After my column on Fort Lauderdale’s unregulated pill mills, I received an e-mail from a Broward County woman that spoke, in the most heartbreaking language, of the consequences of easy access to narcotic pain prescriptions. What follows are excerpts from the journal of the mother of an addicted daughter. It’s long for a blog item but it captures the pain and frustration and tattered hopes of a parent perfectly. Her words echoed the conversations of friends who’ve similarly struggled to save their own children from addiction. And were forced into exhausting self-examination and self-doubt, ever wondering if their child’s descent into addiction was due to some mistaken parenting.
I’ve removed the names of the mother and her three daughters. (The middle daughter is the addicted child, in case the editing is confusing). But I suspect many readers will recognize the circumstances as nearly their own.
I don’t know how my situation got to where it is today. I seemed to be part of an average American family, with my beautiful three daughters, good husband and houseful of pets. I look at my life today and I feel as if I have descended the gates of hell and am hopefully climbing back out. My story is the story of so many mothers who don’t seem to have the right answers, just so many questions that we need help with.
I am an ordinary woman. Not too pretty, not too smart but basically pretty content in my world. I had my oldest daughter who gave us so much pleasure, that my husband and I decided to have a second. We were so lucky. Twenty three years ago, the most beautiful perfect little girl was placed in my arms. I lost my heart at that very second, little did I know that one day she would make me lose my mind as well.
My new baby was all one could hope for. She was truly the fulfillment of our dreams. She was blond, with big green eyes and so good natured. Never a cry or a peep from her, just smiles and happiness. I thought how wonderful and lucky our world was to have this incredible human being.
There is no one day that life started to change for us. I suppose looking back, we always excused her temper and bad moods. My mom and I always thought this was a stage that she would grow out of and learn to be a more tolerant agreeable daughter but things always seemed to just get worse. I continued to make excuses for her -- no one wants to learn that they are a bad mother doing a lousy job raising their daughter.
I look back at my daughter’s childhood and slowly I start to remember things that were never right. Little things I believed. Little did I realize how fast little problems evolve into big ones. I never thought my dreams for my daughter would include so many sleepless nights. I never thought that the nights I managed to sleep would be so full of nightmares and terrors. I never thought that my daughter could cause so many tears and so much unhappiness. The truth is I never thought that this would be my life. I don’t have an imagination large enough to have ever thought of all that has happened.
My daughter is not a bad person. As she will say, she knew right from wrong and simply chose wrong. No matter what she did, I went along with it. I’m not really stupid either. I just didn’t know what else to do. You’re beginning to wonder what has happened to make me so miserable.
My daughter was arrested last week and put in jail awaiting state mandated drug treatment. She hasn’t killed anyone -- just my dreams for her. If this program is successfully completed, she won’t even have a record. My question is: How do I get through this? How do I ever close my eyes and not see her behind barbed wire. How do I ever trust again? Love isn’t really a question. I love my daughters unconditionally no matter what. I love their faces, their expressions, the memories that I have of them growing up. I love the right to hold their hand as we walk down a street or grab their face to drop a kiss on it. I loved them my whole life, long before they were born and I will love them long after I am gone. That is me -- their mom.
I believe that all mothers love unconditionally. I suppose this goes back to ideas of Jesus and his Mother. As mothers, we accept our children. I’m trying to remember though when I stopped liking my daughter. And that scares the hell out of me. I want to grow old with her; sit on a rocking chair with her and remember our life together. I’m so angry now and so hurt that I can’t stand it. I want to shake her and have her know that she actually broke my heart and I don’t know how to fix it. How will I ever go back to the point of needing her to be close to me, to touch her hand and caress her face?
I seem to cry all the time now and yet, I didn’t do this to her. Or did I? I am not a spokeswoman for motherhood. As all mothers seem to do, we do the best that we can and we do what we think is right at that moment. It is the guilt twenty years later that seems to consume me. Could I have done better or different? Could I done more?
I remember when she was about seven or eight and she wanted to go to her girlfriend’s home for a sleepover. “Of course,” I answered when she excitedly asked me. I was so delighted for her. We packed up her overnight bag with new pajamas and her toothbrush. We put in her favorite doll and clothes for the next day. I drove her over and was so thrilled that she never called to ask to come home. When my phone rang the next day, her first words were nothing I expected. Michelle’s mom is so much better than you she informed me. I want to stay another night. When I replied that I thought one night was enough, she started to yell at me, telling me how horrid I was and how much she hated me. I began to realize that day that nothing I did was ever going to be enough.
This story is not being written to make you feel sorry for me. My life was as I lived it. Most moments were good and I was basically content with all I have. But somewhere in the very back of my mind, I knew that we were not the perfect family.
Having a child with an addiction is an everyday life reality. One learns to hide their jewelry, their purse or wallet and their checkbook. Money is never left on a bathroom counter or jewelry in a jewelry box. Hiding and secrets become a way of living.
I refuse to continue. I want my life back and I intend to take control starting right now. I refuse to have secrets anymore. I refuse to hide my things. I refuse to accept all that I have allowed for too many years. I pledge to try and find one thing to smile at a day. I plan to find my sense of humor. I remember that I once was funny and I want it back! I want to walk out of my house without hiding my car keys. I want to give my ten year old her allowance and not make her hide it immediately. I want to be free for that is my right and I want it back. I want to close my eyes at night and not wait for the phone to ring informing me of a problem. I want to answer my phone and not hear a demand for money that would never be paid back. I want to stop crying. I want to start all over again and have my perfect dreams not be destroyed by drugs. I want to be happy.
Most of all, I want my daughter back.
My daughter doesn’t understand how she is when she is not sober. Gone is the beautiful, bright woman she could be. Instead is this slobbering, half asleep, inarticulate scary person. I’m not stoned she mumbles. I’m not yelling, she screeches at us. I never stole anything she insists as I show her a check she has written out and signed my name. I find my earrings in her purse and a pawn slip in her room.
How to lose your mind? Look for a ring that you know was on your dresser. First you run your hand over the top of the dresser. Then open your top drawer and search through all your bras and panties. Move the dresser away from the wall and get down on your hands and knees. Examine the floor with a flashlight in the behind a dresser. Ask everyone if they saw your ring. Never accuse for that makes you the enemy.
Then when you’re all alone, check your daughter’s room and belongings. Find the ring in her purse and slip it on your finger. Try to remember that your child is sick. Pray that a bandage can be found to make her all better. Hope that something will wake her up.
I never understood the concept of a broken heart. Then I watched a judge ask for a drug test. I looked at my daughter’s and knew we had big problems. Yes I said we. I don’t want these things to happen to my child. I want things to get better and to miraculously correct themselves. I want a miracle to occur and selfishly, I want it now.
But instead I sat in that courtroom and waited for her to walk out of the bathroom. I saw her face and knew she had used drugs again. I sat and waited for the judge to speak. I sat and felt my heart break at that moment. I actually felt a part of me die. Dramatic sounding isn’t it? Unless you, as a parent, wife or husband or a child has been through something like this you can’t imagine how it feels. I sat and watched as my daughter, the one that I tried to protect for twenty-three years, get handcuffed and taken away from me.
I sat there long after she left because I didn’t know what else to do. Does one just get up and walk away? My helplessness at that moment was overwhelming. And yet, deep down inside of me, I knew that this was for the best. I knew that for the next couple of months, my daughter would be safe. I thought, foolishly, that for the first time in years, I would close my eyes at night and actually sleep through the night.
A little over two years ago, I lost my mother. Mom was a huge part of our lives. She would come almost every day. She helped me school my youngest daughter teaching her how to spell and read. Most important, she was someone that I could talk to. She listened and never judged me. She told me to hold on for one more day. One time she had a gold cat made for me. “Wear this,” she said . “Remember that like a cat, you too have nine chances to make things better. Like a cat, you too, can start a new way of living and a new chance at better beginnings.”
I miss my mother’s wisdom and kindness that she gave me. I miss her common sense. I miss having someone to share my bad times, sad times and glad times. I’m not sure how to cope with everyday living anymore. I find that I just want to hide away, perhaps under a blanket, and sleep my life away. In this house though, when I hide, my ten year old thinks I’m playing hide and seek. She yells, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” Reluctantly my head appears. Please don’t find me, I beg. I need time alone because I find that I am grieving just as I did when Mom died.
I’m not even sure why I feel this way. I haven’t lost my troubled daughter and I hope that I never will. I think that I am grieving for what we have lost as a mother and daughter. I’m grieving for all the days lost when she was too stoned to even realize another day had passed. I grieve for all the joys that I am entitled to as her Mom. I grieve for the loss of my smile and feeling of joy. And right now, I realize that maybe life isn’t fair. I know that somewhere, somehow, as a mother, I need to find myself again so that my ten year old doesn’t lose out on what she is entitled to. She is entitled to a sister who is there for her. A sister who doesn’t judge her, doesn’t yell at her and doesn’t accuse her of things she didn’t do. My addicted daughter can no longer take her anger and frustrations over her own life out on my ten year old.
So I am done being morose over things that I could have done. As of right now, my new mission in life is to make things better. I will try harder not to yell at the ten year old for normal things. I will try harder to smile more though I’m not sure what there is to smile at. I will try harder to stop crying when I hear from her troubled sister. I will try harder to focus only on the positive things that I pray will come out of this nightmare. I will try to be the strong, positive woman that I want and believe my daughters to be.
My story -- from this point on -- will reflect the positive moments of my day. I am so afraid that if I don’t pull out from under this cloud of misery now, I never will. I need to see my glass as half full, instead of almost empty. I need to want to wake up and face each day that my daughter may have chosen this life. Or perhaps the drugs chose her. I’m not sure . . . but I didn’t. I need to face the fact that I am not totally responsible for her choices in life. She has to face that challenge alone. I can only pray she does.
Now that I am no longer wallowing in my own misery, let me tell you about my days. Monday was visiting day at the facility. I decide that I will map quest the address but first I have to figure out where my daughter is being held. I ask her for the address. She has no idea. I suggest she ask someone but am told that the best thing she can do is keep her mouth shut. She tells me to look it up online. Okay so where do I look. I put her name in. Her name did come up but as part of my father in law’s obituary. Well that didn’t help so I type in police department. Hundreds appeared on my screen. I call my husband. He suggested I try public records. All of her tickets showed up but still no address. Finally I type in sheriff’s department. I finally learned what North meant.
I get in my car and drive up to see her. I leave early in case I get lost but I arrive about thirty minutes early. I get to see her between eight and ten at night. All I can take in with me is my driver’s license and car key. In the first door, I go through security. Then I ring a bell and a second door is opened. I walk up the stairs to another closed door. I ring and am asked why I am there. Hello? Why do you think I’m there? This is not my idea of a field trip. I smile nicely and tell him I would like to see my daughter.
He takes my picture, all my information and then puts my driver’s license behind him on a table. He points to a cubicle and tells me to sit down. I’m not very big so I try to pull the stool closer to the window. Surprise. The damn stool is bolted to the ground. I suppose they think someone might throw it in a moment of anger. In walks my daughter. To my relief, she looks a lot better than I ever imagined. I don’t know what I thought she would look like after a week. I guess I thought her eyes would be red and swollen from crying but they weren’t. She almost seemed relieved that any choices about treatment had been taken out of her hands. I know I am. We mostly discussed everyday things and tried not to dwell on why she was there. It was only when I had to go that the situation really hit me. I couldn’t give her a kiss or touch her hand. I put my hands up to the glass partition and she put hers up against mine. It’s not the same as holding someone close.
I retrieved my license and walked out to my car. In order to get to the parking lot one walks about a block. I assumed the place would be heavily guarded with lots of security. It isn’t. I was the only one walking to my car. I was the last one to leave. I stood by my car waving to the building where I assumed she was being held. I stood there crying.
The next morning I wake up the ten year old. We’re going on an adventure I tell her. We’re going to find the place to put money down on commissary fees. Please try to remember that I have had only one ticket in my entire life that I fought and won. I am not familiar with courts and jails and commissary fees. We drive to the main jail which is what the recording informs me I am required to do. I follow the signs to the parking lot. There are thirty two spots and at least one hundred cars waiting. It’s nine o’clock in the morning and visiting hours have begun at the main jail. I drive around the lot. Up one side and down the other. I do this again and again and again for the next hour. It’s now ten o’clock and I have to get my daughter to her class. I drive fifteen minutes, drop her off and turn around to get back into line. I finally follow a woman to her car and wait while she pulls out. That was my first mistake. While I waited nicely for her to get out, giving her room, a huge SUV pulls right in front of me. I can’t move. This bitch stole my spot! I couldn’t believe this could happen. I sat there stunned for the minute and then I started to laugh. I actually was sitting in my car wishing horrid things to a woman who was probably visiting a family member in jail. What was I becoming? How much worse could it be than to visit a loved one in jail? I finally got my well deserved parking spot and raced into the building to pay her fees. For those who are lucky enough not to know, commissary fees allow her to purchase cookies, candy, shampoo and deodorant to use. I get my number and sit to wait my turn. I’m number 117 and they have just called 108. I look at my watch and breathe a sigh of relief. I have fifty minutes to pay, get back in my car and pick up my daughter. I stand up when the number 115 comes up. Finally something is going right. Except… a sign appears on the window. She’s taking a fifteen minute break. I look at my watch. Even having to wait, I figure I should be okay. Ten minutes pass, then fifteen, then twenty. Apparently the jail has a different way of keeping time than I do. I finally get called, and quickly pay. I’m only going to be a few minutes late to pick up the ten year old. Except, I have to cross New River to get back and the bridge is going up. At that point, one doesn’t know if they should scream, cry or laugh. I assumed that it was God having a joke on me. The good news, I finally picked my younger daughter up.
Speaking of God, I am not a religious woman. I was raised in a house without religion and so I celebrate all the religious holidays. Easter, Chanukah, Christmas, they all get decorated for in my house. Since my daughter is gone, I find that I am talking with a God of sorts. I make bargains such as keep her safe and I’ll try to be a better person. Let this program be a success and I’ll start to be more religious. Help me get through this without losing my mind and I’ll start to go to temple. I’m not sure God is listening to me yet but I find myself still doing it. My husband tells me that if there was a God then none of this would have happened. Life would be perfect with no recessions, layoffs or illnesses. I think I’ll still continue making deals with God -- just in case.
My daughter was moved into a program called Life Skills on Tuesday. Last night she called me and she is so angry. I seem to be the receiver of her frustrations and anger. She’s angry that she was moved onto a floor with coke users and hard drug abusers. She doesn’t feel that she belongs there or that the judge was being fair with her. I’m angry as well, but more at the fact that she never took the rules seriously. Do I want her with drug abusers? Of course not, but the reality is, my daughter also abused drugs. I have been told that anything done to an excess will be a danger to her wellbeing.
Every day, I hope that she realizes what she has done, not only to herself but to all the people that love her. She’s angry that her boyfriend is buying a house while she is there. She doesn’t realize that he’s not telling her to make her cry, but to try to make her a part of an exciting time of his life. We cannot imagine what she is enduring and so we try to talk to her as if things are okay. It seems to be a no-win situation especially for me. She feels that I am unsympathetic to her situation. I feel she thinks that I want her there.
She asks me to call the Broward Addiction Recovery Center and explain that she doesn’t belong in jail and to try to get her into the program faster. I call all the time and talk to a machine. There is not much I can do. The judge is a much higher authority than I am and her voice will be the last one heard. The man at BARC thinks that the Judge likes my daughter and sees a successful future. Hard for me to believe at this moment but the man at BARC believes that is why she was recommended.
Is this time waiting at jail harsh? Of course it is. I find that there is a very thin line between reality and depression. One wants to make sure there their child is aware of the consequences of ignoring what the judge says but to start treatment before a deep depression sets in. Listening to my daughter argue with me is painful but so far she is not in a depression. She is angry at the situation she finds herself in and somehow believes that if I wanted, I could change it.
I think being at the Life Skills program has to be better than just waiting. My daughter may not feel that she belongs with the others but at least she is doing something throughout the day. I am not with her so I can only hope that some of what the counselors talk about is making an impression on her. It was pleasant to hear from her tonight. She seemed much more upbeat. She told me that she received my letter and some pictures. Some pictures were being sent back because she was in them. I’ll never understand why that would make a difference. Every day I seem to learn something new and the more I learn the less it seems to make sense. The pictures I sent were family ones of her and her sisters. Maybe one day, I’ll get a handbook that will explain why she can’t have a picture of herself, why there is no parking at the main jail and why there is only one person to take money for the commissary. I would ask someone but I’m afraid to draw attention to myself.
I think that things were be easier if there was someone to share my experiences with. The problem is we are in the middle of a recession and foreclosures and layoffs. My problems which seem overwhelming to me are small to someone facing foreclosure. How can I complain to someone who has just lost their job after forty years. How dare I bitch to someone who has cancer? So instead, I just try to handle this on my own. I’m not sure I’m doing such a good job of it though. It’s times like this that I miss having my family around. I think I’ll add that to my list of needs. I need my sister, brother, Mom. Friends are great but you can’t discuss family issues with them. Families are too widespread. Sometimes you just need someone to hold your hand and listen. My husband can’t do that for he is too close to all of this. Not only that, but he finds it easier to hold me responsible for all of this. He thinks I spoiled the girls too much and never learned how to say no to them. George could have thrown our daughter out years ago and let her sink or swim on her own. I couldn’t do that.
Friday is movie day at the facility. My daughter just called to tell me she spent the day watching movies and eating junk food. Yes the food I bought at the commissary arrived today and my daughter ate most of it. Her meals at this place are unbelievable. She is awakened at three o’clock in the morning to eat breakfast. Breakfast is juice, bread, jelly and bologna. Lunch is peanut butter and bologna with mayo on bread. She wasn’t quite sure what dinner was. It was brown. So in order to supplement this healthy diet she added a bag of chips, cupcake, cookies, cheese and crackers, a honey bun and three bags of M&Ms. The good news is, I think she ate most of what I got her, so she’ll have all week to take off the calories. She played basketball with her dormies and at seven tonight she will go for a N.A. meeting. Her spirits are up and she is enjoyable to talk with. I am extremely proud of how she is coping. I take a minute to thank God for helping.
Today she was moved over to BARC. This is the Broward Addiction Recovery Center. I drove over this morning to bring her some clothes. I was told that last night she had spent at the main jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale, I spoke to her for just a minute. I am so relieved to know that she is finally being moved. I was so worried that something would happen while she was locked up. People tell me that they sleep best when their child is in jail but I didn’t. I was afraid that she would be hurt or even raped. I think I watch too many movies about jails because my imagination was running at high speed. All I could think of was how her Dad and I protected her while she was growing up. I explained about staying away from strangers and not getting into cars with people she didn’t know. I checked out the parents of her friends when she slept over. All I can think of is where she is now. I can’t check anyone out anymore. She’ll spend a month ate rehab center. I can’t help but hope that it will be long enough. Eight years on drugs and thirty days to get off and stay off. It’s just another thing that I will worry about. And yes, my hair is turning grey and I am very tired. So I call BARC and ask what I am allowed to bring her. I am told to read all labels to make sure that there is no alcohol in the contents. I check out the mouthwash. I learned it is made with alcohol. So no mouthwash. I move on to the toothpaste. That is acceptable. I work my way over to the shampoo aisle. Some conditioners and gels have alcohol. Twenty minutes have passed while I stand there. I realize that tears are falling down my cheeks and think to myself how low things have sunk. To think that some of the clients are so desperate that they will drink anything has depressed me beyond words. Again that damn imagination of mine moves into overtime. What will my daughter do to get more pills? Will a month really be able to control the cravings? Is there a God that will help me? It is at moments like this that I miss my mother the most and yet I am so glad she is not here to see all of this. I realize how lonely I am and call my sister at work. She listens to me and advises me to keep looking at the glass as half full. She repeats over and over that things have reached their low and can only move up. I tell her the same for she has her own issues in life to deal with. We ask each other over and over again how things could have gotten this awful. We finish the conversation not depressed, but rather two older women trying to fix the world and ourselves along with it. We laugh and decide to blame our problems on the Bush administration. I drive over to BARC with my ten year old. I stop on the way and pull over to the side of the rode where I am sick to my stomach. I am so nervous and again have imagined her still behind barbed wire. To my great surprise and relief, my7 daughter is in a place that looks like a college dorm. There are no guards patrolling the area nor are there any fences. I grab her things and instruct my youngest daughter to stay in the car with the doors locked. I know I’m imagining the worse but I can’t help it. I am living a life that is totally controlled by fear. It may be irrational but unfortunately I can’t stop the feelings. Imagine my shock when I walked into a building that almost resembled a hotel lobby. There was a lovely waiting room and a front desk with the most wonderful kind face looking at me. Am I in the right place I asked her? She stood up and walked around the desk and hugged me. This was what I was so worried about. This is what I locked my ten year old in the car for? She asked me to list what I had brought for my daughter but she didn’t even check the stuff out. For the first time in weeks I felt better. Her one act of kindness to a total stranger did more for me than anything else. I won’t hear from my daughter now for a week. I take a deep breath and walk out. I realize that I am smiling as I approach the car and free my 10-year-old. We laugh together as I explain my fears for her and how stupid they were. I feel as if a weight has been taken off my shoulders. Maybe a miracle will happen in the next thirty days. I call my sister back and we laugh together as I explain how nice everything was. I wish I had the money to get on a plane to see her. I need a hug. I need my sister.
A week has already passed and I am getting ready to see my daughter. Visiting hours are from seven to nine fifteen at night. In order to see a client, the visitor has to do a meeting first. After the meeting, there is a forty-five minute visitation. I am nervous but excited. I realize that I am more excited than anxious. It’s a good feeling. Since most of us in the meeting were fairly new, the counselor explained the disease of addiction. I didn’t learn anything new but it makes one feel better to know that you’re not alone. I listen to others talk about their loved ones and I know it’s okay to worry. It’s more than all right. Many of the clients are return visitors. I learn that my low may not be someone else’s low. I am told to let go of my concerns for I can’t change an addict. We go over the process of what an enabler is. It wasn’t a surprise to see how I fit every description. What I did was wrong and now I must learn to change. I am in for the biggest fight of my life. I have to learn the word no. How could two little letters install such fear in me. I am so disgusted with myself. I am guilty of everything that was mentioned. Yes, I gave money and my car. Yes, I thought it was a phase. Yes, I took all her abuse and overlooked it. All these yeses have to change or I will continue to enable her in her choices. I have so much to learn. No wonder I walk around in a state of nervous tension. I realize exactly how weak I am. I realize that what I thought was concern and love was enabling. All this has to change and soon. She comes home in three weeks. The meeting ends and I finally get to visit with her. Again, to my surprise there was only one counselor in the room with all of us. We sat side by side not really knowing what to say or how to act. People around us were laughing and talking and here I was, afraid to say anything to my daughter. I have so many questions that need to be answered but she doesn’t want to answer me now. For her this is visitation, For me, I’m finding it hard to know that I have a limited amount of time. I am afraid to ask too much in case I upset the apple cart. I am so afraid for the future. The visit ends with so much left unsaid. I walk out leaving her there to get better. I realize how many horrible moments I am having. And yet, I really am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can already see a maturity that wasn’t there before. I see the beginnings of an acceptance of the fact that she is an addict. I begin to understand taking it one day at a time. Perhaps hope is beginning to take the place of utter despair.
For those of you who are fortunate enough not to ever go through any moments of great despair, it is hard to understand what my life has become. There is a great weight inside of me. I have been lucky enough not to have to bury my child from an overdose but I have buried so much. My dreams and hopes for her have been buried for so long that I wonder if they can ever be excavated . I walk down the mall and find myself studying faces of the people that I pass, wondering if their life is happier than mine. I wonder what strangers can read in my face. Do they see the empty hole in my heart. I spend a great deal of time thinking about how I could have made a difference in her life. Was I truly this horrible, selfish person who should have saved her earlier. Over and over, I tell myself that I was the best mother that I could be. I may not have been the best mother that they wanted, just the best one that I could be. My head understands that, just my heart is a little slower in getting the message. For the first time in my life I am overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and loss. I feel such a loss of control and that’s what scares me most. I have to let my daughter make her own choices in life, right or wrong. I have to let her be an adult and not just my child. I have to let go and for a mother, that is so difficult. I am so unhappy. Deep down unbearably unhappy.
I also have an older daughter who couldn’t face her addicted sister and her problems and so she created her own life. As a mother I am both proud and disappointed in her. Her sister has a disease and my older daughter will not accept that. She sees things only in black and white. She blames me for allowing the addicted daughter to take over my life. I don’t think that until she is a mother, she will ever understand. She would repeat over and over again that I should throw her out. Let her suffer from what she is doing. She almost seems to hate sister for what she is doing. I worry about that. I want my children to be close and yet I understand the resentment. The addicted daughter still doesn’t realize how much my life has revolved around her and the things she did. I cannot remember one trip away from her that I wasn’t called. I can still hear my husband calling me in Orlando because she had come home stoned and was fighting with the boyfriend. I remember one trip when she was found in our guesthouse smoking weed with a girlfriend. My husband always felt that we needed to throw her out but I never could bring myself to do it. I would wonder where she would live and what would she live on. Would she steal to get food? Would she add a zero to a prescription that she had obtained? Would I find her dead lying under a bridge somewhere? I never could bring myself to actually cut the umbilical cord. I was the eternal enabler. I am learning to say no. I have learned the hard way that I will never go back to how things were. I am learning that I am a strong person and can survive if my daughter chooses drugs over us. It is her decision and one that I will learn to live with. I seem to worry a great deal about the effect that this has had on my youngest. I think back on the number of times that our lives have been disrupted because of this illness.
As I sit here and look back on my life, I think of so many things I should have done differently. It is only now when I was shown exactly what the drugs my daughter has taken can do to her, that I am waking up. Over the last five years, I can probably count the nights that I’ve slept through over the nights that I am up walking the floors. I have always made sure that the cell phone bill was paid and up to date so that I could stay in contact with my daughters. It’s amazing how often the phone died or was left in a car. I would dial and wait. One ring, two rings, then the voice would get on. Leave a message. What could I say? Call me please. You’re four hours late. Do you have any idea what you are doing to me? I imagine you either in a hospital or a police station. I worry if you have been in an accident? I wonder if you have any idea what you are doing to me? Do you care what you are doing to me or has your life become so self centered around you and your needs? I can’t tell her how I feel for at this point she doesn’t really care. And so I hang up the phone and I leave no message. But I sit and watch the clock. Fifteen minutes later, I start the whole thing over again. I can’t help myself. I am so worried that the truth is I can’t be rational. My mom would tell me that bad news always has a way of finding you -- don’t go looking for it. My head would tell me not to call but the heart would make me try again, over and over, hoping that one time she’ll answer. It was no better if she did answer. I could tell immediately from her voice if she was high. New worries would start. Is she going to drive? Where is she sleeping/ Why is she doing this? It took until now for me to see that she didn’t have any more control than I did. All her rational thought was gone once that pill went into her mouth. All my rational thought was gone once she took those pills.
Today I read in the paper that Florida was the pain pill capital of the United States. Over six million pills were given out last year. A patient can even go to a pain management clinic that is a drive up. Get a prescription without even leaving your car. Broward County is the leading provider of pain pills in all of Florida. Some states have puppy mills, Florida is known for having pill mills. The drugs are sold on site by these so called healers. They post signs that offer gas for out of state patients. They neglect to mention that over seven hundred patients died in 2007. In the last ten months, the DEA estimates that almost a hundred new clinics opened their doors. Remember this is in just two counties in South Florida. I wonder where are the regulations to stop this. How is it allowed that a Doctor is able to see over sixty-five patients in one day? Every patient is issued a prescription for pain pills. Many of them have their prescriptions filled right at the clinic. They then cross the street and sell them to people like my daughter.
Are the pills legal? Sure, they were obtained by a prescription. These clinics advertise in the pages of alternative newspapers. It’s not right that my daughter took them, but it certainly was easy.
I read that many of these pain clinics are owned by people who have no medical training. It has become a business to them. I want them to suffer as I have suffered these last few years. I want these owners to cry as I have. I want them to watch someone sink without life preserver available.
I think how lucky I am. My child is getting help. More important, my child is accepting the help that is being offered.
For the first time in so long, I see a future ahead for both of us. But I am still so angry at the system. I am so angry at these clinics and at the pill makers. Pain pills are so addicting and yet they are so easy to obtain. The Miami Herald posted figures of the amount of doctors and pills that are in South Florida. Forty-five doctors sold over nine million oxycodone pills in the last six months. That breaks down to four pills per resident. It’s absolutely insane that this is allowed to continue. Thirty-three of the top fifty pill-prescribing doctors operate out of Broward County. I think to myself that this can’t possibly be allowed to continue. How can this be legal?
Better yet, how have these doctors escaped the pain of watching a child become addicted?