An Open Letter to My Daughter

Visit with Ashley

Love this picture! So her.

Dear Ashley,

When I read your posts, I am always struck by your honesty and willingness to put out in the world what your struggles, and that of many suffering addiction, have been through.  Your last posting on “Heroin” was particularly poignant and you know this because I texted you immediately upon reading it.

It was your opening sentence.  “The first time I ever did heroin I was nineteen years old.”  I was at rehearsal for the radio show and wandered away so I could be alone and read what you had written.  All I could hear in my head was, “She was nineteen.  Nineteen.  How did I not know??”

No matter how many times we talk, no matter how many times we discuss how much you were able to hide from me, and no matter how grounded I can feel most of the time, the question never completely stops haunting me.  I texted you immediately.

ME:  “19 huh?  I remember you telling me not long before I learned you did heroin, (which was in your late 20’s to my knowledge), how proud you were you had never done it. And you had.  Ha!  Next blog by momma.  Love you.”

  ASH: “I think I was referring to never having shot heroin.  Honestly, I don’t think it was an intentional lie.”

  ME: “May not have been.  Interestingly, I took it as you had never done it and felt relief.  Oh, the things we learn!”

I felt relief because at that point, was it four or five years now, I thought if she had not done heroin there was hope in a way I had not yet felt.  For some reason, if you had not done heroin, maybe things were bad but not so bad there was no chance of a full recovery.  You see, I was, and still am, learning about addiction.

Often we talk before posting.  Not to change the substance of our posts but to make sure we have grammar and thoughts completed.  We had not had the opportunity to do that on this one so my reactions were raw and I don’t think that was a bad thing.  It was just a bit different.

It made me think again about recovery centers and sober living homes… how I thought you were safe when there but I suppose you were only as safe as you allowed yourself to be.  I also thought you were safe when you went to meetings.  I thought you were safe in high school when I took you to mandated drug counseling and was part of those sessions.  My naivete is so glaring now.  Those have turned out to be some of the “best” places for people to find the drugs they crave.

The time at the beach when you found your boyfriend unresponsive still can haunt me.  I liked him.  Still do and am extremely happy for him and his family as to how well he is doing in recovery now.  Yet when I think of how you were screaming for help and people were standing by watching, not helping, it still turns my stomach.  Your being met at the hospital with hostility and cruelty is not one I fault anyone for but it makes me wonder about the manner in which the ER dealt with this particular crisis.  I know addicts are people who break our hearts over and over and I also know the addict is not the child I raised.  My child is a very different creature when on drugs.

I have known for awhile about your stealing from work.  That phone conversation was another heart stopper.  We were talking about your making amends and about the meeting you were having with your former employers.  I was stunned at how much money you had stolen.  Absolutely stunned.  I am the person who remembers, at about 4 or 5 years of age,  taking a piece of bubblegum from a store.  The guilt was so awful, even at that age, that I remember sneaking it back into the store.  I could not fathom stealing so much for any reason.  You see, I was still learning about the difference between you, my daughter, and you, the addict.

Terrifying to know that when you told them about the theft, you could have been arrested and sent to jail.  Terrified but also proud you were doing what was necessary for your recovery and being ready to take responsibility for your actions.  But still terrified at the thought of you in jail.  Or should I be saying prison?  That was a boatload of money.  To this day, I am aware of how fortunate you were that your act was met with forgiveness.

Over the years, I have learned that to be a supportive parent to you, I have to take care of myself. I still have a husband, son, daughter-in-law, family, friends and interests which I need in my life.  If I don’t work at remaining whole, I can’t be here for you.

Now with the attention on the opioid crisis, I feel we are a team.  Our goal is to tell our story as honestly as we can.  To help others in their struggles as individuals with an addiction and those of us who love those people. We are trying to find our place, to make our voices heard somewhere so that the stigma of addiction can be eradicated.  We are together in wanting our loved ones to walk out into the light of day not ashamed that this is happening in our families and to our friends. It is nothing of which to be ashamed.

I am so very proud of you.  You have an inner strength that I always knew you possessed but you never seemed aware of it.  You are now.  You are always willing to share your personal struggles with others who may be detoxing, recovering, and relapsing as well as people I have asked you to contact.  You have been willing to write or talk to parents who need to see through the eyes of a recovering addict what their sons and daughters may be experiencing.

We may be just a very tiny piece of this but at least we are present.  As Glennon Melton Doyle always says, we are showing up.

I love you.

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroin

The first time I ever did heroin I was nineteen years old. I was living in a house with my boyfriend and his band and all the band members significant others. I believe there were eleven of us in a 5-bedroom house. It was a blast! We had parties we had shows and we had drugs. At one point the drummer of the band allowed a homeless man to sleep on our couch in exchange for little baggies of China White heroin. I was appalled at the idea of this. However, not too appalled to avoid trying it.  The first time  I snorted a line I remember laying down on my bed afterwards. I felt like a frog slowly swimming through warm water. I felt like I could do anything and everything all at once while doing nothing at all. I snorted a couple lines here and there for about two weeks. One day my boyfriend at the time and I decided to flush all that we had left down the toilet. We did not want to get addicted. That was the first time I did heroin.

The second time was nearly ten years later…in rehab. A friend of mine snuck black tar heroin up onto the mountain where our treatment center was. She taught me how to smoke it off of tin foil with a pen and a lighter. I wasn’t very good at it and she was a bit frustrated; I kept on sucking it up into the pen. However, the effect was the same and I knew I liked it.

A couple months later when I was at sober living with many peers I had met through treatment (my friends and roommates).  A group of them relapsed on heroin. Although I didn’t want to do it I felt like I should want to do it because after all, I’m an addict.  It’s hard to explain and I know it sounds crazy.  I bullied them into sharing with me. I smoked heroin with my friend for about a week and a half. One day my boyfriend at the time, who I had met in treatment, had called me and told me he knew what I was doing and to pick some up for him.  He was very aggressive. I was almost scared. He talked me through how to purchase needles at a drugstore. And he yelled at me when I tried to back out.  So, I did what he asked. I never wanted to disappoint him.  If I am being honest, I would have disappointed myself-I knew I wanted to try it probably as much as he wanted to do it again.  That night my boyfriend, my friend and I all gathered in his truck and he shot me up for my first time. I immediately leaned out of the car and vomited. And this proceeded for the next nine hours.  I was puking uncontrollably. My friend and my boyfriend were fine and actually did two more shots each. I, however, was so sick. The crux of the situation is, between puking, I was super stretchy. I could do the splits for the first time since I was 10. I could do a back walkover for the first time since the fire. I felt Euphoria between the nausea. And although I hated the puking, I loved the high.

The next morning, however, boyfriend and I knew we had made a mistake. We met in his truck at 6 a.m. to go throw the rest of our dope into the ocean.   When we got there he said he wanted to just do one more shot because he felt sick. And the thought of doing one more shot made me sick so, I left and set up on the beach. He was supposed to be right behind me but didn’t show up. I started to get angry and when I called he wasn’t answering his phone.  I angrily started storming back to his truck. When I got to him I opened the passenger door and saw that he was blue. He was covered in sweat but wasn’t sweating anymore. His eyes were wide open but he wasn’t blinking. And his chest was not moving. I started screaming for help. Immediately, I called 911. They directed me to pull him out the side of the truck and lay him flat and then walked me through CPR. It was not easy for me to pull the six-foot-one, 140 lb man out of a truck. But I don’t even remember struggling with it. I was sobbing as I performed CPR waiting for the paramedics to arrive. Eventually one of the people JUST STANDING BY WATCHING walked up and put his hand on my back and told me to calm down and to just let go. Luckily, I didn’t. Paramedics showed up and resuscitated him with a Narcan shot. I rode in the front seat of the ambulance where I was met with hostility and cruelty I didn’t understand at the time.  Now I regrettably can not fault them for it. We addicts are, as I’ve said before, heartbreaking people. I stayed with him at the hospital.  I had to call his mother and tell her what had happened. The fear in her voice scared me more than the overdose itself. It was so raw. A few hours later he went to jail.

One would think this would be enough to stop me. I thought it would be enough to stop me. But, 60 days later he got kicked out of his house (he had moved back in with his parents after the overdose). They had found out he had relapsed again.   I was at his house when this was happening and I tried to convince him to go to a meeting with me. I tried to bully him into not picking up again.  I threatened that I would leave him, I threatened to that I would never speak to him again, I threatened to call the cops on him. He didn’tcare.  Rather than be alone and sober I chose to use with him that night. I used it as an excuse to call my disease out of hiding.

I got kicked out of my sober living the very next morning. The two of us got a room at the seediest, shadiest, dirtiest motel in Costa Mesa, California.  He and I ended up finding a small room to rent with a crazy family and were living together for nine months. At one point he convinced me to start stealing from my work. At first I was scared and thought it was a terrible idea. Eventually I felt like I had to…for us. We were too sick to work without it and had to pay for rent and, drugs…some food. I supported the two of us that whole nine months while he stole from me and spent my money on heroin.  And I let him.  The money that I actually earned and money that I stole all went to drugs. About $1 400 a week.

It was a toxic love. He would cry and yell at me in order to get to me to lie to his parents. Lying to my parents, for some reason, seemed simple. Lying to his, for some reason, seemed like the worst thing in the world to do.

One morning he stole everything we had left and went to work; I tried to chase him down in his truck. That same day when I was on my way to work my cat died. I immediately went and got more drugs. And instead of staying home and comforting me that night he left me to go get drugs of his own.

Most of that nine months we were telling our parents we were clean. Occasionally our parents would speak to each other and we would do the best we could to cover our tracks. Eventually, he ended up having to go back to rehab or go to jail for the arrest due to his overdose. At this point, although I was sad to see him go, I was so relieved. He had started to take Ambien and drive on it.  He had started to threaten to kill himself. On top of the heroin. On top of stealing from me.

There were many nights when we would hold each other and cry ourselves to sleep so desperate to stop. I was covered in track marks and my hands were swollen up like I had been attacked by a swarm of bees.

Although he may sound like a terrible person-he wasn’t. He was so sick. WE were SO sick. Not just physically but, mentally and spiritually.  In all earnestness, I am the reason we kept using. We would have both sought help long before we did if it wasn’t for me. I enabled him more than I enabled  myself. I almost killed him with my enabling.

Which is exactly what our families do. His parents kicking him out was incredibly brave and led to his eventual desperation. As was the case for me. Every time people try and help us with money or a roof over our head, we will usually take advantage of it. It will usually make us much worse. Dip us down deeper into the darkness.

That boyfriend has been clean and sober now for almost SIX years!!  And I made an amends to the job I stole from-I told them everything and asked them how to make it right. And they were more gracious and forgiving than I deserved. I even received a long hug.  I also made amends to that boyfriends parents. He and I are bonded for life and though we have been broken up for nearly a year and a half (after years of trying to make it work and my relapses) he is one of my best friends. For life. We had to nearly die together in order to live separately.

Our parents were willing to do whatever it took to save us. Even if it broke their hearts.

Through the Eyes of a Recovering Addict to a Mom on a Roller Coaster

Recently, Ash and I were asked for guidance from a mom whose son had her on an emotional roller coaster.  Since the mom reached out to us privately, I responded privately.

The other half of it is Ashley’s response as this whole blog is a team effort to help from both perspectives.  I thought Ashley’s words would be particularly helpful to any of you struggling with enabling and supporting.

 I have been gone and out-of-state, also two thousand miles away, for nearly my whole addiction. I will try and keep this very simple. If you want to help him you will leave him alone. If he reaches out to you be loving but be firm with him. Once I knew my parents would no longer catch me when I was falling I was forced to try and catch myself. Once that failed I was forced to ask for real help. Make sense? Things might get worse before they get better. They may never get better. But, like my mom said, that is a hard reality of this. It is so possible I could get loaded and never come back. And I mean that in a mental capacity or physical capacity, any capacity. I do know for a fact I have not seen one addict recover that hasn’t been desperate. I can also pretty much guarantee you that anytime you call him a name he’s already call himself that and much worse. So, as infuriating as addicts may be, try to quell your anger with him. It is definitely not helping. There has been one time in my addiction where I thought my mom thought as little of me is I did and it…well…it was not good. If you are giving him money, cut it off. Most likely it is not going for what he says it is for. If he calls you when drunk, says mean or inappropriate things, tell him how much you love him and hang up. I can’t imagine how hard that would be. I don’t know how my mother did it. But it saved our family. And it saved me. And I’ve seen it save a bunch of other addicts. Let him know you’re not giving up on him. Mom likes to say, “I’ll do anything to support you and your recovery, nothing for your addiction but, I’ll always be here for you.” Going to jail or prison might be the best thing for him. Unfortunately, it tends to be sometimes the only thing that will wake people up. Sometimes it makes them worse. EVERYTHING DEPENDS OM HIM AND HIS DESIRE AND WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE. He needs to handle his consequences on his own. If you are always there to help him, he will never learn how to help himself.