T. R. E. M. B. L. E.

T-Today is a new day. It is a day we should embrace because we are given another chance to do things right. To make today count. The problem with that, is if I realize it, and I know it, it’s one thing. But she has to know it. She has to feel that way. She has to take today as a blessing. If she is making excuses, and blaming others, and focusing on the wrong then, today won’t count. It will just be a repeat of yesterday and all the yesterdays gone by.

R– Remembering how she was when she was young is both painful and helpful. She used to be so innocent, and beautiful, and kind, respectful. Now she is a shell of the girl she used to be. Now she is planning her next scheme, looking for away to work less but get more. She is looking for a way out or a short cut or an excuse or someone to blame. Gone is the girl who would beg to feed to feed her little brother, or would ask for chores to earn a dollar, and wanted to learn to mow the lawn. Now she feels like life owes her something, that she is the victim of her own doing and is deserving of all that others have.

E-Everywhere I go I am reminded of what is or could be or was. A mother with her little girl in the park looks like we used. A banged up girl on the bus looks like her now. The man at the Red Sox game nodding off into his beer looks familiar. The woman in the ER with the child passed out in her lap has the body of her own but the face of me.

M-Mothers are breed to protect their children. Mother instincts are not just a saying; they are in fact a real feeling. When the child grows up to be a heroin addict the instinct is now a curse. All the things a parent will do to protect their children, the mother will do, is the wrong thing. The way we would protect our children before now becomes enabling and dangerous. The feeling we have to stand in front of our children, shielding them with our own body, not only is harmful to our children, but may even result in a knife in our back. Mother becomes could world for mistake. And a big mistake will end up with a dead child because if we don’t make them responsible for their own actions it can be lethal.

B-Because we have to change everything we every knew about parenting means forgetting all the things we have become, and learned, and have grown into to instead be a jailer, and probation officer, drug specialist, hard-ass that we don’t even recognize when we look in the mirror. When I look in the mirror.  And because I don’t recognize myself I become the other B word. Bitter.  I am bitter that my life doesn’t look like I wanted it too, or that my daughter’s life doesn’t look like it should, and that I have to un-parent one child but still remember to parent the others. It becomes confusing.

L-Laughter is something I miss. Laughter is something that should reside in everyone’s household along with their pets, and memories, and experiences. Laughter should not be something that is malleable. It shouldn’t bend, and leave, or break and come back.  It should be part of every persons being. Laughing should be as present and tangible in every life. When laughter is missing, it is evident. The atmosphere is heavy and dark.  When laughter is present the atmosphere is light and bright and has a lot of hope.

E-Everyday I tremble with fear that she will be dead that day. Waking up with hope that things will change is becoming less frequent. Trembling is feeling, movement, or sound or a physical or emotional condition marked by trembling.  I have learned a person can tremble with laughter, with fear, with joy, with anxiety, or love. Hatred and anger can also make a person tremble. Desperation and anticipation can cause trembling as can heroin withdrawal, alcohol withdrawal, detoxing and overdose. When a person is administered narcan, and brought back from near dead, the will have involuntary shakes and trembling while also swearing, vomiting, and general disorientation or agitation.

Grave Oversight

The level of oversight can vary from incident to incident. If I do not pay the electric bill, it could be shut off but would be easily corrected. If I forgot to buckle one of my children’s car seats in when they were little that could be catastrophic.

When time came for the next step of JoDee’s recovery I did not want her to come home. I knew that being home is difficult for her. Not because we are using drugs, or partying like rock stars, but because I expect her to be a member of society. An able body in the house that helps clean, or cook, or take out trash, or keep her room clean.  This time, the director of the program and I had a conversation about my reservations. We talked about the goals for her and my concerns for her being home. He suggested that I make a list of things I would expect her to do or not do, send it to him and he would discuss it with JoDee.  That happened. I gave them a list and they discussed it as promised. It was clear that she wasn’t happy about my rules, but she claimed to be willing to adhere to them.  I told AC that it is all good in the hood right now but when she got home it would be a different story. I heard from everyone that I was pessimistic and being negative. I heard about how much she has changed, and that she really sees the joy in life now. Fine. She can come home. Fine. I will ignore my gut, again. Something I said I would not do. Fine. We will try again.

An oversight is an unintentional failure to act or notice something. Or it can be the act of overseeing something. It is my job as a mother to oversee our children. Obviously in partnership with my husband, but shall we be honest? Yes, we shall. Motherhood is the epitome of overseeing. Fathers do as well, but it usually falls to the mother. The majority of it anyway.  The colloquial word for oversight as it relates to being a parent is the bad guy. I have to be the bad guy. I have to tell them to clean their room or I won’t give them anymore money, or to find another sponsor or do step work or get a job or do their laundry.  I have to point out that the attitude sucks, and we aren’t here to cater to their every whim. And, this is not just my addicted child. It’s really all the children. They all need policing at some point. My addicted child needs more attention, and more parenting because she has larger hurdles.

Day one was amazing. She came home and immediately did dishes, organized her belongings, started laundry. Her attitude was pleasant and vibrant. It was a pleasure to have her home. The whole time she has been home I have enjoyed having her home. When the girls are all together the laughter vibrates through the walls, and makes everyone smile.  It is easy to relax when the house feels better with her there. It is easy to let your guard down when she attends her groups, goes to meetings and is following most of the rules.  But change is slow, and when it happens it is easy to oversee. The attitude became surly. The behavior became a little difficult. She didn’t eat much, she chewed her nails.  She was going out, but I believe she was doing the right thing. I think she was struggling with a lot of death around her, I think that she was suffering survivor’s guilt, still, for someone she loved a lot. Contrary to anyone who put her on blast.  I believe she felt like she was an outsider in her home with all of her family. And she wasn’t. She was one of us. She is one of us. She will always be one of us.

What she may not always be is clean. And that, that is truly the thing that separates her from us. She hasn’t learned that I am an expert now. I may not be an addict, but I don’t need to be to know when she is turning a corner. When she wanted to go to Boston on Saturday, I questioned her. I had a feeling it was a bad idea.  She told me that everyone was going, it was the Women’s March and something else at the Frog Pond.  She tried to FaceTime early in the afternoon to show me all the action. But we had a poor connection. She called me later on, and I knew it. I knew she was up to something. Maybe she was struggling. Maybe she was uncomfortable. When we hung up I told AC, she isn’t coming home tonight, I know it. He told me I was pessimistic. That she would come home to show me wrong. I was right.  By noon the next morning we had spoken via text. She said it was no good for anyone if she came home, and was honest about what she had done.

I was a grave oversight to ignore my gut. It was a grave oversight to not insist that she go to a different program, or a sober house, or a halfway house. I knew it would be hard if not impossible for her to recover at home. It is too easy for both of us to get wrapped up, to be caught up, and to forget the purpose of recovery. I should have noticed she stopped seeing her sponsor. I should have noticed that she wasn’t doing step work. I should have seen the signs of her feeling resentful and angry. But I missed them. I had an unintentional failure to notice something. And as a result, she is gone. Again. #whattheactualhellisgoingon


The Movement

2017 has started out with two left feet. Or maybe two right feet. Or maybe no freaking feet at all. In typical Brayden-Cortes fashion it has been a disaster.  I thought we were going to be homeless for a quick minute but as usual things worked out. Things do have a way of working out. Of course, its year -end and month end which in my work-world means ultra busy so moving now, after the holidays during month/year-end is making me a little crazy. Add to that my grandmother is in and out of the hospital, until she calls a cab to bring her home unbeknownst to any of us, for real; it has made things even stranger.  In short, things are so effed to the enth degree that I was grateful to go to work.

It started with us being out of our house, and into our new house on the same day. Yes, that is crazy but not unmanageable. But then the woman we were buying the house from agreed to let us in early. Only when AC went there to get the keys on the very first morning, she was not packed. Like, at all. Like still living there. Needless to say he got a Uhaul, boxes, tape and his brother and father to spend the day packing up her house. I had to work because I have very strict time lines for my closes because the buildings I account for are owned by a public REIT (real estate investment trust for those that are not in the know). All day it was calls back and forth. For a while I think he was truly concerned that she would never be able to move out. By some ungodly hour of the next morning, we finally collapsed on mattresses in our bedrooms. All the kids stepped up, working their asses off cleaning and packing and moving and helping in any way they could. Most of the time I have to scream at them to pick up their own socks but not that day. That day they were unbelievable.

The next day was close day on the houses. Emptying Pine Street was, you guessed it, chaotic. But we got it done. Walking around the house empty and all echo-y and people and animal free was nostalgic. I thought I would die in that house. Really. At times I thought I would die as an old woman surrounded by my kitties. Then, there have been times I was certain I would die from pain and agony and loneliness wallowing in self-pity over my daughters addiction. I tried not to think of the bad times, but it’s difficult.  I did remember the first days we lived there. Painting bedrooms, taking down wallpaper and organizing all of our stuff.  I also remembered marrying AC in that backyard. All the kids standing around us, our friends and family watching, while we vowed to be together forever (and my mom was in the background circling us like a shark in water while gripping her purse not unlike a life raft- clearly in shock). Or until the next time I told him to hitchhike back to Colombia, or throw his shirts in the kitty litter box.  I remembered all the times we spent out in the garden pruning plants, harvesting potatoes and tomatoes, and clipping herbs. The tree still had green pellets all around it from Jared and AC shooting their air soft guns.  My trellises had blue and black smudge marks from the blueberry and blackberry bushes baring fruit.  Those were the good things.

The bad would be the first and last time (and the million in-between) I tossed JoDee’s room to find booze, needles, dope, weed, baggies and cotton. The first time I walked in the house after hearing she was an addict I was in shock. The time she overdosed in her room and threw up all over the place when we finally brought her back was disturbing. The time she overdosed in the bathroom, the basement, and in a car in the drive way it had become routine. The time she tried to run away from me but I stopped her so she assaulted me with our glass storm door until it broke on my shoulder and her father grabbed her by the belt loop throwing her like a rag doll into the kitchen was slightly amusing.  The time I threw her out after Aruba, after Christmas, before her birthday and on Thanksgiving sucked. All in different years. The times we sat around the fire pit out back discussing where we thought she might be, when we would hear from her or when she would be back and having family meetings were interesting to say the least.  Sectioning her once, twice, three and then four times. Her missing most Christmas’ in the past five years. And of course, me mentally missing Christmas because I was so disappointed, angry, hurt or relieved and feeling guilty for being relieved that she wasn’t there.

There were other memories too. All the holiday meals we had. All the cooking we did together.  Making homemade pop-tarts, ginger cookies, Biscotti for Buella, treats for my peeps, and a plethora of other crap we probably did not need.  The endless cooking and prepping for tailgating at Patriots games, and super bowl parties (LS and TS- maybe I can have it at the new house now since the old one was jinxed!) were more good memories.  I think my final and favorite memory will be the last meal we had on Pine Street. Breakfast from McDonalds. Sitting on the floor because we have no chairs or table since the house is empty, we ate bacon, egg and cheese biscuits and McGriddles and hashbrowns.  It was lovely. All seven of us together.  And all the bad memories, all the things that JoDee missed, really made no difference anymore because she was there when it mattered. She was with us as we transitioned from the old to the new.

fullsizerender  The last family selfie in the old house. If you think I look pale, I do, because I had a stomach bug and threw my guts up everywhere. I’m pretty sure I puked up milk duds I ate in the 6th grade.


The new house isn’t my fave. If you have been around me at all recently, you would know that we bought this house on consensus. Everyone else wanted it, it fit all of us perfectly and it has space for my grandmother. It is sort of dated, needs paint and new floors in the bedrooms (hardwood I mean) and the set up or lay out is wacky but AC absolutely loves it. The kids all love their rooms. Albuilto (AC padre) loves it.  Two of the three cats love it and the dog loves it because the backyard is huge so plenty of pooping space.  And I do love the new memories we are making. All of us sleeping on mattresses on the floor while we paint. Every night everyone seems to gravitate to the stairs where we rehash the day, and the kids tell me how much they love the house in an effort to make me love it just as much.  But I think my absolute favorite moment to date is my how my father-in-law improvised on cooking by using a roasting pan as a sauté pan and using a paint scraper as spatula.  We are THAT family.



The Many Christmas Years

I know I am not the only person in the world who becomes nostalgic during the holidays. Holidays are milestone markers. I know that I can remember all of my children’s first Christmases. I can remember my first christmas married, each time, which  with Daddy-O also happened to be JoDee’s first christmas. This time of year reminds me of christmas time when I was a kid. My grandparents would have these giant piles of presents for my sister and me, that we would rip apart fast anxious to see what the next gift was going to be. Recently we found videos’ of christmas past and JCB and I looked like Tasmanian devils unwrapping presents at lightening speed barely acknowledging the actual gift.  Ah.. those were the days.

Christmas as a parent is so different from christmas as a kid. I think the transition from being parented to being a parent was so fast for me, I missed the orientation. Over the years we have developed our own traditions but one of our traditions is not really being traditional. For example, we have never put a star on the top of our tree. Or an angel or anything remotely elegant, religious or even able to lite up. For as along as I can remember we have put a skanky looking, stained and ratty Santa hat. The dog has chewed it. The bulb on the end is nasty and possibly carrying some undefined disease. Potentially the infection that will cause zombie-ness.

Usually it’s a hectic time trying to make sure that both Daddy-O and I get enough time with the kids, and our families. The last five years it has been crazy, not just hectic. The first Christmas AD (after addiction) JoDee had just come back from Arizona. She was recently detoxed so somewhat clean. Clearly we know her story involves relapses. A lot of relapses and shortly after Christmas of that year she relapses. The following year she was clean again, but that wouldn’t last either. The last two Christmas’ have been the worst, I think. Two years ago JoDee left my house with the intention of getting high. I knew it. She knew it and I tried to change her  mind.  There was no talking to her. There was no telling her to think about her life. There was only the look in her eye, the dismissive attitude on her way out and the ominous look of her tail lights as she pulled away from the house. The next few weeks were a blur of running from me, going to detox, running from detox, yadda,yadda, yadda. By the beginning of January we had her sectioned for the very first time. A terribly overwhelming experience.

That led to the longest amount of clean time she ever had. It also led her to be introduced to a whole new way to use and scam. What looked like a bright future turned into a freaking nightmare in a just a few weeks time. JoDee ran and was better at hiding since she had a new group to provide for her. And not in a good way. She had lowlife willing to hide her away, provide her with drugs. When I would finally get her to come home or see her she would look like she had been fighting a war. Thin, frail, exhausted. Eventually she would decide to go to treatment, and part of that treatment was further treatment in Florida. I remember saying I didn’t want her to go. I had a bad feeling about it. But she claimed she wanted to go. Everyone I spoke to said that the program she was going to was excellent. 5 days. She lasted 5 days before she ran away. On AC birthday last year (which was a year ago this week) we got the call that Miss Thing was on the run.

She eventually came home, after I bought her a plane ticket. Her feet weren’t off the plane for a minute before she was sectioned again. She spent Christmas at WATC. It was a difficult Christmas for everyone. SC was at Children’s Hospital so two of our five kids were not home. AC and I had a hard time working up the holiday spirit enough to put up the tree, but we did. That was a rough beginning to that year. That year being this year. This year being now as in 2016. To say that I am glad this year is over is the understatement of understatement.

This Christmas is going to be rough, too. But a good rough. A rough we can handle. Between the move and work and kids and school we have a lot going on but it’s nothing we can’t handle. Not anywhere near the hell we have gone through that last few Christmas’. I hope anyway. The truth is no matter what happens, we can handle it. We might not want to but we can. We might not like it but we can. If the last few christmas’ have taught us anything it’s that we can anticipate nothing and prepare for anything.  Christmas isn’t here yet so I don’t want to jinx anything. I am fully aware that anything that can change at any moment.


Faded In Time

Time heals broken hearts. I think it’s fair to say we have all heard that expression.  Nearly every time someone has said that to me I was in throes of agony and wanted to punch in the nose of whoever was trying to make me see the bright side. In the time of grief no one wants to hear snazzy Hallmark quotes or anything cheerful. There should be a Hallmark card that says “I’m sorry your life sucks. Who can I beat up for you?” I would buy that card. A lot.

During our journey with JoDee these last few years we have had a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes we are angry or sad or suppressing all feelings. We are not always in synch either. At times when I am depressed and refusing to get out of bed, Jay J is angry or Jared is in suppression.  When I am refusing to acknowledge any feelings at all, AC is depressed and waxing poetic about all good things JoDee which only makes his pain worse. It’s hard to say at any point what we might be feeling. One thing is true: we rarely talk about it.  We usually just go about our lives doing the normal thing we do. At some point I will say that I am going to visit JoDee or that I talked to her and some might peak interest while others, well, they are less interested.

The difference in our emotions is based on a lot of factors. Age, relation to her, and her current status are some of the factors. For example, while there are times I am angry at JoDee, there is never a time that I think I will never speak to her again. No matter what, I would always accept her back in my life. And I’m sure at some point if I had too, I would have had her in my life still in active addiction. I’m not sure I could just never speak to her again. Like, ever again. But the boys have had different feelings. There were times when Jay J was very indifferent to her. But most recently that has been Jared.  When Jay J got a letter from her, he wrote her back. When Jared got a letter from JoDee he barely glanced at it. When it was time to visit JoDee on Thanksgiving Jared begged out. I thought about making him go, but then I realized that hard feelings fade over time. He had the right to be mad at her and eventually he would come around.

Due to insurance and financial circumstances JoDee isn’t living at her program anymore. She is living at home, with us, and attending the program during the day. I was apprehensive about her coming home for reasons that most can imagine. I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready, to be honest. But this is the next step in healing and recovery for her. I can be supportive. I will be supportive.  But I can’t ask everyone else to be supportive. I can only ask that they give her a chance to make amends and rebuild relationships.

We had a family meeting to discuss her coming home. We talked about meds being locked up and the normal things that would be relevant.  On the day I picked her up Jared text me asking if when she came home if he had to come out of his room to say hi.  That sounds harsh but you would have to know Jared. Jared is difficult some time, but only in the best way. He is a brat. Most of what comes out is outrageous but harmless. Sometimes I do question his sanity but then I remember who he was born from and it makes sense.  Jared is a loveable and frustrating kid. He was very attached to his big sister. I think he took her addiction almost as hard as I did. Often he would say just forget about her, or well she deserved this, or she deserves that but then later would feel bad for saying that. The guilt would eat him up until he talked to me about it. I wasn’t surprised by his pissy-ness when she was coming home.

But, time heals broken hearts. When we got home, I made him come out of his room to say hello. She told him he did not have to but he sulked around in the background not saying much.

I won’t drag this out too much but there was an amusing incident with the three of us bring the dog to the vet. The incident involved the dog refusing to get out of the car, in the freezing rain and wind, and us having to work as a team to get him out. Then another amusing incident with us trying to get the dog back in. One that involved Jared yelling that he was going to drop him and me saying the dogs asshole is right on my arm. This happened all while Miss JoDee jumped in the front seat laughing at us. Yup- It was hysterical. Not. The night ended with Jared asking if he and JoDee could rent a movie while they lay in bed together.  That was a beginning and I believe his anger with be faded with time.


Mother of The Year

So. I never said I had good ideas. I just have ideas. Sometimes my ideas come to fruition and are awesome. And sometimes, they suck. Suck may be a little judgie. They don’t work out as intended. This Thanksgiving probably falls somewhere in the middle between fan-tab-ulous and suck-a roo. As far as ideas go, anyways. My plan was to flip things upside down. I did not want to have another holiday where we pretend that everything is hunky dory when it isn’t. We do this pretend thing that I hate. It basically means we do the exact thing we would do any other holiday while ignoring the fact that JoDee isn’t home, or JoDee is home and is high, or JoDee is home and is not high but I am worrying like a lunatic that she will be high at any moment. I just can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I am still insane though.

My plan was to have all of us, the entire family including the rotten teenagers that would need to be dragged kicking and screaming, to volunteer somewhere in the morning. I wasn’t really going to share my plan with them. I just was going to ease them into it when they got up in the morning. Like you know, when they got up in the morning just sort of saying let’s go for a ride and show up at our location. In the end I basically told them to be ready at a said time. I was really surprised how many organizations need help delivering, serving or otherwise preparing meals for the less fortunate. In the end I chose to stay close to home and we spent the morning running deliveries to shut-ins, the elderly, or anyone who for whatever reason couldn’t get out for a hot meal. The woman who organizes the whole thing has been doing it for ten years. She begins months and months in advance. This year she was able to feed 2000 people.  She is amazing and it was absolutely humbling to be part of it the little bit that we did. Some folks worked the night before and began again at 5am on Thanksgiving.  We were not that hard-core, though we should have been.  I was so Thankful to be part of it. Were the rest of my family is the question.

Yes. Everyone grumbled and moaned about where are we going and what are we doing but once we got there and everyone was able to see those we were helping they were grateful to be part of it. It took a moment or two to get there.

These boys were not thrilled with me:


The boys had to go to Daddy-O’s so they left after a few hours. The girls, AC and I stayed until after 1. At three the boys would be home and we were going to visit JoDee. But between 1-3 was a period of time I hadn’t considered. It never really occurred to me that I should have had something for them to eat or something else to do. We drove through a few towns, including our own looking for something to eat. I totally thought the Chinese Food place would be open. I kept saying we could get Chinese Food. I mean, isn’t Chinese Food places open always? Even during the apocalypse? Like what the hell? No. The answer is no. Typically the only place open on Thanksgiving are restaurants that require a reservation. Except one. There was one place we found open.

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Mother of the year took her family to MCDONALDS!!!!!!!!!! Oh, my god. It’s humiliating. Yup. That happened. #sometimesIembarrassmyself  #youhavetobekiddingme #thatwasarealtreatNOT

That was certainly a moment I will never be able to forget. I’m sure the kids will be saying for years remember that time we had McDonald’s for Thanksgiving. Sweet Jesus.  Anyway. After that we had just enough time to go home to pass out for a quick nap before we went to see JoDee.  That was the highlight of the day.  She was so happy to see us, and we were so happy to see her too. Everyone but Jared. Jared wouldn’t come but I know he will come around eventually. He has every right to be mad at her, so hopefully by Christmas he will be willing to visit.

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On the way home we were laughing and talking about the new house and when JoDee came home. I apologized again for the McDonald’s incident and the kids surprised me by saying that this was one of the best Thanksgivings they ever had. We all agreed that the day was amazing and wonderful and uplifting.  So drastic from last year.

Last year was a miserable Thanksgiving. The morning after I was desperate to get a hold of her because she turned off her phone so I went to Facebook hoping she would see it:


I must have been in lala land because I have no idea why I used a screen shot I took of 5:55 on Sept 30 but who the hell knows. I won’t even get into what that Black Friday looked like for us but you can refresh your memory if you want, here Black Friday.  This year this was how my Black Friday started:



I guess I brushed my teeth a little vigorously because the toothbrush flew out of my hand right into the freaking toilet.  And no, I did not keep it. I bought a new one, thank you very much.






Thanksgiving Five Millions and Forty Two

…since finding out JoDee was an addict. At least it feels like that. The first Thanksgiving she was missing in Arizona. Actually, she was no longer missing that’s for sure.  The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I was pouting in a bath tub with hot enough water to turn my skin into the same shade red as my OPI nail color called Red My Fortune Cookie while my phone was ringing endlessly on my kitchen table. By the time I decided to not drown myself, and got out of the water I had missed 4 calls. I was in the full throes of hysteria when she called back. Anyone following this blog knows how that turned out. Cliff Notes Version: Paid a drug dealer a ransom to get her a ride to my Uncle. Said Uncle showed up packing heat and ready to shoot the face off any loser who tried something funny. And Thanksgiving morning he deposited her on a plane back to Boston. At midnight-ish AC, Daddy-O and I went to the airport to pick her up.  Also, side note: it was also the week I got my favorite of all time kitty, Diego. My soul mate. My love. My….oh ha ha just kidding….

The following Thanksgiving was different but not by much. She was using, barely awake for dinner and I wanted to punch her face off while wrapping her in a blanket to hold on my lap. The year after that JoDee had run from a program the weeks before and was staying in a sober house that I said I would not pay for her to get into and then, like a suckah, caved in and paid. She was doing well. She seemed to be doing well. She spent the whole day with us smiling and being wonderful. We played music and had a fire in the pit in the yard. We played games and laughed and really had a good time as a family which is something we don’t get very often. It didn’t take that long to fall apart, however. By Christmas she was nasty and hostile. Clearly was using but trying hard to hide it. We still spent Christmas together but shortly after that we had JoDee sectioned which was a miserable heart wrenching yet relieving day. I won’t get into that.

Last Thanksgiving JoDee showed up late and high but I could tell she used just enough to get by. Something I should have recognized at the time. I should have seen that she was trying to be with us. I should have seen that her using just enough to keep from getting sick meant that being with us was important to her too.  But, that is not what happened. My grandmother was with us and having her watch JoDee with the heavy eyelids made me so effing angry. I was furious. I was embarrassed for her which also made me resent her.  So, I yelled at her. I made her leave. I told her she couldn’t be with us. The look of hurt on her face is something I still see when I close my eyes. She was embarrassed and humiliated and deflated and mad. It’s one of the things I will never forgive myself for. My grandmother got upset, she ran out, the kids were frozen in place. It was awful.  And I know she called the disgusting old man (I hate to use that word because he is no man) whom she stayed with for several days. She turned her phone off because she was mad at me. The Friday after Thanksgiving AC and I tried to have her sectioned. It took us forever to get them to issue the warrant. The police went to the house she was at, that I knew she was at because I was literally, LITERALLY, stalking the house, and knocked on the door. She answered the door smiling denying she was herself and they said ok have a good day, leaving her there.  That was not a good time for me. I don’t think I got out of bed or showered until I had to return to work on Monday.

This Thanksgiving, well this one, it has to be different. I know that it is still several days away so I am breaking my own rule by talking about it because I am going to jinx it. However, I feel moderately comfortable (actually I will cross fingers, knock on wood and throw salt over my shoulder just as a precaution) talking about it. Or writing about it. As a family we still have a lot going on. Moving, preparing to have my grandmother come to live with us, end of year approaching for work, etc, etc.  For that reason, amongst more that I can’t even put into words, I am flipping Thanksgiving upside down.  There will be no cooking a Turkey Dinner. There will be none of me slaving over a stove for a stupidly long time for everyone to eat in 15 min and then retire to the nearest sleeping spot.  This Thanksgiving I am going to show that I am truly grateful this year. The year was tough. We had some really low, low’s. Some heart breaking moments.  The year is looking as though it might end for the better. Maybe the best we have had in our family in a long time.  One month from now we will be moving into a bigger house, enough room for us all to stretch out and a separate in-law for my grandmother to have her own space. And most important, JoDee is doing well. She is over 30 days clean. She is grateful and remorseful and humble.  She is writing letters and taking responsibility for her actions. She admits she is not in control.  She has said and expressed things she hasn’t in 5 years. One of which is that she hadn’t realized how much time had passed. She was shocked when she really put together the number of years we have been tortured by her addiction.

Let’s be clear, shall we? She is not “all better”. She is doing well, and we are cautiously optimistic but that doesn’t mean we can relax or let our guard down. It just means that she is on a different path. One I hope she stays on. And I am so grateful for that.  For that reason, AC, the kids and I are going to do something else. We are going to be doing something different then we have in previous years. Hopefully something that brings us and others some joy. Hopefully the family isn’t to annoyed with me when they find out just what I got them into!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me and mine.


Conjecture and Disgrace

There is a lot going on with our nation right now. Today marks an important day, being Election Day. Our country will not be the same, either way. It’s a country divided and really at war with itself. When I think about the significant times in American history I can’t help but compare them to current events. During the abolishment of slavery there were those that didn’t think change was necessary and there were those that could see the future of America, making all of the citizens free.  During the women’s lib movement, there were men that good understand and value the support needed for women to have equal rights.  When segregation was ending there were American’s that wanted all of our citizens to be treated fairly and equally and not be ostracized due to skin color. There are many examples of this, I could go on forever. However, the common theme is those that want change and those that don’t.  Only each side views change differently.  Each side believes that their side wants the change, even when the change is more of the same.  Who can be sure what is right? What if right is wrong? People that are wrong, often don’t know it. And can’t recognize it. If they did, they would see it from the other side.  My point is, each party is fighting for or against their own fundamental beliefs. Sometimes it is hard to be able to see the forest through the trees. And let’s face it, while we have come a long, long way, we still have miles to go. Racial profiling still happens, women are paid less than men by as much as $0.25 on the dollar and the LGBTQ families suffer hate crimes, discrimination and still do not have equal rights as their heterosexual counterparts.  America was built on fundamental beliefs of justice and evenhandedness, but it is clearly still a work in progress.

We, as a society, are divided and it is painfully obvious that is not going to resolve anytime soon. It could not be clearer then when looking at the addiction families. It is not bad enough that when our children or loved ones are suffering from addiction that we have to live on the edge of our worst fears waiting for the call that they have died. But then when that call comes, and it is more likely than ever to happen, the family is bombarded with disgusting and vile comments about the addict deserving their death, or getting what they deserve. How did we become such a cruel society? How did we become a whole that splits in half pointing fingers at each other looking for blame? When we spend so much time pointing fingers and calling out whose fault it is we spend zero time looking for a solution to the problem.  Recently I read an article about a woman who lost 3 sons. THREE SONS. Three. I cannot fathom going through this nightmare with three children. It is literally paralyzing to me.  That is the epitome of suffering addiction. Those poor boys suffered watching each other die off, the mother suffered burying each one and the entire family suffered the loss of a future. Add to that the mother is a recovering addict and it is a perfect storm of devastation.

Once again, because I truly never learn, I clicked on the comments underneath the article. And once again, because nothing really changes, I was disgraced by humanity. The cruelty of people is just unbelievable. And I do mean unbelievable in the most absolute and outrageous way.  Sometimes I am embarrassed to be alive and sharing air with people who are so ignorant and disgusting.  The comments were loaded with conjecture. The mother must be the problem if all three kids died. The mother is an addict too so don’t donate to the Gofundme page because she will probably use the money for drugs. Don’t donate because she deserves to lose her kids if she is a dirty scumbag addict too. On and on. I read them all. There were plenty of people offering supportive words about the loss but the bad definitely out weighted the good. It was horrifying.  I understand that there is some speculation on how three boys from the same family end up so deep in addiction they lose their life, especially under the supervision of a mother that is an addict herself.  Doesn’t anyone ask why?  Instead of crucifying this family, did anyone stop to ask why this has happened? In the supposed land of opportunity?

I’m sure a lot of people say it’s because the mother did drugs so the kids followed in her foot steps. That’s true. I believe that is very probable but, there is still a why. What led the mother to that lifestyle? Well, who the hell knows. No one. No one knows for sure. It really doesn’t make it any less tragic. An entire family has been wiped out by addiction and that is fucking tragic. It’s awful.  I can preach myself blue about disease versus choice or behavior versus mental health, though I think that would be futile.  There is just no forgiveness or natural kindness anymore. Now every time something bad happens to someone we say that was karma making it right, or that the person deserved whatever they got. Who are we? It’s disgusting.

The truth is that the way we live and are raised and are praised or not typically shapes who we become as people. Positive feedback and encouragements causes a self-amplifying cycle where positive change leads to even greater change and continued growth in a positive and self-satisfying way. Negative feedback or discouragement does the exact opposite. If a child is raised in a place where they are told they can be whatever they want, and can do whatever they want, they will believe that and strive for the best. If a child is raised in an environment that is predominantly negative they will believe that they cannot do things, or they are not good enough and it will have lifelong effects resulting in unconstructive behavior.  Those types of behaviors follow people and families for decades.  I recently read a study about children raised in poorer neighborhoods versus those raised in wealthier neighborhoods. In some instances the children were both born to poorer families (young, unwed mothers from well-to-do families) or mothers. Even though there were similarities in financial background such as mother’s working as a waitress or in a department store with no father participation or very little participation, the children raised in wealthier places were ten times to be more successful than those in the poorer neighborhoods.

It’s hard to imagine that a women that loses three sons to addiction and is an addict herself wasn’t also raised in that same environment. And, it’s not hard to imagine that the worse this addiction epidemic becomes the more of this sort of thing that will happen.  Everything starts somewhere. Poor decisions, impulsivity and negative self image are bred and developed. They are learned. And they can be unlearned, helping an entire generation crawl out of hell and into real life, but that doesn’t happen by telling them what a flaming piece of shit they are. Reading the story of this woman and her three dead sons made me sad for her AND in spite of her but I can’t judge her even though that sounds contradictory.  There has to be more compassion from one human to another.  Otherwise why bother living.



Waiting for the Wait to End

The sound of the phone changes depending on the time of day. It sounds different depending on whom a person may expect on the other end. The sound of the phone ringing during The Walking Dead season premiere is annoying. The sound of the phone ringing at 8 in the morning on a Sunday is infuriating. The sound of the phone ringing at midnight is startling and concerning especially when the number on the caller ID is not a familiar one.  For a parent with an addicted child represents a whole different set of emotions to a ringing phone at midnight.  On Saturday night when the phone rang at midnight, I woke immediately.  JoDee had been in treatment a total of 15 days.  I had spoken to her and the Clinical Director just days before this and she was doing well.  She was excited about her future and being clean. She told me she was learning so much about herself and addiction. She said she was staying no matter what.  It was encouraging. I won’t say I was excited or feeling particularly optimistic.  I was cautiously glad with a hint of pessimistic.  I really hoped she was going to stay the course, but I knew that relapse is very likely with her.  Of course, to her I told her we were happy and couldn’t wait for her to come back to us.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when the phone rang. I guess surprise isn’t even the right word. I wasn’t surprised. I was disappointed. The voice on the other end of the phone asked if I was Melanie Brayden. I confirmed I was. She said I have you listed as the emergency contact for JoDee Joyce. I asked what happened. She said I’m sorry to tell you this but I’m calling to tell you that JoDee left the program.  I inquired about when and if there was anything that precipitated it. She had left an hour ago and it was sudden. She left alone.  The woman on the phone said to me that she had never had to make a call like this before and it was making her think of her own mother. She told me she would keep JoDee in her prayers.  That was it. Call ended. Probably 45 seconds total.  Everything changed from one moment to the next. Just like that.

I sat on the edge of the bed waiting for something. I stared at my phone for a few minutes expecting her to call me from her phone to say she left. Historically, JoDee won’t call right away. A day or two will go by but not usually more than that before I hear from her. However, the last time she called me for help I left her in a park in the middle of the night so I don’t know if she will even bother to reach out to me.  Sleep was over.  I paced the house, watched Netflix (p.s. Dexter took a huge nose dive once Deb found out he was a serial killer, such a bummer) and started preparing for the open house we are having (selling the house to buy a house that actually fits us all).  I won’t give you the step by step but eventually I went to sleep and woke up a few hours later.  AC and I had coffee while discussing what we thought she could be doing or what happened. All the while we are just waiting to hear from her. Some sign that she is in fact alive. Nothing. Sunday continued pretty uneventfully. I had the house further prepared for the open house by having someone to come in to help clean it (if you are in our area and looking for an AMAZING home cleaner Christie Mills is worth every penny plus!!!!!!!).  By the end of the day, with no contact from her, I tried to call her phone. Voice mail immediately. I tried to text her but I could tell her phone was off.  I tried going to bed which is a joke, really.

Monday was a busy day. Again, no one wants to hear about my boring life, but short story is that by the end of the day, I still had not heard from her. I started to worry. Waiting sucks. I kept checking my phone to make sure it was not dead. I kept checking her phone to see if it was on which it wasn’t which is also weird.  The waiting sucks.  It sucks so badly. Not knowing. Did she take her phone and wallet? Maybe her phone isn’t on because she didn’t take all her stuff with her. If that is the case if she dies somewhere how will anyone know who she is? Maybe she is already dead but no one knows how to get a hold of her family. She could be lying in a morgue as Jane Doe. The thought of that was paralyzing.  Paralyzing isn’t even strong enough to depict the emotion.  What in the world could go through her mind? She must know how worried I will be. Oh. Right. She isn’t thinking about anything. But her addiction. And her next fix.  So I guess we keep waiting until she wants to call.

At this point, I know where she is. She hasn’t called me or reached out to me, but I have confirmation she is somewhere. A place I knew she would go. I’m still waiting to hear from her. I will still be waiting for her to find long term recovery. I will be waiting for her to rejoin our family as a productive member of society.  I will be waiting for her to call for help again. I will be waiting for her to have her next bottom. And I will wait patiently because the alternative of not waiting is too painful to think about.



Public Shaming

There is this thing happening now. With all of our social media outlets and keyboard courage, there are multitudes of pictures and video’s of heroin addicts popping up on screens (tv, twitter, Facebook, etc). The first I saw was a Ohio couple that were passed out, basically while driving, with a 4 year old in the back seat.  The caption said parents overdosing with child in back. The picture showed a distraught looking boy strapped in a car seat while two adults were half dead in the driver and passenger seats.  The police station released the picture with an article saying that it’s disturbing but it’s relevant and necessary. I was outraged. I was outraged for the child of course, but also that the police sort of brushed off their culpability. The two adults, who turned out not to be parents but a grandmother and her boyfriend, were clearly heavy users. Nothing about them looked presentable or respectable and I mean that in the most polite way. The kid looked dirty and unkempt.  I find it difficult to believe that when the child was removed from his parents and placed in the care of the grandmother, no one noticed she was fucked up too.  Lots of commenter’s praised the police for bringing light to the heroin epidemic.  I had the opposite reaction.  I was annoyed because I saw a child that was completely abandoned by the state that should have been protecting him. No one paid enough attention when the state took him from his mother, and no one paid attention when he would show up places dirty and not well cared for. No one paid attention because no one followed up. He was a junkie’s kid so he was placed with family and forgotten about.  And that picture only proved to create more hostility to a group of suffering addicts that need more support not public shaming.  So I thought.

The next time I saw something on social media was a toddler trying to wake her mother up whom had apparently fallen down, passed out in the snack isle of a grocery store. The little girl brought tears to my eyes as she could be heard in the background yelling, loudly, for her mommy to wake up. She was terrified. And there was a bystander that was referring to the prone woman by name asking others to help him. Did anyone? No. No one helped him. Many people took the time to video the spectacle and post it, re-post it, share it and tweet highlighting the poor girls terrifying moments.  Of course, many people posted comments about the piece of shit mother, and she should be dead, and the kid should be taken away. And those comments aren’t wrong, but how in the world did that lady even still have that kid? None of that is helping either of them.  It is providing further proof that junkies should rot in hell and they all make the choice to shit on their families and kids.  I felt that it was proof positive that American’s have become more interested in being the first to post the next 5-minute hit video to get 1 million shares/likes/reposts.  It outraged me. For a while.

The next video I saw that made me sick and infuriated me was an 8 year old boy being told on Facebook live that his mother just died of a drug overdose. That extremely difficult moment, one of the most memorable and horrific events of his life was broadcasted on effing Facebook for the world to see. His cries were heart breaking. Hearing him saying “wait, my mom is dead?” was like taking a bullet. I was angry at the adults in the video for allowing his vulnerability to be shown worldwide like it was an exibit at a human emotion circus. I mean, in my head, addicts aren’t watching those videos. I know my addict wouldn’t be high watching that video to have the epiphany to be clean. The people who watch those video’s either have an addict in their life, lost an addict from their life, or have no idea what it is like to love an addict. Essentially everyone falls into one of those three categories. For those that have unfortunately experienced addiction first hand, those videos hurt at a level that is indescribable. For  those that don’t have an addict in their life it will help form an opinion that could either help to end the opioid crisis, or will afford you judgment to those that are addicted.  So fucking frustrating.  Sort of.

The last video I saw was of teenagers that returned home to find both of their parents banged up, possibly overdosing. The teenagers spent a few minutes trying to wake them up, putting flash lights in their eyes, shaking them with little to no reaction. And for some reason, I got it. I understood why these things are necessary, even though they are disturbing.  They are hard to watch. They are hard to see.  The commenter’s reactions of hatefull-ness and anger are justified.  The children that are being affected by this shit is overwhelming and unnecessary.  They are crude images but for those without an addict in their life, it does provide them an eyeball into a life they most likely otherwise, would not see.  Some will see that the epidemic needs more attention to get addicts help so fewer parents are passing out in the snack isle of the grocery store. Some will see that those people are worthless, useless, boils on the armpit of society and should be thrown away. Either way, there is really no other way to express the depth of the horror that is addiction.  It may be public shaming and hurtful but it is also educational, like it or not. I don’t think I could post anything like that of my addict, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want anything like that posted about my child. But I think when a person is that banged up in public, they have lost a certain right to privacy.

The bottom line is desperate times call for desperate measures. Isn’t my blog a form of public shaming? Aren’t I spilling my family’s dirty laundry in an effort to educate others and unite like minded individuals? Words may paint a picture and many can feel the pain I have endured, but those pictures and videos are irrefutable. I want addiction to be seen as a disease. I want addicts to be able to get help and come back to society without the prejudice of others.  I want the government to create new programs, more support and better education to help fight the epidemic. To get that, we have to do whatever is necessary. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us, or lines it crosses.  If public shaming would get my daughter help she couldn’t otherwise get, or God forbid, save her life, I would do it. I would do anything. And I think most others are getting to frustrated to a point of anything goes. I might not love it, or be able to go to that extreme yet, but I won’t judge it anymore.