I Should Have Known

3464f5bb3206b2f4a4d9938f4a667b3cSmall droplets of sweat are forming on her forehead and upper lip, and I notice there’s a slight tremble to her fingers as she attempts to light her cigarette.

“Do you really have to smoke that in here?” I ask, annoyed that she is smoking at all, never mind in my car.

“I have the window open,” she retorts quickly.

“I really wish you wouldn’t” I hiss, but much to no avail, as she’s already got that damn thing lit.

“Mom, please, I don’t feel good,” she moans.

“Well, smoking that is not going to make you feel any better. In fact, it will probably make you feel worse.”

She makes a lackluster attempt at rolling her eyes, but just blows her foggy breath out the window, as if every movement is draining the life from her.

“What do you have now?” I question, as it seems that recently she is ill at some point everyday.

“I don’t know . . . nauseous, weak, my head hurts.”

“I’m going to have to take you to the doctor if this keeps up,” I warn. “How long can this go on? You’re tired all the time, you’re not eating and you’re starting to look a little drawn.  Maybe we should get some blood work done.”

“No, no, just give it some time, I’ll be fine.”

As we drive on silently, my instinct tells me that something is not right–I start to think of all the possible ailments she could have–everything from ulcers to cancer. Oh God, I hope she’s not pregnant.

“Mom, pull over! Mom! I’m going to be sick!”

I quickly pull onto the dirt shoulder and watch her bolt out of the car vomiting as she tramples the roadside wildflowers. Lovely.  This is getting worse instead of better.  We’re on our way to an appointment with her Psychiatrist, who she has been seeing for a while now.  This is the doctor who thinks she is either Bipolar–or Borderline–yes, Girl, Interrupted Borderline.  In addition to seeing her regular therapist, he is treating her symptoms with a cocktail of drugs: “It’s a matter of finding the right medications that will have the best effect.” A real genius.

When I think she is done throwing up, I hand her some napkins and my water bottle to rinse out her mouth. We make our way back into the car: it’s hot and smells like smoke; between that and the puking, I wonder how I can hold onto my own stomach.

“It might have to do with the new medication he added last time.  Maybe it’s making you sick,” I say out loud, half to myself.

“I don’t know Mom, let’s just go.”

“I’m sorry, but we have to stop somewhere: I need to use the restroom,” my daughter says to my husband as we are driving to my brother’s wedding–still at least a half hour away.  We’ve been stuck in Friday night rush hour traffic and this trip is taking twice as long as it should.

“But we just left the house,” he says emphatically, as if this will change her mind.

“Thirty minutes ago, and I have to pee. Sorry! Stop at that CVS on the corner.  They have bathrooms.”

“Alright, but hurry it up, we’ll probably be late as it is.”

“They aren’t going to start without us,” I chime in. “I’ll come in with you, I have to go, too.”

“Ugh, here we go, this is going to turn into a twenty minute stop!” my son gripes.

“No, it won’t . . . we’ll be out before you know it,” I say as I force a smile at him then dash into the store.

We find our way to the bathroom in the back corner of the store, only to find that it is locked. So we race back to the front of the store looking for an employee. (Mind you, we are both in heels, so when I say race I mean that tip-toe trotting thing one does when trying to move quickly, but not fall flat on your ass). We find someone who can unlock the door for us, but we have to wait for him to finish ringing up a customer.  Why they won’t just give us the key is puzzling–do we look like key thieves in our nice clothes and heels? I don’t care; we just need to get in there and get out.  Finally, we are escorted to the bathroom; I run into one stall and my daughter into the other.  I’m at the sink washing my hands when I hear gagging.

“Are you sick again?” I question as I stand outside the stall.  More gagging noises, followed by coughing.

“Are you all right?” I anxiously ask.

“Just a little queasy, but I think I’m okay now,” she calls out.

“What happened?” I ask, bewildered as she seemed fine just moments ago.

“I don’t know, it just came on all of a sudden.  But my stomach is crampy; I think I need to stay here for a few minutes.  You go back to the car–I’ll be out in a minute.”

Not sure of what to do, but feeling the need to show my face out at the car to appease my waiting husband and son, I head out.

Five minutes later she comes out, looking none the worse, and off we go.

“I’ll be back in a little bit, Mom!” my daughter yells out coming down the stairs, as she heads for the front door.

“Where are you going?  You’ve been laying around complaining that you don’t feel well?”

“Aaron just got off work and he wants to go get pizza.  I won’t be long.”

Frustrated that she doesn’t just rest, I try to remember what it’s like spending an entire evening at home when you’re 18, sick or not.

“Okay, but don’t be long.  Do you need any money?”

“No, I’m just going to get a soda.  Maybe that will settle my stomach.”

“Maybe,” I utter not very enthusiastically.

An hour or so later she returns, smiling, happy–asking what’s on TV as she nuzzles up to me on the couch.

Perhaps she is Bipolar, I muse: her mood swings are epic.

Turns out, my daughter is a heroin addict.  I didn’t know, but somehow I feel as though I should have known.


How to Raise an Addict in Only 18 Years

mother and child

  • Be there for her and make certain she knows how loved she is.  Tell her everyday.  Give her everything you would have ever wanted but didn’t have growing up.  Keep her active: ballet, tap, gymnastics, piano lessons, t-ball, softball, soccer, Girl Scouts.  Take part wherever you can so that she sees just how important she is to you.  Get involved in her school–hell–become a classroom mom and volunteer in the PTO.  Why not become president?  Don’t forget that playdates are important; you want her to be socially adjusted.
  • Emphasize the importance of family, especially grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Allow her to spend time with her grandparents so that she will always have memories of them when they are gone.
  • Bring her up in the church.  Let her see first hand the power and beauty of faith. Of course, make sure she knows she is a blessing to you and your family. Set an example by volunteering at church events–and why not teach CCD while you’re at it?  What better example of showing her how important it is to share talents and faith. At this point, she should be ready for some volunteer work of her own.  Encourage her to volunteer at the local hospital several times a week.
  • Don’t forget to always remind her how smart she is–her grades are good, but she needs you to reinforce it. Let her know how beautiful she is, especially during those adolescent years when she feels awkward in her body.  A word of caution here, you want to help build her self-esteem, but you don’t want to overly emphasize outward appearances. Character is so much more important.
  • When she struggles with relationships with other girls, try to let her work it out.  After all, these are important life skills.  Be there for her when she cries and feels slighted by the others, and try not to cry in front of her when she is so distraught because she didn’t make the middle school cheerleading squad.  If she is snippy with you during adolescence,  be patient–growing up is not easy–she’ll outgrow this stage. Believe fully that she absorbed all the morals you have worked so hard to teach her!
  • When she is having emotional problems, get her into counseling immediately.  If she can’t resolve her issues by talking with you, then you must get her professional help. And dear GOD, when you discover that she has been cutting, you must allow her to do so “safely” until she can work things out.
  • Most important:  when she brings home the sketchy boyfriend DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT object to him as you will only drive them closer together.  Know in your heart that this too shall pass.  However, when he is arrested (for stealing) it’s time to draw the line.  Clearly she understands that this speaks to his character.  She’ll have a fit, tell you that you are unfair and judgmental,  but you know that she’ll get over it when the dust settles.
  • When she sneaks out with him a few times, call the police–he is over 18 and she is only 17.  They will bring her back, for now, but they will remind you that she turns 18 next month and then they won’t be able to help you. Or her.