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My Top Ten Mistakes

As I begin the decent into the 6 month mark of clean time for Ms JoDee, I start thinking about what led us here. Undoubtably, drug addiction. But I mean more emphatically what lead us to this stage of our life. What have we endured to get to this place. And of course, that evovled into me picking myself and my actions or lack thereof, apart.   For the benefit of those who may be in the early stages of active addiction, or for those who don’t even know they are living in the mist of an addict, I bestow upon you, my mistakes. Take with them what you want, leave the rest.

  1. Not facing the problem when I knew something was wrong. The signs were present, but I didn’t see them or I choose to ignore them. The first time I really knew for sure something was happening was Jay J’s 16 birthday party. Yup, two whole years ago. Her and Long Gone (i.e., her old drug running boyfriend whom is, you guessed it, long gone and shall be named so for now and all time) said they had to run to his house, or an errand, or some other lie I should have seen as such, and returned to the party about 30 minutes later looking banged up. By banged up I mean droopy, heavy eyes, slurred speech, confused, and otherwise unable to carry on a conversation. I remember saying to her don’t you ever show up at home like this again. I don’t know what I thought she was doing, but I assumed she drank and smoked pot. And even that shouldn’t have been acceptable. I do not regret what I did, I regret what I did not do, and that was pry. Yell. Demand answers. Search her room. Search their car. Parent.
  2. Not understand the ramifications of drug addiction. When she told me she was an addict, I thought she was being dramatic. I thought that this was a teen-age girl rebellion thing. I thought a couple days in detox around questionable individuals would show her that her cushiony life in our suburban town wasn’t so bad. I was solemnly mistaken. This is not something you can punish out of a person or expect them to grow out of it. I certainly underestimated the sheer desire the drug had embedded into her. Her pull to that drug was much larger than the love she had for herself or her family. And until I completely accepted that this was not something we were going to get rid of like fleas on the dog or a stomach bug, we couldn’t even begin to think about real recovery. I do not regret what I did to help her at the beginning, I regret what I did not do, and that was educating me on the real meaning of drug addiction. Learn what recovery really meant to better understand the road ahead of us.
  3. Not making myself the person she leaned on the most. At the very beginning I was naive enough to believe that I couldn’t help her because I wasn’t an addict. To a certain level that is true. But assuming that someone knew better than me, or could help her better than me, or trusting her in her weakest moment to someone else because they were an addict too, was wrong. Days out of detox, I trusted JoDee’s care to someone I thought knew better than I. Someone who knew N/A and the inner workings of drug addiction. AC told me that age was not a factor, drug addiction was not a factor but that in life people look out only for themselves and what they can get. Or do to a person. I did not listen to him. I thought the shared history of a person we both love that had died provided a character reference by which I gaged a level a trust. Enormous mistake. I do not regret what I did to help her by finding someone to stay with her so she wasn’t alone. I regret what I didn’t do which was listen to AC and make sure it was family. Because family wouldn’t have taken advantage of her vulnerability when she was barely a few days clean, and desperate. And desperation is something a predator can smell.
  4. Not trusting my gut instinct-because a mother’s intuition will not let her down. As soon as we started the process of getting her into rehab miles away from home, I knew it was a bad idea. Not because the facility was terrible, or their success rate was poor, but because I know JoDee. And I knew she would run. In those days, JoDee was not unlike a wild horse. The horse might look calm in the paddock, but the minute that gate opens, boom- galloping for freedom and kicking anyone who gets in the way. She kept vocalizing that she didn’t want to go. She kept saying she wouldn’t do well without talking to me (there was a 60 day social detox- no phone calls, no visitors, no passes for off campus) but if she could just call me once in a while, she would do better. I knew that was true. As much as I knew that she wasn’t ready to go. I sat awake nights on end, pacing my house, listening to Reality whisper the truth in my ear buzzing like mosquito, and I batted him off in the same fashion. I allowed the blinding love of Denial to lead me in the wrong direction. Boarding the plane, landing in the home of cactus and desert, I had the fleeting desire to grab her running to the closes gate with a plane back to Boston. And I ignored it. I do not regret what I did to help her in recovery. I regret what I did not do which was listen to my inner voice guiding me to a better solution. I did not listen to my gut when it said to find another way. And I had to face the I-told-you-so look on Reality’s face when I got the expected but dreaded call that she was on the run thousands of miles from home.
  5. Not telling the right people. When JoDee was released from detox number 1, we called our family, we told them she was an addict so they could be supportive. I’m not saying that was the wrong thing to do. Family support is imperative for the success of an addict. And sometimes even with family support, an addict can’t find his or her way into long term recovery. My family is really no different than any other family. Some of us get a long great, some of us don’t get along at all, and some of us just see each other occasionally with no ill feelings. And similar to other families, mine had its opinions on what should or should not have been done. At every pass I’m sure someone in my family had a critique of my actions or JoDee’s actions or both- and that is neither helpful nor wanted. The problem is, on a day to day basis, it is not my family that I see. It is my friends, my co-workers, those in my inner circle. I should have realized right away that support from them was crucial. Instead of confiding in them, and running to them with open arms for guidance and help, I ran from them with my eyes squeezed shut hoping they didn’t see my families terrible demise. To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman “Big mistake. Huge.” I do not regret telling my family and getting much needed help from them. It is what I did not do that I regret which was not trust my friends to love me and my child no matter what. I chose the wrong people to turn to, in turn they ran from us, and I do not miss them. The friends I should have relied on, I waited in radio silence until the secret got so big I could not hide it anymore.
  6. Not realizing everything will change, and nothing will ever be the same again. That doesn’t mean everything will always be awful. Because we would all just jump off the Tobin in a Charles Stewart way if that were the case. It’s not. So don’t jump. Life has good and bad times. Even when things are as horrible as you think they can be (and trust me, they can always get worse) it will eventually feel a little better. The thing that is deadly, that might really make you plummet to your death is trying to make your new life like your old life. It can’t and never will be like it used to be. There is a break in trust so deep and so penetrating, you can never trust your addict the same way again. That is not to say you won’t ever trust them period. You will. But not like before Addiction. Before you find out that your loved one is an addict the relationship is different. It is perfect and untarnished, a creamy layer of peanut butter with the tin foil newly pulled off, fresh swirls of butter before there is knife and spoon impressions. After addiction the relationship more closely resembles the ocean during a hurricane. And a tornado. Whilst snowing. Nothing about my life is the same now. And that is not all bad. I have learned that letting go and giving up is not the same thing. I have also learned that no one in a family can go through something so traumatic and life altering as watching a loved one suffer from addiction, and then resume living the same way as previously. It’s impossible. I believed at the beginning that we would get “through” this and then we could go back to life as normal. I do not regret the things I did that changed the course of our life forever. I regret the things I didn’t do and that was be honest with myself, and my partner and my kids. Tell them that things are changing but that’s ok because we will grow and evolve in the face of adversity instead of keep trying to convince everyone that things would go back the way they were. I should have embraced it instead of ignoring it.
  7. Not seeing the sign of relapse as they unfolded in front of my face. One would think that I would be an expert on drug use and relapse. One might think that I would be able to learn from my mistakes (refer back to 1-6) but repeatedly that did not happen. Multiple times relapse was happening under my nose. In my absolute denial, defying what I already knew, defending the actions of the user to those around me, proclaiming that she is adjusting to her new life, instead of seeing it for what it was. Lies. Using. Relapsing. Manipulating. When JoDee was 17 and began dating someone much older than her, I told myself he was a good kid (and he was … then…) so it would be ok. The justification in my head throughout the years is appalling and inexcusable. Similar to the first justification, I spent many a night convincing myself that some wrong turn was acceptable because none of us knew what our new normal was going to be. Only our life was not shaping into our new normal. It was shaping into reoccurring relapsing. And until something absolute and definite happened, the cycle would not be broken. I do not regret trying to support JoDee in her goal of recovery. I regret what I did not do which was see the truth much sooner. I should have acknowledged and acted on the fact that JoDee was not capable to make decisions for herself and any decisions she made in early recovery were probably not good ones.
  8. Not acting once I saw the signs of relapse. At some point, whether I was willing to admit it at the time or not, I saw the signs of relapse eventually. I didn’t do anything about it. I froze. I made no sudden moves and hoped the monster of active addiction would pass by without seeing us. Complacency is a delicate word for enabling. By doing nothing, I did something. No action is an action. It’s a choice. I had the mental debate. I knew Reality was right. She was using, and I was doing nothing. She came in at 1 in the morning and hide in her room in the basement. She was avoiding me, wearing long sleeved t-shirts in August, telltale signs. Or when she was at war with friends, knowing she doesn’t handle that well. Knowing things were going on that she was having a hard time. Nasty. It was always a sign when her personality changed. Losing weight. AC would say something is up. I would say give her a break. But  Reality was pointing a finger, what are you going to do. I did nothing. I kept thinking about it. Until I had no more time to think about it, and it was a crisis. I do not regret my action in the middle of a crisis. Because what needs to be done needs to be done. I regret what I did not do which was act before it became a crisis. Ignoring Reality, allowing Denial and Anger to cloud my judgment.
  9. Not enforcing rules once the addiction became clear. Once I realized JoDee was an addict, active or not, I should have changed the way I treated her. I still treated her like one of my kids, which she is, and deserves treatment as such. But all children are not alike. I should have focused less on her addiction and more on my other kids. In the haze of active addiction, I allowed precious time and support to be stolen from my other children, my job, and my friends. I focused solely on addiction and tried to rage a war I was fighting on my own- which is not how it is won. The only person that can win the war is JoDee herself when she surrenders to recovery and has the desire to be clean. It feels a little like we were all on a sinking ship, and I was trying to save the only one who could swim. I’m sure there is some resentment from the boys for time lost, missed appointments, lack of attention. I can’t even think about the times they were home sick but I couldn’t take any more time off because I had worn out my excuses at work with overdose after detox after rehab after runaway until the sympathy was gone and a job needed to be done. I do not regret fighting with everything I had to save JoDee. It is what I didn’t do that I regret and that was realizing one child’s life was not more important than another. And tunnel vision can be deadly. There is no such thing as irreversible damage. Damage is done. Even if I glue the smashed plate back together, it will never be as strong as it once was.
  10. Not realizing that I do not need to make up for her actions. Her drug addiction is not my fault. I know everyone blames the mother. And so did I. Over and over I told myself that somewhere along the way, I did something wrong. I misled her, missed something tragic, something horrible or it was just my parenting that was horrible. It took me a long time to realize that a person does not need to have a horrendous childhood, be molested/raped/abused, have a drug addict for a parent or be abandoned by h/her family to have become a drug addict. Addiction is so much more than taking drugs to get high. It’s about something much more deep seeded and some use because of the before mentioned reasons. Some it’s for completely other reasons. But the one thing I know now is I am not the reason. I am not perfect. I was a teen mother who did not do many things right, and to say I am an untraditional parent is probably a large understatement. However, addiction would have reared its head whether JoDee was raised by the Simpsons or The Cleavers. I do not regret that I don’t care whether you believe it is my fault or not, or whether it is a disease or not. I regret what I did not do which was realize that much sooner.
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