Addiction, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Wellness

My relationship with an addict

Relationships are complicated. That’s nothing new, Facebook has a prompt for that. Add to it any outside influences and they become dizzying. When my son’s father was alive he was my best friend. He was also my Kryptonite and my biggest antagonist, depending on the day.

He was absolutely the sweetest man that you could ever meet. When we were together we could practically read each other’s mind. We were completely simpatico. When other people were around us they saw us as a great couple and couldn’t understand why we had such issues. He was my rock. The person that I knew that I could depend on forever.

When my father was sick he was there for me on more than one occasion to clean up the mess while I helped my dad. When my car broke down he handed me the keys to his and told me he’d take the bus till mine was fixed. If anything needed moving or repairs I knew that I could call him and he wouldn’t think twice about doing what was best for me and our son. Two weeks before he died he asked me to pull into the local car wash and proceeded to vacuum, scrub, and shine my truck up. He was a Godsend… until he wasn’t.

My son’s father was an addict. When he was clean he was the best person that I knew. When he relapsed he was a danger to himself and others. He assaulted my father. He assaulted his mother. He kicked the dog. He punched holes in the wall. He never laid a hand on my son or me, but that was mostly because I made sure that we stayed out of the way until he was sober enough and then I would tell him that he had to leave.

When I talk about my son’s father people can’t understand that he was both people. 20161119_193651.jpgThey can’t understand how that sweet man that they met could do such horrific things and they can’t understand why I would ever let him back. the problem was that he was both people. He was like Jekyll and Hyde. His illness.. and yes, it was an illness.. caused him to lose himself. Once he relapsed he became the drug. Sometimes this was convenient. When he overtook his suboxine he became a fun, playful, cleaning machine. My house was spotless. He’d run around and play chase games with our son.. things weren’t actually that bad. At times I would overlook it. I knew that he wasn’t capable of  making good choices in that state and never left our son alone with him, but it was like a buzzed parent at a family cookout.. it was fine once in a while.. until it wasn’t.

Unfortunately with addicts once they got the taste the use changed from once in a while to get a buzz.. to constantly booming and zooming. I would always have the conversation with him after the first relapse, after a while I learned his mindset. If he admitted to the lapse there was a good chance he’d hop back on the wagon and we could continue as planned. If he denied it, then I knew we were headed for trouble. Regrettably it took way too long for me to figure this out. We had years of back and forth. Years of him promising to stay sober. Years of him being amazing only to bottom out eventually.

The more conversations that we had the more I realized that he had no real intention of changing his ways. I have been studying, learning about, and working in the field of behavior therapy for years now. I started to help understand myself, then to help others. I understand that we are who we believe ourselves to be. We are our thoughts. We are who we surround ourselves with. If we believe that we are screw ups.. we will be screw ups. My son’s father was a drug user. He believed himself to be a drug user. He surrounded himself with other drug users. His thoughts, humor, and beliefs revolved around using drugs. He often told me that he didn’t believe in the AA reasoning that once an addict you could never use again. He believed that he just had to figure out a way to control his use.

Two years ago I finally said enough was enough. He was out of my house for the third 20160824_1621336336102776872690226.jpgtime, and back in jail for assaulting his mom when I told him that he had to go to re rehab. Not a 2 week or 30 day dry out, but a real program that really worked on the heart of his issues. He refused. His mother agreed that as long as he had dried out and promised to stay sober that was all that mattered. I knew that one of these days things were going to go to far and I didn’t want my son or me anywhere near it.

I talked to a friend of mine who handled family law and asked him to start the process of setting up monitored visitations. I told him that as much as I loved him and wanted our son to know the good parts of him I couldn’t risk him harming us as he had other. At first he agreed.. then he didn’t. It was a long battle with many court sessions. I did my best to work with him and he did his best to keep his drug screening information out of my hands.

During that time I had to concentrate on every bad thing he ever did. It was the only way that I could keep from caving. I knew that he was living in a sober house. I knew that he was doing well at school and at work. I knew that he was acting like the man that I loved, but I also knew that it was temporary. It was always temporary.

Two weeks after we signed the final court papers my son’s father overdosed. People don’t know how to talk to me about his death. They don’t know if I’m relieved or if I’m sad, and to be honest I’m both. It sounds horrible, but I know that he was never going to be clean. After he died his father cleaned out his car and found a bottle of supplements people use to get high that don’t show up in a drug screen. No one knows how long he was using them, but the bottle was almost empty so it wasn’t something new.

I never wanted my son’s father to die. I loved him with everything that I am, and my son worshiped him.  Losing him has cut a piece of our heart out that will never be repaired. But he overdosed twice in two days. The first time he crashed his car putting not only his life in danger but everyone on the street with him as well. The next night he overdosed in his room in the sober house all by himself. Had I let him back in. Had I given in to our love for him and his love for us our son could have been in that car.. or could have been the one that found him overdosed.. dead…

I was the one who found my father when he died. He was 65, and died from complications from diabetes, and I was 39.. but that’s a visual I will never get out of my head. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.. especially a small child.

I loved my son’s father and I will miss him forever. A huge part of my life is over now. But I am so grateful that my son is safe from the damage that he unleashed with every bad decision that he made. Relationships are complicated, but when you love an addict, if you’re not careful.. they could be deadly.

Addiction, bullying, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Homeless, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Wellness

Why is mental health so taboo?

My mother was schizophrenic. I have been dealing with mental health illnesses my entire life. I can remember people asking me why my mother wasn’t around when I was little and I always told them. “Oh, she’s schizophrenic, she couldn’t take care of us so our father did. But she did the best she could for as long as she could.”. I would get all kinds of responses. I would get the shock and awkward, “oh… I’m sorry… I didn’t know” or the “oh wow, that must have been so hard for you” or just the blank stare of not knowing how to respond.

I always found this to be strange. I mean, they knew that my mother wasn’t around. They knew there must have been a reason for this. It’s like they would have been ok if I had said, “oh she died of cancer” or “she was in a car accident” or something along that line. My mother was mentally ill. This wasn’t her fault. This wasn’t something that could have been controlled any more than had she had cancer, but for some reason people treat it like it’s something to be ashamed or afraid of.

My son’s father was an addict. He was clean when we got together and we had many good years together before his demons caught up with him and he relapsed. His problem was also that he was mentally ill. He was almost 30 when he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. He had some serious issues. He could never get out of his own head. No matter how much people tried to help he couldn’t overcome his horrific thoughts.

I have spent most of my life studying and learning about how the brain works and how to help create a better life in your own mind by strengthening certain neuropathways. He had many therapists who tried to encourage the same behaviors, the problem was that by the time he was diagnosed his neuropaths were pretty damaged. He had been self medicating for so long he didn’t have a healthy arrangement left.

I am a believer in medication when needed, but I also believe that it’s a band-aid to help take the edge off so that you can do the real work with thoughts and actions. We are our brains. Our emotions come from chemicals released in our brains.. our thoughts activate those chemicals being released. He had an overwhelming amount of “stress” (cortisol) hormones and low amounts of “happy” (dopamine) chemicals in his brain. He would try to fix that with drugs, and for the short term they would help, but he had no one to help him through the rest of the process when he was younger and still forming.

Three weeks ago he took a drug to help him feel better. He never woke up from that. I had to explain to our 6 year old that Da “took a drug to make him feel better, but it was the wrong thing to do” and now he’s gone. I have since had to tell others, family, friends, co-workers, teachers at school…. and I’m always honest. My son’s father overdosed. Most people are very supportive. Some are shocked. They had no idea that he was struggling with addiction. He didn’t “seem the type”.

That’s the problem with mental illness. It’s so taboo that people assume that it’s only the homeless people living on the streets, eating out of trash cans, and yelling at the sky who are mentally ill. No one can accept that it’s the mothers, the fathers, the teachers, the comedians… and whomever else.. the everyday people that fight the good fight everyday to appear “normal”. No one wants to be labeled “crazy”. No one wants to admit their short comings.

My father had diabetes… his body was unable to produce a specific chemical needed to keep him alive. He went to a doctor. He got help. He could talk to people about it and there were therapies and a whole industry of products to help. My son’s father’s body didn’t produce the correct chemicals needed to keep his brain in balance and it was a shameful “problem”. We need to stop treating mental and physical illnesses as different things. We need to stop shaming the “crazy” and the “junkies”. My father had insurance and went to the diabetic clinic constantly for treatment. My son’s father had insurance that no one would take for his “rehab treatments”. Believe me.. I looked.

Maybe if people looked at my son’s father as a person instead of his disease he could have received the help that he deserved. Instead my son sat quietly at the service as everyone around him talked about what a “great guy” his Da was and what a “shame” it was that he died… but still.. no one wants to help the addict. They just want to SHAME.

 

 

Addiction, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Politics

The phone call I always dreaded

Wednesday August 14, 2019, it was a day like any other. I had taken my 6 year old little boy to work with me, because Summer vacation was still in full swing. We went to a friends’ house after to play in their pool. We were having a lovely time. Except the fact that I was starting to get worried about his father.

FB_IMG_1566082913929.jpg     I was sitting pool side with my friend as we watched our kids splash about. My son was so proud to be in the deep end. He had just learned to swim without his floaties this year and he could finally keep up with the big kids. One of his favourite things was retrieving the rings from the bottom of the pool. We were all laughing as they were doing cannonballs and chasing each other about.

Then my text message came through. It was my lawyer. My son’s father and I had just finished a pretty lengthy custody… I don’t want to say battle, because we never really fought.. I’ll just say agreement session. I looked down to see. “Katrina!” confused I just responded with “yes?”. The next text struck me hard, “I just heard about Neil”….. “What about him?!?!?!”. Then he told me that he’d call me.

I asked my friend to watch the kids and apparently the look on my face was enoughFB_IMG_1537914287913.jpg for her to not even question me. I’m not sure that I took a breath between that text and answering the phone call that came through. “I got a call from his lawyer. The people at Neil’s house found him in his room at about 3pm… I’m so sorry. He passed away.”.

I couldn’t grasp it. My eyes welled with tears. I was in shock. Disbelief. Angry. Heartbroken.. all of it. I knew something was wrong.. I didn’t know it was this.

My son’s father was an addict.

We had been through 10 years together. The first 3 were amazing. The next 4 were challenging.. and the last 2 were mostly through the courts. He had been sober for 22 months. We had just signed the final court papers 2 weeks before. We were friends again. We were looking forward to working on our family together. We had the brightest future that we had in years.. and now he was gone.

My friend saw that my face had gone white and he asked what had happened. I looked at her and mouthed, “He’s gone”. She mouthed back, “dead?”. I nodded. We both looked over at my 6 year old. He was laughing and playing and completely unaware that his whole life was about to change.

68275438_10157512695321602_5199530495649513472_n     I spent the next 2 hours making phone calls. I called Neil’s parents. My son’s therapist. My brother.. my aunt.. anyone.. everyone. I kept saying it out loud. “Neil is dead”. I kept waiting for someone to say, “no.. there was a mistake.. they found him in time. He’s in the hospital, but fine.”. That message never came in.. that call was never made. Neil was dead. Neil is dead. After almost 2 years of sobriety my biggest fear came true, and I had to be the one to tell our sweet little boy that his father was gone forever.