Another Loss

The picture of her is blurry, I know. Fuzzy or out of focus, I know. I’m using it anyway, maybe as a way to let go -just a little bit. Dull the pain, just a touch.

Like most of the state, I heard yesterday about Jacob Wetterling. Don had called and when I answered he said “Did you hear about Jacob Wetterling?”

“No. What?”

“They found him.”

I was holding my breath and waiting for more but nothing came…

“Dead or alive?” I asked.

“Oh, dead.”

“Shit!”

“That’s not why I’m calling though…” and I didn’t hear or don’t remember what he said after that because nothing else mattered. Not in that moment. In those few moments, I remembered Jacob. His aunt taught my home economics class in middle school. I was about the same age as Jacob when he was taken. I, along with everyone else, waited for news of safe return of the boy with the bright smile and yellow t-shirt.

A statement released by The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center said in part: “We are in deep grief. We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way. … Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished. It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob’s Hope.”

Really? Deep grief? Still? It’s been 27 years… It sounds harsh, I know… I think I was trying to be optimistic? As backwards as that sounds. I guess I was hoping that after a certain number of years, it wouldn’t hurt so much… I’m sure finding the remains brought up all sorts of horror I don’t want to imagine…

We went to Natalie’s friend’s house yesterday to clean her stuff out of his garage. I figured it would be emotionally draining and it was. I only broke down twice though. Once when cleaning out her nightstand and I found a couple of pictures of Tayla as a baby and the other time, when cleaning out her desk and I found one of the books I had a story published in and a hand written letter I’d sent her in November of 2010.

For six hours we sorted, moved, piled and hauled. We finished up (for the day) at 6:00 pm and I was a zombie. I drove home in silence and once upstairs, I flopped onto the bed. I balled up a couple of her shirts and held them to my chest and buried my face in them and tried to remember her scent.

Don made dinner. I wasn’t hungry but ate a little bit. I don’t remember what triggered it… whatever we’d been talking about, he said something, something “once in a blue moon”. The song she sang for the high school talent show, Blue Moon of Kentucky. I heard her voice in my head and felt her absence in my heart.

I cried. And cried. And cried until I couldn’t breathe. I went to bed. Of course, I couldn’t sleep. I turned to Facebook. News of Jacob Wetterling was everywhere.

In many of the comments I read in reaction to the news of finding Jacob Wetterling, almost everyone said something to the effect of “at least now they have closure”. I guess it sounds like a good thing but after 27 years, to find out this is how it ends? I think I’d rather hang on to hope, no matter how slight.

Today, I worked. I was still tired and achy from yesterday but it wasn’t busy, I didn’t have to do much. Afterward, I’d made plans to meet up with Shar. On my way there, I heard that song “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. I listened to the whole thing without even tearing up! I was proud of myself… for about two seconds.

The song after that, was “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Haley Reinhart. The significance of this song comes from a session of healing I took with my mom, lead by Laurie Wondra. She told us that the frequency of Reinhart’s voice was optimal for connecting with angels or spirits on the other side… man, I really hope I’m remembering this right… Anyway, I cried in the car. The crying turned into screaming. I screamed and screamed. NATALIE! No! Nooo! This is NOT the best time to be flying down 35E at 70 mph when you can’t see shit… but, I didn’t have much of a choice.

Thankfully I calmed down by the time I got to Shar’s. My throat hurts, my emotions are stirred up and I’m left remembering Justin’s phone call to tell me Nat was dead. Why couldn’t she have been in a coma? I wondered over and over again. Because I wanted that hope…

I guess hope is my new drug of choice.

But now I have to have hope for other people. Help them to have hope for themselves.

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Sometimes I’m a Judgmental Asshole

Sometimes I’m a judgmental asshole. Not always but sometimes…

Most of the time I consider myself an open minded and non-judgmental person.

Last night was not one of those times.

At the Overdose Awareness vigil last night, I was really paying attention to my body sensations… they’re usually the hint I get for when a big emotion is about to take over.

One of the first people I heard speak was a woman from Valhalla Place. They specialize in addiction and mental health treatment. Reasonable goals are set and they offer harm reduction options and medication assisted recovery among many other things to aid in the attainable goals set. What caught my attention was her piece on their needle exchange program. The purpose of these programs are to stop the spread of infection and disease caused by sharing needles. The needle exchange program is just what it sounds like. You bring in your used needles, where they can dispose of them properly and in exchange, give you clean (new) needles.

There was a knot in my stomach.

I understand the premise of the project… I do. It was the same logic I used when I gave Natalie some of my needles. (For those of you who don’t know me, I am an insulin dependant diabetic and receive a ton of sterile syringes, about 100 a month) Initially she told me she had a friend who was diabetic and he didn’t have insurance. I believed her, for the most part, at first. After a few times, it didn’t make sense why her friend wasn’t getting these needle prescribed himself… I knew she was using them for herself but I hid behind plausible deniability. Finally, I figured if she got them from me, I knew they were clean. After awhile someone asked me (probably my therapist, it sounds therapist-y) “How would you feel if Natalie died using a needle you gave her?” I told her that was it. Her *friend* would have to find another supplier.

Before I had my daughter, I always kinda figured I’d be the kind of parent who’d let her kids and their friends party at my house. At least I can keep an eye on them here. At least I know they’re not driving or riding around with someone under the influence… But now? That sounds insane. No fucking way she’s going to get the ok from me to do that shit. I know she’s probably going to experiment and I will be there for her but she’s not going to do it in front of me. How irresponsible is that? Sounds kind of like giving away free needles to drug users…

But most addicts are not my children. Though some of them are practically babies, they have an addiction. They need a way to get help, either through treatment, AA, NA or harm reduction. And because this is not a 13 year old experimenting with drugs or alcohol for the first time but rather serious users with an addiction, I support the needle exchange programs. As well as people who need Suboxone, Methadone or whatever medication will help with withdrawals, cravings and block the opiate receptors. I was sorry to learn that a lot of people don’t consider addicts who use these methods as “truly clean” or totally “drug free” by not only the general population but by others in the addiction and recovery field!

At one point during the speakers last night, I burst out laughing. Not because anything was funny but because someone had said something so ridiculous, there was no other reaction appropriate. I don’t even remember who was talking now. I thought it was a mother talking about her son, Don said it was a man talking about his brother. Anyway, the statement uttered was “we just thought he was doing crack”!

OMFG. How do you do anything but laugh at that? Cry, I guess.

I’m going to reiterate, I didn’t laugh because it was funny. It was sad. I laughed because I understood. Hey, it’s not heroin. How bad is a heroin addiction when your family is holding onto the idea you’re “just using crack”?

Finally, the part I’ve been putting off… (the part where my judgy self shows through) there were overdose victims themselves who spoke.

At first I was glad to hear they’d survived. I was grateful that the people they were with had Narcan or Naloxone and knew how to administer it when it was needed. I noticed a little sadness as I’d wished Natalie… had it? Was with someone else who had it? Was saved by it, I guess. Then I noticed my jaw tightening. My breathing was getting shallow and my hands were balled into fists.

“I am a three time survivor of overdose. Naloxone saves lives, it saved mine three times.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

You didn’t learn your lesson after the first or even first TWO times? Fuck you. I’m not learning how to do this so you can have fun on a Saturday night. You obviously don’t value your life, why should I?

The ferociousness surprised me.

“Whoa. Where’d that come from?”

Yes, that is how part of me felt. How I still kinda feel… the other part, the bigger part of me says how powerful is that addiction that you almost died two times and you STILL went back for more?

So powerful we need an army. We need warriors. We need not just a day dedicated to overdose and recovery but a lifetime.

Every story is important. Every voice counts. Shame and stigma only serve to keep people sick and using…

Let’s End the Epidemic.

NOW.

So, that’s the end of my rant and the end of my judgment. I know critism won’t help anyone yet I felt I had to be honest about how I felt. Everybody judges. It’s human nature and sometimes you have to judge- to keep yourself safe.

In any event, I’m sorry if it came out as harsh.

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Ok?

Overdose Awareness Day

I feel gutted. My head hurts, my eyes are puffy, my heart feels filleted and drained.

I went to the Overdose Awareness Candlelight Vigil tonight, where a handful of people spoke about heroin, opioids, overdose, prevention, reversal and loved ones lost.

It was very interesting to hear people from different areas of expertise talk about what they saw and what they knew.

I learned about brain chemistry, a needle exchange program, new laws and Don, Tayla and I attended the Naloxone training afterward.

After all the info., after all the heartbreaking stories, there was the tribute video. I think Miles said he added 36 new names this year, bringing the three year total to 103. It’s too much! Too much senselessness. Too much loss. Too much heartache…

Natalie was there too. I felt her. I saw the signs. Don pointed out shortly after we’d gotten there, this:

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I wish I had more energy to describe everything…

The video started to play and I started to panic that maybe Natalie’s info didn’t get added. No! People have to see her face, know she was important! This is what was racing through my mind. Until the song “You Raise Me Up” started to play. Grandma’s song. I started to relax a little. She’s with grandma. Everything will be ok. About the middle of the song, Natalie appeared on the large, white projection screen. Sorry about the video quality… my phone had run out of space, so Don took the video and once you see Natalie’s picture, I start bawling… so. There’s that. The photo doesn’t show up that well on the video, so I’ll include it below.

Video Tribute

I love you Natalie.

Goodnight.

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Fooled You

Grief is a horrible tormentor. It mimics dementia, insanity, depression and at times, serenity.

Friday was the 19th. Three months since my sister’s passing. I’d had several days without crying. Without too many painful memories. Without too much emotion… This is where the serenity came from. It was the three month marker and the final writing group for two very talented writers. The prompt was “goodbye”. I cried silently as the gel ink flowed across the paper, as the tears slipped from my eyes, dripped from my face. It was quiet. And quick.

I wrote about Natalie, of course. And about losing these  two dear writing women to the promise of bigger, better and brighter futures. I wrote about seeing my brother less and less as he grows into the role of business man, promoting his livelihood, planning his life. I even wrote about my therapist, as he took a couple of days off to travel out of state (WI) to watch a football game with his wife.

I felt abandoned. Silly, I know. Irrational, I could feel it. I couldn’t help it. And, it was over quickly. I felt relieved… and like I was getting a handle on things.

These were a normal part of life. It was ok to be sad… and I know you “get to go there, you just don’t get to stay there”. I felt my “visit” was an appropriate amount of time and that I was really getting the hang of grieving.

Jessica called me after an out of the ordinary Friday shift at work. I’d just gotten home and was looking forward to staring blankly at the walls. I saw her name come up with a photo of her and Natalie. I reflexively pushed the phone away from me. After a few seconds of debate, I answered.

She came and picked us up, Tayla and I. We got to walk in the rain and play with her adorable puppy. We had good food and better conversation.

She also had the memory cards from Nats phone that the investigator FINALLY returned. (Three months they had it and did jack shit.) I spent the rest of the night pouring over 1,000 plus photos she’d taken, committing them to my memory before falling asleep.

I made it. I’d gotten through The Day, survived it with very little hysteria.

Saturday I worked on some comedy and managed to get to the pharmacy to set up “convince packaging” on my meds. Shar came over and we had great time, just sitting on the deck, talking.

Today was fairly productive. Unril late afternoon. I don’t know what triggered it, talking about the new found photos with Don I guess… but I cried. In the car, as I hugged the steering wheel close to my chest. My body shook with grief but even this lasted only a few minutes before I was able to calm down and go into the store for a quick for the necessities.

At home, Don made dinner. I turned on some music and smiled when I heard Natalie’s voice fill the kitchen.

“I’ll be there, I’ll be EVERYWHERE…”

The tears started, as they usually do and it got a little harder to swallow. Memories of her last text to me, “whatever you need my darling, just call, I’ll be there. I love you” filled the empty space inside me until I shook with uncontrollable sobs. I chucked the phone and grabbed a handful of tissues before running into my bedroom and crumpling to the floor on the side of the bed.

I grabbed “Noah” and cried into his tiny chest.

“How could she do this?” I wailed

“I don’t have the answer” Don replied

After what felt like hours, the cries subsided into a whimper.

Until I thought of Noah.

I clutched the replica tight to my body and rode another wave before pushing the lifeless, dead weight from my arms to the floor.

“He” lie there, face up and because I’d held him so close to me, my tears were in his eyes.

Then the screaming started.

The moving pictures in my mind danced in a collage.

Gone. They are both gone. GONE.

I briefly thought of suicide. Not so much the act of it but the longing to be out of pain. To be with my sister and baby. And grandparents and friends…

It was more of a fantasy than an actual thought. I couldn’t inflict this kind of pain on the people I loved. Neither Natalie or Noah did that intentionally…

The phone went off.

“Reminding you to send me the info on your comedy dates and times”.

I’ve been debating on if I’m actually ready for this. I have material written out but haven’t been able to concentrate on memorizing it or becoming familiar with it as to pull off a smooth routine.

At this point, I’m not ready. I don’t want to do it. It’s not funny, nothing is funny.

I took the day off of work tomorrow (now today) to give myself enough(?) time to prepare but I don’t know if it’ll do any good…

I’m caught between healing/growing and just wanting to pull the covers over my head, waiting for life to be done.

I don’t mean to end on such a heavy note but this is my life right now. It won’t always feel like this (I’m told) and I look forward to those days as I go through these days, looking for the gifts they too must hold.

 

 

 

Addiction: Willpower or Disease?

What about both? Or neither? We don’t even really need to label it, do we? Does it help anything? It seems to only divide people and that takes the focus off of recovery. Before you even get started, you’re at a disadvantage.

Yesterday I got to hear Caroline Myss speak on addiction. What I heard, blew my mind, literally expanded my brain. I felt it grow bigger (I’ll have to remember to thank her for the headache). I’m sure much of the reason is because I used to be a very black and white thinker. There was always an absolute. Until there wasn’t.

I’ve been learning the DBT skills for a number of years and if you’re unfamiliar with DBT, I encourage you to read up on it! It has helped me so tremendously. The basic principle says it is both/and vs either/or. Just because something is one way, doesn’t mean it can’t be any other way. Childbirth is a great example. Happiest day of my life, finally becoming a mother. Also, saddest day because she was very premature, was born not breathing and it was touch and go for months afterward. But just because I was sad and scared, that didn’t take away my joy.

Anyway, after being steeped in this new way of looking at life , I couldn’t believe I’d neglected to see the dialectic aspects of the willpower vs disease argument.

I learned early on that addiction was a disease. I believe that, to some extent. On the other hand, I didn’t like surrendering to a Higher Power. Not because I don’t believe in God or because I thought I could handle it on my own but simply because it sucks to feel powerless.

If I turned it over to God, was he supposed to freeze me in my tracks every time I came close to a liquor store? Sour the taste of alcohol on my tongue? Come down from Heaven to personally lecture me on the evils of drugs and alcohol? That part wasn’t so laid out for me.

In her talk, she got my attention right away by saying “there is no way we’d ever think of treating a person with any other disease by suggesting that they first admit they were powerless”. That’s not an exact quote, it was more like, if anyone suggested I treat my illness that way, I’d kick them out of the room… That made sense to me.

I didn’t like the notion that when an addict (I use the term addict to include alcoholics, compulsive eaters etc just because it’s easier for me to write) had a relapse, there was very little in the way of consequences. Sure there are the natural consequences of the behavior but as far as family and support, the reaction (if you subscribe to the notion of addiction being a disease) is mostly, if not entirely, encouraging. Just pick up where you left off. It wasn’t you, it was the disease… I’m not suggesting you berate anyone for a relapse, that won’t help… AND, drugs (or whatever the harmful behavior) does not exist without the person. Heroin has never robbed anyone at gunpoint. A fifth of vodka was never pulled over for drunk driving… See where I’m going? We do have some control.

And, I get it. It is REALLY HARD. That’s why we need support groups and sponsors and activities to keep us engaged. There are far too many practicing and deceased individuals who want(ed) to quit and it didn’t happen. Natalie wanted to quit. She had quit… and, there is a reason I don’t have any regrets about how we as a family, handled “it” (her addiction). Like someone said to me earlier, “when you have the flu, that’s not the time I want to hear about how washing my hands will help me in the future”.

We couldn’t stay with her 24/7. Or even if we did, there’s no guarantee she would’ve stayed clean. I know I talked about this already and I don’t mean to ramble…

My point is, in addition to Caroline explaining her viewpoint (which by the way, odd as it may seem, really was a very non-judgmental way of looking at things. It was more just fact to her, let’s figure out where the problem is so we can find a working solution) there was an article I read that looks at addiction as a learning disorder.

Addiction is basically a maladjusted coping method. If we can look at it that way, without the shame and the stigma… acknowledge that yes, a part of the brain is affected but it’s not a degenerative illness we can focus on the recovery aspect. We can STOP debating the cause and concentrate on re-learning.

Caroline Myss has videos on YouTube, this particular one was part of a paid course so I can’t create a link to it. I will include the article about school of thought on addiction being a learning disorder though.

The NY Times “Can You Get Over an Addiction?”

What are your thoughts on addiction? Or your views on how addicts are treated? Do you have any ideas on how to make things better? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

Ps: I am still doing the GoFundMe campaign to help #EndtheEpidemic and #ShameEndsWithMe event to be held on October 15th, 2016. Time is TBD. If you can help with a donation or a share of the link, I’d really appreciate it!

EndtheEpidemic

Thanks so much! ❤

It’s Complicated

The word of the day is complicated. Is that ever an understatement! Life has always been complicated, hasn’t it? I mean, always as in, after kindergarten? Post high chair, I think it’s safe to say. Then you had to start making choices. Decisions. Even if it’s not about anything important. What should I eat for lunch? Some days that question is enough to send me to my room, bury me under the covers and just avoid food altogether… Stupid food, demanding I choose… The nerve. That reminds me, actually, of the million dollar breakfast idea I had this morning. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich only the build would be: strawberry jelly, peanut butter, grape jelly! Aha! I’d call it the peanut BETTER and jelly!

But anyway. I’m avoiding. I’m avoiding because it’s complicated! What is it you ask? Well, today it is money. Money and addiction. More addiction than money but both are in play.

Most of you know by now that I have started a GoFundMe campaign. I started it in my sisters name, Natalie, to help combat heroin use. To raise awareness that opioid use is on the rise and the effects are deadly. Three months ago, it was being cut with fentenyl. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin.

!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I remember in highschool, heroin was *the worst* drug. Ever. Only people who wanted to die, used heroin. It was the end of the line.

To learn that it is being cut with a drug 100 times more potent? And that was three months ago. More recently, THREE DAYS AGO, the Washington Post reports the latest trend in heroin: carfentanil. An elephant tranquilizer. Ten THOUSAND times stronger.

The fatalities are skyrocketing. Because, unfortunately, addicts are addicts. What I mean by that, being in recovery myself, is that when I heard there was something stronger than fentanyl? My gut reaction was “Oh my God, where can I get some?”. Immediately I snapped out of it and was thinking “WTF? Where did that come from?” The addict in me. The “I feel fucking miserable and I will do whatever it takes to NOT feel like this” in me. That thankfully does not rear its head too often, but more often in these past three months than in quite a while, if ever.

I guess my point is, I understand. I don’t know how many people understand addiction. Up until about two months ago, my daughter thought it was a matter of choice. Of willpower. She’s a teenager. There are plenty of adults who think the same way… To that I say:

If poker is a sport? Addiction is a disease. No, wait… Did I just make my point or undermine it? I don’t know…

Who knows, to the people who don’t understand, maybe they don’t want to understand. It would sure make life a lot easier to think addicts could just stop using if they REALLY wanted to…

But I know better. A lot of people know better. Which brings me back to my other point, money.

I started this campaign to raise money to host a fundraiser. To make products that advertise “Hey, heroin is a PROBLEM! Shame, is a PROBLEM” Let’s get it out into the open and stop the stigma! I’ve been updating the GoFundMe page daily. Here’s where the complicated part comes in. I hate talking about money. Did I already say that? Even if I did, I hate it strongly enough to warrant another mention. So everyday, my friends on Facebook get another update and … I guess I’m worried about annoying people. I don’t want to badger people. I get that money is tight. I really do. AND on GoFundMe’s homepage, people have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for sports, honeymoons, getting out of debt etc. and I guess I kinda feel like I must be doing something wrong. Did I piss someone off? Do people in general not care about this epidemic? Is everyone I know as broke as I am? I guess that last one is plausible…

I’m going to just keep doing what I’m doing. That campaign is like this blog to me. Come Hell or high water, it’s getting done.

Anyway, that’s my rant for Sunday.

What causes are close to your heart?

One More Quick Post

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of all the possible ways to publicize my “Shame End with ME/End the Epidemic” campaign.

I’ve Facebooked. I’ve Tweeted. I’ve Tumbled. I started a Go Fund Me account in hopes I can raise money (and awareness) around the horrible heroin epidemic. My family and friends and are planning on hosting a fundraiser. We will be selling various products, t-shirts, mugs, water bottles, hand painted cards, artwork… there will be music, both live and Natalie’s recordings. There will be AT LEAST one energy worker available for a healing session.

The goal is to get addiction out into the open. Disrobe shame so people can get help. It is KILLING people.

Planning for the end of September or beginning of October but it depends on the venue availability, I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, please check out the GoFundMe page at: End the Epidemic

I will be forever grateful if you could donate, like or share (or all three!)- Thanks!

ETE shirth2o bottle