Sunday, November 17, 2013

To All the Kids with Heroin Eyes. Don't Do It.

When I started this blog, I thought it would be about how I survive parenting 3 small children.  It's quickly transforming as I get comfortable with revealing things about myself I never thought I would.  Perhaps it's a relationship journal? I'm not sure where I'm going to take it, but writing soothes me.  I love having a place to reveal what's inside me. This is the one thing in my life that's mine. All mine.  And today it's about losing my sister.  (To be honest, I never really had one.)

My sister.  We were only 10.5 months apart in age....and we have DIFFERENT biological fathers.  Think about that. She was older. As a mother of twins, I often tell people I had the twin experience without the closeness. We were in the same grade in school and often in the same classes.  We were both really smart, although she was definitely smarter than me.  I got better grades, but only because I cared and was highly motivated by A's.  Nothing motivated her.

Growing up was rough.  We received welfare, lived in a trailer, and we were fat kids.  Our mother, whom suffered mental illness, was hated by our friends, our teachers, and many members of the community. We were far from popular.  You would think those circumstances would cause us to be close, but we never were.

I harbored a lot of resentment for her.  Some things were not her fault.  Our mother preferred her.  She was given things I wasn't.  She was spared the abuse I took.  She had a much easier life than me.  I was made to do things for her or punished if I didn't.  If it was her turn to do chores, I usually did them.  When there was only enough money to send 1 of us on the 8th grade trip to Washington DC, she went.  In junior high, I made the Power of the Pen writing team.  She did not.  Writing was her dream.  She was selected as first alternate.  Our mother forced me to quit the team so she could be on it.  The majority of the negative feelings I have for her prior to adulthood are really not her fault, but they shaped how I reacted to her adult decisions.

When I was 16, I ran away from home.  It was my last attempt to get away from our mother.  I had to leave.  I couldn't live there anymore. I was suffocating.  The police were called.  I was found at my boyfriend's...telling him goodbye.  I was sent to live with my dad.  And my life changed.

But she remained with Mother.  I never thought about how that may have set up her future.  I loved living with Dad.  We got along well.  We both liked keeping our home clean and organized.  I had always shared rooms with my sister. She was the world's biggest slob.  I loved having my own space at Dad's that was free of her clutter and trash.

I worked really hard in high school and it allowed me to have a full scholarship for college.  My sister went to a tech school and failed out.  She blamed it on having to work and live on her own.  She returned home, but, by then, our mother had moved to a 1 bedroom apartment and there was no room for her.  She moved in with our dad....into my old room.  My bed was moved to the spare room which was the size of a closet.  When I visited from college, I was stuffed in that room and my old room was trashed.

I got married while I was in college.  My sister was my maid of honor and, to her credit, she was wonderful.  I thought we could actually have a sisterly relationship.  It didn't last long.  A couple years after I married, she bought a house. Our dad cosigned.  He had also cosigned for a car loan.

After buying her house, she had bariatric surgery.  She looked great!  It helped her gain confidence (and vanity.)  She became obsessed with shopping.  She spent all her money and maxed out credit cards. When she couldn't afford to make more purchases, she stole my social security number and proceeded to open 17 credit accounts in my name.  She didn't pay for what she charged and, when the credit card companies found me a year later, she owed about $25,000.  I should have turned her in and let her go to prison.  But I was 22 years old.  I couldn't even think about doing that.  She offered a less than heartfelt apology and I paid back as much as I could.  Then I was forced into bankruptcy because I couldn't pay it all.  I FILED BANKRUPTCY WHILE IN LAW SCHOOL BECAUSE MY SISTER RIPPED ME OFF.  Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was?  Or how terrifying it was to sit before the Ohio State Bar Association's character and fitness committee?  After stealing from me, she defaulted on her car and her house...which screwed our dad too. I'm not sure he got an apology.  But it worked out for her.  She sold her house and made good on the car.  She moved to a cute apartment.  I think she was happy.

Then there came some good years.  She met her husband.  She got a promotion to a great job (which she lied about having a degree to get.) She became successful and she was good at her job.  She was proud of herself and how far she had come and was financially generous with our mother.  I enjoyed her visits.  We were friends.

When she got engaged, I went wedding dress shopping with her.  Dad and I bought her wedding dress.  As her big day approached, she decided the dress we bought wasn't good enough and she got another.   She bragged about the money her in-laws had.  She loved that they spent it on her.  Her wedding was beautiful; a magnificent celebration.

The 5 years after her wedding were a blend of happiness and tragedy.  Her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer before their wedding.  He underwent surgery to remove part of his esophagus a few days after their wedding.  Their family suffered a lot of deaths and, in 2007, their infant son died at birth. In hindsight, I truly believe this is when she first turned to drugs. She denies it, but I really think she did.  Her husband had been using since the cancer. To be honest, he used drugs his entire adult life, but it was recreational and never out of control.

I don't know how she rebounded from it.  I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful daughter just 10 days after her son died.  She and her husband were so kind to Mason and me.  They held her, loved her, played with her.  And 14 months later, they were blessed with their own daughter.  I was over-the-moon-happy for them and thrilled to have a niece. But, from the moment she took her daughter home, she started giving her away.  I was at home becoming a supermom (I really was a supermom before the twins were born and I entered survival mode) and it appeared she was becoming an uninvolved parent.  It seemed like my niece spent more time with her fraternal grandparents than she did with her parents.  It made me so angry.  Babies are small for such a short time and you never get it back.

My sister justified the grandparent's involvement with the fact that she was a working mother.  Her husband was at home.  He didn't work because the cancer surgery left him in chronic pain.  Between the two of them, my niece should have been raised by her parents.  Thank God she has wonderful grandparents to love her and give her a sense of normalcy.

Before my niece was 3 years old, she saw more drug abuse than any of us should ever be subjected to. I knew it was happening, but couldn't prove it.  Social media like Myspace and Facebook are excellent tools for monitoring the change in an addict.  My sister was once extremely anti-drug.  She posted facts about drug abuse and chemicals used in dangerous substances.  She was as vocal about her contempt for addicts as I am now.  Until she just stopped.  There was a shift and suddenly she felt sympathy and understanding for users.  I knew then that she gave her life away too.  AND I SHOUTED IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS.

I told everyone she was using drugs. She denied it, and denied it, and denied it. Everyone believed her and our mother invented reasons for why I would lie about my sister.  Charity money went missing from her work. She was accused and her job threatened.  I believed then, and still do, that she took it.  Her mother in law paid the money back so she wouldn't lose her job.  She eventually lost her job anyway because, well, that's what happens when you're an addict.

Around Thanksgiving 2010, my dad called and needed help getting his credit report.  Credit card companies had called him because numerous applications for credit had been submitted using his name and social security number....and my sister's address.  We knew it was her.  She tried to lie her way out of it, but identity theft is her modus operandi. I spent hours of my time tracking down information to close/stop the 15 accounts she tried to open in Dad's name.  I wanted to strangle her and tried to convince my dad that she was using drugs too.  He wasn't ready to accept it.

In the Fall of the 2011, her husband overdosed on bath salts and percocet. My sister was destroyed.  While he laid in a coma, she reaffirmed her commitment to him and promised to help him get sober.  I believed her, and still do.  But he was too far gone and a month later the drugs took his life.  His death put a nail in her coffin as well.  She gave up.  And so did I.  I gave up on her.  She used his death as a reason to willingly give her life away to heroin.  Rather than grieve and help her child adjust to Daddy's absence, she surrounded herself with the scum of the earth and went numb.

The in-laws eventually sued for custody of my niece and she's in a safe place now.  My sister is in rehab for the 2nd time in a year.  She entered her first rehab program on my birthday last year.  She's not the person she used to be.  I don't know her now.  I'm not convinced she's a better person. She's claiming salvation but I'm not ready to believe her.

I have accepted that she's an addict.  Our conversations are stressed and strange.  She's said the craziest things to me, like "You know how it feels when you've just smoked crack?"  I haven't abandoned her, even though my first instinct is always to run.  I visited her over the weekend.  I hate going there.  It's weird and I have no compassion for addicts.  Entering a facility full of people too enabled to deal with their own problems is like walking into Hell.  But I went because it was her daughter's visiting day and I love my niece enough to deal with it.  I've felt every emotion...sadness, fear, disbelief, and shame.  But I'm no longer ashamed.  It's not my pain to bear or my shame to feel.  I'm able to freely talk about it.  I am the sister of a heroin addict.  I am one of many victims of drug abuse.  And I post this with her knowledge and permission.

You may think this is a tale about how I lost my sister by pushing her out of my life.  It's not.  Pushing her out would have been less painful than watching her destroy herself.  It's a real life story about sticking around to see a person lose everything because she gave her life to drugs.  She lost her husband.  Her marriage. Her job.  Her daughter.  But she has a chance to rebuild.  I lost my sister and she's never coming back.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

You Make the Sun Shine Brighter than Doris Day

Waking my children up and preparing them to leave the house before 7am is often difficult.  I savor days I don't have to take the twins with me to drop Mason off at school.  Today was one of those days. Except today, the boys awoke on their own and begged to come along.  It's frustrating because they do not help get themselves ready, but they scream their heads off if I leave without them.  So, I dressed them and away we went.

I usually sing while getting ready.  It makes me less grumpy when I'm struggling to get out the door.  Or I yell.  That relieves stress too, it's just not as easy to admit.  But here it is, for the world to read. "APRIL YELLS AT HER KIDS."  It's true.  I confess.  This morning was a rough one.

It was Wacky Wednesday at Mason's school.  All week, students were permitted to pay 25 cents per day to dress according to daily themes.  It's part of the school's fundraising efforts for the United Way.  Mason enjoyed wearing a hat and sunglasses on Monday and camo yesterday.  But today, it's Wacky Wednesday, which is an invitation to get as crazy, silly, and weird as Mason tends to be.  Basically, she gets to dress for school in the wild outfits she assembles for herself at home.  It's a big deal to her.  And she looks awesome. Or perhaps ridiculous.  But you're shooting for ridiculous on Wacky Wednesday.

Speaking of ridiculous, do you remember this?  Maybe the '80s were just one big Wacky Wednesday.  When George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley run into their shorty shorts, I just die. It's hard to believe this is the same band that gave us "Careless Whisper" or that George Michael ditched those shorts (and his bandmate) to become a walking representation of sex.  What were we thinking in the '80s?

Where were we?  Oh yes, my children.  If I take a pic of Mason, the boys get bent.  They demand equal exposure.  Here's what they looked like this morning.


Aren't they cute?  They're funny in the morning.  Oh, and this was our sunset last night!  Spectacular.

So, did you have a Wacky Wednesday?