The Numbers Don’t Lie

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The statistics are grim these days. In the first 3 months of 2015 there were 217 heroin overdoses. The number of deaths due to overdose (the articles says unintentional overdose but I refuse to support that statement because you risk overdose every single time you use which means you intentionally take the drug) 33% increase from 2012. And that isn’t all….

I started this blog in October of 2014. Since then my family has had 3 relapse, 2 detoxes, 1 court-sectioned stay at WATC. The blog itself has had 54 posts. The most viewed post would be the home page at 8929. Total views on the page as of this writing was 19091 with the all-time best day being 597 views in one day. There are 321 followers; it was shared 92 times on Facebook. I have had 141 comments. There have been 6285 direct links from the blog to Facebook (meaning someone came to view the blog from a Facebook link), it was googled 642 times. The most viewed blog post was Friends, Treatment and the Unknown, 421 views. The least viewed was Sibling Love which is really sad because it only had 44 views and even my cat beat that with How I Met Your Cat? Got 99 views.

The most viewed picture was this one:


The least viewed picture was this one:

Poor AC- I think he looks cute!

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I have had three friends of JoDee’s from high school reach out to me, either to say they didn’t understand addiction and thank me for the blog, or to say they are addicts and need help. I have had five parents from our town reach out to me to say that their children are addicts, but they didn’t have the courage to tell anyone. I have been to countless support groups, 12 months’ worth of N/A meetings (I definitely did my 90 in 90 and then some!) and I know 4 people, personally, that died from drug addiction in the last year- and many more acquatenances.

I know many friends JoDee lost due to her addiction, I know a few friends I have lost due to JoDee’s addiction, and I know of at least one person that said both JoDee and I were crazy – using the blog as an example. And this is the exact number of shits I give for any of those: 0.

Here are a few things I do give a shit about:

A study done in 2011 showed that 75% of all high school students have used addictive substances and 1 of every 5 meets the medical criteria for addition. I can’t imagine what it is now 4 years later.

Teen substance abuse is particularly devastating because using drugs while the brain is still developing dramatically hikes the risk of addiction and other consequences.

The US represents only 5% of the world population but our prescription drug use is 75%.

About 50% of high school seniors do not think it is harmful to try crack or cocaine once or twice and 40% believe it is not harmful to use heroin once or twice.

According to an article from the Boston Globe, civil commitments (Section 35) grew by 67 percent in the last 8 years. And the number of licensed treatment beds varies from year to year. There is not enough funding to support the upkeep and salaries for staff to keep beds in circulation.


It seems to me there is a giant issue when it is much easier to buy drugs on the street than it is to find a bed to start recovery. And I understand that part of the issue is that addicts that have no intention to get clean but want to avoid jail time or just need to get out of the cold will take spots for those that have the desire to start to recover. However, I have learned enough about drug use, and recovery, to know that if you say the message long enough, if you keep repeating it, eventually it will sink in. Or they will die. I don’t see those that are just “place-holding” as a bad thing. Sometimes, they find out that there is something there worth hearing.

Another reason that addicts can’t get the help they need is because it is seen as a moral short-coming, something I have mentioned on this blog. Choice vs Disease. Something I have also said is that shouldn’t matter. Whether or not the first time someone picked up was a decided choice or a victim of circumstance, the end result is the same. Addiction is a disease. It is mentally and physically handicapping and without proper treatment, it will only get worse, just like any other disease.   The amount of the daily bed rate has gone up recently from $75 to $82 per day per bed. That is an extremely low figuring considering the variables that go into that. Just the normal overhead it takes to run any business, non-profit or otherwise, would surpass that amount.   To me, my addict is invaluable. I cannot put a price tag on her head, but the state does, it says she is only worth $82 a day. And that is only for state-funded beds. My insurance company says she is worth $0.00 because they won’t pay for inpatient stay. As of Oct 1 of this year, it is my understanding that there will be ne legislature that requires that health insurance companies pay for at least a 14-day inpatient stay following a standard medical detox hospitalization. I wonder how many people will know that, and will be able to take advantage of it. Let us not forget that there are fewer inpatient beds than detoxes and for those that have state health insurance, those beds usually don’t turn over for 30-40 days depending on the length of stay. The situation is grim, and like everything else, it may get worse before it gets better.

I watched Where Are They Now- Oprah Winfrey, the other night. It is a show on the O network that goes back to high profile shows that Oprah did. There was a family she had on several years ago- four out of the five family members were heroin addicts. The only one that was not a heroin addict was the 17-month old baby. Both parents, and both teen age boys, addicts. Actively using. Caring for that poor baby. Oprah offered the entire family help. They all went to separate rehabs. The mom went to a rehab that supported mother and children. The dad did great, as did one of the boys. The mother got into an altercation with someone in the rehab (her rehab was in New York) so DCF took they baby away. He was placed in foster care. The dad left the sober living housing he was doing so well in to go be with the mom in NY while she tried to figure out how to get the baby back. In the end, with one son in jail, one son doing well in rehab, and the both parents homeless in NY, the parents made the heart breaking decision to give the son up for adoption. A wonderful family had fostered the baby, loved him and was willing to keep him. They allowed the parents to have visits with him so they could maintain a relationship. Shortly after the adoption was final, the mother died of a heroin overdose, leaving an extremely distraught father alone and homeless in NY. She was 39 years old. Exactly the same age I am. It was absolutely gut wrenching to watch the destruction of this family. For something so senseless. I felt relieved for the baby that he had a chance at a better life, and hollow for the mother knowing she had to give her son up. I can’t even imagine what brought an entire family to heroin. During the original aired show, the mother said they use to be normal. Have dinner together; go to the hair salon, nail salon, out for dinner. At that time, they were days away from eviction because the bank had foreclosed on their house.

As a mother, as a partner to AC, as a human being who has compassion for others, I hate these stories. I hate all stories that end in the death of a person to drugs. There has to be a better way.

Here are a few numbers to close with:

0 is the number of people who should die from overdose

1 is the number of times using it takes to become addicted to heroin

24 is the number of hours I worry about whether my addict will die or not

365 is the number of days she needs to go to a meeting

137 is the number of days she has been clean.

9 until my middle son turns 18- a very scary number for this mother.







Heart Emergency and Gossip

Life is full of twists and turns. Just when you think your child might stay clean, bam, a relapse. Just when you think you have finally gotten over winter, bam, a Nor’Easter. Just when you think things might go smoothly until Oldest Son graduates, bam, a seizure at school, an ER visit, a transfer to Children with the end result being a heart rhythm disorder. I mean, who doesn’t have that sort of thing happen. Oh. Right. The average person. Eh, well, that is my life. And the life of my family. If it isn’t one thing, it is something else. But, the timing seemed a fortuitous, does it not? I mean, I just wrote a post about how I hope that JoDee is able to maintain her sobriety to participate in the events we have coming up as a family. And she was. After we were settled from the ambulance ride to Boston, the ride in which Oldest Son listened to his ear buds and napped while I fretted in the front seat convinced he was about to go into cardiac arrest, JoDee was able to meet us there to be a supportive sister to her little brother. And help AC pick on me. Good times had by all, I tell ya.

Anyway, the point of this post is two things. 1. The things that happen in the face of tragedy and 2. Being able to recognize the good with the bad.  Let’s go with the latter first. It’s just 4 weeks from graduation. We have lots of things we should be doing, including working and attending school. Having this happen now is sort of anxiety-provoking, but having this happens at any time would have been anxiety provoking. It’s not natural for a 17 year old boy (18 in 4 weeks for the love of god!) to just pass out, and seize while sitting sedentary at a desk in class. Not to mention, the way I hear it, he completely freaked out his teacher and fellow classmates including one young lad who said “Jay J are you alright, cuz you just bugged out.” The good news is that this can eventually be corrected, hopefully. He has some test to do, wear a heart monitor, possibly have surgery sooner than later, but in the end, he should be (knock on wood) relatively healthy when all is complete. No contact sports, which is a bummer for him but something we will figure out how to get past.  I think we are so fortunate to live a 20 minute ambulance ride from some of the best hospitals on earth.  So even though this sucked the big one, it could be so much worse. In fact, when we were in Beverly ER we heard them call a Code Pink Maternity, which I believe means baby in distress or coding. When we were getting transported into the ambulance, the Childrens Hospital Neonatal Transport Vehicle was loading a brandy new baby all hooked up to wires and monitors into the ambulance. It was really heart breaking to watch. My heart went out to the baby and h/her parents.

For our situation it was what happened when the dust settles that really astonished me. It also is a constant reminder that drug addiction follows us wherever we go.  How does that happen? Well, grab a coffee or tea, and let me tell you. First of all, it’s amazing the 900 phone calls, texts, emails we got with people being so concerned and worried. It is truly amazing that we have such wonderful people surrounding us that love our family. Not just the school, but parents of Jay J’s friends, co-workers and family were all willing to rush to help us, if we need anything. One of the highlights of the day was when I asked my niece, Tori, to run to my house to let the cat in. Apparently I had forgotten to tell her we got a new cat (and by “got” I do mean we are temporarily babysitting the 3 J’s step-mom and step-sisters cat until they move) so I suddenly got this text message:


“Does this Mufasa belong to you?”

I laughed so hard…. Because he actually does sort of look like Mufasa! Oh shit. I laughed so hard, my gut hurt and I’m certain my kidneys were bleeding. I could have been slap happy due to the day’s events, but the caption with the picture were priceless. Especially if you scroll in to see Blue, AKA Mufasa’s, face. He looks so innocent just waiting at the door. The poor thing!

Anyway, Tori was wonderful to run over let Mufasa in and feed all three of them. She texted me later to say that the “fluffy cat” ran away and was she supposed to “capture” him. The hits just kept on coming. Another awesome thing that happened was that Jay J was literally hanging off the end of the bed. Children’s hospital is fantastic, they were really great with all of us. I felt that the Doctors all talked to us, not at us and took this seriously even though they maybe see it every day. They introduced themselves by their first name, not “Dr Whomever”. The only thing that really needed some work was the bed was for a child. And technically, since Jay J is under 18, he constitutes as a child, but man, he did not fit in the bed. He looked ridiculous!

photo 1

You can’t see it in the picture, but his feet hung off the end. The mattress wasn’t used to holding a full size person so it kept sliding down the frame. All of sudden, you would just start seeing Jay J slide down with the mattress until it was about to fall off the end.

And of course, there was a lot of this going on….

photo 4 photo 2

We had to go to the gift shop to by a multi-prong charger because everyone’s phone was dying and this was the real emergency!

All in all, to relate to Reason for Post #2. It can always be worse. We were able to see the fortunate in the day, and of course, as always, Jay J was as a calm as can be, making sure to update his SnapChat story through-out the day.

To talk about Reason for Post #1, brings us back to being the parent of an addict. When something like this happens, it never crosses my mind that somehow, JoDee’s addiction will become an issue. In my mind, this is about Jay J. And I was happy that today, JoDee was clean and participating in family events so able to come to show support.  Later that night, I received a phone call from someone who should be close to Jay J but probably isn’t as close as they should be. Someone related to him. Someone, who in my opinion, should not participate in town rumor or speculation and should support the family, not partake in gossip, called me to ask how Jay J was. First question, how is Jay J? Second question, So it was drugs?  Coming from the source I’m not entirely surprised. Some people gravitate to the negative, to the gossip and relish in it, instead of cutting it off but it still irritated me. My response was why would you ask that? This person’s response was: That was what I heard in town today, someone told me that. My response to that was I don’t want to hear any bullshit gossip, just because one of my children is a drug addict doesn’t mean they all are. The rest of the conversation was sort of going over what he really has.

Two things are important about this interaction. 1. I don’t believe anyone told this person that. I believe that was a judgement that this person has against our family. And I don’t really (I say really, because I do a small percent) hold any grudge against this person because I believe this happens frequently. I’m sure there are many people who think if I have one child that is an addict I must have two or three. I also believe it goes back to what I have said many times, that my child being an addict is a result of my parenting (Ps… all of my children do have TWO parents, the have the same mother and the same father. All three of them. It’s amazing how the problem is always the mother….. Not only judge-y but sexist. Love it) which means that the other kids have no shot of being productive members of society. It doesn’t matter that I am, in fact, a productive member of society. Have volunteered in my kid’s classes, gone on field trips, attended concerts and recitals and hockey games and wrestling tournaments nary missing a one.  Not to mention, if Jay J had a medical emergency in class and JoDee was not an addict, would anyone have said “Was it drugs?” Doubtful.

The second thing that is important about this interaction is what do I do with it? Do I dwell over the fact that someone I don’t talk to or see or think about in my everyday life was so judgmental about me or more importantly my son? Do I let it eat me alive? Do I start a “Jay J is not a flaming heroin addict campaign” or do I write it off for what it is…. Immaterial. It’s hard to do that. I have had people judge me my entire life. You cannot get pregnant at 17 and still in high school and not be judged. I’m sort of used to it, and not just that, I really have grown a tough skin around it. Lots of people say I don’t care what people think, but a lot of times that is a self-soothing statement to convince themselves that they really don’t care what anyone thinks. I really don’t care what the majority of people think. I care about what my kids/step-kids think, I care about what AC thinks and my parents (dad, step-mom and mom). I care about what my baby kitty thinks. And my family, inner circle of friends, co-workers, boss, etc., because that is normal. People should have some regard to those around them. But someone, anyone, that really has no impact on my life, I have really gotten to the point in life that I couldn’t care less. And I like that. Sometimes it makes me come off sort of uncaring, but I guess I am. Tough. It’s my life. I have to live it so at the end of the day when I wash my face and brush my teeth, I see my own reflection staring back, not the reflection of some person who influenced me to do something that I shouldn’t have, that I regret.

So to wrap up this long post, I decided to scrap it. It’s inconsequential because I know the truth. Jay J knows the truth. His dad and step-mom know the truth. Our inner circle know the truth. And if those outside the circle want to believe that Jay J is an addict too, or want something to gossip about, let them. At the end of the day, people who gossip about others with no bases or fact, are really doing so to avoid having to face their own short comings. Have at it Mo-fo.


Parenting Number Two

The sound of a phone ringing in the middle of the afternoon sounds innocuous. It is usually a telemarketer, a friend sharing news of the previous night’s tv show, or in my case, my grandmother calling to tell me how backed up she is and there isn’t enough prune juice in the world to help that situation. When the phone rings while at work, it is usually a vendor looking for payment, a staff member having an issue or AC calling to ask what’s for supper because he is starving. That call usually happens at 11 am. But when the phone rings in the middle of the night it has a completely different meaning. The ring is a loud shrill scream, it evokes instantaneous anxiety. Trying to answer a phone that is ringing, startlingly loud, in the middle of the night means fumbling to grab it before it stops ringing. Means racing thoughts about why someone would be calling in the dead of night. Dead comes to mind because when the phone rings in the middle of the night, it is almost never good news.

The jarring screech of the phone penetrated the night with startling urgency. I bolted out of bed, momentarily confused by the sound of the phone. Frozen in place, I pause, trying to understand why I am out of bed. The phone. It’s screaming for attention, and I grab it pressing the green accept button on my iPhone as I process the number says “Blocked”. Immediately I am taken by the deep voice that asks to speak to “Mrs. Joyce”. I know it has to do with one of the kids, they have a different name than I do. I tell them it’s Ms. and Brayden, but yes, that’s me. This is the point I wait to find out what happened to JoDee now. Was she finally arrested? Did she harm someone? Is she high? Or dead? The words there is a problem with your son take seconds which feel like minutes before they resonate through my barely awake brain. My son? Isn’t he in bed? Which one? Not JoDee? I’m very confused.

I’m confused because I have spent the better part of 2 plus years focused solely on JoDee’s recovery. Just like addiction, giving any one thing all your attention, all your time and all your energy, everything else gets left behind. The world continues to turn, farms grow crops, malls open and close, The Kardashians still trend set, and other children continue to grow. Even if they have no guidance. Time does not stand still so you can focus on one thing. In fact, the opposite happens. Time goes by so fast, and with such ferocity, the time missed with other family members isn’t even recognized until it is way too late. As JoDee continues to do well, I become more anxious not less. Typically, right after a relapse JoDee completes, or tries to complete, a program or detox and then does well. For a while. Each relapse of Ms. JoDee’s has been right before or during a holiday or milestone for our family. My birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, her own birthday. You name it, she nailed it. And we have a huge milestone coming up very quickly. JoDee should be just days shy of 6 months when Jay J graduates in 6 weeks. This is anxiety provoking for several reasons. Not just because JoDee has never made it to 6 months before, or that my oldest boy, my second born, is turning 18 and graduating high school, but because JoDee lost complete control of her life, and I lost complete control as a parent about 5 minutes after the ink dried on her diploma. It’s terrifying to think, the same thing could happen twice.

So, how do you prevent that? By you, I mean me and really “we” to any parents out there. I clearly missed the mark the first time, so what can I do the second time to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Anything in extremes is bad. If I jerk the wheel, pull a complete U-turn and do the exact opposite with Jay J that won’t be good either. I can’t be a helicopter parent, hovering over his every move. Jay J is a very private, very independent child who has always been rational, reasonable and responsible. If I start treating him like he has made a lot of wrong decisions, something he hasn’t done, it is going to evoke strong feelings of resentment. Of course, doing the exact same thing and expecting different results won’t work either. I tried googling “keeping your kids from going nuts” but that was no help. The reality is that everything in life is about balance and to really have proper balance I have to treat each kid as an individual. Keeping in mind what each child is capable of and the potential of each child in life. Jay J and JoDee are not the same kid. That doesn’t mean that Jay J couldn’t easily become a heroin addict. Anyone could. I could, if I used. Addiction is non-discriminatory. It just means that when embarking on this next phase of Jay J’s life, I need to use the experience of the past with my knowledge of him as individual to pave the pathway. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be bumps in the road, or that we will always see eye to eye. Parenting doesn’t end when the diploma hits his hand, something I think I forgot when JoDee graduated.

Something else that is important to keep in mind is that Jay J is not as impulsive as JoDee. JoDee has been sort of spontaneous on steroids since the second she was born. She was even born fast. First child, born in 2 hours. Jay J, while born prematurely, was born in his own time, quietly, so quietly I thought he wasn’t alive at first. He has always been a loner and completely comfortable with that. He doesn’t particularly like change, or trying a lot of new adventures. He has had the same friends since as long as I can remember, especially one friend since elementary school. If my kids were a season, JoDee would be the blizzard in the middle of winter. Loud, strong, determined, leaving a path of destruction in her wake, and the beauty of fresh snow and sunshine when the dust settles. Jay J would be the dog days of summer. Moving slowly, dragging through the days, at his own pace, soundlessly. But similar to a summer storm, he can be loud and gregarious when he wants to be. So, I guess, I must treat them as I would each season, differently like winter and summer. But, with the same caution and protection regardless of the season but for the storm they are likely to have. It is really the only way to be sure that I am not repeating the same thing again.

And that brings up another point. Birthdays happen each year, and Christmas happens each year, but Jay J will graduate from high school only once. And I intend to pay attention, front and center, present and participating, completely. JoDee just hit 100 days clean. I’m grateful for that. And thankful for that. We have seen 100 days before, and then a relapse. I have chased her recovery to end of the earth and back. I have dragged her to meetings, to detox, to rehab, and finally, to jail to get her clean. I will not be dragging her anywhere. I will be focusing on readying the house and yard for Jay J’s graduation party. I will be sending out invitations, cooking, planning, shopping and preparing for a big day, if not for Jay J, than for me. It’s a big deal for me that my son is graduating. In no way do I want to abandon JoDee or send her the message that I am not willing to support her, because I am. Should she relapse, I will not be chasing her. I will not be helping her, giving her money or time. I will be staying present in the moment with my other child who also needs me; Who deserves to have his mother standing with as much pride as she did with his sister 3 years ago, cheering and crying, while he crosses the podium to get his diploma. I don’t want to choose between my children’s needs. It’s a terrible thing to even think about, but at this point, everything JoDee has done has been the priority. It’s time for her to stand on her own, stay clean, and allow her brother to get the attention he deserves. And that’s what I will be doing, in more ways than one, so I don’t have to keep worrying about waking up to that phone call in the middle of the night. The highlight of that day will be if JoDee is standing with me, cheering and crying, for her brother who needs her, too.

Sibling Love

Spring is a time of rebirth, I think. When the weather starts to get better, the sun is warm and the cold snap in the air is gone, it is pleasant to be outside. Tulips and crocuses begin to bloom, the grass comes back to life, and everyone’s mood is a little more enjoyable. It also is a particularly busy time of year for everyone. Spring cleaning, graduations, weddings, babies, birthdays… there always seems to be a lot going on in the spring. In our family we have Jay J’s 18th birthday and graduation coming up, lots of home improvements including renovating a kitchen which is a ton of fun with a million and half people and enough animals to fill Noah’s Ark living in the house, not to mention school vacation, and the end of the school year. Jay J has something like 27 days left of school and he is re-inventing the term “senior slide”. I can barely slide him out of bed in the morning without yelling in his room that I will beat his balls off if he isn’t out of bed in 5 minutes. To which he typically replies, as he leisurely arises, “You don’t say that, Mom”. I believe, I just did.

Anyway. Jay J is graduating high school and we have talked a lot about that but there is also another huge graduation coming up. Jared is graduating from Middle School. To some, this may not be a big deal, but to me it’s huge. For a few reasons but the first being that I was not able to attend either JoDee or Jay J’s middle school graduation. Both for different reasons and they weren’t missed lightly, I still harbor guilt about it. And the second, my youngest child, my baby, my little monster is going to high school. I simply cannot wrap my head around a world that I have two high school graduates and third starting his high school career. How in the world this happened, I will never know. But it has me reflecting on our life. Right now there are seven of us- AC, his two daughters and my three and me- but it wasn’t always that way. For a while, it was just the four of us. Before Ex Husband Numero Dos, before AC and our new clan. Before addiction was a new character, back when I was judg-y and broke and tired and frustrated. Back when it was just me and the three kids.

Jared was born with a sign on his back that read “After me you will never want another child.” And that was no shit. He was cranky, and cry-y, and sleepless. He bellowed the second he was born, and essentially, had not stopped in 14 years. He has always made his presence known. When he was younger he went through a biting stage, when he got a little older he went through a hair pulling stage (not to be undone by the hair cutting stage JoDee went through that made Jay J look like he was fighting a terrible disease) and his whole life he went through a no-sleeping stage. When Daddy-O and I broke up, Jared was an infant still. And he rarely slept, and he screamed all the time. He was colicky which my other two never were. He hated being fed but he didn’t have any of the normal symptoms of milk intolerance so it took us a while to switch him to soy, which was a brilliant move. Within two bottles he was much happier. And finally slept- a little. But before getting to that point, I remember one night in particular that was very nasty. He was screaming so loud his face was purple. I burped him, and bounced him, and walked him. I tried a bottle, a binky, his swing. I placed him on his belly on a blanket on the floor (which sometimes helped) but nothing was working. I was so frustrated, and tired, and overwhelmed, I was really losing my patience.

By the time 3 a.m. rolled around and there was no break in the crying, I knew I had to get away from him because I was certain he could feel my annoyance. Not to mention, there is only so much a person can take- I was so afraid of losing my temper. So I went into the then-seven-year-old JoDee’s room and woke her up. I told her your brother won’t stop screaming I have to go stand outside, and I plopped him in bed with her, fully wailing, and walked out of the house, to the middle of the front lawn. I could just barely hear him screaming still. Very faintly. I started humming hush little baby to myself, to drowned it out. I looked around noticing that spring had begun. Flowers were starting to come up and our lawn needed mowed. With all the screaming I hadn’t realized how late in the spring it was. I don’t know how long it was, it felt like seconds but it was probably a full minute, and the screaming stopped. I remember thinking to myself that I was finally going crazy. I stood outside, sort of with my ear up, trying to listen. Silence. Slowly, as though each step might make the screaming start again, I walked back into the house. I closed the front door and stood in the entrance for a few seconds. The only sound was the refrigerator humming. Gingerly, I made my way to JoDee’s room. There she was, sitting up in bed, Jared on her lap, belly down, crossways. She was asleep with her chin on her chest, and he was asleep, drool seeping from the corner of his mouth on to her leg. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

I backed into her closet door, and slid to the floor, afraid that I might break the spell that made them both sleep. At some point, I fell asleep too. I woke up several hours later to the sound of laughter. At first I didn’t know where I was or why I had a pain in the side of my face. At some point, I must have fallen over, and I had a Lego stuck to my cheek. I followed the sound of the laughter to the living room. JoDee and Jay J were sitting in front of the TV watching Tarzan and eating Go-Gurts. Jared was sound asleep in his swing, an empty bottle on the floor next to it. When JoDee saw me, she just started reciting the morning events as though she was the babysitter and I just returned home from work. Jared woke at 5 and had a bottle; Jay J got up at 6 and had toast. When Jared was hungry again she made him another bottle and he has been asleep a little while. It was 8 in the morning. I realized then that JoDee was supposed to be in school. And she said she didn’t want to go. She thought (and this is a direct quote) “it is best for everyone if I take a day off from school today”. I couldn’t agree more. We all spent that day in our pajamas, eating every meal on a blanket in the living room. Jared was a little better tempered, probably a reaction to my being a little better tempered. At the end of the day, I ordered a pizza much to JoDee and Jay J’s delight, which was a huge luxury  for our limited income family. Jay J rolled his little black truck all over the place, JoDee made me play Hungry Hungry Hippo at least 13 times. At one point, we all napped together on that blanket. It was a wonderful day.

It’s hard for me to believe, when I realize spring is springing again, that JoDee went from that independent, reliable, loyal big sister to the addict that stole from her brothers and belittle them with Rage-High. And not just stealing possessions, but stealing time and attention. When I think about the three of them I know they will always have each other. They will always be siblings. They will always know each other more and better and longer than any other person that will ever be in their life. I hope with all my heart that addiction and the things that happen during active addiction and chronic relapsing haven’t done so much damage that they can’t get close again. And not just that, I hope that the scar from that Lego eventually fades!

My Oldest Son

I say my oldest son because I hate saying my “middle” child. First of all, it is true that he was born second of three which technically makes him in the middle but middle implies not significance. Not the baby, not the eldest. When in fact, Jay J has a lot of significance. As do all children born between other children. So I say my oldest son because that is what he is, the older of the two boys.

This is a significant year for him. He is a senior in high school. He is turning 18 soon and if we did things correctly, he will be out in the world furthering his education and discovering his next chapter of life. It’s also a time for me to be suffering PTSD. JoDee graduated high school, left the house with her friends after the graduation party and completely derailed her life. It is hard not to imagine that it will happen again. It is hard not worry that whatever went wrong with the first kid will go wrong with the second. Though, to be fair they are two absolutely, polar opposite, individuals. Even though they were raised the same, in the same lunacy and chaos, their personal approaches to life are leaps and bounds different.

Where JoDee is spastic and hyper, Jay J is calm and mellow. While telling a story JoDee uses ten thousand words to get her point across, Jay J would use four, effectively. But you never guess what is on JoDee’s mind. She will tell you up front and honest. Jay J internalizes everything and won’t volunteer any information unless absolutely necessary. When JoDee is sick the entire world has to know, and give her sympathy, and dote on her hand and foot. Jay J was passing a kidney stone and didn’t tell me until he was about to pass out from pain. It would be the equivalent to giving birth in his room, silently. So when JoDee was graduating, when it was her senior year it was all about her. The Prom, the graduation dress, the senior pictures, a banging graduation party. It was “The Year of JoDee” and basically that hasn’t stopped. JoDee’s addiction, recovery, relapse has been front and center in our lives. There is almost no time for anything else, and let us not even discuss the money.

As Jay J embarks on this last year of his life, I find I am reflecting on his younger years a lot. I am also finding myself riddled with guilt. JoDee’s senior pictures were done right away, with no delay, printed and ready to give out to anyone who wanted one. Jay J didn’t have his done until January and I had to call the school to beg them to hold a place in the yearbook. As the prom approaches I realized I hadn’t even asked Jay J if he wanted to go. I finally remember to broach the subject with him the other day and he made some offhand comment about not being able to afford it. That is like taking a bullet, let me tell you. Why would he think he would have to pay for it? Does he ask? No. He doesn’t want to burden me so he just quietly accepts that he isn’t going to go. I told him I would pay for it, I told him I would cover all the expenses and the limo and everything just like JoDee. He just sort of shrugged and said he would think about it. This is the kid that would take the lunch money I gave him, and spend half so he could save half. He has always been fiscally aware, even as a really young child. I swear he was born with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Just because he doesn’t ask, or expect anything, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get it. This should be “The Year of Jay J.” He is graduating now, he will have a big graduation party and 18th birthday party (which happen to be on the same day! Convenient!). But he is not going to have the freedom or derailment that JoDee had. That is really hard actually. Whenever Jay J wants to do something or go somewhere or when I want to check his phone or snoop on his Facebook he says you didn’t do this to JoDee why do I have to suffer. I always say the same thing, “And look what happened to her” to which he always responds “I’m not JoDee and I am not heroin addict” which is true. But JoDee wasn’t a heroin addict when she was 17 either. I mean, nothing changes if it doesn’t change, right?

Jay J is definitely a withdrawn kid. He would prefer to be alone in his room, with the light out, watching Breaking Bad or Walking Dead or playing some game that involves hockey on his Xbox 1 or 4 or 900 or white or whatever it’s called now. It is like pulling a wisdom tooth with a meat hook to get him out of his room, but it happens. When it does it is usually centered on food, the need to go out with friends, or work. But it’s sort of a constant reminder of how much he changed. I know he is supposed to. I know that is part of growing up and teenage boys have a tendency to be sullen. So that would be even truer for an already quiet kid like him. But I can remember when he would be reading the Hungry Games Books and tell me all about them. Or when I tried to teach him to use the snow blower and it took off with his legs blowing in the breeze behind him, pulling him down the driveway. I can remember him always asking to play Uno or Risk or something else. Usually with Eric. Eric still comes over, as does all his other friends; my house seems to be the hot spot. I certainly don’t leave them alone; I am constantly doing to sneak checks to make sure everyone is behaving. I like when he has his friends there because we hear them laughing and being raucous like teenagers should be.

Maybe I am just getting nostalgic because it isn’t almost time for him to fly the coop. Maybe it’s because he was always the most precious of the kids- born early, in NICU on oxygen for a while, now he is taller than me, strong as an ox and smart- how time has changed. When I was a single mother with three small kids, I remember thinking this will get easier when they are older. Now I would go back to those times, even though we were broke, harried and strapped. The four of us had each other, and we had fun. JoDee, Jay J and Jared would be singing along to the radio, mocking each other, usually JoDee and Jay J ganged up on Jared, and laughing. Today, Jay J and Jared might grunt at each other when they pass one another on the way to the bathroom and JoDee is typically fighting with everyone. Well, she yells, I don’t know if it is actual fighting. I don’t really know if this is a result of addiction in our family or if it would have been this way no matter what. It’s hard telling.

Somewhere along the way I think I took my eye off the prize, the prize being all of the kids being well rounded and happy. I hope that JoDee truly is on the road to long term recovery. I hope that with a new sponsor, appropriate medication and counseling, she will really find her way to life. But even if she hasn’t, regardless of what she has going on, I am going to make this final year of high school for Jay J the best it can be, help him choose his college, plan his graduation party, deck out the backyard and enjoy these last few months before he turns 18. Because once he turns 18 he is going to think he runs his own show, just like his sister did, and it will be game on because that is not happening twice to this family