Sunday, January 18, 2009

The painful disease of addiction.

I have written previously about my family's connection and close encounters with my former friend and alcoholic neighbor. It has been painful to watch, terrifying, as I fear for the safety of my family and her child, and enraging to watch the selfish self-destruction of a previously kind-hearted friend, mother and neighbor.  After the disease takes it's toll, amidst all the ashes and rubble, is left a lonely soul who mistakenly uses alcohol to fill a void. She leaves behind a son who fears her and a husband who is trying to pick up the pieces. It is a devastating loss. It is painful to everyone involved, not to mention horribly expensive for both parties. 
A few weeks ago, my former friend and neighbor wrote me a letter thanking me for helping look after her son in her absence. Her son comes over before and after school and on certain holidays off when his dad still needs to work. In this letter, she expressed that her multi-week stay in jail was the "best rehab" she could ever have received. Her denial runs deep! Jail is a great place to dry out, but it does nothing to address the issue of addiction. 
Since December, the mom has been doing fairly well. She was released from jail Dec. 27th. Her sister and her husband allowed her to stay with them in Redlands on condition of sobriety. It seemed from the letter that she was trying to get her life together.
On the husband's end, he was recently granted a permanent 5 year restraining order against her both for himself and his son. I am covered under that restraining order because I provide childcare, and of course he is covered at school. 
Well, this last Thursday they had court ordered mediation. When he filed divorce papers in addition to the restraining order, the court automatically orders mediation. During mediation, she was very hostile and they had to go separately into rooms for mediation because she had so many outbursts and was out of control with her angry behavior. The husband is seeking sole physical custody. She will not have contact with him except through supervised visitation. Thankfully, the mediator was going with that recommendation as well, because she is not fit to care for him right now for any length of time. 
Unfortunately, after such an emotional meeting, she went on a bender and did not show when she had made arrangements with her sister to pick her up (her license is suspended for a year and she cannot drive) and the next day she did not show up at the appointmen. Friday was a holiday for the kids in the Alta Loma School District. So, I watched her son. The dad dropped him off on his way to work. We had a busy day of errands, DVD/video game rentals, and a playdate at the park (with my friend Tracee and her boys - thanks that was fun)! I am so glad that her son was otherwise engaged that day. I can't imagine the trauma that she would have inflicted had she tried to initiate contact or had he realized she was in the house.
Evidently, she was able to get into her house, I think through the back sliding glass door or the side of the house. The husband came home from work Friday and found the dogs in the house and the slider left open. When he goes to work, the dogs stay outside for the day until he gets home. When he went into the bathroom, he found his wife's purse. He started searching room to room looking for her but could not find her. He was afraid that maybe she was hiding somewhere waiting for an opportunity to attack. After a hasty search, he then very carefully started looking room by room and closet by closet until he finally found her completely passed out on the spare bedroom floor in the small walkway between the window and the bed. 
The husband then sent a neighbor over to my house to inform me of the incident and asked me to keep the son at my house until the police had gone. He called the police and they went upstairs and woke her up and arrested her. I saw her by chance as I walked Madison out to her mom's car. Thankfully, she quietly went with the officer and didn't make a big stir.
What I admire most about this whole incident is the father's determination to, of course, protect his son but also to insulate him from seeing how sick his mother is. All the son knows is that his mother is sick, he doesn't realize the gravity of the sickness. And, due to the positive improvements in her behavior, he has been under the impression that she is getting better. They were even scheduled to have a visit this week. That's obviously going to be cancelled. Violating a restraining order is serious business! So, she's been arrested and already released. I'm hoping she has seen the light. She checked herself in to rehab. Right now she is in a 7 day lock detox lockdown. After that week, she will be given the choice to enroll in the 90 day residential program. I pray that she will. She needs to address the issues so badly.
I'm completely flabbergasted at the level of her self-destructiveness. I was hoping she would be intelligent enough to follow the rules set up by the court. Just the night before, I had expressed this to her husband and he said he thought she would be compliant. But most of all I am so grateful that they were not aware of her presence, that she didn't try anything stupid,and that her son did not see any of what took place. 
His dad made a comment to me that filled me with awe and admiration. I am so impressed with his father; with the lengths he is going to, to protect his son. He remarked to me that it was vital to him that his son feel safe at home. That if he knew what had taken place, then he would not feel safe even in his home. 
Maybe it is because this tragedy brings to mind the many and varied ghosts from my past, I don't know. But, how I wish I would have had a parent that cared enough about me to have taken care of me and go to those extraordinary lengths to protect and shield me from the ugliness. Instead I was abused and abandoned as alcohol and prescription drug addiction ravaged my family. I was shipped from Washington state via a seat on a Greyhound bus to unknown in-laws living in Redding at the age of 13, and then brought back to live with my grandfather when the in-laws realized there was something amiss. My grandfather picked up those pieces. I am so grateful for that; I am eternally be grateful. To this day we have a special bond unbroken by time and distance.
I just feel so regretful seeing how alcoholism can destroy a life. I know much more than I ever wanted to about it. This misfortune has been painful for me and my family. My children have been endangered, and I have felt everything from sadness to anger. I can't imagine the emotions felt by our Heavenly Father when he sees us make wrong choices and hurt one another. How easily we it is to become ensnare by the slender threads of addiction. Moreover, once they are bound, they become a strong rope that is so very difficult to break! I pray my neighbor can break the ropes of addiction. 

1 comment:

Gi said...

Sad! Alcoholism is a disease a sickness and while the alcoholic is actively drinking he/she causes much pain and destruction.

Your friend is not bad she is ill however; I agree with the restraining order and supervised visitation. Her son deserves to be protected.

It is sad that your children could have been put in harms way but as you know we sometimes take risk when our hearts to go out to other children!

I have worked with many persons who have addictions and when they do get sober I tell them often that they have to accept the consequences of their drinking, take accountability for their actions.

Oh I wanted to mention if that is a picture of your friend you might want to replace with perhaps a beer can because if you didn't have permission to post her picture and I mean legal permission you could be in a lot of trouble.

I tell you this because people like you and I who have big hearts and help others like this woman sometimes have it come back to bite us in the butt.

God Bless you and your family

gloria in boston