Shine Until Tomorrow (Part I)
“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine until tomorrow. Let it be.” – Paul McCartney
If you look at me today, surrounded by my precious children, madly in love with my husband, a tribe full of the best friends a gal could get, running a business focused on celebrating and empowering women, you’d probably never guess where I’ve been. You wouldn’t think that I spent years, running the streets of a city that is regularly ranked one of the most dangerous in The United States, or that those years were also spent being the victim of constant physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. You’d be surprised to hear that a monster of an addiction lived within me, claiming ownership of my body & mind, without ever asking my permission to enter. You wouldn’t think that I almost went to prison for a minimum of twelve years for things that still make me feel sick to my stomach. And you probably wouldn’t bet that I spent a couple of days in a psychiatric hospital on suicide watch, which was, at long last, my turning point, the beginning of my answered prayers.
But that IS my past. It IS my story. I ended up at that hospital during one of the absolute lowest points of my life, my “rock bottom.” I had lost my car, my home, my job, but none of that came close to the hurt I felt from the toddler-size hole in my heart and life – yes, I had lost my boy. My sweet Jude Boy, my JB. When I say “lost,” I don’t mean legally, and I have my parents to thank for that. I wrote in a recent blog that my parents are the heroes in my story, time and time again. This part of the story is no different.
When it became clear that my life was spiraling out of control, that “control” was something I had not had for quite some time, the façade I had been working very hard to maintain came crashing down, fast and hard. My parents took Jude home with them, as they should have. I was without a home and went to live with my then-boyfriend (we will call him “Richard” for the sake of this story). I lived, more like endured/existed, a month without my baby boy and had been trying very hard not to use. But I was hurting deeper than I had ever hurt on the inside. I needed it to go away, and I knew only one thing that had ever been able to accomplish that.
One night in September of 2014, “Richard” walked through a locked-bathroom door (he later said that something told him to go pick the lock and come in there) to find me with a spoon and a needle in my possession. Not my proudest moment, but pride had made itself a distant memory to me by this point in my life, so I didn’t mind so much about that. What I did mind was the utter pain that painted his face, quickly followed by disgust.
Things escalated quickly and I ended up locked outside of his house without my keys or my phone. He finally threw them down to me from a window upstairs, and I was so upset and preoccupied with thoughts of where I was going to go next, that I didn’t even think about the fact that he had parked behind me instead of in his usual spot. His dad was in town, which made this entire experience all the more painfully embarrassing, and he had parked in “Richard’s” normal spot. Frantic with shame, I backed up without thinking, and immediately hit his car. He and his dad came running out – they thought I had done it on purpose, at first. Again, I knew I couldn’t blame them, especially his dad, who had never been anything but incredibly kind and loving toward me. I had very little left within me to argue otherwise, although I did weakly state the truth.
I don’t remember all the details. I remember them calling my dad and waking him up in the middle of the night, telling him he needed to come get me, his grown daughter who had lost everything and just couldn’t stop screwing up, the daughter whose eyes used to sparkle with joy and potential but now carried only tears and emptiness. That daughter had just been found in a bathroom, in their house, with a needle and a spoon.
“You can’t come home this time, Katie.” I couldn’t bear to look at him, so I just let my gaze drift out the window as we drove, my eyes focusing on nothing, seeing nothing, comprehending . . . nothing. He continued, “The baby is there, and you just can’t come home this time. You’ve got two options: I’ll take you to the hospital so you can get the help you’ve needed for so long, or I can take you to the police, and show them what all is in that bag.” The bag he referenced is what junkies refer to as their “tool bag.” It had, you know, the tools of a junkie. I knew my parents were right to not let me go back home this time. They had bailed me out my entire life, trying to save me, but it was time for me to actually have to face the music. They were slowly introducing consequences into my life. Losing Jude was the first big one, and I was still stinging from that. While I didn’t fear being brought into the police, I had reached my breaking point. It was time to give up the fight to keep my demons. It was time to let go, to release my poison. Time to “let it be.”
On the drive to the hospital, my dad asked me several times why I needed the needle, what I was going to do with it. I couldn’t answer him. I just sat there, hating myself for doing this to him, hating myself for not being the mother Jude always deserved. I was a broken shell of a human, and my fight was completely gone, the light almost completely out . . . almost.
So, my dad watched as I signed myself into the hospital to be admitted on suicide watch, and then he had to walk away and leave his little girl there. I didn’t think, then, how awful that must have been for him. After I found sobriety, I lost many nights’ sleep over that one thought alone, and there are many, many more just like that. There are lots of sleepless nights in early recovery – that’s just part of the gig.
The next day, a man from Bradford Health Services came to speak with me, and he began to tell me about the disease of addiction. I remember thinking it sounded like he was describing my brain, like someone had given him front row passes to the miserable, dark heaviness that was my mind. He was an addict, too, albeit a recovering one, and he made me feel understood. He made me feel sick instead of bad, lost instead of hopeless, hurt instead of broken. And he knew I was sad. My god, I was sad.
He told me he was going to be talking to my dad soon because they were trying to arrange for me to go to Bradford. They have to talk to the patient and get a feel for how and what they’ve been using – beds are limited, and you have to qualify for a bed in their inpatient facility. Basically, the need to be sure you’re sufficiently “bad off.” I wasn’t three minutes into describing my use when he put down his clipboard, the one that held the forms he was filling out to assess how medically necessary inpatient treatment was. My eyes followed that clipboard and then went back up to meet his, searching, questioning. He gave me a kind smile, put a hand on my shoulder, and said, “You qualify. I’m going to go try to get you a bed today. We’re going to need to get you in ASAP” A small amount of hope started trying to edge its way into my heart, but I was still too doubtful, so I shoved it away.
Before he left, I stopped him and said, “When you talk to my dad, will you please tell him everything you just told me? You know, the stuff about this being a disease and that I’m sick and not bad. I want him to know that none of this was ever what I wanted.” He assured me he would. Still, I was so afraid that I had gone too far this time. I was so scared that both of my parents were done with me forever. I was terrified that I had lost my Jude . . . forever. I sat there and all I could think was, “Can you blame them?” And I knew I couldn’t.
While I waited on him to make inpatient arrangements, another man took me into another side room. He was some sort of counselor. I don’t remember much from that conversation at all, but what I DO remember is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was rambling – I remember something strangely freeing about being able to openly talk about the life I had been living for the past five to six years. Sure, it took the terms “uncomfortable” and “shame” to an entirely new level, but there was something about being able to say these things out loud, without fear of judgment or fear that he would run and tell someone else – he was a medical professional, bound by the law not to share the things I was telling him.
I don’t remember how I got there, but I was saying, “. . . and I love my son. He’s everything to me. He’s my world. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. I’d die for him. He’s the most important thing in my life.” At this, the man stopped me, and he didn’t miss a beat. What he said next had a physical effect on me – what I mean is: all he did was utter words, from his mouth to my ears, but somehow those words clumped together to make an emotional fist of stone and they came flying at me, an verbal right hook straight to my face. “No, he’s not. He’s not the most important thing in your life, and he’s not your world. You may want that to be true, but it isn’t. Your drugs hold that spot.”
I sat there, frozen. I had never had a complete stranger talk to me like that. What’s worse: he was right, and I knew it. My heart told me Jude was the most important, and he was, but my actions betrayed that in every way, every single day because my brain was so very sick. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. My hands flew to my face and, as the weight of his words began to settle on my soul, I started to sob.
It was a devastating realization, an emotionally exhausting reckoning. But I thank my God every day that that man had the courage to say those words to me – that he cared enough to give me the gift of truth. I knew in that moment, even in my completely broken and hopeless state, that I was going to fight like hell to become the mother that could say those words and KNOW that no one could ever look her in the eyes again and say, “No – no you don’t.” Looking back on it now, I know that the fight started there. I still had no hope, but the fight had begun within my soul. It was weak, unsure, and terribly insecure – but it was there, and it was gearing up for battle.
Hours later, the kind man from Bradford came back. He smiled and said, “We got you a bed. You’re going tonight. Your dad is on his way to get you, so he can drop you off.” My heart jumped into my throat. I had to face my dad. Shakily, I asked, “My dad? What did he say?” I could feel my entire body start to tremble, so I pulled my arms in close to me. I think I was bracing myself. And then, I experienced grace like I had perhaps never before experienced. He smiled at me, placed his hand on my shoulder again, and said, “He’s all in, Katie. He’s already made the arrangements with insurance. I told him what your out-of-pocket cost would be, and he said he just wants his little girl to be okay.” He hugged me, told me I was going to be okay, that my dad was on his way to get me, and then he turned to walk away, leaving his words swirling, and finally settling, around me, like a force field of protection. My body was so tired, so weak, but my head just kept repeating those words. “He just wants his little girl to be okay.”
And just like that, I had my hope.
To Be Continued...