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.

Terrified

I live in a chronic state of fear. I am sure we all know why, and the reasons because, well, I have a whole blog written about them. But it’s a different kind of fear during active addiction then in recovery. It’s like an itch compared to poison ivy.  If a person has an itchy back, they will try really hard to scratch it. A person might rub their back against a door-frame, or use a ruler (don’t judge, what’s  a girl to do?) or any number of things. The itch might actually go away. Or it might sort of linger not really satisfied.  It might always be there. Sort of annoying, but not really incapacitating. Poison ivy on the other hand, that is incapacitating. The itch is awful. Burning, and irritated. Itching it makes it worse, not itching makes it worse than that, and when you aren’t scratching, you’re  thinking about itching it.  It’s always nagging, painfully. The emotion of it is, um, emotional? It’s awful. There is no escape.  During recovery, I am very aware that it could change at any time. At any moment she could make a move that erases everything she had just gone through. It isn’t as painful, but it’s still ….there. During active addiction, there is no running from it. If I am awake I am thinking about it. If I am asleep I am having nightmares about it. The anxiety and anticipation of when something will change, how it will change, IF it will change, is draining. And every time there is a relapse, I can’t help but think will this be the time.  When will the call come that will end the hope and end the struggle.

The pattern in our existence has been recover/relapse/recover/relapse, rinse and repeat. I have been trying desperately to break my part of the cycle. I have vowed not to drop everything and run when she calls. I haven’t given her any money, or really any daily emotional support. I have been standing on the sidelines like a good girl, aka, non-enabling mommy. Intervention would be so proud (insert very lady-like curtsey, actually no insert very manly chest bump which is more my style).  But that is really hard to do. Sometimes AC says to me that he doesn’t know how I function. Caffeine, suppression and road rage are really all that keep me going.  Then, there are times the urge to be her mother just take over and I absolutely cannot ignore it. So, after two weeks of radio silence, I called her. I had too. It was a feeling, maternal I guess, but I had to hear her voice for myself to know she is ok, which is going to really do the exact opposite because clearly she is not ok. But I did it anyway.  She answered the phone with a hello that screamed of skepticism.  I reassured her that nothing was wrong, and I was just calling to check on her. She sounded terrible. She sounded beat down and sad but I couldn’t ask her about that. Asking her about that would lead to her telling me which would make me feel guilty for abandoning her even though I hadn’t and I would force myself to act on that so she wouldn’t feel that way or feel like she wasn’t loved.

There are times when a parent has to know that less is more. There are times when a parent has to do the opposite of what the child has asked because it is in their best interest. And there are times when a parent has to know that it’s not about what is right or wrong, it’s about what is best even if best sucks monkey anus. As she told me that she has tried to go to detox twice, and she wanted to go back to recovery but was having a hard time. She had reserved her bed and cancelled it a few times but didn’t want to this time. I gave her encouragement. I told her I love her and I told her that could do this, and live the right way, but she is the only one that could do it. Our normal pattern would be for me to drop whatever I am doing to pick her up because for some unknown reason whenever she wants to leave where she is to go to detox she has to do it under the cover of mystery, leaving before the person she is with comes home, to bring her either home to my house to wait for a bed or directly to detox. I didn’t offer to pick her up. I was holding firm. I was standing my ground. I was not going to be deterred. And then she said. She said the words that always break me. They are not I need you Mom or I love you Mom or even I might die Mom. She said, I am terrified, Mom. Those words, for me, is like taking a bullet to the heart. No parent can hear that their kid is afraid and not want to hold their hand. It is ingrained in us as parents. For mothers it happens at conception, for fathers it happens as soon as they see their child, having to wait to have the bond we develop as the child grows in our womb.  It is against all that we know, it is against everything we learned from Dr. Spoke, our pediatrician and of course, Sesame Street.

I called her from my car. I was driving home from work, in the ever lovely evening rush-hour on 128 which is really code for Highway from Hell. With the phone pressed to my ear and ironically, Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins played in the background she said she was terrified. I put the phone to my chest for a brief moment. I had to take a moment to contain myself. If I didn’t hit pause, whatever came out of my mouth next would probably be wrong. My brain said go get her. Pull a U-ey at the next exit to turn around and head to Everett. But that is the same pattern again and again.  It’s wrong. Actually, it’s right. It’s right to do what felt wrong because wrong was right and I was only able to control myself. I can’t stop her from repeating her cycle, but I can stop myself from participating.  I can stop physically doing it, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t mentally do it. My voice said it’s scary because it’s a change and it’s a massive change. My voice said that she could do this and that she has done it before so she knows she can. My voice said that she would feel better if she could really, really live. And my voice told her that I loved her.

My mind was screaming go fucking get her you stupid dumb asshole. My mind was telling me that only a bad mother let’s her kid figure this out alone. My mind told me that only a bad person would hang up and finish driving home to make dinner, feed the new dogs, and my other regular evening duties.  My resolve was strong though none-the-less tortured. I never even mentioned I talked to JoDee until we were sitting down for dinner. I just casually mentioned that I had talked to her and she was going to treatment. I didn’t say much about it. I made it seem inconsequential because I know that’s how they want me to be.  The next day she text me that she was scared, that the person she was with had come home and she didn’t know if she could leave. I told her to do it different and tell him the truth instead of being sneaky because recovery was a good thing, not something to be ashamed about. She said she couldn’t do it, she would wait for him to leave. I reminded her that she is repeating the same patterns, and she told me she knew and would try to tell him. Later she text me that she was on her way but wouldn’t call me from detox. Are we at that point? Are we so far from each other that she felt she couldn’t call me if she wanted too? How did two people, two family members, a mother/daughter duo become so distant and broken that we can’t call each other randomly? What the hell happened to the days that she would call my 100 times a day for many reasons up to and including calling me to ask where the cat is? Ironically, that isn’t what happened, and life has a way of sticking in your ass when bend over to pick up a penny. And JoDee has a way of making things worse for herself. She is her own worst enemy.

Sometimes I don’t know whose life I am living. I feel like in my house, alone, I can be as disturbed and distraught about this life as I want too but when I leave the house I have to put on my Person Clothes. In my Person Clothes I look like the me everyone knows, and sees, and laughs with and I am normal.  In my Person Clothes I don’t look like the person that feels as though heroin has literally ruined my life. Why is that? Because I am terrified she won’t ever recover. I am terrified that I will bury her someday, and that someday will be sooner than later. I am terrified that her addiction problem has made me so cynical and jaded that I may never be able to see the world in a different way again. I am terrified that she won’t die but we will continue this cycle for the next 20 years and then she dies. I am terrified that she will have a stroke, and this time it will make her brain turn to mush leaving me with a completely handicapped child who will need constant care. I am terrified that if that happens I will resent her for making me suffer further for her addiction because I know myself so I will have to take care of her myself until I drop dead, that is if I out live her. I am terrified that she will never have a normal relationship with her siblings.  The truth is, she is not the only one that is terrified and I can’t really help either one of us.

 

 

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.

Helpful Hints, Tips, and Miscellany

The heroin crisis is only getting worse. People are dying everywhere. This is not just an East Coast thing, or a young person thing, or an ethnic thing. I know that when one group of people is targeted for something those not effected don’t pay attention. In fact, 30 years ago heroin was the leading illegal drug killer for black men ages 44-64. It wasn’t until it crept into the suburbs that anyone started paying attention. That alone pisses me off.  But, I am not going to get into that today.  Today I am going to spread the wealth of knowledge I have collected over the course of many years dealing with addiction.

Programs:

Nar-Non and Al-Anon are both good groups. Clearly Nar-Non offers more support and education with drug addiction then Al-Anon. To Nar-Non alcohol is a drug, in some Al-Anon programs they only talk about alcoholics. The Al-Anon groups I went to were very supportive of families dealing with drug addiction. Nar-Non groups are harder to come by, especially at convenient times.

Learn to Cope is mostly a Massachusetts program but it is a group worth looking into because they do offer an amazing on-line community. The support groups are for loved ones who have an addict suffering from opiod use. I have found that to be beneficial because I heard so many stories like mine that it helped me realize that JoDee wasn’t possessed by the devil (well, she is but that devil is heroin). This is more than just a support group. They offer resources and education about other programs and typically have an industry professional as a guest speaker.

There are multiple blogs (like mine) that offer different perspectives. And there are a number of on-line communities such as In the Room, PAL, and the drug addiction hotline Hazelton Betty Ford Clinic has a website that I have found helpful and informative.

Rules:

The things I didn’t do, but should have are listed below:

  1. Do not be trusting. Addicts will say things like they can’t believe we don’t trust them, or that we know them, and they wouldn’t lie to us but every single addict lies. If your child hasn’t stolen from you or hasn’t lied about where they are, it doesn’t mean they won’t or that you just haven’t caught them. No matter what, trust that everything they are saying is no true. If you are seeing changes in your child or loved one and they deny anything is wrong, don’t believe it. Addicts will have a lot of excuses but it’s important to see through them.
  2. Research programs. Just because a detox or rehab is near you, does not mean that it is the program for them. Educate yourself on methadone and suboxone and other drug replacement therapies to determine if that is the way your family should go. Some detox’s are better than others. Sometimes there is a way for them to find more drugs inside than outside. Find a program that has an after care, and potential parent groups too.
  3. Do not believe that detox is the miracle cure. It isn’t. No matter how good the program is there has to be willingness for the addict to get better or they won’t. Be ready for the unexpected.
  4. Find your own recovery. Just because an addict is going to stay in active addiction does not mean that you have too. Those meetings and support groups are clutch when things seem at their worst. Going to a support group does not mean you have to air your dirty laundry. If it doesn’t feel right, say nothing. AC and I went to so many meetings and I don’t think I ever really talked about JoDee or our situation. But sitting there listening to other peoples struggles gave me comfort. And hearing that their children did find recovery gave me hope. I won’t lie, sometimes they are depressing. No one says you have to go every day. Do what feels right.
  5. Don’t lose hope. It they are alive there is a chance they will find recovery. No matter how terrible things seem, they could change in an instant. No one knows when that ah-ha moment is going to strike an addict. Maybe it never does, but maybe it does.
  6. Don’t enable them. Balancing our own recovery, keeping hope and holding our bottom lines are very delicate. Try not to set yourself up for failure. There is no way to stay positive all the tie, or keep hope alive everyday or hold your bottom line when the addict asks you so many times and no is hard to say the first time, never mind 200 times. Be ready to give yourself a break and know that if you cave in and give them money, or a place to sleep for the night, or allow them to get their clothes out of your house when you said you wouldn’t, forgive yourself. No one can be strong all the time. I can’t be strong a fraction of the time. At the end of the day you have to be able to look in the mirror and see your own face, not the face of regret. So do what is best for you.
  7. Reject the lies and manipulation. Our addicts have lost their mind, literally, and with it their moral compass. They will be mean and angry and ugly and hateful. Do your best to not take this personally. It is so hard to do and sometimes you may just want to punch their face in but don’t bother, I have tried that and it doesn’t work. It’s best to just ignore them.
  8. Look around, and recognize that you are not in this by yourself. Even if you have a spouse or a best friend or a person, it doesn’t mean they will always feel the same way you do, and that can be extremely lonely. You aren’t alone. You are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone. And more importantly, this is not your fault. So don’t isolate. Call a friend, go to a movie, and take a cake decorating class. Learn from my mistakes, I basically hermit-ed myself in my house for a few years but that is no good. Do something that isn’t drug related. Stay connected to the people with normal lives. You know non-drug addict lives. It’s refreshing to socialize so to forget, even for a little while, that life is worth living.
  9. Don’t be afraid to do the thing you said you would never do. I once told myself I would never have JoDee sectioned and now I have done it four times. I said that I would never put myself in compromising situations as a result of her drug addiction and I have had encounters with drug dealers that involved my having a golf club (I am not suggesting anyone else should do that) . There are no limits a person will go to try to save their loved one, but that also means saying no. Don’t be afraid to say no. Even if it’s painful. Not being afraid to do the thing you said you would never do may be leaving your kid stranded somewhere because you simply can’t help anymore.
  10. Eat dinner together. Even if you never did the whole family at the table for dinner routine before, do it now. Or make everyone have breakfast together one day a week. Find a way for all of you to stay connected. It is so easy to push aside the family members that are not addicts. Addicts demand so much attention even though they don’t really deserve it. Ignoring my other duties and family members is something that haunts me now, but I make an effort to connect with all the other kids on a regular basis. And connecting means talking to them about them, not about what JoDee did or where she is or what she is going to do. It means letting them know I am listening and interested in their lives. I am present. And listening. It used to be hard. I would always be so invested in JoDee’s recovery that it felt like I lost interest in parenting anyone else. It was work to bring my focus back, but it can be done, and I did it.

 

 

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.