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.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Demons Are Patient

(Spring 2009 to Spring 2010)

It was 5.5 years since Rich passed away.  The last thing I was looking for was a boyfriend. Yet, there he was - on my couch, (which he bought) - with his dog. 

He kind of just appeared.  He was my lawyer.  Then we became Facebook friends.  Then he was at my door in the middle of the night.

It was surreal.  Rich was 22 when we started dating in 1993.  He didn’t even have hair on his chest.  We grew into adulthood together.  This guy was already a man – with a really deep phone voice.  It freaked me out.

Over dinner and drinks on one of our first dates he was describing his relationship with his soon to be ex-wife.  The time and the places when they began dating (early 90s Oakland) were similar to when and where Rich and I met. 

Here is what was the polar opposite.  He described their relationship as people who were negative, judgmental, critical and entitled.  Rich and I were nothing like them.  Rich and I were kind.  I said out loud, “Rich and I would have never been friends with you.”

All I could think that entire evening was - Rich wouldn’t say that; Rich wouldn’t feel that; Rich wouldn’t think that; God, I miss Rich.  I knew it didn’t feel right.  I sensed this man’s spirit of malignity.  I wanted to leave, but I stayed.  I just pushed it down with another glass of wine. I choked down all of my apprehension until I couldn’t feel anything at all.  That’s the way I liked it.

Over the next few weeks, my nerves and emotions were so completely out of whack that I broke out horribly.  I was 39 years old!  I mean horribly.  It was the weirdest thing.  I had to see a bunch of dermatologists and try different medications including Accutane.  My already low self esteem took a nose dive.  I didn’t want to leave the house.  I was convinced the boyfriend was using some kind of product that I was having a reaction to.  One doctor even joked that I must be allergic to him. (To this day I have scars on my chin and forehead from it.)  No doctor was ever able to explain it.  It had to be the stress of the “relationship”.

The doctor warned me that if I consumed alcohol while on that drug it would most certainly damage my liver.  It was a risk I was willing to take.   

Sure, the boyfriend was wholly flawed, but so was I.  He knew about the DUIs, losing my job because of alcohol, rehab, losing my license and now my mutant appearance and he still wanted to be with me.  I think part of my appeal to him was that I was sicker than he was.

The guilt of being with someone that was not Rich was making me desperate to escape.  I mean escape from myself.  I wasn’t trying to get away from my children.  I wasn’t even trying to get away from the boyfriend.  It was me that I didn’t want to have anything to do with. 

I was drowning in my fears, shame, guilt.  We had drinks together every night at dinner in restaurants then we would continue late in to the evenings at my home or his.  My children became used to the routine.  His children were there half the time to keep them company.

We looked like a little family.  He liked to call us the mini Brady Bunch.  I was miserable.  I was in a relationship with someone I didn’t really like, but at the same time, I didn’t want to be out of if.  I think I thought that no one else would put up with a mess like me.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t looking for a relationship to begin with.  I guess I liked having a partner.  I’m not sure if I even noticed myself getting sicker.

I tortured myself daily with thoughts of failure and inadequacy.  Now that I was a criminal, I figured I wasn’t going to be employable.  Even if I got a job, how was I going to get there with no license? I would go round and round with thoughts of how horrible I was.  I could absolutely not see my situation getting any better.  I slowly became more and more dependent on this boyfriend.  My addiction told me this was as good as it was going to get.  My addiction caused me to forget who I was.  My ambition was gone.  My personality was gone.  My laugh was gone.

I was alone during the day.  I was trapped in my cave - trapped with my demons.  Each day I opened that first bottle of wine earlier and earlier.  I figured I could numb and then be alert enough to pretend to enjoy the evenings. 

Wrong.  My demons are patient.

On an early April morning in 2010, I drank until I passed out.  I didn’t go pick up my child from half day kindergarten.  I woke up to the phone ringing.  I immediately knew what I did.  I jumped in my car and flew up to the school.  I can’t imagine what I looked like or how I smelled.  I know my teeth were purple when I dashed into that school and grabbed my son out of the principal’s office.  I said, “Sorry”, and ran.

When we got home I lied to all my emergency contact folks that the school called.  I assured them everything was fine – it was just a misunderstanding. 

I managed to get myself and the house cleaned up before CYS knocked on my door that evening.  I had a feeling they were coming.  When they arrived we looked like a happy little family.  The boyfriend and his kids were there by then.  The house and kids were clean.  There was food in the refrigerator.  The water ran and the toilet flushed.  CYS spoke to each of my children separately.  They were “fine”.  In my peripheral I could see the boyfriend seething.      

The case worker said there must have been a mistake.  He saw no problems in my household.  There would be no report filed. 

One month later, I did the exact same thing.  This time when I ran into the principal’s office, my son wasn’t there.  

I sat down and started to cry and said, “I need help.” 

She said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sickness Attracts Sickness

(October 2008 - April 2009)

The lawyer who was accidentally appointed to my case got the job done. He told me to cry and talk about my husband in front of the judge.  Easy.  That’s what I always did anyway.  My big line back then was, “It’s not my character it’s my circumstance.” 

The consequences were cut and dry.  No wiggle room or leniency in DUI cases.  My license was suspended for 18 months, $3000ish fine, 3 years probation and the worst part, 90 days house arrest.  But, hey, at least I didn’t have to worry about getting to work!  Plus, I deserved it.

The trial was in November and Lawyer Boy asked the judge if I could begin my house arrest after the holidays.  That was nice of him I guess.  After all was said and done in the courtroom, Lawyer Boy walked me down to the office where I had to register for probation.  He was nice and told me if I needed anything to let him know.  I was sure that would never be necessary and thought to myself – I never want to see you again.

Here is my favorite way to describe what happened next:

I’m charming.  On a good day, I’m charming.  However, that day in the courthouse, with 2 DUIs in one hand and my first inpatient discharge papers in other…?  Crying, no job, no car, no health care, no plans to change any of it -  Lawyer Boy must have thought to himself,
“That’s the girl for me!!”

During the next couple of months we became a couple.  A toxic couple.  I was still on house arrest for our first date.  He brought wine and flowers to my house.  It was lovely.

This was a huge green light for me to continue to be sick.  Now I had a partner – a drinking buddy with kids the same age as mine.  Perfect.  It was meant to be.  He knows all my “stuff” and loves me anyway.  He even read the police report.  I thought - I guess I’m not so bad after all. 

He became part of my disease.  I wanted him to take all the pain away.  I wanted to hide behind him.  I wanted him to save me.  I wanted the world to think he was just fine and therefor I was, too.  He was a giant bottle of wine.

On our first date that I was off house arrest we went to a nice restaurant in the East End.  There, he ordered a “Bombay Sapphire martini extra dry, up, with a twist and when I say extra dry, I mean extra dry.”  I ignored how pompous he was. 

As he sipped his second martini and his eyes began to glaze and squint, he told me he trusted that I would get myself together.  He went on to say he never had more than two martins at a time.  The next sentence he said was to waitress when he ordered a shot of whiskey and a glass of ice.

I could see what was happening.  I could see who he was.  I could see he had issues and hurts and hang-ups, too.  I didn’t care.  I ignored it.  I wanted to drink the way I wanted to drink and I figured this fellow certainly wasn’t going to judge me.  He was doing, too!

By the end of that evening, I suggested that maybe I should drive home.

Monday, February 2, 2015


In May of 2008 I had no job, no health insurance, no car, no self-esteem, no plans and no hope.  Plus, I was still facing charges from the car accident back in February.  So, we got a kitten and named him Phineas.  M loved him.  E wanted nothing to do with him.  He didn’t care for furry things that could move around by themselves.

We were actually ok.  No, not really.  That’s just a lie that addicts tell themselves. There was a hell in my head that oozed on to every part of my life and every person in my world that I held hostage in my grief and addiction.

At this point, I was pretty frightened, but not quite enough to do much about it.  I was attending some “support meetings”.  I had been in touch with my lawyer to let him know that I had done it again.  There are a few appearances one has to make in front of magistrates/judges when facing criminal charges.  My lawyer went to the initial arraignment with me.  I certainly wasn’t going to fight anything.  I was guilty.  It was a whole lot of hurry up and wait.

In the meantime, I met a woman who attended the same kind of meeting I half heartedly attended.  Turns out, her husband was a criminal defense attorney and she offered up his services to me.  Great! 

I politely fired my attorney and this other fellow went to the next couple of court appearances I had to make.  It was all fine on that end of things.  At least I knew I had a competent lawyer and I wasn’t going to get a bill.  Then I got a letter from the wife explaining to me that she over stepped her boundaries and her husband withdrew from my case.  Grrrr.

In retrospect, I’m sure she knew I wasn’t well.  I was still drinking and doing nothing to improve my mental health.  She had to separate from me to protect her own sobriety.

At this point, my pretrial conference was only a week or so away.  I hurried up to call the first lawyer to tell him I made a mistake and really did need his services!  Frustrated with me, he looked up my case to see what was coming up and what he had to do.  He called me back to tell me there was nothing he could do because another lawyer had been appointed to my case.

Appointed?  How?  I never contacted anyone.  I don’t qualify for a public defender. (Apparently, one has to be dirt poor to get one of those.)  Who?  First lawyer said it was PKN.  I never heard of him.  I never contacted him.  I never hired him, but he was the name of counsel on my case.

So, I called this PKN person and he doesn’t know me, never heard of me, never agreed to represent me.  We were both puzzled.  He told me he would not leave me hanging.  He did not represent me, but he would appear at the pretrial conference to clear up this obvious clerical error.

The morning I was to be in court this PKN person was a no show.  Great.  The prosecutor questioned me about my representation.  I explained what happened.  They sent me to the public defenders office where they told me the exact same thing.  PKN was my lawyer.  Grrrr.

Keep in mind – I’m in active addiction through all this.  So, I call PKN to tell him about himself and I used the f word a few times.  He maintained that he didn’t represent me.

In true alcoholic form, I went to my trial without a lawyer.  I sat there and cried as I heard verdicts and plea deals and victim impact statements, etc.  I heard the judge say my name to the clerk who said PKN back to him.  The judge got off the bench and went to his chambers, I guess.  About 15 minutes later this goofy guy with Muppet hair came bouncing up to me.  I was easy to find because I was the only one left!  He said, “Are you Denette Rust?”  Um, yes.  “Hi, I’m PKN, I’ve been officially appointed to represent you.” 

My thoughts – are you kidding me with this?  I hate you…

Things are about to go to a whole new level of crazy.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Addiction: You Tricky Bastard

Addiction is tricky.  It’s the only disease I know of that tries to convince me that I don’t have a disease.  It has no memory of pain.  It terrorized me and talked at me all day and all night.  Then it beat me up emotionally and physically when I would give in to it. Then I did exactly the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next. Before I knew it, I was right where I started – full of self hatred and shame. 

Work was tense.  I was overwhelmed with fear that everyone knew that I had a drinking problem.  One day I decided to ease my anxiety the only way I knew how.  I had a glass of wine at lunch.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Of course, I chose to do it the same day I had an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) meeting with the therapist that was totally on to me.  She immediately knew.  I was given a breathalyzer and it did not register a 0.  I was immediately suspended without pay for 30 days.  In order to keep my job, I had to agree to attend an intensive outpatient program while I was off.

I was already attending Gateway in Cranberry 3 nights a week.  It was totally lost on me.  I did nothing to change.  I would just wait for it to end each night and then go directly to the Cranberry Wine and Spirits store that was open until 10 pm. 

Immediately, I was able to step up to partial in-patient treatment – the folks at Gateway knew I wasn’t well.  Partial in-patient treatment is typically 5 days a week for 4 or 5 hours a day.  It consists of lots of group therapy, lots of raw sharing, and hopefully, lots of honesty.

Again, I was using fear to keep me sober.  I participated.  I read what they wanted me read.  I said what they wanted me to say.   I smiled and laughed and pretended.  I met my first “sponsor” there.  It was the day I reeked of alcohol and they called for outside supports to come get me out of there, drive me home and dump out all the wine in my house.  There was just nothing that could keep me sober.  The kids were still in Canada.  At least I knew they were safe.

I managed to get a few weeks of sobriety together and “graduate” from the program.  One by one people in my group wished me well and gave me a shiny coin.  I was headed back to work.  I drove up to Toronto and picked up M and E.  I was so happy so have them home!  They were singing, “Oh, Canada” and saying, “x,y, Zed”.

As part of my 2nd last chance agreement with the corporation, I agreed to random drug testing.  At any given moment the nurse could call my supervisor and he would then send me to the medical department for a breathalyzer.  I was annoyed by it, but thankful I had a job.  

Not even 30 days later, I was having wine with dinner – which led to a bottle, then another.  I was so paranoid everyday.  I was always trying to calculate how much I could drink and when I had to stop and how much water it would take to dilute it based on how much I weighed and if there was a full moon that night, etc.– thinking I could beat the breathalyzer if need be.

One day my direct supervisor and his supervisor were both out of town.  The medical department called a co-worker of mine, a lateral co-worker,, to have them send me for the breathalyzer. My supervisor, his supervisor, HR and the medical staff were the only people who were supposed to know of this “arrangement”.  I was furious and embarrassed.  That was pretty much all it took for me to go ahead and throw that job away.

That evening I was so angry, I stayed up most of the night and drank the way I wanted to.  The next morning I was called down to medical.  The reading was not a 0.  I was done. Terminated. I left the building, went directly to the wine store and then unenrolled M and E from daycare.

It was easy to justify.  Corporate America wasn’t a good fit for me anyway…      

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fear Can Not Keep Me Sober

Trying to kill the pain of whatever it is that aches in you will eventually kill you. 

I woke up in the ER confused, dirty, bloody and connected to tubes with absolutely no memory of how I got there.  I immediately started to pull needles out of my arms and try to get up.  One of my sister’s was already there trying to calm me down.  Nurses were saying I needed to have an MRI.  Apparently, one of my pupils was dilated and one was not.  I didn’t know what happened, but I knew it was bad.  All I could think was I had to go pick up M and E.

It was bad.  Everyone knew.  I was terrified.  I was embarrassed.  I was ashamed.  I was sick.

The next morning I was on my way to a drug and alcohol treatment center in Wilkinsburg.  My sister came down from Canada and scooped M and E back with her, thankfully.  My work knew I was in an accident and needed to be hospitalized.  I hoped that was all they knew. 

I agreed to 28 days of inpatient treatment after they agreed I could call the kids everyday.  I knew they were safe, but I had to hear their voices.  (They were 3.5 and 6 at that point.)   

After about 3 days of a Librium detox for acute alcohol withdraw, I started the actual rehab. 

I actually said, “OMG.  Where am I?  I have been misplaced!”  The response from the staff was basically, have a seat – you are right where you belong.

All I wanted was out.  I felt I didn’t need that kind of prison like counseling.  I thought my only problem was that my husband died and I was sad.  I was smart, I was educated, I had a good job, I had great kids – this was not for me.

I was there because I was afraid.  I was afraid to lose M and E.  I was afraid to lose my job.  I was afraid of the legal consequences I was about to face.  So, I read what they told me to read.  I said what they wanted to hear, but I was there for the wrong reasons.

I talked my way into leaving a few days early.  I went back to work.  I agreed to go to out patient in the evenings.  I picked up the kids.

I did nothing to change.

I don’t think I got past 35 days before I had another drink and was right back in my pathetic pattern.

I would soon find out - what one puts in front of their recovery – one will lose.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Headed Toward the Rabbit Hole

The humiliation and fear didn't last long.  It just didn’t sting enough, I suppose.  I obtained a lawyer through a friend, paid a fine and lost my license for three months.  Once a year was up, it would be gone and no one needed to know.  So, I continued to do what I was doing – drinking as if there were no consequences – as if I didn’t hurt or inconvenience anyone – as if I wasn’t killing myself.

Work was horrid.  I was sick everyday.  I couldn’t concentrate or care.  I was constantly late and unproductive.  I was pouring sweat by every afternoon going into withdrawal.  Thankfully, there was always someone to go downstairs to the bar with at 5 o’clock.  Once I had that glass in my hands I knew relief was close.

The only person I was fooling was me.  Obviously, there was only so much my boss was going to put up with.  HR was not happy either.  I was put on a last chance contract.  Part of that deal was I had to regularly see the EAP counselor.  I was actually already seeing her on my own because of the grief.  She was completely on to my alcoholism, but now she had me.  I had to see her and take her suggestions or lose my job.

“Go to a ‘what’ kind of meeting?!?!  You've got me confused with someone who has a drinking problem.  My problem is that I’m depressed.”    

That was my response and answer for everything, “You’d be sad, too”, “You’d be depressed, too”, “You’d drink, too” – if it happened to you.

I continued on like this for months - sick every day, paranoid, fearful, angry, sad and all around unpleasant. It was this tedious suicide plan that was taking way too long to work. 

Every day I was hanging on by my finger nails to get through.  All I could think about was that drink waiting for me at home.  It’s what could make everything go away.  (foreshadowing!)

Anniversaries of anything Rich would be my favorite excuse to do nothing toward growth or healing and wallow in my pity party.  January was usually the time I’d become completely unglued and I could once again blame his death for my reckless behavior.

Two years had gone by since I got the DUI.  Not that that has anything to do with anything.  I changed nothing.

It was a Tuesday and my mother in law picked up M and E from daycare.  My plan after work was to limit myself to two glasses of wine with co-workers, get a hair cut and then pick up the kids.

I woke up in the emergency room on my way to a MRI…