The Stages of Loving an Addict

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

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

The Parent of an Addict Loving Themselves:

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

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

An Addict Loving Themselves:

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

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

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

 

Siblings Loving an Addict:

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

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

 

 

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Magnolia, Process, and a Flawed System

 

This is the story of one young man’s willingness to get help, and the three women with the determination to find him that help. Picture it: The year was 2017, the month June. Three women with no prior relationship or association are brought together by the sheer desperation of one young man. It all started with a young girl. That young girl saw that her boyfriend needed help. He was going down a bad path and it was terrifying to watch. She turned to the one person everyone turns to in their hour of need: her mother.  Let’s call her Karen. Karen and her daughter sought advice on how to get treatment for this young man by someone who had been through it more times than she cared to discuss: me.  They wanted to know how to get him help, where to go, what to say, who to tell and what they should expect. The young man’s situation was sad. Parents that had trouble of their own, and his feeling like he is floundering through life. Karen took him under her wing and was willing to do whatever it took to help him. I gave them the information I had, and I told them I would help however I could  but when they left my house I felt sad for them. I know what it is like to be at the beginning of this journey preparing to discover the world of addiction.

 

A few weeks later I received a call from Karen saying that he was willing to go to treatment but she didn’t know what the next step is. This is where everything became a mess. For me, I was the parent. I was JoDee’s mother and it made it easier for me to drag her to the hospital for medical clearance, to call insurance companies, to call detoxes for her and eventually pack her drugged-up ass to deposit at a facility. That challenge is exaggerated 100% when the child is not your own. With her own child in crisis, Karen managed to get him to the hospital for medical clearance. Of course, nothing is ever easy. He was discharged with the hospital telling him that he wasn’t “addicted enough” to meet the protocol for detox. He didn’t have enough drugs in his system, and cocaine didn’t qualify for detox. Imagine? Sorry, son, your drug habit isn’t bad enough. Go out and fuck up your life worse and then come back for help. For some reason helping an addict before they are at the brink of death is frowned upon.

 

Undaunted Karen did not give up. She fought with the hospital, she argued with the social worker and as a last resort she called me. It infuriates me that an addict has to have a village of people in his corner to get help. It is infuriating that this boy would have left the hospital to go home to a questionable environment because he wouldn’t have known how to fight for or ask for more help without having people in his corner to tell him how to do it. So, I did the only thing I know how to do when looking for a bed in a crisis- called the people that helped me with JoDee. I immediately reached out to two individuals whose organizations have helped JoDee many times, Nicole White from The Process Recovery and Matt Ganem from Banyan Recovery Center . Neither of them could take his insurance (which is another whole nightmare) but they put me in touch with organizations that could. Nicole gave me the number of a Maureen Cavanaugh with Magnolia New Beginnings.

 

Magnolia is a non-profit organization that offers many different services and much needed help navigating through the recovery world. Founded by Maureen, this organization provides something invaluable- understanding. As a parent that has tried to maneuver the landmines of insurance companies, case managers, detoxes, rehab and all the different agencies I can tell you I wished I had this service. It is impossible to know what to do. Finding out your child is an addict is heartbreaking and shocking and there is no time to take a moment to let it sink in.  Magnolia New Beginnings is designed to help the addicts find treatment, with scholarships for programs not otherwise available to them and by working with other programs like Process for continued care. It also provides support services for family members.  Rise Above, a sober living program with multiple locations, works with Magnolia to assist addicts with scholarships on move-in fees and weekly rent if they financially qualify. Process and Banyan both provide recovery programs that are abstinence and 12-step program based. Both are residential programs with the idea of continued recovery in mind aiding in transitioning an addict back into society.

 

Over the next twenty four hours, while Karen managed inpatient help for her daughter, the three of us text or called each other at least a million times exploring every avenue possible for a bed for him. I am pretty sure between the three of us we called ever detox or dual diagnosis unit in Massachusetts. The young man was losing hope and getting more desperate as the time went by with no bed. He was emotional, distraught and questioning a system that made it so difficult for someone to get help. His exact words were “it shouldn’t be this hard”. He is right. But a flawed system is what we had to deal with and it is the only system we have.  Karen and Maureen made an incredible team not wavering until he was head in a bed. We all know it is up to him now, and only he can write the future but I was honored and grateful to be part of a network that truly moves mountains to help someone in need. Before he needed help I didn’t know either of these women, but now I think they are my new BFF’s.

 

For information on any of the organizations mentioned in this post, or to make a donation (Magnolia is completely volunteer staff. Donations go to help addicts with scholarships, treatment and family support services), please click the links below:

 

http://www.time2riseabove.com/about_us

 

https://www.banyanmass.com/

 

http://www.magnolianewbeginnings.org/

The Things

The things most parents say:

Get up.

Brush your teeth.

Get dressed.

Don’t miss the bus.

Don’t be late for school.

Tie your shoe.

Read a book.

Are you hungry? Are you sick?

Are you happy?

Don’t worry.

Don’t lie to me.

I love you.

I love you too.

I miss you.

Knock before you come in.

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

I can’t hear you, I’m in the shower.

Can it wait until I am done showering?

Empty the dishwasher.

Fold the towels.

Walk the dog.

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

Finish your homework.

Bush your teeth.

Go to bed.

 

Things most parents of an addict say:

 

Did you use today?

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

Don’t buy from people you don’t know.

No, I won’t give you money.

I will buy you food.

You look like shit.

You look so good.

How long have you been clean?

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

You seriously think I’m dumb.

Don’t lie to me.

No, you can’t come home.

No, you can’t come for Easter.

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

Are you sick?

Don’t leave detox.

Go back to detox.

Don’t leave rehab.

Go back to rehab.

You are going to die.

I want to punch your face.

I love you and I’m scared.

I can’t talk to you.

I need to talk to you.

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

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I can’t do this anymore.

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

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

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

Committed: Recovery, Gardens and Family

The sun beats down on my back as I am kneeling in the dirt cursing the weeds that keep coming back. They are relentless. I have tried all of the tricks of the trade: homemade weed killer, pulling weeds in the middle of the night, when the dirt is dry, after watering, standing on my head while burping jelly-beans, but nothing works. The soil is rich and bountiful since the land was once an onion farm many, many years ago but someone spent many more years covering that farm rich soil up to grow grass. It has taken me several seasons to develop the perfect rectangle in the ground and most of the it is weed free, but the one area that continues to grow year after year is my nemesis. Well, the used to be my nemesis. Now, I am grateful for them.

 

My kitchen faces the back of my house directly into my garden deliberately. While I am washing dishes I love looking out at the butterflies attracted to the marigolds, and the bees pollinating my cucumbers. The blots of red from my tomato plants add a deep color to the mass of green vines and leaves. I am often standing in that exact spot trying to determine the items I will use in that evening’s supper. It’s beautiful, and knowing that the fruits of my labor will nourish my family is an added bonus. One particular day, late in the season, I noticed the last of the tomatoes had ripened, and were ready to be picked. The butternut squash was looking fantastic and on schedule for harvest in another few months and my second harvest of potatoes was almost ready. The flowers were gone and the plants were beginning to wilt, a sure sign that the tubers were ready when the phone broke my concentration.

 

When a person is staring at such a beautiful part of the earth, a part that she herself had helped create, she should not be disturbed by a phone call that will change her life forever. That is what happened to me. Drying my hands off on a nearby dish towel I answered the phone to be told that my daughter has jumped a wall in the middle of the night to runaway from a rehab in Arizona. There is nothing a person can do to prepare for that, and I was not prepared, at all. In the years since that day, we have many escapes and many near death experiences. She should be dead now, by all rights, but she continues to live another day. That first season the garden was all but forgotten about. My husband had been mowing the lawn at the time. The whole winter the lawn mower stayed right where he turned it off. The tomatoes rotten on the vine, and the potatoes under the earth. The butternut squash ripened to harvest and eventually froze to the ground decomposing the following spring. In the beginning getting out of bed was all I could manage some days. The garden seemed like a chore. I lost the love and the desire to watch things develop from seed to life. It felt as though the very opposite thing was happening to my daughter. She was slowly dismantling herself and her life. Killing herself. The drug was the weed that was strangling the life out of her and there was nothing I could do to stop it or help her. It was worse than that. It was like having powdery mildew sweep through the whole garden, and nothing we tried made it better or clear up. It was just a disease that kept on spreading.

 

It wasn’t just the outside garden that suffered either. My house plants wilted with neglect and my other children sulked around rarely showing their face out of their rooms. My Christmas Cactus never bloomed that year and the Wandering Jew I had for almost ten years on the mantel over the fireplace began to lose leaves and turn brown. Eventually we figured out how to bring life back to our lives. It isn’t an easy process. It is so difficult to commit to a life lived with an addict. It makes life unpredictable and scary. Even the strongest of people, even the people stick to their boundaries still live with the emotion attached to it. Not being in contact with the addict does not ease the pain or the depression or the misery of all that it entails but eventually it becomes just another part of the family dynamic.  Her addiction is like that patch of garden that keeps growing weeds. I won’t stop pulling them, and I won’t stop trying to figure out how to get rid of them for good, but I refuse to let it rock my commitment to the rest of the garden. I make sure I water the eggplant, and trim the herbs to encourage new growth. I snip roses putting them in vases all around the house so we can relish in their sweet scent and I take time to sit back to admire the work I have done.

 

That sounds easy, doesn’t it? To someone on the outside, that sounds like an easy thing. Pick the weed, accept it will grow back and move on. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It is a commitment. It is a commitment to myself and my family. I didn’t want to sell my house to buy a new house without JoDee being clean and able to be with us. I procrastinated as long as I could but it didn’t happen. I haven’t planned a family vacation yet for the summer because there is no way she can come with us. But I have to do it. The rest of the kids, my husband and I, work hard all year and we deserve the down time with each other. This is a real commitment. Every morning while I shower I allow myself to sulk and moan and question why this happened to me, and my daughter, and my family. By the time I dry off, brush my teeth and am dressed for the day I have to commit to putting it behind me until the same time the next day. Allowing the weeds to strangle me would only spoil the whole garden.

 

At this point with JoDee we are in a holding pattern. She says she is clean, but her patterns haven’t changed. Not working, watching Netflix, letting others take care of her is not going to make the weeds stop growing but I can’t preach that. At this point no one can. She knows what she has to do. She knows how to do it but she has to have the desire to do it. That is something that cannot be taught, or given, or explained. It has to come from her. And the first thing she would have to do is admit she still has a problem. She would have to admit that she is in denial because being drug free is not the same as living a clean life, weed-free* life.

 

 

*Weed as it relates to the garden, not a reference or innuendo for pot. Get your mind out of the gutter people.

Ignore and Concur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did You Just Hear Yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

Nurse Jackie

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

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

SPOILER ALERT:

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

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

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

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

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

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