Tag Archives: Addiction

Death on a Budget

Despite my well-intended delusions of gallantry, staying awake for two nights in a row just made me a useless, hot mess. And taking a nip or two from the bottle of bourbon in the kitchen during these sleepless marathons made me even more useless. So tonight I eschewed the alcohol, bought a pack of cigarettes, and let Dad propose taking half-night shifts. For four hours, I slept well, even with strange dreams of hiding myself and a bunch of children in secret compartments under furniture in order to escape some kind of unearthly menace in female form with an army of fugitive-sniffing cats. That’s a new one. I should be keeping a dream log as well as a death log.

When I left the warm bed to take my 2:00 a.m. shift, I found Dad sleeping on the couch. Just dozing, he said. Just dozing under a comfy quilt. Let’s face it, we’re not RNs or home health aides. We’re tired family members who crave our beds, with or without apocalyptic nightmares.

Mom asked my sister-in-law what happened to the local hospice facility where my grandmother had died twenty years ago. I think she had envisioned herself staying there when the time came and not in the middle of her living room being cared for, largely, by tired family members. Apparently, our local hospice facility had been shut down because it wasn’t “feasible,” its staff of PAs, RNs, and aides turned into traveling pill peddlers instead.   It’s a sinisterly brilliant way to cut corners. The professional caregivers get to keep their jobs, and the operating costs disappear. Now we have a solution that’s “feasible” because the dying can still receive their care twenty-four-seven, but in the comfort of their own homes. Oh joy.

Here’s where the plan gets more brilliant: our loved-ones definitely can receive care twenty-four-seven. Whenever we make the phone call to the emergency number on the whiteboard magnetted to our refrigerators, our questions and concerns are relayed to a nurse on call, who will call us back and answer our questions. Sometimes, if we sound sad enough, she’ll even offer to come out to the house for an hour or two—even more if we want. If we don’t call, however, we get a daily visit from a nurse (on weekdays), and a daily visit from an aide who will do the yucky stuff like bathe and change catheter bags. In a rural area like this one, where people spend their wholes lives NOT asking questions, removing the whole hospice facility from the equation is most certainly a feasible plan.

I decided that I prefer the 2:00 a.m. to whenever-Dad-wakes-up-again shift because it’s a perfect time to call that hotline and ask questions without Dad knowing I’m calling the hotline and asking questions. The very first hospice nurse I met this week stayed at our house for six hours so Dad and I could go out to dinner for his birthday. We were only gone for three, but she stuck around long after and helped Mom and counseled me. Dad, being Dad, just wanted her to leave. Me, being me, wanted the help and guidance. Why not? If a hospice is going to close down its facility and leave all the dirty work to us, we should accept as much of that help as it will provide.  We should not accept the death-on-a-budget excuse.

The nurses know this. The whiteboard on the fridge says “for emergencies call,” leaving it up the caller to determine the scope of an emergency. Luckily, I was counseled by a hospice nurse before I had even seen this semantic deterrent. Call any time, she said. No question is a stupid question, she said. That’s what we’re here for, she said. So I do, and I will, just not when Dad knows I’m doing it.

It isn’t that Dad doesn’t care. He cares a whole lot. His love is infinite. This morning, the RN assigned to our case watched him interact with her and said, “They clearly love each other. It’s adorable.” It was adorable, five weeks ago, now it’s very heartbreaking. The man needs two shoulder operations. He has a bad back. He carries around his own, permanent, catheter bag. And he just lost his brother. This is too much for him. He isn’t healthy enough, physically, mentally, or emotionally to be caring for a wife of fifty-five years round-the-clock. He needs a place where he can go that’s away from his grief, like his home. Oh wait, his home is now a makeshift hospice.

If I can do anything around here besides be in the way, and I often feel like I’m in the way, I can call in the professionals to help Mom instead of leaving Dad to do all the guesswork. I’m confused, and I’m younger, healthier, and more alert. I can’t imagine how he manages to do anything, let alone almost everything. I’m gonna keep calling that number because it helps and because I refuse the let “feasibility” and bottom-line win here.

The Next-Day Regretsies

This afternoon, I was horrified to “discover” an unedited, terrible blog post that drifted into incoherence by the fourth paragraph—my very own post. I remember writing it, and I remember checking the Word .doc this morning and taking notes on it—“add transition” here and “delete this entire paragraph?” there. I DON’T, however, remember posting it. I have a void where a memory should be. Comes with the territory.

So I deleted it, just like my addled brain deleted those moments when I opened up WordPress and put some poorly-written piece of garbage out for the whole world to read (I wish). If you are one of the four people who read it and “liked” it, I thank you, and I apologize. Figures that the one post I was forced to delete got the most traffic in one day of anything I’ve posted thus far. I’m not the most effective blogger, but I sure like doing it! When I’m conscious enough to edit, that is.

I’m actually seeing an addiction therapist, and we’re making a little progress together. Today we talked about my friends. Who is a good influence, who is bad. I really don’t have any friends whom I would consider a bad influence anymore. They all kind of drifted out of my life with my ex-husband. He was the ultimate bad influence. He was cheap, narcissistic, alcoholic (my doing, he claimed), and selfish. And he brought out all those qualities in me. With him gone, all the lousy people that he attracted like flypaper are gone, too. My only remaining friends from that union went straight-edge and vegan, and their former debauched selves are unrecognizable. When we crazies put our minds to something, we really go all in, eh?

I’m still waiting for that “aha” moment when I finally go all in on sobriety. It won’t be today. I can hear the grocery store calling already. My favorite checker is waiting there to crack a joke about my odd assortment of items that inevitably contains alcohol. I’m fond of waltzing in there around 11:00 and buying things like beer and oatmeal (“Breakfast of champions!” she said), or red wine and beef jerky.

This post is also unedited, but far more coherent than last night’s. After I hit “publish” this time, the laptop is going off for the evening. There’s a way around every problem.

 

 

The $1300 Pee Test

I lived abroad for one year once, and during that time I learned to appreciate the perks of having been born and raised in the U.S. Engaging in a healthy discussion about opposing viewpoints, for instance, didn’t really happen in my host country. Opportunities for women’s advancement, as well, were certainly lacking in my host country as compared to the U.S.

Then there’s that “purple mountains’ majesty”—it exists.   I used to live on one of those old, East Coast mountains, along those ranges that change color with the seasons and even the time of day. Sometimes they do look purple, in certain shadow. In the U.S., one can drive a car for twenty-four hours, from those old ranges in the east to the newer ones out west, and still be in the U.S., and not even near a coastline.  That’s kind of awesome.

But I’m already running out material…

What else? Well, lines certainly aren’t long, not by third-world standards, anyway. You can wait in some semblance of a line in the U.S. and eventually get to the end of it and receive some kind of answer to your question (unless it’s the Department of Motor Vehicles). The answer isn’t always satisfactory, but you get one.

And that’s how far I got in my “perks of living the U.S. inventory” before settling for not-so-third-worldish line organization. There’s something wrong with this picture. Obviously, there is, or I wouldn’t be struggling to come up with five perks of living here, the fifth one being kind of a non-perk because one can compare any social or cultural institution to the worst the world has to offer, but that doesn’t make said institution an efficient one or even a good one.

It must be my mood today that got me thinking about how many things actually suck about living in the U.S. I’ve been attending the odd assortment of AA and SMART recovery meetings, the latter being a free hour or so of cognitive behavioral therapy, which definitely appeals to my pragmatic side. I’m following through with what I said I would do and getting help. Isn’t that what my closest friends and family have suggested I do for twenty years or more? To get help?

Yesterday, I got a bill in the mail for the remaining costs of that sham of a treatment center I visited for one evaluation. I was in the place for three hours—I took a breathalyzer and a pee test, then I talked to a zombie doctor for another hour or so, and then I received a summons to arrive at 9:00 sharp the next morning for five weeks of treatment. After paying an initial $160 upfront, the remaining costs of that afternoon, after my insurance kicked in a healthy sum, was $605. That pee test alone cost $1300.

This treatment center represents my view of how the U.S. works. There’s a lot of wealth floating around, and our business and institutions thrive on it—charging insurance companies $1300 for pee tests and whatnot.   The desire to “get help” in the U.S. is as profitable for some as the desire to buy the latest electronics—it’s big business. But desiring mental well-being for your own health and the sake of others around you really shouldn’t be a desire like buying the latest Samsung. It’s a need, not a desire. In the U.S., however, where everything’s for sale, there is very little difference between our basic needs and our base desires. Nothing is free, except for maybe groups like AA, and unsolicited advice from acquaintances.

In the U.S., if you’re not born into a family or a community that can provide you with opportunities, or if you’re not savvy, you will sink. Many of us do. And many of us drown. Getting that bill for the remaining costs of a $1300 pee test yesterday clearly drove that point home. Knowing that I potentially got screwed by this treatment center is enough to make me want to buy a box wine and check out for the remainder of my weekend. Perhaps last week I would have done that.

But this week, not so much. Perhaps it’s the week of sobriety whispering in my ear, “There’s so much more than anger.”  I’m going to do a few searches and make a few phone calls. Perhaps the $1300 pee test is an error.  Meantime, I still have my five perks, like the purple mountains’ majesty.  It’s a lovely morning.

 

Life Hacks, aka, “Fuck it”

My sincere but misguided stepson read a book recently called “life hacks” or something like that. I’m sure his uptight mother turned him on to it. The authors or editors or whoever have all kinds of great advice for people who won’t ever read a book of “life hacks” to solve their problems. Like this one: if you have an addiction, and you feel a craving, just work out!

Oh, gosh, golly gee! Now there’s a good one! Let’s break this life hack down to its particulars, shall we? I’m in a rockin’ restaurant with my husband. It’s got great music, funky food, dim lights, and a waitstaff with an autism spectrum knowledge of the extensive draft bar. I’d like to order some IPA featured on its menu of 100 beers, but—oh no—I can’t because I have an addiction! Well, thanks to “life hacks” I can solve this problem by working out! Allow me, please, to step down from my barstool and do some squats and lunges.

Yeah. Life hacks. What a pile of stinking shit that someone made money selling to a publisher. Even less realistic is the hack my stepson shared about drinking a cup of ice water in the morning to wake me up instead of my coffee. OK, let’s give that a go—from this day forward, I’ll just wake up at a reasonable hour of the morning, take an ice-cold shower and go for a jog. Because managing addiction is that easy, isn’t it? Nothing irritates me more than self-righteousness.

Here’s some life-hack-type information for whoever wrote this stupid book: If you’ve never had an addiction, if you’ve never struggled yourself with anything—eating, drinking, smoking—then you don’t know us. Your “life hacks” are a product of your sociopathic control-freak nature, and you can fuck off. Tonight’s life hack is “fuck off.” I think it’s far more encompassing than anything in your book.