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?

The Bag

It’s warm here. I am safe here. I find that to be ironic.  Here, I don’t have to move or talk or listen. The silence is so loud it is deafening and welcoming at the same time. A cocoon of protection from the cold wind that is blowing a trash bag through the air. I frown as I watch it land in a tree to high up for anyone to get a hold of it without climbing the limbs. How long will that bag be there? Will the weather beat it, and drowned it, shred it until it is nothing but battered plastic clinging to a piece of bark? Or maybe the wind will gust soon blowing it off that tree to another one, or a rooftop, or a power line? That bag is not safe. It is drifting around at the will of the earth and its elements. At anytime that bag may be gone from this world. The amazing part is how impressive wind is. It is sightless, and grasp-less, and intangible.  The power it has is nothing short of a miracle. The wind can blow over a house, or people, or really strong winds from tornadoes have been known to jam straws of hay into telephone posts.

I can hear the wind screaming. Rattling windows, and shaking cars it clearly is letting its presence known. The wind is blowing at different degrees of strength horizontally along the earth’s surface. It is a bulk movement of air that travels from Alaska to Maine. From China to Hawaii. It can be cold and harsh, unwelcoming coupled with rain. The wind can be scary when it ratchets up to the speed faster than a car can travel. The wind can be enjoying while sailing or on a scorching day at the beach. It’s natural form never changes. It is always blowing and we tolerate it without much thoughts because we have no choice. There is no stopping wind. Wind is the silent partner to earth’s elements that should not be taken advantage of, or dismissed because it is as giving and unforgiving as any snow, rain or earthquake. And I know that. I am acutely aware of the power it has.

I adjust myself so that I can see the bag better. I have a bet running in my head with my two selves. One is saying that bag is stuck there until it disintegrates but the other self is pulling for the bag to be set free. It’s a sad ending for anything to be stuck in one spot, beat and torn and tortured until there is no choice but to give up, dying alone and dirty without anyone noticing or caring. I want that bag to have a chance. I want that bag to have the ability to fight for another day.  As the wind flirts with the closed bottom, the bag hangs by one handle feeling the tickle of the wind deciding to either lift it up to set it free or rattle it so it is wrapped around the branch. I’m holding my breath. And screaming in my head let it go. Let the fucking bag go. But as the wind retreats for a moment, the bag sags back to hanging with one handle which is now ripping. The plastic is stretched as far as it can so it will either break to fly free or become tangled on the branch below it. The branch below is not as thick and healthy as the one it’ is on now. If it drops to the lower branch it will most definitely become entangled with no hope of leaving.

My face is pressed against the glass, my warm breath fogging the window in spurts, as I try to move the bag with my mind. That bag represents so much more than a piece of trash blowing in the air. It represents the meek and sick and unable. That bag can give me the hope that when things look bad, as bad as they can be, there is always a chance that it will get better. Things change in an instant. A few minutes ago that bag was traveling around seeing the sights. It could see all the houses and people and had the potential to go anywhere or land anywhere. Now, it is at a fork in the road. That fork is destiny determining. Something has to give. I can’t sit watching and waiting and wondering and hoping for a good outcome. There must be something I can do to make the situation better. I am wracking my brain trying to figure out if I could climb a ladder, or use a long stick, or even climb up the tree. All of those options have little benefit with great risk. Risk to myself I mean. If I fall off that ladder or out of the tree I will likely be injured badly, if not killed. But is that worth it? If the bag is able to go one and live another day and see the people and have a future, is my life a fair trade? Is it the bag, or is it what the bag represents to me?

I slap my hand against the glass ignoring the bowing and moaning the window makes in indignation. Do something. I want the bag to do something before the wind makes the decision for it. My eyes are burning as the tears pool under my eye lids. Squeezing my eyes tight the  water spills over for the release of a thousand tears not shed and  I pray silently for the bag to do the right thing. I understand I can’t control it or even help it because it is not my problem to solve. I can only sit back and watch and wait to see what happens next. I hear the wind begin to howl, and my stomach flips as though I am on a roller coaster. When I open my eyes the bag will either be gone, or destroyed. I tell myself that I can handle it either way. I will be able to live with the outcome believing I could not have changed it anyway. As the wind whistles in the trees, the electrical wires slap around, I know that it’s happening so I open my eyes with hope for the best and prepared for the worst. Now, it’s all in the bag.

What You Say vs What I Hear

What you say:

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are a good mother.

You have done everything you can.

She might recover.

Think about yourself.

 

What I hear:

I have everyone fooled.

I am so numb I don’t feel anything anymore.

You know I’m not, but you don’t know what else to say.

I pity you.

She won’t.

You look like shit so do something nice for yourself.

 

What you say:

How is JoDee?

I don’t know how you do it.

I can’t imagine how painful this must be.

Don’t give up hope.

What can I do for you?

 

What I hear:

Is she alive?

I’m so glad that isn’t me.

I don’t want to imagine your pain because it makes me think it might happen to me.

I don’t know what else to say to you.

I feel helpless because there is nothing I can do. I love you and I want to do something for you.

 

What I feel about what I hear:

I wish everyone could see how weak I really am.

I wish everyone could see my cowardice.

I wish everyone could see that I tried to be a good mother, but I don’t think I did it right.

I wish I could keep up hope.

I don’t want to think about myself.

I have no idea how JoDee is. Even if I was in touch with her, I never really know how she is.

I’m glad it isn’t you too. I wish it wasn’t me. I wish no one had to go through this.

No, you don’t. You don’t want to imagine the pain, or try to imagine your own pain if you were in my shoes because it is crippling to think about.

You don’t have to say anything because there is nothing to say. Nothing anyone can say. Nothing to be said. Except for this is total bullshit. And being honest, I don’t want to talk about it anyway.

I feel hopeless too and I appreciate you offering to send me food, or a house cleaner, or take me to dinner but it just isn’t necessary because tomorrow will be the same as today as tomorrow as a month and a year from now. But thank you for being a friend.

Progression of S

Stroke

Seizure

Scary

Scarier

Scarred

Silent

Suffering

Stupid

Sacrifice

Sympathy

Sympathetic

Sad

Sadness

Sadly

Stunned

Shocked

Surprised

Seething

Stay

Statistic

Score

Scorn

Screaming

Screamed

Scream

Screwed

Search

Secret

Section

Self-centered

Self-absorbed

Self-harming

Self-hating

Secret

Secretive

Severe

Solo

So long

Shake

Shallow

Shame

Shout

Shut up

Shut out

Shut down

Shit

The Good Ol’ Days

Once upon in a time in the exact place we live now kids played hopscotch in their drive-ways and came home when the street lights came on. Pre-teen and teen kids would hang out at the mall, play in the arcade, ride bikes, build forts and have neighborhood games of football, soccer and street hockey, someone slated for the position of traffic watcher whose job it was to yell CAR when it was time to move out of the street. High school kids played sports, went to the Friday Night Football game, hung out downtown eating French fries from Supremes and scoring beer to drink in the woods, all while feeling totally bad ass. Occasionally someone would be so intoxicated they would have to be dragged home by other giggling and burping friends who would leave said friend on the front lawn, ring the door and run. Later the big scandal would be how long the friend would be grounded, and when they could do it again.

In those days there were curfews, family dinners and no cell phones. Children had their homework checked, not able to leave the table until they ate the green items, and had chores. Those chores involved making their bed, taking out trash, clearing the dinner table, and weed the garden. Those were the days that homemade cookies were not a sign of being a good mother, and cartoons were the Saturday afternoon treat. McDonalds, ordering pizza, or even Chinese food were special occasions, and a rarity not a staple each week on the dinner menu.  Parents worried that children wouldn’t get on the football team, cheerleading squad or honor roll. College was expected but trade school for some was also acceptable, as long as it was a reputable career like electrician or plumber.

There were many things that were not great about those times like the stifled feeling most women had on the regular, and divorce was so taboo both men and women would live in misery rather than face that humiliation. And being gay, oh god, no. That was not acceptable, not to mention that the word trans-gender didn’t exist.  So, those times were not perfect. And in that way, I would never want to go back, because social justice has to continue to evolve, even if it is once again being attacked. What was not a problem back then was not having enough space in the morgue for all the people that died from drug related causes requiring the state to rent a cold-storage.

A recent article I stumbled across lately was about Ohio’s drug problem. Massachusetts does also have a drug problem, a terrible one, but Ohio has been hit expedetially harder than most areas. That is really saying something because a week does not go by that I hear of someone I know, or someone I know knows (if you got that, you’re a genius) dying of an overdose. Ohio reported last year the coroner’s office processed approximately 500 deaths and more than 100 of which were drug-related. For those that don’t know, not everybody goes through the coroner’s office.  Folks that die in the hospital more than 24 hours after admission, and patients on Hospice and most residents of nursing homes or assisted livings don’t need to go to the coroner’s office. So these are mostly unexpected deaths, accidents, and the like. And that was one coroner’s office for one county. That was not the whole state.  In 2003 the Ohio Department of Health reported the number of deaths from opioid abuse at 296 and in 2015 there were 2590.   But don’t be jealous. New England hit the top 5 worst drug states in 2015 sharing the spotlight was Rhode Island, New Hampshire,  West Virginia and Kentucky.

In a nation that is built on freedom for all, the land of opportunity, has lead our youth to the opportunity to kill themselves with any number of drugs: heroin, cocaine, fentanyl or another synthetic shoot able, snort able, or smoke able. Is this because drugs are so readily available? Or is it the destruction of morals and values? Some will argue that once we had two income families that children were left to their own devices hence leading to poor judgment and impulsivity. There are studies that show in the increase in ADD/ADHD diagnosis and medications are parallel with the increase in substance abuse.  Is there a proclivity to use drugs based on the foundation of methylphenidate?  I consider myself a scientist at heart, and the numbers don’t lie. Or do they? Are those numbers skewed somehow? Are the numbers of ADD/ADHD diagnosis vs incline in drug abuse more due to the pressure we put on ….well everyone? Parents are under pressure to make more money, to keep up with the Jones, and kids have ore pressure to excel in every area possible: straight A student, star sports player, have a part time job and find time to shovel the old man’s driveway next door.  That is a lot of pressure for young, developing minds.

My family has morals. I was a single mother, make that a working single mother, most of my kids younger years. They had to go to daycare, and after school care, and take days off when they were sick. Those days were spent taking care of the kids and worrying about taking off to much time from work and whether I would get paid for it or not.  But we had dinner together as a family, and played outside, and ran threw sprinklers.  Those sorts of worries still exist. Single parents still have the same concerns. And add to that worrying about whether their child will end up in a cold storage feux morgue after dying from a drug addiction is horrible. The drug crisis is as much a public health crisis as is not having space to store the body. In my mind, wouldn’t it make sense to work harder to find a way to save the lives rather than store them?

 

 

 

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/drugs-are-killing-so-many-people-in-ohio-that-cold-storage-trailers-are-being-used-as-morgues/ar-BBycO6k?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp

 

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.

Would You Do It Again?

SPOILER ALERT- If you have not watched Arrival do not proceed!

AC, AC the original, and AC the brother and I watched Arrival together last week. It is an alien movie. It was a really good and captivating alien movie, but an alien movie all the same. Alien movies typically leave a person wondering about, well, aliens. When I was done watching this movie I was left feeling … some kind of way.  A feeling.  It was a strange feeling.  I didn’t think about whether there was life on another planet, or if I would have been able to deal with the things that the protagonist had to contend with. I found a deeper meaning:  If you knew that in the future a painful event was going to happen (like have a daughter that is a heroin addict but in this case the death of a loved one, would you change your life to avoid ever having that person in your life?

I know that is a mouthful, and a mindful but it kept playing over in my head. If I knew the events of my life would I do them exactly the same way again? Where does someone start? How could I prevent JoDee not be an addict? What point in time would I go back too?  If I could pin point the moment that she used drugs the very first time, I could make her not be in that exact spot.  But that wouldn’t stop it forever. So I would have to go back far enough to see what drove her to that. And if I could determine a moment in time, an event that happened, changing that would change something else.   I mean, to truly not have her become an addict, I think it would mean not HAVING her. Her not existing and that seems harsh.

If I go all the way back to the beginning, it would start with my senior year in high school. I graduated high school preggers which was a much bigger scandal in those days.  It was downright scandalous. Let’s say I avoided Daddy-O. If I knew I would get pregnant the first time I met him that day in my senior year when he came to my house with a mutual friend, I maintained a friend-zone, never becoming more than that.  That changes everything. That means that I wouldn’t have moved into that tiny apartment with him and others. Or moved in with his grandparents, or his mother, or got our own apartment- the one that got broken into and the lady upstairs got beat on the regular. We wouldn’t have been together when his father died.

Right after his father died, two friends moved to North Carolina. I visited them, and followed them for a while, and I met some of the best people I have ever known in my life down there.  Although I am not in touch with the original two friends that moved there, I have stayed in touch with my friends from Nebraska.  I visited and lived there for a short while which introduced me to my second husband.  As a result of that we moved back to Massachusetts together. When we moved back to Massachusetts I contacted folks I had worked with in the medical field. That led me to a job in a nursing home. I worked there for a while, and Ex-Husband Numero Dos failed a drug test at work, losing his job. At that time a coworker of mine whose husband worked at an establishment that dealt with horses (just the kind of job a farm boy from NE would be good at) and was looking for a new assistant.  From there I went to another place, an assisted living. There I met a woman who became my friend.  Later, she left our company to go to another company, taking me with her.

While at the new company, Ex Husband Numero Dos and I split up, and I met my current husband better known as AC.  Those are the very big details. I won’t get into the ways that never meeting AC would have affected his kids. But look at how it would have affected mine. Not having JoDee would mean not having Jay J or Jared.

JoDee was my first born. My learning baby.  Not having her changes that which makes me what I am. If I am not a mother, I don’t know what I am, or what I would do. I feel like I carry that with me in every aspect of my life. I mother people at work, and it helps me when negotiating with employees, or dealing with a difficult situation. I feel like JoDee and I grew up together, and maybe that contributed to her being an addict.  I can’t imagine all the things we did together before the boys came along. And, she was born two weeks after her cousin whom she grew up with, and was inseparable from. Had she not been born, how would her life had changed? Essentially, one decision, a choice not to do something, will change the course of many lives.  And to make such a giant decision would mean taking the good and weighing it against the bad. Can I really say that the bad dealing with her addiction really out weights all the good?

No way. If the day I got pregnant I was able to see my entire future which included JoDee’s future, I would not change anything. No matter how much pain and suffering I have endured at the hand of her addiction it would never out weigh the joy I have from being her mother. No matter what. So, in summary, I am with Amy Adams. I would do it the same, knowing the outcome, knowing our fate.  And I make no apologizes for that.

 

 

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.