December was cold and blistering winds rattled the window panes in our living room. Later, those same panes would delightfully drip water on our heads when we watched TV from the couch after an ice damn developed above the sil. Christmas was strained and uneasy. There was laughter and presents and food, for sure. An uncomfortable cloud of doubt had settled in the house which brought with it a disgusting residue that left a bad taste in your mouth, a dirty smell in your clothes and the inability to look past active addiction sitting at our table. We played card games that forced us to pick ridiculous answers to the peril of the other players, laughing until we cried. Until we didn’t know if the tears were from joy or the sadness in her eyes, the resignation to getting high so clearly on her face. As she started to leave for the night I asked which meeting she was going to. The shrug of the shoulder, the eyes down cast so not to look at my face told me all I needed to know. She was leaving to get high and nothing I said or did was going to stop that. I refrained from giving her the normal twenty dollar bill for gas. She would have to get high on her own buck, not mine.
December quickly rolled into January. There was no hiding she was getting high. On the regular. I refused to speak to her. I refused to be party to this walk with the devil straight into hell. Refusing to be party to something doesn’t not, however, relieve you from the pain or guilt. There was pain. And guilt. And my own resignation that she would die and so would I. My body would wake up, go to work, cook meals. It would look as though I was alive, but inside, I would be rotting and decomposing no less than her physical body would, buried deep within the ground. Waiting for the phone call that ruins your life is torture, so I was grateful and thankful when the call came that she was at the hospital, looking for a detox. Grateful she was alive but aware that we had been through this cycle so many times, this was not the end. The found her a detox bed, shipped her off in her smelly close, her picked face, her malnourished self to a place that would prove to be another first for her. She ran from detox. Usually she would complete detox but she was on a run and there was no caging the wild animal inside her. This was it. This was the point of no return. She needed something drastic to happen to her or something drastic would happen to the rest of us. Of all the things we have endured at the hands of active addiction having her locked up was the hardest for us. AC and I sat like manikins at the back of the court room. We followed instructions, go to this office, sit and wait, go to the court room, sit and wait. The only instruction we didn’t follow was go home. I knew she was tricky. I knew they wouldn’t find her. She would be like trying to catch water in your hands, sliding right through. The hunt was on. We found her, we called the police, we had her arrested. She yelled and kicked and screamed. She hated me. I didn’t care. AC hugged me, said it was ok, she would come around. I said hate is better than dead. I don’t care. I cared. I cared.
She was detained and February brought her release. I wasn’t ready. They said she was. She wasn’t. 30 day section is a lie that people all agree too. It is really a 2 week time out for those that use until near death. Once the high wears off, the detox is through and the addict knows what to say, the doors open with a high five and a van ride to wherever. The system is broken. And it sucks. But February also brought her 21 birthday. I never thought she would make it this far, so we were grateful. And thankful. And we celebrated, in the dry way that only a family with a recovery addict can- we went to TGI Fridays. She didn’t hate me. She was determined to do well. She did. She earned some money, she showed up for house meetings, she went to her doctor appointments. She found a routine she was comfortable with-meetings, friends, driving Big A, seeing her family.
March brought Spring (as much as it can in New England) and a round of treatments for me. The weather was unpredictable, as was my health and her behavior. As did the weather, she continued to surprise me. She was available, offered to help, continue to do the right thing. We saw 60 days. No small feat but not an accomplishment we hadn’t seen before.
April brought Easter. As I continued treatment, feeling blessed to keep my hair, I was blessed that she did well, too. Ninety days were upon us as were days warm enough to start to turn the soil. Outside, sun shining, we worked pulling weeds, planting potato seed, getting ready for mulch. As the days grew longer, and the sky started to brighten I thought, for the first time in many years, maybe its ok not to worry. Maybe it’s alright to enjoy the day without worrying what-if. Maybe the animal is hibernating for good this time.
As May rolled in, graduation was sneaking up on us. It would be here in a month. And so did 120 days. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and a boyfriend. This could be bad. If one goes out they both do. What if she takes him down with her. What if he takes her down with him. What if it is a good thing? It’s a good thing. He is a good man. Loves her, so I can’t complain. I am grateful they have each other. As the potato plants grew tall and green, I looked forward to a summer without chaos and drug use. Maybe it was too much to hope for. Hope can be a dangerous thing…
June brought her brothers graduation, summer weather. She goes to the beach. She goes to meetings (less). She worked (even lesser). She is happy. Calm. The animal is quiet. That is the thing about a wild animal. It will always be there. It is always there, even when you can’t see it. If you forget about it, dismiss it, it will come back with a vengeance, to remind you how lethal it can be. I pay tribute to it every morning. I thank it for staying asleep. I pray that my acknowledgement is enough. June was also the month of a good friend’s son’s 21 birthday. We celebrated, everyone bought him drinks. We laughed. I was happy for them. And jealous because I will never celebrate like that with her. She was partied and dried out before I ever got to experience that kind of outing. But I’m grateful she is alive, so I don’t dwell on it.
July brings a new apartment. 200 hundred days clean. 200. I am as appreciative of day 200 as I was on day 1. And I am just as aware that the clock can reset itself at any time. 200 days doesn’t mean relax, she is cured. There is no cure. And it’s hard to celebrate when I see other parents suffering like I did, and do, and some suffer worse because they endure the worst that can happen. It’s hard to enjoy that my child is clean when another mother buries her child. I count 200 hundred ( and growing) blessings every morning. And I also say a prayer for the family of the addict still sick and suffering.