This Is What He Learned

I taught my son how to ride a bike. I taught my son how to ice skate. I taught my son how to tie his shoes. I taught him how to turn on the computer when he was four years old.  I taught him how to drive a stick shift car.  Those are the things I know I taught him. I have memories of teaching him these things. There are a lot of things I worked at teaching him through the years like manners, kindness, respect and laughter. Those are every day parts of parenting. I strive to teach him to be independent, to think before he jumps, to manage his money like he might be broke tomorrow, and to do his own laundry (though I miss doing his laundry because I could steal his sweatpants!).  I’m sure there are a lot of subtle or subconscious things I have taught him through the years but none was more evident than the incident that recently happened.

My son has a friend who is struggling with addiction. Many, many people have been trying to help him, but most of them do not understand the process as well as I do. There has been a lot of really high highs and really low lows lately except that I have anticipated them. When he reaches out for help, I remind them all that its great that he is asking and we should not be discouraged if it doesn’t work because at some point it will. Of course, the friend didn’t stay at the first detox attempt. And he didn’t continue going to his first IOP attempt. And he has called for help several times without following through all of which is really hard for the people around him that want to help. I keep saying just hang in there. I know that people said that to me along the way, through the years, and I know that they are doing exactly what I did: Ignore my advice entirely. I can’t take it personally because everyone hopes that their loved one is going to be the one that miraculously is clean and healthy after their first attempt, never to return to the drug world. I’m sure it does happen sometimes to some people but I can’t imagine it happens very often. I have never heard of it.

I wasn’t surprised when I heard he was going to detox again. I wasn’t surprised to hear that maybe his addiction had reached an all time dangerous level, either. A lot of times addiction will get worse before it will get better. I was surprised, however, to hear that this friend called my son in the middle of the night asking for my help. I was even more surprised when my son said that he didn’t need me because he could help him. And he did. He did everything I would have done. He was kind, and patient, and respectful but firm. Getting an addict to detox, for those who have never done it, is not easy. Most addicts are anxious, and high, and wanting to get more high on their way there. It means helping get rid of any triggers for when they get out, and cleaning up a mess that they may have left behind. It means hoping to hell that they don’t jump out of the car at a red light to run away. Or after getting there hoping to hell that they will get out of the car and into the detox without incident. Sometimes an addict will decide to go to detox, reach out for help, find a bed (Thank you Maureen at http://www.magnolianewbeginnings.org), only to panic at the last minute refusing to leave.  There is a balance of support, honesty, and strength needed by the driver/deliverer/helper. It’s not easy. And I don’t mean physically. It’s mentally hard to see someone you love using, and high, and strung out, and desperate. It’s not a pretty picture.  And my son handled it like a pro.

He did exactly what he needed to do. No matter how traumatizing and difficult and probably scary, he handled it. I’m proud of him for that and I’m so thankful that his friend reached out to him. But I’m also horrified and saddened and a little bit guilt-ridden. Why is that, you ask? Well, that is what my son learned from me. Watching me take care of his sister for years has prepared him, readied him to help an addicted friend. How many mothers can say that? His childhood was flanked with detox, rehab, drugs and a mother who spent a lot of time doing all the things he did but a million times more. Is my legacy to my children how to navigate the drug-rehab world? This… this is the life we inhabit. Awesome. Mother of the year right here.

Nature vs. Nurture

My room was a mess. There was dog hair all over the rug, and my desk looked like a tornado ripped over it. Littered with coffee cups, and hair from my brush that AC just loves to pull out when he wants to use it and drop it like it’s hot, were scattered like tumbled weeds. My cute kitty statue (yes, I have one. Thou shall judge not!) had enough dust on it the top to give the appearance of actual fur. Today was the day I needed to put on my cleaning clothes, and get to business. I am not one of those people who blares music to clean (sometimes I do but I listen to music in the garden more) so I put on Netflix. Usually I will put on something that I have watched about 100 times so it’s just background noise, but nothing I really pay attention to watching.  (side note: Netflix sent me a push notification that said a new docuseries has been added that you might like, “Nurses That Kill.” Really Netflix? Really?)

This morning I just started pressing play until something came on. Immediately it caught my attention. Instead of restarting The Walking Dead or Grey’s it began playing a documentary about Aileen Wuornos. It is true that I am sort of obsessed with serial killers. I know that makes me sound like a nut job, but…well, I am. Anyway, there are few documentaries or books or articles about serial killers that I haven’t read. The more famous, or brutal, or number killed the more facts I know about them. I believe that I can spot one out a mile away, which is why I have not been killed by one to date. Or not. Who knows. Anyway, this documentary was even more interesting to me because the journalist making it was sympathetic to her. He was more sympathetic to the victims and their families but he really went into her background, her childhood, and her mental illnesses.

Aileen was born to a woman who left her directly after giving birth. The biological mother never revealed her biological father but many speculated that it was her own father, Aileen’s grandfather. Aileen referred to her grandparents that raised her as mother and father after that. According to a childhood friend, her home life was brutal. Beatings, sexual abuse, mental abuse were the norm. At age 13 Aileen became pregnant (a local pedophile was the suspected father but Aileen never would confirm) and gave birth to a baby that she gave up for adoption. Her grandfather refused to let her home after that. At the age of 13 she began living on the street. Literally. All four seasons in Michigan and she slept in vacant cars, in the woods in a fort or with other homeless people she slept outside. Her family effectively gave up on her except for her brother who was rumored to have a sexual relationship with her (a witness testified to having first hand knowledge of that during her trial). After a few years, and the realization that her family would not let her come home, ever, she began hitchhiking, working as a prostitute to survive. Eventually she landed in Florida. The rest of the story the whole world knows because it was made into a major motion film.

As she sat on death row, she gave several different interviews. The interviews, to me, were so significant to the periods in her life because it became so clear how mailable her mind was at any given time. At one point she decided to drop appeal efforts to accept the death penalty. During that time she was receiving letters from a woman who was a born again Christian. This was when she gave an interviewing confessing to all of her crimes, because she couldn’t go to the death chamber without being honest. She apologized for the crimes, and she seemed like she truly was concerned about cleansing her soul before she died but she smiled. She seemed child like, and like she didn’t really seem to grasp that depths of her crimes. Later, she gave another interview saying that she only did that so that they would put her to death. She claimed that the prison was crushing her head with pressure that was coming through the mirror, TV and other ways. Finally, she said that local police knew she was killing people but they let her do it because she was cleaning scum off the streets for them.  Anyway- she had a shitty life and a shitty parents and several mental illness that was never treated or addressed. It is no wonder she became a murderous hooker. And I see why the journalist had some sympathy for her. Maybe empathy is a better word. It’s hard to drum up sympathy for someone who took the lives of others but I, like the journalist, wondered what her life would have been like if she was born to a normal family. It begs the question did the mental illness happen as a result of her life or did her life make her mentally ill?

I think this is similar to addicts. Not that they are murderous hookers but the chicken before the egg. Addicts steal, lie, cheat, steal, lie, run, steal, lie, hurt… you get the point. I know that JoDee was genetically linked to addiction. Her addiction could have been to food, or porn, or being a health nut, but it was to drugs. Because that’s what she did. She made a bad choice by picking up the first time, and that is a process on its own. She didn’t just jump up in search of a needle. It was a series of bad decisions that eventually led to heroin addiction. To me, with the backing of science and facts, there is always  some mental health issues in the beginning.  I drank in high school, I smoked pot in the ditch behind the baseball field at Tapley. It was a rite of passage in my era. Everyone drank until they puke in the Orchards, or at the Rez. It was just the way it was. But that’s it. We laughed about it, or cried when we got PC’d or caught by our parents (side note: I am SO thankful that these things happened before the days of electronics!) but then we grew up. Some of us went to college, some of us went to work, some of us (ahem) got pregnant but for the most part we left the partying at the res as a memory for our class reunions. Of course there were a few that didn’t, there were a few that took it too far, or became rough alcoholics (there wasn’t a big heroin problem then) but even they were mostly functional.  The point is we stop. When you reach a level that feels like to much, or too far, or to scary we stop. Someone that keeps going and can’t stop is doing so because they either like the feeling of being disconnected from reality, or because they are searching for something else: subconsciously or not.

JoDee’s fate was sealed as an addict the absolute second she picked up that needle. Since then she has done many things she isn’t proud of and she has lost many people she loved because of addiction. She is distant from her family, she has zero relationship with her siblings, she hasn’t seen her aging great-grandmother since Jesus was in short pants. These are symptoms of addiction, right? Or is addiction the symptom and all these are things are a result of her environment? Would she have been a stealing, lying shadow of the girl I used to know if she had become addicted to working out? Or did the addiction world teach her how to be that way? Was Aileen born a murdering hooker? Or did she developed those traits as a result of the world she was born into? I don’t know. What I do know is we are coming to the end of year 5. 5 years. And just when I think I can’t be shocked anymore, just when I think it can’t get worse, something else happens. I’m sick of it. I have said that many times in this blog for many years, and over many incidents but I am really, really sick of having her live her life this way. At 23 years old I was the mother of two, pregnant with my third and owned a home with my then husband (Daddy-O with whom we divorced a short time later) and she is a nomad jumping from detox to apartment to program. She is off to detox again. This time in hopes of coming right home (not to my house, but to her own world) with a plan I don’t really believe in, but I don’t say that anymore.  I simply say call me if you need something. And I brace myself for 5 more years of this because the alternative is death or recovery and one seems more likely  than the other.

 

Things That Make You Go Huh?

Recently I have felt like I am living in the twilight zone. Here are some reasons why:

 

Who in the world found my blog by using this as search terms:

Chinese. com xxx pre-teen

I literally can’t….. I’m ridiculously disturbed for so many reasons….

I joined snapchat. Actually, that’s not true- I have been on snapchat a long time but never really used it. I decided to broaden my friends so I would see more snappers. Somehow I realized I wasn’t friends with JoDee on snapchat so I sent her a friend request. The following is a true story:

Snapchat received- who is this

Me- your mother you dink

Snapchat- really? wtf

Hours later I sent JoDee a snapchat of me saying “What’s up bitches???”  using the video feature while pulling the phone up close and then far away from my face.

Snapchat- Um,. I don’t know who you think this is but you are definitely not my mother. My name is William but I keeping you added for the entertainment.

Me- Omg I’m sorry I called you a dink. I just sent you a crazy snap, please please do not open it.

Snapchat- Too late. lol

Me- I am dying. I have died. I am crying from blind humiliation and laughter.

Who am I? Who does this? HOW did I do this? My snapchatting days are effectively over.

While banned from driving when I was sick- trying take an Uber home from work:

Uber requested, and accepted. Ten minutes away. Five minutes away. Two minutes away. Five minutes away. Wait what? Ten minutes away. Hello? Where are you going? Fourteen minutes away. What the hell? Your Uber ride has been cancelled.  Did I just get blown off by Uber?  Second request sent and accepted. Ten minutes away. Phone rings “I can’t pick you up so can you please cancel that ride?” It’s a real ego boost when two Uber drivers abandon you within five minutes apart. Isn’t it there job to give me a ride????? I wasn’t looking for a free ride!

Young man at Dunkin Donuts:

Have you lost weight? You look different.

Me:

Do I come here to much for you to ask me that? And no, I haven’t. It’s because I am in my pajamas but Thank you for drawing attention to it.

I decide to step on the scale, which is never a good idea. But this time, it’s on the heals of breaking my friends lawn chair when the leg folded in, so I’m looking for a confidence booster. Naked, with just enough courage to take the leap, I step on the scale and immediately jump off. That can’t be right. Timidly I step back on. The numbers flashing are taunting me, and rude, quiet frankly. 798.8 is staring back at me. Ok- I know I have suffered from Over Active Fork this summer, but that is just uncalled for. 798.8? Wow. That cured me of my desire to ever do that again.  (Side note: apparently the battery was dying but I still find it to be particularly unforgiveable. The next day it read 78.89 so all was forgiven. Also I notified Guinness Book of World Records about the largest weight loss in the shortest amount of time.)

I had a psychic party at my house. A psychic came over to read 8 of my closest friends and families futures. It was fun and funny and a little scary in some instances. Everyone that got a private reading came out of a little bit shook. I went last. This lady, (who had to call me for directions and was nonplussed when I seemed surprised that she didn’t just KNOW where to go) writes down everything she is “seeing, thinking, psychic-ing” as she talks to you. On mine she said I sleep little and think to much, and a bunch of stuff about my sons but then she wrote “Jody, early twenties, ? sick?” I nearly shit. Then I thought maybe she saw my blog but who knows. In the end she told me that I shouldn’t give up hope and right before she walked out the door she told me that JoDee should stay on suboxone. I did shit. Actually, I was speechless and if you know me at all you would know that NEVER HAPPENS.

The reason that I found that so shocking is that JoDee has talked about suboxone many, many times and each time I have talked her out of it. I believe it works. And I believe it is important to some addicts, but I always thought it was a bad idea for her. Alright all you judgy, critical people. I know it isn’t my business, and I should stay out of it, but I’m a mother and I am human and I am naturally a buttinsky. When I called JoDee to tell her about that last comment, she swore at me, and said some other choice things and then pointed out that I need a psychic to tell me what’s what to let her make her own decisions. Wait, what? C’mon. That’s a little dramatic. Let us don’t get carried away, people.

 

 

 

 

 

My Friends

What does it mean to be a friend to someone? I think that being a friend means different things to different people. For example, I have to be a friend to my husband. That means, sometimes I have to put my feelings as a wife aside to tell him that he is being a dunder head and why. Oh wait… that sounds a lot like being a wife.  I think I got that backwards. Instead of calling him a dunder head I have to give him my honest opinion in a well worded, diplomatic way so that he comes to the realization that he is a dunder head on his own. Being a friend to my son means being able to listen to him talk about his girlfriend (either in a good way or bad way and by bad I mean if they are in an argument because my son has been a dunder head) without getting weirded out. That means I have to be able to get him to see something from a different perspective without calling him a dingus or threatening to ass punch him. On the other hand, parenting my younger son means sounding like a friend when I am actually parenting him in a way that isn’t so obvious. This is because one son is an adult and one son is still a dunder head teen-ager.  Being a friend to someone not related to me means asking whose ass I am kicking even I think s/he is wrong. Sometimes it means laughing at their expense. Sometimes it means telling them they are a…you guessed it….dunder head.  It’s no wonder I have very few friends, come to think about it.

One of the things I have learned in the last five years is that I have amazing, amazing friends. Due to my absolutely crazy life, and my horribly addicted daughter I am often unpredictable. Now, my mouth is ALWAYS unpredictable. No one, including me, every really knows what is about to come out of it. Every once in a while I shock myself with the phrases and character assignations that vomit out of my mouth, but such is life. Suck it up, buttercup.  The one thing I know I do not do is tell my peeps how much I appreciate them. I know I am not alone in this oversight. The last few decades the world has gotten itself in a big hurry, and no one really stops to appreciate.  Years ago, and by years I do mean a time before even I was born, friends would get together for coffee a couple of times a week. In those days women were basically forbidden from working, being gay was something people only gossiped about after seeing it on TV and “the help” was still calling the lady of the house Mrs. something or other. Admittedly, those days sucked too, in a much different way. (I could get into the ways that history seems to be repeating itself recently but I will not make this a political post.)

I rarely get a chance to hang out with my friends. When I do have a chance to I don’t want too. Not because I don’t enjoy my friends but because my life is depressing and laying in bed means I can wear sweatpants. In truth, I don’t take enough time, or make enough time.  This past weekend it was one of my longest and dearest friend birthday. Her husband threw her a last minute shin-dig and invited the whole crew. I was late, as I am to most things, but I had such a good time. There was drinking, and eating, and swimming, and selfies.  It had been so long since I had seen some of the other guests, I forgot how often we used to all get together. I am so fortunate that even though I’m not around that much that my friends remember me. Remember to invite me knowing that I am anti-social and don’t always make it out.  I’m so grateful for that. I’m also super grateful for the friends that have stood with me during this hell with JoDee. Being the friend to a woman whose kid is an addict is not easy.  So because of that I have to say:

 

Thank you for being my friend.

Thank you for listening me complain about the same things with JoDee over and over for the last five years without telling me to shut up.

Thank you for never giving up on me.

Thank you for buying me alcohol, and coloring books, and colored pencils.

Thank you for not judging when I showed up to your house in sweatpants that haven’t been washed since Obama’s first term.

Thank you for not tracking my kid down and beating her to a pulp as I know many of you have wanted to do.

Thank you for being you. I love you.

The Stages of Loving an Addict

To love an adult child is different than to love a baby. When children are first born they are dependent on a parent for their every need. Those needs and the level of dependency varies and grows as the child does. Eventually the goal is that the child is a well-rounded, independent member of society and the parent is able to enjoy them as a friend, and as a child. The love never stops, it just grows. When we are talking about the addict adult child, it is a whole different situation. I love my daughter, and nothing would change that. Now, it means something totally different than it did when she was a baby.

Loving JoDee means putting aside the resent I feel for her ruining her own life. It means forgiving her when she steals or lies or ignores me at times of active addiction. It means understanding that she is going to be selfish and self-centered and have little regard for those around her, especially the people that love her. Loving her now, at this point, at five years into addiction, means I can’t expect her to be the person she used to be. I can’t expect her to be an honor student, a gymnast, a good employee.  I have to understand her limitations and accept them for what they are. When she calls me to say she needs this or she needs that and don’t forget the things she asked for, as though I am required to bring those things even though I am furious with her for making such a shit storm out of her life, I don’t respond with bitterness and anger but instead, swallow the rock of frustration in my throat.  Some days overlooking the entitlement and immaturity is so difficult. I have to get real religious with myself to be reminded that her immaturity is because she has stunted emotional growth.  In summary, loving an adult addict is to restrain myself from running her over with my car by remembering the way she was when she was a baby.

The Parent of an Addict Loving Themselves:

Finding out your child is addict is liking someone telling you that your child is a murderer or a thief or picks on challenged people. It feels like as a parent, you have done something wrong. The addict doesn’t understand that feeling that way does not mean we think they are a murderer or a thief of picks on challenged people. They don’t understand that we feel as though it is a reflection of ourselves, not of them. It is always the parents that ruin a kid. When we see a young child running in the street looking like a gutter rat, the first thing we think is where is their parents? Most often it is usually where is that mother? It is extraordinarily hard for a parent to love themselves when their child has gone so far off the path we imagined them on. It means we, or I, spend a lot of time going over the things that happened during her childhood. Should I have punished her that time? Should I have not punished her that time? Was I strict enough? Not strict enough? Did I treat her like a friend not a daughter? Was I not friend-ish enough?

For me it took a lot of talk therapy, late night analysis and self-deprecation before I finally realized that I can’t hate myself. I can hate the things that have happened, and I can even hate the way I behave sometimes (like the time I punched her in the back of the head when she was high, or smacked her on the forehead with the N/A Basic text, neither of which aided in her recovery, at all) but I have to forgive myself. It helps no one, including her, if I am drowning in hatred of myself. That causes a lot of depression and isolation and bitterness that I can’t afford to have or my other children suffer even more. It’s not easy to forgive myself, or love myself, it is hard work, but it’s important work. No one will survive this if I don’t.

An Addict Loving Themselves:

Before an addict is addicted to something, they were a person. A person that did many things, including work or go to school or teach dance. Somewhere in the back of their brain something was already going wrong. They were hardwired to make poor choices, or have impulsive behavior. Without proper intervention, the end result is unavoidable. Until recently we didn’t know what those signs were, or how to prevent them. An addict already has a crack in their foundation of self-confidence and acceptance. Addicts are not only from under privileged areas though that is the stereotype. Or they had abusive parents, or were sexual assaulted. But the truth is, there are lots of individuals that had all of those things against them but never did any drugs, at all.  There are so many reasons that a person activates the part of the brain that feeds on addiction. But it’s a slow process. Most people believe it is fast, and happens overnight but that just isn’t true.

A person feels a way, a certain way they can’t explain, and tries something to fix that feeling. Adderall, pot, valium. For some that is enough, and they keep doing what they do. For some that isn’t enough and they can’t still feel what they don’t want to feel or don’t know how to explain how to feel. They move on, to something harder and stronger, until they end up at heroin. The end of the end. The life-sucking, life-ending, mind-melting end.  Somewhere along the way, they stop even liking themselves. I’m not sure when they stopped loving themselves, but by the time they are stealing from their family, sleeping on the street, cheating on their partners, selling themselves or their souls for one more hit, they hate themselves.

JoDee and I have talked about this many times. Being high means not having to remember all the painful things she has done to herself and her family during active addiction. Being clean means facing these things, and finding a way to move on from them. She has never come right out and said she hates herself, but I can see it. I can see it in her eyes and I hear it in her voice and it’s evident in her actions. Just when I think she can’t do anything worse to herself or others, she does. Just when I think she can’t surprise me anymore, she does. And not in a good way. Addicts have the ability to love themselves but it’s a process, and it takes work. Without doing the work, it won’t happen.

 

Siblings Loving an Addict:

Children see things so differently than adults do and siblings see each other even more differently than their parents. There is so much more I am willing to forgive or ignore that our children won’t. When I am sad or depressed they are angry. They can often see manipulative behavior before I can, or I am willing to admit. Not only do they have resentment toward the addict for her actions but they resent her for the way her actions affect me. It often appears on the outside like her siblings hate her. And that just isn’t true. The truth is that they are hurt and angry by her actions. The truth is the miss the life time they were promised with their sister, but was taken from them for reasons beyond their control.  The kids are so much more direct than I can be. The boys will say I am mad at you, don’t talk to me to her, but ask me how she is anyway. I can’t even say don’t talk to me. I should. It might help her see that she is a wreck but that makes me feel worse. I have gone that route and to be honest, it sucked. I’m not sure the end result was worth it because I was suffering wondering if she was alive or not while her world changed zero.  I am glad that her siblings are still living their lives. I wish I could be more like them. And then there are times that I wish they would reach out to her more. But that isn’t fair for me to ask of them. It isn’t fair for me to ask them to put themselves out there, and be vulnerable to her addiction when we have seen no evidence in 5 years that anything would change.

JoDee has been an addict for six years. It has been five years of me chasing her recovery. I look back at the person that dropped her off at the first detox and I don’t recognize her. But sometimes, I miss her. She was thin, and naïve, and full of an angst that allowed her to do anything. She was silly enough to believe this would turn out alright and we would earn the win. Ah….those were the days.

 

 

The Things

The things most parents say:

Get up.

Brush your teeth.

Get dressed.

Don’t miss the bus.

Don’t be late for school.

Tie your shoe.

Read a book.

Are you hungry? Are you sick?

Are you happy?

Don’t worry.

Don’t lie to me.

I love you.

I love you too.

I miss you.

Knock before you come in.

For god sakes, I’m peeing. Can I pee in silence please?

I can’t hear you, I’m in the shower.

Can it wait until I am done showering?

Empty the dishwasher.

Fold the towels.

Walk the dog.

Does anyone close a freaking door around here? There is no toilet paper fairy. Anyone can replace the roll.

Finish your homework.

Bush your teeth.

Go to bed.

 

Things most parents of an addict say:

 

Did you use today?

Do you have narcan? When was the last time you ate?

Don’t buy from people you don’t know.

No, I won’t give you money.

I will buy you food.

You look like shit.

You look so good.

How long have you been clean?

Why haven’t you answered your phone? When will I see you again?

You seriously think I’m dumb.

Don’t lie to me.

No, you can’t come home.

No, you can’t come for Easter.

Happy Birthday. I didn’t think you would see another one.

Are you sick?

Don’t leave detox.

Go back to detox.

Don’t leave rehab.

Go back to rehab.

You are going to die.

I want to punch your face.

I love you and I’m scared.

I can’t talk to you.

I need to talk to you.

Shut up. Shut the fuck up this second before I sew your mouth shut with barbed wire. (Am I the only one who says this?)

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I can’t do this anymore.

Get a job for the love of all that is holy!

If I catch you watching Netflix all day one more time I am going to pop your eyes out and drop them in battery acid.

No wonder you’re fucked up…. I’m a nutcase.

Ignore and Concur

Tough love is the only thing that works. Science shows tough love doesn’t work. Addicts need to reach rock bottom. Not all addicts have a bottom unless it’s death. Addicts need a reason to live, a reason to strive for recovery. Addicts will get clean for themselves no matter what, if that is what they want. Helping an addict is hurting. If you can’t help and addict don’t hurt them. The messages are so conflicting. There are so many schools of thought surrounding dealing with addiction. There is no handbook, or guide pack, or even expert that knows exactly the thing to do. We all have opinions. We all have our own processes, families and addicts alike, but there is no right or wrong- in my opinion. I have had many people tell me that addiction isn’t a disease and I don’t harbor bad feelings toward those people because they truly believe that. Either they have never dealt with addiction in their immediate family, or they have and were so hurt and traumatized they can’t see past their own anger. Either way their opinions are valid. Just as my opinion that it is a disease. Or maybe not a disease. Maybe I would call it a mental disorder, but no matter what it starts with something in the brain that can’t be corrected with a cycle of antibiotics. It isn’t that simple.

At this point I know that my addict is not going to be the person I always hoped she would be. It is a different level of acceptance for the family. For a long time there is denial that she is an addict, then there is the hope she will find recovery and resume her life. That eventually leads to realization that addiction will be a monkey on their back forever, but it is manageable if they work for it. And, lastly, when you have addicts like my child, acceptance that she will realize the future I envisioned for her. Though, in fairness, that is probably something most parents go through anyway. Throwing addiction in the mix is just an additional obstacle.

There are so many recovery centers with different philosophies. JoDee has been to them all. Some super strict, some not strict at all, some family based, some individual based, some Christian based, some follow N/A, some follow other fellowships; it’s a world all of its own. When the needle exchange facilities opened up there was a huge uproar. Lot’s of people felt that it was enabling drug users and condoning illegal activity. I’m not sure that I disagree. There is a sense of sort of turning a blind eye but it did help reduce the spread of AID’s, HIV, and Hep C among other diseases. It was also a good resource for those that wanted help. Options were available and discussed when folks came into for needle exchange. Those programs grew into larger, productive organizations working for the greater good of their community. Next came the big Narcan debate. Why was Narcan free but not epipen? Why was Narcan free but not chemotherapy? I can’t answer those questions on a broad spectrum but I can tell you that a lot of fight went into that. It was families fighting for the ability to try to save their kid, just like a parent or loved one would do. And in the end, it isn’t free. It may be free to the person receiving it, but DPH pays for those with a grant that was secured.  If people have an issue with it, take it up with Big Pharma.

Now, I saw that they have passed a law to allow what will essentially be a shooting gallery. They are formally called Legal Injection Sites and they have stirred up the shit pot for sure. The theory is that if user’s had a safe place to inject there would be less overdose, fewer needles on the street, and a safe place for addicts to go. The sites would also provide social services, help with recovery, and the like. Some say it is enabling. Others say it will save lives.  Both are correct, really.  There are people who stand firmly on one side of the debate or the other. I have no idea where I stand. In the last few weeks I have had conversations with many different families about their own loved ones dealing with addiction. Two in particular have stayed in my mind. Both need help right away. Both need their families to be way more aware of the urgency to the situation. I am truly afraid that the families will be shocked when something tragic and permanent happens that makes them wake up. I also think about how I felt when I was in their shoes five years ago. I know I would have been completely horrified. I think I still am. Am I?

There are Pros and Cons to everything in life. Studies showed a large decrease in public nuisances such as addicts shooting in public, publicly disposed of used needles, and public overdose. The impact on blood-borne viruses had an overall decrease because users were able to have access to clean needles eliminating the need to share. The survival rate for overdose increased as trained professionals were on-site to administer narcan and other medical interventions.

Of course one of the number one reasons (to me) this is a con is financial. I would imagine that a site like this will have to have a lot of government funding along with donations and fundraising. A site in Australia reports costs of $2.7 million per year to keep it running. That is not a lot of money for any type of public health clinic, however, it is $2.7 million that could be used for more rehab or detox beds.  The funding for recovery is very low. I know that many people complain that any money is spent on addiction, but it receives the least amount of any funding in Massachusetts. Less than 1%.  Opening an injection site would provide some of the services needed for successful recovery but it isn’t a long term solution.  Currently there is no long term solution. An injection site would help in the short run but what happens when the injection site staff is not able to find a bed for an addict in need because there aren’t enough?

Not to mention the enabling part. It is allowing drug addicts to use illicit and illegal drugs openly without recourse.  It sends a shitty message. My addict would have come in, plopped her ass down and not left unless they threw her out. Will addicts be able to hangout all the time? Who wants that sort of facility in their neighborhood? So after a lot of research and strong debate in my own head, I decided I stand firmly on the side……hell if I know. This is too big for me.  I believe we should try anything, and I appreciate that there are steps being taken but I just don’t know if this is one in the right direction. There is a point that divide an concur is effective at winning a war but this feels a little bit like ignoring the bigger issue. But that is just one woman’s opinion.

Did You Just Hear Yourself?

Recently, my beautiful and wicked smaht niece graduated from college. Her and JoDee are sixteen days apart. They started kindergarten together (separate schools but same day). They started middle school together (same school) and high school together (also same school) and eventually they graduated high school together. While they ran in relatively opposite groups they still remained close enough. Sunday dinners, family vacations and the like kept them involved in each other. After high school their lives took extremely different turns. JoDee, as we know, as struggled with drug addiction, while my niece has gone on to school and met a nice young man and got a job as a preschool teacher. No one compares them, but I’m sure JoDee does. Or maybe others do, but I certainly don’t. They have been decidedly different people since birth, so I never expected them to follow each other down the same path through life.

The reason I am giving you all this background is that my niece had her graduation party this weekend. I have had some health things going on, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it but my parents had flown in from South Carolina so we made a plan for them to meet us for breakfast on Saturday morning at our house. This was killing two birds with one stone: getting to see them and them seeing the new house. It also meant we would see my aunt and uncle, who came with them. The reason I am telling you all this is because we had an interesting conversation. One of which was that sometimes my blog posts get to be too long and the reader might lose interest. This was a valid and appreciated comment, so I will remember to keep them informative without being boring.

The other conversation was about why someone was of a certain age and still single. I said he wasn’t really a catch from a woman’s perspective. My dad respond that he was good looking. My idea that he was not catch had nothing to do with his looks. It had more to do with him being an addict. Now, I know that may sound, well, asshole-ish but I meant it. And my aunt was very quick to call me out. She said “Did you hear yourself?”

Yes, I heard myself. I know exactly what I said. Years ago I would have said everyone deserves a chance. And years ago when a friend of mine began dating someone with an addiction, I supported that. He was a wonderful guy. Fathered his daughters, and his stepsons and eventually drugs took his life. Maybe not in the normal way via overdose, but it certainly shortened his life. Knowing what I know now, I would have said run away. Run far, far away. Why? Because a normal lived person cannot understand, comprehend, or appreciate the struggles of an addicted person. I’m not saying that addicted people do not deserve mates, because I don’t think that at all. Some of the best couples I know have come through addiction together. But they have that in common. It’s hard for someone who is not an addict to truly understand the struggle. Or the commitment to going to meetings. Or the need to have a routine, or avoid certain situations.

When my aunt asked me if I heard myself I told her not only did I know what I said, but I meant it wholeheartedly. JoDee, and several people she has dated, can attest to the fact that on more than one occasion I have asked her at-the-time-partner if they were effed in the head for being with her because she was a one woman wrecking ball when she is in active addiction. I have said many times she isn’t a catch. Not like she is, or was, or is during active addiction. No one is. And no addict is a catch within the first year or so of recovery. At what point in the dating process does someone tell a person they are an addict? Meeting partners in detox/meetings is frowned upon but where else is one to meet a fellow addict? The program is called Narcotics Anonymous so I don’t think where a sticker that says Hello My Name is JoDee and I am an Addict would be acceptable. So on goes the struggle…. But addicts are really horrible pimps in the armpit of America anyway, dating should be the least of their worries?

Nurse Jackie

Hello, my name is Melanie and I am Netflix addict. If you know me, you know this is true to a ridiculous extent. Including watching the The Walking Dead or Greys Anatomy from the beginning for the millionth time while on the treadmill.  I have watched them all: The Following, The Fall, Weed, Charmed, Bloodline, Glitch, The Killing, Prison Break, SuperNatural, House of Cards,  Lost, Lie to Me, Longmire, Stranger Things, Marcella, West Wing (hated it, btw), should I continue or have I humiliated myself enough? Anyway, you get the point. The one show I have not watched is Nurse Jackie. I was going to watch it but then I asked someone about it and I learned it was about a nurse with a drug addiction. Normally any show that depicts someone with an addiction is so far off track it is either offensive or laughable. For example, the Soprano’s had a lot of drugs which was pretty accurate but then Christopher (Anthony Soprano’s nephew) developed a drug problem to heroin. His addiction was so bad that he sat on his girlfriend’s dog while he was high and killed it. After that and a few other incidents the family staged an intervention with an actual interventionist and that was somewhat accurate. But then he went to a 30 day rehab once and hallelujah! found recovery. Just like that. Boom. Hail Jesus. That was offensive. Who the hell goes to rehab once (not to mention no real detox) to find a super life? Oh and when he left rehab he went back to a thug life, working around drugs and booze, with really no relapse, until much, much later.

I was actually relieved to see him finally relapse because the whole thing was insulting. Insulting? No,farcical. So, when I saw the trailer for Nurse Jackie, and I heard what it was about, I decided to skip it. And watched everything else (including shit on Amazon and Hulu) but I kept seeing it pop up as something I might like to watch. I finally decided to give it a chance. Mostly because I had the flu and was so dead in bed, I had really no other option. I was surprised. The story is not really parallel to mine as the mother is the addict and her kid hates her for it. Obviously mine is the opposite, but I don’t hate my addict. But, it is interesting to see the progression of the disease from a different perspective. I mean, come on, it’s still fiction. It’s still drama made for TV but it’s not that far off. This woman has a wonderful (and sexy as hell) husband and two great kids and life which she ruins because of her drug addiction. The whole story sort of roped me in because she is an awesome nurse, and a mom, and basically living a double life to feed her addiction.  But, the one thing that seemed so realistic to me was the impulsivity.

SPOILER ALERT:

I am going to talk about the show which will probably give away important facts. If you read on you do so at your own risk.

This woman is a very successful addict for many years. I know that sounds like an oxy-moron but it’s true. She is a fantastic nurse, and mother, and wife who happens to screw the pharmacist at the hospital she works to feed her drug addiction. She uses the excuse that she hurt her back as a means to get him to supply the drugs which he does because he has no idea she has an entire family. Of course, the facade is ruined one day, and everything begins to crumble around her.  She has several seasons of drug horror before she finally finds her way to rehab. She white knuckles it through the first year of sobriety. One the  anniversary she just nonchalantly pops a pill in her mouth. For no obvious reason. For no purpose. Just because. And that, that is so true. I know for a fact that JoDee has rewarded herself for a 30, 60, 90, 120 day sobriety with getting high. That is the fucked up, irrational, diseased thinking that addicts have. They believe that since they made it a year they can control it now. It’s really not much different from someone with bipolar disease believing they no longer need meds to keep them stable. It’s all part of the disease progression.

It’s not long before she is a wrecking ball in her life, that ends with her being arrested. Blah, Blah, Blah, nursing diversion program, suspended nursing license, once again working hard to gain back everyone’s trust, blah, blah, blah, nursing board reinstate her licence earning her job back. Immediately she puts her nursing scrubs on throwing a pill in her mouth at the same time. Bam. And it seems so ridiculous. You will want to beat her. And shame her. And yell at her. And you will want to think she deserves her family abandoning her, and her boyfriend going to jail, and losing her license again, and possibly her life, and all those feelings are fair enough. Only that is part of the problem. Drug addiction goes so far beyond the actual drug use. It’s the mentality. It’s the mental regression. It is not being able to think about family, or life, or  self. It’s not because the Nurse Jackie’s of the world don’t love their children or spouse or jobs, but because they are not equipped to face those responsibilities. They truly believe that no one knows they are using, and that they can handle it, and that their life is manageable.

Once, at the very beginning of this nightmare, when I thought accompanying JoDee to every N/A meeting would somehow control her using I had my first experience with this kind of relapse. We went to a meeting on a Wednesday night. At that meeting a young man was receiving his 60 day chip. He spoke about his struggles, and that his family finally sent him away to rehab and that was the magic ticket. That rehab was the salvation and he was ready to embrace life drug-free. The very next day we went to a different meeting and the same young man stood up to receive his 24 hour chip, signifying that he had relapsed the night before. I was stunned. And horrified. No one else in the room was. I was so shocked, I almost couldn’t contain myself. Fast forward all these years later, and I am rarely shocked. I am a little embarrassed for myself that I was such a dingus.

Since then JoDee has pulled this exact thing. I can’t tell you how many times I went to see her pick up a milestone chip only to pick her up off the floor the next day. She discharged from detox to an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). The first night I picked her up from the program, she was high. She didn’t even make it 12 hours. And another time she discharged from WATC with a handful of narcan because she blatantly told the staff she had ever intention of using the minute she stepped foot outside the fence. So I guess what I am trying to say is that not all addicts look like the homeless people on the street. Sometimes they are seemingly rational, hard-working, and productive members of society. All addicts have one and only one thing in common regardless of station in life, financial income, sexuality or religion and that is unpredictability.  You will never know when they will use. You will never know if their sobriety is long term. You will never know if they will put drugs over self, family, job or safety. And you will never, ever know what made them pick up again because often they don’t even know. The conundrum is real and painful because as a loved one of an addict I can tell you that I want to trust my addict, I want to believe she is really not using, but historically that isn’t the case. History has told me that if I think she is using, she probably is. And my gut tells me if I think something isn’t right, it probably is wrong. But how do we reconcile that? When the addict is standing in front of us looking earnest and honest pleading their case about not using and doing well, how does someone know when to trust them? The answer is we don’t. We will never know.

Recently, once again, I was tasked with collecting JoDee’s belongings from a place that she left them behind. This is her typical MO. It smelled bad, made my car stink like smoke, and I did not want to search her stuff for drugs or needles.  I know I probably should have but I’m sick of doing that. I’m tired of doing this especially because she doesn’t stay clean. This morning I had to leave all those belongings on my porch for someone to pick them up for her. As I pulled out of the drive way I was struck with the ridiculousness and depressing realization that this is where we are. We are at a place were all of my kids shit is on my porch waiting to get picked up like donations to a charity, or the weekly trash. Everything she is, or was, or has been is packed in one box, one laundry basket and a suitcase so heavy I was slightly concerned there may have been a body inside. I didn’t look inside because if there was a body in it I’m pretty sure she would have asked me to bury it. That is what I have become, the cleaner, the problem solver, the only when- I- need -you person. All symptoms of addiction.

Theatre Endings

Most  people would find  this surprising about me but I love the theatre. Musicals, operas, plays, ballets, and the like. I love the ambiance, and the people it attracts and the clothes they wear. Both those performing and those attending.  Years ago it was much more formal than it is now. No one would have dared go to the theatre without having black tie attire on but now there are all kinds of dressing from jeans to ball gowns and everything in between.  My favorite type of performance is Les Miserable or Phantom of the Opera. Les Miserable being my favorite. The story of human suffering and hardship being overcome through the music and song. It’s amazing. The music is so encompassing it that the misery of the story line becomes secondary. In Les Mis a man is a prisoner to a rich entrepreneur to a mayor back to hero to prisoner to dead. And it’s a lovely program!

Life, however, is not a program.There is no script with beautiful songs. There is no intermission to digest all that we have seen. And there is no fat lady singing to let a person know the end is near. In life, those things are a mystery. We don’t know when we are in the middle, because we don’t know when it is going to end. We don’t know if the damsel in distress will really be saved or if she will die marking the beginning of a new plot, the twist in the story. Life is all about the unknown. Sometimes the unknown is wondering if I really will make it to the gas station since my gas light has been on for two days (true story). Or if I will wake up tomorrow to find out I am the mother of two children and two step-children instead of three children and two step-children because my oldest has killed herself via drug overdose.

JoDee went to treatment. Again. This ritual has gotten so old, I am unphased by it. I don’t get excited about her being in treatment, and I certainly don’t bank on her staying. AC tells me on the regular that kind of thinking is putting bad energy into the universe. But, when she runs away it is shocking to him. Every single time. I am never shocked. I am disappointed, and upset, and angry but never shocked. I stopped being shocked a few years ago. I can’t even remember the last time I was taken aback by anything she has done.  Recently, she surprised me. She surprised me by allowing herself to get the vivitrol shot. For those who do not know what the vivitrol shot is let me explain. The shot introduces a drug into the system that blocks the opioid receptors. This is significant because the recipient of the drug can not get high on opiates. It is also significant because users are at a higher risk of overdose. Technically, the shot should help with the craving and obsession but if a person wants to get high for any reason, but they should not be able to feel the high but they might try to “break through” the shot which leaves them vulnerable to respiratory distress and death.

In the past JoDee and I have discussed the shot but always felt that with her relapse rate, as the shot wears off and becomes less effective, she would really be at risk for death. She has already overdosed many times without the shot so I can’t even imagine the amount of drugs that would be necessary to break through it. There is a pill version that she has taken in the past that has helped her tremendously but she has to take the pill every day for it to be affective and she doesn’t like that. A person who has taken the shot can still use other drugs or alcohol to receive the high they are looking for. It won’t stop benzo’s or cocaine from getting her jammed. Something she made sure to tell staff before she left treatment this time. A week after she got the shot, she left. I had a feeling she was going to leave. I called her one morning to tell her I could sense her restlessness but she should stick it out. She told me she was restless, and had thought about leaving but decided to stay. The next day, gone. Gone like the wind.

There is no minute to ponder what will  happen next. I don’t have the luxury of taking an intermission to discuss these events, and pontificate or vacillate on the next scene. It just is. It is what it is. And it sucks.  I want this to be someone else’s story. Actually, no, I want this to be fiction. A story told through dramatic dancing, music that will end with an entire cast, including the daughter that may die, taking a bow at the end. When I get these calls, I still have to continue with on with my life. If I am cooking dinner, I can’t abandon dinner to lie in bed, or out in the grass allowing myself a few minutes of self-pity even though I want nothing more than to do that. But suppression is a dam. It is blocking so much emotion that if I let even a small crack appear, it will all come spilling out, which will be good for no one trust me. I am not a crier or someone who falls down in a heap of sadness. I become angry and I don’t want that to happen.

Even worse than the call is the call from her. After being gone for some time she is calling me to say she can’t stay where she is. She needs a ride. She needs a place to stay. I fucking hate with the heat of a million suns having to tell her that I can’t help her. It’s cruel. It’s absolutely cruel. A mother with a drug addict child is bad enough. It hurts enough and it is brutal enough but then we have to endure this hell on earth called leaving your sick child on the street? I can’t force her to break her cycle. I can only stop myself from being part of her cycle but even that is soul-sucking. I say this all the time but there is no word or statement or metaphor to explain those lucky enough to not be in the know how it feels. It is feeling your pulse to make sure your heart is beating but knowing there is no heart in there. It is watching your breath in the cold air but knowing there is no life left. It is being on the most gorgeous beach on the perfect day around only the people you love the very best all of whom are having the time of their life but you have the stomach flu. All you can do is vomit and try not to shit your pants while trying to enjoy the world around you even though you are so sick you can hardly stand. But you force yourself to sit by the pool, or go on the boat ride, or attend the dinner party all the while you can’t enjoy it the way everyone else is. Only you know how bad you feel. Sometimes you can smile and even participate so that the others aren’t worried or brought down by your misery. It’s a big charade.

I don’t know what is going to happen with her or where she is going to go. I don’t know how many times I will have to say to her that I can’t pick her up or bring her to my house. I don’t know how to convince her to humble herself and surrender for good not for a few weeks. I can’t believe I have to tell her to find a shelter. Who does that?  I think about my friends that have lost children and how they would give their own life to even receive that phone call and I wonder if I am doing the wrong thing saying no. Every single piece of material I have read on addiction, every support group, meeting and clinical professional has said no help is the only help I can give. Will I regret that if the fat lady sings? Instead of a broken glass from an opera singer will it be the shattered heart of a broken mother that signifies the ending?