Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky Luck

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

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

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

A Day In the Hospital

Recently, my father-in-law had to have an invasive but not emergent surgery that required both my husband and me to spend two days in various parts of the hospital with him to translate English as he speaks primarily spanish. The particular hospital that the surgery was done in was one I used to work in. It has been so long since I have worked there, I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew, especially because I typically worked the second shift back in those good ol’ days. You know, the days of black and white television and horse drawn wagons? Anyway, it also happens to be a hospital that we had taken JoDee to on many occasions.  As soon as we walked in AC said this looks familiar, and that looks familiar. I figured he would process it eventually but I think it was the wee hours of the morning and the lack of coffee he had in solidarity of his Dad who was surgery starved, but I finally had to tell him. The first few hours were a little bit entertaining as my father-in-law  didn’t want to use the interpreter the hospital offered choosing instead to use his son, my husband, to interrupt for him. This was a problem because the hospital policy requires that it be a third party so there is no chance of skewing the interpretation or having the patient withhold information he wouldn’t want his son to know (not a problem in our family).  There was a lot of scurrying around, and forms to sign, and blah blah blah. All very boring.

When he finally got underway, or under the knife as it were, AC and I decided to go to the cafeteria for breakfast, which as a side note- was the first date like meal we have had together since Jesus was a small child. This is where we first began people watching. The two maintenance men drinking coffee at the table in front of us were talking about their ex-wives. One was bashing her, pays her two much, never sees his kids, seemed sort of like a dink and the other was saying nice things. They still had a good relationship, she was a good mother, she drove him batty sometimes but he couldn’t complain. The poor Guy B spoke nicely of Ex-Wife B, Guy A spewed venom about Ex-Wife A. Finally, B told A that maybe she was nasty because she had married and divorced the devil, and that comment went over like a lead balloon.  By the time we had reached the waiting room again, there were more people waiting. An older woman, a middle-aged woman, a family of folks all speaking Russian and one young girl, maybe early twenties, bleach blonde and face buried in her phone.  We all were making ourselves busy minding our own business, when the trilogy of people watching strolled in with their mother. These three were tall. No, not just tall, looming. Just looking at them it was easy to tell they were three brothers. One brother was the tallest and the most unkempt while appearing put together. It was fascinating. His hair looked like one of those signs in a crossroad with arrows pointing in all directions. His clothes were business casual but so rumpled and disorganized, it came off looking business confused instead. A large face, with octopus like lips, full cheek bones, and wide eyes, finished him off. I can only assume he was the oldest, because they all had the same look but each one shorter than the other. The last one, the youngest presumably, was the shortest at six feet tall, and had a limp. The had many of the same characteristics but one of them that not only caught my eye but grossed me the hell out was the uncomfortably large amount of white spittle dried in both corners of all three of their mouths. They were like a circus side show. AC elbowed me in the ribs on more than one occasion but then finally, he was taken in also.

The waiting room was large. Larger than large. Ample enough for all of us to fit without having to sit very close to each other. Until the stooges showed up. Within minutes they had spread out so intrusively the had stuff on every chair. Jackets, bags, laptops and tablets, and one even took off his shoes. And that was before the mother was even called in for her case. When it was time for to go to the pre-op area, the nurse asked if the sons wanted to join their mother and one of them wanted to know if there was any food on offer in the back. I think you are getting the picture. My father-in-law was in surgery longer than anyone else in the waiting room so we saw most people come and go. When the surgeon came out to see the men after their mother’s procedure was complete, the first thing the tall doofus asked was if the DNR (for those that don’t know Do Not Resuscitate) was necessary. Who the hell asks that? Who? In front of people? In a waiting room? I couldn’t help myself. I could not. Could. Not. Help it. Couldn’t. I didn’t even realize I was speaking out loud until someone answered. I said “Who the hell says that?” The lady across from me said that she was thinking the same thing and that she was embarrassed for them. At that exact moment, sounds of yelling and screaming and some pretty explosive swearing erupted from the floor below us. The waiting room was above the ER and Main entrance lobby and it was an open air layout. We could hear everything clearly.  A woman was yelling that she didn’t feel like she should have to leave. Several male voices in lower voices were telling her that no one here could help her. The older woman next to me muttered something about a drug addict. The middle-aged woman across from me mumbled something about the world going crazy. The young blonde finally looked up from her phone, turned around in her chair and was staring over the balcony.

“There a bunch of cops down there.”

“It’s a lady. I think she has a kid.”

“No, she said she has a kid in there but the cop said she doesn’t.”

“No, the cop said she can’t see the kid.”

This kind of commentary carried on for about ten minutes. The stooges really didn’t give a shit but the other women did. They pretended not to listen, but they were. We all were. Several cops dragging one slight woman who clearly hadn’t had a good meal in years, or a shower for that matter, out of the hospital on to the sidewalk. None of us know why. Mental illness, drugs maybe, bad parenting. Maybe she beat her kid to a pulp and brought him there, but I doubt it because she wasn’t arrested. I don’t really care what was happening. The moral of this story, to me, was that misery sells. That entire waiting room was pretty much minding their own business, not paying attention to each other except for the three big dinguses, but when that lady was being humiliated, and drawn out of the hospital, she got an audience. The blonde hopped up to check it out, and the older women didn’t tell her to stop giving the blow by blow. No one, not even me, told her to stop. We liked it. We hate to admit it, but it’s true. When we hear a story of someone missing or murdered or beat or overdosing, we call that news. When we see a feel good story we are less likely to believe it’s true or real. Our society has gotten to be one that feeds off of zombie apocalypse and mass murder and Identification Discovery Channel which is really a death station. Another way I can tell is that when JoDee is using and missing and I am suffering and I post blogs, the stats are shooting off the roof. But lately she has not been outrageous, other than hating my guts, or I have been refusing to write about her terrible behavior, so that stats are low. This is not really concerning to me because I now that my blog would be short lived and eventually come to an end (not that I am doing that now) but rather a point of interest. Fascination. Proof positive that misery is a big hit. Very weird.

That really provoked my own thoughts about our situation. Did people stare at us like that? Did people watch us in the ER waiting room, or see us in a trauma room and find our behavior fascinating? Or her lack of behavior fascinating? At what point did we go from spectators to the spectacle? And do I care? No. Not really. I know that at the time that things are in a really bad way I don’t give two shits if people are staring. I am too busy trying to see if she is going to live to really notice. It never really dawned on me to be embarrassed to bring her to that hospital because I use to work there but I know that her father was worried about it (he works in the same hospital occasionally) and there were times she saw someone she recognized and would become embarrassed. I can’t remember if there was a time when I was conscious of it. I know the very first time she overdosed, I immediately brought her there without a second thought. I can’t remember a moment, even fleeting, of embarrassment. Now, looking back, we both must have looked a mess. More than a mess, but the truth is we were. We were absolutely a mess. Truth be told we are still a mess. However, I do have a little satisfaction knowing that I was someone else’s people-watching captivation. Eat your heart out people because some day, I will be character assassinating you right back.

Surgically Removed

I love the practice of medicine. I find it absolutely fascinating the way the body and mind work. Some of the best scientists believe that everything we need to know or learn about the body is tangible. The heart pumps blood, the lungs push oxygen, the muscles along with ligaments and tendons help move the body, the bones are the source of strength and our skin keeps it all together. The brain sends a signal to a foot to wiggle a toe, this involves many different actions under the skin, in the brain, down the leg to the foot for one small wiggle, and it all happens in seconds, or less.  The brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves system together create a complex integrated information-processing and management system also called the central nervous system. Together they regulate all of our conscious and unconscious facets of our life.  Imagine that.  The brain is the beginning and end of all things life. It controls body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. It accepts and process all of our senses; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.  It manages our physical movement and allows us to think, dream, reason and experience emotions.

The Neurons in the brain have the remarkable ability to gather and transmit electrochemical signals, like a TV or IPad moving information. There many different types of neurons: motor, sensory, interneurons and associative neurons. I could continue to educate everyone on the billions of neurons or the way they move, but the part I am most fascinated by are the changes when they are damaged.  It wasn’t until circa 1972 that the full effect of opiate use was clear. A group of scientist from Johns Hopkins University revealed that the brain has specific protein receptor sites for opiates. It wasn’t long before they identified that the body produces its own endogenous opioids. When synthetic opiods, like heroin, are introduced the body’s perception of pain lessens and elevate mood by increasing the levels of dopamine.  There is a process where the opioid is converted back into morphine which triggers sensations of euphoria (and pain relief) much greater than the body is able to develop on its own.  There is evidence that a single use can change the receptors in the brain so significantly that the body begins to feel higher levels of pain and discomfort while not using, occurring in the need to use more and more.

Long term use has even more dire consequences. So even if a person is to detox from the drug physically, the other side effects will continue to be a problem like poor ability to regulate one’s own behavior, impaired emotional processing, impaired memory, diminished flexibility with completing tasks, decreased capacity for making decisions and decreased ability to imagine future events and interactions. In short, the user becomes a poor decision maker with radical mood instability and no ability to see or plan for a brighter future.  And many think that solving this problem is to just not use. Just not use. Just like that. Many people have a notion that addicts are lazy and ignorant, classless and untrustworthy.  Often society only sees the result of the addiction and not the addict. If this was a surgical case, if there was a part of the brain causing the problem, like an aneurysm or a brain tumor, a well trained physician could open the brain to remove the anomaly.  If this was an appendices that was hot and inflamed, a general surgeon would either open the abdomen via a laparotomy incision or a laparoscopic procedure to remove it before it infected the whole body resulting in death.  There is no such treatment for addiction.

Doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatrist, psychologist have spent decades studying and learning and yearning to find a cure but there isn’t one to be had. There is no fix. There is no surgical procedure, or medical intervention of standard practice. I cannot simply make a phone call or make an appointment for her to show up to help her. There are alternative methods.  And I would love for her to try them, but at the moment, I can’t reach her. Not emotionally. I could pick up the phone and call her. I could send her a message on Facebook but anything I would have to say would not be received. It would not register in her head and it certainly wouldn’t mean anything. I have become the enemy. I have become the thing she hates the most.  I don’t know why that is. Maybe it is because she has nothing left to hate. Maybe it’s because I remind her of her. Maybe it is because I have done something wrong as a parent. Maybe it is because I don’t know what else to do.  The mixed messages I receive from her are confusing and frustrating. I know she is not using, but that is not the same as being clean. Being clean is about a lifestyle change, a reckoning with her own psyche, attitude. The things I see, and hear, isn’t giving me the warm and fuzzies.  She is feeling sorry for herself, and wrapped up in some kind of thing I don’t recognize. Separating from her family is never a good sign. We want her to be well and we want her to be part of the family but the negative, angry, blaming, spiteful, and poor-me girl that has taken her place is not something we can be part of. When she tells me one day that she can’t be part of us, that we are not good for her recovery, but calls the next day to say I love you, oh and I have no money in my account sounds an awful lot like I want to do what I want, without answering to you or anyone else but I want you to financially support that.

I don’t want to make her pain worse, but I don’t think she cares about our pain at all. I think she is so tied up feeling sorry for herself she doesn’t have time to understand the effect of her actions on us. I spend and have spent so much time worrying about her physical health and emotional health that I often forget about my own. Or the other kids. She doesn’t see it that way, which was a problem for me because I would want to pay attention to the other kids while convincing her she is important too. There is no way to be with her and be in my own present. I can’t divide myself. And I don’t think there is a single thing left that I could possibly do to help her. Anything else I do is hurting her, I think. I keep thinking that when I was her age I had two children, pregnant with my third and Daddy-O and I owned a house. We both worked, grocery shopped, mowed the lawn or washed the car. We were adults. Adulting. Daily.  I want her to adult her own life and she can’t. Or won’t. I don’t know. Her brain is so fucked up, I know she doesn’t see life in real terms. Somehow her addiction has become my problem to solve but I want a life. I want to spend the day with kids, and my grandmother, and my friends without feeling guilty because she is wasting her life. I gave her that life. I did the best I could with it. I can do nothing at this point to encourage her to live it differently. And I know I run the risk of losing her for good but she was gone a long time ago.

It is time for me to accept that I cannot make her be something she isn’t. Or someone she can’t be or won’t be. I cannot put her in an operating theatre, open her brain, excise the thing that makes her this way, close her up and monitor her for post operative complications.  I know there are ways via neuropath ways, for her to be better, but she would have to want that. I won’t give up on her, I won’t forget her or cast her aside as worthless, because she isn’t. She is far from that. She was destine for greatness which she is capable of if she can make it there.  Her brain and her body need healing. They need to rejuvenate and regenerate to become whole again.  I don’t think there is enough medical practice in the world to do that right now.

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.

To Whom It May Concern:

Hello. How are you? I hope this letter finds you  well. All things considered, this year has been awful. I am not the only one who has found that 2017 has really sucked ass. Now, I know that sounds harsh, and judgmental but there must be a way to make this better.  I am not sure who to reach out too, but I was wondering how to change our karma, or clean our spirit, or otherwise chase off the black cloud.  Can you help a girl out with that?

Just to recap this year, which I might point out has only been 31 days , I have listed them below:

  1. The sale of our house was delayed, and delayed, and prolonged, and completely fucked. This ended with us having to move the previous owner out, and keeping half the crap to dispose of ourselves. Fan-effing-tastic.
  2. The first few weeks in the house, we painted, and organized while we waited to have our rugs and floors put in. At some point, someone knocked the thermostat off the wall, and no one noticed so our new house, that I hate, and can’t stand, was absolutely freezing. Because we have too much going on, it took us like ten days before we figured out how to turn the heat up.
  3. The state of our union is looking bleak since no one can agree and the hate being slung around is vicious and soul-sucking. One of my few luxuries at the moment is flipping through Facebook to see how the rest of the normal world lives and that has been ruined by politics. Thanks for that .
  4. I have spent more than I care to think about, or tell AC about with retail therapy. Sadly, and really unfortunately for my wallet, I could buy anything I want from the convenience of my phone. Apply Pay has ruined me financially; however, the new house that I hate has been decorated handsomely. Also, I had no idea I could buy LED candles for the new candle holders for my mantel that have a remote control! That is simultaneously horrifying at the sheer laziness and exciting that I can turn them on without leaving my couch.
  5. My daughter overdosed on drugs, had a stroke, and was left on the street like a piece of garbage without a care in the world. As a result she has lost feeling in her right leg and foot, and suffered short term memory loss. I sat in Mass General Hospital for a week reminding her multiple times a day where the nurse call button is, and why she ordered a grill cheese for the fifth time in a row. I watched her legs swell up with edema, and her oxygen level dip because of water retention. I did this all while trying to suppress my anger at her addiction, at the dickhead that helped her get to that point and to the future which will probably involve long-term short term memory loss.
  6. While trying to leave the hospital to sleep in my own bed after several days on the sleeper chair that had the potential to catapult me onto the floor every time I moved, I had an incident in the parking garage. The incident begins with not remembering where I parked my car since I was there for so long. Then I realized I was on the wrong floor so I took the stairs to the lower floor. I don’t know if it was from sleep deprivation or frustration or an MS thing but I slipped on the stairs, grabbing the railing to steady myself and pulled muscles in my neck, shoulder and back. That was fun. Good times all around.

So basically what I am saying is cut the fucking shit out. We need a break. If the entire year is going to go like this, I have to say, I cannot be held responsible for my actions. I have begun carrying the bat in my car again, just in case. And my witty, charming sarcasm has become a little more edgy then is absolutely necessary. Anything you can do to help turn this around would be great.

 

Also, I am willing to compromise. You can continue to make my life suck at your will, if you leave my kids alone.

Sincerely,

Melanie

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.

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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.

 

Memory Lane

We could have been sisters. We probably should have been. I have heard many times that when a person dies, their soul will find familial souls again. Meaning that we could have been sisters in the past, we could have been cousins or best friends, or any sort of connection in the past but in the present we are mother and daughter. I am the mother. She is the daughter. Even though we could be nursing home roommates because our ages are not that far apart. 18 years to be exact. I was pregnant at 17 but was 18 before she was born. 18 years is not a lot. I have friends that are more than 18 years older or younger than me. Wait, younger? Yes, I guess so. Maybe not 18 exactly but close enough. It was close enough that sometimes being her parent felt like a reach. It felt like a leap. There were times when I think that it was ridiculous that anyone put me in charge of raising this little human. How could I possibly know the first thing about raising a reasonable and responsible adult? News flash… I didn’t.  Clearly.

When she was younger I rarely had anyone ask me if I was her sister. Instead, they would ask if I was the babysitter. I got that a lot. Many people wouldn’t believe me when I said that I was the mother. Sometimes that would be condescending and annoying but as I got older, I loved it. I still love it. I love for others to say that I look young but the feeling that I don’t live up to older parents expectations has never really left me. My age has always made me question my parenting.  Now that I am older I see how my own self-doubt was the problem, not the age. Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook. Essentially, we all just do the best we can using experience, our own childhood and education to help parent our children into better people than we are. Isn’t that every parent’s quest? For their children to be better, do better and live better than them?

Currently, we are moving. Long story short, outgrew current house and crazy grandmother coming to live with me equals need for bigger space. Like anyone undergoing a giant move, I have started digging through boxes of crap to weed out shit we actually need versus crap we will never ever need and should have thrown out eons ago.  I recently found my kids time capsules.  What a ride down memory lane that has been. The teeny tiny diapers, and shoes, and first pieces of artwork. And the pictures!  Pictures can be so visceral. Pictures of me with the kids in the park, JoDee in a baby carrier, Jay J in a Halloween costume, Jared on his first bike. The pictures bring me right back into those times and those moments.  I can smell the Johnson’s baby shampoo from their little heads.  In one of the pictures Jared was holding a sippy cup. That stupid cup reminded me of a time when our house was broken into. I remember that particular cup in that particular fashion because Jared was about 2 years old. He woke me up in the middle of the night by placing his lips directly on my ear and yelling “JUICE”. This was his loving way of saying he was thirsty.  I won’t drag out the details but ultimately I went down to the kitchen to get him a drink only to run into an intruder in my living room. We tussled, we both fell, he tried to run and I threw the only thing in my hand at him which happened to be a sippy cup full of juice and water with a lid barely on. The cup beamed him on the head, juice flew everywhere and we both froze in shock.  End result was he ran out the slider, I ran up to the bedroom and locked all the kids in one room with me until the police came.  Looking at a picture of a baby Jared laying on the couch with a sippy cup brought up an array of emotions in just a few minutes: nostalgia from seeing him as a baby, fondness of the time when he was so little, and then fear from the time the house got broken into.

The same is true about pictures of JoDee. I see pictures when she was an innocent, little girl and I feel an array of emotions. I miss when she was that little. I have often said I was glad she was first. The first born is a special time because that child is the only one for a period of time. That child is the only baby, the only one needing of attention. And, that child is usually the first of all the firsts. It was special to me to have that time one on one with JoDee. She is my only daughter. We had a lot of good times in those first few years before the boys came along. Then, we had a lot of good times as a foursome.   Well. That just sound wrong now doesn’t it? But you get my meaning.

The emotion I wasn’t really prepared for was sadness. I look at these pictures of JoDee and I see the potential she had for a great life. She was smart and pretty and she had an unbelievable effervescent which made her so, so loveable. The first 17 years of her life were absolutely filled with endless possibilities. The last 5 years of her life have been frozen in a freaking nightmare.  Each month that this ridiculousness continued I saw more of her life circling the drain and the light behind her eyes became dimmer and dimmer.  It is so hard to imagine that the beautiful girl in those elegant prom dresses was reduced to sleeping in the park or at some creepy old guy’s house stealing phone chargers from a store or gas for her car.  This was the girl that really believed me when I told her that her tongue turned black when she lied.  This was the girl that would take something from her brother’s and feel so guilty about it she would tattle on herself.  She became a girl who overdosed on the regular and eventually did everything she always said she would never do in the name of drugs.

I found all of her school pictures. Those are epic. Some of them she is missing her teeth, in one her hair is blue because she pulled paint off of the kitchen table and I couldn’t get it all out of her blonde hair! Some of them she looks like a hobo because she insisted on picking out her own clothes and in some she looks like a perfect angel. A perfect, beautiful, doll-like angel. How did something so perfect get derailed so badly? I suppose that is the timeless question. We all start out in the world as perfect little angels. Environment, financial status, personal experience and many other factors play a role into which we become.  Saints, serial killers, addicts, scientists, doctors, teachers, and all other people begin this world the same way. From the moment of our birth our lives begin to take shape.  Bonding with our parents, being abandoned by our parents, going home to live in a mansion or to a homeless shelter all have parts in the equation.   Even in the best environments and situations things still go wrong.  That got me thinking.

I wondered if there were common traits in addict. For example, in 70% of serial killers a childhood head trauma was reported. There is a potential link between injuries in the frontal vortex to serial murder.  Also, serial murders often reported bed-wetting until an unusual age (meaning past 5 years of age) and had common fantasies about controlling and demeaning others.  The answer is I have no idea. I have no idea because the range of heroin addiction has expanded dramatically and all studies are no longer relevant. The most common age for heroin addiction specifically used to be between 44-64 in black males. Now the common age is 18-45 in white males though white females are catching up.  In the course of my diligent research (i.e. my google search) I found that heroin and heroin related topics are one of the most googled searches. I also learned that there are politicians that believe that the heroin epidemic is directly associated with the moral decline in our youth.  I found that laughable. I mean, it’s not the least bit judgmental or a horrible generalization about entire generation. Just what we should want in our politicians.  All of that just for looking in a box of pictures…. Holy crap.

 

Look at these babies!

 

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HaHa Just kidding!

 

What in the world was I thinking about with those eyebrows??? I can’t…. I cannot even.

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Yesterday ❤️❤️❤️❤️

 

 

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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.