My Call to Action

It has been almost 2 weeks since we took our son to self-surrender for his probation violation at Yavapai County Jail, in Camp Verde and almost a week since his court hearing. And it has been an emotional time.

I was proud of my son for doing the right thing when he self-surrendered and I thought that doing the right thing would matter…….little did I know that doing the right thing would be the beginning of a nightmare for all of us.

We left the jail and had no idea what would be happening to our son or when we might be able to pick him up. That was hard. But even harder was the call I received later that night from my son, from the infirmary…..

He told me that despite having his prescriptions with him, the contracted medical staff told him he would NOT receive any medication while there in the Yavapai County Jail and would just have to withdraw. I could hear the fear in his voice. I felt the fear rising rapidly through my body……..

My son is on Methadone and the withdrawals are horrible, but that knowledge did not stop my breath…..it was knowing that he would not receive his Klonipin, the medication for his anxiety, a medication prescribed by a psychiatrist and one he has been taking for 13+ years…….a medication that when stopped suddenly can cause life threatening seizures. And we know all too well about those seizures, caused when doctors, who did not understand the dangers, would stop his medication.

So when he told me that the medical staff was refusing to give him his medication, I was in fear for my son’s life. How could that be legal? Surely this was not right? Other times that he had been in jail, he had received all of his meds……why was this different?

And then I remembered what had happened last fall and that this was the SAME jail where the nurse refused to give him his medication, even after the police had told her he needed them. And a few hours after his release, he had a seizure, prompting a 911 call and an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Now, I was really scared and my anger began to grow. I knew I needed to do something and I needed to be at the court the next morning for my son’s initial appearance, to stand up for my son and make sure the judge had all the information needed to make an informed decision about my son.

I drove north early in the morning and more than 2 hours after I left home, I arrived at the courthouse. I checked with the information desk to find out which courtroom my son would be seen in and then I was informed he would not be seen at that courthouse because the judge for his case was not on the docket that day. Instead they were seeing him at the courthouse next to the jail. Crap! That was another hour away, I would NEVER make it in time. The clerk took mercy on me and gave me a number to call at the other court in order to find out information about my son and to get information to the judge.

I called. I talked to the clerk. She told me to call back after 9am to find out what the bond was set at. I told her about the medication situation and the dangers. She told me the judge couldn’t do anything about that as it was under the jails control to make that decision.

I should have known right then that there would be NO help, NO concern, NO caring.

I called after 9am. My son was seen and the judge set his bond at $25,000. It didn’t matter that my son was clean at this point. It didn’t matter that my son was to start treatment that afternoon. It didn’t matter that my son had never missed a court date. It didn’t matter that my son was being denied medication that was necessary for his physical and mental wellbeing. It didn’t matter that my son did the right thing…….it didn’t matter.

I immediately called the Yavapai County Public Defender’s office and I got the same response as last time—they can only talk to my son. But she took my name and number after I told her about the medication situation and my fear that my son would end up being taken to the emergency room or worse, lose his life. She said someone would call me.

And someone did. She listened to my concerns. She told me that the jail makes the decisions about medication based on their assessments. She said she would look into it.

I spent hours talking in person and on the phone with many people. And no one cared.

I started the process to see what we could do to get my son out on bond, could we use the house for collateral, because now it was my son’s life that was at stake. And I called attorneys that I could hire to see what it would cost and what they could do.

And then I drove more than 2 hours home. It was one of the longest, loneliest, saddest drives.

Later that night we heard back from a lawyer and decided to hire him. What was happening was beyond legal and was inhumane…..and we didn’t know the whole story yet.

I talked with my son many times that day, each call worse than the previous. He was suffering. I made sure he knew I was doing all that I could for him, that I was fighting to get him his meds or get him out of there. I was not going to stop fighting. I told him I didn’t know if we could get him out. And he understood. He took it all so well and his attitude stayed hopeful and positive. But he was suffering.

It was breaking my heart.

And then the public defender called me again. She told me that she had typed up a letter for the nurse at the jail and would go see my son in the morning to get him his meds.

I was hopeful. But in the conversation I could hear that she did not really understand what was going on or the dangers.

The next morning when my son called, he was worse….unable to keep food down now. I knew this preceded the seizures and was more worried. And I started making calls again.

Finally, we were able to find a bonds agency to bond our son out. And we headed out for the 3-hour drive. When my son called we told him we were on our way, but it would be a few hours. We arrived in the town where the jail was and waited to get him out. He called shortly after we arrived in town.

And that was when he told us he had had a seizure.

My heart stopped. I held my breath. I told him to hang in there, we are getting him out.

A couple of hours later we saw him walk out of the jail. Relief. He was alive. I immediately gave him his medication. And he hugged me….tight.

On the drive home he told us what had happened in the Yavapai County Jail, Camp Verde infirmary. After my son’s seizure, when he was aware of his surroundings again, the other inmates told him that as soon as his seizure started, they banged on the windows to get the guards. They told him the guards came rushing in, asking what they should do. And the nurse looked at the guards and told them to do nothing, that my son was okay.

WHAT?? I was livid. How could anyone, especially a medical professional, behave in such a manner and with such disregard for another human?

And then he told me the rest of what was happening….how NONE of the inmates in the infirmary were receiving their prescribed medications from the contracted health company. Not the individual who was on high blood pressure meds, he was just told to lie down and drink water. Not the man who had been laying in a bed in the infirmary who suffers from severe neuropathy and was denied his non-narcotic and narcotic pain medications….this man could not walk because of his pain. NO ONE was given medication in this jail.

I am appalled that this is allowed to happen, that no one has stopped this. And I am taking action.

The medical staff and the contracted health agency for the Yavapai County Jail, did not count on my son having a family who cared about him and about others. My heart breaks for those who are still there and I worry that someone will lose their life in that infirmary.

I am taking action, through my letters to local, state and federal politicians, my letters and calls to organizations who help and advocate for the mentally ill and addicted, and through my calls to the ACLU. I will not stop until those held in that jail are treated humanely.

My son is still working through the justice system in Yavapai County and in ours. He had his hearing this past week and when his lawyer told us that the prosecution wants him to spend a week to two weeks back in that jail, my heart stopped…..I couldn’t breathe. And I told the lawyer that my son would not survive that. So, he listened and heard us and decided we needed some more time and had the hearing delayed until next month.

A month in which my son will have more time in treatment. A month in which my son will have more clean drug tests. And a month in which we can breathe just a little.

And a month that I can spend working on behalf of those still suffering in that jail, at the hands of the contracted medical staff.

This is my call to action.

God’s Hand at Work….

It has been a difficult week for our family. It began when we took our son to self-surrender, thinking that doing the right thing would help him to continue on the right path to living a clean and healthy life.

What we didn’t count on was the events that occurred while he was held in jail on a bond that was excessive when taking his case history into consideration. I will be sharing the nightmare that ensued and that led to my son’s seizure while in jail, after his court appearance this next week.

Today I want to share with you how I am seeing God’s Hand at work in all of this.

While we were struggling through the trials of last week, and while trying to stay strong for our son, I asked my family and friends for prayers for my son…..I believe strongly in the power of prayer and that through prayer we find strength and comfort. And my family and friends came through for us, praying for my son, our family and for those involved in my son’s case.

I could feel their prayers.

And I know God heard all of the prayers.

And it was through those prayers and our own that we were able to make the decisions we needed to make and that we were able to find the help we needed at that moment.

We were able to bond our son out of jail late at night, and he was thrilled to see us. I expected that due to his experience, that my son would need some time to recover and that he would not want to jump right into all that he needed to do for his recovery, at least not for a few days……I was wrong.

The long drive home after picking him up was filled with conversation and planning.

And then my son jumped right in, the next morning. I have been amazed every day since we brought him home from jail at the transformation going on in his life, his attitude and his actions.

My son started his outpatient treatment the very next day. He made his appointments to get his meds back and to take care of himself…..no prompting, he just did them!

For years we have had to nag him to do anything…..and now he is doing those things. What happened?

He is clean! He cares. He is engaged and trying now. He wants this now.

And I can see that God has His hand in this…..that God has been watching over him, bringing people into his life and answering my prayers.

My son is not only going to treatment now, but he has also started his community service…..at a church!

When my son received the call yesterday to let him know where he had been assigned for his community service, I could hear the determination in his voice to start and finish this aspect of his probation. Then he told me where he would be doing his community service hours…..a church, just down the road from us. A church that has a Recovery program. A church that has programs for supporting addicts and their families.

Yes, God has His hands in this!

I have prayed, daily, that God would find a way to reach my son, to touch his heart and to bring people into his life that will help him to become the person he was always meant to be and to help him to have the life he was meant to live.

My prayers are being answered. Though my son would say that it is the universe that is playing a role in all of this…..I KNOW different. I KNOW that God is there with us, and has been every step of the way. And I KNOW that my faith is what is getting me through this and keeping me going. And I KNOW that God is with my son, protecting and providing for him.

As I dropped my son off at the church this morning, I sat there and watched him walk inside. And I smiled.

As I drove away I said to God, “You work in mysterious ways! Thank you!”

And then I started to breathe again……

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What if…….

I can’t breathe…….

The regret, guilt and the What ifs are weighing heavy on my chest, threatening to keep me from ever breathing again……..

What if I had fought harder for my son to get help when he was a young child?

What if I had known my family medical history before becoming a parent?

What if I had forced my son into some sort of treatment program when he was still under our care?

What if I had known then, what I know now, how would that have changed the events that led to today?

What if I had never encouraged my son to move here, hoping it would help him to get on track in life?

What if……..I could run those what if’s through my mind until my head explodes…….the guilt, the regret, the what if’s are overshadowing all that is good in our life……coloring the joy………and keeping us stuck in the guilt……

These past few days the what ifs have really been running through my mind. But regret does not change the past, guilt does not correct the wrongs, and what ifs won’t change the outcome.

I have shared that my son suffers from mental illnesses and is an addict. I have shared the struggles and challenges of living with and loving someone with his illnesses. And it is hard. His most recent bottom, though, had brought us some hope.

He finally was seeking help. He had an intake last week for an outpatient program and tomorrow he was to start intensive outpatient treatment…….

He has been off of drugs since his last arrest in March…….

He passed a random drug test…….

Over the past almost two months I have watched as my son emerged from his addiction and became “my” son again. He was laughing with us, talking with us, taking care of his cats, going places with us, and taking care of himself. He was doing everything he needed to do to get his life on track and get clean.

And then the system stepped in…….and the county where he was arrested last fall revoked his probation. He was going to have to go back to jail.

We were all surprised because it came about suddenly, after saying they would not do this. But the justice system can change its mind. And my son did violate the terms of his probation by being arrested again…….

I was scared that this news would send my son into a tailspin back down that awful path……

But he took it in stride, accepted what would be happening and continued to do the things he needed to do to get himself healthy.

And then today, we had to do one of the hardest things a parent should ever have to do…..when our son asked us to take him north to turn himself in and face the consequences of his probation violation, he was so brave. He wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to do what was necessary to continue his positive progress.

This morning we drove our son the 2 hours to the jail……..and I was having a hard time just breathing……

But I drew strength from my son’s courage.

When we arrived, my son bravely walked into the jail lobby and self-surrendered. I was so proud of how he handled himself, of the courage he showed and his attitude.

We waited 2 ½ hours for them to come and get him…….and watching the officer walk up to my son and take him through the door…………..THAT was awful…….and if it was so awful for me, I can only imagine how hard this is on my son, yet he didn’t show it.

Now we wait……..and pray that the court and the judge will see his progress now, and see that he is finally ready. I pray that the judge will see that punishment will not benefit my son as much as treatment and counseling will. I pray that God will protect my son while he is in the jail and that all the forward progress he has made will not be for nothing or be too late.

At what point, do we as a society, start to treat addiction as the disease it is? At what point do we, as a society, start to look for ways to heal those afflicted with mental illnesses rather than locking them away for punishment? It really is time to start acting, not just talking. Drug addiction is the one crime where the perpetrator is also the victim, and yet we punish them rather than get the addict REAL help. Yes, there are consequences for our choices, but addiction is different, it is an illness and throwing an addict in jail does not get them help, not for the long run. Instead, the punishment continues the cycle and continues the stigma that surrounds addicts. When are we going to stand up and change this? When will we do the right thing for addicts and start saving lives?

I am starting now, with this blog post and with the many letters I will be sending out to my local politicians….it is time I do more than talk, it is time I take action! For my son, for my family and for the many others I know who are dealing with these same issues.

And I will be praying while I try to breathe…….just breathe…….

What if…….we as a society committed to REAL change instead of just talking?

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

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It has been awhile since my son and I have done something together, just for fun. This past year’s struggles have not allowed us the time, energy or frankly the desire to do something fun, together.

We are still dealing with the remnants of the addiction storm and still picking up the pieces. But amidst the healing and rebuilding and the many other things we need to do, we found some time to spend together, doing something we both enjoy.

Yesterday, after a quick trip to the courthouse for some paperwork, we decided to stop at the Heard Museum. I love visiting museums of all kinds and thankfully, both of my boys do too.

The museum was not far from the court so we stopped to enjoy some culture. I enjoy the Heard Museum, exploring the Native American history, culture and art. So when I saw that the museum was hosting a special exhibit showcasing the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, I knew I wanted to go.

Little did I know, that my son was a fan of one of the artists, so he was excited to go and see this exhibit.  This exhibit became an opportunity for us to bond and find some healing.

We spent a few hours enjoying the artwork of Frida and Diego, and the other exhibits inside the museum.

We shared our thoughts about the artwork around us.

We talked.

We laughed.

We had fun.

A much needed day of enjoyment, that was long overdue. A day that gives me hope that things will get better, that we can rebuild and heal.

A few hours spent with my son, where I could breathe!

AHA! Moment

It has been a rough month……year, actually. Every step forward was followed by multiple backward steps……and then this past month happened.

And I am struggling, trying to be strong, trying to take care of my family, trying to help my son through this hurdle, trying to help my son and family navigate the court, jail, probation system while navigating the addiction treatment options and still managing the mental health illnesses…..all while continuing to navigate and manage the “normal” day-to-day responsibilities……..and I have forgotten, somewhere along the way that I need to take care of me, that I need to make time for me, that I need to save some energy for me.

And I am struggling……..feeling as if I am drowning, trying desperately to just get through the day, to just breathe.

I have had many conversations with members attending the Weight Watchers meetings I work about making time to take care of themselves during times of stress and crisis. I ask my members who are going through difficult times, what they are doing to take care of themselves, even if it is just 5 minutes, just a moment where they can step back and just breathe.

And here I am……

I am exhausted, emotionally and physically…..too tired to add “me” to the “to do” list.

Then yesterday I had two conversations that made me think…..both of my friends asked me what I was doing to take care of me and asked me to set some time aside for me, because otherwise all of THIS is going to drain me…..leave me empty.

I am already there. There is not much left in the tank. But what they said to me made me think.

I am an addict. My addiction is food. I have not had the easiest life……the abandonment, the abuse—physical, emotional and sexual, my mother’s death at a pivotal point in my life….all left me needing something, needing comfort. And I turned to food to deal with the emotions and the emergence of long repressed memories……food is how I deal with the difficulties in life.

I realized that I was a food addict while on my journey to lose weight and get healthy with Weight Watchers. And that day, when that light bulb went off, I began to make changes…..I began to deal with my emotions and the memories and the worthless feelings in ways other than to eat them. And it worked. And I lost the weight. And I found my self-worth.

But this past year has brought about some real difficulties. Testing just how strong I can be. And last month when my son hit his most recent bottom, I was tested again…..and old habits came back. I am tired…..tired of being strong……tired of not having my life as my own…….tired of the fear, worry and yes, anger……….I am JUST TIRED! And I stopped doing the things that work for me, that re-energize me, that help me to navigate my emotions……

Instead I ATE them.

And now I am struggling……

But the conversations yesterday, reminded me of what worked…..of why I had made the changes all those years ago…….of why I don’t want to go back to that girl again.

And beginning this morning, I remembered what worked for me, I remembered that I am worth it. And I remembered that I can get through anything as long as I rely on those things that help me to take care of me.

So, I started writing. Writing about life and about my emotions helps me to clear all the clutter in my head and to breathe. My time spent writing helps me to take care of me. And I decided that I need that 5 or 10 minutes to write, to reflect and to deal with my life. To think clearer. Old habits creep in so quickly that before I knew it I was on my way back THERE again.

But like we talked about in meetings, the past couple of weeks, slips happen…..life happens and then we find a way to get back on track. We figure out where we veered, how we fell into the hole and what we need to do to get back on track.

I kept telling myself that I just needed to get back to tracking my food and then things would get better. So I would track and then go right back to feeding my emotions.

I would tell myself, just don’t buy that food…..and then I would go right back to feeding my emotions.

I would tell myself to get some exercise….and then I would go right back to feeding my emotions.

And then yesterday, after those two conversations, I knew……yes, I need to track—it works. Yes, I need to buy the right foods—it works. Yes, I need to exercise—it works. Yes, I need to go to meetings as a member—it works………….But NONE of that works if I don’t TAKE CARE of me, if I don’t make me a PRIORITY and find that moment each day when I can step back and JUST BREATHE!

My AHA moment!

And despite the stormy morning I had today, I have found a few minutes to just breathe. And it makes ALL the DIFFERENCE.

Life isn’t going to be easy for a while…….but I know now that if I find a way to take care of me, then I can get through this, WITHOUT eating my emotions and going back to THAT girl again.

I just needed to be reminded. Thankful for friends on this Weight Watchers journey, who get it and who ask the questions that get me thinking……..

Much Needed Me Time

I almost didn’t go this morning…..I have so much to do for work and around the house and things to get ready for what we will face, what my son will face these next few weeks. Lots to do, so how could I be selfish and take a little time for me?

But I went anyway.

I realized that I have not left the house these past couple of weeks, other than to go to work, to go grocery shopping or to go to court with my son. I have not done anything just for me……

And not taking care of me, leaves me drained and unable to take care of others.

These past couple of weeks have been tough and emotionally draining, leaving me with little left for anything else.

So, I did something for me today. Something that would help me reenergize my body and my soul and yes, even my heart.

I went to the Zoo and Botanical Garden this morning.

Alone.

I needed the time to escape my life, to see beauty and to breathe.

And I did!

I find peace and serenity when I visit the Zoo and the Botanical Garden. I walk at my pace, stop and view what I want and sometimes just sit in the quiet. Today I did all of that. I find real joy in watching the animals, finding unexpected flowers and walking through the garden.

And though I found joy in my time at both the Zoo and Botanical Garden this morning, I also found that some of the joy was hidden under the shadow of this current storm.

And under that shadow I did find some peace……rejuvenating my soul a little……

I needed this morning.

I needed to find me again, amidst the wreckage left by the storm.

I needed to just…..breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

Family

We are born into a family, related to them by virtue of birth.

And some of us, me for instance, are adopted into a family, related not by blood but by love, chosen to be a family. My mother often reminded me that she CHOSE me.

We have family that we marry into and family we gain when our children marry.

We have family born of old friendships from our years growing up.

Families come in ALL forms…….Thankfully!

And then there is the family that is related by a common bond, born out of a shared nomadic life—a life in the military.

My husband served 30 years in the Air Force and we moved A LOT. Everywhere we moved to was new, foreign and a little scary for this shy girl.

Our first move away from home was the hardest for me. We were moving many states away and it would be the first time I moved out of the northwest……away from my sister, my in-laws and my friends. It would just the three of us—my husband, our three-year-old son and myself…..alone. I was nervous and scared. I was shy and making friends had been hard for me every time I moved as a child. And now we were moving to a state in the northern tier, in winter.

I didn’t know how I was going to survive the cold and snow, let alone survive without my support system.

Despite the long months of snow covered ground and roads, and despite the isolation in a time when we did not have internet or cell phones to stay in touch with long distance friends and family, I thrived in our new home.

I made friends.

And I learned during that first assignment away from home that the Air Force was a family. We were all related through this common bond of service. My support system grew and the bonds of those friendships grew stronger every day, lasting all these many years later.

Each time we moved, our family grew. We were so very blessed to be given this family and to be there to support each other through moves, deployments, long hours, births of children, deaths in families and so much more….through everything–the good, the bad and the difficult–our Air Force family was there and I could always count on them. We celebrated together, we spent holidays together, we laughed and cried together and we took trips together. This was a family I did not originally choose, but am so very grateful for, Every. Single. Day! My Air Force family made the good days better and made the struggles survivable.

My husband retired from the Air Force a couple of years ago and we are no longer moving around the country. But that does not change the family we have in the Air Force. We are blessed to still count all those friends we made through our military life as our family. And no matter where we go, we have family to visit—around the country and the world.

It is a blessing to us when we get to visit with our military family—to catch up with their lives and laugh with them again. When we see them, we pick right up where we were the last time we were together, no matter how long it has been.

Over the past couple of months, we have had the opportunity to visit with those family members while we were traveling…..such a blessing to have so many to visit wherever we go.

And we have been visited by family as well, while they were traveling through……just last weekend we got to spend a few hours with friends, family really, who were in the area for a short visit.

Families come in all forms—through birth, adoption, marriage and shared bonds.

I am truly blessed to have such a large family, in ALL forms!