Family Dynamic – Part 2

My mom and I before I went to junior prom, circa 2015

Where to begin… my mother is an interesting character to say the least. She is the reason behind a lot of pain and resentment that I possess after all these years of severe alcoholism, addictions, cheating on my dad, and her schizophrenia that was left untreated for a long time. Yet through all the hardships I have faced, I now have one of the strongest relationships with her than I do anyone in the whole world.

Let’s see, she was born in 1960 and was adopted by my nana, who I will refer as Pam from here on out. Her brother was older by four years and had various special needs and requires a lot of help from my parents to this day. Her dad, Don was the breadwinner and made really good money as a civil engineer. When my mom turned 12, her dad died from cancer, so I never met him. The year prior, Pam divorced Don, and Don remarried and so my mom grew up with Pam and her dad’s wife; a step-mother until her dad passed. My mom dropped out of high school at 17 and received her GED sometime after that. By that point, Pam was working as an executive for Coca-Cola so my mom cooked and cleaned Pam’s house while she was at work all day. Eventually my mom moved out and began working and had her own place. One night she was invited over to her boss’ house for a work get-together. There were two co-workers there when she arrived and once she realized this wasn’t a real get together, she was drugged and raped by the two men.

She moved to Oregon state with Pam and her brother in 1983 and met my dad in 1985. After their first date, my dad said that he would call her on a Thursday, and my mom thought she meant in a couple of days. But no. Three weeks later on a Thursday, my dad asked my mom over the phone to pick him up from jail and bail him out for a DUI. He said he had a little blue truck she could use since his license was suspended, while my mom had a license, yet no car. It was the perfect match. Two years later, the two were married. It took eight years to get pregnant due to my mother’s drinking problem. Because once she stopped drinking, she immediately became pregnant with my sister, Alex. That was February of 1996. My mom stayed clean off of booze while pregnant with her and for the most part during Alex’s first year of life. Then I came around in February of 1998.

My first memory that I possess is taking my mom to rehab for the first time. I remember turning around and looking out the back window of the little Honda Civic we had and sobbing saying, “I want my mommy” as my dad kept driving the three hours it took to go from eastern Washington back home. I had this epiphany when I was 15 years old, I kept having these flashbacks of me missing my mom and driving and then staying with family in Wenatchee overnight and I pieced together why my mom was gone when I was 3 years old and did the math on her sobriety length, which meant when I was that age, she was just starting her 10 years of sobriety.

Once she got out of rehab, she stayed sober for about ten years before she relapsed again. My sister and I had the best childhood and were both very close to our mom. Mom was very particular and how she liked things. As young kids, my sister and I were always in bed by 7:30 p.m. and asleep by 8 p.m., we had purple comforters, purple curtains, purple carpet, long brown hair to our butts and always did things together, whether it be softball, gymnastics, volleyball, cheer, skateboarding, you name it. It was altogether. No wonder Alex and I have a strained relationship now. Ha! My mom was always paranoid growing up. We lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood and had a nice park a block away, within seeing distance from our front yard and my mom wouldn’t allow us to go by ourselves at 8 and 10 years old, or even with friends. Kind of strange, but we dealt with it.

My mom never grew up hearing from her family the words, “I love you.” So if someone leaves or enters a room, we say I love you to one another because you never know when that will be the last words you hear from that person. That is one tradition I really like and continue to this day with friends and family alike. Although she didn’t drink for nearly ten years, she began to abuse pills after my dad moved us four hours north and he began working a lot more. She has severe chronic pain with her shoulder, among other things so she was able to doctor shop (go to different doctors with drug seeking behaviors and act on them in order to get narcotics and muscle relaxers) and was successful in her endeavors. So it started out as once in a while she would act kind of loopy and we didn’t know she had drug-seeking behavior, even my dad didn’t know. She started becoming more paranoid about her surroundings, started assuming that drug dealers lived in our neighborhood at a certain house and would flip them off when driving us to and from school.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that I had any knowledge that she ever had a drinking or a pill problem. I was 12 while my sister was 14. My mom loved to garden and we realized something was wrong when my mom when she would start gardening the backyard at 6 a.m. and wouldn’t come inside until 3 a.m. the next day. My dad would try to get her to come inside once he got home from work around 8 p.m. when he found the yard in perfect order, except for the hundreds of cigarette butts littering the yard and the airplane liquor bottles sitting in her plant pots. She managed to drink a fifth of vodka a day nearly everyday and used pain pills and various other medication she doctor shopped for to keep her awake and going through all the physical labor she was doing.

Then when it rained, she would become very depressed and hostile when talked to. She would sleep during the day, and stay awake all night. Once fall came around, she started going out a lot. She would drive my sister and I to school sober, but extremely hungover. She would pick us up drunk. My sister was going on 15 at this point, so she would usually drive us home because my mom was destined to get us into an accident or killed or pulled over. In the evening, my mom would go gamble at the local casino, charging cash advances on my dad’s credit cards in order to pay for it. She would go dancing at the same casino on the weekends.

When she went dancing, she met a man named Carlos. She was deeply attracted to him and he possibly was attracted to her, that I am not sure. He was 15-20 years younger than her. She would give him rides home after drinking, dancing, and gambling all night. One night, I was 13 and I was asleep in my room when I heard a noise coming from downstairs. Not knowing any better, I opened my bedroom door and proceeded to the staircase. My dad and sister were asleep in their respective rooms. Before I went down the stairs, I heard my mom’s voice. She sounded giddy… and drunk. But happy. Then I heard a deep, male voice. He had a heavy accent. I thought I was dreaming or maybe it was the TV. I quietly walked down the stairs and crouched down once I got to the spot on the steps where I could see the family room. My mother was standing there making out with a man who was not my father. I had no idea who it was. It wasn’t until later that I even knew of Carlos and that was the man my mother was having an affair with. I had seen enough.

I went up to my room and cried. I knew it wasn’t fair to either my mom or my dad to tell my father. I figured he would find out in time, but it sure as hell shouldn’t be coming from me. Even though I detested my mother at the time, I still loved her and wanted her to be happy. I also knew that she would get what she deserved in time.

Months later, I found out who Carlos was. She accused him of stealing $300 from her when she was drunk one night and he was in the car with her. I honestly have no idea if he stole the money or she drank or gambled it away. But that was the turning point; the awakening of her schizophrenia.

Summer of 2011 rolled around. With it, she began to believe that Carlos was a member of the Mexican mafia and that because she confronted him about him *possibly* stealing $300, which he of course denied, that the mafia was now after my mom for confronting him. She truly believed with every fiber of her being that this supposed Mexican “mafia” lived in the crawlspace of our family home and watched our every move. My mother has horrible tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and she felt that technology, anything electronic or battery powered or required to be plugged into an outlet, made the tinnitus worse. She not only thought the “mafia” was controlling the ringing in her ears via smartphone, she said the phone app or program was sexually mutilating her.

In order to protect her family, she began covering the TV’s, fireplace, microwave, and stove with tape and pillow cases or blankets so the “mafia” “couldn’t get in”. She unplugged the wifi router because she thought that was sending signals and recording our voices and our actions back to the “‘mafia”. She also said that there were cameras in the showers and the “mafia” was banking off of the naked video and audio of my sister and I. She tried to escape the voices in her head and the tinnitus by travelling to Oregon state to stay with my nana. The voices and the “mafia” had traveled with us, so what does my mother do? She begins to unplug the computer, router, TV, along with covering the clocks of the microwave and stove. My nana only put up with it because she was trying to provide some stability for my sister and I.

We went home in September of 2011 just in time for school to start. School was a blessing to get away from the craziness of home. Her paranoia and drinking and pill usage was as bad as ever. Flash forward to June 12th, 2012, just two days before I graduated from middle school, she got a DUI. My dad got her a top notch DUI attorney which gave her no jail time besides her initial visit in which my dad bailed her out against my sister and I’s advice. All she had to do was attend outpatient, court-ordered alcohol rehab and she had to get a blow-and-go in her car. A blow-and-go is an alcohol breathalyzer that connects to your car engine, if you’re intoxicated and take the test, the engine won’t start and it reports your blood alcohol content to the court. So she was forced to stay sober. She acted like it wasn’t her fault for getting the DUI and became very entitled and hostile towards everyone because she could o longer drink.

After a year or so of court dates, court ordered outpatient rehab, and getting her blow-and-go removed from her car, she had finished her program and was able to put the DUI behind her. That brings us to June of 2013. After she got her blow-and-go out of her car, she rushed to the liquor store for a fifth of vodka. It was like her year of sobriety meant nothing; like she hadn’t stopped drinking at all. It felt like the time of sobriety went by so quickly and her paranoia was still awful despite the lack of drugs and alcohol in her system. So it was apparent to me that her paranoia was not drug or alcohol related. This was the first time I thought she might be schizophrenic.

After drinking and pill popping all summer, one crisp, fall night, my mom goes on a little field trip to the liquor store. On her way there, obviously intoxicated, she rolls her little Honda Civic into a ditch. The damage was so bad that the engine fell out through the bottom of the car and she had to punch out a window to crawl out of the car since the car landed on the hood. But her? Oh she was perfectly fine! Just some scratches and bruises, but had she not been intoxicated she probably would have been in a lot of pain. The cops left her there with a warning, only God knows why.

Dad gets my mom a rental car until they collected the insurance money to purchase a new car. My mom felt as though she was entitled to a brand new car with all the bells and whistles and my dad was not having it. She had the freedom to do as she pleased and my dad suffered the financial consequences of her actions, while we all suffered the emotional burden she had and was causing. The week of Christmas 2013, my dad bought her a no frills, brand new 2014 Honda Civic. My dad made the condition that she could have the car as long as she no longer drinks. If she drinks, she will be forced to drive his old 1996 Toyota Tacoma that is stick shift that NO ONE wanted to drive or be seen in.

Well after a month of even more severe drinking and pill usage, we had to take her to inpatient rehab. I spent my 16th birthday at some rehab hospital because my dad forced me to go see her. I wanted nothing to do with her. I was happy driving her brand new car while she was gone. I was happy to make the house look semi normal and got rid of the blankets that covered the fireplace and all the TVs, I got rid of the tape that covered the microwave and other electronics. I could finally have friends over, a true luxury I hadn’t experienced in my teen years due to her drinking.

She got back in the end of March of 2014. I was hoping this would work and her paranoia would be better without the drinking and the pill usage. July 31st of 2014 she overdoses and has to be rushed to the ER. I was in Portland, Oregon with my mom, while dad and Alex were home in Washington. My nana and I went for an afternoon swim and when we came back my mom was passed out on the couch and on the floor was a bunch of various pill bottles. She was incoherent and non-responsive. I had to drive her to the hospital. I picked her up and got her in the back seat and nana rode shotgun so she could direct me to the nearest hospital even though she was legally blind.

Initially, they think she had a stroke because she couldn’t move half of her body. They had me sign a bunch of releases about what happens if she dies there, what they could or couldn’t treat. They never found out how many pills she took, and she told them it was tylenol, which I know wasn’t true. But they did say she was trying to kill herself via overdose. Even with that being said, once she was stable, they sent us home. I had never felt more like an adult and more alone in my life than I did that day.

She went in and out of sobriety until the week of my nana’s passing. My mom was sober the week she went into the hospital, never to return home again. She passed away March 31st, 2015; the day she was supposed to be discharged. Not long after she passed, my mom lost it. She went in and out of sobriety for a long time.

She took her last sip of alcohol October 14th, 2016.

In early 2017, we almost lost mom to schizophrenia. She had been sober only a couple of months when she slowly stopped going to AA meetings. Then she stopped getting out of the house. Then she stopped getting ready everyday. Then she stopped showering or brushing her teeth. Then she wouldn’t get off the couch. Then she stopped eating. Stopped drinking fluids. Stopped using the bathroom. She stopped living.

She dropped half of her body weight in a month’s time; from 140 pounds to 70 pounds. I remember vividly carrying her to and from the car, taking her to different doctors’ and therapists’, trying to get her diagnosed with schizophrenia. During each visit, I primarily did the talking. She sat silently. Her complexion was gone. Her drive and will to live had vanished. There was no life in her eyes. I screamed at her so many times to shower. I forced her to take off her clothes and bathe and all she could muster out the words, “I’m scared.” After that, I told her to get dressed. It was no use. I needed help and no one was helping me. She pulled on the same pajamas she had worn all month long.

I tried to buy her beans and rice, her favorite meal, all she could eat was one single grain of rice and no beans before she began to gag. That was a lost cause. When my dad walked in to the house that day, I screamed at him,”We are taking her to the hospital!” There was no way I was doing this shit alone. I had been alone and scared for so long and I wasn’t about to let her die on my watch.

After some bickering back and forth, he reluctantly agrees to drive an hour and a half away to a decent hospital that had more mental health capabilities than our local hospital had. I distinctly remembered she answered the question with a “10” when asked, “How suicidal are you on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest?” It broke my heart into a million little pieces, watching my mom, my supposed caretaker say that if if she theoretically had a gun in her hands, she had the hurt in her heart and the willpower, to pull the trigger.

As we waited hours upon hours to be seen by a doctor and a social worker, I distinctly remember doing my homework in the hospital. I remember I missed a lot of class in order to take care of her and I would be damned if I was gonna let her get in the way of my nearly perfect GPA. As midnight rolled around, we had yet to see a doctor, so I called my then-boyfriend, Diego to come pick me up so I could go to work in the morning. After that, the details are a little blurry, but they ended up discharging her not long after I left. I was furious at the healthcare system in this country.

The only bright side of taking her was at the very bottom of her discharge papers, the doctor put the diagnosis, “Schizophrenia”. That was then put in the computer system, Epic, which allowed for any medical professional to then treat her for schizophrenia. In the days following after that night, she was immediately seen by her primary care provider who then placed her on heavy-duty anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. In the months following, she began to be herself again. The old her. The real her. It was a beautiful thing to see. She slowly gained her appetite back, she showered, she changed her clothes, she started talking. She stopped talking about the people that lived underneath the house and she stopped talking about the people watching her.

That Brings Us To Today

This will be her fourth year sober and our relationship is getting better everyday. This has easily been my hardest post to write as a retraced my steps and tried to ensure the accuracy of the timeline. Quite frankly, the timeline is missing big stories, but I have blocked out so much information over the years that I tried to only write down what I remember all of. But it gives you an idea of what I went through with her schizophrenia.

Til next time,

Dani

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