My husband and I had never witnessed someone in withdrawal. By the time we visited Cary in rehab before, she had been detoxed. But now she was trying to do it on her own with the help of outpatient therapy.
It was a moonless Friday night in August as Cary faced the fiends of withdrawal. My husband had gone to bed exhausted or overwhelmed by it all. Cary and I sat on the front porch. She talked, I listened, offering responses to her ramblings. She seemed to have lost the ability to reason in our circular conversations. She was dressed in sweatpants and a sweatshirt on that warm night. She had given up some of the attention to appearance in the previous weeks. There had been signs of what was happening.
The dark was punctuated by the flicks of the lighter and burning tips of cigarettes. I had succumbed also in those months of stress to the number one addiction–tobacco. Though I had given up cigarettes years earlier, the previous July I smoked a cigarette with Cary when we returned to Jacob’s house without him after that last day in court. That was the day I began writing more seriously, but that single cigarette had not re-lit my tobacco addiction. These weeks of summer, though, brought the addiction home to me.
A friend owed Cary $20, and it was payday. The borrower was sitting in a bar with a friend, and Cary wanted to meet him to get her money. I did not believe the story and knew that even if it were true, the money would be gone before she got back home.
“Twenty dollars is nothing to me now,” I said.
She pleaded with me to let her take the car to meet him. She said it was the principle that he owed it to her. I said if he owed her, then he should bring the money to her. Why did she need to meet him? We circled around this argument for what seemed like hours as she tried to wear me down. I refused again and again. I was growing weary of her pleading and said I was going to bed. She asked me to stay and talk to her, so I did.
She said Jacob had always been our favorite which is an argument used by many children against their parents. I think I laughed; in fact, I often thought we had given her ‘favored status’ too many times. She was the more difficult of our two children, and we often gave in to her.
She wretchedly said that she was the one who should be in jail because Jacob had done nothing to deserve what had happened to him, while she had made choices that brought her to this precipice. I questioned why she had never asked for help when she began to use drugs again. She gave the excuse that probably many addicts offer, when she said she thought she was in control of her use. She added that she had not wanted to add to our worries with Jacob in jail. I replied that it turned out to be just the opposite of what she had hoped. Everything was much worse now.
She said that it would just be better if she were dead. I responded that her death would never be better for us or for her son. She was a parent and should know that. I added, though, that life might be easier; it would not be better.
I was exhausted by the conversations with my daughter. Her mind was controlled by the medicinal master who had overpowered her. Finally, I decided to go to bed.
Back to the $20
She said she was going to walk to the Park ‘n Ride to collect her $20.
“How long do you think it will take?” she asked.
“Maybe you will get there by morning, but take a flashlight because it is dark. When you are lying dead on the road struck by a driver who never saw you, I will tell your son that $20 and drugs were more important to you than anything else.”
Then I went to bed and listened for her footsteps down the stairs fearing that she really would walk down that dark road, and yet too tired to do anything more.
The next morning, she apologized to me.
Things did not get better. She was still using drugs and eventually realized the only way to get well was to enter rehab. By that point, she really had no choice. She spent her last day at home calling rehab facilities in search of an open bed. I began to think of places she could go if no bed became available that day. Luckily, a rehab facility called at 6 PM with an opening. She made a difficult call to her son’s father, packed her belongings, and we drove away from the home where she grew up.