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My Heart is Broken

Today, my heart is broken. Some people that touch your life just become part of your journey. Diontae and I met in the summer of 2015. He had transferred to Olive Branch as an Assistant Manager and I was a part-time head cashier. We were the new kids, so we closed together a lot. When you spend as much time with people as we did, you make connections.

Diontae became my work husband. We kidded about this all of the time, but we had each others backs. You all know the person. The one that you go to complain to so you don’t take the stress of the job home to your family. The person who just GETS the struggles of the day to day grind of your store. You learn each other’s kids names, talk about your families, dish about the newest gossip.

I thank the stars for him at that time in my life.

I left that store in April of 2017 for personal reasons. At the time, he was my direct supervisor. The first person I called when I walked out of my store was him, my work husband. He understood why I did what I did. Yet I felt horrible, because I was losing an important person in my life.

I came back to the same company in May of this year, just at a different store. The first time I called him for some information for a customer at my current store, he told me that my old position was open and that he wanted me back. Every time I spoke to him, he’d say the same thing.

Today my heart is broken.

My first work husband is dead. He left behind a daughter and a family that loved him deeply. He also left behind a work family that loved him wholeheartedly.

Today, the world is a little less bright without Diontae in it.

On The Contrary

I have spent the majority of my life feeling like a living, breathing, science project. I remember spending a good portion of my childhood in the hospital.

My asthma is further compounded by a congenital defect in my bronchial tubes referred to as ‘pig bronchus.” My life-threatening allergic reactions; seriously who the f*ck is allergic to tomatoes of all things? Tomatoes by the way, are in almost EVERYTHING. Or my surgeries, of which I’ve had one surgery per year.

The endometriosis, which I was told in high school I may not be able to have children. The endometriosis is probably why my periods are two weeks long.

Or other random shit that happens to me.

I almost died on three separate occasions – twice coded as an infant before the doctors discovered one of two major congenital birth defects. That one was an anominant artery – my aorta was crossed over my trachea – and once after surgery when I was eleven and Nurse Dumbass gave me too much morphine and put me into respiratory arrest.

Every time it seems like I’m coming out on top, something inevitably drags me back down, reminding me: ‘hey @$$hole, let’s not forget that you’re the bubble girl.’

As hard as it is, though, I’ve decided that no one is allowed to feel bad for me. I’ve had almost thirty years of that, and it really doesn’t accomplish much. I’ve decided that when life pushes me, I’m going to push the f*ck back, because I’m no one’s bitch.

Here from my aforementioned blog is a little gem I call “On The Contrary” written by moi.

Two congenital birth defects

They said ‘She won’t’

I DID

Life threatening allergy & exercise induced asthma

They said ‘Never’

I finished two 5K races

19 surgeries in 28 years

Won’t slow me down

Diagnosed with Endometriosis in high school

I was told ‘Unlikely’

Their names are Michael Julien and Mýa Renée

Years of unhealthy and abusive relationships

I was blessed with him

14 years of unhealthy eating, skewed body image and relentless self doubt

I got focused

Three cancer scares

I’m still here

They told me that ‘you won’t’

I said ‘I will’

They told me ‘you can’t’

I DID

JUST WATCH ME.

LIFE IS SHORT. LIGHT A FIRE UNDER ITS ASS!!!

Because It Was Grassy And Wanted Wear

I will never forget that sound.

The crunching of the packed snow beneath my feet, dissonant with the throbbing in my ears from my racing heart.

He sought me out. He wanted my forgiveness. Wanted to talk to me…to see in my eyes that forgiveness was even possible.

I sought out a safe place to meet him. Though I knew with certainty that he wouldn’t physically harm me, I feared for my emotional safety. My aunt provided that shelter.

Fourteen years prior, he shot my father twice and killed him.

I was two. And in an instant, fatherless.

As I reached to open my aunt’s door, I was stuck between two places. In that moment, with my hand clenching her doorknob, I could move forward or I could retreat. There simply was no in between.

I pushed the door open and the heat from my aunt’s house engulfed me.

He was there. Sitting at the table. I greeted my aunt, shed my coat, and sat opposite him at the table. And I waited.

It wasn’t my turn to talk.

He apologized. His words were much what I expected them to be. I knew the story…the reasons why he did what he did. They had been the best of friends.

I can still see him, rubbing one of his hands with the other, worrying his skin raw.

But his eyes? His eyes expressed his sorrow and remorse in a way that his words never could.

I’m not sure I have ever seen eyes as soft as his were in that moment as he sat there, stumbling over his words, looking to me for encouragement to continue speaking.

I let him speak until he was completely deflated…words expelled like air from a balloon overfilled to near bursting.

There was a familiarity about him. Some part of my brain remembered him.

In that moment I was left to make a choice. To forgive him or to hang onto my anger and hurt, polishing it until it gleamed with bitterness.

It was the moment to choose whether to set him free of his burden or take that opportunity to make him pay. To crush his hopes for a release from even a small part of his guilt.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I forgave him.

I made a choice that freed us both.

The easy, predicable choice would have been to hold my anger close, fueling it with thoughts of all that had been ripped from me.

The more difficult choice was to forgive him, to recognize that he was human and that relinquishing my anger would bring me peace unlike anything I had ever known.

His life was already broken. He would never be the person he was before he killed my father.

But my forgiveness? He sat there and asked it of me.

And offering that it to him was truly the fork in my road.

The Road Not Taken — Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*The decision to forgive this man who destroyed my family was my choice. This was the right choice for me. If I were my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, or mother, I can’t say that my choice would have been the same. That is impossible to know. I can only truly know what is best for me. I love my family beyond words and their strength astonishes me to this day.

A Letter To My Younger Self: I’m Gonna Need You To CALM DOWN

First of all, I need to tell all the editors of bandbacktogether.com how amazing it is that they’ve set up such a platform (slash soapbox) for all of us to yell from. So, thank you. As a new writer just getting the feel for things, it always helps to have a friendly place to scream and shout. (ed note: We’re so glad you’re loving the venue. Keep writing and contributing!)

Dear Tiffani,

I know it seems really lonely right now, but it’s only going to get worse.

Sure, your father is getting remarried and you feel especially fearful of your place in the house since he said that she was just as important as you are. But, listen… You’re going to put up with a lot before you feel like yourself again. First, you’re going to find sex and then later alcohol. (Just so you know, this will be backwards from the way most people do it.) Then, you’ll fight with the new woman of the house. Constantly. And everything her kids do wrong will be your fault. Until the day you die. Trust me on this one.

Or, you know, trust yourself…

By the way, your mother is a drug addict. You don’t understand that now, but she’s killing herself slowly. Love her from a distance. She’ll eventually set your apartment on fire at two in the morning while hopped up on the Xanax.

And don’t expect much from your sister. When she comes back in ten years she will not be the person you envisioned. You will not find what you thought you needed.

As for family, remember to call Kimberly every chance you get. Tell her you love her endlessly. You won’t have her much longer. I know. I’m sorry, sweetie.

Once you get out of the house, you will choose not to become a doctor after all and, in fact, you will skip college altogether. But this will ultimately be a major plus as people will have more respect for your position in your career. When you’re twenty-three, you’ll hear the words you’re a smart one for not going bankrupt like the rest of us three times in one day.

But before this, you’ll lose every friend you ever had to the college experience. And you will ultimately lose yourself in the bottom of a bottle. Which bottle you ask? Depends on which night. Usually wine but often tequila or Jack. Pack aspirin in the future. And tampons. Just bring the white wicker bathroom baskets with you. Trust me.

When you hit nineteen and move to Houston to be closer to that boy, he will break your heart but you will move on just fine. When he comes back two months later don’t bother. He hasn’t changed. It’s the only way to avoid the disaster that will occur eight months later when you’re in the shower and he wipes out the entire loft.

Don’t go to that strip club in Culver City. Avoid any bars in San Antonio. Period. And keep close with Jessica. She’s the only friend you’ll ever have. Treat that guy you meet at twenty-two like you’re supposed to, but keep him distant. He will hurt you but in a way that keeps you strong. Also keep your emotions in check.
And when you’re where I am now, you’ll embark on a thirty day journey to find yourself again.

It will be scary but you will spend a lot of time writing. And it will be cathartic and it will make you happy. Enjoy your wine slowly. Enjoy the occasional smoke but don’t become a smoker. And treat your body the way you do in this very moment at your young age. Yes, you are pretty. No, you are not too tall. You will grow into your looks and people will appreciate them so enjoy the freelance modeling. You’ll do few shows but you’ll meet some great people.

Finally, be wary of people. They will use you and lie and inflict their own life problems onto your plate. The only way around this is to always be in control. If you feel a little larger than life, it’s okay. That’s who you really are. It’ll take a little bit of time to understand why you feel so cold and empty, but it will carry you at times.

Oh, and one more thing, you’ll start a website.

It’ll take a long time to grow into (hell, I’m not even there yet) but it’ll be worth it. Don’t let your parents give you too much shit for tinkering with source code. Oh, and Dad? He learns javascript so he doesn’t have much room to talk. Remind him to take his dad fishing. He’ll be glad in 2010 that he did.

Keep it cool kid.

A much older Rabbit.

Broken

Me. Briefly.

The first time I used, I was 9. I stole some of my mom’s appetite suppressants. For the first time in my short little life, I felt like I could do anything. I forgot that I felt like I didn’t belong. Don’t ask me why I felt that way. I am an adopted child raised by a good family, so I should have felt fine. I truly believe that addiction is genetic. With dope, at long last, I belonged. I wasn’t afraid.

Life went downhill from there. I gradually branched out to other drugs. At 14, I was stealing my parents’ cigarettes and booze and smoking pot. At 18, I got introduced to what would become the great love of my life-meth. I really could do anything on that stuff-no job was too big, and my mind worked like a pinball machine with an electrical short-thoughts careened around so fast I never held one long enough to examine it, so I never really thought about feelings of inadequacy or fear.

Or shame.

At 19, I was tired of trying to make it on my own, so I found myself married to an abusive bastard; anybody who’s ever been through that can understand what I mean when I say that it destroyed any shreds of self-worth I had a chance of having. By then, I knew how to fix that-I used more dope. It didn’t matter what kind as long as it helped me shove those feelings of worthlessness into some dark, forgotten corner of my soul.

After 3 years of being smacked around, I fought back, left, didn’t look back, and didn’t quit fighting for a long time.

I went through a string of failed relationships for a couple of years, until I met “the one.” He actually started to redeem the male of he species for me. For a year and a half, I somehow managed to limit my drinking and drugging. Life was pretty good. I was living the suburban American dream.

In the end, untreated addiction always wins. I got involved in some unsavory business, running drugs up and down the interstate. For each time I got arrested, I made it through at least a few more times. I guess sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good, or I’d still be in prison.

My second husband finally had enough, and I got sentenced to prison knowing that divorce awaited me when I got out. Looking back, I can’t blame him. At the time, I was just enraged.

In prison, in a state far from home, I didn’t have drugs but I still had that fight in me, and the ability to stuff my emotions into some dark corner of myself and forget them. It allowed me to survive in a cold and lonely place. When I got out, I did what I always did. I got high. How else was I supposed to deal with my situation? I was 4 states from all I knew, being held against my will by a parole officer who wouldn’t let me move home.

Fast forward to 2005.

I’m on probation for yet another drug offense, headed for an inpatient drug treatment center at the judge’s (and probation officer’s) suggestion. I had reached that point where I used dope to become that static-y snow on a TV with no reception. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want to deal with the mess my life had become and I damn sure didn’t want to deal with the mess that I had become.

I muddled along for a while until I had a using experience so horrific I will never forget it. I had finally used so much dope, trying to kill my feelings, that I had used myself into a corner and it was that dark corner of my soul that I had been avoiding for 27 years.

The dope had led me right into the hell I had been denying from the time I first discovered dope at the tender age of 9.

I got clean, finally. It hurt. Detox can kill, and I guess I considered myself lucky to be alive, considering the way I had used my body for a toxic waste dump.

And I grieved the loss of the drugs. I grieved the loss of the numbness. I was FEELING shit again and it was ookie and I didn’t like it.

The human psyche is an amazing thing, with a remarkable talent for self-preservation. I managed to avoid the real problem: here I was drugless, and the big shitty mess inside was still there. Denial became my best friend. I felt no emotions (or so I told myself.) I damn sure didn’t show them.

For the first two years I was clean, I was involved with another abusive bastard. Got a busted eardrum out of it. During that two years, I did a good job of not allowing myself to feel much of anything, partly out of determination to deprive that bastard of the satisfaction of knowing he had affected me, and mostly because I didn’t want to look at that big shitty fucking mess in my mind and soul.

I did all this while calling myself a member of a twelve step fellowship.

Two years into my abstinence, the pain of my living situation became too much. Denial, toughness, bad attitude-none of it was working anymore. Without the dope to numb my soul, the big shitty mess in the darkest corner of my heart began to fester. So I got honest. Well, a little bit, anyway. Six months later, I was out of the abusive relationship. I was healing.

At least that’s what I told the world.

Until the physical after effects of the corrective surgery on my eardrum became unbearable. They also became a physical representation of all that was wrong with my psyche.

Broken.

I could no longer use those old defense mechanisms. I could no longer be the hardass, the tough girl who didn’t give a fuck. I gave a fuck and I was tired of being broken.

Aunt Becky, I cried. Like I don’t think I have ever cried before.

I cried for all I wasted. I cried over all the wasted potential, the wasted years, the wasted lives I destroyed with my sick spirit.

I cried for a little girl who never felt like she belonged. I cried for my mother who couldn’t fix her child. I cried for what was left of myself and for the parts of me that were lost forever. I screamed. I cried until my throat hurt, my rib cage hurt, my head hurt. I cried until my entire head was so congested I couldn’t breathe. I cried over all the sadness I had never cried over, I cried over all the pain I never cried over, I cried over all the fear I never cried over. I have no idea how long I cried. It seemed like forever.

And then I slept. I slept the sleep of the damned. Because as I cried, screaming about how I was tired of being broken, I realized that nothing could fix me. I was doomed to this existence of knowing I was broken and the only thing that ever made me feel whole was dope and I couldn’t have it anymore. It had been killing me while it killed my feelings, except it wasn’t killing the feelings anymore. I couldn’t stop using once I started, and once I used I became this horrible beast who got arrested and burned bridges with the people in her life. So dope was out.

I was, finally, alone with the truth. I was rotten inside and nothing could fix me.

At 40 years of age, I’m glad I can say that a lot has happened in the 3 years since I cried that night and screamed my frustration at being broken. I started working the 12 steps of recovery from addiction. I have a sponsor. I have 5 years clean. I have a reasonably good relationship with my mother these days. I am now in a very serious and mostly healthy relationship with the man who held me the night I cried-he is truly a good man. I am in my first senior year of college. I have been well trained in the work I do and have been working the same part-time jobs for 5 years now. I’m good at my job. I have a few friends-true friends.

Aunt Becky, I wish I could give you a happy ending. I wish I could say that I have finally progressed through the 5 stages of grief. I think it’s safe to say I have passed through denial.

Yet I still can’t let go of those old defense mechanisms. It is so fucking hard to express emotions. It’s just as hard to live through them. So I shop. I eat chocolate. I find things to distract me. Often, I stick my feelings in that dark corner of my soul. Even the good ones. I still miss the ability to deny their existence. I don’t know what to do with them, so it’s easier to deny them.

I guess it’s progress, being able to admit I have emotions.

Some days, I get so angry. Why the fuck can’t I be normal? Why oh why do I always seem to feel inadequate, less than, afraid? At least the rage can be empowering, motivating me to get up and try one more day to find a way to heal my sick spirit. If nothing else, rage feels good. It’s so primal.

Some days, I’m depressed. The possibility of spending the rest of my life knowing I am irretrievably broken saddens me beyond belief. This is where I am grateful for my adoptive mother-she’s my REAL mother. Nothing ever stopped her, and rarely did anything slow her down. She always kept going. What an amazing example; I believe it’s the only reason I keep going on my depressed days.

Bargaining. Yes. I do that. I make bargains with whatever’s out there-if you would just fix me, God, I would try to touch another life so some other woman doesn’t ever have to live with the pain I lived with for so long. Just please fucking fix me so I am not afraid, ashamed, and insecure. Make me not hurt and I will try to share it with someone who needs to know it is possible to not hurt.

Acceptance. Not so much. Today, I refuse to accept that I am irretrievably broken. Maybe that is where the twelve steps are beginning to work in my life.

And maybe that’s the happy ending after all.

Fighting The War: Addiction

Mary sat there with her eyes rolling back into her head; her mouth foaming a bit. Her newborn baby was sleeping in her arms while she jostled him each time she would nod out and try to keep focused.

She looks up at me and says, “you just want to take my baby away from me. All of you Social Workers are the same.”

I stare blankly. I am new at this, but I can’t let Mary know that. I am just 25 years old, and she is well into her 40′s. She is not new at this, not by along shot.

Little does she know it isn’t her newborn I am after, it is her disease.

“Do you have any other kids Mary?” I ask, as I fill out her assessment.

“Yeah. 4. They all were taken away from me because people like you don’t think I care about my kids. People like you think I have no heart, and all I care about is drugs.”

I clarify for her that people like me what to see her clean, healthy, and safe.

After an hour long assessment I learned Mary has been using for more than ten years. She doesn’t even remember how old she was when she started, but she does remember the first time she sold her body for a hit of heroin. She tried rehab too many times to count, and currently she is high on the doctor-prescribed methadone mixed with a hit of heroin.

The air is thick with concerns, and I am forced to send her back out on the street with her newborn wondering if she has a warm place to stay tonight. I asked her and she laughed at me and said, “yes where else would I bring this baby?”

She still thinks I want her baby. She doesn’t know I want her disease.

I want Mary to claim war on it. I want her to fight with me. I want her to have the ability to see herself as more then just a drug addict. I want her to see herself not as a prostituting drug whore, but as a loving Mom.

It is clear she is an addict, but it is also clear to me she is a loving Mom as well (the baby is swaddled in a blanket, fed, and she is cooing at him. She bathes him in kisses, and opens her diaper bag for a pacifier). That baby deserves his Mother to fight the war. That baby deserves a better life then getting passed around the drug world, because if he stays he will never get out.

I really don’t want to take her baby.

After a few more meetings and evaluations, Mary refuses my advice to go into family residential treatment. It is the only way for her to keep her newborn son, and for them both to be safe. She isn’t ready for the fight. Her disease is telling her that it is more important then her kids. Her disease is running Mary.

Mary isn’t fighting because she hasn’t “hit bottom” or reclaimed the right to her body, her life, her choices.

By now I am sure you know the outcome, Mary lost her baby to the state. Her 5th child to the system. I was just another Social Worker that had to report it. I was, what she said I was, a baby snatcher. I wish I could explain why, but nothing I said comforted her. She refused treatment, and I, ethically, could not let her continue to take care of her 1 month old on the streets she sells herself and buys drugs on.

You may be reading this and thinking “I’ll never get this low,” “This isn’t me” “my story is different” or “it hasn’t consumed me” “I have control of it”.

Don’t fool yourself, Mary thought all of these things as well.

Addiction is all the same disease.

It will consume you if you don’t choose to consume it. It will make you give it everything. It can push you to do things you never imagined you be willing to do. It will cost you not only years of your life, but your loved ones. It will take all of who you are, and what makes you “YOU”, and give it a slow and painful death.

It is violent, and abusive, and it needs to stop.

As a professional in the field of Addiction I can tell you this: You can not do it alone. You shouldn’t have to do it alone. If you needed surgery to remove tumor, do you take the scalpel and do it yourself? No. It is the same thing my friend, the VERY same thing.

A disease is a disease is a disease.

We (professionals) aren’t here to take your babies. We aren’t here to pass judgment and tell you how bad you are. We didn’t get a degree in this to make fun of you, or to watch you pee in a cup.

We did it to help you fight. We are here to reclaim you.

I am no longer 25 years old, and I may not be in the business of rehab anymore (instead I am a stay at home, blogging Mom). However, Mary, and all the other people I sat with in various rooms at various locations will always be in my heart.

I will always feel like I am a warrior against Addiction.

I will always want to win the war, support addicts and their families. And I am here to tell you….

you are not alone with that monster.

Don’t let the Addiction win.

Reclaim yourself, your life, and what you rightly deserve.

Seek help, and fight the war.