Tough Questions

Tough Questions
I am really getting reflective as the year comes to an end.  It has been a really hard year. Not that any of the others weren’t hard, because for the last 5 years have been very difficult as a whole.  I have spent much of these five years questioning many things including my sanity.  It’s hard not to doubt yourself as a person when you’re watching your child fail at life.  I can recite verbatim the information parents are given about addiction not being our fault, and that it’s a brain disease and that often parenting and environment have a slight factor on addiction. I’m not sure I believe all those facts. I imagine a child raised in a shooting den would have a more likely chance of being an addict then a child born in the suburbs. If for no other reason that children tend to follow in their parents footsteps. For that reason I believe that environment plays a bigger factor and that under privileged neighborhoods need more drug prevention resources and support.
I also believe that indirectly environment plays a big factor. A child can be raised in the most supportive and functional atmospheres yet still die on a cold bench with a tourniquet and a needle. Mental health plays such an important role.  Mental health encompasses so much more than ones mental ability or stability.  Experience and station in life are also important. If a child of a preacher is afraid to tell h/her parents they are gay, it will be detrimental to their mental health. If a child is abused by a relative or neighbor when they were young but never spoke up or even if they did but didn’t work through the trauma, they will seek out a way to calm the feelings inside.  If a family of Doctors expects their artistic child to follow in their footsteps instead of going to art school that child will grow resentful and distance themselves, sometimes in the form of drugs not miles.
It is difficult to hear anyone bashing an addict of any kind because no one really knows how that person came to be. How did that person end up on the street? In the gutter? With no teeth or hair? With pickled skin and thinking delays that make it hard to form a sentence? I can’t begin to work out the ways in which life is lost while still living while simultaneously receiving zero sympathy or empathy from society.  So my difficult question is how can that change? How can an entire society see things from a different perspective?  When someone starts smoking, especially in the last 20 years, they are well aware of the likelihood of getting lung cancer. Or any cancer really. No one ever says that a lung cancer patient deserves whatever they got. I know some people never smoke a day in their lives yet still get cancer. Isn’t that the same with addicts post injury? Those addicts followed the advice of physicians until their bodies because dependent on a drug that they supply, i.e. the physician, cuts off when they decide it’s no longer warranted.
Sometimes I believe it is the little big syndrome. I probably made that name up but often people have to make others feel little so they can feel big. If I talk about how terrible someone else is it is in effect saying that I am better than them.  I’m sure that many of those that have hurtful and awful things to say about addicts have their own skeletons in the closet. This sort of redirect will certain assure them that those skeletons are not nearly as bad as the person targeted.

One of the toughest questions I ask myself is why does this keep happening? Why is anyone picking up a drug now? We all know the consequences. No one is immune. No one is unkillable, undeathable, invinsible.  The reason that no one knows the answer to that question is because they are looking for the wrong one. We can not solve drug addiction, but we can solve or try to prevent the problems that lead to drug addiction. The system in place shuffles addicts from one program to another, shoving drug facts and 12-step literature down their throat. Families, like mine, do everything in their power to help the addict put the drug down. But the problem started long before an addict picked up that drug. And without the proper information,  understanding of the reasons the addiction developed we are simply keeping embers from burning into flames, but they are always smoldering

My last and hardest question I ask myself is why, as this weekend begins which should be the celebration of her birth, the day to honor her coming into the world, a day to spent with her mother, and son, and sister, are we mourning the loss of a beautiful soul. Why are they planning final service arrangements and telling her son she will never come home? Why is my wonderful friend looking at life mothering her grandchild while grieving the loss of her own child? Why did this happen to a family that I know has fought with everything they had, and done everything they could? I don’t understand why a wonderful mother and friend is crying an endless river of tears and afraid to close her eyes because of the image that haunts her dreams. Brittany was an immeasurable asset to the world. She had more to offer than her addiction allowed which now will never be realized. When a life is lost it is a tragedy. When a life is lost for something so senseless and preventable it is a travesty. When society points fingers and makes the victim of said travesty a villain by means of nasty comments, judgments, alienation and dismissal it is a perversion for all humanity.  Remembering Brittany for anything other than the beautiful, amazing and giving soul she was is a crime

In loving memory of Brittany Michele Medlin 12/17/1989-12/14/2016

 

 

via Discover Challenge: Tough Questions

Thanksgiving Five Millions and Forty Two

…since finding out JoDee was an addict. At least it feels like that. The first Thanksgiving she was missing in Arizona. Actually, she was no longer missing that’s for sure.  The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I was pouting in a bath tub with hot enough water to turn my skin into the same shade red as my OPI nail color called Red My Fortune Cookie while my phone was ringing endlessly on my kitchen table. By the time I decided to not drown myself, and got out of the water I had missed 4 calls. I was in the full throes of hysteria when she called back. Anyone following this blog knows how that turned out. Cliff Notes Version: Paid a drug dealer a ransom to get her a ride to my Uncle. Said Uncle showed up packing heat and ready to shoot the face off any loser who tried something funny. And Thanksgiving morning he deposited her on a plane back to Boston. At midnight-ish AC, Daddy-O and I went to the airport to pick her up.  Also, side note: it was also the week I got my favorite of all time kitty, Diego. My soul mate. My love. My….oh ha ha just kidding….

The following Thanksgiving was different but not by much. She was using, barely awake for dinner and I wanted to punch her face off while wrapping her in a blanket to hold on my lap. The year after that JoDee had run from a program the weeks before and was staying in a sober house that I said I would not pay for her to get into and then, like a suckah, caved in and paid. She was doing well. She seemed to be doing well. She spent the whole day with us smiling and being wonderful. We played music and had a fire in the pit in the yard. We played games and laughed and really had a good time as a family which is something we don’t get very often. It didn’t take that long to fall apart, however. By Christmas she was nasty and hostile. Clearly was using but trying hard to hide it. We still spent Christmas together but shortly after that we had JoDee sectioned which was a miserable heart wrenching yet relieving day. I won’t get into that.

Last Thanksgiving JoDee showed up late and high but I could tell she used just enough to get by. Something I should have recognized at the time. I should have seen that she was trying to be with us. I should have seen that her using just enough to keep from getting sick meant that being with us was important to her too.  But, that is not what happened. My grandmother was with us and having her watch JoDee with the heavy eyelids made me so effing angry. I was furious. I was embarrassed for her which also made me resent her.  So, I yelled at her. I made her leave. I told her she couldn’t be with us. The look of hurt on her face is something I still see when I close my eyes. She was embarrassed and humiliated and deflated and mad. It’s one of the things I will never forgive myself for. My grandmother got upset, she ran out, the kids were frozen in place. It was awful.  And I know she called the disgusting old man (I hate to use that word because he is no man) whom she stayed with for several days. She turned her phone off because she was mad at me. The Friday after Thanksgiving AC and I tried to have her sectioned. It took us forever to get them to issue the warrant. The police went to the house she was at, that I knew she was at because I was literally, LITERALLY, stalking the house, and knocked on the door. She answered the door smiling denying she was herself and they said ok have a good day, leaving her there.  That was not a good time for me. I don’t think I got out of bed or showered until I had to return to work on Monday.

This Thanksgiving, well this one, it has to be different. I know that it is still several days away so I am breaking my own rule by talking about it because I am going to jinx it. However, I feel moderately comfortable (actually I will cross fingers, knock on wood and throw salt over my shoulder just as a precaution) talking about it. Or writing about it. As a family we still have a lot going on. Moving, preparing to have my grandmother come to live with us, end of year approaching for work, etc, etc.  For that reason, amongst more that I can’t even put into words, I am flipping Thanksgiving upside down.  There will be no cooking a Turkey Dinner. There will be none of me slaving over a stove for a stupidly long time for everyone to eat in 15 min and then retire to the nearest sleeping spot.  This Thanksgiving I am going to show that I am truly grateful this year. The year was tough. We had some really low, low’s. Some heart breaking moments.  The year is looking as though it might end for the better. Maybe the best we have had in our family in a long time.  One month from now we will be moving into a bigger house, enough room for us all to stretch out and a separate in-law for my grandmother to have her own space. And most important, JoDee is doing well. She is over 30 days clean. She is grateful and remorseful and humble.  She is writing letters and taking responsibility for her actions. She admits she is not in control.  She has said and expressed things she hasn’t in 5 years. One of which is that she hadn’t realized how much time had passed. She was shocked when she really put together the number of years we have been tortured by her addiction.

Let’s be clear, shall we? She is not “all better”. She is doing well, and we are cautiously optimistic but that doesn’t mean we can relax or let our guard down. It just means that she is on a different path. One I hope she stays on. And I am so grateful for that.  For that reason, AC, the kids and I are going to do something else. We are going to be doing something different then we have in previous years. Hopefully something that brings us and others some joy. Hopefully the family isn’t to annoyed with me when they find out just what I got them into!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me and mine.

XOXO

Morning Drive

IThis morning I decided to finally bring JoDee some clothes. She has been at the program for a little while now and she has called asking a few times. Each time I sort of blew her off but she sounded really good the last time I talked to her. I bought her some sweatpants, a sweatshirt and socks which AC then washed and packed. I was apprehensive to say the least. Namely, I was afraid going there was going to jinx it so this was the thoughts and sometimes actually talking out loud to myself that happened in the ride from my house to the drop off location:

Shit, I’m going to be late. I’m going to be late for work. I don’t even know where I am going. Oh, GPS.

Lady, don’t cut me off and drive slow. Hello? Do you have a gas pedal? It’s a GREEN light. (Beeps horn) DRIVE. (While passing her) Oh nice. Baby in the back and a phone in your hand. Why am I not surprised? BAD MOTHER.

(receive text from Jay J and pick up phone) Shit, I’m a hypocrite. Shit. Ok fine, she isn’t a bad mother. Wait, I don’t have a kid in my car. Oh lovely, pull into dunks with your head buried in your phone to load your kid on sugar. Oh, don’t be so judgmental. I suck.

Damn it I need gas. When did that light come on? Was it on yesterday? Did I need gas yesterday? There will be a gas station on 114.

Shit. GPS is taking me off 114. There must be a gas station around here somewhere. Why is there no gas station? Hello don’t people in this town need gas? What kind of non-gas-needing towns people live here? Omg this is ridiculous. I am going to run out of gas. That will be humiliating. Again. Oh- I can ask that guy where there is a gas station (start to slow down). Oh my god that guy looks like Hannibal Lector! Jesus he will probably cut my eye lids off and feed them to that mangy looking dog. Fuck.

No! Is my car stalling? Shit no. Ok. Still going. This sucks. I just got my license fixed from all of JoDee’s tickets and now I have to get gas too? What more does the Universe want from me? I am only one woman! Oh good, a gas station.

What the hell kind of rusty, crusty, dusty ass gas station is this that it doesn’t let me pay at the pump! Of course. Uh oh. This must be full service….. (hops back in, put window down). Christ on a cracker I am drunk. I am drunk off that mans breath. I will fail a field sobriety test right now. Jesus Mother of God.

Who is calling me from a Danvers number? Shit, the school. Jared did what? No. No he did not say he admired Alexander the Great for chopping off people’s noses and ears. Wow. No words for that one. Crap.

Ok I’m here. Here I am. There are a ton of people outside. I don’t see JoDee. If she ran away I will kill her. She ran away. I know she did. I will effing kill her. I knew it. She isn’t here.

Oh. My. God. She looks amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me calling AC: You guys worry for nothing. She looked great and is doing well. Have some faith.

AC: I’m hanging up.

Candles

Not very long ago I read a story about a husband and wife whose only child ran away. At the time, they had no idea she was addicted to drugs. I can’t remember her drug of choice but it really doesn’t matter anyway, I don’t think. The family just woke up one day and she was gone. She packed a bag with some childish mementos that only a teenager would think of to cherish instead of life-providing essentials.  A favorite stuffed teddy bear, a foam finger from a basketball game she went to with her grandfather, some jewelry, make up and clothes.  Her toothbrush was left behind as was her hairbrush and it didn’t appear as though she took any food or water bottles or even a blanket.  Of course the family began a frantic search for her but she was long gone. The truth is if someone doesn’t want to be found they won’t be. I can tell you that first hand with my experiences with JoDee.  Honestly, the FBI or Center for Exploited Children could learn mad skills from a mother on the hunt for her child. We pull stops no one else will if it means finding our kid.  Sometimes even a mother’s detective skills aren’t good enough.

For this family, they posted flyers and put up billboards and went on their local news. I don’t remember exactly where this was, somewhere in the mid-west, but it never really got national headlines because she ran away not abduction. Let’s face it, a kid running away really isn’t interesting. The great people of America like the highest degree of tragedy.  A missing baby makes for better ratings than a runaway teenager.  The family was convinced she would turn up dead if she wasn’t found and truthfully, I assumed she would too.  The story went on about the efforts the family made to find her. A tip line they had set up gave them leads in many different directions which sadly the family chased.  I watched them as days turned to months turn to years.  I felt myself lucky that my kid would show up after being gone for several weeks at a time.  I knew what states she went missing in (Arizona, Florida, and California) even though I didn’t know the exact place she was. It was easier for me to call police stations and hospitals in the general vicinity. Addiction has tormented me as a parent for years. Five years to be exact. But not knowing where your child is for years and years has to be tortured to a whole new level. Unimaginable.

In the end, the girl was not dead. After nearly 10 years on the run she stumbled into a shelter looking ragged and miserable. A fatherly-esque man that was running the shelter took a special interest in helping her get well.  He kept encouraging her to call home. The girl felt that she had been gone so long, and made her family suffer so much that she would not be able to show up at home.  As a parent, the man tried to convince her that no matter what that parents love you anyway.  Blah, blah, blah it was all very after-school-special and on a rainy and cold night the screen panned to her in a phone booth, with the father-esque man making a call to her family. The man told the father that he knew his daughter and she wanted to come home. The man hesitated. To the silence in the phone, the man said to her father, she will be in your area next week. If you want her to come home leave a candle in the window.  If there is a candle in the window lit, she will know she can come through the door. If there is no candle, then she will know that she has been gone too far. Dead to her family and truly alone, she will move on.  It seemed sort of morbid and cruel. The poor kid had to wait until she got there to know if her family accepted her. I couldn’t imagine how scary that must have been but then I realized it was probably nothing compared to living on the street for ten years.

My immediate thought was that I would have been screaming in the phone let come get her right now. But that is what I did when JoDee first went missing. I would jump and run and abandoned my own life to pick her up off of whatever floor she had fallen on. After five years, I left her in a park to sleep as a homeless bum. I couldn’t do it anymore. I could not make her addiction my consequence any longer. Not picking her up forced her to make some difficult decisions, that I’m not prepared to talk about yet (refer back to previous blogs about being Jinxed).  So maybe by the time ten years had passed I would seriously have to think about whether I would let her come home. I couldn’t judge the parents. There must have been many factors to consider especially since that call came out of the blue so randomly.  I suffered through a zillion commercials, the road trip the man and the girl took to get to her parents house.  They imagined many different scenarios and several times the girl lost her nerve trying to make the man stop or turn around. He stayed steadfast and eventually, they pulled into her home town at very early hours of the morning.  To make the suspense build up, the parked around the corner, as she told stories of her childhood, pondering what made her take such a wrong turn. More commercials and just when the viewer, namely me, thought this is bullshit I’m going to change the channel, the beat up Nova turned the corner to the girls childhood home. The house was lit up with a candle in every window. Christmas candle lights surrounding the front door. On the lawn it was so bright it could have been noon even though it was surrounded by the very dark pre-dawn hours.  It was touching. Heartwarming. A real feel good moment.   She walked happily into her house into the arms of her loving parents, who embraced her with open arms.  It ended with them living happily ever after.

Bullshit.

There is no happily ever after. There is after, and it can be happy but it isn’t that simple. The unbridled anger and abandonment and let down don’t go away because a child comes home. For a moment, you are happy to see them, and there is some time of euphoria. But it wears off. It goes away. Reality comes to visit to remind you that in fact, your child is still an addict. You must hide the meds in the house, nail down anything of value, and question everything that comes out of their mouth. As time goes on I assume that fades a little but we have never had enough recovery time in our story for me to know that.  JoDee had seven months clean once.  After six months I was feeling better but always worried, and with good reason. Before the eighth month broke down she had relapsed.  I know long term recovery can happen. I know it could happen to JoDee. I know she has to want it more than I do. So far, no one has wanted it more than I have. It’s impossible to say when the after comes or when it will become happy.  I know it will never be like the after-school-special kind of way the show inferred. I would like to ask the family it represented what their happily ever after actually meant.  How long did it take them to get there? Are they still happy? Is there ever still after? I guess I will just wait to find out.

 

**Apparently I jinxed it anyway went I talked about JoDee at dinner with friends last week. At the time this was originally written she was doing well in a program. Saturday at midnight I got a call that she left treatment. Currently I don’t know where she is.