Pedaling down St. Mary’s, reminded me of countless times when Jerri and I rode our bikes on Lancelot Drive as kids. Back then I could pedal standing up. I was all bone and muscle—my, how things change. I could also ride with no hands and even climb up and “surf” on the banana seat of my Sears’ special while coasting downhill to the clickity-clack of the straws I’d added to the spokes of my wheels. I can still remember the wind in the streamers attached to the green plastic grips on my handlebars, my skinny tan legs covered in fine, white-blonde hair, pedaling faster and faster, the look on Jerri’s face as she squinted back at me over her shoulder to see if I was gaining.
Today, I turned right on Terry Road because it’s my namesake, geared down as far as I could, and coached myself up the first hill. It made me think of how hard life is at times and how what we tell ourselves matters. When I told myself, “This hill’s not so steep and the rise isn’t so long that you can’t make it,” I did make it. But on the hills where I thought, “it’s too steep and it climbs forever,” I’d end up walking my bike to the top. Even then I’d tell myself, “There’s no shame in walking. You’re still getting exercise. You’re still burning calories. You’re still moving forward.”
I’m really having to coax myself up the hill that is Jerri right now. I’m really tired and I just don’t have the energy to pedal. At times like this, I have to stop the inner dialogue because the the story I tell myself isn’t helpful. The story is, “This will never change. There is no recovery for Jerri. She has given up. All she wants is to numb the pain in any way that she can. She is not equipped to live life. She doesn’t have the will to choose a different way.”
As I crested hills and coasted down the backside, I wondered why life couldn’t be more like that. Coasting. Easy. Wind in my hair. My only worry? Going too fast. And maybe getting bugs in my teeth.
It seems I am always straining against gravity. Where are all my downhills?
Still, I am moving forward. The going is slow, but I am making progress. Even when I have to stop for a breather and a swig of water. I am getting closer and closer to home. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.
[Photo attribution: Porro, http://foter.com/photo/v-i-i-r-u-i-s-a/%5D
I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but, thanks to Lynn at Practical Paralegalism, I’m the proud recipient of an Awesome Blogger Award! I know, I know, amazing, right?
Best I can tell, when you receive an Awesome Blogger Award, the appropriate response and required etiquette is to share seven random facts about yourself and then tag seven of your favorite bloggers to receive the award and do the same. So as for the random facts, drum roll please:
1 – When I say “uh”, it has the exact same tone as the “3” on your touchtone keypad. So every time I try and leave a voicemail, my uh’s send it into “erase and rerecord” mode and I have to repeat like a gazillion times. Weird, huh?
2 – My top 5 favorite foods are popcorn, strawberries, malted milk balls, pistachios, and spaghetti. With angel hair pasta. Not necessarily in that order. Yum.
3 – I have always wanted to ride an elephant. I’ve had two opportunities to do so in my lifetime and both times, I chickened-out. Once because I would have been the only adult in line (at the State Fair) and the other time, because too many people I knew were watching. Next time I will definitely do it. I mean it. Really. I have BTW ridden a camel.
4 – I’m on a mission to see the 7 new wonders of the world. So far, I’ve seen 4: Petra, Chichen Itza, the Roman Colosseum, and Machu Picchu. That leaves the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, and Christ the Redeemer (the statue in Brazil, although I have to admit seeing the real Christ the Redeemer would be a wonder indeed!)
5 – Parker Stephenson was my favorite Hardy Boy. All my girlfriends loved Shaun Cassidy but I would have taken Parker in a skinny minute. I used to sketch pictures of him from TeenBeat. But then I moved on to Billy Joel who has the most amazing eyes. Ahhhh.
6 – In June, I get to release a recovered sea turtle back into the ocean. Last October, there was an auction at Topsail to raise funds for the new Turtle Hospital. One of the items we bid on was the opportunity to participate in a turtle release and we won! (I’m so excited I could almost wet myself.)
7 – I sucked my thumb until I was about 11. Seriously. And that alone should tell you everything you really need to know about the household I grew up in.
And now, I’d like to bequeath the title of Awesome Blogger to the following:
Victoria at Mental Health Mom
Ellen at Fat Girl Wearing Thin
Laura at Garden Girrrl
Max at Make it Mad
Nancy at WaywardWeed
Tracy at Familiar Minds
Whoever the Awesome Blogger is behind the curtain at The Dictionary Eyes
Growing up, I was a horrible tattletale. It was one of the main reasons Jerri didn’t want me hanging around. Jerri was always intrigued by the forbidden. Telling her not to do something was a sure-fire way of ensuring she would. And she was likely to get away with it as long as I wasn’t around. I was reminded of this as I dialed Bryce, her psychiatrist.
I hadn’t intended to tell him anything. My plan was simply to encourage him to connect with her internist, Dr. F. In fact, I hoped he wouldn’t even pick up and I could leave a vague but motivational voicemail. No such luck.
“Hello, this is Bryce.”
“Um, hi Bryce. This is Terri, Jerri’s sister? I had a conversation with Jerri yesterday and she said she’d spoken with you about Dr. F’s request that you contact him? Jerri said you didn’t want to call Dr. F. and I guess I wanted to see if that is accurate. I was with Jerri when Dr. F. asked her to have you call and I really think you should coordinate care with him. I, um, think that Jerri has, um, perhaps not been completely honest with you and I, um, think its very difficult to help her if you don’t have the complete truth. She said that you were going to um, put it in writing that you don’t have an issue with her getting Adderall–”
“I don’t think she needs Adderall that’s why I don’t write it,” Bryce interrupted. Thank, God! I was starting to flounder. “Jerri believes she needs it. I think she truly believes she has ADHD but I don’t see any evidence of that. She believes she can’t function properly without it. I disagree. If Dr. F, thinks differently . . .”
“Dr. F. told Jerri from the beginning, as long as she would submit to and pass a drug test at each visit, he would write the prescription. Last week, he said he would no longer write Adderall for her and that he wanted to talk to you to, uh, coordinate care.” Come on, Bryce. Don’t make me spell it out for you.
“Interesting. I didn’t know about the drug tests.”
“Yes, well, that’s why I think it’s important for you and Dr. F. to talk. Look, this is really awkward for me. I was at the appointment. I know Jerri isn’t telling you everything. But there’s something you need to know if you’re going to help her. I feel like by telling you, I’m disrespecting Jerri’s right to privacy.”
“You’re only calling because you care about her and want to help her.”
Yes, and how can anyone help Jerri when she doesn’t tell the whole truth? Not only does she lie to others, but she lies to herself. She doesn’t admit Adderall has any euphoric effect on her, although it’s clear to even the most casual observer that she’s operating under the influence when the drug is in her system. She says it doesn’t make her high that it just helps her concentrate and focus. She says people tell her she’s not herself when she takes it but that’s only because when the Adderall is in her system, she stands up for herself-that’s why she’s different. She doesn’t admit her ongoing attraction to cocaine. She says, “It was just one time. I’d felt so bad for so long, I thought it would make me feel better. I won’t do it again.”
Jesus once said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” What I also believe is, “You shall tell the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Jerri will never be free until she is honest with herself and those trying to help her.
On the other hand (and this is what I do to make myself crazy, turn every issue over and over again to look at it from all sides) when you tell the truth, there are consequences you’d likely avoid if you hadn’t. How will Telecare respond to confirmation of drug use? Will they tell Housing for New Hope? Will Housing for New Hope evict her? This is what Jerri is afraid of. Honestly, that worries me too. But more than that, I’m worried Telecare will decide they can’t help her and will fire her as a patient. Jerri needs their help, and frankly, so do I. There is only so much support I can provide on my own.
These are all the thoughts that ran through my head as I weighed what to do. And then I spilled. I told Bryce everything. I told him Jerri’s lab results were positive for cocaine. That this was the second time she’d had a positive test in the past year.
I told Bryce the truth as I know it and then I asked him not to tell Jerri we’d spoken. In essence, I told him the truth and then asked him to lie. How whacked is that? Now, I’m trying to figure out if I should just tell Jerri I spoke to Bryce. Thoughts, anyone?
Jerri’s lab results came back from her internist visit two weeks ago and Marsha, Dr. F’s nurse, called to say she had scheduled a follow-up visit on Thursday. Dr. F wanted me to be there if at all possible. That sounded ominous but Marsha could not elaborate. Thanks to HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act), there was one more privacy form Jerri needed to sign to grant permission for Marsha to tell me more.
Immediately, my mind began jumping to conclusions. Either the lab results indicated a potentially serious medical condition or Jerri had failed her tox screen. Dr. F has an agreement with Jerri. He does a drug test every time she comes into the office. As long as she passes, he is willing to write her an Adderall prescription. If you are new to the blog, you might want to check out The-Medication-of-Which-We-Do-Not-Speak for a little background.
So I called Jerri to see what was going on. “Huh. Well, I think I know what that’s about but I don’t want to talk about it now.”
“Sorry. You’re going to have to,” I said. “Otherwise, I’m going to worry for the next three days.”
“Are you still there?”
“Yes. . . They probably found cocaine in my system. See, I accidentally smoked a cigarette laced with cocaine and–”
“Accidentally? How does one accidentally do that?”
“Okay, I did it on purpose, alright? I’ve felt so bad for so long. And nobody will do anything to help me so I thought, why not? It’ll make me feel better for a little while. It didn’t, it never does, but I thought it would. Maybe.”
“Where did you get it?”
“I don’t want to say.”
“You realize you’re putting your housing in jeopardy? That using is in clear violation of your lease?”
“I wasn’t thinking clearly. If I’d had the-medication-of-which-we-do-not-speak, then I would have been able to think it through and make a better decision.”
I did not bother to ask why Jerri didn’t have the-medication-of-which-we-do-not-speak because it’s a schedule II controlled substance and at least half of the time, it “disappears” immediately after she fills the prescription.
So on Thursday, in the exam room, Dr. F revealed that her lab results were normal except for what looked like a urinary tract infection and, of course, the presence of cocaine.
“I know it looks bad, Dr. F, but it was a one time thing. I have felt so bad and someone offered me a cigarette laced with crack and I thought it might make me feel better for a while. It was three days ago. I didn’t think it would still be in my system.”
“Three days ago, huh?” Dr. F. said. “Do you know how long cocaine stays in your system? Four to six hours.” (BTW, I googled this and cocaine can be detected as much as 2-5 days after use depending on a lot of individual factors such as age, weight, gender, metabolic rate, general health, etc.)
Jerri stuck to her story. “Well then, that’s just evidence that something really is wrong with me. My body is not metabolizing stuff the way its supposed to.”
Did I mention that in the waiting area, Jerri had fretted about what to say to Dr. F about the cocaine? “I’m just going to tell him the truth,” she said. But here’s the issue. My mom and my sister both have the same approach to “the truth.” They revise it and then convince themselves the edited version is what really happened. So when they tell you the “truth”, it’s not really lying. It’s actually what they believe. They have this amazing capacity to not only believe their own fictionalized account, but worse, to tell it so convincingly that even you start believing it. (As strange as this sound, its apparently something we all do to some extent. It’s called “cognitive dissonance.” Sometimes you can’t find a logical, moral or socially acceptable explanation for your actions. If your behavior runs counter to the expectations you have of the person you believe yourself to be, you have to come up with a justification to feel good about what you did.)
When you’re constantly bombarded with this kind of “truth” as a kid, even when you were actually present and saw what really happened, you start second-guessing yourself. You think, “I saw X but Mom said Y is what happened so there must be something I missed.” Talk about crazy-making! To trust my own interpretation of events means calling Mom a liar and that’s really hard when you’re a kid. Heck, it’s hard as an adult. It’s easier to buy in to her version and I find myself falling into this same pattern with Jerri.
Dr. F continued. “Do you know what the standard threshold concentration level is for detection of cocaine in a urine test?” (Jerri shook her head.) “300 ng/ml. Do you know what your levels were?” (Again, Jerri shook her head.) “4700 ng/ml.” (I have no idea if this is really high or if it proves more recent use than 3 days. Anyone?)
Then Dr. F explained he would not be giving Jerri another prescription for Adderall. (To my credit, I refrained from whooping and dancing around the room.) She would need to have several clean tox screens before he would even discuss it with her again. And he wanted to coordinate care with Bryce, her psychiatrist. He asked her to give Bryce permission to call him. FINALLY!
Jerri took it better than expected. She seemed to get that this was a consequence of her own choice to use. Dr. F, after all, had clearly warned her sobriety was a condition for continued prescriptions. As we left, however, Jerri muttered something about finding another doctor. And its been 2 weeks now and I’ve heard very little from her. I’m afraid the victory will be short-lived.