I told you from the beginning, I was going to share my journey. I thought I would let us get a little better acquainted before bearing my soul. But, this weekend I found an entry in the Notes app of my phone. Written May 25, 2017 in an exasperated vent of a dark moment of sheer desperation and frustration, I actually contemplated sharing it on social media. I am thankful that I thought that through and talked myself off the ledge from that implosion of regret. This note that resurfaced in my phone documented the first year of what we thought we were battling and catapulted us into a new war zone of reality. Looking back I can remember how much relief just typing the truth out in my own words brought me. Even though it never went any further than that, it was truly an emotional release. It recapped that poignant turning point, the event that has marked time from that point forward, now referred to as ‘before and after’. Going back to read my heart from that day captured the gist of that shift and feeling where I was in that place, on that day, in comparison to now, was quite cathartic. Why completely reinvent the wheel and what a better way to go ahead and put it all out there than this? I will copy and paste the note from that day of my near spontaneous combustion into incremental posts throughout of this blog. It was long, so it will take a few posts to get it all out there. This will be the easiest way to share a vital part of my story—carrying us from then and allowing me to pick up to now. The italicized words will be what I wrote then and the regular will be what I have since added for clarity.
Warning, this post is going to be one that is long, messy, extremely transparent, and full of raw emotion and truth. This is truly not an invite to a pity party, a cry for attention or a sob story. It is a real life truth. It’s been on my heart to share this, but my desire to protect my family from judgment and my own silly pride (among other things) has kept me from doing so. Today, I’m taking the risk of exposing this storm publicly in hopes of raising awareness, creating a prayer wall surrounding my family tall and wide enough to breathe infinite strength into this situation, to let another mom know she’s not alone, to stir a desire for someone else struggling to finally get help, wishing to hear insight from others who’ve experienced this, to find peace by loosening the chains this reality binds me in daily, and of course recharge the never-ending hope that will finally remedy this nightmare positively for us all. I will attempt to stay organized in the delivery.
On April 25, 2016, the day after a very tumultuous encounter with my oldest daughter, J, my phone rang. It was her. Having ended the previous day the way we did, I was so relieved to see her picture illuminate my caller ID. I eagerly answered the phone and on the other end of the line I could hear her voice crack as she said, “Mama.” The circumstances the night before were pretty concerning and I was so relieved just to hear her voice, but my heart immediately skipped a beat hearing the tone in that crackle. “I need help,” she said. Words I had prayed to hear from her to me versus the other way around for quite some time. I never dreamed the help she needed would be to the extent she was about to tell me. She explained she had been using drugs and she wanted to go to rehab. When I asked her what drug, her answer was ‘everything’. I was in shock. I doubt a took a breath or blinked an eye that whole phone call. She explained to me that she found a program she thought would be a good start. At this point, I asked very few questions and started immediately making calls to get her the help she so bravely was asking for. Finally. Just a few short months before, I had made a career change. My new employer had exceptional insurance that I had not utilized yet. Before I knew it, I had clearance from our insurance company and confirmation of a bed hold for an admission on April 30. I didn’t know what to expect, it was a very simple process, surprisingly so! The 5 days leading up to her entering the treatment center were filled with constant prayers. I was thanking God for her decision to seek help, and praying that she would not change her mind or run in the meantime. I also desperately prayed that she lived long enough to get to rehab and receive the help her life depended on.
To give some background here– up until this point, we thought we were solely dealing with depression and bi-polar disorder. From the time of the initial onset of her symptoms, we sought counseling and every possible intervention we were aware of within our reach. She denied drug use and I did randomly test her. In her senior year of high school, at 17, she withdrew from school in the semester before she was set to graduate. She basically left home and started staying with various “friends”. This is where everything shifted for the worse. She continued to deny drug use but admitted she was not consistent with her medication. There were many instances of verbal and emotional outburst and other erratic behavior, much of which we believed was due to non-compliance with her medicine. I later began to highly suspect she was abusing prescription medication, Xanax specifically, and I quit giving her cash.
This escalated and things quickly spiraled further out of control. As a family we were weary, having tried everything we knew to try– to no avail. After multiple incidents, we were forced to take a TPO against her. The temporary protective order was a last resort, hopefully this will show her she can’t treat us however she wants to, maybe this will calm the chaos kind of move. It was self-preservation from the demon that had taken over her. Still, as a family, we knew something wasn’t right and did attempt continuing to show her love & support her in the fleeting moments where we caught a glimpse of who she really was. Seeing J as herself became fewer and further between. We are a family of infinite grace and we will love you to a place we now know isn’t actually love–at least not a healthy space of love when dealing with these type of demons. We tried to establish boundaries and not enable her. Deciphering the lines between forgiveness or boundaries and love versus enabling did not come natural for us. At that time we were really not even sure what boundaries with a family member in active addiction even looked like and weren’t clear on exactly what enabling was and what it was not. Because, honestly we’d never had to. There had not really been a time where we encountered the blurry lines a demon such as this created. It was foreign territory and we were doing the best we could with what we knew to navigate it. Most certainly, we were cluelessly ignorant about addiction and the many layers it encompassed.
Back to my note recalling April 2016 — J, then 19, entered a residential rehab about an hour from home. The morning I took her she slept most of the way there. Later, I would learn that this “nodding off” was the remnants from the last high before the first rehab. The next day, the admission nurse called me to get some additional information. I asked her how J was doing. She explained to me that the first several days would be a detox and observation phase. She informed me that J’s initial drug screen “lit up like a Christmas tree”. Upon admission, she tested positively for marijuana, benzo’s, opioids, meth, cocaine, a number of prescription medications that were not prescribed to her, and heroin. I remember being on the lake with my husband stunned by this news. We had a fishing tournament that day. I had wanted to skip it and rest from the exhaustion of the day before, but I went anyway. I sat in that boat frozen in disbelief. How was this happening? How did we get here? How and why was this precious baby girl I had loved since conception hurting so bad that she sought this deadly cocktail of drugs to escape with? I remember thinking to myself, heroin? That can’t be right. Is heroin even still a thing? We live in a tiny town in Georgia. We don’t even have heroin here. That’s a big city New York and California drug. Then it dawned on me. In order for all of these substances to show up on one drug test meant that they were all taken in a very short window of time. I was even more horrified and stricken with a deeper clinching knot in my stomach that wouldn’t every fully go away for far longer than I knew.
To be continued….
The Tangled Tulip