Sad and Happy

Nineteen years ago yesterday I woke up with a sinus infection. My face hurt, my nose was plugged, and my teeth throbbed. I think everyone can relate to that. The teeth throbbing thing really sucks. I also happened to be almost 8 months preggers. Baby Boy Joyce was not born yet, but was due the middle of the next month. Daddy-O had an interview with the fire department, and I decided that Miss JoDee and I would watch TV all day. Staying in bed, with a warm face cloth on my face.  By the afternoon my face really hurt and my back ached from laying in bed all day.  So, I called the doctor who told me to come in which is a real chore at nearly 8 months pregnant with a toddler. I struggled to get out of bed, and I struggled to get shoes on and I struggled to get JoDee ready. I can clearly remember her sitting on the bathroom floor not putting on her shoes after me telling her for the millionth time. I grabbed her arm yanking her to stand, it frightened her, and I felt terrible about it later.

I didn’t know I was in labor. I would have thought that since I had been down this road before that I would recognize labor, but I didn’t. I didn’t know until I got to the doctor’s office and they sent me over to the hospital. JoDee with me the whole time. I won’t get into all the details, like when she went to use the bathroom, found a bathtub, promptly shedding her clothes. She ran out of the bathroom in her socks to let me know she was going to take a bath. The nurse straightened that situation out. Eventually she was picked up by friends and family and labor progressed, Daddy-O showed up and huzzah, a baby was born. He was born the quietest baby, the best behaved and required the least attention. Not much has changed in the past 19 years.

Last year we celebrated Jay J’s birthday whole. All of us together, eating and drinking (non-alcoholic drinks, thank you very much) and being a family. This year was not much different, except one of us was missing. I don’t know if anyone felt her missing like I did but it was sad for me. She didn’t call him or me. Silence is a killer. When someone is yelling or screaming or crying at least you can understand what they are feeling. Silence is deafening. It’s the absence of something but it makes a very big statement. It is the epitome of making something of nothing.  I suppose, given the choice I know she is making of late, that I should get used to this. I have a feeling that this is going to be our new norm. She has made it clear when she leaves WATC she doesn’t want to go for further treatment, she is angry that she is there again, and she doesn’t want to talk to me. I always said that I would rather hate me and live then love me and die but what happens if she hates me and dies? I never really thought about that, but the truth is, that could very well happen.

Have you ever missed a person? I don’t mean like when you first start dating someone or your best friend is on vacation. I mean physical missed someone so badly you could smell the shampoo they used or the perfume they always wore. The kind of missing someone which can only accompany massive depression because you know you cannot see them, or talk to them. Sometimes there aren’t enough prayers in the world or anyone to hear them or just asking too much, so they can’t be answered. Sometimes people have to stay gone and away. I don’t know how the universe works, but missing someone sucks, even if it is what is supposed to happen.

I don’t believe that is what is supposed to happen anyway. I believe that life, everyone’s life, has two paths. At the time of birth we all start on a path. That is the beginning. A secondary road is parallel to us. It has a different outcome. At anytime we can jump back and forth between paths depending on the decision we make. Sometimes we may not understand why we end up back on an alternate path, and we aren’t meant to know. But at any time, we can make a choice to get on the other path again. That only happens when we recognize and acknowledge we need to make that change. Sometimes we are on an alternate path because of the decisions of others. In those situations all a person can do is stay the course, and hope for the best.

Yesterday, June 9th, was a really happy day for Jay J. He got his favorite dinner (pulled pork sandwiches with maple mayo and cheddar cheese) and Cinderella made baked mac and cheese with ritz crackers and corn on the cob. He also had his favorite cake and opened plenty of presents.  It was a happy day. And I was happy for him.

I was also sad, because I missed someone.

Happy Birthday

22 years ago today I woke up at the early hour of 3am feeling sick to my stomach. This was not unusual for me because I spent the better part of nine months puking my guts up, while pregnant with JoDee. At the time Daddy-O and I, unmarried, young and preggers, were living with his grandparents. As I padded across the cold hardwood floor that February morning, two days past my due date, I thought about how we had not even decided on a name yet. She couldn’t come now even though we had the crib all ready. Decorated with the traditional Winnie the Pooh in primary colors with the crib sheets, bumper pads (this was before we realized it could kill a kid) and baby blankets freshly washed and ready to go. A mobile was lovingly attached to the crib, centered so a tiny baby girl could lie underneath while watching the Pooh characters twirl around to a soothing song. A changing table was set up downstairs with tiny little diapers, baby wipes, freshly sterilized bottles, and a changing pad also with a Pooh sheet fitted to it.  There was a pale green and pink swing with a bassinet attachment waiting patiently to be used.  But we had no name. We couldn’t agree on anything. I won’t tell you the names we each separately wanted but the other didn’t like so as not to insult anyone with said name.

After I was done heaving my guts up, I sat on the bathroom floor thinking that I didn’t feel right. While the puking itself wasn’t abnormal, waking up out of a sound sleep to puke was not common. Waking up because my back hurt, my hips were falling asleep, to pee, all normal but not to throw up. After a few minutes I went back to the room we were sharing which ironically had a set of twin beds, so we were sleeping separately then. The irony being the damage was done, a little late to be sleeping apart, but I digress. I waddled over to his bed and woke him in the way only a pregnant woman past her due date is allowed too, I kicked his bed violently. He opened one eye and asked if it was time. I told him I didn’t know, I just didn’t feel good. He rolled over and told me to wake him up when I had more information. Sure thing let me just dial up 411 and see what I can find out. Since he was no help, I laid in my bed watching the clock. At some point I fell back to sleep. At 5am I woke up to something jumping on my abdomen. No, something burning my abdomen. No an alien trying to come out of my abdomen via my belly button. No, contractions. Shit. Contractions!

I didn’t bother to wake up Daddy-O this time. I made my way downstairs and did what any woman in labor would do. I called my mother. She told me to call the doctor. So I called my sister whom had just had a baby 16-day before me. She concurred- call the doctor. When the doctor called me back he told me that first time mothers take a long time to labor and since my contractions were only 6 minutes apart that I had plenty of time. He told me to shower, and head to the hospital but don’t rush.  That seemed reasonable. I woke Daddy-O, we both got ready, let his grandparents know we were leaving, grabbed the hospital bag I had packed and headed to the hospital.  That sounds all good but let me tell you, though the frequency of the contractions did not increase the strength of them did. At one point I was 90% sure I was going to deliver that baby in the front seat of his dad’s chevy Silverado, aka the only thing in the world Daddy-O loves more than life itself. That revelation was met with lots of don’t you dare and your water better not break (he made me sit on a trash back, ok? Yes, that happened!).

By the time I reached the hospital admission desk (which was so way-back-when it was just checking in the through the ER) I could barely stand, did not want to sit, and hated breathing. It was 6am. We made our way up to Labor and Delivery and were quickly settled in a room, my being hooked up to a fetal monitor promptly did nothing to lessen my hatred of breathing. The doctor confirmed that I was just barely progressing. He was going to do a procedure and would be back around noon. That was at 630am. Around 7am I told Daddy-O this kid is coming out right now. He looked at me like I was a lunatic, and stayed sitting in his chair. About 5 minutes later, I said get a nurse, get a janitor, for god sakes get someone this kid is coming now. That was 7:10am. At 7:22am with no one present but Daddy-O, me and a nurse, JoDee Elizabeth Joyce, made her grand entrance. She was squirmy, and screamy, and otherwise shocked by the sudden appearance in our world. The shock didn’t stop there. It happened so fast, and honestly so viciously I felt like I missed it. Not that anyone really wants to remember the pain but I watched The Baby Story. All those moms were happy and crying and everyone in the room was cheering. There was chaos and confusion and disbelief galore. More than one nurse or doctor said that first time mothers don’t deliver that fast, and that this baby had a mind of her own already. Little. Did. We. Know. The story of her birth is sort of the story of her life.

Since that morning in 1994 JoDee has not followed the norm. She has done what she wanted, when she wanted, with little regard for anything, including herself. In a lot of ways that helped her be a good gymnast and a hard-worker but when applied to drug addiction it made her the worst kind of addict. Headstrong and fearless became wreck less and self-sabotaging.  One might wonder where I am going with all this. Would I change things if I could?

And not have this:


Or this:


Or this:


How could anyone look at this face and say they would do it differently?


From the first moment JoDee and I came face to face I knew I was destine to be her mother until my last breath and I wouldn’t change one thing about that. What I would change is that hair? What in the world was I thinking!!!!


One this day, her 22nd birthday, I wish my daughter a very Happy Birthday. I won’t see her, because she is in detox trying to become the best JoDee she can be. And that’s ok because I have 21 other birthday memories to reflect on with joy and love and happiness. Here is to about 60 more!

The Chronicles of Facebook

The Chronicles of Facebook

I am not a huge Facebook poster. Inasmuch as I don’t post “At the grocery store” or “Taking a shower”. I just don’t think anyone particularly cares enough about my life to know those things. More importantly I don’t care enough about my life to post those things. However, I was on a conference call the other day, and it really didn’t pertain to me, so I started scrolling through my Facebook page on my phone. Holy hell the things I found. It was interesting because I could tell how things were good, and then not so good, and then terrible, and then ok. But I also saw some old pictures which really brought me back in time. So that got me thinking about what this family has been through. And here are some picture to reflect on:

This is how it all starts, as innocent, beautiful children:

Baby JoDee

After several years, she became this:


Somehow I missed that she was becoming this:


Notice that this picture was taken in August (I found out the next month she is an addict addicted to heroin) and she is pale. Now when I look at this picture, I get it. She was clearly using. It makes me so angry that I didn’t notice it. How I missed it is so beyond me. It is crazy.

But, that led to the first of many detoxes and the first time I tossed her room. This was her on the day she completed her first detox:

1 Detox

I can see in her eyes she wasn’t ready. She had no intention of staying clean, not because of lack of desire, but because the drugs had already taken over. I can see in her face. She was fighting with herself before she even stepped foot out of that program.

But we didn’t know that yet, so there was lots of this:


We all sort of took turns baby-sitting her for a while, which is useless and dumb because you can’t drug-sit an addict out of addiction, even if you try and spend a lot of money doing it. Eventually, we had several relapses landing her in rehab. A great rehab program in Phoenix, AZ was willing to take her, so I flew out with her, dropped her off and waited for the miracle to happen. Instead she ran. On the run, using 2000 miles away from home was the epitome of torture. While that was happening, we got this:

Baby Kitty

Baby Kitty, aka, Diego, aka, my love. He is bigger than this now, but still has the exact same cute-pie face. How can you not love that face? (I know as my dad is reading this he is telling my step- mother that I should make Cat-Soup with that thing. Be nice Dad).

Eventually JoDee turned up from Arizona, a hot mess, detoxing, nasty, anxious, and ready to start anew. In that year we had lots of ups and downs. Things were moving along like this:

Girls Christmas

And some days were more like this:


Sometime around August JoDee had another relapse which resulted in her going to detox, a step-down unit and then to a half-way house. This was her right before I learned she was relapsing, how (again!) I didn’t see it, I’m not sure because she certainly looks cracked-out to me when I look at these pictures now:

Relapse Aug

Actually, we both do, come to think of it. I, on the other hand, was not cracked-out. I was simply sinking back into denial. I place I frequent regularly. JoDee got booted like a football from the half-way house for not following the rules (shocker!) so she ended up the sober house she is staying at now. She really derailed at Christmas which is really hard to believe given that she looked pretty good.
Thanksgiving part 2 Thanksgiving A Year Later   Duck face is better than Drug Face   Christmas Christmas 2 Christams 3

She was sectioned, completed that program, and is back at her sober house, doing well. I hope this is last time I say she relapsed, I hope these blogs can focus on recovery and helping others that are where we were, but only time will tell. JoDee is about to hit her 60 day mark. That’s fantastic. And, not but, and, we have seen that before. Good news is this time I think she really has been clean for 60 days, were as the other times, I’m not sure we could call her squeaky clean. I used to go with her to see her get her milestone key tag at a meeting but I have seen 30, 60 and 90 days. I won’t go this time until it’s 6 months. If all goes well, and I hope to Christ on a Cross that it does, she should be celebrating her 6 months right around the same time Jay J graduates, in June. The next few months are going to be tough for our family, not just because we deal with addiction every day, but we have some other tough stuff that is approaching. I don’t want JoDee to sweat about it, she has enough to deal with, and I believe this will a blip on our radar. Our family has been through hell and back with the scars to prove it; I believe we will come through these next 6 months stronger, clean, and ready to celebrate a lot of success in June. Even if it means I have a new hair cut!  And then these two faces:

AC and Me

will be able to enjoy taking the whole crew to Aruba in August to celebrate my milestone…. Let’s don’t talk about the birth day. I’m not ready to say I will be…..40!

My Oldest Son

I say my oldest son because I hate saying my “middle” child. First of all, it is true that he was born second of three which technically makes him in the middle but middle implies not significance. Not the baby, not the eldest. When in fact, Jay J has a lot of significance. As do all children born between other children. So I say my oldest son because that is what he is, the older of the two boys.

This is a significant year for him. He is a senior in high school. He is turning 18 soon and if we did things correctly, he will be out in the world furthering his education and discovering his next chapter of life. It’s also a time for me to be suffering PTSD. JoDee graduated high school, left the house with her friends after the graduation party and completely derailed her life. It is hard not to imagine that it will happen again. It is hard not worry that whatever went wrong with the first kid will go wrong with the second. Though, to be fair they are two absolutely, polar opposite, individuals. Even though they were raised the same, in the same lunacy and chaos, their personal approaches to life are leaps and bounds different.

Where JoDee is spastic and hyper, Jay J is calm and mellow. While telling a story JoDee uses ten thousand words to get her point across, Jay J would use four, effectively. But you never guess what is on JoDee’s mind. She will tell you up front and honest. Jay J internalizes everything and won’t volunteer any information unless absolutely necessary. When JoDee is sick the entire world has to know, and give her sympathy, and dote on her hand and foot. Jay J was passing a kidney stone and didn’t tell me until he was about to pass out from pain. It would be the equivalent to giving birth in his room, silently. So when JoDee was graduating, when it was her senior year it was all about her. The Prom, the graduation dress, the senior pictures, a banging graduation party. It was “The Year of JoDee” and basically that hasn’t stopped. JoDee’s addiction, recovery, relapse has been front and center in our lives. There is almost no time for anything else, and let us not even discuss the money.

As Jay J embarks on this last year of his life, I find I am reflecting on his younger years a lot. I am also finding myself riddled with guilt. JoDee’s senior pictures were done right away, with no delay, printed and ready to give out to anyone who wanted one. Jay J didn’t have his done until January and I had to call the school to beg them to hold a place in the yearbook. As the prom approaches I realized I hadn’t even asked Jay J if he wanted to go. I finally remember to broach the subject with him the other day and he made some offhand comment about not being able to afford it. That is like taking a bullet, let me tell you. Why would he think he would have to pay for it? Does he ask? No. He doesn’t want to burden me so he just quietly accepts that he isn’t going to go. I told him I would pay for it, I told him I would cover all the expenses and the limo and everything just like JoDee. He just sort of shrugged and said he would think about it. This is the kid that would take the lunch money I gave him, and spend half so he could save half. He has always been fiscally aware, even as a really young child. I swear he was born with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Just because he doesn’t ask, or expect anything, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get it. This should be “The Year of Jay J.” He is graduating now, he will have a big graduation party and 18th birthday party (which happen to be on the same day! Convenient!). But he is not going to have the freedom or derailment that JoDee had. That is really hard actually. Whenever Jay J wants to do something or go somewhere or when I want to check his phone or snoop on his Facebook he says you didn’t do this to JoDee why do I have to suffer. I always say the same thing, “And look what happened to her” to which he always responds “I’m not JoDee and I am not heroin addict” which is true. But JoDee wasn’t a heroin addict when she was 17 either. I mean, nothing changes if it doesn’t change, right?

Jay J is definitely a withdrawn kid. He would prefer to be alone in his room, with the light out, watching Breaking Bad or Walking Dead or playing some game that involves hockey on his Xbox 1 or 4 or 900 or white or whatever it’s called now. It is like pulling a wisdom tooth with a meat hook to get him out of his room, but it happens. When it does it is usually centered on food, the need to go out with friends, or work. But it’s sort of a constant reminder of how much he changed. I know he is supposed to. I know that is part of growing up and teenage boys have a tendency to be sullen. So that would be even truer for an already quiet kid like him. But I can remember when he would be reading the Hungry Games Books and tell me all about them. Or when I tried to teach him to use the snow blower and it took off with his legs blowing in the breeze behind him, pulling him down the driveway. I can remember him always asking to play Uno or Risk or something else. Usually with Eric. Eric still comes over, as does all his other friends; my house seems to be the hot spot. I certainly don’t leave them alone; I am constantly doing to sneak checks to make sure everyone is behaving. I like when he has his friends there because we hear them laughing and being raucous like teenagers should be.

Maybe I am just getting nostalgic because it isn’t almost time for him to fly the coop. Maybe it’s because he was always the most precious of the kids- born early, in NICU on oxygen for a while, now he is taller than me, strong as an ox and smart- how time has changed. When I was a single mother with three small kids, I remember thinking this will get easier when they are older. Now I would go back to those times, even though we were broke, harried and strapped. The four of us had each other, and we had fun. JoDee, Jay J and Jared would be singing along to the radio, mocking each other, usually JoDee and Jay J ganged up on Jared, and laughing. Today, Jay J and Jared might grunt at each other when they pass one another on the way to the bathroom and JoDee is typically fighting with everyone. Well, she yells, I don’t know if it is actual fighting. I don’t really know if this is a result of addiction in our family or if it would have been this way no matter what. It’s hard telling.

Somewhere along the way I think I took my eye off the prize, the prize being all of the kids being well rounded and happy. I hope that JoDee truly is on the road to long term recovery. I hope that with a new sponsor, appropriate medication and counseling, she will really find her way to life. But even if she hasn’t, regardless of what she has going on, I am going to make this final year of high school for Jay J the best it can be, help him choose his college, plan his graduation party, deck out the backyard and enjoy these last few months before he turns 18. Because once he turns 18 he is going to think he runs his own show, just like his sister did, and it will be game on because that is not happening twice to this family

The Here and Now

There is no doubt in my mind that we did the right thing. There is no doubt in my mind that drastic times call for drastic measures and every other metaphor that fits. However, that does not make it easy to think about, or do, or live with. I’m not sure if not knowing or knowing is better. I don’t know what the facility she is at looks like, but if you hear JoDee tell it it’s like jail. I’m sure it’s somewhere in between that and a regular rehab. Everyone there is remanded there, same as JoDee, so it should be locked down and they should have rules. JoDee hates rules. Unless she set them.

She got to make a call to a family member once she was done with the admission paperwork. I was at work when she called my cell. She was scared, whimpering, sad. It’s heartbreaking to hear, I can be good, and I just want to come home. I want her to come home. I wish it was that easy and I could say I would go pick her up to bring her home. But it doesn’t work that way. I’m sure she means it now. Not just because she is locked up and sick, I think the events of the last few weeks have taken a toll on her. She was separated from her family, in a way she never was before. She has been on the run, afraid to go home (to the sober house, for fear of being drug tested), she has been bullied, dirty, and sick. When everyone is partying and having fun, it’s all a joke. Until it’s not. This was no joke.  When we went to the sober house with the police, she kept saying I just want to be clean and have my life back, I don’t want to do this anymore. I believe all of those things. The problem is that even the worst of moments will pass, the desire to use will get stronger, and the willpower gets weaker. She has been in and out of all kinds of treatment in the last 2 years. Detox, rehab, half-way house, sober house, dual diagnosis units, psych units. She has been kicked out of or left every single treatment or program she has started, with the exception of the very first one she ever went too. She has run from me, from her dad, AC, her boyfriend. The one big difference, the thing that made me sure I did the right thing, was that she could not run this time.  Watching her freaking out, before the cops arrested her, eye red and swollen from crying, I realized that she has the flight instinct. She has to learn to stand strong and fight back.

I have been able to call me a few times now since Wednesday. The last call she said that she wanted to thank me for doing this. She said that there is no way she would have survived or seen how destructive she was being unless it was to this extent. And that is great news. I’m happy to hear that. But I am not naive enough to believe this is it. There is no cure for addiction. There is no magic wand and I don’t believe locking her up in a state facility is going to make a “walking on water” type of phenomenon that will completely change everything. Hopefully it just plants a seed of the beginning of real recovery. That’s all I can ask for. I know she is safe, and that has helped me really relax for the first time in a few years. With no exaggeration. Let me tell you that did not happen immediately either. One might think that once JoDee was safely part of the chain gang that I would come home and pass out. However, that is not how it happened. I think I was so traumatized by the events that took place, not just that day but the weeks since Christmas, I still didn’t sleep. I didn’t think or cry or laugh or really do anything. I was sort of numb. By Saturday I was stupid, I was so exhausted. Famous last words, I told AC I was going to take “a good nap” before I cleaned the house on Saturday afternoon (we had traveled up to see Preggers new house which was AWESOME) when we got home. Ha! I got in bed at 5 with the intention of sleeping for an hour or two. I got up at noon the next day! I did wake up at some point in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and get a drink of water, and then right back to bed. It was fantastic. Especially because I still didn’t get out of bed all day Sunday! I watched Girls, Interrupted and then Natural Born Killers and then Kill Bill (don’t judge!!!) and finally several hours of Food Network (it weighs out all the violence!) before going back to sleep.

Monday, I had off from work, and I was super productive! Cleaned the house, did laundry, grocery shopped, scoured my bathroom to a nice shine. All wonderful things. Which, of course, made me reflect on how I felt about all that, and the conclusion I came up with was I was happy JoDee was locked up. I can really not worry about her running away/escaping/over dosing/getting arrested/using. It was refreshing to feel like I could truly pay attention to my own life. I realized Jay J’s room was also disgusting and Jared needs a haircut so he no longer can confused with being a shaggy dog. Speaking of dogs, my poor dog nails are so long they sound like high heeled shoes on my hardwood floors. I’m happy to take care of the things in our life that need attention but I worry about what it will be like when she gets out. I don’t want her to get out. I know that she is worried about being locked up for her 21st birthday (and actually she said she thought it was the best place for her to be but would miss being with her family) but I don’t want her to get out. At the moment, I can say I don’t want her to get out ever, but that is completely unrealistic. Just like that day so long ago when I found out she was a heroin addict, I will have to adjust again. I will have to get ready for our new normal. Again.  For the moment, I don’t know what that is. And I’m glad for that. I’m happy to just be able to pay attention to the here and now with those around me. I will face what happens next when she gets out. That is super important because today is a big day. A month ago I might have forgotten, but thankful I didn’t. Twenty-one years ago today I became an Aunt for the very first time. Today I am happy that I was able to get up and remember to text my wonderful, smart, beautiful niece to say Happy 21st Birthday! I know it’s sad for her that she isn’t celebrating with JoDee since they are only 16 days apart, but those are the ricochet effects of addiction and the way it truly interrupts everyone in some way. 21 years and 16 days ago when JoDee was born, and Toria came to see her (with my sister who would have to bring her since she was an infant, of course) I never would have imagined this is where we would be all these years later. But alas, that is life. Today- I don’t feel bad for where JoDee is, instead I wish Toria a happy, healthy, 21st Birthday and a 60 or 70 more!