The F Word

I have been known, from time to time, on a rare occasion, in an odd instance, to use the F word. I know this may shock many of you. Please, take a moment and collect yourselves. Deep breaths. I promise that it is only used in the most intense of moments. In the most insane of times. In the most desperate of situations. Or when I stub my toe, wake up with a cat on my neck or run out of diet coke.  However, the F word you are thinking about is not the F word I am going to talk about today.

The F word that I am having difficulty with today is Firm. It is hard to be firm. I have drawn a line in the sand. I have put up imaginary boundaries to proclaim that I am no longer going to act or react as it were, in a certain way. The mere proclamation is the easy part. It’s putting your money where your proclamation is that is hard. Impossibly hard. Knowing JoDee is self-destructive is really hard. But knowing that I can’t help her, is even harder. I know that letting her come home is enabling her. She will rest for a few days, claim to be looking for a bed, rejuvenate a little bit and then hit the rocks when she is feeling better. Al and I continued to repeat this cycle with her over and over. We talked many times about one or both of us putting our foot down but it’s so difficult. She cries and is pathetic and sad and begs. And she means it. At the time when she is crying and begging and pathetic she means what she says about needing help. She hits a low spot, she hates herself, misses her family, has desire to live and trots off to detox with the best intentions to stay. A couple of days later there is drama with other patients or they aren’t medicating her the way she wants, or she is sick because detoxing isn’t easy which runs her right out the front door into whoever is willing to pick her up.

One of those people is gone. The other person she will probably be running from, and that leaves me. For the weeks since she discharged from WATC I have rarely spoken to her. She has barely spoken to me other than to touch base once in a while so I know she isn’t dead. A few times when I have spoken to her she is hard to understand, mumbling, incoherent and disoriented. Last night she called me at 6 at night asking if I was up yet. She was confused as to the time of day. I had to remind her it was still night-time. She was very upset when I told her it was still Sunday. She cried that she never leaves the house, and sometimes she doesn’t know what day it is. Who wants to live like that? Who wants to live one bag to the next? Wondering if you can find it before you get sick? Especially when you have no money and have to depend on someone else to get it for you because you have the ambition of a slug to get up and do anything for yourself….

I feel like I repeat the same things over and over when I write these posts, when I chase her tail, and when I drop her off somewhere. What can I do differently? Say no. Be firm. I can be firm. I have to be firm. I have to do things differently. Doing things differently means being able to decipher what I have done wrong, or where I am enabling her. How am I enabling her? Someone tell me. Please because I have thought about a thousand times that I had stopped enabling her only to find out that I actually am. Again. So how? How do I figure it out?  The person I would usually go to for advice during times like these, is gone. I guess I will have to brain storm. We will have to brain storm. Brain storming begins now.

First I started with seeing her. When I went to visit my nutso 91-year old grandmother I took her with me. She was ok. Looked like crap. Pale, burn mark on her arm from a cigarette that she claims she did while talking with her hands but looks suspiciously like she fell asleep with it in her hand because it was a lovely sized burn, and swollen feet and ankles. She was pleasant, enjoyed seeing us, and I think it made her miss us more. When I dropped her off she jumped out of the car fast, like if she didn’t, she wouldn’t go. Later that night she called me, and then again a few hours later. The next day she called me first thing in the morning. Crying, wanting to come home. I stayed firm. I enforced that I can’t do that. I reminded her that being at our house is not good for her. She begged and said she just wanted to see us. I told her she could come over if she wasn’t high. She said she would call back.

A few hours later a very mumbly, incoherent JoDee called me back asking if she could come for a visit. I told her she could as long as she didn’t sleep over. I told her I would have to bring her back to where she came from and she could not come over if she is high. The rest of the conversation isn’t worth the brain storming. Just know it was difficult, heart-breaking and emotional. For both of us. I hated it. I almost called her back to say just come home. But that is what I have always done. Run to where ever she is and save her from the situation she got herself into. But if she keeps getting saved, she has no reason not to get into these situations. She has to know that there is no one that can save her but her, so I did not call her back. I did the thing I always do when I am anxious and can’t stand still. Cooked. I made a honey cake, vegan carrot raison cupcakes with faux cream cheese frosting, blueberry corn pancakes and biscuits and gravy. As JoDee becomes sicker the rest of us become fatter.  And crankier because then we are all sick to our stomach from all the sugar. What the F (the real F word)?

I never heard from her again until she called me thinking it was 6 am on Monday morning but it was still 6 pm on Sunday night. She cried that she missed us and wanted to see us. She said she could detox at my house. How do you tell your child that she can’t detox at my house I don’t trust her alone? And I don’t want her alone with the other kids home because she shouldn’t be their responsibility? And if I take another day off work, I am supporting her belief that I will jump if she needs it. So I had to tell her to make calls. Reach out to detoxes. Find a bed. I would pick her up to bring her to treatment but that is really all I can offer. It’s like taking a bullet. It’s like taking a bullet right to the face. Feeling the pain, and the agony, but having to put a band-aid on it so I can go on with my day. Saying no once is hard. Saying it over and over and over and over is cruel. It’s vicious. What little bit of humanity I have left is chipped away each and every time I tell her I can’t pick her up or bring her to my house or even buy her cigarettes. Why? Because if I buy her cigarettes what little money she does have she can save for drugs. If I don’t buy her cigarettes she has to choose. I mean, a choice between drugs and butts is really not a big deal to those of us with ability to reason but to her it’s a big decision. To her, the decision is similar to mine between helping her or not.

Helping is another word. It’s up there with Firm. Help. Firm. Help. Firm. They go hand in hand. Firm. Help. Firm. Help. The sentence goes like this: I am helping her by being firm in not helping. It’s my new motto. I just repeat it to myself over and over and over. I do a lot of things over and over and over. Like say the Our Father when I can’t sleep, bake cakes that make us fat, sit in my car in the driveway listening to the radio loud so no one hears me yelling and punching the steering wheel in the middle of the night. Also posting blogs about not helping her to be followed with blogs about how I help her because I wasn’t firm. Fucking firm.

What If

As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I roll over to grab my cell phone. What if I miss a call in the middle of the night? What if someone saw her in a place she shouldn’t or what if she called me for help and I slept through it (highly unlikely)? The phone lights up glaring the early hour of the morning, and the picture of baby kitty stares back at me to say no missed calls. No missed texts. No what ifs.

I roll out of bed with the appropriate amount of moaning and groaning an adult woman nearing 40 should utter, and slide on my slippers. As the cats and dog start swarming at my feet, begging in their own way for food, I start thinking about what the day ahead of me has in store. By the time I fill the cat food bowl with enough food for both cats to eat without fighting, I realize I don’t remember the last time I spoke to her yesterday. What if her silence means she is using? What if she hasn’t called me because she knows I will be disappointed and heartbroken? What if she saw someone in a meeting last night that she used to use with and decided to go back out? I try not to panic. I let the dog out and head back to my room to grab my phone. I scroll through Facebook trying to see when she last posted a comment or a picture or did anything that would give me some peace. Facebook Messenger says she was last active 1 hour ago. Why?

Why was she up so early? What if she never went to bed because she was out using all night? What if she is still high? What if she is dead and someone else is using her phone? I text her. Are you alright? She responds almost immediately she is fine and I’m a wacko. I remember then that she drives Big A. to work and he has to be there at the ass crack of dawn. Right…not using. Ok, where was I? Oh, making Jay J lunch that he probably won’t eat anyway.

But what if she is lying to me? I mean addicts lie all the time. You know how you know when an active addict is lying? Their lips are moving. Maybe she is active again which means she is lying. I text her again, where are you? She calls me. She is fine, I’m nuts, stop worrying, all is good. Ok, fine. She is good. I am good. I have to go to work. I have to stop playing the What If game.

She calls me later to say she got a job, she will be working a lot. I think that’s great. She can be responsible for her own bills, pay for gas, and stop driving Big A. in the morning-since her car is literally falling apart and she is one step away from looking like a Flintstone, using her feet to power the car. But what if getting a job is bad? She will be serving alcohol. What if she wants to drink? What if others at work have a drink? What if having money means she has more ability to use? What if someone she works with is an addict too and she goes back out? I can’t tell her this because I think what if I tell her what I think and it gives her an idea she didn’t have before. So I have to suffer with my What If’s and not ask her, not get any clarity that those things won’t happen. I say nothing. I work. I go home. I start supper. We eat. AC says what’s wrong. I say nothing. He says ok, with skepticism because he knows if I am quiet, I am talking in my head. I am talking to myself.

In my head I am saying What If this is as good as it gets? What if I spend the next 50 years we are both alive questioning every move? What if there is never any peace? I can’t spend the rest of my life-like this. I’m exhausted. I’m mentally drained. I am so drained I couldn’t explain to AC the conversation in my head anyways because if I say them out loud I sound crazier than I feel. What if I am crazy? What if I have lost my mind because my daughter is an addict? No, that is crazy. I’m not crazy because my daughter is an addict, I quickly realize. I am crazy because I was born that way. There are people who think we are both crazy, JoDee and me, but I don’t care about them. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t cast stones… not to mention what others think of us is none of our business anyway. But what if she cares? What if what others think about her bothers her enough that she has to fix her feeling with something?

I walk out to the garden; mindlessly start picking some stray weeds, to think about the What Ifs. It’s constantly mind-racing. Constantly question what is next. What if she does use again? Neither of us wants to think about that. I can’t imagine the ties she would sever with her family. Her brothers can’t take much more, her step-ish sisters can’t worry anymore, AC and I can’t chase anymore. But we would have too. We would have to deal with it. Like it or not, it would be the hand we were dealt. What if I couldn’t get her to stop this time? What if she derailed so far from her family that there was no coming back? I would have to excuse her from our lives. The responsible thing for me to do would be to not enable her. To not support her drug use. Take her car, don’t give her money, or attention, or help her feed her addiction. She might come around again. I might have to section her again. What if they wouldn’t do it this time? What if she kept using? She would die. That’s what happens. Addiction either ends when the addict surrenders or when the addict dies.

What if she died? What if we had to face life without her? It would be miserable, and unbearable, and heartbreaking. We would miss her. And we would be angry at her. We would feel like she abandoned us. We would hope she found peace wherever she was. We would hope that we would be reunited with her someday. But what if we were relieved? What if not having to chase her addiction anymore made us feel like a burden had been lifted? What if we felt lonely and guilty for feeling that way? What if we already do? What if I have to force myself to stay current in her addiction when sometimes I just want to give up? What if that makes me a bad mother? A bad person? What if I have so many conversations in my head, and focus so much on the What If Game, that I miss the life that is going on around me?




N/A vs All Others

How does this keep happening to me? Why does this keep happening to me? Not that I am complaining but it seems like I am either in the right place at the right time, or a magnet for parents of an addict. Recently, I had a situation at work that called for having a consultant come in to work with me. This was going to be a short term project. Real short. As in days short. The woman who came in had worked with my boss previously. She is older than me, but not old. I would say older-ish. She told me her age, but I don’t remember. I remember she said her son was in his forties so… do the math.

Anyway, the first day she worked, I wasn’t in. I had left instruction with the company Controller who worked with her. The second day we worked together pretty quietly, going about our business with the joint goal of completing the project. On the third day we both took our lunch out at the same time and started having some small talk. How many kids do you have, where do you live, the normal stuff. She recently retired after being an accountant for many years so we sort of talked about retired life. She said she retired because she had recently suffered a tragedy. Her son, the one in his forties, had died suddenly and traumatically. It was very difficult for her to bury her son and she was traumatized by it, rightfully so. I asked how he died and she told me a stroke. She talked about him having a difficult life and having suffered a lot. A heart beat or two of silence went by and she blurted out that he was an addict. I sat silently for a minute, so she would keep talking. She told me that he had suffered depression and other mental handicaps. That he didn’t die from drugs, directly, but that she was pretty sure the years of abuse to his body caused him to have a stroke so young. She felt that he had years of clean time and recently had relapsed which she hadn’t suspected would happen; it was so shocking to her. After a moment, she said she wasn’t even sure why she was telling me all this, she doesn’t like to tell people because they judge. Isn’t that how we all feel? Parents, siblings, partners? Aren’t we, somewhere under the surface, afraid to tell people about our addicted loved one for fear of judgement? And if we are being honest, are we only afraid of the world at large judging our addict, but also of judging us?

If we have an addict in the family, we must be poor, uneducated, trashy. If we are a parent of an addict, doesn’t that make us a bad parent, no rules, non-caring, non-parental? I know that feeling. I also believe that feeling is what helps our addicts stay in active addiction. We will turn a blind eye for fear of yelling to loud, which would attract attention. And now, this woman is grieving the loss of her son and the role addiction played in that death is huge, but she is afraid to talk about it. She doesn’t want to embarrass her son even posthumously so she keeps it to herself, preventing her own healing. Staying stuck in a world of addiction, being a victim of addiction still. Totally pisses me off. I told her that she was telling me because parents of addicts are attracted to each other, and my daughter was a heroin addict. I reiterated that her son’s addiction was not a result of her parenting or his being less than a person, and she should forgive him and herself. She seemed shocked for a moment, and then we had a “war story” session explaining what our children had been through and dragged us through. It makes me extremely sad that she lost her son. It makes me even more sad that she has to be shamed by it. Nothing changes over night, and there is more talk than ever about addiction but parents are left feeling so disjointed and disheveled by addcition, that I feel like there should be more focus on that.

There are support groups, and Al-Anon, and Nar-Non but we only feel comfortable in those groups if you find a group that you like. I have been to many groups of all kinds, and honestly, I can tell you that I find the most comfort in N/A meetings. Surrounded by addicts. And let me tell you why. First of all, some of those support groups with family members are completely depressing. I heard stories of families struggling with a loved one in addiction for 11 years, 17 years, 27 years! The thought of doing this one more day, when I was newly in addiction, and even not so newly, makes me paralyze with fear. A newcomer listening to a 67 year old father speak about his adult daughter having been to rehab and detox 49 times in total during her 27 years of addiction literally made me want to give up on life. That isn’t my story, see, that is his story. I can’t base today’s actions on the statements of people yesterday. I also can’t base my actions on someone else’s story. That man’s daughter is not my daughter. And my daughter will not go to detox or rehab 49 times, because I will effing kill her. And probably myself.

Sometimes those meetings are not as depressing especially when they have speakers whose child/loved one has multiple years clean time. Those are uplifting and give those of us whose child/loved one has no clean time, or only as much clean time as you could count on one hand some hope for a better future. There are a lot of those. Sometimes those meetings give great advice. One of the meetings we went to a woman was crying saying that she needed the meeting that night because her daughter, who was living under a tarp near a river, had her tarp stolen and was begging to come home. The mother knew she could not do that but it was devastating to send her child out into the cold night with nowhere to go and no one to go with. It felt like a death sentence to her. In fact, she would rather be dead than see the slow, painful demise of her beloved child. The story was heartbreaking but the group was so supportive and offered her advice that was helpful. It also showed the woman that even in the hardest times she had support from people who understood (Sandy Silva- do you remember that meeting!). I have also been to meetings where the group is really hard on the loved one. There was a group I attended with a similar situation with a different mother/daughter duo. In this case, the group was ruthless. As the group berated her for past actions or inundated her with “you should have done’s” I watched the woman sink deeper in her chair. I felt like she was being violated twice, once by her addict and again by people who should know better. I never went back to that group, and I told the woman not to either. I gave her the name of another support group, which I hope she went too.

The reason I like the N/A meetings is because it shows me that addicts do recover. I hear stories from addicts, from the horse’s mouth essentially, on how they maintained years of recovery, and why they relapsed. The why is so important because I feel like having some insight into the breakdown that goes on before a relapse helps deal with it instead of wasting time trying to understand it. I hate when JoDee relapses. Not just because of my fear of her dying but it tells me her demons are surfacing, she isn’t able to deal with them, which is the sign of a bigger problem. But I can understand that. Listening to other addicts, clean or not, speak about their station in life, their experiences, has given me the tools I need to hate the addiction and not the addict. It has allowed me to see each addict as a person and not an extension of their crack pipe or needle, and to understand why this is such an epidemic. Some people are assholes no matter what. Clean or using, there are people I would never get along with, or want to have in my inner circle. No one gets along with everyone all of the time. The world is too diverse for that. There are addicts I don’t like because of things they have done in active addiction (even if I understand why an addict does something doesn’t mean I have to like it), and some I don’t like because of things they have done during clean time. There are people I don’t like just because of who they are, and I am certain there are many people don’t like me just because of who I am. All of that is irrelevant. Whether I like you or not, whether you like me or not, how we treat people dealing with addiction is the only exception. Even if I disliked you (I hate using the word hate, ha ha) if you called me needing help with a family member in addiction, or an addict yourself, I would never turn you away. And I would always remind everyone that addiction is not about the person, it’s not about how anyone was raised, it is not about any single thing, it is a symptom of a problem that stems from many things. Something we should all keep in mind.



Rising To Our Norm


I can feel him watching me before I even open my eyes. I don’t want to see his face, staring, daring me to get up. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to face the day. I pretend I am still sleeping and pull the blanket, the red one he loves, over my head. The sigh is audible. Loud and judging. He knows I haven’t showered in three days. He knows I haven’t gotten out of bed besides using the bathroom or getting a drink in three days. He knows I can’t stay in this bed forever. I know he is right but I can’t face it yet. I want to open my eyes, I am awake even though I don’t want to admit it, but I’m afraid he will know. I keep the blanket over my head and turn on to my side. Under the safety of the covers, I open my eyes. I can see that it’s light out. It’s morning. Late morning probably. Another day. Another day has passed with me living in the sanctity of my bed. The only place I feel safe. The only place I find relief, and don’t have to think or work or be. The only place I don’t have to face him, until now. He has had enough of me hibernating, but I can’t get up.

Getting up means living. Living means life, life means facing what I can’t understand. If I get up I will head out to the kitchen, with each step disturbing another tumble-weed of dog and cat fur that has neglected to be cleaned up. The dingy hallway hasn’t been swept or mopped since I can’t even remember. Around the corner I make my way into the kitchen. Pots, pans and dishes litter the sink and counter. It’s dark as the blinds for sliding glass door, the only natural light for the kitchen, have been closed for weeks. More tumble-weeds of dog and cat hair. Water and food bowls have dried reminisce of food from weeks past. They need to be cleaned.  I will have to ignore that, and not let the pains of being a letdown to another life stab my heart, or back to bed I will go. I have to ignore the kitchen table with weeks’ worth of bills and junk mail begging to be sorted and paid. As I turn to the refrigerator to get a glass of water, I see the picture. It was taken at the first of many rehabs, wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey which is meant to be a joke, since I am such a Patriots fan. The smile is fake, the makeup is perfect, but the daunting look in her eyes speaks of agony and embarrassment and struggles that have not gone away, and I reminded. My daughter is an addict. She will always be an addict, and this is our life.

I don’t want to get out of bed to face a life that feels like it bears no joy. Our family will have this with us forever and never get a break. The normal we have now is so different from the normal we used to know. The normal I am familiar with involve a different kind of day. A day that I wake up before the sun to start getting ready for school and work. I would shower first, getting out-of-the-way for all those that will need the bathroom. Wake up my daughter as she in a senior in high school, and spends more time getting ready than a presidential term. Once she is awake on her way to the bathroom, I make coffee and feed the dog. While he eats I start making lunches for all the kids and myself. I let him out, she is out of the bathroom, and the next one is on his way in. The two older leave first, she drives them to school. The younger one is up, ready, breakfast down and on his way out.  We all go to our work or school, and meet back at the house at the end of the day. We quickly begin homework, and evening routines before we have to report to gymnastics/hockey/wrestling. Our schedule is hectic and crazy but enjoyable. There is nothing like the joy of watching her land her dismount off the vault or for him to make a great save in the net or seeing the other one land kind of the mat. At the end of the night, we all make our way home, lights off, tv’s on, house is quiet, everyone is home. The next day we get up to do it all over again.

But that isn’t our life anymore. That life is gone, never to be seen again. There is no point looking for it, or hoping for it, because it’s gone. The new life, the new normal doesn’t resemble our old normal at all. It’s about checking phones to see if she is where she says she is, wondering why she isn’t responding fast enough. It’s about looking at the bank account to see where her money has been spent, and locating her phone to make sure she is alive. Every day is a new day and that can be good, but it can be bad. It’s her choice that affects all of us. Today she might wake up to a desire that pulls her to a dark place. She will try to fight it, she will try to ignore it but today might be the day she can’t stop it. She picks up her phone, staring at it. Put’s it down. Pick’s it up. The struggle is on. She sees my face sitting in court crying, she sees the look on her brothers faces when they hear she is using again, she knows the hurt and pain it will cause. She drops the phone. She leaves the room. She turns around at her bedroom door, glaring at the phone from its spot on her bed. It’s calling her, pulling her from place so deep and dark she can’t understand it, or fight it. She makes the decision, she needs it. She has to have it. She has no money. She doesn’t worry about that. She will find a way. When she wants it, she gets it, the money is a formality.  She makes the few quick strides to the bed and picks up the phone and begins scrolling through her contacts. Her phone pings in her hand. A text. From me. Asking if she is ok, if she needs anything, if she is safe. She puts the phone down. It’s a sign. She can’t do this again. She can’t go back to that life. She has to do the right thing. She takes her medication instead. It blocks the opiate. She won’t get high today.

At home, I am staring at the phone waiting for her to respond. She doesn’t. I fear the worst. I am sweating and swearing. I am agitated and aggravated. I’m sick of this game. I’m sick of every day being a waiting game. Will today be the day? Will today be the one? When she draws that serum through the cotton ball into the syringe, is it holding the poison that will steal her life? When the needle breaks into her skin, the poison plunges into her vein, will she think of us when she takes her last breath? Will she see our faces? When the light goes out in her eyes and her heart, will she see her grandfather waiting for her? Will her great-grandfather hold his arms open helping her to her new destination away from her family and her life? Will it hurt? Will she know how painful this will be for the rest of us? Was the high worth it? I can’t breathe, I am scared and mad. I start to get dressed, I have to go find her, I feel it in my bones that she is struggling, and I know it as any mother knows that her child is sick, but can’t do anything to save her. What will I do when I find her? Beat her? Take her home? To the hospital? To the morgue? My phone pings. It’s her. She is fine. Coming to see me, needs groceries. I collapse on my bed, exhausted and tired.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t get out of bed. This daily routine, this scenario of evil plays in my head before I open my eyes. It keeps me in bed for days on end, because if this is my new normal, I can’t do it. I can’t live like this. The anticipation hurts my head, the unknown hurts my heart and the inability to fix this for my child hurts my soul. But I can’t give up. If I give up she loses. She needs support of the people who love her to remind her what is worth living for. It might not matter. She may make a choice that takes her life and my battered soul will be completely wiped out. I will end up soulless, daughterless and hopeless. But right now I have hope. Today she has life. So, although I don’t want to face him, although I don’t want to admit he is right, I have to get up. I have to face the world and participate in it. I need to clean and feed them and do laundry and work. I need to shower and cleanse my soul because this is our life.

I pull the blanket away from my face. I see him staring at me. His glaring eyes show his patience are lost. He needs me to get up. He needs me to do my duties. I stare back. I tell him out loud, I will get up, just give me a second. He sighs again. I ask him to understand how hard this is. He blinks. He is right. This is every day. I won’t get any sympathy from him. I don’t deserve it. It isn’t as bad as I think. I tell him I am done being pathetic, I’m getting up and I love him. He saunters over and licks my nose. He nuzzles my face to let me know he loves me too, and Diego and I head to the kitchen. Thank god he is a compassionate cat.