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.

Retraction

Hello- it has come to my attention that in previous posts I have eluded to or insinuated that JoDee was terrified of someone.  I want to clarify that when I said I wanted to pull a U turn to go to Everett to pick JoDee up because she was terrified, she was not terrified of a person but of treatment. She was terrified of going through withdrawals, and surrendering, and allowing herself to face the possibility of a normal life.

Many people do not understand the depth of anxiety that accompanies addiction. The life someone knows, even if it is a disgusting life, is hard to change. Everyone is scared of change, but someone in active addiction is scared of many things, including themselves.  As a parent, it is uncomfortable, and depressing to hear that a child is terrified, especially when you know that they are really terrified of a good life. I should not have to explain that, or myself, to anyone but I believe there is a misunderstanding that needs clearing up.

 

This blog is about the parent of an addict. It is not about my daughter, or anyone she associates with. It is about my feelings, and how I manage, and the ways I cope with living with an adult child addict. I don’t presume to understand how outsiders feel and I don’t presume to understand how siblings of an addict feel, or significant others, husbands or children feel because that isn’t my story. My story is about my child. I was asked to write this blog by an organization that thought it would help others in a similar situation, and it has. I have made many, many good friends as a result because sadly we all have addiction in common. This blog is in no way intended to bash, harm, discredit or otherwise disparage anyone.  I have very strong opinions about certain people whose path she has crossed during active addiction and those people know who they are and I hardly doubt they read this blog. Don’t assume it is about you unless the shoe fits…. then I guess you should lace that bitch up and wear it.

 

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.

Progression of S

Stroke

Seizure

Scary

Scarier

Scarred

Silent

Suffering

Stupid

Sacrifice

Sympathy

Sympathetic

Sad

Sadness

Sadly

Stunned

Shocked

Surprised

Seething

Stay

Statistic

Score

Scorn

Screaming

Screamed

Scream

Screwed

Search

Secret

Section

Self-centered

Self-absorbed

Self-harming

Self-hating

Secret

Secretive

Severe

Solo

So long

Shake

Shallow

Shame

Shout

Shut up

Shut out

Shut down

Shit

Hell

In high school I read a story about three people from different stations in life being asked to describe their idea of hell. This was a blanket statement.  What is your idea of hell? Most would have heard that question and assumed it means the place no-good-doers go to when their life is over.  The answers were very  much in line with that school of thought.

The first  was a middle-aged man, white, married with several children, of a stable financial class. He said that hell would be a burning, hot place. Cliffs and ridges of brimstone and hell’s fire. Loud sounds of moans and screams, explosions, and lightening but no rain. Nothing moist or wet. Everything is dry and life-sucking.  In this man’s hell he could hear his wife and children screaming but could not discern where it is coming from. The screams are shrill and speak of violence and fear. The man is paralyzed in place. His feet are engulfed in quick sand but it isn’t pulling him down further, it is turning to cement. The cement burns and bubbles and scolds his feet.  As he continues to struggle to get out of his cement shackles, he can feel and hear his bones breaking until his legs separate, knocking him to the ground with bleeding stumps.  This scene starts over again. In his hell, he lives these moments over and over in eternity.  Though, he could not say the crime he committed to warrant such a horror.

The second person was a woman. She was a school teacher in her early thirties. Recently married, no children, with no plans for children in the future. She was stuck on the why. Why would she be in hell? What could she have done that was so terrible to constitute an eternity in hell? The why seemed to dictate the what. Depending on how bad the crime was, depended on how bad hell was. In her mind, there were different degrees. If she had been a liar or stolen or some other offense that was not life taking then she described a hell that was being lost in a maze of trees on fire. There was a way out, the maze had a beginning and an end but she could not remember where she entered or how to get back out. The trees that made up the maze, similar to the one in The Shinning, were all ablaze. She could hear children screaming, and yelling for her but she was unable to find them. Her fear of burning alive made it impossible for her to make the decision of which direction to begin. Her eternity was spent in that burning maze. If she had murdered someone, or taken a life in any way, she would be in the same maze only she was the one on fire. The trees were dense and she was not able to find her way out. Her husband could be heard yelling to her so he could help but she could only hear the crackling of her hair burning, and skin melting from her bones. This was how her eternity would be spent.

The third participant was a child. This was a young girl, around the age of 11, with no specific religion noted. She was of Spanish decent, with both parents living, and had lived a typical childhood with no traumatic experiences to note.  She described hell as a place that people go when they do not deserve heaven.  It is hot, and dry, and people there have no eye lids. They are never able to close their eyes no matter how tired they are, and they have no thumbs so they are not able to grip or grasp or hold anything for any length of time. People do not have any big toes making it difficult to move quickly, run or dance.  The ears are removed but not the eardrum making all sound seems louder and more intense and the sounds never stop making sleep impossible. She described a mouth so dry that it hurts and her lips would be cracked yet she could see a water fall, a ways out in the distance, with no way to reach it.  There are people enjoying the water. Playing in it, splashing around, laughing and enjoying each other but there was no way to get there with them and participate so the only thing to do is watch them with longing and jealousy. Her eternity would be spent as such.

Those things have always been in the back of my mind. I’m not exactly sure why but I have thought about that a lot. My idea of hell isn’t a place I will go to when I die or spend my eternity. My idea of hell is right now. To have a child that is not dead, who lives and breathes, who wakes up every morning but is not really alive. Not really living. Not really awake. To have a day that is snowing and cold to be spent with my children shoveling and watching movies and cooking dinner and baking a homemade chocolate cake (courtesy of Cinderella) but not really enjoying it because we are missing one. One child that isn’t really alive but isn’t really dead. Who is alive and part of this world but who isn’t part of my world is being in hell. To know that I cannot reach out to her because doing so would help her stay sick, and is not good for anyone, is hell.

We are living in a time that addicts are dying by the multiples every day. There is no warning sign. A person may get a batch laced with something else, or something in it that they aren’t aware of, and it will kill them instantly. Or just take too much, and bam- you are dead. Knowing that, and knowing that my daughter was in treatment, in a safe place, but chose to leave to go back to a life that is like playing with a match in one hand while holding a gas can in the other is hell to me. Getting the call that she had left again was not a surprise. It wasn’t shocking or even really upsetting, if I am being honest, because I knew it was coming. I knew that her attitude wasn’t right, she was so busy making sure even one pitied her she didn’t have time to focus on recovery. She was on her game while in recovery. She was on her scam game, who can do the most for me, my mother won’t help me, I’m just a poor victim game, while she was in recovery.  And that was hell to me.

I know where she is, even though she thinks I don’t and knowing where she is, is hell to me. It is hell to know she is crawling back to a place she used to be that isn’t good that lead her to be abandoned in a park in the dark on a cold night. That night was hell to me. It was hell to me getting back in my warm bed, knowing she would be sitting on a park bench until someone else would pick her up. It was hell to find out another time I refused to pick her up she was actually sick, and in danger, without the use of her legs, but I didn’t believe her because she cried wolf so many times. Facing myself then was hell to me.  Explaining to the doctors why she was alone on the street in the freezing cold was not only humiliating to me, but it was hell.

And now, I have no contact with her, and I know that I can’t, is hell to me. I have done all that I can. Others have done all that they can and she doesn’t stay in recovery and that is hell to me. She does not value her life as I do, and she doesn’t care if she lives or dies, and I think she doesn’t believe she is entitled to live a happy life, is hell to me. I am in hell while I am alive, and I will be in hell when she dies. This hell is not worse than fire and brimstone, or eyes with no lids, or waterfalls I can’t reach. This is a hell only a parent can understand. I live in hell.

Lucky Luck

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

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

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

Helpful Hints, Tips, and Miscellany

The heroin crisis is only getting worse. People are dying everywhere. This is not just an East Coast thing, or a young person thing, or an ethnic thing. I know that when one group of people is targeted for something those not effected don’t pay attention. In fact, 30 years ago heroin was the leading illegal drug killer for black men ages 44-64. It wasn’t until it crept into the suburbs that anyone started paying attention. That alone pisses me off.  But, I am not going to get into that today.  Today I am going to spread the wealth of knowledge I have collected over the course of many years dealing with addiction.

Programs:

Nar-Non and Al-Anon are both good groups. Clearly Nar-Non offers more support and education with drug addiction then Al-Anon. To Nar-Non alcohol is a drug, in some Al-Anon programs they only talk about alcoholics. The Al-Anon groups I went to were very supportive of families dealing with drug addiction. Nar-Non groups are harder to come by, especially at convenient times.

Learn to Cope is mostly a Massachusetts program but it is a group worth looking into because they do offer an amazing on-line community. The support groups are for loved ones who have an addict suffering from opiod use. I have found that to be beneficial because I heard so many stories like mine that it helped me realize that JoDee wasn’t possessed by the devil (well, she is but that devil is heroin). This is more than just a support group. They offer resources and education about other programs and typically have an industry professional as a guest speaker.

There are multiple blogs (like mine) that offer different perspectives. And there are a number of on-line communities such as In the Room, PAL, and the drug addiction hotline Hazelton Betty Ford Clinic has a website that I have found helpful and informative.

Rules:

The things I didn’t do, but should have are listed below:

  1. Do not be trusting. Addicts will say things like they can’t believe we don’t trust them, or that we know them, and they wouldn’t lie to us but every single addict lies. If your child hasn’t stolen from you or hasn’t lied about where they are, it doesn’t mean they won’t or that you just haven’t caught them. No matter what, trust that everything they are saying is no true. If you are seeing changes in your child or loved one and they deny anything is wrong, don’t believe it. Addicts will have a lot of excuses but it’s important to see through them.
  2. Research programs. Just because a detox or rehab is near you, does not mean that it is the program for them. Educate yourself on methadone and suboxone and other drug replacement therapies to determine if that is the way your family should go. Some detox’s are better than others. Sometimes there is a way for them to find more drugs inside than outside. Find a program that has an after care, and potential parent groups too.
  3. Do not believe that detox is the miracle cure. It isn’t. No matter how good the program is there has to be willingness for the addict to get better or they won’t. Be ready for the unexpected.
  4. Find your own recovery. Just because an addict is going to stay in active addiction does not mean that you have too. Those meetings and support groups are clutch when things seem at their worst. Going to a support group does not mean you have to air your dirty laundry. If it doesn’t feel right, say nothing. AC and I went to so many meetings and I don’t think I ever really talked about JoDee or our situation. But sitting there listening to other peoples struggles gave me comfort. And hearing that their children did find recovery gave me hope. I won’t lie, sometimes they are depressing. No one says you have to go every day. Do what feels right.
  5. Don’t lose hope. It they are alive there is a chance they will find recovery. No matter how terrible things seem, they could change in an instant. No one knows when that ah-ha moment is going to strike an addict. Maybe it never does, but maybe it does.
  6. Don’t enable them. Balancing our own recovery, keeping hope and holding our bottom lines are very delicate. Try not to set yourself up for failure. There is no way to stay positive all the tie, or keep hope alive everyday or hold your bottom line when the addict asks you so many times and no is hard to say the first time, never mind 200 times. Be ready to give yourself a break and know that if you cave in and give them money, or a place to sleep for the night, or allow them to get their clothes out of your house when you said you wouldn’t, forgive yourself. No one can be strong all the time. I can’t be strong a fraction of the time. At the end of the day you have to be able to look in the mirror and see your own face, not the face of regret. So do what is best for you.
  7. Reject the lies and manipulation. Our addicts have lost their mind, literally, and with it their moral compass. They will be mean and angry and ugly and hateful. Do your best to not take this personally. It is so hard to do and sometimes you may just want to punch their face in but don’t bother, I have tried that and it doesn’t work. It’s best to just ignore them.
  8. Look around, and recognize that you are not in this by yourself. Even if you have a spouse or a best friend or a person, it doesn’t mean they will always feel the same way you do, and that can be extremely lonely. You aren’t alone. You are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone. And more importantly, this is not your fault. So don’t isolate. Call a friend, go to a movie, and take a cake decorating class. Learn from my mistakes, I basically hermit-ed myself in my house for a few years but that is no good. Do something that isn’t drug related. Stay connected to the people with normal lives. You know non-drug addict lives. It’s refreshing to socialize so to forget, even for a little while, that life is worth living.
  9. Don’t be afraid to do the thing you said you would never do. I once told myself I would never have JoDee sectioned and now I have done it four times. I said that I would never put myself in compromising situations as a result of her drug addiction and I have had encounters with drug dealers that involved my having a golf club (I am not suggesting anyone else should do that) . There are no limits a person will go to try to save their loved one, but that also means saying no. Don’t be afraid to say no. Even if it’s painful. Not being afraid to do the thing you said you would never do may be leaving your kid stranded somewhere because you simply can’t help anymore.
  10. Eat dinner together. Even if you never did the whole family at the table for dinner routine before, do it now. Or make everyone have breakfast together one day a week. Find a way for all of you to stay connected. It is so easy to push aside the family members that are not addicts. Addicts demand so much attention even though they don’t really deserve it. Ignoring my other duties and family members is something that haunts me now, but I make an effort to connect with all the other kids on a regular basis. And connecting means talking to them about them, not about what JoDee did or where she is or what she is going to do. It means letting them know I am listening and interested in their lives. I am present. And listening. It used to be hard. I would always be so invested in JoDee’s recovery that it felt like I lost interest in parenting anyone else. It was work to bring my focus back, but it can be done, and I did it.