- Car behind us pulled up too close. Me: Oh Okay , do you want me to get out of this car and take care of this right now? AC: Calm down bulldog, I think we are fine.
- Me: Jared your grounded. Jared: I’m going to Dad’s so what is my punishment. Me: I will poop on your play station. Jared: Please don’t. Also, what is wrong with you?
- Bibi to Jay J: Listen Jay J are you still with that girl? Jay J: Yes Bibi: When they look that good and they can cook you need to make sure they can’t get away. Not to mention you can have a lot of fun if you know what I mean. (Bibi=91 year old great grandmother with no boundaries).
- AC: Tell JoDee not to post that shit on FaceBook. Me: Ok, I will and I am pretty sure that will work as well as did don’t do drugs and don’t have sex. (pause to look at him like he is a dingbat, and to hear OC laugh). AC: One of these times she might listen. Me: No. She won’t.
- Text from Jay J to Mom: Don’t worry I got instant karma for getting two flat tires in your car. The dog ate my entire honey cake and then peed on the crumbs. Me: Hold on. Can’t stop laughing. Wait, dying. Ok. Nope still laughing. Karma is a bitch, son.
- Jared while AC is telling us that someone at his work recently lost a loved one to cancer: That is so sad. We should send them an edible arrangement with sun-died tomatoes. (Inappropriate, but hilarious).
- While FaceTiming with SC: Me: FaceTime is not flattering. SC: you have to hold it up high. Me: I look Mopa otherwise known as Jeffrey Tambor. SC: Oh my god! You totally do! Me: wow, you didn’t have to sound so excited about it.
- After making vegan and non-vegan cookies with OC and Jared: Me: Wow. OC: What? Me: The vegan cookies which should taste and look like cardboard look like they were just cooked by someone on the Food Network while the regular full fat and yummy cookies look like Helen Keller made them. With no help.
- This honest to God happened, Me to co-worker: I love my new office especially because I used to have birds fly into my window all the time since we were on the fifth floor. Now we are on the first floor so that won’t happen. As bird flies into the window. CC- Well that just happened. Me- What the actual eff was that??????????
- Lastly, I know I am doing something right as a wife when during a simple argument my husband covers his nipples with his hands while saying don’t be scary.
Nineteen years ago yesterday I woke up with a sinus infection. My face hurt, my nose was plugged, and my teeth throbbed. I think everyone can relate to that. The teeth throbbing thing really sucks. I also happened to be almost 8 months preggers. Baby Boy Joyce was not born yet, but was due the middle of the next month. Daddy-O had an interview with the fire department, and I decided that Miss JoDee and I would watch TV all day. Staying in bed, with a warm face cloth on my face. By the afternoon my face really hurt and my back ached from laying in bed all day. So, I called the doctor who told me to come in which is a real chore at nearly 8 months pregnant with a toddler. I struggled to get out of bed, and I struggled to get shoes on and I struggled to get JoDee ready. I can clearly remember her sitting on the bathroom floor not putting on her shoes after me telling her for the millionth time. I grabbed her arm yanking her to stand, it frightened her, and I felt terrible about it later.
I didn’t know I was in labor. I would have thought that since I had been down this road before that I would recognize labor, but I didn’t. I didn’t know until I got to the doctor’s office and they sent me over to the hospital. JoDee with me the whole time. I won’t get into all the details, like when she went to use the bathroom, found a bathtub, promptly shedding her clothes. She ran out of the bathroom in her socks to let me know she was going to take a bath. The nurse straightened that situation out. Eventually she was picked up by friends and family and labor progressed, Daddy-O showed up and huzzah, a baby was born. He was born the quietest baby, the best behaved and required the least attention. Not much has changed in the past 19 years.
Last year we celebrated Jay J’s birthday whole. All of us together, eating and drinking (non-alcoholic drinks, thank you very much) and being a family. This year was not much different, except one of us was missing. I don’t know if anyone felt her missing like I did but it was sad for me. She didn’t call him or me. Silence is a killer. When someone is yelling or screaming or crying at least you can understand what they are feeling. Silence is deafening. It’s the absence of something but it makes a very big statement. It is the epitome of making something of nothing. I suppose, given the choice I know she is making of late, that I should get used to this. I have a feeling that this is going to be our new norm. She has made it clear when she leaves WATC she doesn’t want to go for further treatment, she is angry that she is there again, and she doesn’t want to talk to me. I always said that I would rather hate me and live then love me and die but what happens if she hates me and dies? I never really thought about that, but the truth is, that could very well happen.
Have you ever missed a person? I don’t mean like when you first start dating someone or your best friend is on vacation. I mean physical missed someone so badly you could smell the shampoo they used or the perfume they always wore. The kind of missing someone which can only accompany massive depression because you know you cannot see them, or talk to them. Sometimes there aren’t enough prayers in the world or anyone to hear them or just asking too much, so they can’t be answered. Sometimes people have to stay gone and away. I don’t know how the universe works, but missing someone sucks, even if it is what is supposed to happen.
I don’t believe that is what is supposed to happen anyway. I believe that life, everyone’s life, has two paths. At the time of birth we all start on a path. That is the beginning. A secondary road is parallel to us. It has a different outcome. At anytime we can jump back and forth between paths depending on the decision we make. Sometimes we may not understand why we end up back on an alternate path, and we aren’t meant to know. But at any time, we can make a choice to get on the other path again. That only happens when we recognize and acknowledge we need to make that change. Sometimes we are on an alternate path because of the decisions of others. In those situations all a person can do is stay the course, and hope for the best.
Yesterday, June 9th, was a really happy day for Jay J. He got his favorite dinner (pulled pork sandwiches with maple mayo and cheddar cheese) and Cinderella made baked mac and cheese with ritz crackers and corn on the cob. He also had his favorite cake and opened plenty of presents. It was a happy day. And I was happy for him.
I was also sad, because I missed someone.
Well, shit. This has been a fun few weeks. Someday, when I am dead, my headstone is gong to read “That did not go as planned.” That’s it. It literally describes my life in full without the need for further explanation. Take for instance, when you are on your way to a perfect, little gentleman’s first birthday when you are suddenly pulled over for an expired expiration sticker, which you didn’t notice but that becomes less of a problem than the fact that you are driving with an revoked license because you never dealt with your addict daughters car which was abandoned and in your name. Yes, like that moment. Like that moment that escalated quickly. However, we won’t talk about that. What we will talk about is that Jay J and Cinderella went to the prom on Friday night. This was amazing because while he was in high school, he refused, and I do mean refused because I begged, to go to any of his own dances. But along come the gf and whammo, he is prom-ing itup. He prom’d it up like a mofo. He owned that prom.
Anyway, both him and Cinderella have impeccable taste and are a little bit of a brand whore. So of course they wanted a Michael Khors tux. No, they couldn’t get the simple tux off the rack but the special order tux. Ok, fine. It’s probably the only time I will be able to get him into a tux anyway, so special order away. I have done the whole prom business with JoDee so I’m familiar with how this works on the girl end. The fancy, super expensive dress that hope covers most of the landscape, the shoes, make-up, tan, jewelry….ya, been there and done that. I was expecting this to be easy peasy with Jay J. WRONG. His tux pants didn’t fit when they came in the day before (and the dude actually asked Jay J if he put them on right. The pants. If he knew how to put pants on. Jay J, of course, answered like only a child of mine could by asking the guy if he (Jay J) looked like a dumb ass? HA! Love it) and then on the day of the prom, when they came in at 3:30 IN THE AFTERNOON, they were ripped. It was the tux that just wouldn’t quit! But, alas, the pants were fixed, he got all dolled up and look extremely debonair if I do say so myself, pics below to prove it!
What didn’t go as planned was what happened while we were waiting for the all-clear-to-come-over text from Cinderella letting us know she was ready for pictures. I was preparing supper to put in the oven for when we got back from pictures when daughter dearest called from detox. I answered the phone and said you’re on speaker and everyone is here. Immediately she said pick up. I knew. I knew right then she was leaving. Usually she wants to speak to everyone. She might cry and be sad, but she wants to hear their voices. I took her off speaker asking her what the matter was. She said I’m leaving. We went back and forth. Her telling me it’s inevitable, she will use eventually so why bother, me telling her it doesn’t have to be this way, she doesn’t have to do this. Eventually, she hung up on me. I’m not surprised. I was telling her all the reasons she should stay and make her life better and her addiction did not want to hear that.
I took some pictures of Jay J getting ready for the prom and tried to be in the moment but it’s hard. It’s hard to put that aside. Though, I feel like this is a pattern. Holidays, birthdays, any special moments seemed to be marred by the latest and greatest (by greatest I do mean horrifying) relapse. And each time that happens I miss time from the family and I miss time from work and sure as shit stinks a week later one of the other kids will get sick or need me and I will feel like I can’t take the time off of work. This usually affords me a great deal of guilt which keeps me up at night and trying to make it up to them in all the wrong ways. Like letting Jared miss a day of school when he begs, or not making Jay J do his chores until the recycling actually falls over and I have to send a search party in to find Baby Kitty who is not a baby anymore but I don’t care.
As I called the detox back to tell someone of her plan, I watched AC help with his cuff links.
As I hung up with them, a case worker going to try to talk to JoDee, I was able to snap a quick picture just as AC was done helping him with his tie and jacket.
The case worker called back, I spoke to JoDee, Big A spoke to JoDee, she was leaving no matter what. I made a decision. I wasn’t going to pick her up. I couldn’t bail on Jay J’s event. I was front and center for every single one of JoDee’s accomplishments and I could not and would not miss another thing of the other kids. While we were taking this:
And having our minds blown at how stunning they both were here:
And how dwarf-ish, and round, I look compared to the rest of my family here:
I told Big A he could go if he wanted but I wasn’t doing it. It sucks feeling like I have to pick sides. It sucks to feel like I have to choose between my kids. But I have to try to remember that I am not picking JoDee over Jay J. I’m choosing Jay J over addiction. Maybe if I tell myself that enough, I will even believe it.
Also, I thought JoDee was a real promzilla when it was her turn, but Cinderella was taking no crap! She told us where to stand, and who got to take pictures with us, and reminded people not to touch her because her dress was white. She pushed Jay J into pictures and out of pictures and her sister into pictures and out of pictures. It was awesome. I loved every minute of it!
It took me six minutes to load the dishwasher last night, and six minutes to unload it this morning.
My morning coffee perks in six minutes.
I can sort the boy’s laundry and start the washing machine in six minutes.
When I am in a rush, and don’t have to shave anything important, I can shower in six minutes.
On the way to work, I often sit for 6 minutes at the railroad crossing when the train is in.
A person can meditate for six minutes.
The average length of a Justin Timberlake song is six minutes.
Major League baseball cut the average length of an inning by six minutes in 2015.
Speed dating in Calgary is typically six minutes.
It takes six minutes to make a hardboiled egg.
Pinterest has multiple videos that are six minutes in length.
AC (because I can’t) can sew a button on his shirt in six minutes.
It takes six minutes to walk from the garage, ride the elevator and arrive at SC room at Children’s Hospital.
It takes six minutes to dust and vacuum behind the tv and tv stand, extracting all the dog and cat hair that accumulates.
Soaking in a bowl of white vinegar, it takes six minutes to clear mineral deposits from the showered head and faucets.
I spent 6 minutes deleting the million and one selfies that my children find hilarious to take when they highjack my cell phone.
Someone could have a near-fatal overdose of heroin, causing her heart to stop. Six minutes could be the length of time she was dead, until they brought her back.
Anything can happen in six minutes.
Well, we are back. Back to school, back to work, back from the most amazing vacation that we have all ever had. We laughed, and fought, and swam, and ate, and walked, and ate, and beached, and ate. We rode pirate ships, catamarans, ATV’s and cabs until our little hearts were content. Most nights we passed out from sun and exhaustion. We had the trip of our lives. There is no doubt about it.
That doesn’t mean that it went seamlessly. It did not. That’s the really shitty part about addiction. You can’t just leave it home when you’re on vacation. I couldn’t take it from JoDee, wrap in plastic, and put it in a safe. It follows us everywhere. We were very excited the first day we got there. For those that don’t know, AC and I got married in our back yard the night before. Actually, it was a surprise wedding. Everyone came over expecting to celebrate my 40th birthday before we took off, and when they got there…. SURPRISE. Only our 5 children knew. Our parents didn’t, our families didn’t, our friends/co-workers. So, we barely slept the night before, we got on a plane at 7am (getting to the airport at 5am!) and landed around 12noon. By the time we got cabs, found the condo and arrived, we all were exhausted, and excited to see where everything was.
We went out for lunch because we were all starving. At lunch JoDee ordered a drink (non alcoholic), took two sips and said she didn’t feel well. Her voice became funny, she was nauseated. All bad signs. I whispered in AC ear “Is she high?” He responded by saying that at times like this he wishes I was fluent in Spanish so we could talk about the kids without them knowing what we were saying. We had only been in Aruba for a few hours and all ready I was on the alert. And it made me so angry. I was annoyed. I was on vacation to celebrate our wedding and our families, couldn’t I get a break? The answer is no. There is no break. It comes with you to Aruba. It makes you not want to finish your burger that was delicious and juicy and suddenly became acrid and revolting. It makes you question your decision to let her go back to the condo with the other kids while you go to the grocery store with AC. It makes you short-tempered, and foul, on a beautiful island where everyone is smiling and sun-bathing around you. And that makes you even more foul.
When we were alone AC said how could she get it here? I don’t think she is high. Maybe she is. Honestly I don’t know. And my response to that was “thanks for clearing that up.” When we got back to the condo the kids were telling me she was acting strange, she was slurring her words, she was tired, etc. I thought maybe her drink had alcohol in it? Maybe they didn’t give her a virgin fruity-tooty-umbreller-y drink. But I would think she would have tasted that. Maybe she did and she didn’t say anything?? I pondered the possibilities through unpacking, organizing, arranging beds. After a while, the kids all settled in and AC and I went to sit pool side, Jared and OC were swimming. We laid in the sun, as the day began to turn to-night. The steaming heat and humidity from the day began to fade to a comfortable warmth as the sun started to hide behind the horizon. I laid by the pool losing out on the first sun set of the trip to question whether JoDee was high or not. It was infuriating. Jay J came out to tell me that he, JayPay and JoDee were going to go walk around the beach for a while. I immediately started panicking. I did not think this was a good way to start the trip. Jay J told me to relax, he was going with them, no one would do anything stupid. I believed that as much as I believe my dog is going to become a vegetarian.
By this time, JoDee was fine. Totally normal. She had taken a nap, showered and ate and was perfect. Anyone who knows someone who uses knows that they can’t rebound that fast. She kept saying she was tired. Not high. I can’t say for certain that she wasn’t high, but I can’t say for certain she isn’t high right now. What I can say is there are many times I think she is using until I see her high. Then I remember exactly what it is like. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. I also know that I could not spend my well deserved, expensive, greatly anticipated vacation chasing JoDee’s recovery. I can’t chase JoDee’s recovery anywhere. It’s not my recovery to chase. So, I let them all go out. Within a few hours I was completely unhinged, so I text Jay J for them all to come home. When they got back we all sat down and had a calm conversation about rules, using and boundaries. Ha. If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you. Of course, when they got home I yelled and screamed and they got defensive as they should . Then we all calmed down, and I made it clear that I wanted to be able to have a good time. They made it clear that they wanted to have fun too and not be scrutinized for every single thing they do with an excusing eye. We made peace and enjoyed the rest of the trip.
As a mother I couldn’t help but worry, a little, but I was able to put it in check. I kept an eye on all of them. All 6 of them. Not just JoDee. But that’s par for the course of parenting and parenting an addict. There is regular parenting and watching and monitoring and then there is everything else. Being on vacation doesn’t mean I didn’t stop having an addict for a child. It was a good reminder that it never goes away. I can’t escape it. She can’t escape it. We have to figure out how to live with it in every aspect of our lives or we will be fighting it. Fighting addiction is what leads to relapse. Pretending it is not there will lead to relapse. There were 8 of us on that trip. 8 people who wanted to have fun and snorkel and swim and shop and relax. 7 of us did that really well, 1 of us hung out with the 9th guest that no one wanted, or could see, except me. Reality always shows up the time I least want to see it. But the reality is this is my life, and I’m grateful for that because if I don’t see Reality lurking around somewhere then JoDee is gone and there is nothing to worry about anymore.
I won’t bore anyone with a million pictures but here are a few highlights!
I was just shy of 8 months pregnant with Jay J in June of 1997. At the time, I had a waterbed which was not easy to get out of in that condition. Lumbering out of bed, my back hurt and I knew it was from the lack of support. Let’s face it, when you are that pregnant a water bed is as useful as a sump pump would have been on the Titanic. The water basically parted like an act of God, settling me nicely on the wooden frame on the bottom of the bed. As the day wore on my back pain felt better, and then worse, and then better and then worse, not to mention I was congested. Fearing I had a sinus infection I called my doctor, and they told me to come in. JoDee was playing Hungry Hungry Hippo at the time in her room. I stuck my head through the door way to tell her to get her shoes on. She was sitting in that way only children can with her knees bent out to the sides beside her. At my age if I tried to sit with my butt on the ground and my knees bent with me feet out to the side, it would take a crane to pick me back up and reconstructive surgery to get my legs straight.
I told her we were going to the doctor’s office, so to get her shoes on. She nodded in agreement, never taking her eyes off her game. I brushed my teeth, got my shoes on, let the dogs out and back in, and went back to her room. She was in the same spot, not having moved except to pound the hippo on the head to grab the marbles. I told her again we needed to go so to get her shoes. Again she nodded her head in acknowledgment without moving a muscle. I paged ex-Husband The Original to call me, waited for his call, told him we were heading to the doctor, and went back to her room. Still playing the game. Typical kid. Not listening, doing what she wanted, not paying attention. At the time, I did not know I was in labor. At the time, I was ridiculously preggers, with a sore back, who slept on a water bed, and had no desire to go to the doctors to begin with. I was annoyed. And fat. And hadn’t seen my toes since Reagan was in office. In two giant steps I was in her room standing next to her, and I grabbed her arm yanking her to her feet. I startled her. Badly. She had the most terrified look on her face. Her eye brows, a slightly darker blonde than her long hair, shot up and her brown eyes opened wide. She pulled her hands up to her chest in a protective stance. That look has haunted me ever since. Not just the look, the body language. The person with whom she should feel the most comfortable suddenly became the most frightening.
As a parent it’s my job to protect my kids not scare the shit out of them. Granted, it was probably insignificant to her. She probably doesn’t even remember it. Once we finally got to the doctors they determined I was in fact in labor. Active labor. They sent us over to the hospital. Ol’daddy’o was at an interview for the fire department so she had to come with me. I was, of course, hooked up to a fetal monitor and had an IV so I was pretty much stuck in bed. I’m sure when JoDee thinks about the day Jay J was born, she thinks about how she came strutting out of the bathroom in my labor room naked as a jay bird save for her little white ruffled socks exclaiming that there was a “tubby so I take tubby” as I frantically hit the button for the nurse. The nurse laughed and politely re-dressed her telling her that the tubby was for mommy’s only.
There have been many times over course of JoDee’s life that I have seen that same look on her face. The first time I got called to the principal’s office because she was acting less than lady like. The first time the dentist told me she had a cavity and needed a filling. The many times her father reported some poor behavior to her brothers when she was with him. And later in life, when she would come home late, or I found out she was somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be. There were also times that I knew she was up to no good, that I did nothing. One time she got dropped off by her then boyfriend and I could tell she had been drinking. She was rambling on about some fight they had crying. It wasn’t funny by any means but somehow I thought it was comical. I told her to go to bed and in the morning I gave her a lecture about drinking and being under age. She told me it was the first time (it wasn’t) and I told her I believed her (I didn’t). I assumed, then, that this was normal teenage rebellion stuff and since she was basically a good kid whom was responsible, it would be ok. Wrong. At the time Ex-Husband II lectured me about yelling at her, and telling her she was grounded and blah blah blah. To some extent, he is probably right, but at that time he was blitzed out of his head 99% of the time so I felt he was hypocritical. Also true to some extent, though there is the whole adult vs child argument. That relationship was going downhill at the general speed of an avalanche so it’s possible I just didn’t want to listen to him. I have been known to be stubborn on occasion…. I know it’s hard to believe.
I also thought about the time my dad caught me drinking. He didn’t tell my mom. He didn’t yell at me. In fact we have never spoken about it. But I know when he knew. And he knew that was not typical behavior for me. He must have known that I was not putting myself at grave risk and it was just normal teenage rebellion. How did he know that I would not turn out to be a raging alcoholic, heroin user but I didn’t know JoDee would? Was he just lucky? Or was I just unlucky? Or was I being paid in full cosmically for all the wrongs I had ever done to someone else? I mean the reality is if you really want to make a person suffer, suffer their child, because no parent suffers more than when their child is in pain. I’m not a very religious person, and I have never found comfort in the church as some people do. JoDee has a higher power, Jay J is atheist, Jared is too young to make a definitive decision, as it should be. That being said I do believe that everything happens for a reason. There is no such thing as coincidences. But try as I might, I cannot make heads or tails of addiction hitting my family so hard. Maybe it’s so JoDee could find her soul mate (JayPay). Maybe it was to gear our life from one place to another. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a good parent. Maybe being a teen mother lead JoDee down a path that she couldn’t have changed no matter what. As a young mother I certainly had no patience. Not like I do now. I was in a troubled relationship. The kids saw fighting; break ups, getting back together, a lot of instability. Granted, we are both in stable relationships now both partnered to people the other really like and admire, but it wasn’t always that way. It was a long road. Not just for me but for Daddy-O and his wife too. We have come a long way, blending families and traditions and cultures is not easy for anyone. But that isn’t where I think the problem happened. I can’t put my finger on it. I keep repalying incidents from the past and thinking is that it? Was that where everything went wrong? Are our children doomed from birth because of their parents? Is it because the influence from our extended families? Was it because of a broken family?
I could ask myself this question a thousand times for the rest of my life, but I will never get an answer. I have to be careful that I don’t dig myself into a depressing hole trying to pinpoint the moment, the instant, the very second that she started down the wrong path. It only serves to distract me from the present. It is another way that addiction, heroin, robs the family. It’s ancillary damage done and it’s a continued symptom of the real problem. Just as JoDee needs to focus on her recovery every single day, making sure to wake up and face the day clean and serene, I need to wake up making the decided choice to concentrate on what I know and feel. Not berating myself for anything I can’t change. I tell JoDee that things she did in the past, in active addiction or in an attempt to find sobriety, should stay in her past. She is allowed to forgive herself and not dwell on them because they are part of the what was not the what is. When we spend too much time contemplating the mistakes we made we bring them into our future. By remembering them and using them to make better choices we grow and evolve into a better stronger person. If I could only practice what I preach….
Graduation is over. And has been. Thank god. Not that things have quieted down for us, because they haven’t. But that’s life I guess. I have tried to write this post several times since then. It’s harder to write than one might think, but I think it’s important. So here goes….
The excitement leading up to Jay J’s graduation was an anticipated feeling. I had been there done that with JoDee already, so I knew the flood of emotion as Jay J started the processional. And I knew that I would be crazy busy putting the final touches on the party for after the ceremony. The list of things to do seemed endless, but alas, the day came, he got his diploma (and not a note inside that see you at summer school first sucka, which is always a possibility!) and we partied like rock stars until the wee hours of the morning. Actually, no we didn’t. I was in bed by 10. Dead asleep. But you get the drift. It went fine. Perfectly. No issues. JoDee did not relapse as I had assumed she would, and the day was good. Mostly. There was only one small issue.
As we walked into the football stadium that I had graduated from a mere 21 years before, I was only thinking of getting a good seat so I wasn’t really paying attention to people around me. I was honing in on a golden spot at the top of the bleachers so no one could block my view and so I could lean against the railing without anyone being behind me. As I started the climb up the metallic steps, careful not to fall like an idiot in between the slates, I spotted someone I went to high school with. She greeted me with a warm hello, a quick hug, then with a serious face, dropped her tone asking “How’s JoDee?” I was sort of taken aback for a moment. First of all the hushed tone insinuates that it’s private, whispering so no one hears, hushed so not to let others in on the conversation. But I didn’t pick up on this at first. I was sort of confused, I looked behind me to see if she fell, but she was walking up the steps to catch up to me. I looked at her, confused, and said “fine, why?” Glancing from side to side, she whispered apologetically, “I read your blog.” Oh. That. Hmm. Hadn’t thought of that. I hadn’t really put into perspective what writing my family business on the internet for anyone, anywhere, from sea to shining sea, would mean. It means, I have no secrets and everyone knows our bizniz.
So, in-of-itself that isn’t really bad, I mean, that is the whole point of this blog- bring awareness to people about addiction, that it isn’t scumbag losers who steal and kill to get drugs. Addicts do become that sometimes but they started as someone’s loved one, and even if they die that way, someone somewhere still misses them, wanted better for them, is grieving for them. I’m not ashamed of JoDee’s addiction. I’m not even really ashamed of her behavior, and I’m certainly not ashamed of mine. Anything I did in an effort to save JoDee from herself is not something I will regret. I probably will regret somethings I didn’t do, that now I realize I should have done, but that is sort of not the point here. The point is that a lot happened in that few seconds. And it took a few seconds for my brain to catch up. Once I recovered from my what-the-effing-eff-is-happening moment, I thanked her for reading the blog and explained that the purpose of the blog was to educate people that addiction is not a dirty word, a miscreant in a family of moral beings, a reason to whisper. And she smiled her beautifully polished, almost glow in the dark, white smile and I headed up to my spot on the bleachers. Sending a message and realizing the message is not being realized but is being heard is something completely different. (If you understood that sentence you are a better person than I) As I took my spot against the railing as I had hoped, I had plenty of time to look around and think about how many people in that audience knew about my families struggles. I had over 20,000 views on the blog by then. That is a lot of people. Are they all people who want to know about addiction? Or are they wrong-doers trying to relish in my misery? People who disliked JoDee that were enjoying how tough things had been since she left school?
The biggest question was did that even matter? Did it matter to me if people who disliked me or anyone in my family, enjoyed the pain we were in? And the answer was of course it matters! Hell yes! People please. I would lying if I said it doesn’t urk me a little bit to think that my nemesis hears my melees, thriving on my pain and suffering. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t do the same! How many of us have seen the person that took our place in someone’s life and felt just a little bit gleeful when you realized you were better looking? Isn’t it a wee bit gratifying when someone at work who gave you a terrible time is finally get a terrible time from someone else? It’s a terrible concept but it happens. I also know first-hand that unless you have dealt with addiction yourself, you have no idea how painful it is. Anyone that finds some gratitude to karma for my child’s misdeeds, just doesn’t know any better. And the karma bus has a funny way of turning on you when you least expect it. So, I decided, I’m not going to worry myself about that. The point of this blog was to help others like me. Let people know they aren’t alone; find some comfort in numbers, sorta kinda. If there are people who read for the merriment of my discomfort, I sat to them, have at it. But I would watch the rearview mirror for the karma bus, because it always comes around.
Although, for the briefest of moments, I felt completely vulnerable, I realized I was the most vulnerable when JoDee was in active addiction. 900 times. Not climbing the stairs to graduation and being reminded that my words are everywhere. I’m glad people read the blog. For entertainment, for spite or because it is helpful to someone in a similar situation. For me, it is cathartic. It feels like a little bit of something I can control in an uncontrollable situation, and it documents something so horrendous I never want to repeat it again… if we don’t pay attention history can repeat itself. So before the band even started to play the first note of Pomp and Circumstance, I had realized, worried, pondered and got over it which gave me the time to cry, laugh, cry and watch my second child, my oldest son, the serious one, walk across the stage wearing his classic white sunglasses, to get his high school diploma. Delighted and overwhelmed with pride that I had my family surrounding us. Clean, alive, and together.
A very smart person once said to me marriage/relationships take one of three roads. Either two people grow together through many obstacles, and stay the course, split up or move apart while not leaving the relationship and grow back together or hit a bump in the road splitting for good. If you are lucky, and rare, to be the couple that sticks to the tough, thorny road of long time commitment (which is all marriage really is) that is wonderful. And not likely. I have not met one couple, including my grandparents whom were married for nearly 60 years when my grandfather, aka Bucky, died, that do not have rough patches. Not everyone has to separate but life is treacherous. I believe a successful commitment weathers the storms, no matter how rough, and rejoins to fight the good battle. Yes, I mean battle, because relationships are hell. And heaven… but it’s through our hard times that we evolve and grow. It is not a measurement of our success that we merely stay together, but that we stay together as partners. Why am I bringing this up? It’s funny you ask. The reason I bring this up because another super smarty pants person I know (I won’t mention any names, but I will just drop an initial or two, ahem EJ) said to me, while talking about many hot topics in the news as of late, that when someone says “Live and let live” what we are really saying is, let’s be stagnant. And that is so true.
The definition of stagnant is showing no activity, dull and sluggish. That is what we are when we “live and let live.” That might be confusing to some, because it sounds like saying I won’t judge you, don’t you judge me. But what it really means is don’t ask, don’t tell. Clearly, I don’t mean in a militarian sense. I mean in an every single way-sense. I don’t want to live and let live, when I live in a country that has to pass laws ALLOWING people, US Citizens, tax paying, law abiding, productive members of society, rights. This is confusing to me. It is confusing to me that I should be proud to live in a land that has to make a law so Black members of society are seen as equal or that one citizen may marry another, which is even more ridiculous because the basis by which we have kept them from marrying was religious in nature, and I happen to remember a separation of state and church thing that occurred just a few years back. Oh, and if all that isn’t just peachy, my stomping grounds also was kind enough to pass a law that allowed me to vote, so I would have a say in where the money I paid for taxes was used (HA right!), from the job I have to support my family, and pay my bills, which by the by, I did not have to have a law passed to make me pay. Please do not misunderstand my true feelings; I do believe I live in the best place in the World. America is America the Great. We just aren’t as fully advanced as we would like to be.
Before Caitlyn Jenner, there were transgender individuals. They were ignored, terrorized, hated, made fun of as well as loved, work, and lived amongst us. We turned our blind eye, and live and let live, which meant the average person did not take the time to understand or know what it meant to suffer from gender dysphoria. I have the privilege of having someone in my inner circle that is transgender. I say privilege because it is an honor to be trusted with the gift of witnessing someone transition from something they weren’t to what they were supposed to be. I was opened minded prior to meeting this person, but I became educated as a result of knowing them. Just like this person had a different perception of drug addicts, until this person realized JoDee was an addict. And then this person saw addiction much differently. That’s the way life is. It’s scary to think, in this world, in a society so smart I have a tiny computer with a touch screen I can put in my pocket, and use to make calls; we can’t grasp human rights without tragedy. We didn’t need all phone communication to cease for someone to invent the cell phone. We certainly didn’t need popcorn all over the world to be in danger to develop a microwave but when it comes to the human race, we don’t validate the injustices happening to our fellow citizens, until something horrifying happens to shed light on it. And, human to human we have a perception that it doesn’t matter or it’s not important, unless it happens to you personally. America is founded on the notion of free will. We all should be concerned about how the world at large treats anyone. Everyone. I’m guilty of it. I have been judg-y about how a person looked. If I saw someone looking like JoDee did, or noticeably high out on the street, I definitely would have thought loser, scumbag, thief, prostitute or some other horrible insult. That’s not ok. I should not have to endure the hell of watching my child struggle with a heroin addiction to find common compassion.
The confederate flag controversy is another great example. I don’t live in the south, and I have never been prejudiced against because of the color of my skin (that I am aware of) so I don’t feel that my opinion about whether the flag should stay or go has any bearing but I can understand what the fight is about. As American’s we have been “picking sides” since the second we were born. Someone has to be wrong for someone else to be right, which is so far from the truth. I don’t see The Dukes of Hazards and think of racism and slavery. I think of my grandfather who mildly resembles Ennis. And when I think of the confederate flag I think of a time in history that American’s fought for the rights of others. However, I wouldn’t want it waving in my backyard. Now, before all you haters attack like Cujo after the bunnie bite, keep something in mind. I am not saying I think it should banned from everywhere, just from common grounds. From land that is supposed to mirror the founding fathers (more men) fight for equality. I believe it should be in a museum, it’s a huge part of our history, and I want my kids to learn about it, and understand what happened in the past so it won’t repeat itself. I also think that if someone has some other fundamental or sentimental attachment to such an item s/he should be allowed to own and display it on their own property, because this is America. And as American’s we are encouraged to be free thinkers and agree to disagree when necessary.
People will continue to evolve. Someday, hopefully when I am still alive, there will be no racism. Color may truly not matter, people stop saying “the gays” deserve rights, and realize people have and will exercise their rights and freedoms without being labeled something that is supposed to sound supportive but really sounds ignorant. And people will realize transgender is not about sex, or sexual organs, but about whom a person is- because a person’s character is the most important thing. Addiction will find its place as a medical condition and we will stop trying to use social programs to cure a medical disease. In the meantime, we all have a duty as American’s to better our country, to not pit each other against one another, and realize that when we live in a society that stands around phone-videoing transgender women being assaulted on a subway, and old women being shoved to the ground, a mother being beaten and kicked in front of her child, without stopping it or helping but making sure to post it on Facebook to watch the Likes flood in, we are disgracing each other. In a vile, irreversible way. Just like in any other relationship, we all don’t have to always get along but what the hell happened to common decency?
Recently I had a discussion with someone about how to tell people their loved one was an addict. We sort of talked about which family members would help, which would think they were helping but not, and which would be openly discriminatory against the addict. In everyone’s family, the reaction is different. I talked about the day JoDee and I called our family to tell them about her situation. How I made her tell her Dad herself, because that should come from her. I remembered when we called my mom, and JoDee’s aunt, my sister, and my niece. I remember calling AC and telling him. Ironically, while I was getting the shock of my life, he was in divorce court, which we all know is a living hell of its own. Then this person said to me, what about the kids. Kids? What kids? Your kids she asked. No matter how hard I think, no matter how many times I replay those days, I cannot remember telling any of the kids. It’s like they just magically knew… I have no idea how I told them. It is completely blocked from my memory.
I mean, I must have told them. We must have had conversations about it. Jared, Jay J, AC and I visited JoDee at her first detox together. Jared has been to so many N/A meetings he can recite the 12 steps. Probably better than most! Even SC went to N/A meetings with us. All of the kids have been involved in her recovery. The day we got the call that JoDee was on the run in Arizona, OC and I were standing on the back deck watching AC mow the lawn. I barely choked out “get your father” before I fell to my knees. Jay J called her to pick him up once, and she showed up banged up. My car is a stick shift so he had no choice but to let her drive. On many occasions, we have all been involved in, seen or been exposed to her using. I just can’t believe that an important thing like this, has completely escaped me.
I text Jay J to ask him how he knew. He told me that he already had an idea by the time I found out, but that I called him and Jared into the living room to tell them. Still didn’t jog my memory. Even when Jay J told me what I said to him, I still didn’t remember. I asked SC and OC how they found out, and they said they thought AC told them on the drive from their house to ours but they couldn’t really remember either. That’s bad. Like, really bad. Like, bad parenting of the year award bad. When something that big, and that important, and devastating happens, our kids will be just as shocked and emotional as we will be. I’m horrified that I can’t remember even telling them, never mind if I handled it appropriately. This potential lack of good judgement had me do some research, to find out from professionals how it should be handled. What I found was really interesting.
First of all, siblings have a much different scope of grief than parents do, which makes sense. In many cases, siblings are well aware of the problem (ahem, Jay J) before the parents do, or are willing to except it. Siblings can be resentful of parents that ignore the substance issue, or see the parents as weak for not addressing it which may cause the siblings to act out. The first article I read (link below) outlined some key points or instruction on how to break the news to a child about their siblings addiction. To some degree I agreed with her but some of it I did not. See below… I added my own commentary.
- Pick an easy, comfortable time to chat with your kids. Maybe a picnic in the park or a meal at their favorite restaurant would make a good backdrop. Have both parents participate, if possible. I don’t believe that it is at all necessary to do this in public. In most cases, the child may be upset, or crying. In a park, maybe, but in a restaurant, may not allow the child to express their true feelings.
- If the other children don’t have a particularly close bond with each other, or if there is a large age gap, it might be beneficial to talk to them separately. Agreed. I told my two boys together, but we are a close family.
- If you do talk to them individually, make sure you don’t come across as wanting to share a secret or that this is a secretive discussion. Everyone needs to be on the same page with the information shared. This is important for everyone not just siblings. Addiction breeds in the places we don’t want to talk about. No one should keep it a secret, and no one should be ashamed into silence about it. We aren’t helping the addict or ourselves if we treat it like an embarrassment.
- Try not to make the conversation a big deal. Though it is, don’t act worried or wring out your hands, as your children will pick up on this and be nervous as well. I agree with this to some extent, but life as you know it, and your child knew it, will change. I didn’t realize, at the time, how much addiction would change our everyday life, and us as people. If I had known it then, I would have talked about letting the boys know to tell me if things were happening they were uncomfortable with, or needed my attention.
- Ask your children what their observations are about their brother or sister, and if they are confused, scared or upset about anything that they see or hear. This is tricky because most likely the sibling has seen things from their brother or sister that they shouldn’t have and will feel like they are betraying their loyalty by “telling on them”. It should be made really clear that there is a huge difference between sibling secrets and substance abuse secrets.
- Allow them to participate in the conversation with their questions, concerns or even a game plan that they think might help their brother or sister. This sort of goes without saying. Validate how they feel about the addiction, and let them know that it will be a complete and totally effing nightmare for the foreseeable future. Ok, maybe don’t say that, but you get the point.
- Establish that you are not looking for them to tattle or divulge information about their brother or sister, and that if they want to exploit them, this is not a loving and helpful option. I’m not really sure what to say about this. Exploit who? Who is exploiting who? I think that other siblings should be told not to give the addict money, cover up crimes for them or otherwise make using easy and accessible.
- If your child or children come to you first, acknowledge their interest in learning more about what’s happening with their brother or sister, but hit the pause button so that you can regroup with a plan and not be cornered into an immediate response or knee-jerk reaction. This is really important. If a child is coming to you to tell you that their sibling is using drugs, it must be very serious. Typically siblings won’t rat each other out unless it is so accessive that they are in fear of their welfare. Take this seriously, and make sure not to tell the addict that the child brought it to your attention. Addicts are basically people who have been possessed by the devil and will do anything and hurt anyone to get their way. Help the addict but protect the innocent….
- If there have been volatile arguments within the family, let the children know as often as necessary that they have nothing to do with them, that you are sorry that they witnessed these outbreaks and that regardless, everyone in the family unit is loved. There is no “If”. You will volatile arguments. With the addict, with other children in the family, with your spouse or partner, even with yourself. Jared heard me screaming at myself in the bathroom, knowing I was screaming at no one else, he text me to say that I had to stop screaming or someone would finally find out I was off the deep end. Maybe one of the few things I did right was make sure I talked to them as a group and individually after each blow up. Reassuring everyone that even in the face of something so terrible, we still love each other and I didn’t really mean when I told AC that I was going to stuff all his clothes in the dirty kitty litter box.
- If the children are aware that there is something wrong with their brother or sister, tell them that he or she is sick at the moment and that Mom and Dad are doing everything they can to help him or her get well, but that it may not happen overnight.The message here should be age appropriate. The truth is, your child is sick, and we may or may not be able to help. And it definitely won’t happen over night.
- If your child/children are teenagers, please consider Alateen, a group of teens who share their thoughts with each other regarding the substance abuse in their family. Private counseling with one or both parents is an option as well. Some towns have great resource for kids when dealing with substance issue. Danvers has a lot of intiatives for opiate prevention. Click here http://danverscares.org/programs/moapc/ to learn more. Also in Massachusetts, DPH released a new public service campaign called Stop Addiction Now. Google it for more info.
- Do your best to keep your family a united front. Sibling splitting or having one child try to curry favor with the addicted sibling can be hazardous toward a joint effort in finding their loved one a path for recovery.
The whole family needs to be a united front. When addiction becomes part of your family, it involves everyone not just the addict themselves. In active addiction, the family suffers more than the addict. These are all my opinion based on my experience, take what you think is helpful and leave the rest.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
The statistics are grim these days. In the first 3 months of 2015 there were 217 heroin overdoses. The number of deaths due to overdose (the articles says unintentional overdose but I refuse to support that statement because you risk overdose every single time you use which means you intentionally take the drug) 33% increase from 2012. And that isn’t all….
I started this blog in October of 2014. Since then my family has had 3 relapse, 2 detoxes, 1 court-sectioned stay at WATC. The blog itself has had 54 posts. The most viewed post would be the home page at 8929. Total views on the page as of this writing was 19091 with the all-time best day being 597 views in one day. There are 321 followers; it was shared 92 times on Facebook. I have had 141 comments. There have been 6285 direct links from the blog to Facebook (meaning someone came to view the blog from a Facebook link), it was googled 642 times. The most viewed blog post was Friends, Treatment and the Unknown, 421 views. The least viewed was Sibling Love which is really sad because it only had 44 views and even my cat beat that with How I Met Your Cat? Got 99 views.
The most viewed picture was this one:
The least viewed picture was this one:
Poor AC- I think he looks cute!
I have had three friends of JoDee’s from high school reach out to me, either to say they didn’t understand addiction and thank me for the blog, or to say they are addicts and need help. I have had five parents from our town reach out to me to say that their children are addicts, but they didn’t have the courage to tell anyone. I have been to countless support groups, 12 months’ worth of N/A meetings (I definitely did my 90 in 90 and then some!) and I know 4 people, personally, that died from drug addiction in the last year- and many more acquatenances.
I know many friends JoDee lost due to her addiction, I know a few friends I have lost due to JoDee’s addiction, and I know of at least one person that said both JoDee and I were crazy – using the blog as an example. And this is the exact number of shits I give for any of those: 0.
Here are a few things I do give a shit about:
A study done in 2011 showed that 75% of all high school students have used addictive substances and 1 of every 5 meets the medical criteria for addition. I can’t imagine what it is now 4 years later.
Teen substance abuse is particularly devastating because using drugs while the brain is still developing dramatically hikes the risk of addiction and other consequences.
The US represents only 5% of the world population but our prescription drug use is 75%.
About 50% of high school seniors do not think it is harmful to try crack or cocaine once or twice and 40% believe it is not harmful to use heroin once or twice.
According to an article from the Boston Globe, civil commitments (Section 35) grew by 67 percent in the last 8 years. And the number of licensed treatment beds varies from year to year. There is not enough funding to support the upkeep and salaries for staff to keep beds in circulation.
It seems to me there is a giant issue when it is much easier to buy drugs on the street than it is to find a bed to start recovery. And I understand that part of the issue is that addicts that have no intention to get clean but want to avoid jail time or just need to get out of the cold will take spots for those that have the desire to start to recover. However, I have learned enough about drug use, and recovery, to know that if you say the message long enough, if you keep repeating it, eventually it will sink in. Or they will die. I don’t see those that are just “place-holding” as a bad thing. Sometimes, they find out that there is something there worth hearing.
Another reason that addicts can’t get the help they need is because it is seen as a moral short-coming, something I have mentioned on this blog. Choice vs Disease. Something I have also said is that shouldn’t matter. Whether or not the first time someone picked up was a decided choice or a victim of circumstance, the end result is the same. Addiction is a disease. It is mentally and physically handicapping and without proper treatment, it will only get worse, just like any other disease. The amount of the daily bed rate has gone up recently from $75 to $82 per day per bed. That is an extremely low figuring considering the variables that go into that. Just the normal overhead it takes to run any business, non-profit or otherwise, would surpass that amount. To me, my addict is invaluable. I cannot put a price tag on her head, but the state does, it says she is only worth $82 a day. And that is only for state-funded beds. My insurance company says she is worth $0.00 because they won’t pay for inpatient stay. As of Oct 1 of this year, it is my understanding that there will be ne legislature that requires that health insurance companies pay for at least a 14-day inpatient stay following a standard medical detox hospitalization. I wonder how many people will know that, and will be able to take advantage of it. Let us not forget that there are fewer inpatient beds than detoxes and for those that have state health insurance, those beds usually don’t turn over for 30-40 days depending on the length of stay. The situation is grim, and like everything else, it may get worse before it gets better.
I watched Where Are They Now- Oprah Winfrey, the other night. It is a show on the O network that goes back to high profile shows that Oprah did. There was a family she had on several years ago- four out of the five family members were heroin addicts. The only one that was not a heroin addict was the 17-month old baby. Both parents, and both teen age boys, addicts. Actively using. Caring for that poor baby. Oprah offered the entire family help. They all went to separate rehabs. The mom went to a rehab that supported mother and children. The dad did great, as did one of the boys. The mother got into an altercation with someone in the rehab (her rehab was in New York) so DCF took they baby away. He was placed in foster care. The dad left the sober living housing he was doing so well in to go be with the mom in NY while she tried to figure out how to get the baby back. In the end, with one son in jail, one son doing well in rehab, and the both parents homeless in NY, the parents made the heart breaking decision to give the son up for adoption. A wonderful family had fostered the baby, loved him and was willing to keep him. They allowed the parents to have visits with him so they could maintain a relationship. Shortly after the adoption was final, the mother died of a heroin overdose, leaving an extremely distraught father alone and homeless in NY. She was 39 years old. Exactly the same age I am. It was absolutely gut wrenching to watch the destruction of this family. For something so senseless. I felt relieved for the baby that he had a chance at a better life, and hollow for the mother knowing she had to give her son up. I can’t even imagine what brought an entire family to heroin. During the original aired show, the mother said they use to be normal. Have dinner together; go to the hair salon, nail salon, out for dinner. At that time, they were days away from eviction because the bank had foreclosed on their house.
As a mother, as a partner to AC, as a human being who has compassion for others, I hate these stories. I hate all stories that end in the death of a person to drugs. There has to be a better way.
Here are a few numbers to close with:
0 is the number of people who should die from overdose
1 is the number of times using it takes to become addicted to heroin
24 is the number of hours I worry about whether my addict will die or not
365 is the number of days she needs to go to a meeting
137 is the number of days she has been clean.
9 until my middle son turns 18- a very scary number for this mother.