Rising To Our Norm


I can feel him watching me before I even open my eyes. I don’t want to see his face, staring, daring me to get up. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to face the day. I pretend I am still sleeping and pull the blanket, the red one he loves, over my head. The sigh is audible. Loud and judging. He knows I haven’t showered in three days. He knows I haven’t gotten out of bed besides using the bathroom or getting a drink in three days. He knows I can’t stay in this bed forever. I know he is right but I can’t face it yet. I want to open my eyes, I am awake even though I don’t want to admit it, but I’m afraid he will know. I keep the blanket over my head and turn on to my side. Under the safety of the covers, I open my eyes. I can see that it’s light out. It’s morning. Late morning probably. Another day. Another day has passed with me living in the sanctity of my bed. The only place I feel safe. The only place I find relief, and don’t have to think or work or be. The only place I don’t have to face him, until now. He has had enough of me hibernating, but I can’t get up.

Getting up means living. Living means life, life means facing what I can’t understand. If I get up I will head out to the kitchen, with each step disturbing another tumble-weed of dog and cat fur that has neglected to be cleaned up. The dingy hallway hasn’t been swept or mopped since I can’t even remember. Around the corner I make my way into the kitchen. Pots, pans and dishes litter the sink and counter. It’s dark as the blinds for sliding glass door, the only natural light for the kitchen, have been closed for weeks. More tumble-weeds of dog and cat hair. Water and food bowls have dried reminisce of food from weeks past. They need to be cleaned.  I will have to ignore that, and not let the pains of being a letdown to another life stab my heart, or back to bed I will go. I have to ignore the kitchen table with weeks’ worth of bills and junk mail begging to be sorted and paid. As I turn to the refrigerator to get a glass of water, I see the picture. It was taken at the first of many rehabs, wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey which is meant to be a joke, since I am such a Patriots fan. The smile is fake, the makeup is perfect, but the daunting look in her eyes speaks of agony and embarrassment and struggles that have not gone away, and I reminded. My daughter is an addict. She will always be an addict, and this is our life.

I don’t want to get out of bed to face a life that feels like it bears no joy. Our family will have this with us forever and never get a break. The normal we have now is so different from the normal we used to know. The normal I am familiar with involve a different kind of day. A day that I wake up before the sun to start getting ready for school and work. I would shower first, getting out-of-the-way for all those that will need the bathroom. Wake up my daughter as she in a senior in high school, and spends more time getting ready than a presidential term. Once she is awake on her way to the bathroom, I make coffee and feed the dog. While he eats I start making lunches for all the kids and myself. I let him out, she is out of the bathroom, and the next one is on his way in. The two older leave first, she drives them to school. The younger one is up, ready, breakfast down and on his way out.  We all go to our work or school, and meet back at the house at the end of the day. We quickly begin homework, and evening routines before we have to report to gymnastics/hockey/wrestling. Our schedule is hectic and crazy but enjoyable. There is nothing like the joy of watching her land her dismount off the vault or for him to make a great save in the net or seeing the other one land kind of the mat. At the end of the night, we all make our way home, lights off, tv’s on, house is quiet, everyone is home. The next day we get up to do it all over again.

But that isn’t our life anymore. That life is gone, never to be seen again. There is no point looking for it, or hoping for it, because it’s gone. The new life, the new normal doesn’t resemble our old normal at all. It’s about checking phones to see if she is where she says she is, wondering why she isn’t responding fast enough. It’s about looking at the bank account to see where her money has been spent, and locating her phone to make sure she is alive. Every day is a new day and that can be good, but it can be bad. It’s her choice that affects all of us. Today she might wake up to a desire that pulls her to a dark place. She will try to fight it, she will try to ignore it but today might be the day she can’t stop it. She picks up her phone, staring at it. Put’s it down. Pick’s it up. The struggle is on. She sees my face sitting in court crying, she sees the look on her brothers faces when they hear she is using again, she knows the hurt and pain it will cause. She drops the phone. She leaves the room. She turns around at her bedroom door, glaring at the phone from its spot on her bed. It’s calling her, pulling her from place so deep and dark she can’t understand it, or fight it. She makes the decision, she needs it. She has to have it. She has no money. She doesn’t worry about that. She will find a way. When she wants it, she gets it, the money is a formality.  She makes the few quick strides to the bed and picks up the phone and begins scrolling through her contacts. Her phone pings in her hand. A text. From me. Asking if she is ok, if she needs anything, if she is safe. She puts the phone down. It’s a sign. She can’t do this again. She can’t go back to that life. She has to do the right thing. She takes her medication instead. It blocks the opiate. She won’t get high today.

At home, I am staring at the phone waiting for her to respond. She doesn’t. I fear the worst. I am sweating and swearing. I am agitated and aggravated. I’m sick of this game. I’m sick of every day being a waiting game. Will today be the day? Will today be the one? When she draws that serum through the cotton ball into the syringe, is it holding the poison that will steal her life? When the needle breaks into her skin, the poison plunges into her vein, will she think of us when she takes her last breath? Will she see our faces? When the light goes out in her eyes and her heart, will she see her grandfather waiting for her? Will her great-grandfather hold his arms open helping her to her new destination away from her family and her life? Will it hurt? Will she know how painful this will be for the rest of us? Was the high worth it? I can’t breathe, I am scared and mad. I start to get dressed, I have to go find her, I feel it in my bones that she is struggling, and I know it as any mother knows that her child is sick, but can’t do anything to save her. What will I do when I find her? Beat her? Take her home? To the hospital? To the morgue? My phone pings. It’s her. She is fine. Coming to see me, needs groceries. I collapse on my bed, exhausted and tired.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t get out of bed. This daily routine, this scenario of evil plays in my head before I open my eyes. It keeps me in bed for days on end, because if this is my new normal, I can’t do it. I can’t live like this. The anticipation hurts my head, the unknown hurts my heart and the inability to fix this for my child hurts my soul. But I can’t give up. If I give up she loses. She needs support of the people who love her to remind her what is worth living for. It might not matter. She may make a choice that takes her life and my battered soul will be completely wiped out. I will end up soulless, daughterless and hopeless. But right now I have hope. Today she has life. So, although I don’t want to face him, although I don’t want to admit he is right, I have to get up. I have to face the world and participate in it. I need to clean and feed them and do laundry and work. I need to shower and cleanse my soul because this is our life.

I pull the blanket away from my face. I see him staring at me. His glaring eyes show his patience are lost. He needs me to get up. He needs me to do my duties. I stare back. I tell him out loud, I will get up, just give me a second. He sighs again. I ask him to understand how hard this is. He blinks. He is right. This is every day. I won’t get any sympathy from him. I don’t deserve it. It isn’t as bad as I think. I tell him I am done being pathetic, I’m getting up and I love him. He saunters over and licks my nose. He nuzzles my face to let me know he loves me too, and Diego and I head to the kitchen. Thank god he is a compassionate cat.

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