From Bad to Worse

Things with mom have taken a turn for the worse. I’m honestly not sure the level of liver function she even has any more due to the cirrhosis, but it seems in addition to that, her kidneys are also failing. The doctor said having a bad liver is one thing, but also having kidneys to worry about adds a whole new level of complications.

In other words, it’s not looking good.

The last few days I’ve been going through so many emotions, anger being one of course, but also a crazy amount of worry. 

She’s also developed bacterial peritonitis, which is a very bleak prognosis. 

This is all too much. In the back of my head I just keep having these thoughts that maybe in a couple of days everything will magically be ok again and I can go back to my normal summer activities and that everything will be normal.

But in the front of my brain I know that is nonsense.

Damn alcohol and addiction. I see friends posting pictures of their nice normal families with their healthy parents, and I can’t help but be jealous and think “why not me too?” 

Why was I dealt this deck?

I’m angry.

I’m angry.

I’ve been feeling angry the last few days. As I mentioned before, my mother was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver late last spring. One of the big problems is she was living with my grandparents, also alcoholics. So she was around alcohol all day…and couldn’t stop drinking. She would come home from the ER with issues from the cirrhosis and go straight to the vodka. So, it wasn’t a great environment, and I wanted to get her out of it. That’s what I thought at the time at least.

Probably the most complicating thing of mom being in this condition is that other than me and my other sister, who is in her 20’s with kids of her own… is that my mother also has an 11-year-old daughter, my kid sister. So now they’re both here in my small house.

Taking care of an addict is proving harder than I thought. I was naive to think, “My house will be best because we don’t do any drugs and I can refrain from bringing booze in.” Holy hell was I wrong.

I may be way off here, but I honestly don’t feel like she’s reached that rock bottom that we are always told addicts need to hit before they can truly make the commitment to get better. I feel like I’m just another crutch for her to lean on, another excuse to not have to “be an adult”, as some of my friends have pointed out.

I truly empathize with addiction. I am the product of addiction and chaos, after all. I know she’s in real pain – with her liver and with her addiction. I know she has a real struggle …. but at the same time I don’t feel like she’s really there as far as having the drive to really stop, to really be able to turn the bottle away if one were waved under her nose.

And that makes me angry!

She isn’t wanting to adhere to her new low sodium diet due to liver disease – so she has dubbed me the sodium police. Like I’m the bad guy in all of this. It makes me want to shake her and remind her why she’s in this condition…and its most definitely through no fault of my own. I feel like she’s not trying to feel better, almost like she thrives on being miserable, even though it makes her feel miserable – if that makes any sense at all.

I’m angry because I feel like me and my two sisters don’t matter. Two of her three kids are grown, married and with lives of their own. But the little one is just 11… she’s a little kid already without a dad and now facing losing a mother. Why does she not matter? Why is there no regard that now my life is going to be ruined because I will likely have to take her in full-time and raise her? Why is there such disregard for our lives as well as hers?

So tonight, I’m angry.

Start at the Beginning

Since this is my first post, I thought it best to start at the beginning.

My name is Laura. I’m 31 years old…and the daughter of two addicts.

I decided to start this blog because my mother is currently debilitated by her liver cirrhosis, and she can’t stop drinking. But, that’s not the beginning, so let me back up.

I grew up in small town Kentucky with my single mother (Wonder Woman in my eyes), and younger sister. My parents had joint custody, so as a child if I wasn’t at mom’s house seeing her do drugs, legal or not, I was at dad’s house watching him do drugs, definitely not legal.

I don’t remember at what point in my life I decided to live a completely drug free life, I just know in my head I’ve always found that important. In elementary school I was the one nerd who actually looked forward to D.A.R.E (drug abuse resistance education). Regardless, I don’t do drugs. I saw enough bad coming from both sides of my family to know at an early age I didn’t want any part of that. I ask doctors if drugs they prescribe are habit-forming in an effort to stay away from something that may even remotely suck me in, because I’m too paranoid to even tempt fate.

As a child through my early adult years my relationship with my dad was all but non-existent. He was there, and for the most part I knew where he was. But often when I went to visit him he was too busy hunting for drugs, or being on terrifying alcohol benders. He’d get so bad he’d be psychotic, yelling at no one at all. By the time I was in my early 20’s I decided that enough was enough, and wrote him a letter detailing how he had made me feel my whole life – unworthy of love, without a father figure to rely on, and a complete waste of his time. It hurt his feeling, but he understood why I wrote it at the same time. We may have had our issues in the past – I don’t even know if “issues” is the right word, more like a disconnect – but today he is sober, no longer drinking, and we talk regularly. I let go of my “daddy issues”, I no longer harbor any hate or ill will toward him. I will no longer hold onto how he made me feel in the past.

This brings me to mom. Mom raised me mostly on her own. A single mother, on welfare…the glamorous life, right? She always made sure my sister and I were well fed, well-loved, well-groomed, and as well dressed as one can be on hand-me downs and pity. Times were tough, always. But no matter what she made sure we came first. We each got our own room which meant she slept in the living room on the couch. If feeding us meant she got nothing, well that’s just what had to happen in her eyes. We may not have had much, hardly nothing at all, but we always had each other.

As an adult though, I look back and realize all the times she was sick. She would be in a stupor most of the time. I’m not even sure what she could have been on because from the time my sister was born in the early 90’s through just a couple of years ago, she took methadone daily to curb the narcotic addiction she had. She was depressed, too. That much I know for a fact. As a 5th grader I’d come home each day from school to mom in the bed. She’d get out to feed me and my sister, and then get back in the bed. I had convinced myself she was dying of cancer.

She kicked the narcotics with methadone. For all the crap methadone gets my mother is actually one of the probably small percent of people who took it for the right reasons, and in the right way. She wasn’t getting high off of it, she wasn’t selling it, she wasn’t getting her buddies to give her more of it. She called it her medicine, and that’s what it was. It kept her maintained and from otherwise seeking a fix the illegal way.

Then she quit it, cold turkey.

At first I was ecstatic! Maybe she could finally get her life together, find a way to join society again and dig herself out of the cycle of abuse she’d been in for my life and before I was even a glimmer in her eye, as they say. But then I began to notice she was drinking… A LOT.

And that scared me.

The boiling point was 3 years ago, almost to the day. My best friend, my mother, my (then 8-year old) sister, and myself were taking two road trips over one weekend. The first was a ride about an hour away to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert. I knew of course at this point that my mother had a drinking problem, so my spidey-senses were on red alert. Sure enough, once I got a moment to sneak a sniff I discovered that her water bottle was actually full of vodka. A clever disguise I suppose, it looks just like water, so to the rest of the world who would even know.

That made me livid, and I went off. She was drinking from an open container in my best friend’s car…right next to my 8-year-old sister! My friend could have gotten in trouble and that is really what upset me. Knowing that later in the weekend we’d be taking another road trip – this time with the addition of my friends small children – I confronted mom. I told her I knew she was drinking in an open bottle and under no circumstance will it be tolerated for her to have that in the van a second time with the other small kids around. She said OK…

But of course she brought her vodka water bottle back.

I admit I probably didn’t approach the subject matter the right way with her. I basically shut down on her and refused to talk, I was so mad! Everyone kept calling me a party pooper and “Oh she’s just having a good time, lighten up!” But I was frustrated with her putting herself and others at risk, setting bad examples for kids, and not respecting mine or my friend’s wishes. I was flat-out disgusted.

It seemed she had replaced methadone with alcohol. She was never a drinker like that when I was a kid.

Frightened at this turn of events my middle sister and I called her on the phone to talk to her about her problems. We didn’t do a successful job of it either because she just brushed us off insisting she was fine…not to worry.

Early last spring I got a phone call — mom was in the hospital and she was jaundiced. Well, I knew what that meant. Her liver had finally gotten enough of the constant abuse it was being afflicted with and was not working right anymore.

She stayed in the hospital off and on through the early spring of 2014, but by April she was out of the hospital, told there was minimal damage to the liver and that if she stopped drinking all would be well.

The whole family got together to celebrate, thank our lucky stars that the disease was caught in time to allow for the liver to repair itself. Mom promised no more drinking…and like an idiot I believed her.

Then in mid May she was hospitalized again, this time it was getting worse. She got more yellow with jaundice than she was before, and her hospital stays became more frequent and longer. By the 4th of July she was in “indefinitely” and told her liver was completely damaged, past the point of repair. The doctors told my sister and I that she had a 60% chance to die by October of 2014 and that past that point it was anyone’s guess as to when she’d go, but that she’d not be lasting long.

Her mind was gone, too. She was completely confused. It was like she had dementia.

But somehow the liver specialists that were working with her cleared her up as best as they could, her mind was starting to come back, her skin wasn’t near as yellow as it was when she went into the hospital in the early summer and by late summer she was sent home with instructions NEVER TO DRINK AGAIN and a new diet plan, prescriptions, and orders to go to AA and counseling for substance abuse and depression. If she committed to a year of sobriety, AA and counceling she would then be considered a candidate for a liver transplant and put on the waiting list. All seemed lost to us, but with this small hope of maybe keeping her well for a year to be considered for a transplant is what we held onto.

The fall of 2014 began, and the days waned on. Nothing progressed as far as her disease, but nothing got worse. Then October came and went, and we all held our breath as we were informed she was more likely than not to die by that point.. but she didn’t. Then as late fall began she started to get more and more of her mind back, her skin was returning to normal, there wasn’t fluid building up in her abdomen, she sounded happier, she looked healthier and she wasn’t drinking!

The cirrhosis was always on my mind, but as the days and weeks went by it got pushed farther and farther in the back of my mind. No longer on the foreground causing worry and anxiety as every moment of every day ticked by.

Her birthday was celebrated, and for the first time I think we all realized how precious each year we get on this Earth REALLY is. Christmas came and went with happiness and joy. New Years was celebrated. My youngest sister turned 11, I turned 31 – celebrations abounded. Mother’s day was welcome with joyful tears of actually still having her here.

Then about three weeks ago (late May 2015) I got a message from her – “don’t worry but I’m back in the ER.” That’s a joke, right? “Don’t worry”?!

She was jaundiced again, fluid building up in her abdomen, and in a lot of pain around her liver. She lives in a small town and the doctors aren’t really much help there and even said they don’t know what to do for her, so they gave her morphine for pain and sent her home. A few days later she was back in the ER with pain, and given more morphine.

Finally last week she was admitted to the hospital to see if they could drain the fluid. They told her there wasn’t any way they could get to the fluid and sent her home. I went to her house after she got home to visit and saw her drinking what would look like water to the casual observer. But deep down I knew better. I didn’t want to believe it, but I knew better. I finally got a chance to sniff her cup when she left the room, and of course it was vodka.

My heart dropped to my stomach. My mind was full of red. I can’t believe that she was sent home with a swollen liver, pain in her abdomen, fluid they can’t find a way to drain and a muddled mind, and a warning almost a year ago that she likely only had 3 months to live due to this disease…and still found it in her to go back to the vodka.

That is why I have started this blog. I am scared for my mom’s life. I’m torn up inside…there is an elephant sitting on my chest day in and out. I suffer from anxiety of my own, and dealing with this on top of what I find in normal day-to-day life to freak out about is almost too much. Not to mention that if she doesn’t win this fight once and for all, I will become the guardian of my 11-year-old sister…something my husband and I are ill prepared to deal with.

I want a place to document this process. And ultimately, I hope I might be able to help people. I am in no way an expert, or a substance abuse counselor. I have my own issues to find a way to deal with, for sure. But regardless, here I am.

And in the end, prayers for my sweet mother…who while she has this horrible beast driving her life and continues to put the bottle to her lips certainly doesn’t deserve this horrible disease.

And neither do I.