Spilled Granola

The sun was beating down on my rented black Nissan Ultima as I pulled into the gas station. The temperature was going to reach a balmy 96 degrees in Las Vegas today.

As I stepped out of the car to pump the gas, the heat hit my body like a wave of lava. I
hurriedly took off my button- up shirt to reveal only the tank top I had under it.

Suddenly, little specks of granola pieces were flying all over the clean vinyl seat of my rental car.

I stopped momentarily wondering what the heck!  Then I remembered…..Like a chipmunk preparing for winter, I had stuffed that little container of granola into my pocket that morning at the hotel breakfast. Except I wasn’t preparing for winter, I was hoarding food for my unhoused son.

I was in Vegas, again, to “meet him where he’s at,” give him things to reduce harm, and give him a hug, of course.

Every time I meet up with him he scans the seats and my bags for food and yummy treats and always says the same thing, ” I forgot, I haven’t eaten today”.

Years ago, I would have thought, “How do you forget to eat?” But as we head into year 5 of his active chaotic addiction-I know better.

Daily survival to him, means: getting from point A to point B; hustling to find some money, maybe some water and whatever else he needs to stay "well" with his condition.  

It’s also a battle trying to keep his truck from being towed as it is unable to be driven more than a few blocks.

Having a car while homeless seems like a great idea for winter, but in summer it becomes just an oven– especially without gas in it to cool it down.

My boy. He is my eldest son and what a man he grew into.  He became an entrepreneur and the family hero and rock. He was everyone’s go-to…for a job, a vehicle, tires, or just solving a problem. He was/is gregarious, funny, and smart. He had an opinion and a comment on everything. Riding in a car with him was always a complete adventure and still is. He sees everything. He notices trucks, trailers, semis, cranes, drills and people. He either has a story about them all or an idea of how they can make their life better. It sounds crass but all my kids and I have the same sense of humor when it comes to seeing someone on a funny bike or with a strangely shaped face or hat. But this boy is the King of sarcasm and wonderment. “I wonder what happened in his life to make him choose that {low-rider, bright yellow El Camino}” would send us into fits of laughter.

Just last time I “visited”, I hit a speed bump so hard that he said I flew over the kid on the scooter and then informed me to take him back to the Motel 6 because he’s safer with the gang bangers”. We laughed… hard. I was so grateful he still had his sense of humor but I wanted to cry at the irony and patheticness of the whole situation.

Why was this man who used to run 3 companies and 50 employees living in a Motel 6? And that’s only once every few weeks just to get a shower.

How did Motel 6 become a luxury?

Why did his 55 year old mom have to drive or fly 600 miles just to be able to see or talk to him?

Why can’t he keep a phone charged? Why doesn’t he ever have $30 for data- only using Wi-Fi when available?

Honestly, all these questions only drive families crazy and they inflict more shame onto an already shamed, defeated mind when they are mentioned. "Trying to get them to see how far they've fallen" is cruel in my opinion. 

I didn’t always feel that way. I used to actually send him split screen shots of him as a healthy 260 lb tan buff man next to his 195 lb scarred and pale frame.

As if…..

As if that would somehow heal him. Or “make him hit rock bottom and want to change”.
I didn’t get many pictures after that.
The trouble is: whether it’s fat-shaming, sexual- shaming or drug-shaming; you can’t force someone to self-reflect and/or self-correct.

You can’t bully or scare a teen out of having sex or tell someone that their form of stress/pain relief isn’t working for you and expect them to just stop.

Even if it isn’t working for you. Even if it has been the most devastating thing to ever happen to you and everyone else around you.

They know.
They know what their life has become.
They feel disappointed too. They know how far they’ve fallen–especially when they have no place to call home, no real job, and are labeled a criminal or a nuisance to society.

It’s no wonder why they become more criminally minded while constantly looking over their shoulder just to survive. And when your only current source to not be sick is illegal, the risk of overdosing or getting arrested is increased.

Even during my time there– in my nice rental car–I feel the sense of “move along, you can’t park/stop/use the bathroom here”. I feel rushed, herded, treated like a number to be dealt with rather than a person.


This trip, I finally met up with my son. Although I didn’t have granola for him, I did have 3 muffins, a cup full of sausages and and a bag of juicy fruit, salad and candy from Whole Foods.


I did my usual during the visit:

  • 1) Mention how he could make a change and have a better life.
  • 2) Update him on the fam and what everyone’s doing.
  • 3) Ask him how I can help him today.

I usually leave with tears running down my face. Leaving my boy in that city that is hell bent on destroying him, is always traumatic.
It takes me days to recover. But at least I had one more hug, one more shared laugh, one more meal together, and one more chance to hand him a handful of granola.

Next time I will keep it in my purse instead of my pocket.

Unhoused

I don’t know where I found the following words, but I love the whole concept. It’s so telling of why that person on the corner can’t just “get a job”. There are so many steps to getting a job that requires emotional and physical availability. We take for granted that we can sit and choose what clothes to wear or that everything we need is right where we left it in our house. Yet we can look at someone and wonder “Why don’t they just……. “

There are many many reasons why they “don’t just….” The minute we place a label or opinion on someone else, it takes us to a place of judgement where it creates disdain or detachment. When we are operating from that place, we can’t be loving and helpful.

I talk about this judgement here in a previous blog.

Anger does the same thing. If we become angry at a situation- to the point of obsessive ongoing rage- it separates us from the solution, because we are so drawn into our victimhood.

Staying in that place only leads to further disempowerment.

The following saying is true:

Even if we aren’t the ones that necessarily created the situation, we are the ones that create the emotion around it.

To move past a situation, you have to be out of the intense emotion that the situation is causing. You can’t show love while angry. You can’t show compassion if you are disgusted. And likewise, the struggling person can’t just see a solution until he feels safe in other areas to move to that level.


I read this on an Addicts fighting addiction site:

“Ever been to the trap houses? Ever sat down with the “dirty trashy addicts” and tried to figure out how they got there? I have. How many addicts have had all their shit stolen? If you have no ID you can’t get an ID. If you have no shower or clean clothes then how TF do you get a job? If you haven’t eaten in a week or two and you have no job and no ID then how do you buy food? Do you know that a bag of meth costs just as much as a meal at McDonald’s? And that McDonald’s is gonna go thru your system and your gonna be hungry again in a few hrs. That bag of meth is gonna block the hunger pains for at least a day.

Do you know that to enter a rehab you can’t talk to your family for at least a week, you can’t smoke and you can have no caffeine? So basically your withdrawing from everything your system knows all while being completely isolated and probably locked up with ppl that you dont like or that make you uncomfortable. Now let’s talk about what can be done. Let’s create some sort of liason with social security and vital statistics so these ppl can get an ID. They cant get a job or a room or visit the food pantries without it. Y’all mock the crazy lady with the shovel walking around in her underwear. She was trying to make money while everyone mocked her. Ever been exposed to the elements 24 hrs a day.

Ever been hungry, cold, or roasting hot for more than a few hours. These ppl are stronger than you think. I’ve sat in trap houses and watched meth heads paint pictures Picasso would envy. Ive watched young ppl blow the most beautiful glass bubbles with nothing but a blow torch and their lips. I’ve seen ppl buy speakers for $20 and flip em for $150. I’ve met singers, and dancers, and poets that wrote sonnets so deep your heart cries. But instead of tapping into that energy and talent we mock it cuz we don’t know what it’s like to live that life. We didn’t always have houses and electricity and wifi. These ppl survive how they can and who TF are we to say they can’t sleep next to a river that belongs not to us but to the universe. Don’t like the mess? Cool, create fire pits, put a few trash cans out and some needle disposal boxes. How about we fund a few heads along the river instead of huge useless round abouts. And how about for community service we make these bad ass kids go out on the weekends and clean up the riverbanks. They want this gang shit- ok let’s give em chain gangs and maybe in the meantime they can get a lil taste of the hard life. Prison is nothing compared to the life these ppl live. Prison provides 3 meals(starchy), healthcare(crappy), temperature regulation(sometimes), work programs(legal slavery), education(GED), and tv($300 & it ain’t flat). The homeless have access to none. Stop complaining and get your boujee out from behind the damn screens and talk to ppl. Buy em a cup of coffee, offer them a tampon, some deodorant or a Change of clothes and show them you care. Even if you can’t save them you’ve showed them that they are worth it and loved and that’s what the world needs more of. I’ve once lead a life where I thought all hope was lost. No one is better than anyone else. We are equal. The stuff we go through may be different, or maybe your problems aren’t visible to others but everyone has something.
The Lord said Love your neighbor as you do yourself.
Which is hard to do.
Satan said careless, walk on, Lie on, Hurt, Let die, Worthless, and Hate.
Which is easy.
???
Why because itโ€™s so true.”- Unknown

Chains

Chains– from Kathleen Donahue’s Facebook

“My Shoes
Don’t judge me because as far as I know I haven’t let you borrow my shoes to walk inโ€ฆ
My shoes have a story
Do you wish to step into them???
They hide many muddy prints
Beneath the dirt are
Blisters, broken toes

My shoes have a story
Do you wish to step into them???

They hardened from many
Beneath the steps of many are
Buried, broken hopes
My shoes have a story
Do you wish to step into them???

They hurt from walking
Beneath the hurt are stories
You may not understand
The miles and miles I have ran
See my shoes have story
Just as your shoes have story
So, do you wish to step into them???
Before judging my path I walk
Rememberโ€ฆ
Don’t judge someone’s choices if you don’t understand their reason’sโ€ฆ and second never judge someone by what you hear from others”.

Photo by author

The shoes above are my 35 yr old son’s after he had been “gone” and spiraling in his illness for 9 months. I didn’t see him the entire time. Now, w-e are 2 years later and I haven’t seen him for 11 months. My heart aches at the travesties of this insidious disease. I understand people have free will but this particular “choice” is complicated. The more I read about Purdue and the Sackler family and also of the history of the governments’ involvement in this industry; I am saddened.

We, as a middle class, slightly poor but blessed- family will never recoup what my sons addiction has caused our family. He lost a million dollar business that he built up himself and now has nothing to his name. Each of us in the family, are out thousands of dollars at trying to sustain his life and find recovery for him. He has lost over 100 lbs & its difficult to not want to feed him every day. As it is, I might buy him a hamburger once a month when he gets desperate enough to ask. I do send him the church free lunch into for the homeless, but my son has a disease that tells him he doesn’t have a disease and that he will eat tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes though and he still has enough pride left to not think he is “homeless”. It breaks my heart and I will always have compassion for the homeless & for substance users because I have seen how quickly they can spiral and lose everything. It’s just not so simple as “get a job”.

Please can we stop arguing about choice vs disease, clean vs MAT, who’s worthy of narcan & harm reduction and just save lives where we can????

Thank you๐Ÿ˜ญ

Especially if they felt like they were going to go crazy in the initial stages of trying a substance just to feel better, as i stated in this post

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:5

My goal right now is to love my son despite his choices๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’ฏ๐Ÿ’”

The Black Bag

The bag.

That blasted black bag.

It sits there in all its lonely glory, awaiting to be carried, slung, moved & re-arranged. Hoping for a final home that seems only a dream.

The bag has been drug around for months. Every holiday – in fact- for the last 10 months. Transplanted from it’s temporary base in a cold garage only to be reduced to the seat of a car, then many a cold tile hotel floor.

It’s contents of candy & shoes sit willingly and patiently awaiting their owner to adore them with greatfulness.

Doesn’t seem like much. But it makes this momma feel better. That is, if it’s ever delivered. I haven’t seen my boy for 10 months.

The future recipient of this bag, is a little boy who once spent days digging a moar- a canal really- to bypass the spring flooding that, in his mind, threatened his childhood home.

In reality, it was just mild spring run-off from the small fishing pond above our house.

He would rush through the back door of the house like a whirlwind, a muddy wind-of -whirl that is; looking for a treat or a drink or another tool to make his project more efficient. He would leave as fast as he came, leaving you perplexed but with a certain envy at his vigor and vivaciousness & curiosity at what drives them both.

The future recipient of this bag, once as a 23 year old hard-working construction foreman was driving home through a dark deep canyon over a rural mountain range. The work week of 60 hours was complete and he had a wad of cash in the front seat with him. He then rolled his huge $50k truck into a ravine where he had no service. He actually walked away from it without a scratch, up to the road where miraculously his electric personality drew in a morsel of service long enough to make a call to get help.

This would be the first of many appointments his guardian angels would make with him. And the first of many “wads of cash” that tumbled over the dark edge in his grasp.

This boy-turned-man-turned entrepreneur-turned-dad-turned substance use dependant; now owns no truck, no cash, no home and hasn’t seen his kids in over a year. The deals he once maneuvered with crane companies, inspectors, pipelines, & electricians are now replaced with deals for hits or points or whatever else will fulfill his audacious cravings that this monster has made him a slave of.

My little boy is lost.

I’m bringing him his favorite candy. The candy he always asks for when he detoxes or is clean. I want weight on him. I want the big brawny son I remember being proud of. I can’t even look at the pictures of him now. The ravages of drugs are not just some picture in a Don’t Do Drugs pamphlet. These ravages are visible front and center on the sunken-in skin and pale eyes of my beautiful first born son.

My strong, funny, determined warrior of a son.

My son who loves fully & completely. My son who feels deep shame. My son who is so embarrassed of the mess he made of his life that he stays locked in this self- determined prison. The ligitimity of his devotion to this disease is evidenced by the rough corrosive steel chains that bind him to the day to day depravity of that lifestyle.

Hence the black bag.

The bag that this mom hopes will breathe a wisp of life back into a boy who has lost his sense of everything good and healthy.

This cloth & leatherish vinyl bag, stitched together with my last threads of life strung with hope for my boy.

In it, some simple candy, his favorite, to remind him of the sheer taste of joy & pleasure of life outside of drugs.

A new pair of shoes for him to remember the privilege of a regular life, working a”regular” job and the wonderful places they can take him.

Further in the bag of hope, is a pair of gloves. New, stiff faux leather. The droopy finger spaces longing for human hands to fill up space and mold them to what they were designed to do. To remind him of his incredible talent. Of how his hands have not lost that talent and how they can make his dreams come true again.

I will find my boy. I dream of him running to the bag. His face full of adventure like that muddy little boy running in the house looking for treats.

My dream is he will accept the gifts offered as a hope that he is still worthy of a life of joy and self-respect again. That he will go back out into the world and take that shovel back. Take it and dig his way out of this darkness into the light of true joy and happiness. 

Carry Yourself Darling

No, no one said that to me. What they really said was:

“What exactly is your deal?

You look like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders…..

I mean it can’t be THAT bad……

Just tell whoever’s bothering you to go away…..

Have you gained weight?
You look….different…..

Your hair….. it’s so thin….”

And what I’d like to say back is:

“Do you know what’s it’s like to wake up and not dare look at your phone for a missed call?

“THE CALL?”

Do you know what’s it’s like to fix coffee & breakfast when you know your son has lost over 100 lbs and probably hasn’t eaten since a week ago when you sent him a hamburger while he was stranded in Vegas because his “friends” got arrested?

Do you know what’s it like to struggle with the simple choice of getting your son a $54 hotel room until morning when the bus leaves to take him home?

Do you know the reason you struggle with it is due to the risk of having the hotel call you and say there are loud people in the room and now a dog and now it’s a $450 cleaning fee added to your credit card.?

Do you know what’s it’s like to have your son say security keeps escorting him out because he stinks & isn’t gambling and only has one shoe on?

Then have him say that he can’t stay outside for longer than 10 minutes or his fingers go numb?

Do you know what’s it’s like to finally convince him to  Uber to the homeless shelter only to have him send a picture saying it was closed & he was running from some guys who jumped him?

30 long minutes of imagining my boy being beat & stabbed in the darkness of Vegas’s back street while trying to get the Uber driver to go back?

Then ubering him to the shuttle to which he didn’t make the 6 am run.

Then, Suddenly he texts his ex-wife that he loves her and isn’t going to make it because he can’t move, his lips are blue and has no where to go and no shoes to get there. 

Do you know the feeling of your son being in a large city somewhere between the Uber dropoff and a slow cold death?

21 phone calls made to resources throughout the night, hundreds of texts begging for help, 3 Uber rides, a missing person report after 30 minutes of trying to call 911 into a different state…..

And a quick suitcase pack to drive the 6 hours to possibly identify my firstborn son’s body.๐Ÿ˜ญ

4 hrs later an airport security policeman calls and said: “He can’t sleep here, he needs to get on the shuttle or leave…..”

Relief.
Anger.
Sorrow.
Sadness.

Naranon go-ers would cringe.

“Go to bed they say.
Give it to God. ” They say with pierced lips…..

But they’re not me.
And my son is not theirs.

So I look at the rising sun, and I drag myself to the shower to actually start my day…….

So you see dear co- worker…..
I may not look like I came from a spa, but I surely just climbed out of hell and I’m damn lucky to have shoes on………

“You Knew The Risk”

To those wonderful commenters on addiction/or an overdose post who say no one forced people with SUD to stick a pill down their throat or use a needle, I say to you: Thank God.

Thank God, it wasn’t YOUR CHILD. Thank heavens you don’t know what it’s like to feel helpless when you find out your successful son; the hero of so many, the big hearted business owner who took his family on vacations and bought his workers new tires to get to work; is now homeless without a car or a suitcase to his name.

Thank heavens you never had to buy your son Ciggerettes because you were so relieved he wasn’t using heroin.

Thank God you never cried when you saw a simple cement driveway picture.

Oh, but about that forcing thing? Did you ever buy a lemon car? Did the salesman ever promise you that it ran great, would last you years and years, and damn, you would look great in it, very stylish and on top of the world. Then when you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, listening to John Phillips Topanga Canyon:

Oh Mary, I’m in deep waters
And it’s way over my head
Everyone thought I was smarter
Then to be misled.

https://mojim.com

And you’re cussing the salesman AND yourself for being so naive?

Well here’s proof that they (‘someone’ in pain or otherwise distressed) were swayed with misinformation (from physicians, brochures in Dr’s offices, and a huge marketing campaign) that MAY have led to their drastic downslide into addiction and some into death ๐Ÿ˜ข

Here’s what the investigations found

  • 1. A well-intentioned effort among some physician groups to better manage chronic pain
  • 2. False marketing claims about addiction to new, longer-acting opioids
  • 3. Lack of physician education on the use of drugs with high abuse potential
  • 4. Direct-to-physician marketing
  • 5. Provider-run pill mills
  • 6. Culture of drug use and abuse
  • 7. Multitude of cheap, widely available drugs of abuse including black tar heroin
  • 8. Over-prescription of narcotics
  • 9. Expansion of Mexican drug cartel
  • 10. Corporate greed

This is a great video ( if you can call the whole thing great) explaining it. This is what chapter 4 in my book is about.

Even Walmart admitted there were Red flags

Whoever and whatever may have contributed to this crisis, the remnants of its hurricane-force winds go on. Not only are the grieving families still suffering the kids of their family members; but others, who have the nightmare of a child still involved, are excruciating.

It’s easy to tell someone to “let go” or ‘live your life” because you can’t control another person’s actions, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Despite, the solution, or the correct course of action, when people are suffering it’s NOT the time to tell them it’s their fault. If it’s the person suffering from substance use disorder, shaming them into recovery has never worked.

If it’s the suffering parents, saying such things as:

“You should have got them help….” Is just cruel.

I will never understand the social media comments that are so insensitive toward such a massive problem in our society, no matter what or who is the cause. It doesn’t matter how it started. What matters is how we can give suffering people hope.

God help me to never become that callous๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ™

Invisible Stories

Invisible stories

What a great documentary series on addiction and homelessness this channel has especially This one. He reminds me of my son. I suspect this was on a really good day because he doesn’t look very disheveled, but I also don’t know what he looked like before. Some of the comments say he died, but I didn’t research it.

Also my very assumption that he “should” look disheveled, is part of the stigma. He obviously has figured out how to make the streets work for him. He also doesn’t appear to have any mental Illness. This could be, would be my son if it wasn’t for his ADD component, I believe. His entrepreneur and driven ADD personality has him getting into more & more trouble with his use. He would like to just be this guy and enjoy his DOC like a smoker enjoys a ciggerette. But hard drugs don’t let you stay there. I believe this guy is an exception.

It’s important for these videos to show the human-ness of the invisible people-not just those who are homeless.

There is not a one answer solution to homelessness or addiction. Harm reduction IS one way to avoid help reduce long acting affects such as HIV and Hepatitis AND help get people connected to proffessionals, at least for a few minutes.

Isolation kills.

Another Californian I have huge respect for is Jen Elizabeth Here’s her instagram she’s a former addict and an author of This book which I just ordered. I’ll let you know what I think. โœ”๏ธ๐Ÿงพ.

Addiction is one of those you-have-zero- clue until you’ve been there diseases.

I refuse to argue whether it’s a disease anymore, because just like in politics, you can’t change anyone’s mind. To me, too much energy is wasted on this argument, because are you really that much of a cold hearted person to use the “choice” argument to say these people don’t DESERVE help? If that’s the case then where’s does this argument stop? Would an AIDS patients fit with this theory? Who is the gatekeeper to decide who gets saved? Is it cops with the narcan? As a nurse, I know I can’t make that choice whether to treat patient or not, just because he made a bad decision, so I don’t think anyone else should play God either.

I’m devulging a whole chapter in my My Book coming out next year so I’ll stop. ๐Ÿ–๏ธ๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿ›‘

Random thoughts on this emotional Tuesday. Hope you enjoy the videos above.

A Moment To Feel Ok

This quote is so interesting to me, because we (society in general) “seem to” look down on addicts or homeless people in some fashion. I’m not saying there’s ingrained ‘bias’ at all. I’m just going on what I’ve felt myself & seen in my culture and community before addiction hit my family head on .

I realize that not all homeless people are addicts, and of course not all addicts are homeless; but we still have these fleeting first impression thoughts of self-righteousness and judgement when you see that guy -or gal- on the street.

“Why didn’t they just quit
when they first realized they had a problem-or how sad-it’s too bad they didn’t get some help”. Or the biggest one “Why doesn’t he just get a job in this thriving economy?”

There isn’t one complete answer to all those questions, but that doesn’t stop us from seeing them as having some sort of weaker character.

As we drive past them quickly, we are thankful to not be under pressure to look at them because that would mean to face the stark reality of the "failings" of our society.

This comes with the relief of the burden of NOT having to decide to give them something. Because we all know what they’ll spend it on right? Or because the news stories have proven some are scammers.

So we gladly drive by, with a quick exhale as we pull out our phone to see what we might have missed in our lives or in the social media world, in those few moments of awkwardness.

Back to what will make us laugh or who liked our last post. Back to what to make for dinner.

Or we reach for the chocolate covered pretzels full of delicious fructose that melts on our tongue signaling those endorphins to release the dopamines so that the serotonin in our brains will make us happy.

Hmmm. Same process, different ‘drug’.

I mean it’s normal, we are human. We NEED these endorphins to even get out of bed in the morning.

Everyone needs to self regulate their emotions and find their happy place.

The problem is when we fail to see that what we are doing is the same thing ‘they’ did, no matter their reason for starting. (Drugs or alcohol)

Whether it was surgery or one drink on the weekend to relax, some of us don’t have, or lose that ability to self regulate the amount and be able to stop.

Is that a character defect?

Who knows? Gabor Mate might. Many other experts might. But bottom line, we are all human. We all need comfort, to feel warm & loved & that we belong.

The fact that 21 million Americans have an addiction, with only 10% being treated; tells me that we still have a huge way to go in reducing shame and sigma of addiction.

One way to do this is reduce the judgement that they are somehow any different than us, in the way of willpower or strength.

We have zero idea of what choices they had to choose between, whether escaping from abuse one day or a traumatic event or just normal life’s stress that we all have.
Maybe next time you see someone who’s obviously struggling or “looks like they’ve had a rough life” maybe we could offer a McDonald’s gift card, or hand them a heart shaped chocolate candy, or if they seem safe, ask them if they need you to go buy them anything just for today to help them get by. ๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿ’ž

How good would that feel to boost our endorphins for even more than a brief moment, probably for the rest of the day? Just by helping others.

How good would it feel to feel compassion for another struggling soul. How good to feel like we somehow made a difference in someone’s life. I can’t think of a greater endorphin boost.