Embarrassed

One of the things a parent of an addict, or any loved one of an addict, feels is embarrassment. I know that people are often embarrassed FOR me. The thing that is misunderstood is that I am not embarrassed BY JoDee. I think that might be really hard for people to understand. I know fellow mother’s in the same situation as I am, like Jill and Toni, will agree that it is a complete misconception that our addict is an embarrassment. She isn’t. There is a lot of embarrassing things floating around us, and there are situations that I have been embarrassed by but those are typically emotions I have felt, or actions I have taken, or thought that I have had-less the addict. The statement hate the addiction, love the addict is true and with that comes a broader level of patience and accountability, and perspective. When dealing with an addict a person cannot use cookie-cutter methods to their madness. Madness it is. Madness is probably a perfect word for it. And that is a word I can dissect in another day, but today is about embarrass.

The first moments that addiction becomes so obvious in your family, there is no time for embarrassment. The brain cannot catch up fast enough to comprehend embarrassed. The first emotion is disbelief. Horror. Terror. As a mother, I went directly into mom mode. She has an illness, how do I cure it? I read everything I could, I called every medical person I knew, I learned there was no cure. I learned that there was so much more to it than someone doing drugs. So I read all the information I could about that. I went through a lot in the first months of her addiction. Pulling away from the very detox after I dropped her off, I felt numb. I was shook. I thought I was devastated. I thought it couldn’t get any worse. But I realized that it could. And the first time I realized just how fucked up things were about to be was when she ran from the first rehab in Arizona. Locked in my bathroom, laying in child pose, crying harder than I ever remember crying in my life, I thought my life was over. Confessions time: I am an ugly crier. And not the regular ol’ ugly crier, we are talking absolutely horrendous, think the mask from the Scream movies. Scary. That is embarrassing.

Hindsight is 20/20- that is no shit. I remember the time that JoDee went to the emergency room in Salem because she was high, and breathing shallow, and they were going to medically clear her for detox. At that time, I was so mad that she relapsed. I was so pissed that she was still doing this. I remember seeing JV and Big Al waiting for me at the entrance, knowing I was going to kill her dead, trying to calm me down I of course flew past them directly to the doctor where I demand he do a list of things (blood work, fluid, etc.- this wasn’t my first rodeo) and he treated me like, well, I guess, like the mother of a dirty, smelly, unkempt, incoherent addict. I responded with a personal attack that sounded something like the air was thin for him because he had a giraffe neck.  That was embarrassing.  And I have about 900 examples of that. Every road block, every person that didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, every time I couldn’t get my way to help her get better that is embarrassing.  It some instances the person on the receiving end of my attack maybe didn’t deserve it. In some instances that deserved that and more, but I’m a reality and I should be able to maintain a level of decorum, especially if I want people to have a different perspective of addicts and their families.  I consider it part of my duty in changing the stigma to behave in a manner that is not embarrassing to other families of addicts.  Every time we walk into any setting with our loved one that is drooling, and unclean, and combative, it is up to us to make others see them as a sick, and not less than- that means acting like we are not less than. It is not easy. It is trying, and disappointing and sometimes hurts in a place that brings out the worst in anyone, especially me. Since I am not a crier, I don’t break down and cry but instead square up, fist up, ready to take it on. That sounds tough but it isn’t. It’s weak. It is the easy way out to fight with someone instead of staying calm to send a clearer message. That sort of behavior embarrasses me (kinda sorta, in a #sorrynotsorry sort of way).

I can’t think of a single example of me being embarrassed BY JoDee. I might be embarrassed FOR her sometimes. Those feelings are different. I would never not claim her as mine or be unable to be seen with her in public or uncomfortable talking about her. If was at all embarrassed this here blog wouldn’t exist, y’all. I implore other families to feel the same. Feelings of embarrassment toward an addict is only going to feed the stigma fire that says they are of a lesser class. Our addicts need to be seen as people first, with a disease that makes them sick not as a sickness on society. They are very, very different things.

 

 

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This Is What He Learned

I taught my son how to ride a bike. I taught my son how to ice skate. I taught my son how to tie his shoes. I taught him how to turn on the computer when he was four years old.  I taught him how to drive a stick shift car.  Those are the things I know I taught him. I have memories of teaching him these things. There are a lot of things I worked at teaching him through the years like manners, kindness, respect and laughter. Those are every day parts of parenting. I strive to teach him to be independent, to think before he jumps, to manage his money like he might be broke tomorrow, and to do his own laundry (though I miss doing his laundry because I could steal his sweatpants!).  I’m sure there are a lot of subtle or subconscious things I have taught him through the years but none was more evident than the incident that recently happened.

My son has a friend who is struggling with addiction. Many, many people have been trying to help him, but most of them do not understand the process as well as I do. There has been a lot of really high highs and really low lows lately except that I have anticipated them. When he reaches out for help, I remind them all that its great that he is asking and we should not be discouraged if it doesn’t work because at some point it will. Of course, the friend didn’t stay at the first detox attempt. And he didn’t continue going to his first IOP attempt. And he has called for help several times without following through all of which is really hard for the people around him that want to help. I keep saying just hang in there. I know that people said that to me along the way, through the years, and I know that they are doing exactly what I did: Ignore my advice entirely. I can’t take it personally because everyone hopes that their loved one is going to be the one that miraculously is clean and healthy after their first attempt, never to return to the drug world. I’m sure it does happen sometimes to some people but I can’t imagine it happens very often. I have never heard of it.

I wasn’t surprised when I heard he was going to detox again. I wasn’t surprised to hear that maybe his addiction had reached an all time dangerous level, either. A lot of times addiction will get worse before it will get better. I was surprised, however, to hear that this friend called my son in the middle of the night asking for my help. I was even more surprised when my son said that he didn’t need me because he could help him. And he did. He did everything I would have done. He was kind, and patient, and respectful but firm. Getting an addict to detox, for those who have never done it, is not easy. Most addicts are anxious, and high, and wanting to get more high on their way there. It means helping get rid of any triggers for when they get out, and cleaning up a mess that they may have left behind. It means hoping to hell that they don’t jump out of the car at a red light to run away. Or after getting there hoping to hell that they will get out of the car and into the detox without incident. Sometimes an addict will decide to go to detox, reach out for help, find a bed (Thank you Maureen at http://www.magnolianewbeginnings.org), only to panic at the last minute refusing to leave.  There is a balance of support, honesty, and strength needed by the driver/deliverer/helper. It’s not easy. And I don’t mean physically. It’s mentally hard to see someone you love using, and high, and strung out, and desperate. It’s not a pretty picture.  And my son handled it like a pro.

He did exactly what he needed to do. No matter how traumatizing and difficult and probably scary, he handled it. I’m proud of him for that and I’m so thankful that his friend reached out to him. But I’m also horrified and saddened and a little bit guilt-ridden. Why is that, you ask? Well, that is what my son learned from me. Watching me take care of his sister for years has prepared him, readied him to help an addicted friend. How many mothers can say that? His childhood was flanked with detox, rehab, drugs and a mother who spent a lot of time doing all the things he did but a million times more. Is my legacy to my children how to navigate the drug-rehab world? This… this is the life we inhabit. Awesome. Mother of the year right here.

Committed: Recovery, Gardens and Family

The sun beats down on my back as I am kneeling in the dirt cursing the weeds that keep coming back. They are relentless. I have tried all of the tricks of the trade: homemade weed killer, pulling weeds in the middle of the night, when the dirt is dry, after watering, standing on my head while burping jelly-beans, but nothing works. The soil is rich and bountiful since the land was once an onion farm many, many years ago but someone spent many more years covering that farm rich soil up to grow grass. It has taken me several seasons to develop the perfect rectangle in the ground and most of the it is weed free, but the one area that continues to grow year after year is my nemesis. Well, the used to be my nemesis. Now, I am grateful for them.

 

My kitchen faces the back of my house directly into my garden deliberately. While I am washing dishes I love looking out at the butterflies attracted to the marigolds, and the bees pollinating my cucumbers. The blots of red from my tomato plants add a deep color to the mass of green vines and leaves. I am often standing in that exact spot trying to determine the items I will use in that evening’s supper. It’s beautiful, and knowing that the fruits of my labor will nourish my family is an added bonus. One particular day, late in the season, I noticed the last of the tomatoes had ripened, and were ready to be picked. The butternut squash was looking fantastic and on schedule for harvest in another few months and my second harvest of potatoes was almost ready. The flowers were gone and the plants were beginning to wilt, a sure sign that the tubers were ready when the phone broke my concentration.

 

When a person is staring at such a beautiful part of the earth, a part that she herself had helped create, she should not be disturbed by a phone call that will change her life forever. That is what happened to me. Drying my hands off on a nearby dish towel I answered the phone to be told that my daughter has jumped a wall in the middle of the night to runaway from a rehab in Arizona. There is nothing a person can do to prepare for that, and I was not prepared, at all. In the years since that day, we have many escapes and many near death experiences. She should be dead now, by all rights, but she continues to live another day. That first season the garden was all but forgotten about. My husband had been mowing the lawn at the time. The whole winter the lawn mower stayed right where he turned it off. The tomatoes rotten on the vine, and the potatoes under the earth. The butternut squash ripened to harvest and eventually froze to the ground decomposing the following spring. In the beginning getting out of bed was all I could manage some days. The garden seemed like a chore. I lost the love and the desire to watch things develop from seed to life. It felt as though the very opposite thing was happening to my daughter. She was slowly dismantling herself and her life. Killing herself. The drug was the weed that was strangling the life out of her and there was nothing I could do to stop it or help her. It was worse than that. It was like having powdery mildew sweep through the whole garden, and nothing we tried made it better or clear up. It was just a disease that kept on spreading.

 

It wasn’t just the outside garden that suffered either. My house plants wilted with neglect and my other children sulked around rarely showing their face out of their rooms. My Christmas Cactus never bloomed that year and the Wandering Jew I had for almost ten years on the mantel over the fireplace began to lose leaves and turn brown. Eventually we figured out how to bring life back to our lives. It isn’t an easy process. It is so difficult to commit to a life lived with an addict. It makes life unpredictable and scary. Even the strongest of people, even the people stick to their boundaries still live with the emotion attached to it. Not being in contact with the addict does not ease the pain or the depression or the misery of all that it entails but eventually it becomes just another part of the family dynamic.  Her addiction is like that patch of garden that keeps growing weeds. I won’t stop pulling them, and I won’t stop trying to figure out how to get rid of them for good, but I refuse to let it rock my commitment to the rest of the garden. I make sure I water the eggplant, and trim the herbs to encourage new growth. I snip roses putting them in vases all around the house so we can relish in their sweet scent and I take time to sit back to admire the work I have done.

 

That sounds easy, doesn’t it? To someone on the outside, that sounds like an easy thing. Pick the weed, accept it will grow back and move on. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It is a commitment. It is a commitment to myself and my family. I didn’t want to sell my house to buy a new house without JoDee being clean and able to be with us. I procrastinated as long as I could but it didn’t happen. I haven’t planned a family vacation yet for the summer because there is no way she can come with us. But I have to do it. The rest of the kids, my husband and I, work hard all year and we deserve the down time with each other. This is a real commitment. Every morning while I shower I allow myself to sulk and moan and question why this happened to me, and my daughter, and my family. By the time I dry off, brush my teeth and am dressed for the day I have to commit to putting it behind me until the same time the next day. Allowing the weeds to strangle me would only spoil the whole garden.

 

At this point with JoDee we are in a holding pattern. She says she is clean, but her patterns haven’t changed. Not working, watching Netflix, letting others take care of her is not going to make the weeds stop growing but I can’t preach that. At this point no one can. She knows what she has to do. She knows how to do it but she has to have the desire to do it. That is something that cannot be taught, or given, or explained. It has to come from her. And the first thing she would have to do is admit she still has a problem. She would have to admit that she is in denial because being drug free is not the same as living a clean life, weed-free* life.

 

 

*Weed as it relates to the garden, not a reference or innuendo for pot. Get your mind out of the gutter people.

Lucky Luck

Recently, the girl scrammed again. One minute in treatment and one minute in the wind. Earlier that day she was asking me to give her a ride to a friends wake and hours later, bam-gone. Gone in the wind. It would be a lie if I said I was shocked. I think I have said this before. Nothing really shocks me anymore. I think it’s sad, and dangerous, and I worry about her, but she doesn’t shock me. At the time I received the call I was in the emergency room with AC and AC the Original because he was having a small complication from his recent surgery. I hung up from that call and I told AC the nature of the call. He was shocked. And he was made because he was shocked. He told me that he always believes this is the time. This is the time that she will really stay on the right track and every time she derails she surprises him.  My only true thought was will her luck run out?

She has been so lucky. I can’t count with both hands how many times she overdosed. And I can think of the near death experiences she has had and I believe it takes up one whole hand, including the palm. But she always lives. Homeless, shiftless, left on the street, nearly paralyzed, has not stopped her from her drug addiction. She has been able to come back from the depths of the worst possible places. How long can that go on? Cats only have nine lives. I don’t believe people have that same amount. If we do, she definitely is getting to the end of that number. I mean, doesn’t the death by overdose really come down to luck? The lucky ones put a needle in their arm and live, and the unlucky ones put a needle in their arm and die. It is sheer luck that a person doesn’t get a bag of something other than heroin or something that is heroin but not enough to kill them. Someone can do the same thing day in and day out and one day it’s over. No excuse. No reason. No understanding.  Also, some people can be addicts until they are in their forties or longer and live to tell about it and others  die at twenty-three. Isn’t that luck? Well, bad luck?

When we got home from the hospital I sent her a text that said I hope your safe because you don’t have to many lives left, kiddo. She did not respond though, if I am being honest, I didn’t expect her too. She hasn’t reached out, and I’m not sure I should reach out to her, so I’m not going too. I just hope that the last conversation we had wasn’t about the logistics of picking her up for someone elses funeral.  That would be terrible, horrible, traumatizingly unluck.

T. R. E. M. B. L. E.

T-Today is a new day. It is a day we should embrace because we are given another chance to do things right. To make today count. The problem with that, is if I realize it, and I know it, it’s one thing. But she has to know it. She has to feel that way. She has to take today as a blessing. If she is making excuses, and blaming others, and focusing on the wrong then, today won’t count. It will just be a repeat of yesterday and all the yesterdays gone by.

R– Remembering how she was when she was young is both painful and helpful. She used to be so innocent, and beautiful, and kind, respectful. Now she is a shell of the girl she used to be. Now she is planning her next scheme, looking for away to work less but get more. She is looking for a way out or a short cut or an excuse or someone to blame. Gone is the girl who would beg to feed to feed her little brother, or would ask for chores to earn a dollar, and wanted to learn to mow the lawn. Now she feels like life owes her something, that she is the victim of her own doing and is deserving of all that others have.

E-Everywhere I go I am reminded of what is or could be or was. A mother with her little girl in the park looks like we used. A banged up girl on the bus looks like her now. The man at the Red Sox game nodding off into his beer looks familiar. The woman in the ER with the child passed out in her lap has the body of her own but the face of me.

M-Mothers are breed to protect their children. Mother instincts are not just a saying; they are in fact a real feeling. When the child grows up to be a heroin addict the instinct is now a curse. All the things a parent will do to protect their children, the mother will do, is the wrong thing. The way we would protect our children before now becomes enabling and dangerous. The feeling we have to stand in front of our children, shielding them with our own body, not only is harmful to our children, but may even result in a knife in our back. Mother becomes could world for mistake. And a big mistake will end up with a dead child because if we don’t make them responsible for their own actions it can be lethal.

B-Because we have to change everything we every knew about parenting means forgetting all the things we have become, and learned, and have grown into to instead be a jailer, and probation officer, drug specialist, hard-ass that we don’t even recognize when we look in the mirror. When I look in the mirror.  And because I don’t recognize myself I become the other B word. Bitter.  I am bitter that my life doesn’t look like I wanted it too, or that my daughter’s life doesn’t look like it should, and that I have to un-parent one child but still remember to parent the others. It becomes confusing.

L-Laughter is something I miss. Laughter is something that should reside in everyone’s household along with their pets, and memories, and experiences. Laughter should not be something that is malleable. It shouldn’t bend, and leave, or break and come back.  It should be part of every persons being. Laughing should be as present and tangible in every life. When laughter is missing, it is evident. The atmosphere is heavy and dark.  When laughter is present the atmosphere is light and bright and has a lot of hope.

E-Everyday I tremble with fear that she will be dead that day. Waking up with hope that things will change is becoming less frequent. Trembling is feeling, movement, or sound or a physical or emotional condition marked by trembling.  I have learned a person can tremble with laughter, with fear, with joy, with anxiety, or love. Hatred and anger can also make a person tremble. Desperation and anticipation can cause trembling as can heroin withdrawal, alcohol withdrawal, detoxing and overdose. When a person is administered narcan, and brought back from near dead, the will have involuntary shakes and trembling while also swearing, vomiting, and general disorientation or agitation.

Grave Oversight

The level of oversight can vary from incident to incident. If I do not pay the electric bill, it could be shut off but would be easily corrected. If I forgot to buckle one of my children’s car seats in when they were little that could be catastrophic.

When time came for the next step of JoDee’s recovery I did not want her to come home. I knew that being home is difficult for her. Not because we are using drugs, or partying like rock stars, but because I expect her to be a member of society. An able body in the house that helps clean, or cook, or take out trash, or keep her room clean.  This time, the director of the program and I had a conversation about my reservations. We talked about the goals for her and my concerns for her being home. He suggested that I make a list of things I would expect her to do or not do, send it to him and he would discuss it with JoDee.  That happened. I gave them a list and they discussed it as promised. It was clear that she wasn’t happy about my rules, but she claimed to be willing to adhere to them.  I told AC that it is all good in the hood right now but when she got home it would be a different story. I heard from everyone that I was pessimistic and being negative. I heard about how much she has changed, and that she really sees the joy in life now. Fine. She can come home. Fine. I will ignore my gut, again. Something I said I would not do. Fine. We will try again.

An oversight is an unintentional failure to act or notice something. Or it can be the act of overseeing something. It is my job as a mother to oversee our children. Obviously in partnership with my husband, but shall we be honest? Yes, we shall. Motherhood is the epitome of overseeing. Fathers do as well, but it usually falls to the mother. The majority of it anyway.  The colloquial word for oversight as it relates to being a parent is the bad guy. I have to be the bad guy. I have to tell them to clean their room or I won’t give them anymore money, or to find another sponsor or do step work or get a job or do their laundry.  I have to point out that the attitude sucks, and we aren’t here to cater to their every whim. And, this is not just my addicted child. It’s really all the children. They all need policing at some point. My addicted child needs more attention, and more parenting because she has larger hurdles.

Day one was amazing. She came home and immediately did dishes, organized her belongings, started laundry. Her attitude was pleasant and vibrant. It was a pleasure to have her home. The whole time she has been home I have enjoyed having her home. When the girls are all together the laughter vibrates through the walls, and makes everyone smile.  It is easy to relax when the house feels better with her there. It is easy to let your guard down when she attends her groups, goes to meetings and is following most of the rules.  But change is slow, and when it happens it is easy to oversee. The attitude became surly. The behavior became a little difficult. She didn’t eat much, she chewed her nails.  She was going out, but I believe she was doing the right thing. I think she was struggling with a lot of death around her, I think that she was suffering survivor’s guilt, still, for someone she loved a lot. Contrary to anyone who put her on blast.  I believe she felt like she was an outsider in her home with all of her family. And she wasn’t. She was one of us. She is one of us. She will always be one of us.

What she may not always be is clean. And that, that is truly the thing that separates her from us. She hasn’t learned that I am an expert now. I may not be an addict, but I don’t need to be to know when she is turning a corner. When she wanted to go to Boston on Saturday, I questioned her. I had a feeling it was a bad idea.  She told me that everyone was going, it was the Women’s March and something else at the Frog Pond.  She tried to FaceTime early in the afternoon to show me all the action. But we had a poor connection. She called me later on, and I knew it. I knew she was up to something. Maybe she was struggling. Maybe she was uncomfortable. When we hung up I told AC, she isn’t coming home tonight, I know it. He told me I was pessimistic. That she would come home to show me wrong. I was right.  By noon the next morning we had spoken via text. She said it was no good for anyone if she came home, and was honest about what she had done.

I was a grave oversight to ignore my gut. It was a grave oversight to not insist that she go to a different program, or a sober house, or a halfway house. I knew it would be hard if not impossible for her to recover at home. It is too easy for both of us to get wrapped up, to be caught up, and to forget the purpose of recovery. I should have noticed she stopped seeing her sponsor. I should have noticed that she wasn’t doing step work. I should have seen the signs of her feeling resentful and angry. But I missed them. I had an unintentional failure to notice something. And as a result, she is gone. Again. #whattheactualhellisgoingon

 

Faded In Time

Time heals broken hearts. I think it’s fair to say we have all heard that expression.  Nearly every time someone has said that to me I was in throes of agony and wanted to punch in the nose of whoever was trying to make me see the bright side. In the time of grief no one wants to hear snazzy Hallmark quotes or anything cheerful. There should be a Hallmark card that says “I’m sorry your life sucks. Who can I beat up for you?” I would buy that card. A lot.

During our journey with JoDee these last few years we have had a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes we are angry or sad or suppressing all feelings. We are not always in synch either. At times when I am depressed and refusing to get out of bed, Jay J is angry or Jared is in suppression.  When I am refusing to acknowledge any feelings at all, AC is depressed and waxing poetic about all good things JoDee which only makes his pain worse. It’s hard to say at any point what we might be feeling. One thing is true: we rarely talk about it.  We usually just go about our lives doing the normal thing we do. At some point I will say that I am going to visit JoDee or that I talked to her and some might peak interest while others, well, they are less interested.

The difference in our emotions is based on a lot of factors. Age, relation to her, and her current status are some of the factors. For example, while there are times I am angry at JoDee, there is never a time that I think I will never speak to her again. No matter what, I would always accept her back in my life. And I’m sure at some point if I had too, I would have had her in my life still in active addiction. I’m not sure I could just never speak to her again. Like, ever again. But the boys have had different feelings. There were times when Jay J was very indifferent to her. But most recently that has been Jared.  When Jay J got a letter from her, he wrote her back. When Jared got a letter from JoDee he barely glanced at it. When it was time to visit JoDee on Thanksgiving Jared begged out. I thought about making him go, but then I realized that hard feelings fade over time. He had the right to be mad at her and eventually he would come around.

Due to insurance and financial circumstances JoDee isn’t living at her program anymore. She is living at home, with us, and attending the program during the day. I was apprehensive about her coming home for reasons that most can imagine. I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready, to be honest. But this is the next step in healing and recovery for her. I can be supportive. I will be supportive.  But I can’t ask everyone else to be supportive. I can only ask that they give her a chance to make amends and rebuild relationships.

We had a family meeting to discuss her coming home. We talked about meds being locked up and the normal things that would be relevant.  On the day I picked her up Jared text me asking if when she came home if he had to come out of his room to say hi.  That sounds harsh but you would have to know Jared. Jared is difficult some time, but only in the best way. He is a brat. Most of what comes out is outrageous but harmless. Sometimes I do question his sanity but then I remember who he was born from and it makes sense.  Jared is a loveable and frustrating kid. He was very attached to his big sister. I think he took her addiction almost as hard as I did. Often he would say just forget about her, or well she deserved this, or she deserves that but then later would feel bad for saying that. The guilt would eat him up until he talked to me about it. I wasn’t surprised by his pissy-ness when she was coming home.

But, time heals broken hearts. When we got home, I made him come out of his room to say hello. She told him he did not have to but he sulked around in the background not saying much.

I won’t drag this out too much but there was an amusing incident with the three of us bring the dog to the vet. The incident involved the dog refusing to get out of the car, in the freezing rain and wind, and us having to work as a team to get him out. Then another amusing incident with us trying to get the dog back in. One that involved Jared yelling that he was going to drop him and me saying the dogs asshole is right on my arm. This happened all while Miss JoDee jumped in the front seat laughing at us. Yup- It was hysterical. Not. The night ended with Jared asking if he and JoDee could rent a movie while they lay in bed together.  That was a beginning and I believe his anger with be faded with time.