I remember sitting in the mandatory parenting class at the hospital feeling like I was about to have a panic attack. I had so many mixed emotions I felt my brian would spontaneously combust. I now had the responsibility of this baby’s life in my hands. For an average person this would be scary, for an untreated “dry” addict, it was terrifying.
We signed the discharge papers, strapped Cameron into his car seat and drove home.
The whole world outside that hospital felt unfamiliar to me. As we drove down Route 29 everything seemed to be going so fast and we were in slow motion. The sun seemed brighter, the wind blew stronger and cars flew past us. For those three days I was in the hospital the world had not stopped, only my life stopped. The world kept going, kept producing, kept running while my life had monumentally changed. I barely held a child before I had Cameron and surely had never changed a diaper. I was not the warmest person in the room and children always seemed a nuisance. So all-in-all this would be quite interesting.
The trip home felt like an eternity, I walked into the house put Cameron down in the car seat and stared at him. Now what, do I take him out, is he hungry, do I change his diaper? He was sleeping so maybe I should just let him sleep. Can I leave the room, or do I have to bring him with me. What exactly am I supposed to do with this little guy. I might as well had grabbed a stick and poked him like as if he were a strange animal sleeping on the floor. I was completely clueless and completely unqualified.
A few sleepless nights later family and friends came over to meet Cameron. They had not even arrived and I wanted desperately for them to leave. I was tired, I was in pain and my anxiety was sitting like a lump in my throat. I knew everyone would be curious as to how I would be as a mother. I was bracing myself for the unspoken judgments of how I held him, how I comforted him, how I fed him. Everyone was waiting in line for the freak show.
The whole room was alive with laughter and joy and I felt frozen, stuck to my chair, completely detached. I left the room to change Cameron’s diaper and my mom instinctually knew there was something wrong. She followed me into my bedroom and I broke down. Tears ran down my face and onto my son as I struggled to change his diaper and swaddle him the way I was taught at the hospital. The instructions I could not recall and my growing frustrations were apparent. This was too much for me, too soon. I needed everyone to leave.
Just before my mom left she came to me and told me that things would get easier, that I needed to find my routine and that my emotions were all over the place thanks to hormones. I had just given birth and to give myself a break, take it easy, relax, and I would be back to normal soon. Part of that I believed, maybe because I wanted to believe it, maybe she did too. But I knew what it was. Deep down inside of me the ground was shaking and cracking, something was trying to make its way to the surface. I no longer had the cement blocks covering the grave. I was no longer bearing a child which meant the only thing standing between me and my addiction was me.
With an empty house I looked over at my boyfriend and told him how I felt. I was overwhelmed, I was uncomfortable and I felt defeated. It had only been days since I had my body back to myself, that I was freed to making my own choices and the score cards were up and I was already losing. That safety net of pregnancy was gone in a matter of minutes and I had not planned ahead. My old friend had returned with a small knock at my door and I was again face to face with my nemesis. A power so much greater than myself. A voice in my head telling me it would be alright, I have the answers and relief that you seek. With no defenses in place and no plan of action, I was a prisoner once again. After all it was right, for the last fifteen years my addiction was my answer. I felt sadness, I drank. I felt scared, I drank. I felt happiness, I drank. I felt overwhelmed, I drank. It had never disappointed me before so why would it now.
Within thirty minutes I had a bottle of wine in my hands. I pored myself a small glass. I drank it.
My knight in shining armor was not a tall, dark and handsome man, but a beautiful blonde with blue eyes and freckles on his nose.
He is my son and his name is Cameron.
He had slain my demons wearing footed pajamas, sticky fingers and messy hair. He was the only human being to battle my addiction and succeed. He turned my entire life upside down and broke me open. He exposed all of my hard truths, my nasty behaviors and every moment of anger, sadness and hysteria I wanted desperately to take back the instant that it was revealed to him. The universe gave me a pause button, that in the midst of my selfish chaos I would be given a second of pause, something I had never had before. I could see him in the corner of my eye, watching me, listening to me, learning from me.
When you are given the gift of a child you are given an enormous responsibility to teach them and provide for them. Yet my son at the young age of three was teaching me, providing for me, and laying down for me the foundation of what would become my journey to sobriety.
It pains me to see him on days when he bangs his fists in anger and frustration when met with defeat. He has no idea how much strength lives inside his tiny frame. He has no idea that I have already seen it, it is in there, and that he will find it soon. I am only here because of him. He is the reason I live and he is the reason I breathe. Through him, I have found myself.
I watch him often. I watch him play, I listen to him laugh and I watch as he turns around to see me and smile, his beautiful toothless smile. With a sign of relief I think to myself, you are what I have been waiting for my entire life and I promise to give to you what you had given to me.
I will teach him to be a man of good character. That we do what is right, not what is easy. We do not back down in fear, or defeat, we fight. We overcome. We pick ourselves off the floor and we continue on, one foot in front of the other and if somedays he cannot, I will. We hold ourselves accountable for what our life will become, what and how we choose to live it. Only we have the power to be happy, so choose every day to be happy. I will teach him the world, though beautiful, can be ugly and to expect opposition, but hang tight and stay true to himself. And when he is old enough I will tell him the story of my life and all the mistakes I have made in hopes that history will never repeat itself.
For him I chose sobriety, but for me, I maintain it. My poor choices were not his choices but they taught me about life and how terribly painful we can make it for ourselves. He was born an innocent child with a clean page and it is my responsibility to fill those pages with love and wisdom. I would rather leave this earth than give him a home filled with fear and emotional instability and if I had continued down the path I was going, he may have lived in both or he may have lived an orphan.
So to my son, you are and will always be the love of my life. You are my number one. But you know this already, because I tell you often. Until I breathe my last breath I will be there for you to care for you and to comfort you. Even in my death I will find you, I will follow you and I will guide you. You have given me a purpose and a destination and you have filled my heart with love and appreciation like nothing in this would has ever done before. I will wake up tomorrow and everyday after, just for you.
I am eternally grateful for you, my son. Thank you, for you.
I always felt like I had to prove myself. Even to this day I still feel as if my words have not gained their full potential. I lied so much and discredited promises so frequent, that at times, even I didn’t believe myself. Even if I were sober, which I was my entire pregnancy, family and friends would look at me just a little bit longer than usual, as if they were searching for signs that I was using. I am okay with that, I understand that and I’ll own that.
At 7:30 p.m. I called my doctor. I was undoubtedly having contractions and was told that if they came on more frequent, to go to the hospital. They did, so we went.
I had no birthing plan other than I would get an epidural. I knew they offered pain medication to women in labor, the pre-epidural pains, however I opted out. Not out of a display of strength, but merely out of the worry of being ridiculed. After all the nurses had my chart, they could see I was an alcoholic and drug addict and they probably thought I was actively using. They also probably thought I would give birth to a drug addicted baby.
I never cared too much about what other people thought about me. Honestly I could care less, I could care less because I could care less about myself. I did not have the time or the will to care, I had bigger problems.
Things, however, started to change throughout my pregnancy. It seemed the universe was forcing me to adjust, I was becoming a mother and whether or not I felt it initially, my mind had accepted and adapted to my new role in this life. My new role as a protector, a provider and a teacher. Along with this new position came a newfound reason for my beating heart to thrive, a heart that would fiercely radiate with love for my son. I could never intentionally harm him and I would show my commitment to him by staying sober as long as he was feeding and growing from me.
Nineteen hours later at 1:16 p.m., I gave birth to a little baby boy weighing in at 6pds., 10ozs, whom we would name Cameron. The nurse laid him on my chest, I gave hime a quick kiss and a smile and he was taken away.
I assumed this was formality. I assumed they had to bathe him and make sure all his vitals were strong, that he has ten fingers and ten toes, eyes and ears etc. etc. However as time passed the nurse came back with the news that he was healthy, however my son was not with her.
I was told they are “monitoring him.” Every time the nurse came back I was told, yet again, that they were “monitoring him.” Over an hour later, or possibly more, the nurse came into my room with Cameron, he was crying, he was hungry and he wanted his mother. It was then that I was told that I could feed him but that they would need to take him back to the nursery. They explained to me that they needed a urine sample from him, they essentially needed to drug test him. These words hit me like a freight train. The nurse gestured to me to pull his blanket back, it was then that I saw a little bag had been taped around him. They were holding him because they were waiting for a urine sample. I did not hear much after that. Any sense of normality I had felt within those nine months of abstinence from drugs and alcohol had vanished. I became again the person I was deep down inside, an alcoholic and a drug addict. The depth of my fears of being a terrible mother that kept me awake for those nine months, had come true. I would be haunted by visions of my son, a grown boy, being taken from me and it felt as if in that moment it happened. I was not allowed to be alone with him. The baby that I had just given birth to, a baby I carried with me for nine months, a baby I patiently waited to meet.
I felt my heart break open and burst within my chest unable to withstand the power of the pain it had just been met with. My addiction, without disappointment, robbed me of all these precious moments, never missing the prime fucking opportunity to rear its ugly head to shame me, to label me, and to expose me. All the “firsts” I would have with my son, his first feeding, his first diaper change, our first monumental moment of eye contact was taken away from me. I had no one else to blame. I was the reason he had a bag taped around him. I was the reason he would not feel the safety and warmth of his own mother for the first hour of his life. Shattered and ashamed, I felt failure as a mother and I had barely held him. I laid there in that hospital waiting for him to come back to me. I needed to look at him, I needed to talk to him and I needed to kiss him.
I needed him, just as he needed me.
Finally my moment had arrived and he was given to me. All of the tests came back negative which, of course, I already knew would.
It is a phenomenon where a hostage develops a bond with their captors. A psychological alliance develops resulting from a bond formed during intimate time spent together. The relationships formed are considered irrational which seemed quite similar to how I was feeling during this time. Just into the second trimester I started to grieve my life pre-pregnancy. I had a disturbing connection with drugs and alcohol. I hated them, I despised them, yet I craved them.I trusted that every time I used them, they would deliver the relief I was seeking. After all, drugs never abandoned me, turned on me, talked about me, yelled at me or belittled me. Drugs and alcohol became my sole companion so I developed a love for them, yet at the same time I loathed them.
Every day I woke, I would get out of bed and force one foot in front of the other. Every day I would chose to not use, drink or smoke. I also chose not to drink caffeine, use artificial sweeteners or eat lunch meat for fuck sakes. I would, however, grow fond of waffles and baby back ribs.
Every Monday I would read the expected growth of the baby for that coming week, if it were growing toes or fingers, teeth or hair. I tried desperately to make a connection with this human I was growing inside of me. I read books about pregnancy and childbirth and I passed a ton of time preparing for his or her arrival.
Fifteen weeks in, I found out it was a boy. I went for a routine ultra sound and the nurse asked if I were interested to know the gender, apparently Cameron was making his masculinity more than obvious. Not much differs from the present day.
When I left the office after that appointment, I finally felt something. I felt excitement. I felt love. I felt a connection. I always dreamed of having a little boy. I wanted a dirty, smelly, booger face little boy. A little boy who would come home with muddy shoes and dirty hair wearing a cape made of dish towels and a stick for a sword. I got to my car that morning and just cried, tears flowed out of my eyes like a rain storm. I had waited weeks to feel this, to be in this very moment. What a relief it was to feel it, to feel anything.
All of our tests came back negative for genetic abnormalities and the fetal echocardiogram came back normal. His heart beat was strong and he had ten fingers and ten toes. As far as the doctors could tell, he was developing at a normal pace and he was a healthy thriving little baby boy.
His father and I rented a two bedroom apartment in Bordentown and I tried to make a decent place for our son to come home to. Weeks and months drug on. I was getting fatter and increasingly uncomfortable. I was dehydrated all the time and I was hospitalized twice for kidney stones.
There was still drug and alcohol use in the home however, I chose to ignore it. I felt like a hypocrite if I fought it because if I were not pregnant I would have been there right beside him. Instead I would lie in bed at night locked in my room wondering how I would get through this. One day at a time, that is how I would do it. Today I made it, tomorrow I would try to make it all over again.
On August 3, 2010 at approximately 7:30 p.m., I felt something happening. I knew at that moment, it was time for me to meet my baby boy.
I walked into the bedroom and braced myself on the edge of the bed. I felt sick and faint and I felt like the whole world had abruptly come to a screeching halt. I had no idea what to feel, but I knew that I should have felt more.
As a child I remember watching movies where an expecting couple is ecstatic about the news of having baby. They embrace each other and cry with excitement. Their love for each other is becoming a human being; their two lives are becoming one. They would be filled with joy and excitement of the months to come. For me this was nothing like I had dreamed it would be. This was not supposed to be my moment. This was not how it was supposed to feel. I was not supposed to be siting on that bed filled with fear and grief at the news of having a baby.
It truly pains my heart to write these next few posts. It hurts that I have to be this honest about my experience but I would be doing disservice to my blog if I did not share it in complete truth. So I will be truthful, open and fearless in doing so. I will tell my story of my pregnancy and how I felt. How my addiction robbed me of the joys of pregnancy, child birth and the first few years of my sons life.
For the following three days I cried. I woke up- I cried, I drove to work- I cried, I came home- I cried, and I would lie in bed all night and cry. I could not eat or sleep because the withdrawals from nicotine and prescriptions medications were horrendous. I would sweat then shiver, I had a nasty headache and I would lay wide awake in bed and feel these zaps shooting throughout my brain. Later I found out they are called “brain zaps” and are quite common among people coming off prescription medications, mainly anti-depressants and anti-anxiety. My body was in complete and utter shock as the toxins left my body like a rip current, violently leaving my body like an exorcism.
I was already over a month pregnant before we took that test which meant within that month my baby was exposed to nicotine, cocaine and ketamine (a/k/a Special K). On hearing the news I was pregnant, on that day in December, I quite smoking entirely. With six fresh cigarettes left in my pack, I threw them away in a ceremonial fashion. I scheduled an appointment with an OBGYN where it was confirmed I was pregnant and an ultra sound revealed I was about eight weeks along.
There were a lot of forms to fill out, questions about me and the father, questions about my health and questions about what had the baby been exposed to: alcohol? Yes, drugs? yes, nicotine? yes. I watched as the nurse read through my forms, as she flipped through each page. She stopped at these questions and I watched her closely, intently reading my descriptive answers. I was looking for signs of disappointment but there was no earth shattering moment. I knew in my heart I had to be honest, I was raised catholic, I was raised with a moral code and I was raised with love. There was still some love left inside of me and all that I could muster up I would use for these upcoming child-bearing days.
I would do this right, for fuck sakes, this was my chance to do it right.
With these answers there would be some additional testing. We would both have genetic testing and I would have to go for a fetal echocardiogram to check the condition of the baby’s heart. My pregnancy would be closely monitored which meant frequent visits to the doctor. All of which, I would comply.
The news to family and friends came with much opposition. There were no beaming smiles or outbursts of excitement. Instead there were gasps, tears and worry. Everyone was terrified. Everyones true feelings about how they felt about me would become seemingly evident. I was a drug addict, I was a complete disaster, I was broken. How could I, she, have a healthy child or be a healthy mother.
There was also, however, some relief.
After the news settled, my mother came and sat beside me and expressed her relief. She knew I would do the right thing, that this baby will be the best thing to ever happen to me. That having this child could turn my entire life around, that I could survive. That this was my second chance. I had to agree, I had to agree because just days earlier I was haunted with the considerations of picking up again. This baby was my messenger. This baby was given to me by my higher power in a firm manner just days before a relapse would begin
It is without a doubt that I would have gotten high that week, that my life could have ended up quite differently than it is today. He was placed into my darkened heart at just the right time. He would breathe new life into my decaying organs, he would nourish my decelerating brain, he would fill my quivered bones with warmth and he would ultimately save me from myself. This baby, that was no bigger than a pea, was already changing my life.
Then, nine months later, I would return to him what he had given to me: life.
Everyday I would wake in a panic. I would wake sweaty and breathless; do I still have some left? Do I have any money? How can I get money? Would my dealer answer when I call? Did he run out overnight? Will I make it to work if I met him downtown? Will I have enough to get through today?
I would re-live this routine day in and day out. Panic, fear, desperation. My every waking moment was fixated on heroin. How I would get it, how I would pay for it; how and when could I get high.
I was like a dog with a ball. When you hold that ball in your hand their eyes are on that ball, and that ball only. They watch it faithfully as you move it from left to right. They follow it like a lion hunting its prey. The anticipation leading up to you throwing that ball is torture, they jump around, they squeal, they wag their tail. Then you throw it, they run to catch it, they bring it back and you throw it again. Over and over and over again. Nothing else matters to them, not you, not that squirrel, not that leaf that just blew by, just the ball or in my case that bag.
I would wake every morning and reach for my arsenal on the table beside me. Inside would be a single bag that I managed to save from the night before. I would go in the bathroom, turn the shower on and proceed with orderly fashion. The needle, the belt, the cotton, the bag, all tucked away neatly and secure in a hard eyeglass case. I would have to get high before I brushed my teeth, before I showered, before I had coffee. It was of utmost importance. I was like a doll hunched over waiting on a shelf for someone to pull my string. I was not alive until I was high.
My full blown heroin use lasted roughly two years. Over time I started to become sloppy and my addiction started to reveal itself. It was getting harder and harder to hide. My boyfriend was constantly watching me and questioning my behaviors. I would fall asleep everywhere we went, at the kitchen table, at a restaurant.I would burn holes in his couch or my clothing because I would fall asleep while smoking. He was losing his patience and trying to have a normal conversation with his girlfriend was more confusing than Morse code.
I started to realize that if I continued I would lose him and I was growing tired of loss. I would get clean for him; because I sure as hell would not get clean for me.
October of 2009 I was given the number of a “doctor” that would prescribe me Suboxone.
Suboxone, from what I was told, would be the safest and easiest way to come off heroin. It will ease any discomforts that normally came from withdrawal. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, feeling cold, sweating, insomnia, restlessness, depression, hallucinations, paranoia and severe anxiety. Symptoms that are so debilitating that without proper care are near impossible.
So I scheduled an appointment to see him and for $150.00 I was given seven days worth of Suboxone. Suboxone is not to be used as a long term solution. It is not like methadone in that you would have to take it for the remainder of your life. Its main purpose, at that time, was to get you through the withdrawal. That is all.
It is an orange tablet that dissolves under your tongue. It will stop the effects of withdrawal, cravings and blocks the receptors in your brain that respond to opiates. So when you take it first thing in the morning you are dedicating that day to staying clean. You cannot get high if you tried. Which, of course, I did.
I was able to get a few more days worth from the doctor and I would use this as a security blanket for the coming weeks. Every morning, as hard as it was, I would take a small corner of that wafer. I would wrap myself up with that blanket, my shield, the Suboxone.
As days passed so did weeks and before I knew it I was opiate free. I was not drug free, or alcohol free, I was opiate free. I had successfully kicked heroin.
Have you ever heard someone use the reference “living on a pink cloud?” It is a term used often in treatment. It is a state of mind usually experienced in early sobriety consisting of unusual happiness and delusion thoughts of your life being in order. You are floating on a “pink cloud”, living a fairytale life eating gum-balls and lemon drops.
However, what goes up must come down.
My pink cloud lasted about six weeks before it vanished right beneath my feet. I plummeted towards earth like a fucking bullet train. My cravings came on strong. I missed everything about it. I missed my routine, I missed getting it, and preparing it, finding that vein and feeling the warmth of that fluid course through my blood stream like a warm fuzzy blanket. Everything inside of me was screaming heroin.
That same week, on December 18, 2009, I threw up. I threw up in the bathroom at work while making my way outside to smoke. My boyfriend insisted that I get a pregnancy test. To this day, I have no idea what possessed him to think that I would be pregnant. Maybe he saw something in me that was different. Honestly, I though I was sterile.
So I did. I reluctantly took the test and teased him as I went to confirm that it was negative.
It was not negative, in fact, there was absolutely nothing fucking negative about that pregnancy test.
So here is the thing about heroin, you cannot wake up one day and say you are done. Should you choose to stop, you risk sickness that is crippling and without proper care is near impossible. Your body needs it to function, just as it needs water, food, oxygen and sleep. It is safe to say you are locked in your own prison; behind bars you have built yourself and willingly entered.
Heroin is suicide.
Within a few months I was fired from Cracker Barrel. I showed up for my shift one day and was told to leave. I made a scene like as if I cared and stormed out in dramatic fashion. I guess dropping a tray of food on a table full of people on two separate occasions sealed the deal. Or maybe it was the fact I barely showed up or fell asleep on almost every break. I was a terrible waitress anyway, I could give a shit if someone ran out of coffee or did not like their pancakes. I had bigger problems. I was dying. Cant these people see I am dying? Cant they see my eyes, barely open, red and empty.
Heroin is the Mercedes Benz of all drugs. There is nothing higher than this. This is the finish line.
I want to describe to you what heroin use was like, why I chose to continue. I am in no way trying to romanticize it. I want to explain how someone, anyone, can get caught up in it. How it makes you feel, how it sucks you in, how it feeds you false emotions.
I found ultimate peace in heroin. I found what I was looking for, for almost seventeen years I had searched and searched for this kind of relief. When I would hit that vein, in an instant, it was as if I had left my body. I would leave all that pain, all that grief, torment and hate behind. I would not feel anything. I would leave it all behind like a snake shedding its skin. I couldn’t hear or see the world around me, I would drift off into a fourth dimension of absolutely solitude. Nothing mattered. I was not me, my ultimate goal had been reached. I would leave myself for those brief few minutes as I lay there hunched over that table, or on a bathroom floor or the drivers seat of my own car. To me it was worth it. It was worth risking my life to get it, to quiet my mind and settle my soul. It was fucking worth it all.
With basically any drug, you start running into the problem that you habit requires more and more money to fulfill. You start frantically developing plans to get it. I would steal and borrow and owe the wrong people money. I started cash advancing on as many credit cards as I could open and writing fraudulent checks. Eventually the federal government caught up with me and I owed a lot of money. For a year I was unable to write a check and that seemed like a slap on the wrist compared to what could have happened. I was around $17,000 in debt.
People started to notice my hands were always damaged and black and blue and I would wear long sleeves and gloves. I started to get an infection in my right hand because that was my vein of choice and I would constantly have to defend it and lie. I still have a discoloration in my skin today, just below my thumb, a constant reminder of who I was, a constant reminder of who I am.
I was able to maintain my full time job but was put at a desk in the back in hopes I would not be seen. I was found a few times by my co-workers slumped over my desk, unable to be woke. Another time I fell asleep standing up at a filing cabinet. How this is even possible still baffles me today. You have little to no control over when you “nod out.” You do not even remember it happening but you notice signs that you had, minutes of your day you have no recollection of or your cigarette burned down to the filter. Your eyes would close and no matter how hard you tried could not be forced open. I still remember how that would feel, how I would lose control over my body and how it reacted. Another time, while at work, I fell asleep on the bathroom floor. I woke to someone knocking, someone had noticed I went in and never came back out. I must have been in there close to thirty minutes.
I still hear stories from time to time from my co-workers, stories of a person I do not remember being. It is surreal and shocking but I am open to listen. We find some things funny, they laugh, I laugh, and that is how I know I have healed. This is how I know we have all healed.
I managed to find a boyfriend during this time, someone who saw beyond my addiction. Someone who would later become my husband. Someone who would shortly thereafter become my ex-husband.
I came home from Hampton Behavioral with no boyfriend, no friends and no shoelaces. To be quite honest I probably wouldn’t have stuck around either. I could barely even stand myself and I rationalized it by thinking I would be better off alone. At least then I would only have to answer to myself.
I came home so doped up on anti-psychotic medications that I could barely remember my middle name. I managed to stay away from a drug or a drink for a few weeks. From what I can remember, this was probably the only time I was able to put together a few consecutive weeks of sobriety.
To pass the time and quiet my mind, I decided to get a second job. My master plan was to wear myself out, divert my thinking, earn extra money and then all of that would ultimately bring me happiness. I was hired as a waitress at the Cracker Barrel. I had enough sense to choose a restaurant that did not serve alcohol and I thought what kind of trouble could I get into serving corn bread and chicken fried chicken.
I was a terrible people-person. I would rather stub my toe on a metal bed-post than have a conversation with another human, let alone a stranger, so I am not exactly sure why I would think this would be the best job for me. This was also a family restaurant and I had the emotional warmth of an Arctic Hare.
I spent most of my time watching people. Not in a weirdo kind of way but I would always observe peoples behaviors, their mannerisms, their emotions. I would watch them and often wonder what my life would be like if I lived their lives. How happy they seemed to be laughing, smiling, giving and receiving affection. I would watch them live in that single moment. They probably went home and tucked their kids into bed, read them a story then watched movies and ate popcorn. They would wake every day to chirping birds, sunny skies and pancakes. I wanted all of that. I would just sit there with my bleeding heart just wishing to be someone else. I never felt that I would ever get that life. I always felt in my heart that my fate was in death and I would live this hell until the day I left this earth.
As an addict I can smell this illness a mile away. It is like we all have a connection. An unspoken dialect and we have this ability to seek each other out. I think it is in the eyes, I find truth in the saying that your eyes are a window to your soul.
So ultimately I found one, someone just like me, a wolf in sheeps clothing.
Her name was Brenda.
One night I ended up working a shift with her. I knew immediately what she had inside of her, just like she knew what was inside of me. If you met her you would have never thought that every time she went to the bathroom she became that wolf, in her sheeps clothing.
Naturally, we became friends. We would meet in the bathroom from time to time to grab a quick smoke in between tables. One morning in the midst of the morning rush she was fumbling through her cigarette pack for that butted out half smooke. As she pulled it out, a tiny folded up square fell out and onto the ground.
I knew exactly what it was before it even hit the floor. The wax paper square had a red stop sign stamped on it and a small amount of beige powder remained inside. I quickly picked it up off the floor and held it in my hand like as if it was a newborn puppy. Comforting it like it had a beating heart.
There you are I thought, I’ve been waiting for you.
Of course I would only snort it, like as if that made heroin use any classier. We all say that, almost every heroin addict I have ever met had said the same thing. We would never shoot it. We would never go to those lengths. Like as if we could be that small percentage to beat those odds. Just like every drug, over time it loses its power and you go on to pursue bigger and better things. Even if that meant sticking a needle into your hand, frantically poking around for that live pulsating vein.
From that day forward this would be the reason I would wake up every morning. The reason I would live, breathe and exist. This would be my life partner, my lover, my best friend. This would be the essence of my life. I would be the hostage and it would be my captor and this monster made Alien look like Lamb Chop. My addiction had meet its match and this would be the beginning of the end.
Today, at times, I still think about her. I don’t know where she is or where her son is but I hope she is alive, that she has surrendered, that she has found the mortar to fill the cracks in her soul. I believe that day she was relieved of her secret, it was brought to life as it lie there on that cold bathroom floor. She was exposed, the jig was up and from my personal experience there is a sense of relief in disclosing your addiction. Giving it an existence outside of your head makes you feel less crazy internally.
Despite what that day has brought to my life I truly hope she has found her freedom. I hope the real Brenda has been resurrected.
I was put in a room with white walls, white floors, a cot and a white sheet. There was no furniture or tables, or pillows, or curtains, and you were not allowed any clothing other than the hospital gown you were given. The cot was bolted down in the center of the room and the door was locked.
I was cold and thirsty. My throat burned from vomit and my head was pounding. A nurse came in to check on me and I asked for something to drink. Remember those little plastic cups with a peel back foiled top? I drank probably ten of them. I remember opening and spilling each one, my hands unable to stay still. I remember this like it was yesterday, how the facility looked, how my room looked, what corners of the sheets were stained. Institutions were starting to feel like home. I felt safe in them. It was the only place I knew that I could not get high or drunk and should my possession surface I had help readily available.
My mom and sister came to see me. My sister was nine months pregnant at the time and was about to give birth to her first child. She sat in that room with me and cried. That was the first time I had seen her cry since we were kids. My mom kept asking me over and over why I would do this. I had no answer for her. I barely said a word.
I was there less than a day before I was strapped down to a gurney and transported to Hampton Behavioral Health Center. There I was placed in a dual diagnosis unit for addiction and mental illness.
Now this place was more than a rehab, it was a mental institution. We were allowed street clothes but we could not have any laces, belts or cords. That meant we all wore shoes with no laces and the majority of the guys spent half their day pulling up their pants. Everything was bolted down and each room had two people living in them. Girls were with the girls and boys with boys. We had our own bathroom and a night stand and each night we were locked in our rooms.
There was a quad outside with trees and benches and we were permitted supervised time outside for exercise and fresh air. All units went outside together and all units ate together.
Every day I would watch this one boy walk the perimeter of the quad, over and over. He would mumble to himself something about CD’s and radios and it seemed the whole world did not exist to him. I felt so sad for him yet so envious at the same time. He probably had no clue how sick he was or how different he was from everyone else. He more than likely did not see the pain his illness inflicted on the people who loved him. He was in his own world, a world he created and even he knew how to self soothe. His ritualist chanting was calming, I assume. Now I, on the other hand, of somewhat sound mind, did not. I had zero coping skills for life and pain and my self soothing included self destructive behaviors that magnified chaos in my life like a nuclear explosion.
When you are institutionalized your privacy is essentially revoked. Whether it is an IOP, a rehab, a mental institution or a hospital stay relating to suicide, you have surrendered those luxuries. Your every move is observed, your every word is hung on, and you cannot just leave your room or go outside should you choose. You would think that all of this insanity would have deterred me from ever wanting to return to any behaviors that would bring me here, but you have to understand addiction is not normal. It is not something you can just get over or become stronger than. I fucking hate when people say addiction is for the “weak.” That statement is weak and they need to take their own damn inventory.
I lied the whole time I was there. I told my doctors and therapists everything they wanted to hear and I managed to convince them that I would be ok if I left because I was not like everyone else. I was different and this had been blown way out of proportion. I agreed to everything they asked of me, I would take the medications they prescribed and I would complete another IOP. This would now be my third IOP.
A few days later I was released. I was sent home with my beefed up vices and those vices were doing push-ups the entire time I was away.
I lived with my brother for about three months and then returned to New Jersey. Within that time my parents sold their home and moved to Chesterfield. Of course I went with them, I had no place to live, no money and no job.
I was a “dry drunk.” I had no treatment, no program, and no higher power. I was an emotional disaster; I would eat, sleep, cry and repeat.
Somehow by the grace of God I was able to get my job back. I have no idea why they would want me back but I could come back under one condition, I would have to pass a drug test. Desperate to get some sort of normalcy to my life, I was able to put together a week of abstinence and I passed.
So now I am a dry drunk with no treatment, no medications, no program or higher power and now I have money. Shocking as it may be, I relapsed. It came on fast, it came on strong and it came with a fucking vengeance. It was like I was trying to feed a meter than read fucking zero.
I imploded. I wasn’t sleeping or eating and I was losing my grip on reality. My senses were always heightened because of my lack of sleep and my body was not being met with any nutritional needs. I would hear things and see things that weren’t there. I was emotional and suicidal and these would turn out to be the darkest days of my entire addiction.
There is a lot to be said for that statement because this was not nearly the end of my addiction.
One morning I lay in bed still awake from the night before. The birds were chirping outside and the sun was rising. People’s homes filled with light, rested from the nights sleep, they woke to start their day. For me, it was just the ending. I hadn’t slept. Dawn to me was like the creeping death and to this day is still unsettling to me.
Cocaine is one hell of a drug. You cant sleep, you cant eat and the detox is horrendous. The only way to describe it is like you are crawling out of your own skin. My body temperature would drop, I would shake, I was weak and my eyes burned from exhaustion. I could barely swallow, I could barely talk. My nose completely raw inside would burn and sometimes would even bleed.
Lying in bed that morning I smelled of old cigarettes and alcohol. I was thinking about my life, what it had turned out to be and what it would have been like had I not been given this cross to bear. How better off my family would be, how better off my boyfriend, my friends and my employer would be. Everything I touched turned to stone, I hurt everyone around me.
For years I would carry around this vision of myself, I would be driving down the highway on a beautiful warm sunny day, nobody else on the road, just me. My windows down and the wind in my hair. My music blasting as I sang along. In this dream I was free, I had made it, I had arrived. I would be blissfully happy and at peace with myself. This is all I ever wanted.
That particular morning however I felt that dream would never come true. I decided that morning I wanted it to be over. I could be free, I could end it all right here.
So I tried. I took twelve Trazodone pills, I counted them. That was all I had left. I would just pass away in my sleep and it would be painless. In a matter of time it would all be over and I felt an excitement in that. What I hadn’t thought about though was just how long after I took those pills would I have to sit there and be with this decision. Your body has to digest it, it has to hit your blood stream, you have to wait for it. That gave me time, too much time, to think about things like, would I feel it? Would I suffer? Would I suffocate? Who would find me? How long until they do? Would it be my mom? I hope its not my mom. This would kill her.
The what if’s kept running through my head like a freight train tormenting me over and over. Ultimately I second guessed my decision.
Unable to quiet these thoughts, I made I half way down the stairs before I nearly passed out. It was beginning and I could feel it. My parents called 911 and I was transported to Lourdes Medical Center where I was treated in the emergency room and shortly thereafter placed in their SCIP unit. This is a unit for crisis intervention and mentally ill patients and this would begin my second stint at a rehab facility.
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