Two Zeros Minus One

Posted on February 16, 2012. Filed under: addiction, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , |

Two Zeros Minus One.

 Charlie Zero is dead –  and yes, that was his real name. He was only 44 years old. His funeral was today at one of the local cemeteries and I briefly considered attending. I would have loved to have seen who was there – make eye contact with a few of them, some of the other heroin addicts who had been a part of my daughter’s world for awhile. And given the opportunity, maybe I would have let them know that Hayley would soon be celebrating her 2 year clean and sober “birthday”.  My intent would not have been to flaunt Hayley’s recovery – but to let them know it was possible – that there was hope – maybe even for one or all of them.

I had noticed Charlie Zero’s obituary in the newspaper a couple of days ago.  He looked about 13 in the picture – sweet, innocent smile, shaggy hair, a normal looking middle school-aged kid.  I’m sure his mother treasured that photo.

When Hayley was actively using hard drugs in 2009-10, she lived with the Zero Brothers, Charlie and Brad, for about 9 months – in their ‘crack house’. At one time, the term “crack house” was used to describe an old, often abandoned or burnt-out building, often in an inner-city neighborhood where drug dealers and drug users would buy, sell, produce, and use illegal drugs, including, but not limited to, crack cocaine.[1][2][3]  However, during my daughter’s darkest months as a heroin addict, I learned that in my own community, although crack houses might look slightly run down, they could also easily blend in with the rest of the neighborhood – and look fairly ‘normal’. Over time, I’ve also learned that a subtle give-away for a drug house is that all the windows are always covered, with curtains tightly drawn day and night, summer, fall, winter, spring.

The Zero house was a decent looking prefab house on my route to Costco.  Once I learned that Hayley was living there, I would periodically drive by it.  It was where Hayley landed after walking out of detox back in August 2009.  Her drug dealer boyfriend, Bill, and his entourage, wouldn’t take her back at their crack house, which was amazing to me – essentially, she was kicked out of a “crack house” – didn’t know that was possible.

I called Hayley to tell her the news of Charlie Zero’s death.  She said that she prays for those brothers every day – that Charlie was a diabetic – and, well, since heroin is cut with sugar, Charlie was always in some kind of diabetic crisis.  “It was only a matter of time”, she said, “before he either died, or ended up in jail.”

I drove slowly past their house yesterday, after reading Charlie’s obituary. I was familiar with the house.  It was where my 94 yo mother sent Hayley a Christmas present, containing a warm winter coat. It was where I picked her up at 5:30 am on May 8th, 2010, to go to treatment. It was where she said goodbye to her drug dealer boyfriend, Bill, out on the front steps of the house.

There were a lot of cars parked in front.  I couldn’t help but think about Charlie’s grieving family.  No parent wants his/her child to grow up to be a drug addict/dealer.  And no child, for that matter, aspires to be a drug dealer.

There was a time when, like most other people, I looked upon drug dealers with scorn and disgust.  Now, however – I view them differently.  Whereas I don’t condone their activities, I also know that most of them are doing what they feel they need to do to survive.  Almost all of them are drug addicts themselves – and becoming a drug dealer is the next ‘logical’ step to support a habit.  I have a great deal of empathy and pity for them.  They’re stuck in and have no power over their addiction.

According to Hayley, the Zero Brothers were ‘ok’ guys.  They didn’t physically abuse her – and Hayley enjoyed chatting with their elderly father when he came by for a visit.

It’s painful to re-read my early blog posts.  I was so desperate and helpless then – and didn’t know very much about drug addiction.  Here are a few short ones that give you an idea about where I was 2+ years ago, when Hayley was actively using.

An excerpt from:  Choosing Happiness:  12/9/09

This morning before my Al-Anon meeting, I read in the paper that 80 people had been rounded up and arrested on drug charges by the police – for distribution, use, illegal activity. Now, when I read these front page headlines, I wonder if my daughter is one of those junkies arrested in a drug raid?  My physical therapist was lamenting to me about those who use and abuse the health care system, with no insurance, no job or intent to work, drug addicts –  parasites on our society. I agreed with him, but also wanted to shout:  “And my daughter is one of these people.  They are so desperate, and sick with addiction and other mental disorders.  They can’t help it.”  Or, can they?  I have an entirely new take on health care reform.  No, I don’t want to indulge drug addicts/my daughter in services that she should be paying for herself. But, damn it – how can she get the health care she needs – treatment for her abscesses, her irritable bowel syndrome, her root canals – when she’s a heroin addict and doesn’t work, can’t register with the DSHS system because she’s afraid she’ll be arrested, etc.  It’s overwhelming, and I can’t think about it.

Sirens, and health reform debates, and newspaper headlines about drug busts – – – I have a whole new take on it all.

This post from October 5, 2009:

 Detach or Hang On

It’s getting cold.  All of Hayley’s warm clothes and jackets are here, hanging in my closet.  Al-Anon tells me to detach.  A close personal friend, who is an addiction counselor, tells me that I’m working harder than my daughter is.  He says that if I continue to text and communicate with her, I’m enabling her – allowing her to still straddle both worlds.  Other resources tell me to “hang on”, and never give up on my daughter.  Always let her know I love her and believe in her.

So, what do I do?  I haven’t seen my daughter since Monday, August 24th, when I drove 31/2 hours to take her to medical detox.  Four days later, she walked out of detox AMA (against medical advice), and talked a cab driver in to driving her the 170 miles back to her “home” town.  The crack house where she had been living didn’t want her back.  Can you believe that?  So where she landed, I didn’t know – – – and didn’t care, at that point.  $6,000 down the drain (4 days of medical detox), agonizing hours of making elaborate arrangements for her detox and subsequent treatment program, all vaporized.

I have since learned that Hayley is now living in town with two coke dealers – who are “decent” guys, believe it or not.  Should I text her and try to meet her somewhere and deliver some warm clothes?  Should I maintain my most recent “hands off” approach so she really feels the isolation and consequences of her decision to reject “help”?

There are as many “experts” and friends/colleagues who expound opposite points of view regarding contact or no contact with Hayley.  But in the end – – – I am her mother.  I miss her and worry about her.  There is a huge hole in my heart when I think about her so far away, yet so close.  Does she just sit in her “friends’” house all day, nodding off, watching mindless TV, smoking cigarettes, planning her next fix?  Does she remember it’s my birthday tomorrow?

One more:

 Perverse Relief:  posted 10/16/09

 There is a strange sort of perverse relief in knowing that my daughter is holed up somewhere, using heroin and keeping to herself.  She’s living with two guys who, I assume, are drug dealers.  I can make myself crazy speculating about how she supports her habit, her risk for infection and overdose, her desperate, guilt-ridden state of mind.  But also, for the first time in many years, I don’t have to worry about her power being turned off, whether or not she has money for gas in her car, is she going to work every day, does she remember it’s my 92 yo mother’s birthday, will she finally get a load of laundry done?

If you, too, are struggling with the issue of detachment, here’s some help:  Today’s Pearls From Al-Anon: Detachment With Love

WE, my daughter and I, have come a long way in the last two years. And no matter where she’s been, or where she’s going, I will always love her – perhaps even more now, as we walk down the winding road of our own recoveries, alone and together.

 Today, as a mother, I mourn the death of Charles Andrew Zero, and who he was at age 13 –  and who he might have become.


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6 Responses to “Two Zeros Minus One”

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Peggy – TWO YEARS! TWO! I just got tears in my eyes thinking of it. She seemed so very out of control and when I first met you here, I was so concerned for her and for you. And now she’s got two years. That gives hope to all of us.

Sad to hear about Charlie….maybe it will be a wake-up call to some of his friends (but death usually doesn’t stop most addicts).

Thanks, Barb. Miracles DO happen. I’m thinking of you – and Keven, of course. I’m just glad that he’s safe for now and in a place that could make recovery possible. You must be soooo totally drained, emotionally. Sleep well for the next 2 – 3 weeks and restore some strength – in other words, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF – it’s all you can do – and will ultimately be the best help for Keven.

Peg – Poignant post, as always. I’m afraid I find it too painful to read the excerpts of your older posts. That was such a frightening time. I’m so grateful that our daughters (and ourselves) are in better places now. And I’m so sorry that the disease of addiction has taken another victim.

My favorite line in this post: “The Zero house was a decent looking prefab house on my route to Costco.” Just brings it home how commonplace these houses are—we pass them frequently in everyday life but we don’t see them because we’re not aware of them. … I found the imagined description of the funeral interesting. When my cousin Danny died at 31 of his IV addiction, I’m sure there were a lot of “junkies” in the funeral home. I just thought they were “Danny’s friends.” The person who had the greatest impact on me that day was my 81-year-old grandmother, who sat against a wall and cried, harder and more disconsolately than I’d ever seen her cry. Danny had grown up in her house, so I’m sure she felt close to him. He’d been what she would have called “a good boy.” Until he came back from the war with a habit of shooting up. … If there’s anything I feel animosity toward, it’s addiction itself. Not the addicts, not their “friends,” not the dealers, not the family members. I’ve been on all sides of the equation. I’m grateful I’ve never been a dealer but I’ve committed my share of criminal behavior to get drugs, and as a result of addiction itself. Today I’m more used to seeing similarities rather than differences. It helps me be compassionate. That doesn’t mean I have to approve of anything in the picture. much love, /G

A sad thing to happen. Only 44 and life is already over. No waiting around to see how it all turns out. No more blue skies, no fresh air, no more chances at anything. Very sad to me. Glad that you are in a better place. Me too.

So much of what you wrote could have been me. Especially the detachment part. All I could do was what I felt was right but it was so confusing.

Your post made me so sad. It was such an awesome post, but just sad when you think how many addicts are really just tortured souls trying to find freedom.

My Husband and I have said many times, “No one grows up wanting to be an addict” so, so sad.

Thanks for writing this great post. Congratulations to Haley.

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