2008 was one for the books, folks. I have been noticeably absent from this blog for the past year, and feel like I owe whatever readers are left some sort of explanation.
The nutshell is as follows: End of 2007, it seemed my youngest sister Jackie had gotten herself into some sort of troubling habits. I won’t go into detail as to how we figured this out, but I was convinced all she needed was away from her friends in Ohio, so when she asked if she could come stay with me and gina for an indefinite amount of time, I happily bought her a one way ticket. Right before she arrived in Los Angeles, it came to light that the “troubling habit” was an addiction to heroin. You read right, folks. Heroin.
Back in those days, one year ago this month, I had no idea what to expect having a heroin addict live with us. In fact, I didn’t really admit to myself that she was an addict, even though the logical part of my brain reminded me that people don’t really use heroin recreationally. Jackie arrived here, was sick for a few days, but once she started to feel better, things were good. She got a great job, and was very proud of herself. We were all very proud of her as well. She felt good about working and earning money and living a good life.
As addicts are prone to do, she relapsed. This was disappointing and at first shocking to me, but upon further reflection, I realized this is an issue she will deal with every day for the rest of her life, and all I hope for her is that she will come to me for help and that I will be able to help her in whatever way possible. Disappointment and anger turned into pride and hopefulness when she checked herself into a rehab about 45 miles away. I knew it would be hard for her, and was so incredibly proud of her for taking this step to better herself. I missed her every day, but was so grateful there were people taking care of her and looking out for her, people who actually knew how to help her.
She was slated to be there for 90 days, but about 30 days in, she left without notifying anyone. We found out about two weeks before Thanksgiving that she was not there anymore. It’s never a good time to go missing, but right before the holidays is the worst time ever. I had booked my mom a flight to LA to spend Thanksgiving with us back in August. When Jackie disappeared, my mom decided she would stay in LA indefinitely, find a job, and try to find Jackie. It was not easy when my mom arrived, as you can imagine. I feel like I have a unique relationship with both of my sisters because they are so much younger than me, and that at times, I feel more like a mom than a sister, but when my mom got here, I realized that I am nowhere near a mother to them, and that the pain my mom felt in losing Jackie infinitely outweighed anything that I might have felt. My mother was devastated. She cried every day, and every day she just waited for her phone to ring. That’s all we could do was wait. Thanksgiving came and went and we didn’t hear from her. The weather got colder, I knew her money was running out… she had no cell phone with her and did not seem to be checking email. There was literally nothing we could do but wait, and hope that she was okay, and hope that she would call eventually. Nothing is worse than being so out of control of something that affects your heart and your mind so drastically. It’s like we all had this disease – not just Jackie. We were all hurt by it.
Nothing seemed logical about this, which made it even harder. I never thought she would leave without a trace. She wasn’t really missing, she just didn’t want us to find her. And we all knew that. Still, it seemed like she had been taken from us, and we all had to remind ourselves that she was cutting herself out of our lives, probably because she knew she would hurt us if she were in our lives. She wanted to use, and she knew she couldn’t use with us involved with her, so she did just that. I kept telling myself, if she’s dead, someone will call us. Someone will find us. She must be alive, she must be staying somewhere, someone must be taking care of her. She’ll call eventually. While I waited for her, I used the time to strengthen myself so that I would be ready when she finally did call. We all tried to do this. We all just held on to the idea that she needed to be away from us, and she would call eventually.
Thanksgiving was brutal, not having her there, not hearing from her, but we still managed to have a great day overall – good food, good company. When Christmas music started coming on the radio, and decorations started going up around town, the heartache deepened. I knew the best thing to do was to continue on with Christmas preparations and traditions, but it was not easy – putting the tree up, planning for Christmas dinner. To me, I felt like I was forcing it – fake it ‘til you make it, as the saying goes. It felt like a ticking time bomb – I knew that if she didn’t call by Christmas, she wasn’t going to call for a long time. But eventually, I was making it. I was carrying on, going through the motions, and it was okay. There were moments of crippling sadness, usually on my way home from work when I was alone and thinking, and it was dark outside, and I just wanted to hug her, I just wanted to hear her voice, to hear her laugh. But what was I to do? I just prayed, and put it out into the universe that I wanted her back.
She called on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve – easily the most emotional day of the year for me. We picked her up, with the intention of getting her into a detox as soon as possible. But wouldn’t you know it, detox intake workers celebrate Christmas just like the rest of us, so there was no one that could take her. She detoxed at our house for what ended up being six days. It was amazing, being able to see her again, to hug her, to know where she was. I knew it wasn’t right to bring her back to our house, because the last thing you want to do for an addict is enable them. But my logic failed me, as it had during the entire year, and it was fucking Christmas Eve and I wanted my baby sister to have some place to sleep where she wasn’t going to wake up and use. After six days of calling about 100 rehab places, we finally found her a spot. Should she choose to stay this time, I think the program will work for her. It’s very structured and full of discipline, and they expect a lot out of their residents. It will be hard for her, but I hope she decides to stay because it will make her life easier sooner.
This is why I haven’t been writing. I didn’t want to share this in this space until now, and without talking about it, it seemed like there wasn’t much else to talk about. The reason I’m writing about it now is because once I did start talking about it, no fewer than five people, only two of which are close friends, shared their own stories about their own connections with addiction. These people reached out to me and were able to relate to my pain, frustration, and hope. They were able to tell me I was doing the right thing. They weren’t able to promise it would be okay, but I didn’t need or even want that. I just wanted someone to remind me I wasn’t the only one who had ever dealt with something like this, and that whatever I had decided to do was the right thing to do. I needed those people to help me continue to relinquish all control over the situation, even though the reality is, I never have been and never will be in a position to control it at all.
Also, I felt like once I was sharing the situation with people, I was able to breathe more easily and I was able to cherish and be grateful for all of the good things in my life. I have also been able to accept my own reality, and I have learned that life is definitely not always what you had planned it to be. It’s still my life, and she is still my sister, and I love her just as much as I did the day she was born. I am sad for her that her life has to be so difficult, but I am also well aware that it is this way because of choices she made – choices I did not make for her or could not have made for her. I hope she finds her way through this, because she really has a bright and brilliant mind, and I believe she has something great to offer the world. And selfishly, I adore her and want her in my life for as long as possible.
I have accepted that this is not just Jackie’s problem to deal with – this is an issue for me too, and I do not have to keep it secret to protect anyone. Conversely, I feel like I need to share it to seek help and support for myself, and maybe even to offer help and support someone else. Above all of this, I have realized that I can’t always work through stuff by myself, and that keeping my feelings, thoughts, concerns, hopes, dreams, and fears so close to myself doesn’t help me at all. I don’t need to guard my hand so carefully – no one is out to get me. Quite the opposite: it has been nothing but an outpouring of support from my closest friends, and I finally understand that there is no shame in needing such support.
So hopefully, having shared this, I have unlocked some reserve of creativity, and now I will be free to post frequently with hilarious stories and funny yarns. 2009 will be a fantastic year if I have any say it, and I’d love to share it with you, if you’ll still have me.