Saturday, June 24, 2017

I still get high in my dreams

I still sometimes get high in my dreams. If you are a recovering addict, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Using dreams. Yep, they're real. And they feel real.

I've had dreams where I'm digging through old purses for pills, which in my past life I frequently did, and then I find a handful of them hidden in a zipped pocket. While I was in treatment, I dreamed that I was on a home visit. I was traveling in a big, white conversion van--maybe because I was accustomed to riding in what we dubbed the "druggy buggy" or "pills on wheels."  Anyway, I was a few rows back in the van and I noticed a bottle of pills in the cup holder up front. As the van went around curves, the lid came off of the bottle and pills started floating through the air. I grabbed them as fast as I could, then worried the rest of the dream about failing a drug test once I got back to the facility. I woke up in my bunk bed scared to death that I'd relapsed. It felt so real that it shook me. As I got into the line for the 7am drug screen the next morning, I actually found myself getting anxious about failing the screen.....even though I knew it was just a dream.

Just a couple of weeks ago (after being opiate free for 30 months) I had one of the most vivid using dreams I've ever had. I can remember nearly every single detail. The dream took place in my old high school. I was sitting at a giant wooden table in a conference room that appeared to be the former study hall. I think that I was there for some kind of meeting, but then a guy I used to know pulled a duffel bag out from under his rolling chair and laid it on the big mahogany table. He had a bag full of assorted drugs, and he started pulling them by one. I just kept shaking my head. I didn't want anything he was offering. Well, until he looked at me and said, "I've got your favorite." He slid the bottle across the table to me, and when I read the label, my stomach dropped. He was right. It was my favorite. I told him that I would take a couple with me, but that I was sure I would never use them.

I left the room and walked down a stairway. I put the pill in my mouth and kept walking. Somehow one of my best friends, Ash D., found me and grabbed me by the arm. As we walked, I tried to spit the pill out. But, it just kept growing in my mouth and I couldn't spit it out. Ash kept trying to help me as we wandered the halls of that old school. We walked up a small set of stairs near the Guidance office, then over to the library. I started trying to yell, my mouth filled with the ginormous pill that I needed to spit out.  I couldn't swallow it. I didn't want to take it. I couldn't relapse. If I did, I'd have to tell my friend Sandy (even in my dreams I know that I have to tell her the truth!) and I couldn't let my family down. I awoke in a cold sweat, spitting onto my pillow. I opened my eyes and they slowly adjusted so that I could see the room around me. I wasn't walking through the halls of my old high school, but lying in my comfy bed in my safe and quiet bedroom. I looked beside me where Chad peacefully slept. I was home. And I wasn't alone. Once I realized that it was just a dream nightmare, I allowed the air that was trapped inside of my lungs to finally escape. I had never been so happy in my life to be clean.

None of that, however compares to a dream I had while in treatment. While it wasn't a using dream, it's one of the worst dreams I've ever had because I had to wake up from it.

I was lying in my bed at home, holding my little girl. 
She must have gotten scared and wanted her Mommy.
Her damp hair rested on my arm.
I put my nose to her head and smelled her hair.
It still smelled like baby shampoo. 
I wrapped my arms around her even tighter
and she snuggled into me.
I twirled her damp little curls around my index finger.
I watched her little chest rise and fall with each breath.
I kissed her flushed cheeks. 
And I smiled. 

Still sleeping but somehow half-awake, I tried to pull that curly-headed brown-eyed baby even closer to me. But, my arms were empty. She was gone. Adrenaline shot through my veins and my body jolted wide-awake. The room was still dark and I blindly felt all around the bed for my little girl. She was gone. My eyes began to focus on the room around me, and I was scared. I didn't know where I was, but I knew it wasn't home, and I knew that my baby was gone. The fog and confusion began to clear and as a small light shone into the dark space, I remembered where I was. 

I wasn't home.
I was in treatment.

I heard the trickle of the fountain that was in my room.
I looked beside my bed and saw the battery-operated candle my friend Charon had snuck into my bag when she dropped me off to treatment. 
I peeked out toward the top bunk and saw my best friend Leanne sound asleep.
And though I wasn't alone and I was in a comfortable bed in a safe place that was beginning to feel like home, I wasn't home, and my arms were empty.
I wept and I wept and I wept.
I quickly closed my eyes, trying to get back to sleep, but, most importantly, trying to get back to that dream. 
But it never came.

That dream should have kept me clean forever, but, sadly, it didn't. I ended up making the same exact mistakes again and forcing my curly-headed, brown-eyed baby to relive the same exact nightmare.

Dreams come from our sub-conscious mind. I don't pretend to understand any of that, nor do I know how to interpret dreams. I've read many many articles about using dreams. Researchers say it's normal because our brains were so accustomed to abusing drugs. I know that my brain was very accustomed to it because I had used for almost eight years. That's a lot of behavior and memories to unlearn. It's all so complex and complicated. How can a dream like that pop up when I haven't even thought about using? I don't have a freaking clue.

But here is what I find important. One article I read said that although using dreams can be very surreal and terrifying, the most important thing to look at is how it made you feel. Did you wake up feeling disappointed that you weren't high, or did you wake up feeling completely relieved and grateful that you weren't high? Those two responses make all of the difference in the world, and I'll admit that I've had both of them. In the past, I was so ticked to wake up and realize that the purse that was full of pills in my dream was actually a purse full of gum wrappers, old receipts, and my long-lost lip gloss buried at the bottom of my closet.

Thankfully, the most recent dream I had scared the crap out of me. I woke up thrilled that I hadn't really thrown everything away....yet again. I was disgusted with the girl in the dream who thought she could put a pill in her mouth and get away with it. I don't know what all of the details in the dream meant. The mind has a funny way of mixing all kinds of different memories together. But, the one thing I kept thinking about, even days later, was that certainly there was some kind of symbolism. Not being able to spit that ever-growing, swelling pill out kept coming back to me. It finally dawned on me. It wasn't just one pill. It immediately turned into something that I couldn't get rid of. It overtook me. I had quite literally bitten off more than I could chew. And that's exactly what addiction does. It starts out with something as small as a little pill and eventually it's something we can't get rid of.....even when we try our hardest to spit it back out.

More often than not, my dreams (while always quite crazy) are now good ones. And when I wake up in the night and feel a sweaty head in the crook of my arm, I open my eyes to find that while it's not my tiny curly-headed brown-eyed baby, it's now my curly-headed, brown-eyed ten-year old who has crawled in bed with me because she wanted her Mommy.

I put my nose to her head and smell her hair. 
It smells like the big-girl shampoo she now uses. 
I wrap my arms around her even tighter
and she snuggles into me. 
I twirl her damp little curls around my index finger. 
I watch her chest rise and fall with each breath. 
I kiss her flushed cheeks. 
And I smile. 

Because that, my friends, is a dream come true.

May you dream of lovely things and wake to find them real. 
-JJ Heller

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I blinked and he turned 13

June 4th, 2004 found me 33 and a half weeks pregnant, eating at a Mexican restaurant with my family. I stood up......and my water broke. We rushed to the hospital only to be told that I was peeing my pants. two days later, on June 6th (after I'd continued peeing my pants for 48 hours), I went back to the hospital to discover that, indeed, my water had broken. I was sent to Ohio State University Medical Center by an ambulance driven by a cousin that I hadn't seen in years. When we arrived, after some less than desirable care from my nurses, we were informed by the NICU team what we would likely see when they delivered our baby. He would be blue, not breathing on his own, and would require time in the NICU. Plus, since my water had been broken for more than two days, he could possibly have a serious infection. They wheeled me into the ER to do an emergency c-section and on the way in, they jammed my feet into the door frame. Needless to say, I didn't have much confidence in my care team! OSU is a teaching hospital, so I listened to a few residents argue as they did my c-section, each yelling that the other was doing it wrong. Wow. Luckily, I had an amazing anesthesiologist who drew on the curtain in front of me to show me what was going on. He kept me calm, and at 1:30 am on June 7th when our tiny little baby was welcomed into the world and rushed to the doctors who were waiting for him, that same anesthesiologist leaned over to say this. "They are bagging him right now, so you can't hear it....but that baby is screaming and crying, which means he is breathing just fine." He was taken to the regular nursery and evaluated for about eight hours. When I finally got to hold him the next afternoon, I was in awe. He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen (even though now when we look back at pictures we think he looked like an alien!) We carried a 4 lb. 14 oz. baby out of the hospital only four days later, without a clue as to how to raise him.

He was a fighter from the get-go. He had lung problems and ended up being in the hospital every few months from the age of twelve weeks on. He had horrible allergies, asthma, episodes of his lung collapsing, partial deafness, celiac, and an esophagus disease, as well as migraines. But, he's a fighter. Always has been, always will be.

He got the best of me. He got the mom who wouldn't dare take a sip of caffeine while pregnant and read "What to Expect when you are Expecting" cover to cover. He got the mom who went to childbirth classes and made sure she did everything right. He got the mom who would barely take a pain pill after a c-section because she wanted to pump breast milk for him to drink even though he wasn't strong enough to nurse. He got the mom who made everyone germ-x before they touched him, the one who sang lullabies as she rocked him to sleep, the one who read to him and taught him new things every single day. He got the mom who nearly attacked anyone who smoked near him because he was highly allergic and had bad lungs. He got the mom who took him to the park and the zoo, the mom who rarely left his side. He got the mom who slept in the oxygen tent with him in the hospital when he didn't want to be put down.

But...somewhere along the way, he got the worst of me. He got the mom who couldn't get out of bed, the one who strapped him in a five point harness/top of the line Britax car seat, then got behind the wheel under the influence to drive him. He got the mom who sometimes didn't know where he was. He got the mom who was distant, the mom who rarely paid attention to his discoveries, who rarely answered his questions. He got the mom who sat up with him into the late hours of the night....him watching the Bee movie with his feet on her lap, her sitting on the couch getting high. He thought they were spending time together. She knew she was worlds away. He got the mom who laid in a nasty shower floor in his hospital room going through withdrawals while he laid in a hospital bed trying to breathe.

After many years of this, when he was nine years old, I went to treatment. He was tough and strong, so I didn't worry about him. He had handled everything in life up to this point like he was ten feet tall and bullet proof, so I didn't worry about him. I must have been too high to notice his vulnerability or to realize that he was still just a kid. After not seeing him for a month, Chad brought him to my first visit at the treatment facility. He proudly brought in a pair of new shoes he had just bought to show me (he has always loved shoes, just like his mother). He seemed so much older than I had remembered, but he seemed to be doing okay. We played games and ate lunch together, and I showed them around the house. He walked up and down the matching wood spiral staircases and looked at the fountain...both of which happened to be in the room I was staying in. When we got the warning that visitation was over in ten minutes, I sat down in a chair and he climbed into my lap. He just laid there, and when he looked up, I could tell he was trying not to cry. I walked my family to the door, and hugged them all goodbye. The girls and Chad were crying, and I was trying not to. Ethan seemed okay. He turned to walk to the car, then immediately turned back to me. He wrapped his arms around me, and leaned into me and wept. That was truly one of the most heartbreaking moments of my entire life, and I can't even imagine how it felt to him.

He has continued to be a tough little man, and has worked through much of the trauma of his life with the help of an amazing counselor. He talks about things now instead of bottling them up, and I continue to be amazed at the maturity he shows. I would give just about anything to go back and redo those important years of his life, but I can't. For now, I try to be who he needs me to be AT THIS MOMENT, and continue to be open and honest with him about addiction. He understands things that most kids his age do not, but I hope this only helps him be strong enough to make good choices.

He loves to build and has a little picnic table building side gig. He loves music and has recently decided that he could quite possibly be the next Eminem. He loves to vlog and to play video games, as well as to learn about any type of technology. He loves playing basketball and watching football. He has been obsessed with cars and tractors since he could speak, and that hasn't changed a bit. He drives our tractor all over our property. He said the only exciting thing about turning thirteen is that it means he's one year closer to driving. He's extremely self-sufficient, until it comes to getting something to eat or drink, at which point he expects to be served. His poor wife. He is not afraid to be who he is, and he readily admits that he still crawls into our bed sometimes in the middle of the night. He is a touchy feely kind of kid, and he's always giving me hugs and kisses. I hope he never changes.

I could not be more proud of this kid. He has his flaws, as all kids do (especially teenage boys), but I believe that he has a heart of gold. He constantly makes people laugh, and it's hard to not have a smile on your face when you are around him....except for when he's hungry and turns into an ogre. As much as I am sometimes convinced that I did, thankfully God didn't allow me to completely screw up that little boy's life. Instead, he has protected him, strengthened him, and given him wisdom and understanding beyond his years. I pray that all of the dreams he has come true and that he accomplishes all of the goals he has set, even at such an early age. I pray that God uses his stubborn nature to make him an unstoppable force. Although I can't stand the thought of him getting older, I can't wait to see the man he will one day be. I'm not sure what that will look like, but I know one's gonna be great.

I love you Ethan Chad Monroe!!

Ethan at one day old

His 10th birthday just so happened to fall on my first outside visit
in treatment. We had his party at a pizza play place halfway
between our home and my facility. What a sad birthday for a kid to have.
Thankfully, I've been there for the rest of them.

Another visit while I was in treatment.
Chad and the kids came to my baptism
at a local church my group was going to.

Ethan sitting in the exact place at the Mexican restaurant
where my water broke. Hahahaha!!!!

He still gives me kisses at 13!