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, 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.

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.

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.

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

Careful the tale you tell That is the spell

I have to start by saying I love the film “Into the Woods”.. yes I know that it is also a play, but I haven’t see that.. and it’s pretty much the same thing. (spoiler) Anyway, it’s one of those fairytale  stories with the morals all mixed in. There’s the one about honesty and the one for being true to yourself and going after your dreams but not forsaking others… and on and on.

thThe finale of the movie is my favorite, though. It’s a song about being careful what you put out into the world. There is a new baby and a scared father and the words are to be careful the things that you say, as children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will learn. It explains how children are constantly picking up on everything that we do and say. If we say that they’re lazy, they will believe it. If we say that they’re bad… they will believe it. If we say that we are bad or not worthy.. they will believe it.. and will learn the same of themselves. Our words and actions will become their words and actions.

Now if that isn’t impressive enough, then it gets into a refrain and it changes..

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free

Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes a spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell

It starts to talk about the words that we say to ourselves and how we create our own stories based on these words. We create our own reality as we begin to hear and say these words over and over.

It’s very common for someone to put all of their faith into an outside event and believe that their life cannot be complete until we get that love interest.. or the job, or the education, or the right body/looks.. and so forth. We tell ourselves this “story” so often that we can’t see past it. We can’t move forward in anyway until we reach that goal. Now sometimes this is a good thing, and it motivates us to strive for our best… but sometimes it holds us back from creating the life we truly want.

The other story that we like to tell ourselves is all of the reasons that our past is our problem. We have never succeeded in life because.. our parents were jerks, our exes left us, we didn’t finish school.. we’ve always been….. and that’s our story. That’s who we have become> we no longer have hopes and dreams and motivations.. we simply have our fallback “reasons” for our problems.

All of these are nothing but words.. nothing but stories, and fairytales. Our lives are not our past or our future, our lives are the choices that we make everyday. So be careful the things you say.. and do.. they are you.