Saturday, December 24, 2016

The day I almost killed Santa

Yes, you read the title right. I nearly killed Santa. Well, not the real Santa. The fake one. You know, Santa's helper.

It was December 2014, a couple of days before Christmas. I was a few weeks post surgery and a hot mess. My days and nights consisted of drinking cough syrup, sneaking into the rum Chad had put up for one of his special recipes, taking medicine that wasn't mine, eating Benadryl by the handfuls, and taking whatever pills I could get my hands on.

I had a few Christmas gifts that I wanted to sell, so I made the exchange and was driving back home on a curvy road behind the wheel of a vehicle I shouldn't have been driving. I'm not completely sure what happened, but I looked up and found myself heading straight into a big Ford truck. I think it was black. I quickly jerked my wheel to the right to get out of his way while he did the same. I made it back into my lane and looked in the rear view mirror to make sure he did as well. What I saw in that mirror seemed to go in slow motion, yet in fast forward.....all at the same time. It's a scene I replay in my head quite frequently, despite the fact that I try to erase it from my memory. I watched the truck swerve all over the road, like a tight-rope walker trying to balance, swaying from one side to the other. I'm pretty sure I didn't breathe while I watched it all unfold. I wanted to close my eyes but forced them to stay open. And that's when I saw it.

The truck was unable to recover and it went flying off the road and over an embankment. And I just froze, right there in the middle of the curvy road, as I tried to decide my next move. Do I just drive away? Get the heck out of dodge? My vehicle didn't make contact with his and there were no other cars around, so there would be no way to know who ran the truck off the road. I couldn't risk getting into trouble, and I certainly didn't want to tell Chad that I had caused an accident. I made the decision to do just that, and as I put my car into drive to take off, I began to wonder if he was okay. What if his truck flipped after it went over the hill? What if he was trapped in that truck and needed help? What if something even worse happened? I couldn't spend the rest of my life wondering....not with that secret guilt.

I turned my van around in the middle of the road and drove up back to the area where his truck had careened off the road. I saw two women running from a nearby house, and that's when I saw the truck, a small tree sticking out of the front of it. I immediately started thinking about what I was going to say. I had a hat on to cover up my shaved head and large incision. I quickly ripped it off and got out of my vehicle. The driver wasn't out of the truck yet, but I rushed over. The door opened and out stepped......Santa. Red suit, black boots, hat, beard, belt...the whole nine yards. He pulled off the beard and hat and stumbled around the truck. I quickly began to tell him how sorry I was, and he put his hand up to motion me to give him a minute. He leaned over the now destroyed hood of the truck and began taking deep breaths. As he continued to breathe like that, I thought for sure he was having a heart attack and that I was going to spend the rest of my life behind bars....for killing Santa. Just call me Scrooge. He eventually turned around to look at me, and I asked him if he was alright. He explained to me that he had been in an accident several years prior to this one in which he and his wife had to be removed by the Jaws of Life, and he was now having flashbacks. I apologized again, and then I began to dig myself out of this mess I was in. "I just had surgery.....see? (as I pointed to my healing incision) I had brain surgery. And I knew I shouldn't have been driving yet, but my surgeon released me and said he thought I was ready. I knew I wasn't! My vision just went completely black. Was I in your lane or were you in mine? I couldn't see anything. You see, my brain disease affects my vision too. I've had eye surgery as well." I continued to pour it on thick. I don't even remember half of what I said, and I hope he doesn't either. He grabbed his phone and called his daughter to tell her that he wasn't going to make it to his grand daughter's Christmas party and that someone would need to come pick up the Santa suit and fill in for him. He began telling me how hard he tried to keep his truck on the road, then how great it was that I came back. The ladies from the nearby house were also telling me how honorable that was. All of the sudden, I felt less like a convict and more like a hero. Well, maybe not a hero. But, at least a Good Samaritan. I deserved a pat on the back.

The ladies informed me that they had called 911, and the pink cloud I was on from my heroic act of kindness quickly evaporated.  I went back to my van and waited for the State Trooper to arrive. I looked around my messy van to make sure there was nothing that could incriminate me. The trooper and Santa's daughter arrived within just a couple minutes of one another, and while I couldn't be completely certain, I think the daughter was on to me. The trooper took Santa's statement, and then he beckoned me to get into his car. I remember the heat was on high, and while I was cold to the bone, I also felt like I was on fire. He took my statement and I retold my story. The trooper seemed to sympathize with me as he made notes on the accident report. He told me he was citing me for failure to control, and then his face changed into a stern yet compassionate expression. I could see in his eyes that he was a kind man, and I almost felt guilty for the load of crap I had just given him. He looked straight into my eyes and said these words that I will never forget. "Mrs. Monroe, you should not have been driving today. It's not safe. You've got three kids and a husband you say? Well, they just about lost you today. That man did you a favor and probably saved your life by swerving out of your way and running off the road. See that truck over there? Well, it's way bigger than your van, and you are lucky he didn't hit you head on. You wouldn't have survived." He had no idea that those words rang through my head with an unrelenting echo. He handed me my citation, I got out of the patrol car, walked to my van, and drove away....right after I folded the ticket up and threw it onto the floorboard of the vehicle, never to be seen again.

I left that day knowing that I had been spared. I walked away without a scratch on my body or my vehicle. And I drove away that day in the driver's seat of a Honda Odyssey, not in the back seat of a patrol car. When people asked me what happened that day, I stuck with my original story and everyone seemed to believe it. Long story short, I never answered when the insurance company called, I never paid the fines, I left for treatment two weeks later, and I lost my license.

This is one of the hardest stories for me to tell. It's one of the secrets that I wanted to keep secret. I didn't want to post this because I was afraid Santa would somehow read this and know what happened that day. I didn't want him to know that the poor girl who he made sure the paramedics checked over before they got to him was actually a drug addict. I didn't want him to know that I almost didn't come back that day because I was afraid of the consequences. I didn't want him to know that I was way more concerned about myself than I was him. I didn't want him to know that I was a liar. But, I'm not that girl anymore. So, if he does find out about her, he will know about a woman who no longer exists.

If I could say something to Santa, it would be this.

I am so sorry. And I really mean it this time. I'm sorry for the inconvenience of having a wrecked vehicle. I'm sorry for the soreness you probably felt the next morning. I'm sorry for the flashbacks I caused you to have. I'm sorry that you missed your granddaughter's Christmas party. I'm sorry that I wasted your whole day. I'm sorry that I prolonged the stress for you by refusing to answer calls from my insurance company.

But, I also want to tell you this.

You were one of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever met. You forgave so quickly, even though you didn't know what you were forgiving. I'm not sure if you would have been so quick to forgive if you had known the whole story, but, somehow, I think it wouldn't have taken you long. Because there was just something magical about you. In just the few minutes that I was with you, I came to the conclusion that probably everyone who knows you loves you. It seems like it would be hard not to.

And I also want to tell you this.

I try everyday to earn that immediate forgiveness you gave me. I try every day to be a better woman than the one you met that day. I try every day to live in complete honesty. I try every day to be the mother that I should be. And to be the wife that I should be. I try every day to remember that I am lucky to be alive. I try every day to live with gratitude for that. I try every day to be the kind of woman others can respect. I try every day to be the kind of person I saw in you that cold December day.

And I also want to tell you this.

I am making memories that will last forever with my kids and my family this Christmas. I am here with them, both physically and mentally. I shopped for the kids' gifts and I actually remember what I bought them. I stared at them after they fell asleep at night, the lights from their Christmas trees shining on their innocent faces. I sat in church and listened to the stories about the birth of Christ as if it was the first time I'd ever heard them. I went to the school Christmas parties. I got to spend many of my days helping with a project that allowed me to give back. I drove all over town, running errands and getting things ready for Christmas, and other than the fact that I truly am a bad driver, I didn't have to worry about whether or not I should be behind the wheel. I didn't have to get nervous when I saw a cop car. I didn't have to worry that I would ruin a Christmas party for a little girl and for Santa.

Oh, and one more thing I want to tell you.

The milk and cookies you will find at my house on Christmas Eve?  Yeah, that's the least I can do.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I was supposed to relapse last month

So, I was supposed to relapse last month.  No really.  It was my time for it.  My season for relapse.

While some people enjoy the holidays immensely (think Clark Griswold-esque), others seem to struggle more during this "joyous" time.  Formerly, I would classify myself in the second group of people.  I always put up multiple trees, buy the perfect gifts, coordinate all of my gift wrap, send out beautiful Christmas cards, play all of the right music.....but I feel empty inside.  A sadness (of unknown origin) creeps up and fills my whole body, replacing any joy that previously existed, like fog slowly covering an early morn. I spend the Christmas season feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared.  I constantly tell myself that I don't measure up, and I sabotage myself....very early on in the season.

(Side note:  This holiday season has proven to be very different for me. It seems that sober Misty likes, maybe even loves, Christmas! But, more on that later.)

Let's jump back to late November 2014

I walked out of Karen's Place (the treatment facility) fully recovered (HA!) on July 18th.  So, that means November lands me at four months post treatment, seven months clean.  I left treatment feeling extremely confident in my sobriety.  Probably a little over-confident.  While I was in treatment that first time, I began having pretty bad pressure headaches again. I knew something was up, just didn't know what. So, after getting out of treatment and the symptoms continuing, I made an appointment with my neurosurgeon. Long story short, before I left there, he had scheduled me for surgery on December 2nd to revise my shunt.  I'm going to be completely honest and real here, and it's embarrassing.  While I tried to act like I was scared and upset about this surgery, I was inwardly happy and relieved.  Almost excited. Giddy.  I got to have my head shaved, have my skull drilled through, have a three inch gash in the top of my head, multiple staples holding everything together, and a three day hospital stay.  But, I was excited. Why? Because I would get a free relapse card.  I would get IV pain meds and probably a large stash to take home.  Twisted thinking, right?  

So, it's the week before Thanksgiving. I'm running around like crazy....putting Christmas trees up, doing Christmas shopping, trying to get everything done before my surgery.  I'm also helping plan and decorate for a Thanksgiving service that our recovery program is doing.  And I crack.

So, when I had first gotten out of treatment, I had "stumbled" across a bottle of medicine that wasn't mine.  A bottle of medicine that I wasn't supposed to touch. On this particular day that I "cracked", I can vividly remember all of the details.  I put the load of decorations from my house in the back of my van and got the kids buckled into the car.  I had parked out back, so I pulled around to the front of the house and started to pull out of the driveway.  But, instead, I stopped.  And I put the car in reverse. And I pulled up to the front door. And I told the kids that I had forgotten something. And I dared them to get out of the car and follow me inside. And I unlocked the front door. And I walked into the kitchen.  And I stood and stared at the medicine cabinet. And I opened it. And, sadly, I consumed a large portion of what was in the medicine bottle. And I walked out of the house. And I got into the car. And I acted like nothing had happened. And I told myself it was a one-time thing...that I wouldn't do it again.  And I knew I was lying. And I knew I was high.

The next day, I got up and tried to pretend I hadn't relapsed the night before, even though I could still taste it in my mouth.  I was good.  I was still sober.  It had just been a one time thing on a chaotic day. It wouldn't happen again. I just needed a little break from reality. I was stressed out and overwhelmed. So, I got everything done that I needed to get done, I got the kids picked up from school, I wrote out the short testimony that I was going to give that night at our Celebrate Recovery Thanksgiving service, and I started to walk out the door. And that little demon started speaking to me. And I, once again, picked up.  That night is still one that makes me sick to my stomach.  I sang in front of a lot of people that night....high. I gave a testimony about my recovery journey...high. I quoted my favorite scripture....high.  I heard my husband share his heart about what he had been through and I heard how proud he was of me.  And he didn't know that I was high. But I did. That night when I got into my dark, silent car, the reality of it set in.  I knew that I was standing on the brink, tiptoeing near the point of no return.  And I did absolutely nothing about it. I pushed the guilt to the back of my mind, and I continued to use.

I remained in the outpatient program that was a continuance from the inpatient facility I went to.  I continued to see my counselor (the one that I love and respect more than life), and I lied straight to her face. Told her I was doing great.  Talked and laughed like I had it all together. Told her how strong my faith was and that I wasn't worried at all about my upcoming surgery. What I didn't tell her was that I was scared to death that I had just failed the drug screen they had given me.  What I didn't tell her was that I had googled how long this drug would be in my system and had rescheduled appointments when I didn't think I would pass.  What I didn't tell her was that I was pretty sure I was headed back to a very dark place.  What I didn't tell her, and what I didn't know, was that the life that I knew was getting ready to a huge way.

During those next six weeks, I hit a low that I didn't know was possible.  I thought I had already hit rock bottom in the mental hospital, but I was dead wrong.  Some of these things I have dreaded writing about....I have sworn to take them to my grave. I have worried that they will completely erase any dignity I have left. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some of those stories with you, and I'm going to ask you for grace.  I'm also going to ask you not to report me to Child Services. Kidding.  Kind of. I actually told a couple of friends this past week that I had some things that I needed to share but I first needed to see if there was a statute of limitations on those things. Ha!  But, when I decided to share my story, I decided to share ALL of it. Even the pages I want to rip out and the stories I wish could be written in fine print.

"Everyone has a chapter they don't want to read out loud." Ever heard that quote?  Well, for me, I'm coming up on that chapter.  And as much as I don't want to read it out loud, it's a part of my story, and it has to be told.  Out loud.  Well, kind of.