Predisposed

When I was nine years old both of my parents remarried. The summer before fifth grade my brother, my mom, myself and my stepdad all moved to Virginia from Colorado.  My brother and I left behind our father with his wife and her two children.  It was a hard move on everyone.

The beginning of fifth grade is the first time I remember consciously lying to my mom. What had happened prior to that is I had started to break rules I didn’t know were rules. Like, leaving the refrigerator door open for too long. Or closing the garage door too hard. Or putting my feet up on the couch. These were all new things brought in with my stepfather. Rules that I didn’t know  were rules until I got in trouble. So, at one point when I was asked if I had done something I generally would just lie because I didn’t know if I had broken a rule or not. This behavior kept me safe from confrontation or getting in to trouble that was lurking behind every step that I made. When I would go to my dad’s house I had to do the same thing. You see, what was absolutely not acceptable at one house was absolutely fine at another house. Or vice versa.  Adjusting to new parents and what made them tick- in addition to completely different lifestyles within each home- it was…difficult, to say the least. I walked on eggshells until I learned if I just lied when I was asked about things I could make my ground a little more solid.

I used to journal A LOT. I found one from fifth grade that had a map of my moms house in it. Every room was labelled and I had written a suicide note right behind the map, along with where they could find my body. That girl who wrote the note-she had started to control me. When nobody was looking I was often crying. I started self-harming in sixth grade (I was pulling chunks of my hair out or burning myself with candle wax) and I didn’t tell anyone. Not a friend or a parent or a teacher. I wasn’t sure if I would get in to trouble and it helped me feel in control. I eventually moved on to cutting and even asphyxiation. Yes, asphyxiation. I would try to strangle myself with plastic bags. I often woke up passed out and covered in sweat-one time vomit.

At some point I started doing things I KNEW were wrong and had become skilled at lying. I broke rules and acted out to feel…something…anything other than the anxiety and depression that had moved in to my heart.  By freshman year of high school I attempted to kill myself the first time (which has been discussed in a previous post).  By the end of my sophomore year of high school I went to my first mental hospital.

Sixteen years old and in a psych ward. And for the first time in YEARS I felt like I belonged. There were other girls there just like me. So, naturally, I assumed that was exactly where I belonged-locked up with other crazy people. When I was released only one of my friends knew where I had been. I didn’t dare tell anyone else. I was so confused and ashamed and I had already been bullied at that high school…can you imagine what kids would say??   Kara-if you’re reading this-thank you!  Thank you for NEVER judging me-to this day-and keeping such a big secret.  One of many, ha!  You have been one of my best friends in this life and people like you are so rare.  Your friendship saved my life! Arnie loves you.

Although I was put on antidepressants after the hospital (and numerous times the last twenty years), my thinking didn’t change. I still felt alone and scared and anxious.

Around my junior year is when I started drinking or smoking pot somewhat consistently. I had found that I didn’t feel like I wanted to die when I was drunk or high. Drugs and alcohol saved my life. No doubt. They kept me from killing myself.

The thing is, my brother grew up in the same exact environment. He didn’t become a liar. He didn’t cope with things by getting high. He certainly didn’t want to kill himself. This, I believe, is the predisposition.  Because I have the most incredible family and I didn’t go through much more than any other child of divorce.  So, why am I like this?

I don’t think like other people!  We addicts have a processing problem that gets solved by drinking or using. The problem is that the drugs cease to work and eventually we end up with the same terrible thoughts (but amplified by about a thousand) along with the obsession that eventually the drugs will work again.

At this point in my life I have been locked in a psychiatric ward twice. The last one being only eighteen months ago. WARNING: If you have any inclination that you’re an addict/alcoholic or have depression DO NOT TAKE BIRTH CONTROL without extensive research and consultation. The possibility of a full mental breakdown is greatly increased.

My parents didn’t make me like this. My thoughts did. I do believe that many events triggered my addiction-losing Brett being the main one. But, nothing made me like this. I don’t think so. I think I was born a bit more sensitive than most. I think I am painfully aware of everything around me and have had to find a way to live life without letting the negativity drown me.

Even writing these posts my brain is yelling at me. It says,”STOP! They’re all going to see you now!”  And the other part of me wants to go deeper and tell you everything. Down to the details of how those hospitals smell and all the stories of the people I met. I want to take you into the corners of every dark part of my life and put light on to them. But I am scared. As an addict my whole life has been a secret, in one form or another.

So, you if you have an addict in your life, please, I beg you, try to understand that they have a monster living in their head. It tells them they’re worthless and stupid and a failure. It tells them to be ashamed of all their thoughts and the monster never goes to sleep. He is awake even when we’re not-doing pushups in our brain-gearing up.  The meanest things I’ve ever been called are the ones that come from the beast inside my head.  And I used go to any length to kill him.

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.

Death

The first time I knew somebody outside of my family to die was in my 10th grade of high school. I was in school in Colorado and my best friend from Virginia called me.  She told me our friend Jennifer had died of a brain aneurysm. I hadn’t been very close to Jennifer; I sang with her in a couple choirs, sat next to her in a couple classes. I had known her since the 6th grade. I couldn’t understand how somebody so young could die. It’s hard to wrap your brain around. After all, we were only fifteen.

Then, right after graduating high school, my friend Emily was killed in a car accident. Visions of standing alone at her funeral still haunt me. I wasn’t sure how to mourn. Again, she and I had not been particularly close. However, we had many good conversations and the last one had been only a month before. Dealing with her death was confusing and difficult. After all, we were only nineteen. Her death was a result of a fatal car accident when a semi-truck didn’t slow down in time.

The next death came ten days after I turned twenty-three. My friend Carl had frozen to death, essentially, in his yard. I still don’t know all the details of his death. I found out Christmas Day when we were about to sit down for dinner and I was in Colorado visiting my dad. I found out through Facebook. This one hit hard. I had been Carl’s manager at a pub and he had been my cook. We had spent countless hours next to each other working, laughing and having drinks together. I considered him one of my best friends. I loved him very much. His death rocked my very core. At his funeral, his mother softly stroked his curly brown hair. He didn’t look real. None of it seemed real. After all, we were only twenty-three. Every time I went out after that Brett and I would toast our first drink to Carl.  Every place we would go-I could remember a time I had been there with Carl. Although it was difficult, it was like he was with us. He was everywhere because we had gone everywhere.

Then Brett died. A death that has forever altered my life. The loss of someone so important to me that my entire existence has literally been shifted. His lack of presence is overwhelmingly apparent. Every. Single. Day. He had just turned 25. I was only a few months into being 24 years old.

I went to treatment for the first time a few years later, approximately four years later. I was in treatment for one-hundred and twenty days. My last ten days there I was in group with a kid named Ian. Ian had been clean for a little over a month and was homeless.  Some strings were pulled and he was able to check into treatment. He was battling severe depression and wondering where he fit into this world. Six days after I left treatment I heard that Ian hung himself. I couldn’t believe it. When you’re in the same group with somebody, have the same counselor as somebody, you share everything with each other. I knew this kid. I knew his spirit and his heart and they were good. So desperate to escape this crippling addiction that he hung himself. How could this be? He had just turned eighteen a month prior. Hardlyy eighteen years old and already consumed with such sadness it snuffed out his ability and desire to survive this life.

I also had group with a young man named Colby.  right before checking into treatment he had been in the same room when his best friend shot himself in the head. He was sitting on the same couch with him.  Literal feet away from him. When he went back to his small southern town in Georgia we were all scared for him. His whole family used. Well, the family he was close to. The rest of them had started to keep their distance. Colby thought it would be okay to drink and eventually ended up using hard drugs again. I do not know how Colby died. Was it an overdose? A car accident? I don’t know. I just know he is gone. I have a picture of myself and a couple other people from treatment that time. He is in the picture in the back with that big gorgeous bright smile and that long blonde hair. I think Colby was 19. Maybe 20. He was my friend.

Then there is Sean. Sean got drunk after leaving treatment. I believe he’d been out for a while… maybe even over a year. But, he got drunk and wrapped his car around a tree. Dead. Twenty-five and dead. Sean was sweet, gentle, funny. I met him my first time in treatment, as well. He immediately came up to me and introduced himself; plopped right down at my side. I didn’t feel alone when I met Sean. I was so scared and it was a gift not to feel alone. He gave me that gift and he is dead.

Sweet, funny, tenacious Erin.  Erin and I were in the same home group together. We went to a meeting together every day. I loved her. She was sassy. She was super intelligent. She’s the only other human I’ve met with a Shel Silverstein tattoo. We would do medicine cards together. We would talk about literature together. She would make fun of me for reading the Fifty Shades books. Erin was a twin. There is a woman walking around right now who has lost her other half. Literally. That half is gone. Erin overdosed on heroin. I believe she was 24. And not that it really matters but, she was absolutely beautiful. Everywhere. Her outsides and her insides. All of it. She was one of those rare people who sparkles.

And now, here is the last year. A client I had named Helen was 19 and she overdosed and died. She didn’t think she had a problem and left treatment. She lived in boxes on the street. Literally. She said she preferred to be homeless and took care of the older people. She was clever and brave and innocently naive.

And then there is Nicole; she was 21 and she overdosed and died. She was eccentric and sensitive and beautiful.

A client I had named Ben was 19? 20? 21? I don’t know. I know he is dead. He overdosed.  Ben was shy and inquisitive and loyal.  Ben was a good kid and had a heart of gold. Gentle Ben. I get choked up every time I think of him or see his picture or run in to his best friend.

And then there is Todd. The young man my mom mentioned. We’re not sure but we think he might have killed himself. He had literally been out of treatment for one week. I’ve known him for months. He was an intelligent, energetic, thoughtful man.

Those are just the last year! Not even a full year, even. Since January!

This is my life. It is sad. It is hard. It is heartbreaking. And it has become completely normal. Normal and tragic. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to hearing that one of my people is dead. And we die every day. These are just the ones I remember. That may sound terrible, but I know there are more. I know it. And everyday I get on Facebook- I see somebody with a ‘Rest in Peace’ post. Everyday in my group of friends another friend is dying. Thousands of us are dying every day.  Luckily, we usually have each other. The funeral of an addict is a sight to behold. We show up for each other. In life and in death.

I have heard things you could not even imagine. People who have been nearly beaten to death, women who have lived a life filled with rape and unspeakable violence. I have a friend who, when she was a toddler, was hit over the head with a sledgehammer by her father. That same father shot her mother in the head and left them both for dead. This friend just lost her only daughter to the court system. She is considered unfit to raise a child due to her brain damage and history of addiction. Her child is gone and it is a closed adoption. She will most likely never see that little girl again. If she does see her, she certainly won’t be little anymore. That is just one tiny story in an infinite mess. And it is a mess. We addicts are messy people. We are often like an atomic bomb, going off and obliterating everything around us. For every one of those people, my friends, my clients, whom have died there is an entire tribe missing one of their humans.

I have given CPR to two people, watched countless people  have seizures from alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal and, visited eight people comatose in the hospital. All drug-related.

Every morning when I wake up….every time I say goodbye to someone when leaving a meeting…every time someone leaves treatment…I ALWAYS wonder, who is next? Who will I be mourning next?  Or, will they be mourning me? Because I could be next. I can always be next.  I am them and they are me.

And we are dying.

Sick

The last three days I’ve been processing a very confusing and unbelievable situation.

I started dating somebody a couple months ago. I was incredibly trepidatious at first. My eagerness to love and to trust do not coincide. Though I want to find someone else to live my life with I’m also extremely cautious due to past relationships. This man, however, told me to give him the benefit of the doubt. He told me he didn’t know what had happened to me that made me so untrusting but it was really sad and he would never hurt me. He told me to give my heart to him and he would hold it gently in his hands. He told me he had been cheated on and would never do that to somebody because he knows how that feels. I eventually opened up to him and told him more than I’ve told anyone since Brett died.

The way this man looked at me flipped my world inside out. He would gaze into my eyes for literal minutes at a time with a huge smile on his face. My mom flew out to visit last week and I asked him if he wanted to meet her. I told him meeting my mom is a really big deal to me so don’t go into this decision lightly. If you do meet her it means to me that you’re all in, so think hard about it. He immediately answered asking me- what time should I be there?

He met my mother and I for dinner and we had a lovely time! Everybody was laughing and he experienced fondue for the first time. When we left the restaurant he and I walked alone for a minute to say goodbye and he told me with a serious look on his face and all the sincerity in his heart, “I miss you already.” Which is something he often did; we would hang out all day and after he would leave he would call me 20 minutes later and tell me how much he miss me already. I felt like I was living in a dream.  I dared to think I had been lucky enough to find another incredible man.

I had been hesitant to talk about it with my friends and family. I got my hopes up in the past and they had been swiftly shot down. But this was the real deal. This was love.

Mind you he is an addict in recovery.  He had been going through some personal stuff that was very intense and heavy to carry.  Naturally,  I was very worried that he was going to do something stupid and perhaps get loaded (as addicts it is so hard to see that drugs will make things worse despite all our previous endeavours into that abyss). We were supposed to hang out Wednesday night and he never showed up and his phone went straight to voicemail. By 5 on Thursday I was frantic. He doesn’t use social media because his ex-girlfriend had hacked into all the accounts. So I decided to go on the page he doesn’t use on Facebook and find the brother that he lives with. I planned on messaging his brother to see if he had heard anything from him. While looking for his brothers profile I saw a picture with a woman and him in it. I knew it was the ex-girlfriend because he showed me her page once and “how crazy she was because she won’t take down the pictures of us.”  My stomach turned-this picture looked super recent. His beard and hair turns and length it currently is. I debated for half an hour. Am I crazy??  This couldn’t be recent. He loves me.

I was desperate for any information on his whereabouts, though. So I messaged her.  Essentially I told her who I was and asked her if she knew what was going on and if perhaps wouldn’t mind talking to me. I told her he and I had been dating and I sent her a picture of the two of us together that past Friday from when we had dinner with my mother.

She promptly replied back: We have been living together for the last year. He is my boyfriend. I have a promise ring from him. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind calling me and a little while later after some quick questions between the two of us  I got a phone call through Messenger on the FaceTime.

He was standing a few feet in front if her and walked away as she followed. At one point he turned around and squinted and looked at the phone and said who is that? She replied, it’s your girlfriend. He again turned and walked away refusing to look at either of us.  Refusing to acknowledge either of us! She followed him around the house while we both spoke to him and he again turned around.  I was shaking violently and crying. I told him I had been so worried that he was in trouble or had perhaps gotten high.  So. Fucking. Worried. She said in front of him “he did in fact get high and is actually high right now.” I didn’t even recognize the man looking through the phone at me. His demeanor was dark and his face had lost all its shimmer. He started cursing at her to give him his keys.

“Look at what you did. She’s crying and you don’t even care!?”  He managed to take the phone and again raised his voice to her, cursing. At which time I had to hang up because I vomited. I got physically sick. I immediately regretted hanging up, worried that something bad would happen to her. I messaged her after trying to call back and eventually about ten minutes later she messaged me back- he was gone. She had kicked him out.

At this point she and I have been speaking almost non-stop for the past 72 hours. Everything I knew about this sweet, charismatic, kind, playful, affectionate, romantic, loving, gentle, and attentive man…all had been a lie Literally every detail he had told me about himself was not true. He told me he was struggling to get out of debt because she had stolen his credit card. He told me he lived with his brother (he even invited me over-knowing I wouldn’t want to risk driving my car that far due to a check engine light). Every detail he told me about his family life was a lie. Every detail about his working life was a lie. Every detail about his past relationships was a lie. He told me he had never dated somebody with kids because he didn’t want to get too attached to them if it didn’t work and because he wanted kids of his own. turns out he’d been living with his girlfriend AND her child for over a year. And the girlfriend before her had children as well. He had a secret phone which he spoke to me on. He made certain I knew his security code which I said was unnecessary.  He said he was an open book and wanted me to know that.

Part of his story was he had relapsed a couple months before and told me it was because he caught his ex (this woman who I’ve been speaking to…the woman he lived with) selling her body. The reality is he has been getting loaded for months and months and she had been supporting him financially and emotionally to try and help him have a life.

Most of the time when he was with me he would tell her he was with his sponsor or a friend who needed help. When he was with her he would tell me he was in meetings or picking up a day of extra work or with his brother trying to re-establish a healthy relationship (because, after all, they lived together).

How do I describe what this feels like? In such a short time he wrapped his teeth around my heart and sunk them in…deep. I trusted him more than I’ve trusted anyone in ten years. He told me I was the most amazing and beautiful and strong woman he had ever met. And for once hearing those words meant something.

When she confronted him he initially lied about it. Said I was crazy and that I’m a drug addict. Then he blamed HER for putting my sobriety at risk by doing this.  Now, after talking to her for so many hours there is no way that we can deny the truth of the situation.

I feel like I have been emotionally and physically raped. This sick human wriggled and manipulated  his way into my heart and into my body. he waited for weeks until I felt safe to let him do more than hold my hand or kiss me. He was patient and calculating.  This man who knows me better than almost anyone…this man who I knew nothing about.

We hear, in recovery, a term ‘some are sicker than others.’  This is the sickest thing I’ve ever heard of. The way he treated me, the way he spoke to me, the way he listened to me, and the way he looked at me; they were all a bit of magic. Well, he is a magician alright. Armed with a hat full of illusions and deceit and the best tricks I’ve ever seen.

Neither of us had any clue and both of us were fully convinced he was absolutely, positively, unshakably, head over heels in love with both us.  She spent a year of her life sleeping next to this man.  A year giving her heart freely while he blindfolded reality and danced with other partners.

And do you know what? Despite the horrible heartache and the inability to breathe sometimes-I am so grateful! Twelve step programs, other alcoholics and addicts, and working a program have allowed me to build a beautiful life!  And I have created an impossible to break bond with this woman. Without her the last few days I think this would have turned out quite different. Instead of tearing each other apart and down we have listened to each other and shared our broken hearts with one another and spoke in great honesty about our relationship with the same man.  And it is is so painful.

This soulless creature has created even stronger Warriors out of us. Although our hearts are in pieces, our lives can build to even greater empires of strength and love and courage.

I let a relationship in the past tear me down, break me, and send me spiraling. That was yet another man not worthy of my light.

To my new friend, the “other woman,”, the newest brick to  my Pillar of Strength:  You are beautiful.   You have probably saved my life-giving me a place to fall with your soft heart.  You have a kindness and a propensity to help even in your most betrayed of times.  I love you. Because you and I are capable of that. We are capable of anything.  I’m on your team.

Fire

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What do people think of when they hear the word coma?  I don’t remember what I used to think. Maybe something peaceful? Maybe something blank. Maybe a big long stretch of nothingness? This is not the case. Now when I hear the words comatose or coma I think horrific.

I lived a thousand lives those five weeks. A thousand painful, terrifying, horrific lives. I was sodomized by giants, tortured by friends and family, attacked by demons, crucified on a cross, tortured by bee’s, kicked out of heaven and escaped from Hell. The experiences and the details to go with all of the many world’s I went through are unimaginable. Indescribable. I didn’t know such fear was possible. Even thinking about it I pray I’ll be able to sleep tonight. . Ask my mom about how terrified I was to sleep after I was awake. How the touch of another human would send me spiraling out of control.

The scariest part is that it was all real. It still is all real. Because it happened to me in my head. When I started waking up I didn’t realize I had been gone. I thought I was in another level of Hell. One where my loved ones were possessed by demons. One where I was physically tortured all day, everyday. If I could imagine Hell that’s what it would be like. How could I not think I was really dead? And Brett wasn’t there for any of it. So I knew I must be dead! I was in Hell and he was on Earth living a beautiful life. As I write this I realize how much I wish that were true. I would live through an eternity of Hell to know that he was still here, living a beautiful life. I would give up my whole entire life for one more day with him. One more day with that smile and that laugh and that sweet spirit.

Everybody has always told me how strong I am. What a warrior I am. Well, if I could have spoke they would have known I was praying for it all to end. I spent literal years praying for it all to be over. I still do sometimes.  Not as much as I used to, granted. I have pockets of gratitude and moments of appreciation for this life. But it’s like that puzzle piece my mom wrote about.  Everything was put back together again and nothing changed but nothing is the same and there’s a huge piece of my sky missing. It’s like the sun of that big puzzle got blocked out…lost somewhere.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you how painful wound care is for the extensive burns I experienced. I literally would not be able to. It wouldn’t be possible. You couldn’t fathom. I can multiply that physical pain by a million and not even come close to touching the emotional pain. Ten short long years past have passed.  Ten years and I still have yet to meet anyone who even comes close to being a quarter of the person Brett was to me. I don’t say that to be mean or evoke sympathy. Excuse my language but, screw your sympathy. I’ve been drenched in people’s pity for far too long.  He was my love. He is my love. He is love. And there’s a big part of me that got cut out when he died.  I’m pretty sure everyone who knew me before the fire can see that piece that’s missing. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that I’ll never be whole again. After years of counseling and therapy and medications I’ve realized I have to accept that I’ll always be sort of broken. With that broken part of me I can still make a whole life.  I am just learning this vital truth.  I have found another piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

On this Quest of finding this piece, however, I’ve lost so much. That friend that my mother spoke of (Rach Boo) that was there from day one…I lost her. She left me. My addiction drowned our friendship. My addiction suffocated our love. She helped me survive the worst heartache of my life and I pushed her away. I’ve pushed so many people away. I’ve been so ashamed of who I’ve become and the things that I’ve done. Being alone seems so much simpler than having to disappoint all these people who care so much.

And the anger! I was so angry! My mom and I used to go to my doctor’s appointments at the hospital and I’d see a couple helping each other around. One of them in the wheelchair, the other pushing them. I would get so angry. Why couldn’t that be me!? Why couldn’t that be Brett?! My anger consumed me.

So, what does this have to do with addiction? It has everything to do with it! My problem is not the drugs or the alcohol. It’s the way I think. That’s where the problem is for all of us. I don’t process things the way normal people do. I got in a fight in 7th grade with my best friend and I tried to kill myself that night. That is not normal. But, for me, it seemed like the only logical solution. Make the pain go away.  I realized, as I got older, that I wasn’t suicidal; things got a little bit more simple. I figured out how I could be happy and numb and function.  Drugs and alcohol.

I drank to handle the world outside of me and I used drugs to handle the world inside of me. It’s that simple.  Brett put a halt to that. He completed my life in a way that I wanted to be a better human and I was hungry to feel life. So when he died, that part died, too.

Honestly, I have no clue where I’m going with this. I’ve never really spoke or written about these things. They are the darkness inside of me. I try so hard to live in the light. That’s what Brett would want. I learned at some point, I had to stop trying to live my life for him. It was too much pressure.  Every failure sunk me down deeper into my depression.

Slowly I am grasping how to live my life for myself. Just me. I’ve been single for the longest time probably of my whole life. I’ve learned so much about myself and the world around me.  I am starting to feel like the woman I was when Brett was here. Strong, independent, intelligent, beautiful, funny, accomplished, worthy.  I feel like all of these things. Just for today.

Was I an addict before the fire? I think so.  I smoked pot daily for nearly three years. I drank very often. If you had drugs I would gladly do them with you.  I used to find a book that I liked and stay up, reading until three in the morning knowing I had to get up in three hours for school. I did things in an all-or-nothing manner. I have always been compulsive and hard-headed and felt the need to learn by experience. Regardless of the lesson, I have to always try it myself. When you are little people think you’re wild and brave. As an adult people think you’re reckless and irresponsible. I am all of those things.  Being an addict is learning the difference and being willing to make the effort for change. And, my God!  It is such a struggle. The struggle is real. But, so is the peace that comes after.

Here I am

I have been procrastinating on writing this next part. My mother is wondering where her daughter was. Where I was. It’s hard to think about. I suppose I should start with actually how I got to that place. The Missing Place.

Fall of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 were…rough.  I do not know exactly when I relapsed or what it was on. All I know is by the beginning of March I got to the point where I picked up a needle again. I hadn’t shot anything into my veins for a few years so, I was excited and nervous and scared.

On the third day of using a needle, I got high with a fellow addict. Now, it was his dope so he insisted on making my shot for me. I have done permanent damage to my veins so, the only place I could inject it was my foot or my neck.

After my friend (yes, I call him a friend) cooked up my shot and “hit” my foot for me, my throat felt so strange. Like I had just inhaled smoke. I had the warm fuzzies of the heroin but, there was something new.

“Oh, shit Smash!”

He looked at me with fear in his eyes. Turns out my buddy had accidentally given me one of HIS shots. So, I had just been injected with methamphetamines in my heroin.

I was horrified. I didn’t sleep for two days. I ended up picking at my scalp until it was completely raw.  My WHOLE scalp.

I hated it and yet, I did it again. And again.  I was, consequently, out of money and incapable of functioning.

In my desperation I reached out for help and was graciously accepted to a shelter for women.

Now, keep in mind how awful I told you detox was. Well, at this particular shelter you’re not allowed to take anything. Not even a Tylenol. There is also a requirement that you participate in all groups and activities. I had, however, snuck in some drugs with me to help me detox. Unfortunately, those did not work.  Eventually I ended up telling on myself after I took all the pills I smuggled in.  My Confession was fueled by the hopes I would get sent to a different program, perhaps one with the detox. Alas, they were proud of me for being honest and kept me right there. So, two days later  I packed all my stuff up and I walked out. Once again, I was so skinny and frail. Yet, I found the power of Mighty Mouse to leave that place- knowing very well I could get high in a matter of minutes.

I trudged over to the local Shopping Center. I was dead wrong about my calculations. Nobody would come and get me. I was stranded. And sick. I had to rest so I decided to set up camp behind a gay bar. My logic was because they’re gay I’d be safer than I would have been around a bunch of drunk straight men. They would buy me drinks and give me money, offer me Uber rides. They took care of me. The only thing I didn’t do was eat or bathe. I had forgotten about those two basics. I was down to a twisted survival regime.

I used to make jokes with an old friend about a dirt path we saw between our house and the bus stop. Our joke was if we ever relapse would go sleep on that path. Well, turns out I relapsed and I slept on that path. For five days I stayed between the gay bar and the dirt path. High on methamphetamines and heroin, completely insane. Alone.  I was able to get high, though.  Nothing else mattered. I wouldn’t let it. My heart was screaming to call my mom while my brain told me it would hurt her more to hear me like this.

I finally was able to get that same friend that I got high with to come get me. Once again, I did his drugs with him. This person whom I have looked at as a little brother. We got clean together years ago and had held each others hearts while we wept; going through early recovery with someone cements your hearts together. I would have done anything for this kid. And now- here I was. Getting high with him!  Again!!

Luckily, I had a moment of clarity. My entire being knew that I would not survive the night. I decided if I didn’t get into treatment I was going to take a shot that would be too big. One that would stop my heart. I started frantically calling my old treatment center for a bed. I finally was able to get a hold of an old friend who worked there.  I was told that there was a treatment center in Riverside and I was then offered a thirty day scholarship.

I broke right then and there.  I had no way to get to Riverside (an hour car ride away), no money, no strength, no friends. No hope. I was wailing on the phone and praying to God. A God that I was so angry with. Please, I begged. Please, kill me or save me. With the utmost sincerity in my heart-set me free or rescue me.

Five hours later, by divine intervention, I walked through the doors of another rehab.

I was filthy. My scalp was one big scab. I had an abscess on my foot. I weighed ninety pounds…maybe?  I hadn’t eaten in at least five days. All of this and all my head was yelling at me was, “Wait!!  One more shot!!  Just. One. More.”  Luckily, for the first time in what seemed like a decade, I ignored that voice. The demon that dwells inside my brain. The monsters inside my head.

 

I checked in to that treatment center on a thirty day scholarship. I ended up leaving over a year later.

 

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Ashley, Addict

Recently , I’ve been invited to share on this blog by my mother.  The catalyst, perhaps, is that she doesn’t know the truth about a lot of what happened. Unfortunately, that is a huge part of this thing. The lies and the darkness and the loneliness and the deceit. So, we are going to collaborate and I’m going to tell my side of the story, as well.

I suppose what’s most fresh on my mind is a response to her last few posts . It’s so hard to know where to start; mom and I have gone back-and-forth on just that issue. Do we start with my childhood? Do we start with my first time in jail?  Where does it all begin?

I moved back to Virginia in April 2012. I packed all my things up into my SUV , rented a U-Haul , attached it to the back and had the plan to drive from California to Virginia in five days.  Tops. I had bought enough heroin to last me a full week and a half. I even color-coded my syringes. Yellow for morning, red for afternoon, blue for evening, black for night. By my third day into the trip, when arriving to Flagstaff, Arizona I was already completely out. At this point I had no veins left and I was covered in track marks. I started to get very sick. I had to stay in the same hotel room for three days,incapable of moving.  I was detoxing. Hard. I fainted every time I sat up. I was dry heaving constantly. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t move without puking. Detoxing also comes along with excruciating body aches and uncontrollable diarrhea. Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had and multiply it by probably fifteen.  You might have a vague idea of what it’s like. But, probably not. I decided to tell my family that I had swine flu. Yes, swine flu.

 

I was far too ashamed to tell the truth. The truth that I had been shooting heroin into my veins for well over nine months.  The truth that my 135 pounds was now a dismal 87.  I was quite literally dying physically. Spiritually, I had been dead for years.

The whole trip consisted of me googling places where people had been arrested or had overdosed to see if I could find some more heroin. I was never successful. That just goes to show though, how sick I was. How sick I am. It took me twelve days to get back to Virginia. Twelve days of stealing drugs along the way from family members , including my father. Twelve days of standing up and passing out and hitting my head every single day. Twelve days being on the edge of taking my own life to end the suffering. I was so  incredibly alone.  I like to call it the twelve days of death.

 

It is a miracle I didn’t die in a hotel room. Or kill someone while trying to drive. It’s a miracle I’m alive just based on that trip alone.

 

When I got back I was constantly in a state of detox. I would have things mailed to me (predominately heroin) but between packages I was super sick. I would drink or smoke pot in order to barely function.   I couldn’t hold down a job because I kept on getting sick . I was going to twelve step meetings every day with an underlying motive that somebody would hopefully relapse and get me high with them.

 

When my mom eventually found the bottle of wine the jig was up. Funny thing is , the stuff on the mirror was dust. The irony is, it will never be dust. Anytime anything pops up in my life from here on out-if I’m late, if I forget to call, if my room is too messy, if I’m acting funny or tired or get sick. It will always not be dust. I will always be a suspect. And I’ve earned that title. I’ve done that damage.  I’ve led my love ones to see dust and think drugs. How sick is that? The other funny part is, I really was licking the furniture. But it’s not funny. I was so desperate to not feel sick anymore. I would go to my storage unit with Q-tips and try and scrape off heroin to put into a shot. I scoured my car every day for FOUR MONTHS after I knew there was nothing left. I was licking my furniture! For God sake, how sick is that? But those are the things addicts do. Those are just some of the lengths I will go to in order to feel better.

The worst thing I’ve ever heard come out of anybody’s mouth was when she told me I had to leave and that I wasn’t her daughter anymore. And she didn’t mean it in a disowning sense. She meant it in the sense that she didn’t know who was standing in front of her anymore. The daughter she loved and cherished and raised had vanished. I was but a ghost. Swinging in and out of life, shifting from task to task, floating amongst the living but much closer to the dead.

 

When my mom asked me to leave I did go to my friends house. I stayed there for a night and then at another friends house for a night and then slept in my truck for a night. There was one night I knew my parents were out of town and I snuck into my backyard and crawled into the screened in porch of my childhood and slept there. I wept like a baby the entire night; asking myself, how is this my life?  So many beautiful memories in the backyard now tainted. Now stained by my addiction.

 

 

 

I, too, must stop now. It is not easy to recall those empty days. It will be even harder to tell you of even emptier days. I do this so you can see. I am you in your nightmares. I am an addict. I am also someone’s child.  We all are.