1000 Last Goodbyes, Home Base

The Snake’s Venom

Excerpt from 1000 Last Goodbyes -Healing Fom Life With an Addicted Loved One

I carefully made my way up the steep rocky mountainside with my well-worn hiking boots; my Levi curvy shorts above my black garbage bag wrapped legs.  It was a hot June day in the desert, just a few hours from my house. My husband was ahead of me with the pic and hammer. That’s right, a pickaxe and hammer. I’m sure we were a sight to see. That is, if there had been another human within miles of the hot dusty desert. Him, with his ax-looking equipment and me in shorts and hiking boots, and the black rustling plastic sticking to my now sweaty legs.

Despite being deathly afraid of snakes, I had forgotten to wear pants, so I figured the plastic was akeen to wearing gloves as a nurse-to take the sting out of a rattlesnake bite. Needle sticks can be less dangerous if they go through the plastic into your skin, rather than a prick without a barrier. 

We were there to find some quartz crystals or more specifically: smokey quartz. It was found in long sparkly veins that ran through the slick, hard granite rock. The quartz wasn’t quite as hard, so it could be pryed out, with some effort.

We were avid rockhounders. Searching the deserts and mountains for precious gems like topaz or amethyst or just plain old pretty rocks such as chert or agate. The garbage bags tied around my legs were because of the threat of rattlesnakes who loved to hide in the eaves of the rocks to find shade from the blistering sun. They also didn’t like their shady spot invaded, and would strike out if surprised, so I started my usual whistling-as-I-walked, keeping my sunglasses off and watching 180 degrees in all directions.    

Normally when out rockhounding, I start to feel the fresh air encapsulate my being and I embrace the freedom of having nowhere to go and nothing to do. The focus of looking for rocks while noticing the landscape and the beautiful clouds wafting across the blue sky, is mesmerizing to me. It’s similar to riding on a motorcycle. The breeze, the scenery whizzing by- like the background of a movie; the focal point of the scene playing out in front while the world and all its problems are oblivious in the background.

Today, however, besides being afraid of the snakes, I was in gut-churning turmoil. My son had been in jail for 47 days. His longest stint so far. It had been a rollercoaster ride of solitary confinement, rehab searching, and lawyers antics.

So, little did I know, that the minute the 30 days expired, they would let him out. Without even a hearing of what rehab we had found or anything. 

That day was today, a Saturday. I had been communicating with my son via the jail messaging system for a couple of weeks and had some wonderful conversations. He had been reading a lot and seemed to have his head clearing up. That morning he had read my message but didn’t respond, and when I sent another one-the flashing message came up that said, “This inmate is released. This conversation has ended”. 

My body froze in fear. NOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOO! This can’t be happening!!

He cannot just GET OUT!!! I wanted to scream! But I was determined to not ruin my husband and I’s day of rockhounding. I swallowed the lump in my throat and squelched the tears forming behind my flushed face, and switched to Facebook messenger. I proceeded to tell my son to PLEASE, PLEASE GO SOMEWHERE SAFE!!I knew the risk of an overdose right out of jail. I knew he didn’t have anywhere to go except right back into the same environment that he got sick in.

I had anticipated this day, as a ride to rehab with a stop on the way to an addiction doctor I had been communicating with, for a Vivitrol or Sublicade shot. I had envisioned finally seeing my son after 13 months with his fresh, jail weight-lifted, non-scrawny, non-homeless body and new outlook on life.

I messaged his friend in a rampage of messages to please don’t let him overdose, and please give him a ride to the clinic, first thing Monday morning for an injection. (Yes I had talked to them and verified his insurance which was ‘paused’ while in jail- a fact that I wasn’t aware of- which caused a lot of problems finding a rehab to be released to).

Despite these pleas, I knew he wouldn’t make it until Monday without using. The process of detoxing and waiting the 7-10 days for the injection would be impossible now.  Releasing a hard-core addict on a Saturday afternoon with no stable housing, job, car, bank account or support system or meds for the cravings that yes should be gone, but the mental obsession for sure wasn’t; seems like a HUGE crack in the system. Then expecting them to show up Monday morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to solve all their legal problems with a great attitude.

Something had to change. If my sick, out-of-control, hijacked irresponsible son wasn’t going to, then I was going to change the system. I immediately looked up the area state senator. I penned out a descriptive letter of what I thought could improve the system such as a mandatory 72 discharge “leverage house,” where they can acclimate from jail and be guided toward recovery and housing solutions. I later received a long response of everything that the state was doing to combat the drug war such as a recent traffic bust which confiscated so many lbs of meth. So basically what the last 50 years of the war on drugs, have failed to solve. Ok, got it.

Those drugs will be replaced in no time, driving the price up and increasing the risk that they’ll be cut with more deadly crap to make them even more profitable for the big wigs who never get caught.

I was defeated once again.

Who would listen?

Who would help?

I had exhausted all my money, ideas and energy. I felt alone.

Among millions of heartbreaking families suffering the same feelings, I felt alone.

Where would this end? Would my boy be one who is in the meetings telling his amazing recovery story? Or would I be placing balloons on his grave?

The only one who knew the answer to that, wasn’t talking. My God, my sole Savior that I had begged and pleaded with for 2+ years for this “problem” to be resolved, was as silent as that hot, deserted desert. I could still hear my rustling plastic bags in the wind; waiting for the snakes venom to strike -out of nowhere. As of this moment, that venom didn’t even scare me. The sharp fangs holding deadly poison was nothing compared to this piercing heaviness in my heart. The plastic couldn’t protect me from this.

I wanted to lie down and drown in the dust of my sorrowful misery.

Would this actually be my final last goodbye?

1000 Last Goodbyes

Excerpt from 1000 Last Goodbyes

Zero. What an awful number. Especially if you’re staring at it, in blaring red neon on the heart machine. I was sitting next to my 86 pound dad in the hospital, listening to the slowed beeping of the machine. His gaunt, pale, sunken face haunted me, but it still didn’t stop me from climbing into his bed with him, knowing I would never get the chance again. The COPD he had battled for years had finally overtaken his lungs, causing him to go into unconsciousness when they wheeled him into the emergency room from the ambulance, a few days prior. The nurse had said, it was only a matter of time, until he would slip away. She soon came in the room and said it was time, he was ‘ready’. She left my mom and I to be with him. My sweet mama, stricken with her second bout of lung cancer, sat on the chair with her colored scarf covering her chemo ridden scalp, seemed nervous; scared. She didn’t know quite what to do. I laid my head on his chest and watched his lifeless body slip away as I stared at the machines. I told my mom to come over and say goodbye.  Suddenly, I heard his heart beating again with my ear that was on his chest! I said, “He’s alive! Go get the nurse!” My dad raised up his right arm, as if it was once last flailed attempt to beat this disease, then dropped it to the bed. He was gone. Years of smoking would take his life and then my moms just 4 months later. 

So why then, 12 years later, were my oldest daughter and I, standing in a convenience store, on an Indian reservation, in the middle of December, waiting in a long line of people who were all there for the same reason? To get a carton of Lucky Strike cigarettes for half the price. It was for my son, of course-isn’t everything? He was in his first rehab-out of state. Remember, life with an addict has you doing things you never thought you would. Your standards drop bigtime as you celebrate small victories that are unexplainable to regular people with regular problems that don’t involve substance use. As it was, we were actually thrilled to have found these cigarettes for him because we had searched online on how to send some directly to him. Apparently that’s not an option, it’s illegal or something. So that kids can’t buy them online.

Turns out that even though both your parents died of lung related diseases-directly as a result of smoking all their life-the shock of finding out that your kids smoke, has completely worn off when you realized your son is a heavy IV drug user.  To ‘Only Smoke” is HUGE compared to THAT dark world. We were thrilled to be able to do that for him, as long as he was in rehab, and they were allowing cigarettes to help with the absence of the drugs.

My son finished that rehab for a total of 72 days clean. Almost a miracle in the world of addicts. But as naively “first-timers to rehab” we were, we were shocked when it didn’t “cure” him. Our healthy brains could not wrap around this non-linear course of addiction and recovery. With any other mistake or unfortunate event such as a fire or earthquake, you process the shock, clean up the damage, and rebuild. What we didn’t know then, is that fire and and inanimate objects don’t have ingrained trauma or other mental health issues that continually fight against the rebuilding. Habits are engrained in humans to create safety and order. In the ADD, addicted brain it is no different. The path of least resistance, even after a break, and a few good counseling sessions, is to go right back into the fire. That evil, disintegrating , rabid fast burning fire that has shattered so many people and families’ lives. Do you run into it to save them? Or stand there in utter horror, hoping and praying that they walk out with most of their faculties intact…..