There is a picture of me, somewhere out there, probably still on my dad’s phone unless they’ve turned into Christmas Card people, in which case, the picture is most definitely out there in the world for all to see.
I hope it is not.
I didn’t see the picture until I was 5 months sober, staying in the unfinished basement at my parents house, grateful that I was no longer homeless, while I hunted for a job. Before this, I’d been staying there after a stint at a ramshackle, rundown motel, the kind of place you probably could dismantle a dead body, leave the head on the pillow, and no one would think anything of it. But it was my room, and despite the lice they gifted me, I loved it. Until money dried up and suddenly I was, once again, homeless. I’d moved in there after I was discharged from the inpatient psych ward, in which I was able to successfully detox after a suicide attempt. Got some free ECT to boot.
Despite what you see on the After School Special’s of our childhood, I didn’t take a single Vicodin, fall into a stupor, and become insta-addict – just add narcotics! No, my entry into addiction was a slow and steady downward spiral of which I am deeply ashamed. It’s left my brain full of wreckage and ruin, fragmented bits of my life that don’t follow a single pattern. Between the opiates, the Ketamine, and the ECT, I cannot even be certain that what I am telling you is the truth; what I’ve gathered are bits and pieces of the addict I so desperately hate from other people who are around, fuzzy recollections, and my own social media posts.
About a year and a half before I moved from my yellow house to the apartments by the river, Dave and I had separated; he’d told me that while he cared for me, he no longer loved me. While we lived in the same house, we’d had completely separate lives for years, so he moved to the basement while I stayed upstairs. I’d been miserable before his confession and after? I was nearly broken. Using the Vicodin, then Norco, I was able to numb my pain and get out of my head, which, while remarkably stupid, was effective. For awhile.
Let me stop you, Dear Reader, and ask you to keep what I am about to say in mind as you read through this massive tome. I’m simply trying to make certain that you understand several key things about my addiction and subsequent recovery. I alone was the one who chose to take the drugs. No one forced me to abuse opiates, and even later, (SPOILER ALERT) Ketamine. This isn’t a post about blaming others for my misdoings, rejecting any accountability, nor making any excuses for the stupid, awful things I’ve done. I alone fucked up. My addiction was my own fault. However, in the same vein, no one “saved” me but myself. There was no cheeky interventionist. No room full of people who loved me weeping stoically, telling me how my addiction hurt them. No letters. Nothing. It was just me. I was alone, and I chose to get – and remain – sober.
The delusions started when I moved out, sitting in my empty apartment alone, paralyzed by the thought of getting off the couch to go to the bathroom. Always a night-owl, I’d wake at some ungodly hour of the morning, shaking. It wasn’t withdrawal, no, it was pure unfettered anxiety.
It was the aftermath of using so many pills, all the fun you think you’re having comes back to bite you with crippling anxiety and depression.
Which is why I’d do more.
Yes, opiates are powerful, and yes, I abused them, but things really didn’t become dire until I added Ketamine to my life.
Ketamine, if you’re unaware, is a club drug, a horse tranquilizer, and a date rape drug. You use too much? You may wake up at some hipster coffee bar, trying to sing “You’re Having My Baby” to the dude in the front row who may or may not actually exist. In other words, it’s the best way to forget how fucked you are.
The delusions worsen as time passed. I could see into the future. I could read your mind. I was going to be famous. I was super fucking rich. In this fucked-up world, I could even forget about me, and the life that I’d so carelessly shattered. I remember sitting in Divorce Class at the courthouse, something required of all divorces in Kane County, weeping at all that I’d thrown away – using a total of three boxes of the low-quality, government tissues. I left with a shiny pink face and completely chapped nose and eyes that appeared to be making a break from their sockets. I went home, took some pills, took some Ketamine, and passed out.
I retreated ever-inward. I didn’t talk to many people. I didn’t share my struggles. I was alone, and it was my fault.
The hallucinations started soon after Divorce Class ended and my ex and I split up. He’d left my house in a rage after a fight and went to live with his sister. I got scared. His temper, magnified by the drugs, the hallucinations, and the delusions, grew increasingly frightening. Once he’d moved out, the attacks began. I’d wake up naked in my bedroom, my body sore and bruised, and my brain put the two unrelated events together as one – he was attacking me. It happened every few days, these “attacks,” until I found myself at the police station, reporting them. I was dangerously sick and I had no idea.
My friends on the Internet (those whom I had left), sent me money for surveillance cameras. I bought them, installed them – trying to capture the culprit – and when I saw what I saw, I immediately called the police and told them the culprit.
The videos in my bedroom captured an incredibly stoned, dead-eyed, version of myself, violently attacking myself, brutally tearing at my flesh. In particular, THAT me liked to beat my face with one of my prized possessions – a candlestick set from our wedding, take another pill or hit up some Ketamine, then violating myself with the candlestick. It lasted hours. I’d wake up with no memory of events, sore and tired and unsure of how I’d gotten there.
I’d never engaged in self-injury before – not once – so the very idea that I’d hurt myself was unbelievable, but right there, on my grainy old laptop, was proof of how unhinged I’d become. Charged with filing a false report, I plead guilty.
In early September of 2015, I decided to get fixed, and made arrangements with work to take a few weeks off to do an inpatient detox, and, for the first time in a long time, I woke up happily, rather than cursing the gods that I was still alive.
It was to be short-lived.
Several days later, sober, I was idly chatting with my neighbor about her upcoming vacation (funny the things your brain remembers and what it does not), standing by my screen door, when karma came calling. It sounded like the shucking noise of an ear of corn, or maybe the sound that a huge thing of broccoli makes when you rip it apart – hard. It felt like a bullet to the femur. I crumpled on top of my neighbor and began screaming wildly about calling an ambulance, yelling over and over like some perverse, yet truthful, Chicken Little: “my leg is broken, my LEG is broken!”
I don’t remember much after that. I woke up in (physical rehab) and learned that my femur (hereafter to be called my “Blasfemur,”) had broken, fairly high up on the bone, where the biggest, strongest bone in your body is at its peak of strength. Whaaaa?
The doctors and nurses shrugged it off my questions, with a flippant “It just happens” and sent me home, armed with a Norco prescription, in November, to heal. I added the Ketamine, just to make sure.
A couple of weeks later at the end of November, I was putting up the Christmas tree with the kids and my mother. It was all merry and fucking bright until I sat down on the couch and felt that familiar crunch. Screams came out of me I didn’t know were possible, but I’d lost my actual words. My mother stood over me yelling “what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” and I couldn’t find the words. I overheard her telling my babies that I was “probably just faking it” as she walked out the door, my screams fading into an ice cold silence. They left me alone in that apartment where I screamed and cried and screamed. Finally, I managed to call 911 and when they asked me questions, all I could scream was my address.
I woke up in January in a nursing home. When I woke up, I found myself sitting at a table in a vast dining room, full of old people. For weeks to come, I thought that I’d died and gone…wherever it is that you go.
This time, I learned, my (blas)femur and it’s associated hardware had become infected after the first surgery, which weakened the bone, causing it to snap like a tree. They put me all back together like the bionic woman, but the surgery had introduced the wee colony of Strep D in the bone into my bloodstream, creating an infection on meth. I’d been in a coma for weeks. Once again, I learned to walk, and once again, I was sent home in late January with another Norco prescription. The nursing home really wanted me to have someone stay with me to help out, but I insisted that I was fine alone. In truth, I had nobody to help me out, but was far too ashamed to tell them.
The picture I referenced above was taken some time in May, as far as my fuzzy memory allows me to remember, after my third femur fracture in March. This time, I’d been so high that I fell asleep on the toilet and rolled off. Glamorous, no? Just like Fat Elvis. Luckily, my eldest son was there and he called 911 and my parents to whisk him away. I remember my father on the phone, telling Ben that I was a liar and I was faking it. I was swept away in the ambulance for even more hardware, and finally? A diagnosis:
It’s an autoimmune disease that leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in brittle bones. It is managed, not treated. There is no cure.
But, I had the answer. Finally.
After my third fracture, I once again was sent to the nursing home, and quickly discharged with even higher doses of Norco, when my insurance balked, I’d used up all my rehab days for the year. By this time, I’d lost my apartment, my stuff was in storage (except the things that we’re thrown away, which my father gloated about while I was flat on my back) and my parents let me stay with them, which was about the only option I had. They couldn’t really kick me out if my leg was only freshly attached. I feel deeper into a depression, self-loathing, and drug abuse as I realized what a mess I’d made with my life. How many bad choices I’d made. How many people I’d hurt. How much I’d hurt myself. How much I loathed myself. How I once had a life that in no way resembled sleeping in my parents dining room. How I’d been a home owner. How I’d been married. How lucky I’d been. How I threw it all away. My life turned into a series of “once did” and “used to.”
The only one who hated me more was my father.
While we were once close confidants, in the years after my marriage to Dave, his disdain had become palpable. My uncle had to intervene one Christmas, after my father mocked me incessantly for taking a temp job filling out gift cards while I was pregnant with Alex. It may seem normal to some of you, this behavior, but in THEIR house, NO ONE was EVER SAD and NOTHING was EVER WRONG. WASPs to the core, my family is.
When I moved back in, broken, dejected, and high, our fights became epic. For the first time in my life, I stood UP to one of my parents. Then, I was promptly kicked out.
Guess I’m not so WASPy after all.
I want to say that the picture was taken around May of 2016, but my estimate may be thoroughly skewed, so if you’re counting on dates being correct and cohesive, you’ve got the wrong girl.
This is a picture of me, though you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I am wearing the blue scrubs that you associate with a hospital: not exactly sky blue, not teal, not navy, just generic blue hospital scrubs. These are, I remember, the only clothes I have to my name. I was given them in both the hospital and the nursing home, a gift, I suppose, of being a frequent flier, tinged with a bit of pity – this girl has no clothes, we can help. Whomever gave them to me, know that you gave me a bit of dignity, which I will never forget. Thank you.
I am wearing scrubs, the light of the refrigerator is slowly bleaching out half of my now-enormous body, as opposed to the darkness outside. There is a tube of fat around my neck, nearly destroying any evidence of my face, but if you look closely, you can make out my glasses, my nostrils, my hair cascading down. My neck is stretched back at nearly a 90 degree angle from my body, my head listlessly resting on the back of my wheelchair. My mouth gaped wide, which, should I been engaging in fly catching, would have netted far more than the average Venus flytrap. I am clearly, unmistakably, and without a single shred of doubt, passed the fuck out.
It is both me and not me.
High as i was, I don’t remember a thing about the photo being taken. But there I was, in all my pixelated glory.
By the time I saw the photo, I was once again in my “will do” and “can do” space. I’d kicked drugs in September 2016 and had found a job that I enjoyed. I stayed with my parents while I began to sort out my medical debt and save toward a new car and an apartment of my own. My spirits were high, my depression finally abated to the background, and I was tentatively happy. I’d apologized until my throat was sore, but my fragmented memory saved me from the worst of it, but I was not forgiven. I don’t think I ever expected to be. And now, I never will.
It’s okay. I can’t expect this. I know I fucked up.
My father, who’d actually grown increasingly disdainful of me, the more sober and well I became, confronted me when I came home one day after work, preparing to do my AFTER work, work.
My mother shuffled along behind him, Ben, the caboose. All three of them were in hysterics, tears rolling down their cheeks as I sat down in my normal spot on the couch. After showing them a video of two turtles humping a couple of days before, I eagerly waited to see what they were showing me.
What it was was that picture. Of the not me, me.
They could hardly contain their laughter, my father happier than ever, braying, “Isn’t this the best picture of you?” and “You PASSED OUT, (heave, heave) IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE!” punctuated, with “I’m going to frame this picture!” The tears welled in my eyes while my teeth clenched, they laughed even harder at my reaction.
Like I said, if they’ve become Christmas Card sending people, this will be the picture of me they show, expecting others to laugh uproariously. Before I moved out, in fact, my father made certain to show the picture to anyone who came over. “Wanna see something hilarious?” he’d ask. Expecting memes or a funny cat playing the piano, they’d agree. I could see it when they saw it, my dad chortling with laughter, nearly choking on his giggles, the looks on their faces: a mixture of confusion and pity. Even in my drug-hazed “glory,” I’d never felt so low.
Maybe that picture is splashed all over the internet, in the dark recesses I don’t explore, and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s hung on their wall, replacing all of the other pictures. Maybe it’s not.
Maybe we’ll meet again.
I’m 33 years old. I have issues with PTSD, anxiety and depression. My Conversion Disorder is in remission, and I was a T-7/8 paraplegic for four years.
I’ve had a boyfriend for four years, a personal best for me! We’ve been really trying hard the last year, went to couples counselling and everything. It just didn’t work.
When I moved in, I put all my household stuff in storage, saying if things are good in a year, I’ll get rid of it. He owned the apartment and had all the household stuff one needs.
For four years, we were a We.
It’s done now, mutually, yet I feel so scared. Six days left in the month. I can stay here longer but it hurts, for both of us. Neither of us will start the healing process while living together. I want out.
I want a little place of my own, where I can cry all I need.
Right now, I have nowhere to go, hoping one of the two places I applied to accepts me. I have no household stuff …bed, microwave, broom, dishes, little and big things, I don’t have any of it.
I’m just so fucking scared. No Us, no place of my own, no pot to cook in. I feel almost agoraphobic. Too many possibilities. I just want my own little place that’s warm and safe
I have not had an easy road. My mom had a lot of mental health issues that she didn’t deal with properly, so I, as an only child, was usually the target of her screaming, anger, and hatred. My father was there mostly as disciplinarian, but at least I felt like he loved me.
As I got into my teens I searched for attention. I was always looking for male companionship to boost my self-esteem. At age 15 I met, dated, and lost my virginity to a jerk that was a year older than I. He was my first boyfriend.
After we broke up, I started being pursued by a guy friend from school. I’d always thought he was fun to be around and he seemed the warm, friendly, protective type. One day he showed up at my house and asked to take me out, but his idea of “taking me out” was to take me to his house where he had been drinking with some friends who were a couple. I guess he was just looking for someone to be his drinking/sex partner for the night. I’m guessing that my ex-boyfriend had done a good job letting others know that I had willingly slept with him.
Sex with this guy was disgusting. He really just wanted oral sex and plied me with beer until I consented. That was my first experience with it, and I was so disgusted. I felt really used when I realized that he didn’t really “like” me like I had naively thought. I don’t really remember him taking me home. That bad experience got worse when he started spreading rumors around school, claiming I had done more things with him than I actually did.
There was another guy I worked with at a local fast food place, and things were just as bad there. He would alternately flirt with me, and yet urge on a co-worker who was treating me badly. This other guy would grab my chest or shove me around. He seemed really angry, and I was scared of him. I was also afraid to tell my manager, because he was a favorite of hers.
Not long after all of this, I also dated a guy that was 23. I thought an older man would be more mature, instead he was controlling. I ended up breaking it off with him on New Years Eve. I promptly started dating a guy that I’d had a crush on at work. He was 21. And he was a little weird. We dated on and off for a few months. When I broke up with him for good, he started stalking me and mailed me this crazy letter along with all the drawings I had done cut up into little pieces. My mom had to change our phone number because he wouldn’t stop calling.
About a month before I turned 17, I was invited by a friend to stay the night at her house. Our plan was to sneak out the window, after her parents were asleep, to go to a party at her boyfriend’s uncle’s house. This was a small, ramshackle house in a very, very small town out in the country where no cops would interfere with the underage drinking.
I remember sitting by the fire listening to Zeppelin (that probably shows my age), drinking beer and smoking weed. Somewhere along the line the guy that had spread rumors about me showed up. He immediately sought me out. Maybe I sought him out. I’m really not sure. My self-esteem was so low that if anyone was friendly to me I loved the attention in spite of past offenses.
He had brought a bottle of whiskey and I remember adding this to six or seven beers I’d already had. I went into another room and started talking with the older brother of another friend. He was a very nice guy. I’d always wanted to hang out with him, but again, my low self-esteem told me he wouldn’t like me. The alcohol told me he did.
Some time later the uncle barged in and accused us of having sex in his house. We weren’t, ironically. The guy was always a real sweetheart. I can’t blame him for what happened next.
We all went outside. One of my friends was sitting in a chair by the fire. He talked me into sitting in his lap, and I remember drinking some more. I remember kissing him. I also remember him trying to put his hands down my pants and me telling him to stop. I remember trying to pull away his hands.
After that, all I remember is waking up on the wooden floor of the dining room wearing nothing but my t-shirt and some shorts that were too small. I smelled like vomit, so I stumbled to the bathroom and washed my hair.
I had no idea what had happened. I think I was still drunk. I laid down by my friend’s boyfriend because I couldn’t figure out where anyone else went, and he was like an older brother figure. When he woke up, he asked me if I remembered what had happened. I said, no.
My friend showed up and told me what had happened. Apparently, when she came in the house, she saw me laying there with just a shirt on, so she took her shorts off and put them on me. I kind of put two and two together and so had she. After she found me she freaked out and told her mom that I had been raped and her mom called my parents. My dad was on his way.
To make matters worse, she had also called my crazy ex-boyfriend and he showed up and demanded that I get into his car. It got a little intense, so I decided to just go, because we were making a scene. We drove about a quarter mile away where we fought for a few minutes. When I demanded he take me back to the house, he refused to let me out of the car. My dad pulled up just as I punched the guy as hard as I could.
The ride home in my dad’s truck was the longest drive of my life. Total silence. When I got home, my mom left me to take a bath and actually let me go to bed in piece. Any other time she would have delt out punishment in the form of chores, criticism, and lack of sleep. I guess maybe she felt sorry for me. But said something I’ll never forget, “Well, that’s what happens to girls who sneak out to go to parties.” It was just a done deal after that. Life went on. I never forgave her for that.
I had a nightmare of a boyfriend after that who got me pregnant. At age 18, I had my first child. Six months later, I met my husband. It’s been a series of ups and downs with him. Fifteen years of drug addiction, two more children, and some domestic violence. I turned to dancing at topless clubs when I was 23 to feed my drug addiction. Working in the bars made me think that I was in control of the men, but it was just a farce. It made me feel more degraded and used. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to overcome that feeling.
In 2000 we moved to a different state. I halfway tried to get my life together, but I couldn’t fight the addiction. In 2006, I lost my mom in March, and my dad in May. It was somewhat expected, yet unexpected at the same time. I have always struggled with depression, had attempted suicide once seriously and one half-heartedly, but losing my parents sent me into a downward spiral. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to pull out of that one, but I did.
In November 2007 I got on my knees and asked God to forgive me and to help me get clean. As of today, I’ve been clean six and a half years. I still take anti-depressants off and on, and I struggle with depression and anxiety.
Last year I was diagnosed with Rapid-Cycling Bipolar, Type 2. Fun. Good times man. I’d like to be doing better than ok, but I’m working on it. That is what led me to The Band. I saw an article on Rosa Parks which mentioned a rape trial that she helped defend. In the process of reading about the trial, I realized, not for the first time, that I really need to deal with my past. A Google search for help dealing with date rape brought up this website.
One of the first things I saw mentioned was agoraphobia. Yeah …I haven’t been able to go outside or leave a door unlocked when nobody is home in a very, very long time. At 40 years old, I depend way too much on my kids to do things like call people or go in the store with me. It really sucks, and I’m tired of being a prisoner in my own home. A prisoner of my own making. If I get really depressed I have a space between my bed and the wall that I can lay down in that’s nice and dark and secure. My past is affecting me to the point that I’m not enjoying my life anymore.
I’ve decided to go back to counseling, and I am determined to work on this. It can’t get any worse. It has to get better. It has to.