Saturday, February 17, 2018

February 15, 2018.  Five years.  FIVE YEARS.  It’s been five years today since the first arrest and I gained two small children.

I was by no means prepared mentally, emotionally, or physically.  I was anemic and sick, and devastated by the nightmare we were facing as a family.  I was terrified by the possibilities, and five years later, I still am.

The next three years were a blur of court dates, both for my daughter’s ongoing drug charges, and for the legal ramifications of eventually adopting her children.  All the while I believed that the nightmare would be over long before now.  She’s so smart, so sweet, so beautiful, she HAS to straighten out quickly, right??

Well, addiction doesn’t care.  I’ve learned that and I’ve learned a few other things as well.

“I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.”  This quote is so true.  I’ve spent countless nights searching for the answer to what I did wrong.  The answer is everything and nothing, and none of it matters.  I, like moms everywhere, did my best.  It’s been so agonizing that I’m glad I didn’t think it would continue for five years.  I don’t think I could have taken it.

Having an addicted child is a different kind of grief.  It’s the grief of the anticipated and the unknown.  It’s having a panic attack because the phone woke me up, then being unable to go back to sleep.  It’s seeing a blonde girl with a hoodie and a sloppy bun, and for a split second, thinking it’s her, then feeling the crushing realization roll in.  It’s finally getting to see her and hug her, then crying all the way home because I don’t know when or if I will again.  It’s checking my Messenger app to see when she was last active so I know she’s alive.  It’s unanswered texts and calls.  It’s people asking how she is and not knowing what to say.  It’s getting mad at her, then hating myself for getting mad at her because what if something happened to her and I was mad at her at the time?  It’s having the cops show up at my house looking for her and bursting into tears because I think they’re coming to give me bad news about her.  It’s fretting that while I’m warm and comfortable she’s out there somewhere probably cold and hungry and all I want to do is trade her places.  It’s hearing certain songs and bursting into tears.  And the worst part is not knowing when the grief will ever end, or when things will unexpectedly get worse.  This is the new normal.  Any addict’s mom can vouch for this.

With raising her children, a new dimension is added.  It’s a balancing act to make sure they have accurate, yet age-appropriate information about her.  I want them to grow up strong, and not feel abandoned.  I want them to know who she really is, not some caricature of her former self, but the loving, witty, smart sweet person she really is.  At the same time, I’m petrified that someday, maybe tomorrow, maybe in ten years, I will have to deliver horrifying news to them.

I have learned that these are probably the good old days.  I can think of so many times in my life that I have wasted good times longing for former times.  I think I’ve done a lot of that over the last five years, and I’m trying to change that.  Not so much for me, because I’ll never be the same again, but for the sake of the kids, who don’t deserve to grow up in the shadow of my sadness.  These might be sad times for me but I have a responsibility to seek happiness for them.  This is their only childhood. Sometimes now I get through a whole day without crying.

I’ve learned that love won’t make any difference.  It might make me feel better to try to remind her how much I love her, but she already knows.  I can’t love her clean.

All I can do is to do the one thing I don’t want to do.  Let her go.  I am gradually learning.  I hate the word “detach” with a passion.  It flies in the face of everything I am about as a parent.  Detachment sounds aloof and uncaring, when all I want to do is wrap her up in my heart and love her better until she is healed.  Ain’t gonna happen as long as she isn’t ready.  I won’t detach.  So instead I am backing off and letting her contact me.  I have quit sending endless messages about being worried because all it means to her is pressure to witness my pain.  It sends her the opposite way.

I’ve learned that there’s no way to prevent this.  I remember kids that were friends with my kids.  Some of them had no supervision at home, or serious abuse or neglect.  While I was by no means a perfect parent, I tried hard to set an example.  There was no alcohol or drugs in my home, except for a very occasional wine cooler or a beer in the fridge.  I had all the right talks with the kids about addiction.  I tried to be a mom figure to those kids who I felt were at risk, and I was grateful every day that my kids would never go down that road.  I thought our family as somehow inoculated against addiction because I raised kids who were opposed to it.  Well, I have news.  It doesn’t matter what you do, because addiction doesn’t care.

I’ve learned that addiction is for the long haul, and there’s not a damn thing we can do to change that.

I’ve learned that people are ugly and say horrible things about addicts, things they wouldn’t dream of saying about someone with any other disease.  I’ve developed a short fuse in this area, and sometimes I have to remove or unfollow people on my social media feed for the sake of my sanity.  I am too grief-stricken to deal with their ignorance and rudeness in using hateful language to describe, or laughing at, people in addiction.  That’s my baby they are hating on, and frankly, it’s hard not to hate them back.

I’ve learned quite a few techniques to guard my health, which has been compromised greatly by anxiety.  I’ve learned quite a bit about panic attacks and insomnia.  I’ve learned that when my heart starts palpitating, it’s not a heart attack, it’s my anxiety.  I’m still learning how to deal with the constant fear that something will happen to me and her kids will lose their main caregiver AGAIN.

So I’m writing this because it’s been five years today and my heart is more broken than ever, she’s further away from me than ever, and all of my sadness and grief has not helped in any way.  In spite of feeling hopelessly alone, I know that there are many other moms and dads and family members who are dealing with this.  For five years, I’ve been very careful about talking about her addiction on social media.  However, she doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of, and neither do I.  I’m the mother of a beautiful, funny, wonderful person who is suffering from addiction.  I can’t fix it, and I’m stuck here, but I offer my support and love to others in this situation.

You aren’t alone.  You aren’t the only one hurting. Of course you are devastated because that’s your baby and you’re witnessing a terrible ravaging disease.  I’ve spent a lot of time looking through old photos this past week or so, and every picture of her is a stab in my heart.  I find myself looking for clues in her face where it all went wrong.  I have my theories but they aren’t a comfort.

I’m the mother of an addict and I’m not ashamed of her.  I’m sad for her disease, but she does not deserve to be stigmatized.  I’m proud of the times she’s tried to get clean.  I’m proud of her big generous heart, and her love for her kids.  Our kids are dropping like flies from the outcomes of addiction and all I wish for is understanding and healing, not blame and shame.  She doesn’t treat others that way and doesn’t deserve it either.  Don’t try to tell me that addiction isn’t a disease or I may well go off on you, if I have the energy to try to bother to educate you.  Don’t try to blame parenting for addiction; it just showcases your ignorance, and your smug arrogance that it couldn’t possibly happen to you. 

I refuse to be shamed or allow anyone to shame my girl.  I will fight like hell against cuts in services for people in addiction.  I will fight like hell to keep Medicaid and other services that keep people alive.  It increases the odds that she and so many others won’t succumb to the disease.  I will fight like hell to keep people in addiction from criminalized or mistreated.  I will speak out on behalf of efforts like drug courts and rehabilitation.  I will speak out when I see mean-spirited videos of people who are high and out of their heads, and call people out for laughing at them.  It’s damn cruel.  I see the face of my daughter on every addict, every homeless person, every hopeless person.  How could I possibly turn away?

In my community, I know countless people who are in recovery and leading lives that far outshine those who would put them down.  They are my heroes and they know who they are.  They pay forward kindnesses and mentor those who are still struggling.  They have fought the battle and keep fighting daily for a better life for themselves and those around them.  And they don’t forget where they came from, so they don’t judge.  They just help.  Compassion is a beautiful thing and it creates healing miracles.

I won’t change the world today.  To everyone else it’s another day, but to me, today is five years.  I don’t know how long the marathon is going to last, and I try not to think about it because I become weary.  All I know is that for five years, I’ve been busy healing my beautiful grandbabies, who are safe and warm and getting the chance they deserve for happiness.  The trick is to channel my grief into something useful, and that’s my something useful.  My little reminders of her.  It would be great if next year at this time I were writing a whole new post, about healing and redemption, but if not, it won’t be for lack of effort.

Even if I can’t personally fix my daughter’s illness I can at least do those things.  It’s letting go of what won’t help and focusing on what will.  I invite other parents of addicts to reach out to me so we can support each other.  And hopefully as a society we can agree that access to treatment is going to be more effective than disdain and ridicule.  Most addiction is linked along the line to some sort of trauma, so it stands to reason that traumatizing and demeaning someone in addiction isn’t going to make the world a better place.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing this, but I guess it’s to commemorate that for this day I’m still here and kicking, and I have two small humans depending on me to do so.  I’ve spent plenty of time in that place where you don’t think you can go on another day.  And I know what it’s like to not be able to talk about it because only other parents of addicts will understand.  To all you other moms out there hurting, I am sending you a big hug.  I’ve made it in one piece for five years now when I didn’t think I could.  I’m a little sadder, and a lot older but I’m still here, and I still dare to hope.  Human beings are remarkably resilient and can heal in time.  No matter who you are, you have people who love you too.  You are needed. 

If your kids are all healthy, be grateful today.  Light a candle, give them an extra hug, whatever makes sense for you to celebrate.  And when you see that homeless person, that person who is hurting, or living in the pain that is drugs, remember that they are someone’s kid too.  Someone out there is probably worried sick about them and doesn’t know where they are because they are too ashamed of themselves to stay in touch.  Please be kind.

Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2018 by Romy Carver


Monday, September 25, 2017

I'm about to Facebook delete some people I genuinely like if I hear any more deliberately ignorant anti-immigrant sentiment.  (I know that nobody is losing sleep or gnashing their teeth over this, but I hate deleting people because I hate to give up on them.)  There is plenty of accurate info out there for anyone who isn't intellectually lazy.  It takes less than five minutes to find information about the myths surrounding immigration but some people just can't be troubled with those pesky facts.  And deliberate ignorance is my biggest pet peeve.  So if you are bothered by people who look and speak different from you, please read the following.  If you still don’t understand that immigrants are humans, and just as important as you are, it will be my pleasure to not have to see the hateful drivel you post any longer.

Oh, YOUR ancestors came here "legally?" Well if it was before 1929, that wasn't hard to do.  No papers required.  Quit acting superior.  As for the children of immigrants who were born on American soil, THEY ARE CITIZENS, just as much as you are.  The same people who whine and cry about the Second Amendment don’t seem very educated on the rest of the U.S. Constitution.  You see, the Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil.  So when your great grandpappy came over from Germany, and your granddad was born here, he was a first-generation American in his family.  Today, granddad’s older brother who was brought here at age two would be called a Dreamer and in danger of being deported.  Not the fault of the immigrants.  It’s faulty immigration law.

Could they be “patient” and “do it the right way?”  That’s one I hear a lot.  If you are under-educated and poor, but willing to work hard, there aren’t a lot of options to migrate here.  Yet that is a description of many of our ancestors, who came here with very little except a desire to change their lives and contribute.  It can literally take decades to immigrate here legally, thanks again to those prohibitive immigration laws put in place in 1929…ironically, by the descendants of immigrants.

Research the actual crime rates in immigrant populations, and how they are way lower than non-immigrant crime rates. They are less likely to commit crimes than the general population, even misdemeanors.  Studies reveal that in areas with higher immigration, crime decreases, particularly violent crime.  But don’t take my word for it.  Look at FBI statistics and look at studies by a variety of neutral agencies and entities.  Again, Google is your friend.

“But what about border security??”  The key is immigration reform.  We need workers, skilled and unskilled.  Reform would give citizenship opportunities to people who are here to work and contribute to the economy.  If our border agents are able to stop arresting people who are just coming here to work and/or be with their families, they would be freed up to address the real problems: drugs, terrorists, gun runners, human traffickers, and other dangerous criminals.  What purpose is being served by using tax dollars to fund detention centers full of families with little kids?  And WHY in God’s name are we locking up people who could be working and improving our communities? Most importantly, the conditions in the centers are deplorable.  Why is our government committing this human rights abuse?

Learn about the massive amounts immigrants contribute to the economy in social security taxes which they can't later access (to the tune of 13 BILLION dollars into the Social Security Trust Fund in 2010 alone).  They pay sales taxes, property taxes, and payroll taxes.  Take the time to learn how grueling the work is that so many of them do to support their families.  Are you willing to spend 12 hour days in sweltering heat bent over lifting things with very limited access to a restroom and clean drinking water?  If so, how much would you expect to be paid?  Would you be willing to work this job with NO benefits?  If not, quit the whining about immigrants “taking our jobs.”  You sound spoiled and ridiculous.  They aren’t lazy.  They are earning their way.

They also aren't getting a “bunch of freebies.” Other than emergency medical and required school attendance for kids in public school, they aren’t eligible for ANY public assistance programs in any state.  The only exception is a brand new rule in Oregon that allows immigrant children to have medical coverage so they can have immunizations, antibiotics for ear infections etc.  You know the same thing all other kids have and ALL CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE!   Many of them are terrified to seek medical care, appear in court for traffic tickets, or seek help for domestic violence for fear of being deported.  Imagine for a moment living like that, while you strut around with your unearned privilege.  This is true in my own town, based on meetings I have attended with local healthcare providers, legislators, and other social service professionals.  

Anchor babies.  That’s a popular term these days.  It’s based on the theory that people come here and deliberately have babies so that they can stay.  Another myth.  Yes, as stated earlier, any child born on U.S. soil is a U.S. citizen.  You shouldn't have a problem with that, as it's written into that Constitution you like to rant about.  However, any parent of such a child will not benefit from this until the child reaches the age of 21.  They can still be deported at any time.  There have been raids where immigrant children have come home from school to an empty house because both of their parents were taken away.  With no criminal record other than the “crime” of trying to live in a safe place with their family.  After the child reaches age 21, the parents still face a lengthy and complicated process to become “legal” which can take an additional 7-14 years.  So referring to American citizens as “anchor babies” is another ignorant, hateful way to spread misinformation.

Let’s talk for a moment about those DREAMers, the kids who were brought here as children.  Many of them have no connections to, or much memory of, the place they were born. Some don’t even speak the language.  We are surrounded by these DREAMers.  They are EMTs, firefighters, military, educators, business owners, and all sorts of other things.  They are America at its best.  Why in the world would we want to deport them?  Here is a list of requirements in order to be considered DACA eligible:
1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
2. Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday;
3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or their lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Note: DREAMers must also be 15 years to apply. Younger people can apply once they turn 15 —  if the program is still in place.

Again, WHY would we deport someone such as this?  Now that the current administration is trying to overturn DACA, our government has all the names and addresses of the children and their parents, who in good faith applied to try to do things the right way.  These kids didn’t have a choice.  I know a local young woman who saved for a long time to get the nearly $500 it cost to register.  She’s a star student and has a bright future.  Unless ICE shows up at her door and deports her family back to an unfamiliar place.  Is this what “American values” looks like now?  And what do we gain from deporting families who have taught their children the value of working and studying hard, and being good citizens?

The vast majority of people who come here are here for the same reasons your grandparents came here.  Some of them, particularly the Irish and Chinese ones, weren't very well treated either, but can't we learn from the past and do better?  Read about the myths that were spread about Chinese and Irish immigrants back in the day.  They will sound very familiar. And if you have it in your heart to have any compassion whatsoever, learn about the circumstances that cause families to leave everything behind and risk their lives to immigrate.  I wonder if YOU would be here if your ancestors faced the current immigration system.

Here’s a cool idea: learn Spanish.  Oh, is it too difficult?  Well it's statistically a lot easier to learn than English but immigrants are supposed to pick that up immediately, according to some people.  If you aren't fluently bilingual, you have no business complaining about anyone else.  If pressing a number 1 on a phone call to hear English is the biggest thing you have to complain about, please get a life!  Are you truly that entitled and lazy?  We are a nation of immigrants, most of whom managed to learn the language, and some who didn’t.  We all have that ancestor who never learned English, who came over from the “old country,” and I bet you aren’t ashamed of yours or think they should have been deported.  That’s okay.  The point is, we’re all human.  Those immigrants working the fields for 12 hour days and caring for their children probably don’t have a lot of study time on their hands either.

If you refer to yourself as a Christian, here’s a hot tip: read the red letters in your Bible, then go research that.  Here’s some other research for you: 

Leviticus 19:33-34

Matthew 25:35

Deuteronomy 27:19

Hebrews 13:2

Zechariah 7:9-10

Ezekiel 47:22

Jeremiah 7:5-7

Don’t use your “good book” as an excuse to be a bad person.

Posted on Monday, September 25, 2017 by Romy Carver

1 comment