XXXX.....WARNING TRIGGER WARNING TRIGGER WARNING.....XXXX
I was going to write a post about mental illness but honestly, my mind is somewhere else right now. My Aunt has had an extremely hard life.
Picture a beautiful blonde haired, green eyed girl with a slight band of freckles across the bridge of her nose, growing up in the sixties and seventies. Bell bottoms and maxi dresses. Peace and love. Picture her smile and her humor. Picture her life surrounded by love and laughter, and it would be true except that her life wasn't surrounded by love and laughter or very many smiles.
She was abused as a child by the same person that molested my mother. Physically, sexually, and mentally tormented. Called ugly and stupid. Her nickname by her father/abuser was "rummy dummy". He never called her by her name just "rummy dummy" as to make her feel even more worthless and ignorant over and over again. He called her a liar and so she learned to lie because no one believed her anyway. He took from her, her innocence, her sense of self, her security every child has a right to feel, and her voice. She has been a hardcore drug addict since the age of thirteen. She has lived on the streets, turned tricks, and been in prison several times. This is the reality of drug use. The ugly horrible truth of what life is like for addicts. Being used and using others all for a fix to numb the pain. So when I say that no one wakes up and says, "Today, I am going to become a drug addict", I mean it. There is no glory in living an addicts life. No comfort when you have to live in crack houses, sleep on the concrete sidewalk, steal for food, get high behind a rancid dumpster in some darkened alley way, or getting in a car with some john paying you to demean yourself all for a fix. She has been beaten black and blue, raped, robbed. She has been strangled, humiliated, and demonized. She had boyfriends beat her and turn her out. She was arrested so many times in Dallas that the police knew her by sight. None of these people she was around cared for her. All of them abused her much like the father she grew up with. No comfort. No love, only pain. She has suffered immensely.
What do you lose as an addict? You lose yourself. You lose your children. You lose your family's trust and respect. The belief that you are a worthy human being. The understanding that you deserve better. That you have a disease, because addiction is a disease and not a choice.You lose everything.
Underneath all of that my aunt is a good person, just a person that wrestles the demons of her past and has no idea how to get rid of them. My mother got therapy for the abuse, my aunt turned to the needle. It could have been my mom. I could have been raised by a drug addict. Very easily my mother and aunt could have lived on the same path. But they didn't.
There is a large amount of addicts in my family. It is a sign of the dysfunction that has seeped down the line. Loving addicts changes a person. You try and live a normal life but somethings are never truly normal. I can not explain the hardship of growing up wondering when we would get the phone call that one of our loved ones would be found dead in some ditch somewhere from over dosing or being murdered due to the dangerous people that addicts hang around. The apprehension of any late night phone calls. Afraid that each ring was an omen of the bad news we tried to prepare ourselves to hear. Would it be my brother, my sister, my uncle, or my aunt? Thankfully, all of them have gotten clean and we never received that dreaded phone call, just the calls we got when they were arrested. The visiting a loved one in jail or reading letters from them sent from prison. The stories of the horrible things they have endured to get high. We are a remarkable family for all that we have been through and yet there are so many of us families out there. Wrestling with the loss/pain and frustration of loving our addicts because we love the person not the disease. There becomes a loss of hope as we watch the ones we love lose everything around them and spiral out of control. We have to learn not to enable and that is hard because we know why they suffer and we don't want them to suffer more and yet we can't give them money, or trust their actions. or get them out of trouble. They have to hit rock bottom and unfortunately, sometimes rock bottom kills them. It feels like watching them drown and there is no way to save them until they are ready to ask for a life jacket.
Out of all of the addicts in my family, my aunt struggles the most. My uncle was clean and sober for over ten years when he died of a heart attack. My brother and sister are relatively healthy and have been clean for years. My aunt still wrestles with addiction and relapse. She is still in the system and is on probation. She had a five year clean streak until her then husband started using and started pressuring her to use again. That was years ago. She got clean again for a bit and relapsed two years ago. She is freshly clean again. It has been on and off but she tries really hard.... Her life has been very difficult. To makes matters worse, her 54 year old body has been greatly affected by her abuse of it over the years. She has difficulty breathing. She has hepatitis. She once had gangrene in her needle marks. She has had unusual illnesses that only come with being in the dirty disgusting drug dens or from being a prostitute or injecting that shit into your veins. Now, she is on oxygen. She has something wrong with her lungs but we are not sure what, and today I learned that while in the hospital she has suffered a stroke. She can't talk right, she isn't cognizant of what is going on, and she is scared. Worst of all she doesn't seem to know who we are and she is halfway across the country from us. All I keep thinking is what can I do to help? How can I comfort her? This woman who has never really had any real comfort in her life.
My heart is just broken for this woman. This strong woman who has battled for so long. Not just an addict but a woman I love very deeply. Because addicts are not just addicts they are also the broken people underneath the disease. She is an addict but she is still my aunt, a beautiful blonde green eyed woman trapped in addicts failing body. I want to hate my grandfather. I want to rage at him but he too is dead and sadly he too was a victim of horrid sickening sexual and physical abuse. He had no childhood. He was terribly abused and by many. It doesn't excuse what he did but it explains his sick perspective. When someone says abuse is a cycle, they know what they are talking about. I don't know how to feel right now except sad. My mother says when she thinks of my aunt she thinks she never really had a chance.....
She never knew trust. Never knew love from a man that didn't consist of rape, abuse, or drugs except her first husband but she was too far into drugs to stay and didn't understand his love because she equates love with pain. Never been told she is a worthy human being. Never been taken seriously. Never believed. Never trusted because of the drug use. Has no home, no job, no career, no family close by except her girlfriend, no pets, no car, no plans for the future that most of us have. She has never gone on a real vacation or traveled outside of the U.S. She has nothing that most of us take for granted everyday and yet she is the age most people look at to start retiring. She should have those things but drugs took those things away from her. Her disease has taken away so much. Her abuser continues to win every time she uses which also allows his abusers to win. Yes, I know she has to take responsibility for her actions but then I wonder who should take responsibility for why she uses to forget in the first place? The way she grew up and the path she took I sometimes think my mother is more right then she knows. Maybe she really didn't have a chance at a normal life because my mom found help and my aunt never could...
I sit here and write this I have no idea why. I guess I wanted other people to know her story. She deserves to be believed and her story counts. Maybe other people will understand addicts better from it. Maybe other families going through this will find comfort that they are not alone. Maybe my aunt will find comfort in the fact she is not alone....She deserved better and she still does. Maybe people will see how abuse ruins people's lives. How damaging it is. How it affects everything you do and every choice that you make. Maybe it will bring some sympathy in the hearts of those that think addicts want to live such a miserable life. They don't, they are just tortured and need help.
I am not giving up hope for her. I refuse to give up on her like so many have. My mom and grandma and my other uncle and his wife will continue to hope that she will recover as will my aunt's girlfriend. She needs to know that we love her and we believe in her. She is not "rummy dummy" she is Patti and she is beautiful. She is magnificent. She is worthy. Maybe she never had a chance, but she has one now.
So I am asking if you guys would send her some positive thoughts, or pray for her, or send her light. She needs to recover from this stroke so she can continue her path of staying clean. I would really appreciate it because, dammit that woman has had enough crap coming down on her all of her life. She could use a little support.