Dirty Fingernails

Posted on October 28, 2009. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , |

I notice people’s hands.  I can vividly recall exactly what my grandfather’s hands and fingers looked like as he packed his pipe with loose tobacco from his worn, zippered leather pouch.  Even though my father’s veined hands, towards the end of his life, were mottled with purple bruises and nails yellowed/cracked –  they were still distinctly his – and so familiar to me. The shape of his fingers, hand movements and gestures, color and texture of the skin covering his hands, comprised an indelible print on my father’s profile page.  Details of family, friends, even acquaintances’ hands also seem to stick with me and become an important part of their personal profile in my memory bank.

And so, I guess, it would not be unusual for me to focus on my daughter’s hands.  Ever since she was a little girl, Hayley picked at her cuticles – until they were bleeding and swollen – and then some.  They were painful to look at. I vacillated between purposely not looking at them to avoid getting upset, and  carefully observing their condition, making a mental note as to her current stress/anxiety level – a type of barometer, I guess.  Occasionally, she grew her nails a bit and stopped picking the cuticles long enough so they would heal some; but usually, they were disgusting and painful to look at  – almost on the verge of self-mutilation, in my opinion.                                    .

Last spring, I noticed that Hayley’s fingernails were always dirty.  My god – yes, Hayley’s standard of hygiene was different than mine; but really, dirty fingernails?  After all, she wasn’t digging ditches or anything.  In retrospect, this was a red flag to Hayley’s downward spiral – and a sign/symptom of her ‘hard’ drug use. She was probably smoking crack at this point. I learned recently that in the process of cooking up crack (heating cocaine powder + baking soda + water in a spoon) to prepare for smoking, black soot forms on the underside of the spoon which gets under the nails, when handled, and is hard to remove.  And then, there is the undeniable fact that when you’re ensconced in the lifestyle of smoking crack cocaine, constantly high and on the prowl for your next hit, dirty fingernails are just not a priority.  I only found one reference to the link between smoking crack and dirty fingernails on the web.  Here is what one addict had to say:

I remember looking at my dirty fingernails from “fixing” my chore, and feeling disgust.

I definitely knew that Hayley’s dirty fingernails signified serious trouble.  But I had no idea how to confront her or what to do about it.  She was always so well defended and masterful at deflecting the issue “at hand” back to how unfair and unreasonable our suspicions and concerns were.  Basically, I think, I was intimidated by her, and unsure of myself.

My daughter’s dirty fingernails – – – this is just one of the many things I think about.

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 Responses to “Dirty Fingernails”

RSS Feed for Helplessly hoping . . . Comments RSS Feed

My sister has them too. And a fungal infection under her nails.
I remember when I first found out she was a heroin addict being horrified at the state of her feet. Thez looked like they belonged to someone who had been living on the streets for years – purple, swollen and not possibly hers…
I think about fingernails too.

You must have read my “Dirty Fingernails” post. It’s one of the grittiest in my blog. Actually, since that post, I can write about worse things. The “club” we’re in is not a lot of fun, is it? And, apparently, membership is open to all.

I know. I have had so many conversations where my sister has told me things that have happened and I’ve nodded at what she’s said as if I was on the same wavelength. Inside it felt all wrong. We hear and have to digest so many dark things. Its hard to remember sometimes that our reality is other people’s unimaginable.

Recently, I sent an email to family members updating them re: Hayley (I’m the only family member in town and in touch with Hayley – also, most of them don’t know about my blog). My oldest son, Jake, apparently couldn’t handle some of the ‘raw’ material – and really hurt my feelings by accusing me of projecting my anxiety and unnecessary info on to every one. I’m still trying to recover from his cold, insensitive response. My first reaction is to inform him that I am not, or ever will be an objective journalist – that I am first, a mother of a heroin addict, and will probably always infuse my own perspective and ‘take’ on things. Also – guess what – I’m the one ‘in the trenches’ here. As you can tell, I’m pissed and hurt right now. Most of my family members all wring their hands and say they care – – – (actually, that was 6 months ago when Hayley’s heroin addiction first became known). Now – most of them never ask me about Hayley – or me. Right now, I feel very alone and that I’m carrying the family burden of Hayley’s addiction. They all say they want to help, but don’t really show up to do so, not that there’s really anything they could do – except, maybe listen to me, hold my hand (physically, in person) and empathize. Sorry about all of this – it’s been bubbling inside for a long time. Sometimes, I feel that my good friends and blog viewers are my only true comfort and support, versus family members who often fall short. Enough.

I so get this one. Even when she’s clean, my daughter’s personal hygiene standards have changed. She’s always freshly showered, shampoo’d, perfumed, wearing clean clothes…. but her broken, dirty fingernails and her dirty feet…. Never used to be that way, but now it’s normal for her. And health care is just not a priority. A recent staph infection acquired in a sober home. An infection from a piercing. No GYN care in years. Dental issues left untreated. And on, and on….

Where's The Comment Form?

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: