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Dose of Happy: The View From Up Here

Recently, Sunshine and I went to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex to visit a friend of ours. Normally, when we go visit our friend, we stay at our friend’s house. This time, when we texted our friend that we were getting near, he texted back an address and told us to meet him there. We got there, and it was a hotel. See, our friend’s house was on the market, staged and ready for an open house early the next morning and he didn’t want us to have to feel rushed to leave, so he put us up in a hotel.

Now, our friend is one of those “go big or go home” kind of people. Well, maybe “live life out loud” or “live life at high speed” or something would be more like it, but whatever–the point is, our friend believes in living life to the fullest. And because he knows that we live in a tiny house on wheels, he couldn’t just get us a hotel room. He had to go and get us a suite, with a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom that on its own was bigger than our whole living room, kitchen and dining area combined. The living room and bedroom each had one entire wall made up of windows overlooking the city to the south, and to a city girl like me, the view was stunning.

Sunshine, our dog Mollie, and our friend took off to do whatever it is they do when they hang out–probably fossil hunting or some other grand adventure. I went shopping, as my ass has grown too big for my pants or my pants have shrunken too small for my backside, and there are just so many good stores in the DFW metroplex.

I got done shopping (in a surprisingly short amount of time) and returned to the hotel. After taking my purchases out of their bags and packing them in my luggage, I surveyed the living room area of our suite. There was this cute little armchair right in front of the window, but it was facing the wrong way, so I turned it around and plopped my ass down facing that wall of windows, and I watched the world go by from my perch on the eighth floor of this hotel.

There has always been something so soothing to me about watching the world from high up in a building in the middle of a large city. Maybe it’s because I can watch the city go by without being affected by the hustle and bustle and mad rush and overwhelming NOISE of it all. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a large city and somehow wound up in a swamp and miss the hell out of city life. Maybe it’s a little of both with some unknown factors thrown in for good measure.

Whatever the reason, I sat there in that room and watched the world go by out that window and listened to the sound of the air whooshing through the vents of the air-conditioning system and the faint sound of the water in the fountain eight stories below me splashing on the concrete.

I sat there in that silence and watched the world go by, and felt such a deep peace.

That may not sound like much out of the ordinary to some of you, but to an addict like me, to sit alone and just watch the world out a window and enjoy the silence–well, that’s a miracle.

There were many years when I couldn’t be alone. There were many years when I couldn’t stand silence. There were many years when I always had somewhere to go and something to do and somebody to be.

I was able to sit there in that chair and watch the world go by and be content with just sitting still. I was happy to know that, unlike all of those people in all of those cars rushing by below me–I had nowhere to be, no pressures, no deadlines, no expectations to meet. I had only to sit and reflect in the silence.

I was able to sit there in the silence, with nothing to distract me from myself, and not want to crawl out of my skin.

After my addiction, failed marriages, prison time, and all of the other horrors that go along with addiction, it’s a miracle it is for me to be able to sit in silence and watch the world go by. It’s a miracle for me to sit high up in a hotel and watch humanity pass by without worrying that life is passing me by.

So my dose of happy this Monday is being able to enjoy the silence, to be comfortable in my own skin. I hope each and every one of you can find a few moments this week to enjoy some silence, and just be.

Holding Space In Crisis — Published

I almost lost my best friend last weekend.

She tried to die by suicide. I received her text that she was in the hospital while I was tutoring.

“Call me ASAP.”

“I need you to come to hospital and spend the night with me.”

“No joke.”

My response: “I know. Still working with a student.”

She: “Ok please get done soon! I need you.”

I: “What hospital?”

She: “I’m at ******. I had a suicide attempt. The nurses know me and hate me here, so they’re doing small mind tortured. Waking me every five minutes–saying duragatory things. They told my parents I’m hallucinating–I’m not, please come stay with me–I don’t feel safe.”

“Can you stay the night?”

I: “Yes, I can.”

She: “With me, please? ***** (her husband) won’t.”

I: “Yes, of course.”

She: “OMG- get here now!! Room **.”

Meanwhile, I am trying to do my online tutoring job. I can see the look of horror on my face on camera while the texts are displaying on my phone. I tell my student I have to talk to his dad. I inform him that I have to leave immediately due to an emergency. I explain while his son is out of earshot. He gives his sincere emotional support. I give a quick run-down of what his son needs to complete for the assignment, then I start packing. I text my husband to let him know that I have to help my friend, then I tell one of my twins that I’m leaving for the hospital.

My brain is racing at the speed of light. I am trying to cover all the bases: what would she need from home that she did not get since she was directly transported to ER? I text her to ask if she needs anything from home before I leave. She would like headphones. I grab my earbuds, but first I have my son help me find an extra set because I would like my own set. After trying a few sets (why is it that teenagers blow through so many earbuds?), I decide to bring my own to share. She might be too tired to listen to music.

I text her to let her know I’m finally on my way. I arrive and remind myself of several things: put on your own oxygen mask first, stay strong, and be her advocate.

She is in the ICU. She has a central port PICC line as well as two IV lines because the medical staff had a hard time getting an IV started. She’s bruised all over. She overdosed on a plethora of medications at her parents’ house while she was housesitting there, including painkillers and her father’s injectable insulin. Her kidneys shut down and the medical staff had to pump her stomach. The medical team pull her labs every two hours to make sure that her levels are improving. Thankfully, the PICC line is a saving grace.

My friend makes comments about the nursing staff. She says that they make comments about her, saying that she OD’d to get attention, that she is a princess and she is going to call her daddy, but when she confronts the nurses about it, they say that my friend is hallucinating. The hospital has a one on one person for suicide watch. This person has to document every little thing that the patient does while under their care. On Saturday night, the one on one person documented all of the unprofessional conduct.  While I was there, she said that the nurses were commenting about her again, as well as me. I went up to the nurse and asked her about it. She denied it and said that my friend was “hallucinating and making things up”. I said, “You may say that, but when you talk about patients, others can hear it and that is breaking patient privacy. Everyone else can hear it, and that is not acceptable. It is not professional. You need to stop it.”

The nurse called her supervisor and she came down to talk with all of us. My friend finally voices how she feels. The nurses, of course, covered their butts and say that my friend had been hallucinating from her OD. I interject and say, “Even though that did happen, it is not professional for you to discount how she feels. Nor is it professional of you to talk about her while other people can hear. She does have recipient rights.” The minute I mentioned the term “recipient rights”, the two immediately changed their tune and started apologizing. My friend apologized as well for things (even though in my opinion, she didn’t have to, but it is part of healing the relationship). I asked if my friend could be moved to step down critical care since her levels were improving, and the nurses agreed. Two hours later, my friend was moved to a quieter, private room with a more caring team. Ironically, the bitchy nurse stays after her shift end to help us move.

We get settled in, and my friend finally has the best sleep she has had. Her levels improve so much, her kidneys are normally functioning, and the medical team clears her. The next day, she gets her PICC line removed. My friend keeps telling me to go home, that she is OK. All of a sudden, we learn that Community Mental Health (CMH) is on their way to start the intake process to find her a facility. Things start accelerating at an astronomical rate, and my friend has no idea how to process this. I stay to help her process things and to be her advocate. Her parents come to the meeting, as well as her husband. I ask the CMH representative if it is OK if I stay during the meeting to be her advocate and he said if it was OK with her it was OK with him.

Here is where I see mental health stigma magnified. Thankfully, the CMH person is neutral, asks all the appropriate questions, and takes my friend’s requests seriously. I was floored when my friend’s stepmom was blaming my friend for what happened. She said, “Your dad is so angry at what you did to him.”

I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I said, “I’m sorry. With all due respect, when you make comments like that to her, you are blaming her for her illness. We need to help her instead of telling her what she did wrong. She didn’t do this to you.”

The stepmom got angry at me and said, “Well, with all due respect to you, you haven’t been here for the past eleven years.”

I responded, “You’re right. I haven’t. But, you need to understand that constantly telling her how bad she is isn’t helping her heal.”

When her parents left, my friend said, “That is the first time that anyone stood up to my stepmom.”

I pack up to go home because my friend’s husband is there. I feel that she is stable enough now. Her husband made the comment, “Well, I would have come earlier, but I had a half talk of gas and no money.”

I looked him and smiled with my sweetest Southern smile and said, “I had only the change in my pocket, a quarter tank of gas, cancelled my tutoring job that I was doing, cancelled my other two tutoring jobs and packed up to stay the night with *****.”

He looked at me, laughed and said, “What is wrong with you?”

I said, “Nothing is wrong with me. My priority is taking care of those I love, and I love ******.”

I was hurt for my friend. It is hard enough battling mental health demons, but when you are alone with no emotional support from your family, it is almost insurmountable.

Once I got to my car, I video chatted with one of my friends, and I finally cried. I let it all out. I cried body rocking sobs for my friend, the pain that she is shouldering on her own, the fear of the unknown that she is facing, and the aching of wanting to heal. I sobbed in anger against mental health stigma, the blame people put on those with mental illness, and the broken system that is failing so many. No one should be blamed for his or her mental illness. It would be akin to being blamed for having cancer, diabetes, or asthma.

I received a text from my friend’s husband. It read: “Thanks for being such a good friend to ******. I don’t think I have ever witnessed such devotion from a friend of hers. I will try to keep you in the loop as much as possible ok” I responded, “Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I appreciate that. We all need to rally around ***** and help her to recovery and wellness.”

This is my prayer. I pray that we work on our recovery and wellness, be our best advocate, and remember to put on our oxygen masks first.

 

 

 

 

 

Holding Space in Crisis

I almost lost my best friend last weekend to suicide. She tried to take her own life.

She texted me while I was working: “Call me ASAP. I need you to come to hospital and spend the night with me. No joke.” I informed her that I was still working with a student, which she understood, and I went back to work until she explained why she’d been admitted to the hospital: she’d attempted suicide. I felt the wind knocked out of me. Frantically she texted me to come as soon as possible, as she believed the nurses in the ICU were waking her up to say nasty things to her. These nurses even went as far to tell her family that she’s hallucinating; and my friend didn’t feel safe. She begged me to stay the night as her husband refused.

I could see the look of horror on my face on camera in between her texts. I realized that I needed to be there for her, so I ended the tutoring session then and there. After I explained to my own family why I was leaving, I took off, my heart and brain both racing as I began driving, trying to understand what had happened. Did she need anything from home? I stopped to get headphones for her, thinking she might enjoy some music.

When I get there, I put on my proverbial own oxygen mask so that I can be her advocate as I walk into her ICU room. Immediately I see that she’s got a PICC line, the staff had a hard time inserting an IV and she’s bruised up one side and down the other. I finally get the story from her: she’d overdosed on a number of medications – including painkillers and insulin – while she was housesitting her parents home, resulting in kidney failure. One pumped stomach later, the nurses draw her labs every two hours to make certain that her kidneys are indeed working as they should be.

She complains that the nursing staff is abusive; they’ve make comments about her, saying that she’d overdosed to get attention, that she is a princess and she is going to call her Daddy. When she confronts the nurses about their poor behavior, the nurses deny it, brushing it off as a hallucination. As she’s on suicide watch, the hospital provided her with a sitter, a one-on-one person who has to watch her at all times, documenting every thing that she does, noting all the unprofessional conduct by the medical team before I arrived.

Once I got there, she informed me that the nurses were still commenting about her…and me. When I asked the nurse about it, she denied it, saying my friend was hallucinating and fabricating tales. I didn’t believe a word of it and explained that due HIPPA, it was illegal to discuss any patient care within earshot of others.

The charge nurse called her supervisor who came down to talk with all of us. My friend explained how she felt. The nurses, of course, covered their misbehavior, claiming that my friend had been hallucinating. I interrupted their stories and explained that no matter what, my friend does have recipient rights, which are something we have in Michigan. These rights protect and promote the constitutional and statutory rights of recipients of public mental health services and empower recipients to fully exercise these rights.

The minute I mentioned “recipient rights,” the two nurses apologized, and we began to discuss moving my friend to a step-down unit as she was medically stable. Two hours later, my friend was moved to a quieter, private room where we got settled in. Her kidney function went down to normal so she was medically cleared for transport to an actual mental health facility.

We learned that Community Mental Health (CMH) was on their way to start the intake process to find her a mental health facility – that’s when things started accelerating at an astronomical rate. My friend had no idea how to process this, so I patiently helped her. Her parents and her husband arrived for the intake meeting.

This was when I saw mental health stigma magnified.

Thankfully, the CMH person was neutral, asked all the appropriate questions, and took my friend’s requests seriously.

When my friend’s stepmom stepmom began blaming my friend for what happened, I was floored “Your dad is so angry at what you did to him.”

I couldn’t hold back, I was so angry, and interrupted, saying “I’m sorry. With all due respect, when you make comments like that to her, you are blaming her for her illness. We need to help her instead of telling her what she did wrong. She didn’t do this to you.

Her stepmom got angry at me and said, “Well, with all due respect to you, you haven’t been here for the past eleven years.” I responded, “You’re right. I haven’t. But constantly telling her how bad she is isn’t helping her heal.”

When her parents left, my friend said, awestruck: “That is the first time anyone stood up to my stepmom.”  I began to pack for home once I felt she was stable, and her husband had arrived, stating that he’d have come earlier, but he’d only had a half a tank of gas, she was stable now,

I looked him and smiled with my sweetest Southern smile and said, “I had only the change in my pocket, a quarter tank of gas, I cancelled my tutoring job that I was doing, cancelled my other two tutoring jobs and packed up to stay the night.”

He looked at me, laughed and said, “What is wrong with you?” I explained, “Nothing is wrong with me. My priority is taking care of those I love, and I love her.”

I was hurt for my friend. It is hard enough battling mental health demons, but when you are alone with no emotional support from your family, it is almost insurmountable.

Once I got to my car, I video-chatted with one of my friends, and I finally cried. I let it all out. I cried body-rocking sobs for my friend, the pain that she is shouldering on her own, the fear of the unknown that she is facing, and the aching of wanting to heal. I sobbed in anger against mental health stigma, the blame people put on those with mental illness, and the broken system that is failing so many. No one should be blamed for his or her mental illness. It ‘s like being blamed for having cancer, diabetes, or asthma.

I received a text from my friend’s husband: “Thanks for being such a good friend to my wife. I don’t think I have ever witnessed such devotion from a friend of hers. I will try to keep you in the loop as much as possible, okay?.” I thanked him for keeping me in the loop so that I could help rally around her, to help her recovery and mental well-being,

This is my prayer.

I pray that we work on our own recovery and wellness, be our best advocate, and to put on our oxygen masks first.

Child Abuse Awareness Week: Fields of Purple Flowers

April is child abuse awareness month and we at The Band intend to highlight the stories of those who’ve suffered from this form of abuse. There damage child abuse leaves in its wake can last a lifetime:

This is her story:

Her first memory became her second memory once they started coming back, a piece at a time.

The old first memory, in her words:

“My stepfather has brought me into the back part of the house that we used as a living room.  I am maybe four years old, maybe younger.  I am very happy, as the Monster is being nice to me.  I have a dress on, black patent-leather shoes with buckles and white ankle socks with ruffles. The couch is plaid – brown, yellow, green.  His hand is on my knee and he is rubbing my leg, smiling at me. I don’t remember him taking off my panties, but they are gone.  I am not concerned, I am just happy he is not hitting me, he is not yelling at me, he is smiling at me and I feel safe for the first time in a long time.  His hand is under my dress and he is rubbing me and I have this strange feeling in my belly.

Out of nowhere, the most tremendous blinding pain I have ever felt.  I try to scream, I try to move.  He has his hand over my mouth and is holding down.  The pain is unbearable.  He is smiling.  I can’t breathe.  The pain is excruciating.  Am I dying?  Is he finally killing me?  What is he doing?  Why is he hurting me like this?  As suddenly as it started, it is over.  He gets up and leaves the room and I curl up in a ball sobbing.  He returns with a washrag and rolls me over on my back spreading my legs again.  The rag is moist and cold, he wipes me.  I lay there terrified the pain will start again.  When I see the rag, it is covered in blood and still he is smiling.”

She ran away then, into the fields of purple flowers. She ran and ran, finally falling down into the tall grass.  The sun went down, it got dark, and though she was afraid of the dark, she was more afraid of him.  Later she hears voices calling her name.  Her mother, her aunt, her brother.  Her mother crying for her, she stands up and hollers “Mama!”  Her mother runs to her, crying, saying “My baby is OK!  My baby is OK!”

Back at the house, her mother asks her why she ran away. She tells her.

“She slapped me so hard across the face that I was knocked several feet backwards and fell to the floor.  She screamed at me, that I was a liar and sent me to my room. I sobbed, hurting from the pain in my bottom and the pain in my heart, knowing that I was going to die.  He was going to kill me.  There was no one to stop him.  So I did what all good Christian girls did:  I prayed to God that I would die in my sleep before morning.

That was the longest night of my life. Somewhere in the night I fell asleep.  When I woke up, the Monster was smiling down at me once more.  My heart was racing and I knew I was about to die and he just kept smiling.  He puts one hand on either side of my head holding me down by my long brown hair, and smiling the whole time, he said, ‘She didn’t believe you, she never will and if you ever try to tell again I will kill you.’  Then, like nothing ever happened, he walks to the door, opens it, and calmly says, ‘Breakfast is ready when you are.’”

She later remembered a time in the car, when she was much smaller.  Three, maybe, almost four.  Her mother was asleep in the back.  She was on his lap, “driving”, a policeman is yelling at her Daddy.  “Where are your shoes?  Why are your pants unzipped?  What is going on here?”  She had a little dress on.  He hadn’t hurt her yet.

How did her mother sleep through the policeman, through the yelling?  Or was she asleep at all?

Her words:

“After the first night when I was raped by my stepfather and ran away, two things happened.  Because I had run away, a lock was placed on the outside of my door.  Every night when I went to bed I was locked into my room.  From then on, when mother passed out at night from her ‘nerve pills’ and alcohol, Monster was guaranteed easy access to me.”

The abuse came from her mother as well.  She wasn’t “Vicki” anymore, she was “bitch, slut, liar, whore.”  Any infraction of any kind was met with blunt force, blows to the head, back, ribs, whatever was closest.  Her fingers were held over an open flame until the skin bubbled and blistered.

In a few years, it was not just Vicki who was being sexually tortured, it was her two brothers.  And then the brother and sister that her mother had with the Monster.

When did it end?

You want to know how long it went on?

Vicki was fourteen years old when her stepfather finally went to prison for his crimes.  A caring neighbor finally heard her, believed her, and confronted her mother.  Her mother had the option to help provide evidence against him or be charged as an accomplice.

Perhaps worst of all, her mother did not leave the Monster.  When the Monster got out of prison?  He left HER.

Vicki is my sister.

Vicki is my hero.

Vicki has spent most of her life overcoming the most horrific kind of abuse imaginable and despite it, despite every bit of it – the foster care, the beatings, the years of alcohol and drug abuse to blur and erase the memories – she has not only survived, she has overcome.  She has raised a son who is now in college.  She was married to the love of her life until she lost him to a sudden heart attack.  She is the strongest, most self sufficient woman I have ever had the privilege to meet in my life.

I thank God for many things, but most often I thank Him for two things:

That Vicki is my sister.  And that I?  Was relinquished by her mother at birth to adoption.

My sister thanks God that I was given up for adoption.  Which makes me weep.

My sister is a survivor.

Shotgun of Strength

I hate to generalize, but I’m going to anyway: addicts love to justify, excuse, and rationalize their behavior. I know because I am one – now sober for over twenty years from cocaine.

My first marriage was to an addict.

I am, once again, married to an addict.

See a pattern? Yeah, me, too. Embarrassingly enough, it took almost a year of therapy for that tidbit to reveal itself. I digress.

My current husband is a recovering sex addict, and he’s been sober for almost a year. My first husband, who was also my high school sweetheart, was a cokehead like me; he’s deceased from a motorcycle accident 15 years ago.

I met “Senior” when I was 15 and he was 16 and we were normal, regular teens. We smoked a little weed, drank beer on the weekend, and every so often did a hit or two of acid or mescaline. No big deal when I grew up in the eighties.

This snippet comes from a time when I justified, excused, and rationalized like the addict I was and, instead of hitting rock bottom, embraced denial.

Senior and I shared a dilapidated house in a crappy part of town with Anthony. It wasn’t much of a home, but at the age of 18, it was mine and Senior’s and Anthony’s. Anthony was our roommate and a drug dealer, which was quite convenient, contributing to our demise and fueling our addiction.

Senior and I had an agreement: I would never, ever go to college high and he would never, ever go to work high. It made us feel as though we were in control of our drug use. Rationalization at its best.
Senior and I abided by this agreement throughout our drug use days. Somehow it made us feel superior to the people around us.

Trust me: we weren’t.

We managed to fit in more drug use in those short hours after school and work every single day than most other users did all week. Yet we managed to delude ourselves we were the “smart” ones of the bunch.

Anthony’s agreement with us was that he’d only deal weed and coke. He could stay with us for free as long as he supplied us with the drugs we wanted, as often as we wanted. It worked out great for all three of us for quite some time.

I was used to watching random people come in and out of my house. Some would stay for minutes, others for days. I recall some staying for weeks at a time.

However, the “vibe” of the house began to change. It became more Anthony’s house than ours. His paranoia was increasing: he had deadbolts installed on his bedroom door, he placed baby monitors outside doorways, and the smell coming from bedroom – well, it was unfamiliar to Senior and me. We tried to talk to him about it, but Anthony was high ALL of the time now. A strange, scary kind of high we couldn’t place.

I came home from school one day and saw Anthony’s door was actually open for a change, but noticed he had one of the living room chairs blocking the doorway into his bedroom. I figured he had someone in there with him getting high and proceeded into the bathroom adjacent to his room.

As I sat on the toilet, I noticed three small holes in the wall. It took a second or two for me to register that the holes actually went all the way through the bathroom wall and into Anthony’s room. I could see into his room through the damn holes!!

My gut knotted. Something wasn’t right.

I realized I still hadn’t heard anything from his room since I walked in.

Holes in the wall.

Silence.

Could he be dead?

I peered through the holes and saw him on his bed, smoking a cigarette.

Whew, not dead.

Okay, then why the holes? They were definitely bullet holes.

I thought to myself, “Whatever it was, it’s obviously over, and besides, I can see he’s got coke on his desk.” I flushed the toilet, washed my hands and stepped outside the bathroom door.

Anthony was already inside his doorway, feet away from me as I stepped into the hallway. He had moved that quickly from his bed to the doorway – it took only seconds.

“Hey Ant, got a line?” I asked him, leaning over the green velvet living room chair that was keeping us apart. My eyes drank in his room and I could see where one of bullets ended up, in his closet door, on the other side of the room.

I glanced at the desk beside me, saw the coke, and the addict in me screamed. I looked back at Anthony, waiting not so patiently for an answer.

Fuck the bullet holes, I really wanted to push him and the chair out of my way and get to that mirror with the pile of blow on it and start shoving it up my nose! He’d probably been partying all day!

I’d been stuck in class all day, now it was my turn to party. I felt myself get twitchy from having to wait. The feeling of “it’s there, but not there, so close but so far.” If you’re an addict, you know it, and it’s awful.

I glanced back to the desk, back to Anthony, and I saw the pistol he used in the bathroom.
I figured he was waiting for me to ask so I said, “Why are there bullet holes in the bathroom, Ant?”

“Fucking cockroaches. I hate ‘em.”

He reached over and grabbed the mirror off the desk and slid off a line for me. Finally! My body exhaled and tensed all at once. I felt my pulse quicken with anticipation.

I didn’t care about the cockroaches. They were a dime a dozen where we lived. Why he would decide to shoot them that day, in our bathroom, didn’t even strike me as being unusual.

I just wanted my fix, which he had in his hand still. I was getting pretty pissed by now. Just give me the damn line already! I just needed one to help get me started with my homework.

“What the hell Anthony, gimme a line!” I raised my voice.

“I will.” He taunted me with the cocaine. He passed the mirror before me. Right under my nose. Inches from my face. If I breathed too hard, or God forbid, if I sneezed, we were both screwed. Hundreds of dollars lost! It’d be at least an hour, maybe even two hours before it’d be replaced.

As he passed the mirror by my face I saw him move with his other hand but my eyes were glued to the coke. He put the mirror back on the desk and the knot in my stomach moved into my throat. The anticipation of getting high has turned into the fear of something unknown.

Anthony continued, “You’ll get your coke when you tell me where it is. Where did you put it?”
My mind began to race. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. My eyes scanned the room again.

There were two empty packets, not one. Why two? Think!!

There was also a needle on the floor by the bed with a tie-off. Okay. Someone had been shooting up in here. But shooting up what? Coke? Heroin?

Had Anthony started shooting up now, too? Was the second packet for heroin or did he do so much coke he’s just that fucked up in the head right now?

My eyes went back to the pistol on the desk. I’d been around guns for a long time. I’d been taught how to use them, so I wasn’t afraid to shoot someone if I had to. I didn’t think so, anyway. But, he was blocking me, and so was the chair.

Suddenly, Anthony screamed at the top of his lungs. Asking me where it is, where did I put it? Did I sell it? Did I use it? I was petrified (and remember thinking, even in that state, that I was glad I had just used the bathroom). It was then that he pulled the shotgun from the side of the chair, hidden beside the desk.

It was Senior’s .30-.30, his favorite hunting rifle. Anthony put the barrel of the rifle to my forehead (oddly, it wasn’t cold like I thought it would be) and he began yelling the same questions over and over again.

Instead of embracing the fear that was growing within me, I felt a sense of absolute calm settle over me. I knew with every fiber of my being that Anthony was not going to shoot me. He was not the one that would end my life. Not that day.

In a calm and rational voice, while looking him in the eyes (and his eyes were purely crazed), I told him, “I don’t have anything of yours. Think about it, Anthony, I haven’t been here all day. I just got home from school. Put the gun down and I’ll help you look for it.”

Sure enough, he did.

I found out later that he had been speedballing for weeks.

Unfortunately, this incident was not my rock bottom. I merely went into denial for another year. However, it made me realize I have the ability to reach inside me and find inner strength, even when times seem dismal and scary and beyond hope.

I have reflected much upon this incident. Although it occurred during a dark period in my life, it still brings me strength. I reach back to that person with the shotgun to her forehead quite often and remember who I am at my inner core.

Strong.

The Story of Me

My story all begins in August of 1976. My birth mother was 17 years old and pregnant with me. My mom already had one child, my sister who was four years older than me, so my mother was 13 when she gave birth to my sister. My sister was taken by the state and was considered unadoptable because she sat in the corner and rocked back and forth.

Fast forward to 1976. I have been told that my birth mother’s parents informed her that she had already made one mistake (my sister) and if she had me they would disown her, so she threw herself down two flights of stairs. She went into labor from the fall and, because she was only seven or so months along in her pregnancy, I only weighed 4 lbs. 5 oz. at birth, but I survived.

My birth mother took me home and life began. It was said she was a drug user and abuser, and while she was under the influence, she would hold me underwater to watch the bubbles come up. I was told she used my bottom as her personal ashtray, and that she used her food stamps to buy drugs (at that time food stamps were like paper money, and were traded for real money or drugs).

Elsewhere, my adoptive mother was telling her best friend that all she wanted for Christmas was a baby. The best friend had a sister and that sister knew my birth mother. One day, when my future adoptive mother’s husband was at work, he came out to his car and there I was. I was dressed in a dirty T-shirt that had been used as a makeshift diaper. He zipped me up in his coat–it was winter in Charlotte, NC–and took me home. He walked into the house and unzipped his coat to show me my future adoptive mom.

Adoption proceedings began, but I was returned to my birth mother. She burned all the dresses my adoptive mother bought and didn’t use the burn cream for my bottom. My birth mother tried to stop the adoption because she would lose her welfare benefits. The judge approved the adoption and at 14 months old and 11 pounds, I was finally adopted.

When I was about two, my mother’s marriage ended; her husband threatened to kill me because I wouldn’t stop crying. We moved back home with her parents and we lived with them until my mom remarried. Her husband adopted me to give me his last name.

Every time I was adopted, my birth certificate was legally changed to represent my current parents and their respective ages at the time I was born. However, many years later I told my mother than I had been abused by a family member and she confided in me that her father, my granddaddy, whom I called daddy for years, had molested her. Only after she returned home with me after the end of her marriage, did she confront him and say it was over. I think she got pregnant by him, moved away, remarried and had me.

Every time I tried to talk about my adoption and wanted to search, she would tell me to talk to my granddaddy; he was supposed to have all the paperwork. When I asked him, he would tell me to go see my mom, that she had the papers. This man never threw anything away, so it’s odd to me that the papers were never found, which also makes me think something shady happened. But no one in the family who is left will talk about it.

My granddaddy was a raging alcoholic for years and only stopped drinking when the doctor told him if he didn’t he would die. He abused my uncles and my mom.

My records are sealed, as it was all considered a private adoption, and unless I have a terminal illness or need an organ that my children can’t provide, I’d have to petition the courts to unseal my records, and they can still deny the request.

I don’t know the truth for sure and it doesn’t really matter, I guess, other than to finally have answers. I hold no ill will toward anyone involved, no matter which story is true. I feel bad that my mom suffered that abuse. I’ve been abused sexually and I know how that feels. I just wish I could know the truth just so I’d know where I belong. I have an awesome husband and three great kids, so I have a family. I’d just like to have medical information. So there it is my story I hope it helps.