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[ Personal Narratives ]

Happy birthday to my son (and anniversary of the day I woke up in jail)

It’s April 2, 2011 at the time I write this entry.

I stand wobbling with blurred vision, trying to orientate to my surroundings. I’m so cold. Within a few seconds of discomfort, I realize I’m in the “dress”. The dress is an ugly green dress-like suit that wears as loose as a potato sack. It has no buttons or ties, no arms or legs, no way to use it as a suicide aid. My legs were exposed and bluish from cold. In my daze I think, damn, forgot to shave, and that’s probably what stirred me from my coma. As my focus sharpened a tiny bit, I looked up and around, a sea of staring men. I’m standing in a leaning position in a room full of convicts, all gawking at me like a circus freak. My two toned hair is matted. Ha, oh for a mirror.

I hear a voice tell me the judge is speaking to me. That’s when I realize I’m actually being held up by two corrections officers. I nod my head and mumble. The judge at first seemingly confused, I think gets it now. Needless to say, bail was out of the question.  As the judge declares my charges and all the jargon that goes with an arraignment, he then says something like, “good luck ma’am”. Ha, I think everyone in that little room and courtroom knows I’ll need more than luck.

 I feel tugging from the officers behind me. They want me out of the video arraignment room ASAP, as it’s  obviously created a huge distraction. Jail personnel don’t like unrest.

I’m led to the elevator. Dizzy, dragging, bumping into walls, I can hear the kind condescension in their voices as they assure me, they’ve “got me”. 

Here we are… automatic doors slide open to C pod. C pod is the receiving and diagnostic area of the jail. It smells of shit, stale processed food and musky body odor. It’s always freezing and yet you are only given one blanket. The blanket is rough and irritates the skin. It’s covered in random body hair of those before you and is too short to cover your whole body, unless you’re under 5 foot tall.

C pod is the only wing of the jail that houses both men and women. Though we are in separate cells, we are placed across from or next to each other. “Across from” means being bugged with requests for tit or cock shots through glass windows on the steel doors.  “Next to” means annoying conversation, night and day . Yea. I get to suffer through detox hell here . What the fuck …

I can feel all eyes on the crazy girl as I’m led to the intake office. I sit down. Sitting there waiting for her to get her act together, I nod off again. I’m still far from coherent . 

Two nights before, I knew they were coming to arrest me. Instead of running like my daughter asked me to, I stayed and waited for the cops to arrive. However, instead of packing my pills in balloons and jamming them in body orifices to keep from getting sick in jail as I’d done before, I opted for overdose . I knew I didn’t have enough of a supply to sustain me for the months, possibly even years, I may have ahead of me. So, why prolong the inevitable? As I snorted and swallowed some fifty to sixty pills (a combination of Roxicodones, extended release Oxymorphones, Xanax, etc). I couldn’t care less if I lived or died. I just wanted my nightmare to end. I was tired of the moment to moment struggle. I was tired of the pain. I hugged my daughter tight before she walked out the door and that was the last time I would hug or kiss my girl outside of jail walls. As I watched her drive away, my heart was breaking . I texted my son in California reluctantly to relay the bad news and to wish him an early happy birthday …

 I had become a walking disaster . I was a failure . I let my kids down royally . Maybe they were better off without me. As I looked at my little white chihuahua, Yoda, and petted him trying to calm him, I could never imagine the domino effect this night would have . He lovingly looked back at me as I packed my trusty mirror, razor blade, straws, credit card into my little black bag and shoved it between me and a pillow. He snuggled on my lap and we slept in that between place that all addicts find comforting, barely here… but barely there .

I’m woke up abruptly and rudely by my little dog barking in a psychotic frenzy . He’s at the door of the converted garage apartment we temporarily called home and he’s seething. I jump up sluggishly, hide and look over near the window. I can see the damn blue lights… fuck.

After alot of banging , I finally open the door . I remember my dog just going crazy . He’s biting and drooling horribly as he growls. I worry about him . But, I worry more about my babies . I’m a fuck up . How did it come to this ? The last thing I remember is having the men in blue (literally as PWC police wear blue uniforms) drag me in my brown dress and ankle bracelet through the muddied yard to the police car … 

I would later experience that dress again . It was a horrible reminder as I slipped it on preparing to be released from the main jail to work release nearly 8 months later . It had been sealed in plastic and never washed so the mud stains and musky perfume were there to remind me of the beginning of … my personal apocalypse .

Finally, the intake officer begins speaking to me . What all she said I can’t remember . I do recall she placed papers in front of me and asked if I understood what she was saying . I whispered yes but I was far from aware. She asked me to sign and date the papers. My head hung, I scribble my name and look over to date . I see the date above my line . It says … April 2, 2011. OH MY GOD. IT’S MY SON’S 18TH BIRTHDAY .

All I can manage to mutter through my weary and drugged tears is… “it’s my son’s 18th birthday today . What have I done ?”

I often say that at 18 years old, my daughter saved my life when she was born. She absolutely did. But, my son saved my life as well. The first moment I truly realized how far I had descended was the day I sat in jail on my son’s 18th birthday.

 It took years for me to get to the moment when I was more selfless and less selfish and allowed the full impact of the tragic choices to sink in. I can’t guess what my charismatic, bold son was feeling . I can’t imagine what my sweet and naive daughter was feeling. No matter what drove me to my addiction, I failed to recognize their needs and value to my life enough to give up the drugs. I failed to realize how blessed I was . They were the center of my universe . These pills seemed to take their place . For this I sat in that jail office feeling agony, shame and regret .

The next time I would hug my daughter alive after that night was in the jail when she was being released for a DUI. It was Mother’s Day 2011. Yes… crazy. I saw her again lying frozen in a funeral home .

The last time I hugged my son was at the airport as he took off to California to live with his dad . If only I had moved us to California years ago, would I have succumbed to brokenness and despair that led to my addiction? Now I’d never know.

The next time I would hug my son was after my daughter died , overdosing from opiates . She developed a serious addiction to opiates while I was in jail and it viciously took her from us only a few months later . 

I wanted to die .I knew I couldn’t kill myself in jail but I figured I’d hold on to the pain until I was released . Once free , I would overdose and end it all. I couldn’t fathom living without even one of my children . It was unimaginable . I kept thinking of her suffering as she died .

 I kept thinking of my failures . I kept wishing I had done everything at the end different . I reflected back to our whole lives and even the little things, wishing for a “do over”. 

But, I saw my son’s face . This boy had always been strong willed and inspiring . As I looked at him I felt the distance created by time, miles, jail walls…and the distance created by my choice of pills over the loves of my life. I wondered if he blamed me. I wondered if he did blame me, if he’d ever forgive me. Yet, I knew.

He grabbed me tightly and I felt his unconditional love. In spite of the train wreck I had become , he loved me.

 I remembered a sweet conversation I had with my children once . They were reminiscing about the times I worked late when they were small. They told me that they would wait in excitement for me to come home . They were anxious to see me, they missed me. It’s then I realized I had screwed up big time and not because of the obvious.  I didn’t realize or understand the love my children had for me. I had underestimated my importance as chief guidance in their lives . I had taken the precious gift of life I was blessed with, for granted. I was so overwhelmed with agony of my past life, I was blinded to how wonderful my life had turned out. I guess I hadn’t felt worthy , even when I was doing my best for them.

The years since October 2011, I haven’t seen my son as often as I needed or wanted to. This child I had seen or spoken to everyday from birth to age 17, was far from me now . Having lost my daughter, his absence made me feel childless . It’s often felt like a dream . To cope, I’d  revert to immature, carefree behavior more like my teen years before I had children . I’ve felt lonely . Abandoned . My parents died when I was small . My children were my family . My children were my everything . .. before the addiction. Now what?

When my son came for a visit last year, it was like a shot in the arm to my spirit . While I could still feel the loss of something once perfect in the air between us, our bond was stronger than ever . 

He’s encouraged me along the way to follow through with advocacy work . He’s supported my participation with the documentary. He’s on board with my memoir . He’s always positive . He’s always enlightening and determined . He’s also always honest , sometimes painfully so.

I’ve heard it in his voice even through his attempts to be strong, positive and forward thinking. He doesn’t openly discuss how much he misses his only sibling . Too often , I’ve talked about her , my grief, my confusion . More often than not though , I try to put on a brave face … for him .

We had a mini “falling out ” a week ago that lasted a day . My son and daughter are loving souls. They are forgiving . They don’t harbor hostility . They didn’t learn this from me. God made them this way . As we discussed our misunderstanding, he said something that cut like a knife. I’m glad he said it though . It was something I didn’t know but suspected . 

Yes… I have a daughter named Kirstyn that died.

But…I have a son who’s alive and pushing forward in spite of loss, pain, emotional ups and downs and self doubt, to make the most of this life . He is handsome . He is kind. He is moral. He is strong . He is spiritual. He is responsible . He is forgiving . He lives and his sister’s death impresses his life as well as mine . He loved her and he misses her . He loves me. I’m proud of him . I’m proud to be his mother and not because he’s some validation or appendage . I am proud because he is a special individual who has defied and persists . I’m proud because he endures and he stays open to experience and risks of happiness . I’m proud because he hardly realizes what a hero he is. But, my son is a private soul so it’s easy to overlook or assume.

I regret my decisions and weaknesses that caused my children strife and sadness in their lives. I would do anything to take it back . But, my son shows me by example that I don’t have the right to lay down and give up… I did that once . I must go on. He’s taking the sharp edges of life and smoothing his character by them , and so will I. 

I have been told by many people lately that I’ve motivated them or inspired them. Yet, this past week I have felt defeat and betrayal, overwhelmed by dread and wondered why I bother . I want to express negativity (and I do at times ) . I want to show off my case of the “fuck its”. 

You know though, I realized quick enough it’s a slippery slope and I’ve been HERE before and chose wrong . So, I get up, dust off and keep at it. 

I don’t feel annoyed by the burden of staying positive FOR others . I feel privileged . I need this to go on. I’m lucky to have people to go on for and I’m touched they find strength and inspiration in me and I in THEM . Giving is living . I have purpose. We all do, and it’s really not that difficult to find.

Most of all… I go on for my son . We hold each other responsible and I’m aware that he still appreciates my pride in him . This motivates him . He awes me and always has with his dreams and visions of the future . What would break others like him , he uses for fuel . He’s going to college to be an aerospace or robotics engineer and potentially join the air force.

Thank you for saving my life … son. Happy Birthday to you . Thank you for forgiveness . Thank you for love. Thank you for being you . Thank you for being born to me on April 2, 1993. April 2, 2011, 5 years ago, seems like an eternity . Because of you, I still breathe . Because of you, I’m not sitting where I sat on April 2, 2011. So much trauma and misery since that day… but on this day, I am blessed to have you still.

Son, I wanted you to know … you saved my life . When you stood maturely at Kirstyn’s memorial and delivered her eulogy, you vowed to her to be “double the person” to make her life go on. You keep your word every single day, even on your lowest days . I miss you and I love you . Have a wonderful birthday . – Momma