It’s been nice to resume semi-normal operations of life. It’s interesting what transpires when you pay attention. For example, I had no idea that my cat was such a bed hog and that I basically was resting/sleeping/suffering horrendous insomnia in fetal position so all 7 lbs of my cat could have as much leg room as needed. Don’t get me wrong, he is allowed as much leg room as needed; however, now that I am starting to get some sleep, I would like to stretch out a little. Another thing I noticed, both of my boys have virtually stopped doing any household chores. In my zombie like state, I didn’t even notice how frequently I was taking out the trash or the recycling, or that neither of them even took their own laundry to the basement or put away the clothes after I cleaned them. For all their complaining about JoDee’s addiction, they are probably thinking it wasn’t so bad when my mind was distracted with her.
Those are just some things. There are other things I have had a chance to reflect on. Namely, my own behavior. Wow. When I look back at some of the things I said or did, and I shock myself, you know there is a problem. Example: When JoDee went to the ER before detox that she subsequently ran from, they took several vials of blood. I had asked the ER Dr to test for Hep C, AIDS and anything else he could think of that might be communicable via IV drug use. His response, and if you are standing you may want to sit, “No, it doesn’t meet the protocol for why she is here.” Oh. Interesting. My IV drug user daughter is here because she is high and needs treatment and testing for diseases that may get passed via the same doesn’t meet protocol? A normal parent may have responded with further questions. A normal person may have made sure that the good doctor understood that she was in fact an IV drug user. Alas- I am not normal because my response was, and this is a direct quote, “Wow, that’s ridiculous but it must be because you look like a giraffe with your stretched out neck. The air must be thinner up there.” When the drug addict in the bed looks at you and says, “What is wrong with you?” there is definitely a problem. The doctor looked right at me and said, “I’m not sure how to respond to that,” and left the area. Immediately. Admittedly, this was not the best way to handle this situation. However, in my defense, I have been through this so many times, it’s frustrating, annoying and baffling at the amount of stupidity, negativity and misunderstanding surrounds the addicted, from healthcare providers. While at another hospital stay, JoDee was so outrageously high that she was basically unconscious. The nurse kept asking her about medications she was taking, which she wasn’t answering because she was preoccupied with drooling on herself. Every time she would ask her I would answer about dose, name, and frequency. Finally the nurse came up real close to me and whispered that she was testing JoDee to see how high she was. Um, what? No, really. What? I took a deep breath, mentally counting to ten, and then asked her if she could see that JoDee clearly was unable to answer the questions at all and did she want a clear picture of her medical history, or not. She looked at JoDee, looked at me, we both looked at JoDee who by now was slumped over with an attractive string of drool hanging from her mouth onto the arm of the chair, and she stated, “She is doing just fine I think.” I had no words. I think I said “what the actual fuck are you talking about? She is blitzed!” Again, not my best response but come on people. That episode ended with me going out to find another nurse, dragging her into the triage room and asking if she looks fine to you.
In fairness to the healthcare providers, there have been many, many wonderful nurses, doctors, case workers, social workers and the like that have helped JoDee along the way. I understand how difficult it can be to deal with addiction, I mean, who knows better than I do, so that anyone dealing with this population on a regular basis has become somewhat jaded is not a huge surprise to me. I’m not sure I could handle this day and day out for complete strangers. Thankfully I only have to deal with one patient not scores of them coming through the door to detox, ER, psyche unit, etc. But, there is always a but, if you are going to work in those fields, shouldn’t you be able to treat all patients the same? Drug addicts are never treated with the compassion of “real” patients. They are seen as litter polluting the healthcare system and driving up healthcare costs. Maybe there is some truth to that. I know personally, it’s because of addicts like my very daughter, that when I am trying to get medication for my grandmother, I have to jump through hoops of fire, while juggling chain saws, to get her controlled substance. In those moments when I have to get the Dr’s office during office hours, which are the same as my working hours and then drive to the pharmacy with the prescription and wait for it to be filled before bringing it to my grandmother and then driving home again, I am also frustrated with the addicts of the world that created such a scenario to be necessary. But I am not working in an Emergency Room or a Detox. I am an accountant who fell into this situation by default of my child, not by choice of an occupation.
I don’t think there is enough education about addiction, what it truly means and how it affects an individual. No one wants to be an addict. Not before they become an addict anyway. Addicts steal, are nasty, lie, are unclean typically, and generally are not pleasant to be around but they are sick. No different than if they were bipolar, schizophrenic or suffering depression or bulimia/anorexia/other type of neurosis. The entire mental health part of healthcare is a hot mess. There are not enough resources, there is not enough funding, and there is clearly not enough patience for the patients to go around. I personally cannot stand when I have to drop off clothes or quarters or phone cards for JoDee at a detox. It is usually met by a receptionist who has the personality of stapler, and the judgment of Hitler. When I hand her JoDees items, there is an eye roll, a hesitation to take something from my hand because addiction might be catchy and I am a carrier, don’t you know. Not that any of the other many patients are carriers, but I, as the parent, am the ultimate carrier. It’s always the mothers fault. Some people blame the “parents” but that’s pretty rare. It’s usually “The Mother.” And people who work at these facilities are not much different. There is the exception to every rule. But at the detoxes JoDee has been too I have left questioning my own cleanliness after the look of disgust I have endured in the 7.5 minutes it took to put her belongs in an envelope with her name on them and drop them in the box. I guess that is the role of the mother in the drama called “Addiction.” If people at large couldn’t blame the mother who would be to blame? And besides, don’t I blame myself anyway?
It’s true I do blame myself frequently, however, that is like making fun of one’s relative. It’s ok for you to make fun of your own but not someone else to do it. I can blame myself, and do on the regular, but if I catch someone else doing it, there will be hell to pay. Actual, hell hath no fury like a scorned mama. And multiple that times one thousand for a scorned Melanie. Though, that really isn’t the point. The point is, there is way too much judgment floating around. How are addicts supposed to feel comfortable asking for help when they are met with glares of ridicule? The sad truth is that I can’t change the world, not even one addict at a time. So instead of human beings treating all human beings as equals regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, financial status or mental health diagnosis, I am more likely going to teach JoDee that she should ignore the judgment to concentrate on her own opinions. I will remind JoDee that when we say we don’t care what others think what we really mean is we don’t care about the opinions of those whose bias stinks like a dirty diaper but care only of the opinions of those that love and care about us. We are living in a time when a transgender girl jumps in front of a truck to escape the pain of rejection from her family, racial profiling and hate crimes happen frequently, and same sex-couples are fighting for the most basic of rights. We are living in a world where people are not accepted for who they are, who they love and the color of their skin. Generalizations flow through out this country to a place where your religious choices define you as terrorist or a murder, even if you are born in America and detest violence to the core. This is a land where going to school or a movie theatre might get you shot and going to prison you can earn a Master’s Degree. Police are seen as the enemy, and guns kill people, not people killing people. Someone recently asked me if I was on the side of the police or the protesters. And I said neither… I am on the side of life and I wish we could all live together in peace, valuing each other and our choices, success and mistakes with wisdom and empathy and not hate and disdain. In a world like that why would I think my junkie would have understanding and compassion? That’s just silly to think about.