I’ve mourned the loss of a loved one who isn’t dead yet.

I’ve mourned the loss of a loved one who isn’t dead yet. That’s the norm when you love someone who is struggling with addiction. We watch them, sometimes literally, die and come back to life.  I’ve felt that I’ve lost my best friend and it hasn’t even happened yet and at times I feel so guilty for that feeling because it hasn’t actually happened yet. And at times I am in a disillusion that one day it won’t feel that way again. One day he’ll be sober, 100% healthy, and back to his old self. But the truth is addiction goes much further than a physical change that ends once sobriety is reached. Truthfully, the emotional drain that follows sobriety can be as daunting to relationships and well-being as the addiction itself. Self-doubt, self-hatred, disappointment, depression, anxiety, social pressure, and failure are just a few emotional tolls addiction can take.

So what is my job in this role that I have as a daughter of addiction? Truthfully there are days where I want to give up everything I have to ‘fix’ it. I think about if my job, my life, and my separation I’ve created from it is worth feeling as though I am betraying the most sacred thing to me — family. Some days the answer is truthfully, yes. I love so deeply and I care so much that to know that at the end of every day I’m not contributing to helping my loved one and I’m spending my time improving my life isn’t good enough for me. But then again, one of my biggest life philosophies is that we need to be our own strength and that you can never believe that someone else will save us, improve us, or change us. So how, as children of addiction, do we express love and support without being completely present and involved in the suffering so that it begins to take a toll on our own lives?

I hope that as I continue to blog, children of addiction understand that some days are harder than others. The balance of support and distance is possible and there are ways to show love and support without letting it take over your life. You have all the potential in the world to become anything you want to be and more. At the end of the day that’s what our parents want and sometimes we question that. No matter what your situation is, I’m always here to talk. Whether you’re a parent or a child of addiction please go to my website and send me an email.

Cocaine, Alcohol, and Drugs: How, When, and Why Should I talk about it with My Friends

When you are around people who are drinking and smoking, you think it’s the norm. That’s what all the students are doing. It’s okay that I’m doing it too. I fit in. It’s not even a matter of peer pressure at that point. It’s just what you believe to be true for kids your age so you participate. You don’t have to experience peer pressure to do what you think is the norm. The truth is, there are kids that are at the library on weekends and there are people that want to change the world and don’t need to party to make their week feel complete. There’s a bit (a lot) of truth behind FOMO. The fear of missing out is a captivating feeling and once we’re in the middle of all the action, we don’t want to miss it.  In High School, I considered myself lucky to be in a relationship for most of the years and distance myself from that fear of missing out because I had everything I felt I needed close to my heart. It didn’t mean I didn’t have any friends, either. I still consider everyone from my high school a friend and if anyone were to reach out to me, we’d most likely have a long conversation on just about anything. I loved that balance. I was involved in student groups, loved my teachers, and loved seeing friends in school. It wasn’t completely as romantic as it sounds as my relationship was toxic but at the time and even now, I never regret it.

In college, it wasn’t the case. I did attend parties. Not being in student groups due to the hours I worked at the restaurant and at the health club, I was surrounded by conversations that made me feel angry, jaded, and confused. My dad was in prison and my mom and grandpa were relying on me. And I would hear people talk about their education like they deserved it and didn’t need to work for it. I also heard people talk about substances like they were just a casual thing to do. At that point in my life, I felt that I was surrounded by privileged people who only knew how to make choices based on what made them feel good at the moment. Nothing hurt more than hearing people talk about cocaine, and seeing it for the first time in a college made my heart fall to my stomach. I couldn’t believe that the very drug that I saw my dad’s life go from working middle class to prison and helpless was the drug that kids were doing as a recreational activity, just in a different form.

It’s twisted to me that just because I had seen the awful effects of crack cocaine on a person who I love more than anything may be the only reason why I find it so wrong. Would I agree with my peers that cocaine is a casual activity that places me at an elite level if it weren’t for my experiences? Luckily I’ll never have to find out and I’ll never feel the peer pressure to do it because I saw my dad with a loaded pistol standing over me while I was sleeping. Waking me up and telling me to follow him into the attic because someone was up there spying on him.

As I really try to understand how to help with prevention I’m always going to have to take into account the experiences that students are having. If you grow up without the experiences like I had, it will just seem like a fun party activity. It will seem as innocent as drinking because ‘there’s no worse drug than alcohol.’ Now that I can share these experiences and tell you that there will always be a point where it’s no longer fun, I will make it my job to do so. If not for you, for someone else. When my dad first did heroin he did it with a friend, just as something to try. As for my dad’s friend– he never touched it again. For my dad, it detained him. It infiltrated his veins and crawled right into his brain. It captured him as a prisoner and would never let go. He couldn’t stop himself from that point forward. And to think, it was just a social activity they were trying out after a day at work.

Now I am watching my dad suffer. Every time my mom or grandpa calls me I think it’s going to be the day my dad has died. Because now it’s not just addiction we have to worry about. His body organs are failing him and even worse, his mind and soul. He is beginning to not believe in himself and he has a disillusion that his life no longer has meaning. He can barely walk. He can barely tolerate himself. He needs help and I spend at least 5 seconds out of every minute wishing I could save him, but the truth is I can’t just do that. I’ll always support him and in complete love and despair of the disease, I’ll remind my peers and students of all walks of life to consider the next time your friend is having fun or your having fun with friends to ask when it is going to stop.

When are you going to finally say, “I think I want to stop spending my weekends doing this.” And if you know that this isn’t your life forever, do your friends know that too? Start with the conversation about how this isn’t always going to be what you want to do. It’s hard. I’ve had the conversation before and to be honest, it’s usually going to be taken harshly or the wrong way. Of course, you don’t want to tell friends that eventually, if this goes on forever, it can become a problem. But until you look at it that way, it’ll always just seem okay. You go out to bars on the weekend, you’re surrounded by people doing the same, and you have a good time at that moment. How uncool of you to point out that it could eventually  become a lifestyle, and not just ‘a social activity.’ You owe it to yourself and them to talk about it. Especially, when you start talking about harder drugs, the conversation is more detrimental. You can cross dangerous territory if you’re not setting expectations and boundaries of how much fun is too much and when you’ll draw the line.  Maybe they’ll hate what you’re saying, but maybe you’ll save someone from their outlook and even more-so, their life. Is it really that funny that you have that staple friend that does too much cocaine? It absolutely won’t be when they’re no longer able to be your friend without it.

Have you ever had a friend that is mad at someone so you get mad at them too? You hold onto the grudge because that’s the impression you’re left with about that person. But then all of a sudden, your friend is back to being friends with that other person again and you suddenly feel a strange feeling. You were angry and upset in place for someone else. And now you’re left on your own to erase those feelings because your friend has forgiven that person. That’s what friends are for, right? But when it comes to addiction the same thing happens here in a more toxic way. You and your friend do whatever it is together. It’s a bond, it brings you together, and you know you can rely on that person to back you up. Once someone from that friendship decides it isn’t for them anymore the other friend suddenly feels betrayed and confused. You really do owe it to your friend to tell them that you’re not going to be mad at that person forever and that you’re just blowing off steam just as much as you owe it to your friend to say something about your recreational activities.

There’s no better time to tell a friend you’re worried about them than the first time you get that feeling. It really sucks. It’s not your place. But eventually, if it does get worse, it may be too late. I really wish that my dad’s friend and him had a conversation like that. It may have not changed his choices, but what if it could for your friend?

 

One of the hardest parts about having this conversation is looking hypocritical right? I mean, I go out and have drinks and even after this conversation maybe I continue to do so. So now my friends think I’m being judgemental and not even taking responsibility for myself. Don’t use this as your reasoning. Even if you become who you didn’t want your friend to become, now they know that this isn’t what you wanted and they may be the one to save you because you’ve opened up that conversation. I think this is one of the few cases where words speak louder than actions and do as I say not as I do tie together and make sense. We’re all hypocrites. It’s what keeps me from blogging 90% of the time. Sometimes I feel like a walking paradox. But I will be a walking contradiction before I let that fear of being labeled as a hypocrite force me to bury a friend.

 

The Blessing of Life

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After I watched the very emotional clip of the Jimmy Kimmel Show about his son’s heart condition I realized the necessity to reflect on the blessing of my life more often. If you haven’t watched it please do. As I listened to him explain how his son was born completely fine and suddenly was surrounded by nurses and doctors only to find out there was a hole in his heart, it completely made me feel a sense of gratitude for being human. It’s not something we take for granted necessarily, but rather something we don’t really assess until something bad happens. We as humans have to have so much for us working in order for us to be healthy. There are so many things that could go wrong and so many parts of our bodies that we can’t even comprehend and somehow they all come together and make us a human.

As I took a moment to appreciate every single part of my being I thought it’d be an important time to share that with you all. I’m not trying to make a statement that we should always be conscious of our being because life truly is busy but instead, I’d like to invite you to in this moment think of how crazy it is that we are living, breathing, and sustaining life. We get stressed out, have anxiety, and have all gotten our feelings hurt before. We can teach ourselves to turn off that social part of our brain when we need to that tells us to respond to the pressures of society such as fitting in, having a good job, or making a lot of money. Instead, we train ourselves to remember that we are human. We are living. And we are lucky for just that. There are so many things happening inside of our body to make that happen and for us to not at least once remember that in good health is a devastatingly tragic regret we may have if one day our health does fail us.

When I was born, I had a tumor attached to my aorta. At under 4 lbs, I was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital all the way from Oregon. With a touch of two fingers on my tiny stomach, Dr. Murray Feingold immediately knew what was wrong and called for immediate surgery. With the tumor so close to a major artery it was never fully taken out but at nearly 25 years old, I am a very happy, healthy, and very very lucky patient. It’s nothing to be sorry about, I was quite too young to remember, of course. I can’t imagine what my parents were going through. I imagine it was toughest for them.

IMG_9197.JPGI have a scar that runs across my whole stomach and one year that never fully developed. I’m so lucky to look in the mirror and be reminded that I have a functioning body and that it needs to be appreciated. After watching this video, it was an extra reminder. Every Christmas I spend my day at Boston Children’s Hospital because as an important holiday for family, I want to be a spirit among those that have to spend that day in a place that reminds me that we aren’t all so lucky to be safe at home with our loved ones knowing they are healthy.

I have recently been thinking of how we never grew up learning much about our health. And our body. And the importance of being a human and how that works. Before we learn to tell time and understand that we run on a 24 hour day, shouldn’t we know what happens in our bodies in each second of every minute? It’s quite a lot, starting with a heartbeat. Isn’t important that from the day we are beginning our education we understand how precious each breath is?

As I digress I want to come back and just feel so aware that I don’t want to take my health for granted. Sometimes a job or a life situation makes us forget that our health determines every single other part of our life. Even if you hate your legs or don’t like the hair you were born with, at least have the self-love that you’re breathing and reading this, and sometimes that’s enough to be thankful for.

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In the amazing words of Jimmy Kimmel, “no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.” I’m not quite sure how my parents were ever able to fly me out across the coast and get me to see the best doctor in the country without any money at all, really. I guess that’s a testament to their ceaseless, relentless love for me. I’m ending my night feeling covered in love and very thankful for my body.

Please email me on my website if you feel worried about your health or someone else’s or if you just want to talk. I’d love to hear your story.