Addiction, coaching, Giving, Healthcare, Homeless, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting

We’re not alone

I was shocked when an article showed up on my Facebook page today. Sesame Street has created a character whose parents are  addicts. They are talking about actually drug addiction and the opiate crisis on frickin’ Sesame Street. I couldn’t believe it. Since losing my son’s father I have been very vocal about addiction and how it has affected me and my family. I have been very clear that keeping this kind of thing “hush hush” doesn’t do anyone any good and that mental health in general needs to be the topic of more conversations… but I had no idea how many little children are going through the same thing my son did.

According to the article I read of a similar name, “We’re not alone – ‘Sesame Street’ tackles addiction crisis “,  5.7 million children under age 11 live in households with a parent with substance use disorder. That number is disgusting. I’m sorry. I wish I could say it any other way, but it is. It is disgusting to know how many kids out there have parents who are struggling with addiction and mental illness and can’t get the help that they need. How many parents have kids that are struggling with addiction and mental illness and can’t get the help that they need.

I say that they can’t get the help that they need because I tried. I called every long term rehabilitation center that I could find in the tri-state area to get my son’s father into a real treatment program. Not just a 2 week or 30 day dry out, but a real 6 months or a year program. Of course he protested at first saying that it would disrupt his life to be gone for so long, but I finally made him realize that it was much more disruptive to keep having relapses.. to not actually fix the problem and only band-aid the symptoms. It would have been a lot less disruptive on his life to take a year to get healthy then to die alone in a “sober house” with his family 3 cities away and his sober house manager swearing he’s fine… he doesn’t notice anything wrong with him.

I made at least 20 phone calls to every long term facility that I could find all saying the same thing. Sure.. he’s more than welcome.. that’ll be $50,000… right.. how many addicts do you know that have over $100 in their pockets. None of them take insurance.. and none of the ones that take insurance do any real treatment.. they just clean up their puke while they detox and then then send them on their way telling them to find some sort of out patient program like NA/AA to help.. yeah.. stay away from other addicts… but go find meetings where all you do is meet other addicts.. great idea.

I’m not saying that NA/AA are bad programs. They just aren’t for everyone. They have a very strong link to God and surrendering to a higher power and trusting in that higher power to help. Only problem.. not everyone believes in God or a higher power. I know Neil didn’t. I know he stayed clean out of shear will power. He told me repeatedly that everything that he did was for me and our son. That he was living for his family and he knew that he had to stay clean in order to have us in his life.

Now I read this article about Sesame Street talking to millions of kids about their parents. Millions of kids whose mommies and daddies have to stay sober using nothing but will power. My son is not the only kid I know whose parent has died from the crisis.. my son is not the only kid I know that needed a monitor to make sure he was safe when his Da was using. I do not live in an urban city. My child goes to private school. We love in a small town. We go to church every week. To look at us we are not who you would assume would have an addict for a loved one. But that’s the point. None of us are… and we all need to start talking about it if we want to save the mommies and daddies of those 5.7 million children. If we want to save the life of just one.

coaching, Love, Motivation, parenting, women

I don’t want to be smart!

“I don’t want to be smart!”

My six year old son yelled this at me last night, and it confused me. He is a smart little boy. He always has been. He loved playing math games as a toddler and reading books is one of his favorite hobbies. Now that he is in first grade his whole mindset has changed. He doesn’t want to be smart.

I didn’t understand. This was something that he was always proud of. He would so something we would consider brilliant.. just normal kid stuff, but we’re his family so everything he did was brilliant and we would commend him on being “so smart”. When he started kindergarten he was having a lot of trouble sitting down and doing his work. It was understandable. He was a 5 year old boy. Sitting was not his specialty.

Now that he is in first grade I talked to him about how this was the year that actual grades started and how his work was important. He always loved coming to work with me so I told him that it was “job” to go to school and do his work. I let him know that he was a smart little boy so if he just did the work his grades would be just fine and he didn’t have to worry about that.. just do the work. I wasn’t trying to put the emphasis on the grades. I was trying to help him understand that it was his “trying” that mattered.

Two weeks before he started first grade his father died. Because of this my sweet little boy has a lot of anger and anxiety. This is completely normal.. but very disruptive. We have decided to turn off all electronics in the house because of this. I only use my phone and computer when he is at school.. or for “important” things (like doctor’s appointments, checking in with teachers or activities.. etc.) This has been an extremely emotional time and we are both looking for as much quality time together, even if it’s just snuggling on the couch reading books, as we can.

At school he has been having some outbursts. He has been boycotting his classwork, and even a test. He has been getting into fights with kids who are “being mean to him”. I know these kids.. they’re not being mean, but he is on high alert because of his high stress and everything is upsetting him.

About a week ago he asked if he could home school. I asked him if he understood what that meant. He said, “yeah.. then I could just stay home all day with you”. I explained that he would still have to do all of the work, but that he wouldn’t have any of his friends there to play with at all.. and that.. if I am honest, I am not the most patient at teaching things like maths… I don’t even understand half his homework already. He agreed home school was not for us.

He had a few good days after that conversation and I was hoping that we had turned a corner. Then yesterday he was held back in the classroom at the end of the day so the guidance councilor could speak with me.  She told me that he had thrown papers at a friend and his teacher.. squealed.. and hid under his desk. I brought him home and asked him about what had transpired.. there was some story about the other kid throwing it first.. it not being his fault.. the usual. He told me that he tried to do his breathing but he was just so mad.

Then he told me, “I wish I wasn’t smart”. I was completely taken aback. I had no idea what he was talking about. He said that he was so tired and so angry all the time. That he didn’t want to do any of his work because of it. That if he wasn’t smart that no one would care if he did his work or not and they would just leave him alone.

I’m not going to lie.. that confused me. I couldn’t see where he got this or why he felt this way. I knew that I had said that he just had to do his work and because he was smart the grades would follow.. but that didn’t mean that he didn’t have to do the work if he wasn’t smart.. but then I thought about my own childhood. My brother was always “the smart one”.  He was in all the extra special classed for “smart” kids, and I always had anything better to do than my homework. So I didn’t, and my dad wasn’t great at checking on me. When the teachers would say to me, “you’re so smart if you just do the work….” I would shut down. I’m not smart. My brother is smart.. you’re just projecting. I didn’t want to be smart.. because I didn’t want to do the work.

We always get the threat from our parents that someday we are going to have kids “just like you”, and then we do. And then we say the same things to our kids that was said to us. So from now on, I’m not going to tell my son how smart he is.. I’m going to tell him how proud I am for his effort. Because let’s be honest.. ability is nothing without fortitude. My son is smart, but he doesn’t know everything. Two weeks before school started he lost his father and his whole understanding of life was changed. I can’t expect him to comprehend everything, but I can encourage him to try.

 

Addiction, coaching, Law of Attraction, Love, Motivation, parenting, women

Is true love actually possible?

I had an interesting conversation today with a woman who I have been getting to know. She is currently married, though not very happily, and she said that she doesn’t think she knows anyone who is truly happily married. She said that she is not even sure that true love exists or that any man is capable of truly loving her. This was not said as a self esteem problem. This was not doubting her worth. It was doubting the capability of the man.

I found this especially interesting because I have been in a few relationships over my life, though I am single now, and I know that 3 of them have loved me completely. I know that there is no doubt in my mind that their love was real. The first 2 were mostly timing and growing. We were in our 20s when we got together and though the love and relationships were nice, as we got older we just grew apart.

The last was my son’s father. We loved each other fiercely and unconditionally. There was no doubt in my mind about that. Now, that did not mean that we had to stay together. In fact we loved each other and our son so much that we eventually realized that being apart was the best option. He was an addict. He had demons that he just couldn’t get away from, and eventually they killed him. But I loved him, and he loved me completely.

We were constantly off and on depending on his sobriety. This was very confusing and disruptive to our son. Eventually I had to just put an end to it. Not because I didn’t love him, and not because he didn’t love me.. but because we both loved our son.

I think that the problem with finding “true love” is that people want the fairytale, but no one lives “happily ever after”. There are always problems, and there are always lulls, and people are always taken for granted as time goes on. None of that has to do with love.. I used to say that love is not a feeling.. it is a verb. Love is an action that we have to do everyday. I am a huge Doctor Who fan, and in an episode he states that “Love is a promise” and I feel that too.

When we were first thinking about and discussing having a family Neil and I talked about a lot of things. We were planning on getting married.. we were just saving up. I wanted a HUGE affair.. I never got it. He relapsed and my father died and after a while a wedding wasn’t all that important. But my FAMILY was. That’s what we had decided when we chose to have our son. We are now family. We will love each other forever. There was no leaving. Again.. that does not mean that we had to stay romantically linked or even live in the same house. When it became dangerous I had to tell him to leave.. but it did mean that I was always his first phone call and he was always mine.

I recently remembered a time, about 6 months after my father had passed and Neil was out of rehab and things were getting good again. I had spent most of that time in yoga pants and a messy bun. On this particular day I put on real people clothes.. just jeans, but it was something. I let my hair down AND BRUSHED IT. I even put on a little makeup. I didn’t think much of it. I was just having a day that I could breath again. I walked into the dining room not thinking about it and I heard him audibly gasp. I actually took his breath away. He was even a little embarrassed by it, but he just said, “you look beautiful”. I remember how that made me feel. After months of grieving my father and over a year of heartache over Neil’s relapse I had been in quite a depression.. and there he was. Telling me how beautiful I look.. telling me that I actually take his breath away.

This man had seen me at my worst. He saw our son being sliced out of me “Aliens” style.. and I was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. He loved me.. and I him… and nothing bad that ever happened between us ever changed that.

After he died I had some conversations with his mother and some of his friends. They told me how through all of our ups and downs that he never said a bad thing about me. That he always talked about how amazing I was. How strong I was. What a great mom I am. He loved me.. emotionally.. and in his words and actions everyday. Even on his worst days.. he kept his promise.

Love is not a cure all. Love is not how it ends.. True love.. is family.. it’s forever. It’s calling them on their shit.. and telling them when you’re proud.. it’s taking the call when they overdosed and crashed their car. It’s cleaning up their sick father’s poop… it’s knowing.. that no matter what has happened between you, and no matter where anyone lives.. that person always wants what’s best for you and always has your back.

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

The correct way to grieve

There is no correct way to grieve and I have done it all.  Grief is different for everyone. It’s also different for each person at different stages of their lives. I was reading some fan posts about a show I watch in which one of the fans was not happy with how the main character reacted to the death of her husband compared to when she had thought her father had died. This fan felt that because the characters reaction wasn’t a breakdown into tears her love wasn’t as real.

I can tell you that I have had a handful of significant deaths in my life, and I have reacted to them differently every time. Some of the differences are based on their relationship to me, some of them have been because of my age. Some of the differences are just because the more loss you have; the more you get used to it.

My first major loss was my grandmother. She had dementia for many years and when she died I was very sad, but I also had felt like I’d been losing her for a long time. I was in my 20s and that death was more about facing my own mortality. She was the first member of my family that I really knew that died. It was the first time that death really hit home. I went a little nutty about how my life was not going anywhere and I wasn’t married with babies.. and the whole deal. I ended up running off to Vegas and marrying the guy that I had been dating for about a year. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great guy, but we should not have gotten married and after a couple of years and the grief passing we faced that truth and divorced.

My next major death was my mother. One would think this would have been the worst, but it wasn’t. I hadn’t seen my mom since I was a kid. She was schizophrenic and her being in my life was just too hazardous. She had moved to Georgia when I was about 12 and I had very little contact with her while she was there. A few years later she moved back, off her meds, and causing problems. I decided at that point that a mother should not be hurting her children, and that if she were in her right mind that she would agree with me. I never saw her again.

My father googled her every once in a while just to keep me updated. One day, in my mid 30s, I came home to him telling me that he found her obituary. She had died the year before… and I missed it. That was tough. Growing up without a mother was always hard. She didn’t help me pick out my prom dress. She wasn’t there to give me advice on dating, or tell me not to get married. She had never been a part of my life, but I always knew that she was out there, and that gave me a little peace. Maybe someday she’d get herself on track and look me up… but that day never came, and now it never would… and with that I just closed a chapter.

A few years later, 2015, was the worst year of my life. I woke up one morning to find my father dead in his bed. He had been sick for years, which is why I had moved home, but I wasn’t expecting that. His death crushed me. I found him and tears, screaming, horror. It was the worst experience of my life. It was exactly something that you would expect. My son was only 2 at the time, and I had to put on a brave face around him, but there was a lot from that year that I don’t remember. I was on auto-pilot. I had to clear out my dad’s stuff, take over his business, put in order all of his life.. and I did.. because I had to.. but I don’t know how I did it. And I don’t remember most of it.

In that same year my dad’s longtime girlfriend died.. on  my birthday. She was older and had been sick for a while, but that didn’t make it any easier. Losing her was like losing another parent. She was a link to my father. To my childhood.. Hell, she was the one who knew everything about everything. She was my go to in life when I had real questions… now, who was going to be there for me?

A little over a month later and right before Christmas my dog ran out of my front door and was hit by a car right in front of me. And not just hit.. hit, knocked to the other side of the street.. ran over.. then ran over again and dragged away. Some people don’t understand the impact of losing a dog, but for me this was like the proverbial straw… I had to choose. It was either going to destroy me, or I was going to use it to strengthen me. It was 2 days before Christmas and I had a 2 year old sitting in the house waiting for me. I held my breath, cleared up my tears, and did everything that I could to give him the best Christmas that he could ever have.

That was almost 4 years ago, and for a long time the worst of it was over. I was getting on with my life. I could only do what I could do and I was learning everything that I could about helping other people. To me, helping others made me feel better.

A few weeks ago a new phone call came in. This time it was my son’s father. He had been an addict. He had been clean for almost 2 years… he was my best friend.. on his sober days… and August 14, 2019… he was dead. My face went white with that call, but I did not shed a tear in that moment. I looked at my, now 6 year old, who was playing with a friend and I thought, “I need to be as strong as I can… for him”.

I have broken down a few times. My son has seen me cry, and knows how sad I am about Da being dead.. but I am holding it together. Not because I didn’t love my son’s father, but because I still love my son.. and I still love me, and I know that the best way for me to work through my grief is to help others. I have been writing about my experience with death, with addiction.. with loss. I have been helping out with my son’s school, and extra-curriculars. I have been attending to my son’s father’s final estate.. I am going to attend a wedding this weekend.

I am doing all of this because I love my grandmother, and my mom, and my dad, and my Mary, and my dog, and my son’s father… and my son, and my life… and the best way to make all of life worth the pain that comes with it is to keep loving and keep living. I live for all of those that I love that can’t anymore. I am teaching my son to do the same so that one day he will live for me when I’m gone… in the way way future. Because I plan to live and love and help others as much as I can for as long as I can.

Motivation, parenting, Politics, Prayer, Veterans

Remember

I have been writing a lot in the past few weeks about the loss to my family, but today is not the day for that. Today is the day to think about the loss of thousands of people who did nothing wrong and had no way of knowing that it was coming. Today is the day to think about those mothers and babies who lost their mothers and babies to an act of hate.

I was 25 years old when the planes hit the towers. I was on my way to a journalism class and as of the moment that I entered the classroom I thought that there had been a horrible accident and a plane had lost control and crashed. Upon leaving my class I headed to the student union where the TV was on and there was probably a hundred people staring at a TV screen. I watched as the second plane hit the tower. I gasped in horror at the scene. At first feeling confusion and denial that there was a mistake and that it couldn’t possibly have happened again. Then realizing that it wasn’t a mistake. That this was an actual act of terror.

I could talk about the feeling in the US after this event. I could talk about our freedoms and our fears.. but I don’t want to. That is not what is important about that day. That day thousands of people died. Real people. Real mothers, real fathers, real children, real sons, real daughters, real brothers, real sisters, real husbands, real wives.. grandmothers.. grandfathers.. aunts.. uncles.. friends. REAL.

Most of us have seen the movies made about this tragedy. Some of them dramas, some conspiracy theories, some just plain news series… most of them talk about what our nation was going through, but I don’t want to talk about that.

I was working for a newspaper company when the towers fell, and that day the phones were silent. The office was silent except for the radios that were playing the updated information of what was being seen and discovered. I was listening to the radio when I heard about the plane hitting the pentagon and then the plane going down in that Pennsylvania field. I was living in Boston when I saw that the planes that destroyed so many lives left my city.

I don’t want to talk about how our policies changed, or how everyone suddenly wore the flag proudly. I want to talk about my old boss’s wife who was on one of those planes. I didn’t know her well. I wasn’t at that job long, but I remember her. I still remember her. She was always pleasant and friendly, and very stylish. My boss was a sweet man who basically paid me to read books and watch the phone and the door… he always came in with a smile.. and always left well after the rest of us. He lost his wife that day. A lot of people did.

I was lucky. That was as close as I got to losing someone in that disaster. I was lucky, my father had gone to Boston that day for work, but he came home. My friends had flown to other destinations, but they all made it back. At 24 years old I had no idea about true loss. I thought of that calamity as a national loss… now that I’m older. Now that I’m more aware, all I can think of is those kids who never saw their parents again… and those mothers and fathers who watched the building that their babies worked collapse. Those husbands and wives who received that last phone call knowing their love was never coming home.

Today we all see the police, fire, and military presence memorializing those lost, and a great deal of them were armed forces and emergency services, but a lot of them were just everyday people who smiled at the front desk girl every morning. Today is about them and their families.

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, Wellness

I am an opiate widow

I was not actually married to my son’s father. We were planning to get married. Before our son was born we talked about it. We were saving for a wedding, but we decided that at my age (36 at the time) having a baby was more of a priority than a ceremony.

Neil and I had been together for 3 years when our son was born and we had been happy. I mean we had issues as every other couple did.. some more some less, but we had been through it all together and we were in it for the long haul. God, I was so in love with that man. He was absolutely the sweetest guy you could ever meet, and it’s not just me. Everyone who knew him agreed.

He was, however, an addict. I knew this about him. He had been very upfront about his past. I had met him through friends and had even dated him briefly a few years earlier when his drug use was very prevalent, but that life wasn’t for me. When we reconnected we were both very clear that the drugs had to stay in his past.

After I got pregnant his anxiety started to go haywire. He had real trouble adjusting to the idea of being a father. It’s not that he didn’t want to be. He was also very excited about the “idea” of it. It was just the reality of it that scared the crap out of him. He had never really had a great role model as a parent in general and had no idea how he was going to manage the responsibility of being a dad, work, school.. all of it.

He started to have slip ups when I was pregnant. They weren’t often and he always promised that it wouldn’t happen again. He wasn’t using opiates, but he would mismanage his anxiety medication which gave him a different kind of high. When our son was born via c-section I made it clear to the nurses that I did not want any pain killers and that I was perfectly content with Motrin. They were not.

Without my knowledge they slipped my son’s father a script for Vicodin “just in case she needs it”. Well, I didn’t need it. I never saw that script, until I found the empty bottle in the trash. He filled it without my knowledge, and ran through the bottle like candy.

We spent years going back and forth about his drug use. He was mostly sober more than he was actively using, but he just wasn’t capable of ever really staying away. He was in and out of the house depending on his use and it really hurt and confused our son. It was about 2 years ago when I had to put my foot down. Up until this point I’d only ever seen him use pills. I didn’t know how far it had gone and how bad he had gotten. He dropped a needle out of his pocket in front of our son and when I pointed it out he acted as if it were no big deal.

I had to tell him that he was no longer welcome in my house, not even for a visit. I couldn’t risk him bringing that garbage into my house, and I definitely couldn’t risk my son being the one who found him ODed in the bathroom. I ended up taking him to court over visitation and telling him that if he wasn’t going to go to rehab… I mean a real rehab, not a 2 week or 30 day dry out.. that he needed to have a monitor assigned to make sure that our son was safe around him. That I just couldn’t do it anymore. He was pissed.. and devastated.. and heart broken. We all were, but I had to do what was best for our son.

We went back and forth about lawyers. He wasn’t willing to do anything. He moved into a sober house and would occasionally call our son to check in, but for the most part he told me that anything more was none of my business and he wasn’t going to pay to see his kid. After 6 months his lawyer finally got him to agree to the monitoring and was able to see our son, now 5, again every other week for an hour. It wasn’t much but I was happy he was willing to work with me and our kid was thrilled to have his Da back.

It would be almost another 6 months, so a year in total, before we made it into court. I agreed to let him do an  outside court appointed monitor instead of the monitoring building and he agreed to do 2 hours a week. We proceeded to go back every 3 months to renegotiate the terms and as he proved he was sober longer I agreed to allowing more and more privileges.

In December of last year we finally had a conversation. A real conversation about what was happening.  No lawyers just us. He blamed me for fighting him on everything, and I reminded him that the only thing that I had asked was for him to prove his sobriety. That he and his lawyer were the ones that wouldn’t even sit down and have a talk with me and my lawyer. That I just wanted us to get to a place where we could be amicable, and have visits go back to how they were, but I needed to know that we were actually safe. He wouldn’t give us that.

He was shocked. He had no idea that my lawyer and I were trying to set up actual conversations.. his lawyer kept all that from him so we would keep going to court and she would keep getting paid. He told me that everything he had done. The sober house. The drug tests. The therapy. It was all for me and our son, and that he just wanted his family back. I knew he was telling the truth. I knew that he loved us as much as we loved him. I also knew that I didn’t believe that he had really cleaned up. I knew that he was still hiding things and not understanding my point of view.

He always told me that he didn’t believe in the AA theory that an addict could never use again, and that he just had to figure out a way to use recreationally. When we first got together I didn’t understand what it meant to be an addict. After 10 years I’ve come to realize that there is no middle ground. I told him that he couldn’t come back to us the way that he wanted to. I told him that we love him, but that he wasn’t safe the way he was, and I wasn’t going to risk our child on his promises. He didn’t like it, but he respected it.

We both moved on.. for the most part.. we both started seeing other people, but we were both clear with the other people that we saw that we already had a family. That we were each other’s life, love.. and everything. I think we both hoped someday we could make it work. After a year and a half I finally agreed to letting go of the court appointed monitoring as long as I was there to make sure he was ok at the start of the visit. He was now allowed to drive him, and take him on certain activities on his own. He didn’t. He wanted me there. He wanted his family together. Our son wanted his parents back together and would often ask when Da was moving home… and bring our hands together in an effort to make us hold hands. It was very sweet, and very innocent.. and no one fought it, but no one encouraged it. He and I both knew we were a long way off, if ever.

I don’t know what would have happened if he’d stayed sober. No one will ever know. His demons won out in the end. On August 14, 2019, 2 weeks after we signed the final custody papers I got the call that he ODed in his bed overnight. One of his roommates at the sober house found him the next day. He was gone.

I was never married to Neil. I wasn’t even with him at the time of his death, but I was his family. I was his person.. and I was his widow long before the last hit killed him. Opiates stole his life. They stole him from us. I am an opiate widow, because opiates killed my family.

 

Addiction, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Prayer, religion

I have the bravest little boy ever

I have the bravest little boy ever. He has been through so much in his little life, and he keeps on smiling the best he can. People think that because he’s 6 he doesn’t understand death.. but he does. He understands all too well. It’s only been a few years since I had to tell him that Papa died in his sleep (complications from his diabetes) and then less than a year later our dog got out and was ran over by a car on a rainy dark night.. right before Christmas. This boy knows death.

When I first told him that “Da died” he cried for a moment; then looked up and asked how. That’s a hard conversation. That’s something I had to be very careful with. I had spoken to his therapist and we decided lying of any form would only be harmful. I had to explain to a 6 year old that his father ODed. A 6 year old that didn’t even understand what “drugs” were.

I hope no one ever has to have this conversation with their child, but if  you do I just want to let you know how I explained it.. the best way I could think. Over the years we had many conversations about “Da making bad choices” or “Da is sick and needs to get help with his moods”. When “Da” finally moved into a sober house my little boy couldn’t understand why he couldn’t visit Da at his house. I had to explain that Da was living with other people who had the same sickness as Da, that made some of the same bad choices as Da, and who had some of the same anger and sadness issues as Da and that they lived together in order to help each other, but that it wasn’t a place for kids.. and since Mama and Da wanted to keep him safe Da was just to come to us for visits. I don’t know how much he understood, but he stopped asking questions.

Another time, we were listening to “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman and he randomly asked what “drunk” was. Again, I was left a little taken-a-back, but tried to explain as best I could in childlike terms. I asked him, “you know when people drink grown up drinks sometimes they get a little silly… well, sometimes if they drink too much grown up drinks they can get sick”. He seemed to get it. He didn’t really know what “grownup” drinks did.. but he knew what sick was.

So there I was, my 6 year old with tears in his eyes trying to understand why his Da was gone from this world forever I said, “you know how Da sometimes took those “drugs” to feel better…. and you know how I said that grownup drinks can make you sick…. well, sometimes with those drugs, or drinks if you take too too much, instead of sick.. you can die”. Then I waited for more questions, but he didn’t have any. He just turned away and asked if he could watch TV.

I left him with his “FGTeeV” and his thoughts and went to tell a friend what happened. When I came back a few minutes later I asked him how he was feeling.

“I don’t know how to feel. I’m sad, but I’m mad at him… but then I was happy”

I told him that he was allowed to feel all of those things, and that his feelings were going to change depending on what he was thinking about, and that’s OK. It’s been 3 weeks to the day since we had that conversation and he still doesn’t know how he feels. Most of the time he doesn’t even want to talk or think about Da. Then other times he sneaks out a phrase or two of remembrance and the tears well. He won’t say it aloud though. The words, “Da is dead” can not leave his lips. He won’t even say his name. He just points to the sky whenever he talks about him.

He started his first week of 1st grade last week, and, to be honest, I don’t know where he gets the strength. He told me last night that he doesn’t like to sleep anymore because he has nightmares. I told him that I have them too and we could just hold onto each other for comfort. I hope that helped. I hope anything can help. My little boy is the bravest boy ever… but he shouldn’t have to be.

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.

 

bullying, coaching, Motivation, Politics, women

The Little Mermaid is Black

That’s it.. it’s a fact. Halle Baily (Not Halle Berry as some angry online opponents have thought) has been cast in the new “The Little Mermaid” movie. Apparently this is sacrilege. I had no idea that the fate of the world was to be determined by the color of a fictional mermaid’s skin.

Now for those of you who are not aware, The Little Mermaid is based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale in which a young mermaid falls in love with a handsome prince. She, as in the Disney tale, gives up her voice to the sea witch.. as well as her tongue, that’s left out, and given legs that can dance as no one has ever danced before. The catch, as there’s always a catch, is that she will feel piercing stabbing in her legs and her feet will bleed pretty much all the time. Not as adorable as the dinglehopper angle, but there it is.

As in the Disney version the mermaid’s only choice for remaining human and not dying is getting her beloved prince to marry her… ahhh.. happily ever after… only he doesn’t, and she dies. Yup.. that’s the story of the little mermaid.. or it was, until it was remade for film. Actually that particular story has been remade by different studios quite a few times.

In the original story the woman that the prince does end up marrying was being educated at “The Temple”. Given that there is no mention of specific area, there’s a probably chance that the Prince in question and the area involved was Hebrew.. and possibly the Middle East toward the Mediterranean Sea. In later adaptations she was blonde, which makes sense given Anderson was Danish and there is a heavy blonde population there.

Then Disney came out with their feisty red head. That was fun. I was a teenager at the time, but I remember being happy that it wasn’t another blonde, and to be quite honest the red was quite striking against the green and blue back drop of the ocean scenes. I read somewhere that’s why they chose to do it. Either way it worked, and people loved it.

Now there’s a new adaptation. This one is played by a young black girl and happens to be by the same studio who made the animated version that did so well.. and people are OUT OF THEIR MINDS! A lot of people are saying that it’s not a race thing but that the Little Mermaid just has to be a ginger.. because she was last time.. in that one other Disney movie. Funny.. I remember watching “Into the Woods”, another Disney adaptation of a collection of fairy tales and Anna Kendrick was cast as Cinderella… now I don’t know about you, but in my childhood Cinderella was ALWAYS blonde, and Miss Anna is definitely not blonde, nor does she play one on TV. There were no protests and bloggers and online rally cries to Made Cinderella Blonde Again. It was fine.. it was a remake, and the directors were free to cast whomever they chose. Even Disney.

What really surprises me is how many people want to blame children for the outrage. I have seen many people expressing that little ones will be confused by the change. That kids couldn’t possibly understand why they character looks so different this time. Well, I asked my 6 year old what he thought about a “brown” girl playing the part.. his response was, “ok”… that’s it. No clarification needed.. just ok.

Catwoman-KittNo one cared when Laurence Fishburne played Perry White in Man of Steel 2013, or when Eartha Kitt played Catwomen in Batman 1966, or Idris Elba played Heimdel in Thor 2011.. I mean maybe comic book geeks are just not that strict on continuity or cannon.. (sarcasm for those who don’t know any comic book geeks).. or maybe they understand that actors are to be judged not by the color of their skin.. but the content of their character. At any rate… it’s a movie people. Get over it.