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.

Ignore and Concur

Tough love is the only thing that works. Science shows tough love doesn’t work. Addicts need to reach rock bottom. Not all addicts have a bottom unless it’s death. Addicts need a reason to live, a reason to strive for recovery. Addicts will get clean for themselves no matter what, if that is what they want. Helping an addict is hurting. If you can’t help and addict don’t hurt them. The messages are so conflicting. There are so many schools of thought surrounding dealing with addiction. There is no handbook, or guide pack, or even expert that knows exactly the thing to do. We all have opinions. We all have our own processes, families and addicts alike, but there is no right or wrong- in my opinion. I have had many people tell me that addiction isn’t a disease and I don’t harbor bad feelings toward those people because they truly believe that. Either they have never dealt with addiction in their immediate family, or they have and were so hurt and traumatized they can’t see past their own anger. Either way their opinions are valid. Just as my opinion that it is a disease. Or maybe not a disease. Maybe I would call it a mental disorder, but no matter what it starts with something in the brain that can’t be corrected with a cycle of antibiotics. It isn’t that simple.

At this point I know that my addict is not going to be the person I always hoped she would be. It is a different level of acceptance for the family. For a long time there is denial that she is an addict, then there is the hope she will find recovery and resume her life. That eventually leads to realization that addiction will be a monkey on their back forever, but it is manageable if they work for it. And, lastly, when you have addicts like my child, acceptance that she will realize the future I envisioned for her. Though, in fairness, that is probably something most parents go through anyway. Throwing addiction in the mix is just an additional obstacle.

There are so many recovery centers with different philosophies. JoDee has been to them all. Some super strict, some not strict at all, some family based, some individual based, some Christian based, some follow N/A, some follow other fellowships; it’s a world all of its own. When the needle exchange facilities opened up there was a huge uproar. Lot’s of people felt that it was enabling drug users and condoning illegal activity. I’m not sure that I disagree. There is a sense of sort of turning a blind eye but it did help reduce the spread of AID’s, HIV, and Hep C among other diseases. It was also a good resource for those that wanted help. Options were available and discussed when folks came into for needle exchange. Those programs grew into larger, productive organizations working for the greater good of their community. Next came the big Narcan debate. Why was Narcan free but not epipen? Why was Narcan free but not chemotherapy? I can’t answer those questions on a broad spectrum but I can tell you that a lot of fight went into that. It was families fighting for the ability to try to save their kid, just like a parent or loved one would do. And in the end, it isn’t free. It may be free to the person receiving it, but DPH pays for those with a grant that was secured.  If people have an issue with it, take it up with Big Pharma.

Now, I saw that they have passed a law to allow what will essentially be a shooting gallery. They are formally called Legal Injection Sites and they have stirred up the shit pot for sure. The theory is that if user’s had a safe place to inject there would be less overdose, fewer needles on the street, and a safe place for addicts to go. The sites would also provide social services, help with recovery, and the like. Some say it is enabling. Others say it will save lives.  Both are correct, really.  There are people who stand firmly on one side of the debate or the other. I have no idea where I stand. In the last few weeks I have had conversations with many different families about their own loved ones dealing with addiction. Two in particular have stayed in my mind. Both need help right away. Both need their families to be way more aware of the urgency to the situation. I am truly afraid that the families will be shocked when something tragic and permanent happens that makes them wake up. I also think about how I felt when I was in their shoes five years ago. I know I would have been completely horrified. I think I still am. Am I?

There are Pros and Cons to everything in life. Studies showed a large decrease in public nuisances such as addicts shooting in public, publicly disposed of used needles, and public overdose. The impact on blood-borne viruses had an overall decrease because users were able to have access to clean needles eliminating the need to share. The survival rate for overdose increased as trained professionals were on-site to administer narcan and other medical interventions.

Of course one of the number one reasons (to me) this is a con is financial. I would imagine that a site like this will have to have a lot of government funding along with donations and fundraising. A site in Australia reports costs of $2.7 million per year to keep it running. That is not a lot of money for any type of public health clinic, however, it is $2.7 million that could be used for more rehab or detox beds.  The funding for recovery is very low. I know that many people complain that any money is spent on addiction, but it receives the least amount of any funding in Massachusetts. Less than 1%.  Opening an injection site would provide some of the services needed for successful recovery but it isn’t a long term solution.  Currently there is no long term solution. An injection site would help in the short run but what happens when the injection site staff is not able to find a bed for an addict in need because there aren’t enough?

Not to mention the enabling part. It is allowing drug addicts to use illicit and illegal drugs openly without recourse.  It sends a shitty message. My addict would have come in, plopped her ass down and not left unless they threw her out. Will addicts be able to hangout all the time? Who wants that sort of facility in their neighborhood? So after a lot of research and strong debate in my own head, I decided I stand firmly on the side……hell if I know. This is too big for me.  I believe we should try anything, and I appreciate that there are steps being taken but I just don’t know if this is one in the right direction. There is a point that divide an concur is effective at winning a war but this feels a little bit like ignoring the bigger issue. But that is just one woman’s opinion.

Did You Just Hear Yourself?

Recently, my beautiful and wicked smaht niece graduated from college. Her and JoDee are sixteen days apart. They started kindergarten together (separate schools but same day). They started middle school together (same school) and high school together (also same school) and eventually they graduated high school together. While they ran in relatively opposite groups they still remained close enough. Sunday dinners, family vacations and the like kept them involved in each other. After high school their lives took extremely different turns. JoDee, as we know, as struggled with drug addiction, while my niece has gone on to school and met a nice young man and got a job as a preschool teacher. No one compares them, but I’m sure JoDee does. Or maybe others do, but I certainly don’t. They have been decidedly different people since birth, so I never expected them to follow each other down the same path through life.

The reason I am giving you all this background is that my niece had her graduation party this weekend. I have had some health things going on, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it but my parents had flown in from South Carolina so we made a plan for them to meet us for breakfast on Saturday morning at our house. This was killing two birds with one stone: getting to see them and them seeing the new house. It also meant we would see my aunt and uncle, who came with them. The reason I am telling you all this is because we had an interesting conversation. One of which was that sometimes my blog posts get to be too long and the reader might lose interest. This was a valid and appreciated comment, so I will remember to keep them informative without being boring.

The other conversation was about why someone was of a certain age and still single. I said he wasn’t really a catch from a woman’s perspective. My dad respond that he was good looking. My idea that he was not catch had nothing to do with his looks. It had more to do with him being an addict. Now, I know that may sound, well, asshole-ish but I meant it. And my aunt was very quick to call me out. She said “Did you hear yourself?”

Yes, I heard myself. I know exactly what I said. Years ago I would have said everyone deserves a chance. And years ago when a friend of mine began dating someone with an addiction, I supported that. He was a wonderful guy. Fathered his daughters, and his stepsons and eventually drugs took his life. Maybe not in the normal way via overdose, but it certainly shortened his life. Knowing what I know now, I would have said run away. Run far, far away. Why? Because a normal lived person cannot understand, comprehend, or appreciate the struggles of an addicted person. I’m not saying that addicted people do not deserve mates, because I don’t think that at all. Some of the best couples I know have come through addiction together. But they have that in common. It’s hard for someone who is not an addict to truly understand the struggle. Or the commitment to going to meetings. Or the need to have a routine, or avoid certain situations.

When my aunt asked me if I heard myself I told her not only did I know what I said, but I meant it wholeheartedly. JoDee, and several people she has dated, can attest to the fact that on more than one occasion I have asked her at-the-time-partner if they were effed in the head for being with her because she was a one woman wrecking ball when she is in active addiction. I have said many times she isn’t a catch. Not like she is, or was, or is during active addiction. No one is. And no addict is a catch within the first year or so of recovery. At what point in the dating process does someone tell a person they are an addict? Meeting partners in detox/meetings is frowned upon but where else is one to meet a fellow addict? The program is called Narcotics Anonymous so I don’t think where a sticker that says Hello My Name is JoDee and I am an Addict would be acceptable. So on goes the struggle…. But addicts are really horrible pimps in the armpit of America anyway, dating should be the least of their worries?

Nurse Jackie

Hello, my name is Melanie and I am Netflix addict. If you know me, you know this is true to a ridiculous extent. Including watching the The Walking Dead or Greys Anatomy from the beginning for the millionth time while on the treadmill.  I have watched them all: The Following, The Fall, Weed, Charmed, Bloodline, Glitch, The Killing, Prison Break, SuperNatural, House of Cards,  Lost, Lie to Me, Longmire, Stranger Things, Marcella, West Wing (hated it, btw), should I continue or have I humiliated myself enough? Anyway, you get the point. The one show I have not watched is Nurse Jackie. I was going to watch it but then I asked someone about it and I learned it was about a nurse with a drug addiction. Normally any show that depicts someone with an addiction is so far off track it is either offensive or laughable. For example, the Soprano’s had a lot of drugs which was pretty accurate but then Christopher (Anthony Soprano’s nephew) developed a drug problem to heroin. His addiction was so bad that he sat on his girlfriend’s dog while he was high and killed it. After that and a few other incidents the family staged an intervention with an actual interventionist and that was somewhat accurate. But then he went to a 30 day rehab once and hallelujah! found recovery. Just like that. Boom. Hail Jesus. That was offensive. Who the hell goes to rehab once (not to mention no real detox) to find a super life? Oh and when he left rehab he went back to a thug life, working around drugs and booze, with really no relapse, until much, much later.

I was actually relieved to see him finally relapse because the whole thing was insulting. Insulting? No,farcical. So, when I saw the trailer for Nurse Jackie, and I heard what it was about, I decided to skip it. And watched everything else (including shit on Amazon and Hulu) but I kept seeing it pop up as something I might like to watch. I finally decided to give it a chance. Mostly because I had the flu and was so dead in bed, I had really no other option. I was surprised. The story is not really parallel to mine as the mother is the addict and her kid hates her for it. Obviously mine is the opposite, but I don’t hate my addict. But, it is interesting to see the progression of the disease from a different perspective. I mean, come on, it’s still fiction. It’s still drama made for TV but it’s not that far off. This woman has a wonderful (and sexy as hell) husband and two great kids and life which she ruins because of her drug addiction. The whole story sort of roped me in because she is an awesome nurse, and a mom, and basically living a double life to feed her addiction.  But, the one thing that seemed so realistic to me was the impulsivity.

SPOILER ALERT:

I am going to talk about the show which will probably give away important facts. If you read on you do so at your own risk.

This woman is a very successful addict for many years. I know that sounds like an oxy-moron but it’s true. She is a fantastic nurse, and mother, and wife who happens to screw the pharmacist at the hospital she works to feed her drug addiction. She uses the excuse that she hurt her back as a means to get him to supply the drugs which he does because he has no idea she has an entire family. Of course, the facade is ruined one day, and everything begins to crumble around her.  She has several seasons of drug horror before she finally finds her way to rehab. She white knuckles it through the first year of sobriety. One the  anniversary she just nonchalantly pops a pill in her mouth. For no obvious reason. For no purpose. Just because. And that, that is so true. I know for a fact that JoDee has rewarded herself for a 30, 60, 90, 120 day sobriety with getting high. That is the fucked up, irrational, diseased thinking that addicts have. They believe that since they made it a year they can control it now. It’s really not much different from someone with bipolar disease believing they no longer need meds to keep them stable. It’s all part of the disease progression.

It’s not long before she is a wrecking ball in her life, that ends with her being arrested. Blah, Blah, Blah, nursing diversion program, suspended nursing license, once again working hard to gain back everyone’s trust, blah, blah, blah, nursing board reinstate her licence earning her job back. Immediately she puts her nursing scrubs on throwing a pill in her mouth at the same time. Bam. And it seems so ridiculous. You will want to beat her. And shame her. And yell at her. And you will want to think she deserves her family abandoning her, and her boyfriend going to jail, and losing her license again, and possibly her life, and all those feelings are fair enough. Only that is part of the problem. Drug addiction goes so far beyond the actual drug use. It’s the mentality. It’s the mental regression. It is not being able to think about family, or life, or  self. It’s not because the Nurse Jackie’s of the world don’t love their children or spouse or jobs, but because they are not equipped to face those responsibilities. They truly believe that no one knows they are using, and that they can handle it, and that their life is manageable.

Once, at the very beginning of this nightmare, when I thought accompanying JoDee to every N/A meeting would somehow control her using I had my first experience with this kind of relapse. We went to a meeting on a Wednesday night. At that meeting a young man was receiving his 60 day chip. He spoke about his struggles, and that his family finally sent him away to rehab and that was the magic ticket. That rehab was the salvation and he was ready to embrace life drug-free. The very next day we went to a different meeting and the same young man stood up to receive his 24 hour chip, signifying that he had relapsed the night before. I was stunned. And horrified. No one else in the room was. I was so shocked, I almost couldn’t contain myself. Fast forward all these years later, and I am rarely shocked. I am a little embarrassed for myself that I was such a dingus.

Since then JoDee has pulled this exact thing. I can’t tell you how many times I went to see her pick up a milestone chip only to pick her up off the floor the next day. She discharged from detox to an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). The first night I picked her up from the program, she was high. She didn’t even make it 12 hours. And another time she discharged from WATC with a handful of narcan because she blatantly told the staff she had ever intention of using the minute she stepped foot outside the fence. So I guess what I am trying to say is that not all addicts look like the homeless people on the street. Sometimes they are seemingly rational, hard-working, and productive members of society. All addicts have one and only one thing in common regardless of station in life, financial income, sexuality or religion and that is unpredictability.  You will never know when they will use. You will never know if their sobriety is long term. You will never know if they will put drugs over self, family, job or safety. And you will never, ever know what made them pick up again because often they don’t even know. The conundrum is real and painful because as a loved one of an addict I can tell you that I want to trust my addict, I want to believe she is really not using, but historically that isn’t the case. History has told me that if I think she is using, she probably is. And my gut tells me if I think something isn’t right, it probably is wrong. But how do we reconcile that? When the addict is standing in front of us looking earnest and honest pleading their case about not using and doing well, how does someone know when to trust them? The answer is we don’t. We will never know.

Recently, once again, I was tasked with collecting JoDee’s belongings from a place that she left them behind. This is her typical MO. It smelled bad, made my car stink like smoke, and I did not want to search her stuff for drugs or needles.  I know I probably should have but I’m sick of doing that. I’m tired of doing this especially because she doesn’t stay clean. This morning I had to leave all those belongings on my porch for someone to pick them up for her. As I pulled out of the drive way I was struck with the ridiculousness and depressing realization that this is where we are. We are at a place were all of my kids shit is on my porch waiting to get picked up like donations to a charity, or the weekly trash. Everything she is, or was, or has been is packed in one box, one laundry basket and a suitcase so heavy I was slightly concerned there may have been a body inside. I didn’t look inside because if there was a body in it I’m pretty sure she would have asked me to bury it. That is what I have become, the cleaner, the problem solver, the only when- I- need -you person. All symptoms of addiction.

Addiction: The Choice

Recently I saw someone I was Facebook friends with post an article about the frustration the writer had at addiction being called a disease. The writer wrote about his/her opinion, and it is an opinion which is kind of like assholes: everyone has one and they all stink. The basis is that addiction is a choice. Plain and simple. It compared addiction to children on the cancer ward dying of terminal illness. Because those are apples and apples. So, contrary to my sarcasm I do believe people have the right to believe whatever they want to believe. One of the most amazing things about America is that we all have the right to be assholes.  And, sadly now I can’t be Facebook friends with that person anymore, because the one thing I won’t do is begin, entertain or participate in any Facebook arguments. I look on Facebook for entertainment, and there was nothing entertaining about that. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to share my opinion.

In my opinion the writer (not the person who posted it) is a fucking ignorant dick face. In my professional opinion, actually. If a person were inclined to look at addiction from the moment of picking up a joint, or sticking a needle in their arm, then yes that action is in fact a choice. But the decision was made so far before that. I certainly do not think that my child’s drug addiction is comparable to the pain and suffering a parent would go to if their child was battling brain cancer. But isn’t comparing addiction to childhood cancer like saying don’t feel bad if your grandfather dies at 98 because kids are dying at 3. There are just somethings that are not comparable.Otherwise,  no one in America should ever complain about their coffee order being wrong because there are starving children in Africa. And certainly no one should ever be inconvenienced by their pet’s death because women are being sold into sex trafficking in many countries. Also, no one should complain about having MS, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy, dementia, clubbed feet, cleft palate, blindness or deafness because families in China are only allowed one child.  Do you see how ridiculous all that is? All of those things are hard to live with, especially getting a wrong coffee order! How can one be more or less important than another?  I have MS. It affects me in different ways. And some days are harder than others. I would be pretty effing pissed off if someone told me I didn’t have a right to have a feeling about that because of some other non related incident.

I don’t like when people compare addiction to other diseases because they only see the act of using the drug as the issue but the disease has taken over long before that happens. The choice might be in which drug a person takes but the disability is much deeper than that. The disability is in the mental illness that causes the addiction. Or the self-deprecation, or the lack of self-esteem or the sexual abuse or other childhood trauma the addict suffered from that drove them to such a low point in life that drugs seems like the only option. Why is it when a life-long smoker suffers lung cancer we only see the cancer not the action that got them there? Or when a diabetic loses their eye or a foot because blood sugars were not monitored or diet was not restricted we only see the loss of the eye or foot not the action that got them there? And I am not saying that we should be less compassionate with those folks either, because I’m not. What I am saying is that all diseases deserve compassion regardless of how they happen. If someone was critically injured in a car accident because they were speeding would we be less sorry for them? Or be willing to help them less?

I have use my energy getting out of bed every day. I have to use my energy going to work, checking on my addict, raising my children, being a good wife, and a good granddaughter to my aging and ailing Bibi. I have to use a ridiculous amount of energy determining the many ways I cannot and should not help my addict because at this point helping hurts so having to take time to explain why it’s asshole-ish to compare addiction to child cancer is really shitty.  Saying that someone is an addict and it is a disease does not mean that they aren’t accountable for their actions. Saying that addiction is a disease does not absolve the addict of any responsibility. I know that addicts often have the “poor me” attitude but the reality is that the attitude is part of the disease. It doesn’t mean that we (by we I mean any and all of us not an addict but dealing with an addict) have to put down the red carpet to take all the shit they dole out.

Accepting that addiction is a disease is acknowledging that the addict is sick. That’s it. It doesn’t require some big action or some large hand-out. The society at large is not expected to make a protest, start a petition or drag an unknown addict off the street to personally see to the recovery which would be useless anyway. It takes no effort. If you are a family member of an addict it may take some hard lessons on how not to let the addict run all over you. But if you are lucky enough to be on the sidelines of addiction, if you are a spectator then spectate, not speculate. Making judgments and having opinions takes more work than doing nothing.  The addicts are not the people reading those articles and letters because they are high somewhere, mindless, numb and oblivious to anything anyone else thinks. If they did read them they wouldn’t give a shit what anyone thought. So that means the family members, like me, are the people left reading them, and realizing how cruel the world can be. It is hard enough to see our addicts so fucked up to then be subjected to the asshole opinion of ignorant, uneducated on the subject dick faces that feel that somehow their asshole opinion should have an impact on us. Are we supposed to see that open letter or article and think Gee my addict decided to do this so I hope they die? Or they should be banned to an island in the middle of nowhere? Or, even better, they should be locked up with pedophiles, murders and rapists? What is bashing the weak suppose to prove? What is it suppose to accomplish?  Before supporters of this rhetoric answer that, really think about it. Don’t just respond to act tough or fill in a blank. Think before you speak.

Theatre Endings

Most  people would find  this surprising about me but I love the theatre. Musicals, operas, plays, ballets, and the like. I love the ambiance, and the people it attracts and the clothes they wear. Both those performing and those attending.  Years ago it was much more formal than it is now. No one would have dared go to the theatre without having black tie attire on but now there are all kinds of dressing from jeans to ball gowns and everything in between.  My favorite type of performance is Les Miserable or Phantom of the Opera. Les Miserable being my favorite. The story of human suffering and hardship being overcome through the music and song. It’s amazing. The music is so encompassing it that the misery of the story line becomes secondary. In Les Mis a man is a prisoner to a rich entrepreneur to a mayor back to hero to prisoner to dead. And it’s a lovely program!

Life, however, is not a program.There is no script with beautiful songs. There is no intermission to digest all that we have seen. And there is no fat lady singing to let a person know the end is near. In life, those things are a mystery. We don’t know when we are in the middle, because we don’t know when it is going to end. We don’t know if the damsel in distress will really be saved or if she will die marking the beginning of a new plot, the twist in the story. Life is all about the unknown. Sometimes the unknown is wondering if I really will make it to the gas station since my gas light has been on for two days (true story). Or if I will wake up tomorrow to find out I am the mother of two children and two step-children instead of three children and two step-children because my oldest has killed herself via drug overdose.

JoDee went to treatment. Again. This ritual has gotten so old, I am unphased by it. I don’t get excited about her being in treatment, and I certainly don’t bank on her staying. AC tells me on the regular that kind of thinking is putting bad energy into the universe. But, when she runs away it is shocking to him. Every single time. I am never shocked. I am disappointed, and upset, and angry but never shocked. I stopped being shocked a few years ago. I can’t even remember the last time I was taken aback by anything she has done.  Recently, she surprised me. She surprised me by allowing herself to get the vivitrol shot. For those who do not know what the vivitrol shot is let me explain. The shot introduces a drug into the system that blocks the opioid receptors. This is significant because the recipient of the drug can not get high on opiates. It is also significant because users are at a higher risk of overdose. Technically, the shot should help with the craving and obsession but if a person wants to get high for any reason, but they should not be able to feel the high but they might try to “break through” the shot which leaves them vulnerable to respiratory distress and death.

In the past JoDee and I have discussed the shot but always felt that with her relapse rate, as the shot wears off and becomes less effective, she would really be at risk for death. She has already overdosed many times without the shot so I can’t even imagine the amount of drugs that would be necessary to break through it. There is a pill version that she has taken in the past that has helped her tremendously but she has to take the pill every day for it to be affective and she doesn’t like that. A person who has taken the shot can still use other drugs or alcohol to receive the high they are looking for. It won’t stop benzo’s or cocaine from getting her jammed. Something she made sure to tell staff before she left treatment this time. A week after she got the shot, she left. I had a feeling she was going to leave. I called her one morning to tell her I could sense her restlessness but she should stick it out. She told me she was restless, and had thought about leaving but decided to stay. The next day, gone. Gone like the wind.

There is no minute to ponder what will  happen next. I don’t have the luxury of taking an intermission to discuss these events, and pontificate or vacillate on the next scene. It just is. It is what it is. And it sucks.  I want this to be someone else’s story. Actually, no, I want this to be fiction. A story told through dramatic dancing, music that will end with an entire cast, including the daughter that may die, taking a bow at the end. When I get these calls, I still have to continue with on with my life. If I am cooking dinner, I can’t abandon dinner to lie in bed, or out in the grass allowing myself a few minutes of self-pity even though I want nothing more than to do that. But suppression is a dam. It is blocking so much emotion that if I let even a small crack appear, it will all come spilling out, which will be good for no one trust me. I am not a crier or someone who falls down in a heap of sadness. I become angry and I don’t want that to happen.

Even worse than the call is the call from her. After being gone for some time she is calling me to say she can’t stay where she is. She needs a ride. She needs a place to stay. I fucking hate with the heat of a million suns having to tell her that I can’t help her. It’s cruel. It’s absolutely cruel. A mother with a drug addict child is bad enough. It hurts enough and it is brutal enough but then we have to endure this hell on earth called leaving your sick child on the street? I can’t force her to break her cycle. I can only stop myself from being part of her cycle but even that is soul-sucking. I say this all the time but there is no word or statement or metaphor to explain those lucky enough to not be in the know how it feels. It is feeling your pulse to make sure your heart is beating but knowing there is no heart in there. It is watching your breath in the cold air but knowing there is no life left. It is being on the most gorgeous beach on the perfect day around only the people you love the very best all of whom are having the time of their life but you have the stomach flu. All you can do is vomit and try not to shit your pants while trying to enjoy the world around you even though you are so sick you can hardly stand. But you force yourself to sit by the pool, or go on the boat ride, or attend the dinner party all the while you can’t enjoy it the way everyone else is. Only you know how bad you feel. Sometimes you can smile and even participate so that the others aren’t worried or brought down by your misery. It’s a big charade.

I don’t know what is going to happen with her or where she is going to go. I don’t know how many times I will have to say to her that I can’t pick her up or bring her to my house. I don’t know how to convince her to humble herself and surrender for good not for a few weeks. I can’t believe I have to tell her to find a shelter. Who does that?  I think about my friends that have lost children and how they would give their own life to even receive that phone call and I wonder if I am doing the wrong thing saying no. Every single piece of material I have read on addiction, every support group, meeting and clinical professional has said no help is the only help I can give. Will I regret that if the fat lady sings? Instead of a broken glass from an opera singer will it be the shattered heart of a broken mother that signifies the ending?

Bad Luck Is the Only Luck

Once, not all that long ago, Jay J said to me if it wasn’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all. That. Is. No. Shit.  The last several weeks have been proof positive of that statement. Now, I try to look at the positive side. Ok, that’s a lie, but AC tells me to anyway. HE says I look at things to much as a realist. HE says I should try to think positive so that positive things will happen.  HE says that I should see things could be worse. HE is right. But please for the love of  all that is holy, please do not tell him I said that.  But, these days, I’m pretty sure karma is laughing at me. Here are the reasons why:

  1. Cinderella is graduating in the late spring. We had been planning a graduation trip, and to wit my friend leased her condo in Aruba to us for a week in a July. After several schedule conflicts and arranging travel plans, it was determined that it wasn’t going to work. But I already had sent the checks for the condo, so AC and I decided we would go alone. Neither of us have gone on a vacation kid free since Jesus was in short pants, and never have we gone sans kids together.  This was a good thing. We thought spending the money would be a special trip for us, and we deserved it since we had a small nest egg saved. Then our heater died.
  2. No heat. First it was just one day and the nice young man fixed it in what he called a band aid. The nice thing was that the heat never worked upstairs properly and he was able to fix that. The next day it went down again. The kid came back, told us that it was old and he was concerned that it had never been cleaned properly so he didn’t know how much more he could do without making it worse. We tapped off one of the lines in the cement that was leaking (cutting off heat to the first floor but keeping the heat on the second floor). That held for a little while, but then blammo. The burner was toast. Inside the cast iron was being held together with poxy and there was decades of sediment and soot and shit at the bottom, as the kid expected. Our nest egg was now going to a new heater system. I think that is the end of our vacation, AC thinks that we have an awesome heater that will last for along time.
  3. We debated it for a while and decided the condo was paid for and with it just being the two of us, we could go on vacation pretty cheap. And then I lost my debt card.  I had wonderful charges on my account from a brothel in Amsterdam, all the paying with none of the fun. I ended up bouncing several checks (which is how I found out my account had been hacked to begin with) and that is MORTIFYNG. MORTIFIED. HORRIFIED.
  4. I finally get that straightened out, and some of the money returned, the rest to come later and our new dog seems sick. First she is just lazy, I think. She had surgery on her hip before we got her so I thought she just wanted to rest on it. Then she seemed really fatigued. On the third day she had a volcanic, spraying, disgusting ass explosion all over her kennel, my floor and the wall. That started the throwing and going. The next morning we brought her to the vet who immediately sent us to the animal hospital. The animal hospital is not something I have ever had to experience. It is not like a human hospital. Everyone is not entitled to services regardless of their ability to pay. Within 20 minutes of being in the hospital they told us that she has a form of anemia that can be deadly, that she needed blood transfusions along with other treatments and the bill was $4500. Oh, and some people find the cost to prohibitive so euthanasia is an option. That is an aawful, awful position to be in. That dog is the sweetest, passive, adorable baby who has only lived 10 months. How can she possibly need to be put to sleep? And further more, how in the world can I seriously just put her down that fast? Just like that? But $4500? Holy shit.
  5. Needless to say, I coughed up the dough, and left her there for the night. The next day a wonderful doctor called me from the hospital to say that my beautiful puppy (Georgi) does not in fact have that life threatening anemia (IMHA) but she believes she has a rare type of virus that is passed most commonly from pittbull to pittbull when one dog is used as a bait dog. MY poor little thing was used as a bait dog? She said she had all the scars as evidence and  broken hip that was never corrected so healed incorrectly from when she was younger all seemed to point to that direction. There was a test, it costs an arm and leg but then we would know for sure, blah blah blah, several hours later, that’s what she has. Now she has to be on anti-malaria drugs for the next several weeks which cost me the other arm and antibiotics which cost the other leg, so she can be better and everyone can call me shorty. Poof. Nest egg smashed to pieces.
  6. Bud, our older dog, decides for some unknown reason just strolls out on the pool cover, falling between two slates nearly getting submerged. That pool hadn’t been opened for two years by the previous owners. There is probably malaria in that water! AC and I were half in the pool to get him out. I wanted to dunk my whole body in battery acid to kill any disease I may have gotten. Later that night, he starts panting and acting funny. He looked engorged and bloated so of course I am convinced he has some wretched disease. So I spend two nights staying up petting him and getting him water and telling him it’s going to be okay thinking that this is it. The poor old guy is going to die. Nope. On the morning of day three he was barking like a maniac and stealing my piece of toast right out of my hand.
  7. Lastly, while at the gym my phone was not behaving (which may or may not have something to do with my having it dropped it so many times the screen has more cracks than a crack house) so it wouldn’t play music and I couldn’t get Netflix to work, or Amazon, or Hulu. Finally Hulu popped up and the only show that would play was…….. Intervention. I shit you not. I debated turning it off but then I thought maybe I could learn something. No. No I did not. No surprise there.

I guess, after reading the recent events, it could be worse. Both dogs could have died, I could have had nothing to listen to at the gym and I could have been the one to charge my card at a brothel in Amsterdam which I think AC wouldn’t have been happy about.  I hope your luck is better than mine.

 

Happy Easter.

 

The Bag

It’s warm here. I am safe here. I find that to be ironic.  Here, I don’t have to move or talk or listen. The silence is so loud it is deafening and welcoming at the same time. A cocoon of protection from the cold wind that is blowing a trash bag through the air. I frown as I watch it land in a tree to high up for anyone to get a hold of it without climbing the limbs. How long will that bag be there? Will the weather beat it, and drowned it, shred it until it is nothing but battered plastic clinging to a piece of bark? Or maybe the wind will gust soon blowing it off that tree to another one, or a rooftop, or a power line? That bag is not safe. It is drifting around at the will of the earth and its elements. At anytime that bag may be gone from this world. The amazing part is how impressive wind is. It is sightless, and grasp-less, and intangible.  The power it has is nothing short of a miracle. The wind can blow over a house, or people, or really strong winds from tornadoes have been known to jam straws of hay into telephone posts.

I can hear the wind screaming. Rattling windows, and shaking cars it clearly is letting its presence known. The wind is blowing at different degrees of strength horizontally along the earth’s surface. It is a bulk movement of air that travels from Alaska to Maine. From China to Hawaii. It can be cold and harsh, unwelcoming coupled with rain. The wind can be scary when it ratchets up to the speed faster than a car can travel. The wind can be enjoying while sailing or on a scorching day at the beach. It’s natural form never changes. It is always blowing and we tolerate it without much thoughts because we have no choice. There is no stopping wind. Wind is the silent partner to earth’s elements that should not be taken advantage of, or dismissed because it is as giving and unforgiving as any snow, rain or earthquake. And I know that. I am acutely aware of the power it has.

I adjust myself so that I can see the bag better. I have a bet running in my head with my two selves. One is saying that bag is stuck there until it disintegrates but the other self is pulling for the bag to be set free. It’s a sad ending for anything to be stuck in one spot, beat and torn and tortured until there is no choice but to give up, dying alone and dirty without anyone noticing or caring. I want that bag to have a chance. I want that bag to have the ability to fight for another day.  As the wind flirts with the closed bottom, the bag hangs by one handle feeling the tickle of the wind deciding to either lift it up to set it free or rattle it so it is wrapped around the branch. I’m holding my breath. And screaming in my head let it go. Let the fucking bag go. But as the wind retreats for a moment, the bag sags back to hanging with one handle which is now ripping. The plastic is stretched as far as it can so it will either break to fly free or become tangled on the branch below it. The branch below is not as thick and healthy as the one it’ is on now. If it drops to the lower branch it will most definitely become entangled with no hope of leaving.

My face is pressed against the glass, my warm breath fogging the window in spurts, as I try to move the bag with my mind. That bag represents so much more than a piece of trash blowing in the air. It represents the meek and sick and unable. That bag can give me the hope that when things look bad, as bad as they can be, there is always a chance that it will get better. Things change in an instant. A few minutes ago that bag was traveling around seeing the sights. It could see all the houses and people and had the potential to go anywhere or land anywhere. Now, it is at a fork in the road. That fork is destiny determining. Something has to give. I can’t sit watching and waiting and wondering and hoping for a good outcome. There must be something I can do to make the situation better. I am wracking my brain trying to figure out if I could climb a ladder, or use a long stick, or even climb up the tree. All of those options have little benefit with great risk. Risk to myself I mean. If I fall off that ladder or out of the tree I will likely be injured badly, if not killed. But is that worth it? If the bag is able to go one and live another day and see the people and have a future, is my life a fair trade? Is it the bag, or is it what the bag represents to me?

I slap my hand against the glass ignoring the bowing and moaning the window makes in indignation. Do something. I want the bag to do something before the wind makes the decision for it. My eyes are burning as the tears pool under my eye lids. Squeezing my eyes tight the  water spills over for the release of a thousand tears not shed and  I pray silently for the bag to do the right thing. I understand I can’t control it or even help it because it is not my problem to solve. I can only sit back and watch and wait to see what happens next. I hear the wind begin to howl, and my stomach flips as though I am on a roller coaster. When I open my eyes the bag will either be gone, or destroyed. I tell myself that I can handle it either way. I will be able to live with the outcome believing I could not have changed it anyway. As the wind whistles in the trees, the electrical wires slap around, I know that it’s happening so I open my eyes with hope for the best and prepared for the worst. Now, it’s all in the bag.

What You Say vs What I Hear

What you say:

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are a good mother.

You have done everything you can.

She might recover.

Think about yourself.

 

What I hear:

I have everyone fooled.

I am so numb I don’t feel anything anymore.

You know I’m not, but you don’t know what else to say.

I pity you.

She won’t.

You look like shit so do something nice for yourself.

 

What you say:

How is JoDee?

I don’t know how you do it.

I can’t imagine how painful this must be.

Don’t give up hope.

What can I do for you?

 

What I hear:

Is she alive?

I’m so glad that isn’t me.

I don’t want to imagine your pain because it makes me think it might happen to me.

I don’t know what else to say to you.

I feel helpless because there is nothing I can do. I love you and I want to do something for you.

 

What I feel about what I hear:

I wish everyone could see how weak I really am.

I wish everyone could see my cowardice.

I wish everyone could see that I tried to be a good mother, but I don’t think I did it right.

I wish I could keep up hope.

I don’t want to think about myself.

I have no idea how JoDee is. Even if I was in touch with her, I never really know how she is.

I’m glad it isn’t you too. I wish it wasn’t me. I wish no one had to go through this.

No, you don’t. You don’t want to imagine the pain, or try to imagine your own pain if you were in my shoes because it is crippling to think about.

You don’t have to say anything because there is nothing to say. Nothing anyone can say. Nothing to be said. Except for this is total bullshit. And being honest, I don’t want to talk about it anyway.

I feel hopeless too and I appreciate you offering to send me food, or a house cleaner, or take me to dinner but it just isn’t necessary because tomorrow will be the same as today as tomorrow as a month and a year from now. But thank you for being a friend.

Terrified

I live in a chronic state of fear. I am sure we all know why, and the reasons because, well, I have a whole blog written about them. But it’s a different kind of fear during active addiction then in recovery. It’s like an itch compared to poison ivy.  If a person has an itchy back, they will try really hard to scratch it. A person might rub their back against a door-frame, or use a ruler (don’t judge, what’s  a girl to do?) or any number of things. The itch might actually go away. Or it might sort of linger not really satisfied.  It might always be there. Sort of annoying, but not really incapacitating. Poison ivy on the other hand, that is incapacitating. The itch is awful. Burning, and irritated. Itching it makes it worse, not itching makes it worse than that, and when you aren’t scratching, you’re  thinking about itching it.  It’s always nagging, painfully. The emotion of it is, um, emotional? It’s awful. There is no escape.  During recovery, I am very aware that it could change at any time. At any moment she could make a move that erases everything she had just gone through. It isn’t as painful, but it’s still ….there. During active addiction, there is no running from it. If I am awake I am thinking about it. If I am asleep I am having nightmares about it. The anxiety and anticipation of when something will change, how it will change, IF it will change, is draining. And every time there is a relapse, I can’t help but think will this be the time.  When will the call come that will end the hope and end the struggle.

The pattern in our existence has been recover/relapse/recover/relapse, rinse and repeat. I have been trying desperately to break my part of the cycle. I have vowed not to drop everything and run when she calls. I haven’t given her any money, or really any daily emotional support. I have been standing on the sidelines like a good girl, aka, non-enabling mommy. Intervention would be so proud (insert very lady-like curtsey, actually no insert very manly chest bump which is more my style).  But that is really hard to do. Sometimes AC says to me that he doesn’t know how I function. Caffeine, suppression and road rage are really all that keep me going.  Then, there are times the urge to be her mother just take over and I absolutely cannot ignore it. So, after two weeks of radio silence, I called her. I had too. It was a feeling, maternal I guess, but I had to hear her voice for myself to know she is ok, which is going to really do the exact opposite because clearly she is not ok. But I did it anyway.  She answered the phone with a hello that screamed of skepticism.  I reassured her that nothing was wrong, and I was just calling to check on her. She sounded terrible. She sounded beat down and sad but I couldn’t ask her about that. Asking her about that would lead to her telling me which would make me feel guilty for abandoning her even though I hadn’t and I would force myself to act on that so she wouldn’t feel that way or feel like she wasn’t loved.

There are times when a parent has to know that less is more. There are times when a parent has to do the opposite of what the child has asked because it is in their best interest. And there are times when a parent has to know that it’s not about what is right or wrong, it’s about what is best even if best sucks monkey anus. As she told me that she has tried to go to detox twice, and she wanted to go back to recovery but was having a hard time. She had reserved her bed and cancelled it a few times but didn’t want to this time. I gave her encouragement. I told her I love her and I told her that could do this, and live the right way, but she is the only one that could do it. Our normal pattern would be for me to drop whatever I am doing to pick her up because for some unknown reason whenever she wants to leave where she is to go to detox she has to do it under the cover of mystery, leaving before the person she is with comes home, to bring her either home to my house to wait for a bed or directly to detox. I didn’t offer to pick her up. I was holding firm. I was standing my ground. I was not going to be deterred. And then she said. She said the words that always break me. They are not I need you Mom or I love you Mom or even I might die Mom. She said, I am terrified, Mom. Those words, for me, is like taking a bullet to the heart. No parent can hear that their kid is afraid and not want to hold their hand. It is ingrained in us as parents. For mothers it happens at conception, for fathers it happens as soon as they see their child, having to wait to have the bond we develop as the child grows in our womb.  It is against all that we know, it is against everything we learned from Dr. Spoke, our pediatrician and of course, Sesame Street.

I called her from my car. I was driving home from work, in the ever lovely evening rush-hour on 128 which is really code for Highway from Hell. With the phone pressed to my ear and ironically, Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins played in the background she said she was terrified. I put the phone to my chest for a brief moment. I had to take a moment to contain myself. If I didn’t hit pause, whatever came out of my mouth next would probably be wrong. My brain said go get her. Pull a U-ey at the next exit to turn around and head to Everett. But that is the same pattern again and again.  It’s wrong. Actually, it’s right. It’s right to do what felt wrong because wrong was right and I was only able to control myself. I can’t stop her from repeating her cycle, but I can stop myself from participating.  I can stop physically doing it, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t mentally do it. My voice said it’s scary because it’s a change and it’s a massive change. My voice said that she could do this and that she has done it before so she knows she can. My voice said that she would feel better if she could really, really live. And my voice told her that I loved her.

My mind was screaming go fucking get her you stupid dumb asshole. My mind was telling me that only a bad mother let’s her kid figure this out alone. My mind told me that only a bad person would hang up and finish driving home to make dinner, feed the new dogs, and my other regular evening duties.  My resolve was strong though none-the-less tortured. I never even mentioned I talked to JoDee until we were sitting down for dinner. I just casually mentioned that I had talked to her and she was going to treatment. I didn’t say much about it. I made it seem inconsequential because I know that’s how they want me to be.  The next day she text me that she was scared, that the person she was with had come home and she didn’t know if she could leave. I told her to do it different and tell him the truth instead of being sneaky because recovery was a good thing, not something to be ashamed about. She said she couldn’t do it, she would wait for him to leave. I reminded her that she is repeating the same patterns, and she told me she knew and would try to tell him. Later she text me that she was on her way but wouldn’t call me from detox. Are we at that point? Are we so far from each other that she felt she couldn’t call me if she wanted too? How did two people, two family members, a mother/daughter duo become so distant and broken that we can’t call each other randomly? What the hell happened to the days that she would call my 100 times a day for many reasons up to and including calling me to ask where the cat is? Ironically, that isn’t what happened, and life has a way of sticking in your ass when bend over to pick up a penny. And JoDee has a way of making things worse for herself. She is her own worst enemy.

Sometimes I don’t know whose life I am living. I feel like in my house, alone, I can be as disturbed and distraught about this life as I want too but when I leave the house I have to put on my Person Clothes. In my Person Clothes I look like the me everyone knows, and sees, and laughs with and I am normal.  In my Person Clothes I don’t look like the person that feels as though heroin has literally ruined my life. Why is that? Because I am terrified she won’t ever recover. I am terrified that I will bury her someday, and that someday will be sooner than later. I am terrified that her addiction problem has made me so cynical and jaded that I may never be able to see the world in a different way again. I am terrified that she won’t die but we will continue this cycle for the next 20 years and then she dies. I am terrified that she will have a stroke, and this time it will make her brain turn to mush leaving me with a completely handicapped child who will need constant care. I am terrified that if that happens I will resent her for making me suffer further for her addiction because I know myself so I will have to take care of her myself until I drop dead, that is if I out live her. I am terrified that she will never have a normal relationship with her siblings.  The truth is, she is not the only one that is terrified and I can’t really help either one of us.