Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hey God, I Have A Complaint

Sobriety.  I could feel every nerve ending in my entire body.  “How am I going to do this?”  I felt so afraid and so alone.  My kids were gone.  My boyfriend was gone.  My cats were even gone.  No job, no God, no savings, no license, no health insurance, no hope and not much desire to deal with any of it.  

I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t listen to music. I couldn’t watch TV.  I couldn’t read.  I couldn’t hold a conversation.  Everything either made me angry or sad.  Everything SUCKED.  My pity party had no adult beverages!  Or guests.

When Rich first passed away, I wished I could fast forward to the end of my life.  I was willing to skip everything, say goodbye, then find him on the other side and be happy again.  Alcohol would get me closer and closer to that.  Days would pass in a blink and I would be that much closer to him.  I became dependent on.  I needed it.  It had a hold on me and I pushed everything and everyone else aside.  The thought of not having it, ever again, was overwhelming.  I thought, “Who could possibly do that?  Why would anyone want to do that?!?!”  It was my go to. It did exactly what I wanted it to do. It worked until it didn't. It was winning.

I thought about a dream I had shortly after Ethan was born.  I was standing in my garage holding the baby.  I saw Rich at the end of the driveway walking toward us.  I was relieved.  I was delighted to realize he was home.  He came back to me, to us.  I handed him Ethan.  He held him and looked so lovingly at him.  He brought their cheeks together and breathed him in.  He smiled at me and touched my face.  He handed the baby back to me and said, “You can do this.”  He turned to leave and I was confused.  He said, “I love you, Den, but God has given me a gift.  I wouldn’t come back if I could.”
(Rich and I were not the sort to speak about God.   We mocked organized religion, too.  In fact, we were blasphemers. That was a visit, I’m sure of it.  I spent many years hating God.)

I wanted Madi and Ethan home so I picked up the phone.  I asked someone who lived near me to go to a recovery meeting with me.  I knew I had to stay away from the city and build some supports in the North Hills.  I knew I needed to take their suggestions.  I needed to find out how to live in a world that offered me only pain, a world I felt wronged me, without being altered.   It's called life on life's terms. Ugh…

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Digging in the Dirt"

I did not like the sound of breaking up, at all – not even with PKN.  Deep down I knew this was not the guy for me.  I knew we didn’t work.  Plus, we each had a heartache the other didn’t understand or even want to understand.  However, my addiction had convinced me otherwise.  I thought I needed him.  I wanted a happily ever after.  I wanted to love him.  I would even say the words to him, but each time they would catch in the back of my throat and I would swallow a burning tear.  I wanted my Rich Rust. 

M and E were staying with Rich’s Aunt and Uncle in Kennedy Twp.  I would take 2 buses there to have a short, supervised visit with them.  It was excruciating and humiliating.  I was so ashamed. Then I would some how make my way back to the X’s apartment in Sq. Hill.  I pretended liked the recovery meetings I was going to in the East End.  (Not really, I just didn’t want to be alone.)  I had a key to his place so I would go there or I’d convince him to pick me up.  He would let me sleep over, but he would continually tell me that I wasn’t his girlfriend.  I would shush him and say, “Yes, I am”.  I knew it was a band-aid.  I knew I should have cut ties with him.

I was insane – off the rails.  Apparently, I’m a very good password decoder/guesser because I always seemed to know his.  I would snoop.  I would search through his things and his computer. I was always looking for lies, betrayals and misbehavior - even before we broke up.  I never trusted him.  Eventually, I found what I was looking for – steamy text messages to another girl and condoms beside his bed.  He said I deserved it.

I cried and I screamed at him, “How could you?!?!”    He screamed back he had enough of my egregious behaviors and asked me what did I expect was going to happen.  He couldn’t take it any more.   

I used to always throw the line at him, “You knew what you were getting into!”

He quickly responded repeating me, “You knew what you were getting into!!!!  I love that line!  Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, but I sure know what the fuck I’m getting out of!!!”

I have to say, in present tense that remains one of my favorite lines that ever came out of his talking head!  I certainly didn’t find it amusing at the time, though.  I was all like, “How dare you?!?!”  lol  “Shut your mouth!!  I know what you are!!”  That moment always reminds me of Peter Gabriel’s Digging in the Dirt.

It was really over then.  I had to face my real pain – Madi and Ethan.  I think I would hold on to the illusion of a relationship with PKN so I didn’t have to face my reality. He was a good guy on paper – just not in person.  I liked the idea of him, but like I said it was an illusion – way too toxic.  He was no saint.  I was no angel.  I was ill. 

I was not being a good mom.  I loved them so much, but my heart just ached for Rich.  My thoughts would always go to how much they lost by not getting to know him.  I had to numb.  Not only did they lose their dad, they lost their mom.  I was not there emotionally for them.

When I went to visit, it was so hard to leave them.  Madi would beg me to take her home with me with tears streaming down her face.  Ethan was angry.  He’d tell me to, “just go”.  I would try so hard to not cry in front of them.  I’d assure them this was temporary and they’d be home soon. 

It was Easter 2011 and the kids went to stay the holiday with my sister in Greensburg.  I was able to go as well, but I wasn’t actually allowed to sleep in the same house as them or be alone with them.  It was sickening.  The three of us sat together and hugged and played games.  The confusion on their little faces broke my heart.

The three of us were in the game room with pillows and blankets.  Madi would not fall asleep.  I think she was fearful that I would be gone when she woke up.  She kept saying, “Mommy, talk to me, keep talking to me.”  I held her tight thinking about the beer in the refrigerator.  I thought to myself, “She’ll fall asleep and this will be the last time I take a drink.  I’ll be okay after just one more time.”  Addicts will typically believe it really will be only one more time.

I watched them sleep.  I touched their faces and moved their hair.  I cried.  I prayed. I pleaded with myself and God. 

I did NOT take a drink that night.

April 9, 2011 – My first day of sobriety - for Madi and Ethan.  (See what I did there?)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Foxhole Prayers

February 2011

Gateway Rehab!  “Hope has a home”.  This was my 3rd visit to inpatient rehab, but the first time that I didn’t have to medically detox.  I had about 10 sober days upon arrival.  This was important to me because my 14 days there would count immediately. Time doesn’t count until you are out of detox and participating with other clients. (My mind was only on getting out.) 

I liked this one better than the others because we could use the phones when there was a break in the schedule.  I could call the bf everyday and the kids every night.  Plus, there was a gift shop.  Yes, a gift shop.  I still have a Gateway Rehab mug and hoodie.

I was there out of fear – fear of losing Madi and Ethan.  So, I sat through all the lectures.  I participated in all the groups.  Again, I wrote out my chemical history.  I wrote a good-bye letter to alcohol.  I wrote my own obituary.  I thought I was getting honest with myself, but I still couldn’t breathe.  There was a cold, throbbing hole inside of me.

On the schedule a couple times a week was a group session with a pastor, Pastor Rich.  I liked him.  There was something about him that made me want to believe things could get better.  He spoke of a God that I had never been introduced to, but not in an off-putting, preachy way.

I made an appointment to meet with Pastor Rich privately.  I told him my sad story and I cried for my Rich Rust.  I told him I didn’t understand why all of this was happening.  Rich and I didn’t do anything wrong. Why did this happen?   

He told me to imagine a beautiful tapestry.  Turn it over and look at the underside.  That’s what we see in our lives sometimes.  We see a mess of random and frayed strings going every which way and not leading anywhere – senseless.  But, God sees the other side.  He sees the beauty and perfection that every single stitch came together to create.  It’s His work and it’s a masterpiece. One day, we will see it, too.

Again, I completed the program successfully.

The bf picked me up when I was discharged.  He seemed happy to see me.  I was relieved.  My emotional dependence on him was greater than ever.  It wasn’t love.  It was fear and dependence.  We went out to dinner on our way home.  He had two martinis and told me he hoped my drinking was behind me.  I just told myself it was ok.  I had a problem - he didn’t. He could drink and I could accept it and handle it. I could do this.

My cats and I stayed with him for the next few days.  I tagged along to his office and we would go to the JCC to work out.  I complied with CYS rules until my next court date for the kids.  I was randomly drug tested and breathalyzed.  I reported every time they asked me to.

When I would get the call to go in for the testing, I would have a few hours to actually go do it.  One morning the bf wanted me to go with him to visit an incarcerated client in Ohio.  I had to report for testing by 5 o’clock.  He assured me we would be back on time. 

The time was getting late.  It took way longer to get in and out of the jail.  On the way back he realized he forgot his id.  We had to turn around to get it.  I was going to be late!!  I was panicked!  The bf was so flippant and said “call to see if you can do it tomorrow.”  Are you kidding me?!?!  We are talking about what I’m ordered to do to get my kids back home!  He did not care.  Not one bit - not one bit...

I ended up making it to the court just in time.  I was horrified and flustered.  I was irate with the bf.  Apparently, I still did not have enough recovery in me to deal with my feelings rationally.  I took a bus from downtown to Sq. Hill.  I went to Murray Ave. CafĂ©.  I ordered a glass of wine - then another and another. I didn’t even make it to 30 days sober.

I woke up at the bf’s filled with dread.  I really, really screwed up.  He was screaming. He told me we were done.  He never wanted to see me again.  He was finished helping me.  He said, “Good luck getting your kids back”.  Obviously, I was not surprised by his reaction, but I was terrified because he was acting as my attorney to regain custody of the kids.  Now what?

I felt completely alone.  How can this situation keep getting worse?  I started to think about Pastor Rich.  He said God was a gentleman.  He said God would knock on my door, but I had to invite him in.  He would not intrude or force himself on me.  

On my knees in my living room, “Please!!  God, help me!!”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Is 3 Really a Charm?

I’m not sure if the screaming was just in my head or actually coming out of me.  The house was spinning and I fell to my knees sobbing.  My stomach was in my throat.  I was shaking and crying.  What just happened?

The only reasons I willing to choke breath into my lungs each day were taken.  My children, Rich’s children, were taken because I was an unfit mother.  Oh. My. God.

I frantically called the phone number on the notice to explain a mistake had been made.  I found out the women from the county, who were knocking on my door, went over to the elementary school and removed the kids from their 1st and 3rd grade classrooms.  They were taken to the ER.  I can’t even imagine how confused and scared they must have been.  A sister of mine picked them up.  I was informed to report to family court on Monday.

The kids were with my sister over that weekend so I was able to talk to them each day and I knew they were safe and with someone who loved them. Thank God.

Of course, all I wanted to do was drink the feelings of shame and guilt away.  I tried so hard not to.  I stayed the weekend at the boyfriend’s – who was (is) a pot activist.  Marijuana was so not my drug of choice, but I had to do something.  I had to quiet my humiliation and rumination.  On top of all my mortification, I was paranoid and hungry!  Grrr.

I thought, come Monday morning everyone will know this was a mistake.  I’ll walk in and they’ll all see my sweet-self and hear how eloquently I speak and notice how smart I am and M and E will rush into my arms and we’ll all live happily ever after.  (Delusions and lies an addict tells herself.)  Plus, I was bringing my cut throat lawyer boyfriend.


Neither my charms nor my lawyer boyfriend’s puffed chest made a difference to the judge.  Multiple complaints from the school are taken pretty seriously in family court.  The kids were assigned an advocate, their own lawyer, from Kids Voice, who were none too pleased that lawyer boyfriend was named in the complaint.  The judged ordered the kids to be taken out of my custody for 30 days.  In that time, I was to have a drug and alcohol evaluation and she strongly suggested I follow whatever recommendations they made.  Oh, they drug tested me that day at the courthouse and I came up positive for THC.  Damn it!  I wasn’t even a pot smoker!  Grrr.

One of Rich’s uncles was at the court that day.  He drove me home and I cried the whole way.  He said he and his wife wanted to help me and the kids in any way they could.  He offered to take the kids until this whole mess was over.  I agreed.  He lived in Robinson Twp. – no where close to the kids’ school. 

Amazingly, our school district, NA, arraigned a van to pick up M and E each day in Robinson and get them to school and back.  Wow!  That was huge and I know the principal had a lot to do with that.  She was fighting for the safety and wellness of my family.  I know that now and I knew that then. And I’m grateful.

No big surprise the folks at Gateway Rehab recommended I go to inpatient treatment.  Off I went to my third hospitalization…    

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes

One who does not understand addiction may make such comments as, “Just don’t drink.”, “Just have two and stop”, “Just smoke pot”, or “Don’t you love your kids?”

The latter is the worst one.  Of course, I love my children – Rich’s children.  My love for them can be painful.  I know what they lost.  They lost the sweetest guy in the world.  I imagine all the would have been and the what should have been – all the laughs, the love, the jokes, the hugs, the silliness. All gone.

If the love I have for my children was the cure, I wouldn’t have a disease. 

Addiction doesn’t work that way.  Addiction ultimately wants one thing from me – my life.  Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful.  It’s sneaky.  It started out by taking away my fear – if only for a few hours at a time.  Then it made me chase it.  It made me believe I needed it.  It made me beg for it and be consumed by it.  Soon, it was all I could think about.  Soon, it was all I wanted.  Soon, it took priority. 

Slowly, it turned on me.  As I gave it everything, it took more. It took my money.  It took my common sense.  It took my personality.  It took my self-worth.  It took my self-respect.  It took my self-esteem. 

It left behind wreckage and carnage, pain, tears, loathing and a dismal life hardly worth living.  It left me vulnerable to predators.      

Winter 2010 - 2011

The boyfriend thought I needed to stay busy and talked me into working at his law practice.  I was nearly dysfunctional.  I did not want to, but I figured I couldn’t get away with sitting at home feeling sorry for myself any longer.

I was answering his phone and mailing his letters.  I was filing motions at the courthouse (which was kinda fun).  However, resentments began to spring up because I knew this wasn’t what I was gifted to do.  I have a master’s degree, but I was so depleted I could barely turn on the computer let alone put together a resume and job hunt – or speak to another human!  I’m sure I was not hirable.

I would leave mid day to go to noon recovery meetings downtown.  I still had no license so I had to take a bus into the city (when we stayed at home) and one back in time to get the kids off the school bus.  I hated it and became more and more resentful. 

He also wanted me to support and be involved with his pro-marijuana “cause”.  Um, really?  I’m an addict.

I am 100% in favor of legalizing marijuana.   I don’t see the need to list my reasons.

However, it is absolutely derelict for one to claim it is not addictive.  Addictive personalities will abuse it, wreck their cars and neglect their children under its influence.  A drug is a drug is a drug.  Period.  If you aren’t an addict – enjoy!  If you are – be prepared for the consequences.

As for this addict, when I left the office to go to a meeting, I soon slipped into the bar around the corner instead.  For a few minutes there was relief from all the irritants and resentments.  I’d go back to the office glassy eyed and pretend I was doing the next right thing.  On my way to catch the bus home I’d stop at the Wine and Spirits and buy the biggest bottle of wine I could fit in my backpack, thinking, “This should get me through the evening.”

A typical evening would look something like this.  The six (or 4 depending on the week) of us would go out to dinner.  He’d drink his (at least) two martinis AT me.  He’d comment on how it was pathetic that I couldn’t enjoy a glass or two of wine and be happy.  He’d tell me how unsupportive I was because I didn’t embrace his marijuana advocacy.  He’d tell me he was important and needed to be able to drink to turn off his brain.  He’d tell me he was a catch for someone like me.   He’d bark at my children.  After dinner, the kids and I would go to his apartment for the night.  He’d go into his bathroom and smoke a joint.  At least when he came out he wasn’t as mean.  Festering resentments…

I had a ruse I pulled quite often.  I would say I needed Diet Coke.  He’d give me the keys to his car and I’d drive to the Giant Eagle on Murray Avenue.  I’d park in the lot and walk across the street to a restaurant and order a drink at the bar.  I’d drink two or three as fast as I could.  I’d then run into the store, grab the soda and go back to the apartment feeling satisfied.  Often, I’d stop at the liquor store and sneak a bottle back with me.  I’d pretend I couldn’t sleep and stay out in the living room all night to drink it.

A Wednesday night in February was particularly irritating.  I left with his car (remember, no license) to get Diet Coke.  That time I went too far.  I have no idea how many drinks I had, how much money I spent or how I got back to his place.

I work up with a screaming headache, ripped jeans and bloody knees.  He was a hue of purple that I had never seen before.  I scrambled and gathered my kids’ things together and ran outside to load the car to get them back to the North Hills in time for school.  No car.  NO CAR!  I lost the man’s car!  Oh. My. God.

I didn’t even know what to say.  So, I said, “I’ll be right back.”  I ran the whole way down to the Giant Eagle crying.  Thankfully, the car was where I parked it and I had the keys!  Thank God I didn’t drive that car the night before.

If I learned anything from my mother, it’s – if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist.  We drove to the kids’ school in silence.  I could feel the heat of his anger.

I had to go inside the school to sign the kids in because they were late.  I was a visible mess.  The principal followed me out the door and asked me if I was ok.  I was truthful and told her that I relapsed.  She thought I was drinking that morning, but I assured her it was the night before.  She asked if the boyfriend was also drinking.  I said he had his usual martinis at dinner.

He dropped me off at home and I figured our relationship was over.  I went in and passed out.

I’m sure I found my way to another bottle of wine before the kids got home.  I don’t even know if I talked to the boyfriend that night.  I was probably hiding and hoping it would pass - as it usually did.

The next morning, Friday, I got the kids on the school bus.  I had the shakes and dry heaves as usual.  I drank a glass of wine to take the edge off and went back to bed.

I was roused by knocking at my door about an hour later.  I looked out the window and saw two women.  I assumed they were Jehovah’s Witnesses and ignored them.

When they were gone I went down to find a notice taped on my door.

Allegheny County was taking immediate and emergency custody of my children.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

No Pill, No Person, No Prayer - Could Make Me Whole

Note to self: tell ONLY my story! 

In recovery we know that resentments will kill us.  As much as I wanted to blame the boyfriend for things getting worse, it wasn’t his fault.  My turmoil, my demons and my pain were mine and mine alone.  Broken promises and shortcomings of another person didn’t do this to me.  I did it. I would allow things I didn’t like to fester.  I made things worse.  I allowed my illness to perpetuate.  I learned people will treat you the way you allow them to.

My healing must include forgiveness, but more importantly, I need to recognize my role in the ridiculousness. I was in this alone. A savior did not exist.

Summer 2010 – Fall 2010

I had a CYS case open.  I had 2 social workers from Holy Family assigned to me and a CYS case worker.  Humiliating.

The boyfriend forgave me and loved me again.  The kids and I mostly stayed at his place because it was walking distance to my out patient treatment at Gateway in Squirrel Hill. I still had no driver’s license.  I stayed with the kids during the day and he stayed with them the 3 evenings a week I went to treatment.  This was my second outpatient treatment following my second inpatient and 1 partial hospitalization treatments.  He promised he wouldn’t drink either.  He promised he’d stay sober and support my recovery.

I thought maybe I should take an antidepressant.  That just might do the trick!  

I had an inkling of joining a church.  I had no idea where that was coming from.  I spent years seething and outraged that God took Rich Rust from me and the kids.  My thoughts of God were mostly malicious.  

I wanted a quick fix.  I wanted someone or something else to do the work for me.  Please, just fix me...

I did not fully participate in my own recovery.  I don’t think more than 30 days passed before I was back at it – the sneaking, the lying, the drinking, the mental abuse and the self pity.  I was angry that recovery didn’t come easy.  I was angry that I had to recover at all!  I was angry the feelings just wouldn’t go away.

I was tested for alcohol almost daily at outpatient.  One of the counselors would hand me a test strip that I was to put in my mouth.  I would flip it in upside down so the treated end would not go into my mouth.  Then I’d flip it back to him.  Negative.  I was so clever I fooled myself.

The folks at rehab were not fools, however.  They knew all the tricks and heard all the lies of a desperate addict.  I was diluted.  I still blamed everything on Rich’s death.  It was so far beyond that.

The lead counselor finally called me and said enough.  I could die or I could get well, but he was done.  My fear was he’d report to CYS that I was using and they’d take the kids.  At his insistence, I stepped up to partial hospitalization, again.  (Partial = 5 days a week at rehab.)

I went through the motions.  I showed up.  I wrote my chemical history.  I wrote my own obituary.  I watched “Clean and Sober”, “The Days of Wine and Roses” and “28 Days”.  I shared.  I confessed.  I cried.  I promised.  I journaled.  I listened.  I empathized.  I abstained.  Finally, I successfully “graduated”.  All of this was – AGAIN.      

CYS closed my case.  No more problem.  


Monday, February 23, 2015

Round Two

(Spring 2010)

The principal was relieved that I said the words, “I need help.”  I deflated into a chair in her office, weeping.  She picked up the phone and made several calls.  She was obligated to call Children, Youth Services.  She called my friend, Kelly, to come pick up me and the kids.

We all spoke in her office for a while.  I agreed to go back to inpatient.  Kelly agreed to take the kids to her house and take care of our cats while I was there.  We were up to two at this point.

Kelly drove me home.  The kids went with her.  I was going into withdrawal so I walked up to the Wine and Spirits store.  I was supposed to be packing an overnight bag for the kids. 

When I came to the next morning, I was soaked with sweat and my heart was racing.  I knew it was bad.  I was sure I wasn’t going to live until there was a bed open (in inpatient).

I’m not sure how I made it to the ER at Passavant.  I don’t know if Kelly took me or if I asked a neighbor.  I really did know I was sick.  I just didn’t want to be.  I wanted to be cute, smart and fun again.  I was barely a shadow of myself.

In the ER, I was immediately on an IV and Librium.

There were bruises all over me that I couldn’t explain.  I was dehydrated and anemic.

The ER staff was able to immediately secure a bed for me in treatment.  It was back to Pyramid, but this time in Altoona instead of Wilkinsburg.

I medically detoxed for the second time.  What I disliked most about detox was my “time” didn’t begin until one is in the actual rehab part of the stay.  What I liked most during detox was I could stay up and watch TV and have no schedule.

After about 3 days I moved to a room.  My roommate was a young heroin addict.  She told me she couldn’t believe I was there for just alcohol.  “Um, I wasn’t sipping it out of crystal with my pinky extended”, Miss Dual Diagnosis!  (lol)

Folks in rehab can sure be clicky.  Of course, I didn’t fit in!  So, I immediately went into my survival mode and had to prove I was the smartest in the room, at all times. 

Meanwhile, in crazy-town where the boyfriend lived, he had his secretary type me up a nice letter.  He let me know he was angry and wanted to break up, but decided to give me another chance if I promised to try harder.  Gee, thanks, jackass.

Honestly, I was terrified that he would break up with me over this.  That’s where most of my energy and thoughts were – on him.  I was beginning to convince myself that I loved him and the kids and I needed him.  I was sick.

Ethan turned six years old without me there.  Shameful.

In group and individual therapy I was my manipulative self.  Again, I could talk the talk.  All I wanted was out.  My new phrase became, “Change I must or die I will.”  There was truth in the phrase, but not in my heart.  I just wanted to be left alone. 

I joked, I smiled, I laughed and I quoted my way right out the door to another successful discharge.