time with me at my work. Plans for school that never came to fruition and more mistakes that would lead to the next relapse. Until then, we found some normal ground, questioned her when I was doubting, drug tested when I was sure she was using, checked pupils, searched rooms and figured out our own processes. She went to meetings, and did whatever it is a person who is clean but not truly in recover does and I did whatever it is a parent of an addict does. No one ever has this sort of thing mastered, but I will say we find out pride in the good and we ignore the prejudice of the ignorant. Honestly and trust are a huge part of recovery as is humility. As I watch recovery of addicts from the sidelines, I can see the many different phases people go through. And just like any part of life, it’s amazing the things you can see in others that they can’t see in themselves. JoDee does have issues with being honest with me still, sometimes, but I do believe that this is in large part about not wanting to let me down. I think the thought of me being disappointed in her haunts more than anything else she has done. It is more disappointing to me that she doesn’t always tell me the truth- the worst possible truth is better than a great lie any day- but that is part of the process for both of us. Trust is an issue for her because she has to learn to trust her instincts, she needs to learn to trust her family when she makes mistakes, and she needs to trust herself to make her way through this murky game called life. While she works on trust I need to work on control. I need to realize I can’t control everything and everyone at every second. That is not easy. Especially since there is so much depth to addiction. The entitlement, the adherent irresponsibility, the ability to be cunning in the face of needing something. I don’t lose my temper with JoDee often but lately the teen-age attitude is getting old, considering she is nearly twenty-one at this juncture. Part of my process will be road mapping the things that are addiction-esque behavior and which is just teen-age bullshit. No matter what, I need to make sure I keep Anger hog-tied in the trunk of my car, because aint’ no one got time for that.