Acknowledgement

As many of you know, I work as a recovery assistant at an inpatient treatment center. “Treatment” isn’t just about detoxing and teaching patients coping skills. When someone is in full addiction, their lives and priorities are completely flipped upside down. They are sleeping during the day, eating at night, and only thinking about “right now.” Most of them can’t imagine having a schedule, feeling different emotions throughout the day, or getting a full nights rest. Many of them can’t imagine having a handful (if that) of people care about what they’re doing, compliment them when necessary, or having someone ever acknowledge them in front of others when they have exceeded any expectations; Which is why we encourage residents to write out acknowledgements and share them in the morning groups as a way to build each other up and show appreciation for one another.

Every once in awhile staff will receive an acknowledgement here and there. They are usually generalized to “Staff,” “RA’s,” or each RA’s name with the same message. I love getting those acknowledgements! However, I really take pride in the acknowledgements the residents write to me personally. I always put myself in their shoes and think about how down/negative I would be about having to wake up in the same building, with alarms on every window, having to eat the same meal at the same times every day, sleeping on prison mattress beds, hardly having time to myself, and sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. Needless to say, caring about the staff or acknowledging them for anything, while I’m going through 30-day drug treatment, would be the last thing on my mind. Thus, making these personal acknowledgements very meaningful to me.


Last Friday after I had come back from two days off, I walked into the cafeteria room and found a mess of hot cocoa, dirty napkins, and spoons on the table. I immediately called out to the room full of people, “Raise your hand if you have had hot cocoa today. Because it is screwed up that a group of adults is willing to walk by this filth and live like a bunch of kindergarteners every single day.” The entire room turned towards me, jaws dropped, and dumbfounded that Jordon had just got so serious so quick. No one said a word and I walked out of the room, still disgusted with the mess. Later in the day, before I taught group, I apologized to the residents for snapping off on them so quickly and explained that after spending two days off in a clean, adult home; it was quite a shock to me when I walked in on a child’s mess. I explained further the rules of group: raise your hand, no side talking or I will call you out in front of the class, and to be respectful of each other. About 5 minutes into my group, I hear side talking. I stop what I was saying and ask the few boys about what they were chatting about, why they thought their conversation was more important than what I had to say, and why they felt that during group would be a good time to talk about it. One of them piped up about so-and-so “just got out of the shower and it’s 6:30.” My jaw dropped and my face was stuck in awe as I looked at them, turned and looked at the group, then at the chatty boys again. The rest of the community giggled at my reaction to having my mind blown by the most irrelevant, unnecessary, frustrating comment I had ever heard. I finally said, “Well, I guess now would be a good time to remind you guys that treatment is a time to focus on yourself and getting yourself better- not what others are doing, saying, or showering.” The class laughed again, and the chatty, disrespectful boys stopped talking. Then, I swear, not even 10 minutes later, I hear more whispering voices. I stop group and out of sheer astonishment yell, “Dude, are you kidding me right now? I just stopped group for other people talking and you continue to talk, forcing me to stop group again!?” They didn’t have much to say, which frustrated me more that they didn’t appologize and  weren’t even talking about anything remotely related to group.

Then I finally lost my marbles. Many of them had not seen that side of me before and were mildly terrified. One patient described it as, “the feeling you get when you have really disappointed your parents, not when they’re mad but just really, really disappointed.” Unfortunately, my night at work did not ever get much better, and the weight of knowing Anna’s birthday was that weekend did not help. I was going to have to deal with a rowdy group while grieving my best friend on her birthday. There are very few times I don’t look forward to going to work, and that weekend was very much one of them.

I showed up the next day with a new smile and a new outlook and was hoping for a better day all together. And it was. Out of no where, I had people handing me acknowledgements. Many of them were very well thought out and meaningful and just kept coming out of no where. The acknowledgments kept appearing throughout the day. I managed to hold back my tears several times that Saturday.

I thought it was all over, but then, Sunday, December 11th 2016, more acknowledgements kept coming. During community that morning, the entire group of residents had given me an acknowledgement. Being the cry baby I am, I was immediately in tears of happiness and my heart was so filled with love. I know I make an impact somehow on these people, but it meant more than I could ever imagine to have them see and understand how much I really do care about them and how badly I just want them to get better. One patient started calling me “The Beast” because I wasn’t taking any crap from anyone and I only had time to help people not hurt them. To this day, I will never forget that feeling. It was almost as if all of the hell I had been through was justified because of these letters every patient had wrote to me about how much they appreciated someone being there for them. It’s kind of strange to think about because it’s typically the other way around; the patients have never had someone appreciate or respect them. Turns out, I need them just as much as they need me.


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What I Learned in Rehab

For those of you who don’t know, I work full time as a “Recovery Assistant,” in an addiction treatment facility. I work with inpatient residents and “half-way house” residents. Half-way house residents go to work all day, then come back and live/sleep at our facility. They are still required to do random UAs, obtain and hold a job, and attend outpatient programming. The inpatient program is 21 to 28 days, packed full of programming and unstable emotions. During these 28 days, my job is to teach, monitor, and support individuals in the first crucial weeks of recovery. I lead at least one group a shift with topics ranging from budgeting to abuse. Our residents are not locked inside our facility, and they can leave whenever they want. This freedom allows the people who really are ready to get clean, to make the decision to stay inside the building and be serious about their treatment every second of the day.

The first thing I learned in rehab, is that I would make a really, really good criminal. This observation is based on the amount of contraband I have found in taped behind drawers, light sockets, and inside Kleenex boxes. Not to mention the tips and tricks my residents have taught me along the way.

Second, I’ve learned to smile more. I shared the poem “The Dash” with my residents and made almost everyone cry (including myself). One man in particular had, literally, lost his words. This man, still young (mid-40s), burly, with a deep, raspy, unbelievably loud voice had never run out of words a minute in his life. He has more personality inside him than 76 of us put together. We joke about how his whisper is louder than most normal voices. His laugh is contagious, and he will always find something to smile about. He will walk up to my desk and smile at me until I smile back, then say, “There we go,” and carry on with his business. But after reading this poem, eyes filled with tears, he went to move his lips and the sound just wouldn’t come out. His face had gone from looking like a grown man, to the face of a five-year-old who had just heard a monster in their closet. It isn’t often a grown man, in drug rehab, shows such honest, raw fear after reading a few words. When he was able to speak, the tears ran down his cheeks. He said, “I think about this every single day. I was too messed up to go to my own mother’s funeral. Why the hell would anyone want to go to mine? What would they say? ‘Hey, yeah, he was the party guy and was always pretty messed up. I can’t really remember a real, good memory with him because I was always high too.'” Most of his family is dead, his kids have given up on him, and he has spent most of his life drinking and doing whatever drug he can get his hands on to mask the pain he holds daily. When he was in his twenties, he and three buddies were in a motorcycle accident. He was able to put his bike down with few injuries. His best friend flipped over his bike when he tried to put it down. This twenty-some kid went to grab his best friend out of the street so he wouldn’t be run over, except he immediately realized his best friend wasn’t going to get up. His best friend’s neck had snapped, killing him instantly. He proceeded to carry his dead best friend out of the road. That was his first encounter with death. Fast forward ten or so years, in the dead of winter after a massive snow storm. He and some buddies ride snow mobiles to the bar. They are drunk and had done some cocaine by the time the bar closed. They decided to keep drinking at the house. They are all riding back home, jumping of hills and being drunk men on snow mobiles. They get home and one of their buddies isn’t with them. They all assume he snuck off during the ride to go to his girlfriend’s house which was close by, so turning around to search for him wasn’t even a thought in their mind. After passing out drunk for hours, the girlfriend had called several times wanting to know where her boyfriend was. They all went back along the route to search for the friend. My resident, again, found his friend dead. Half of the body was in a very cold stream, crushed by the snow mobile. His friend had been alive, waiting for his friends to come find him, for 12 hours before he actually died. This man went and drank himself stupid for so many days, he missed this funeral too. All of this, is only a part of the death this man has faced and only two of several dead friends and family he has found and held with his own barehands. He estimates losing one person close to him at least every 2 years since his twenties. The thing the gets me- is that fact that this man is still here, still smiling. If anyone has a reason to be angry at the world and hate everything, it would absolutely be him. He had OD’d several times and can’t name a single person he can count on in a time of need. He has moments where he will breakdown and admit the loneliness and pain he feels, which we could both relate to and discuss. However, most of the time, he wears a smile on his face and really has worked his program to change his thinking. Instead of seeing everything in a dark, dim grayish/black light, he has taught himself to see things in a very bright, almost blinding light. The bright, blinding light reminds us that we are headed to greater, better things, but we can’t see them yet. He and I agreed that the best advice we could give to anyone struggling with life, is to always remember that the positives in life will outweigh the negatives. Right now it feels like everything is negative and nothing will ever get better, but that is just because that bright, blinding light is keeping those things a secret until you are ready.

For me personally, I never believed that any good thing in the world could ever outweigh the negative, awful pain I feel from losing Anna. The more times I hear, “Thank you for listening to me,” “I would’ve walked out it if it wasn’t for you,” “I couldn’t have done this if you weren’t here,” and my personal favorite, “Remember when you said you do this to help one person? You did. You really do change people’s lives, you didn’t give up on me like everyone else.” The crazy thing is, I couldn’t have done any of it without Anna. I would help these people with or without a paycheck, but to hear and feel their appreciation of me, just little me and my irrelevant life, is filling a void in my heart I never even knew existed. I never thought I could change the world, but now I do know I have changed more than one individual’s world.  & That is the greatest feeling I have ever felt.

In case you missed it..!

CLICK HERE to watch my interview with KCCI 8 News. Please help me educate others by sharing my blog (www.annaswarrior.wordpress.com) and sharing my interview as well.

Make sure to watch KCCI 8 Thursday, July 14 at 10pm for a SPECIAL REPORT on the opioid epidemic and the dramatic increase of opioid overdose deaths. Who knows, maybe you’ll even see me again. 🙂

Important Note: A big thank you to everyone that has shared my posts, shared personal stories with me, and encouraged me to keep writing. Your support really means a lot, especially today!


I know a lot of you have some really great ideas, questions, and general comments about my blog. Please, please share these with me below! *Note: Name and Email fields are OPTIONAL. You are welcome to share your thoughts anonymously. 

Great NEWS!

Tonight (July 13, 2016) at 5pm & again at 6pm, tune into KCCI 8 News for a great story on Anna, heroin & opioid use, and.. ME! I will be interviewed on the story airing both at 5pm and 6pm, sharing my experience and how my life has changed since losing my best friend to heroin.

There is another special report story airing tomorrow night, July 14th, at 10pm. The special report will also cover the opioid epidemic.

 

If you don’t have KCCI 8 news in your local area, CLICK HERE  to watch it online.

 

Simple Reminders

Once again, here I am, laying in bed while my brain is scrambling thoughts one hundred miles per minute. She has a tendency to switch from happy, sleepy thoughts to stressful, scary thoughts… but not until after I spend fifteen minutes trying to squeeze into a corner, without waking my big-headed dog. I finally find half of a pillow, rest my head, and (lucky for me) I am now stressed out and overwhelmed. As a college graduate living in a college town, my biggest worry is usually something like, “Should I have bought that dress earlier? Maybe I should go back. Well, no, honestly what shoes would I even wear with it.” Although, every once in awhile, a brief thought about the fears of moving back to Des Moines, transferring jobs, leaving friends, paying off student loans, and other boring, stress-free nonsense will pop into mind as well. I usually try to drop that stuff as quickly as possible and move on to the important things in life, i.e. Grey’s Anatomy season 12. Tonight, however, was different. I haven’t posted on this page for an embarrassing amount of time; but, for whatever reason, I just really felt like I needed to post tonight and forget all about Derek and Meredith’s long-distance relationship, when Karev is going to propose, and where in the world Dr. Yang is at now. I sluggishly grabbed my laptop, signed into WordPress, and I actually had one notification!! Ironically, my one single notification read, “Happy Anniversary! You registered 2 years ago today!”

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Two years have gone by, but the memories haven’t faded one bit. The memories of the day I found out she was gone, the memories of our last car ride together, the memories of our last nap with her tiny leg thrown across the entire bed… Every single memory is still perfectly intact. It feels like we were laughing together just last week, but it also feels like ten million years have passed by since I heard “Anna died” through my phone. When I think of her being gone, I have no idea how I have held my self together for so incredibly long. When I think of the last time I was with Annie, a smile grows across my face and I begin to tell my favorite stories from our time together (for the 37th time that day).

One thing social media is actually good for, is the many, many pictures of Anna’s bench I was able to see on Anna’s ANNA-versary (What a PERFECT name created by Katie and Julia).

I had planned on driving to Des Moines for the Anna-versary, but the second I got behind the wheel of my car with the sun shining… My happy memories with Anna turned into sadness on account of we will never be blaring Y’all Want a Single and screaming the lyrics with the windows down, ever again. I turned around almost immediately, and I ran back into my house to return to the fetal position while snuggling my dog. I stayed like this in bed for over 24 hours… again.

As many of you now know, I was in the exact same fetal position for three months after first hearing of Anna’s passing. Much to my dismay, two years later, I subconsciously returned to the exact same position, searching for her comfort. Although laying in bed did make the day go by faster and was much easier than explaining my puffy red eyes to the 600 people walking campus at any given time, it reminded me of my past that I have worked so hard to get rid of. I was so upset and anxious I couldn’t even drive my car to Des Moines to see the spot where I had spread some of Anna’s own ashes. I spent the entire day hiding from the sadness and pressures of April 4th.

 

They say things get easier as time passes, but I don’t believe it. Maybe some things are meant to never truly change.

Always meant to be

It’s been over a year since I first started this page. Over a year since I was staring at my ceiling, trying to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with my life, and how I am supposed to have a life with such a gaping hole in my heart.

It has been awhile since my last post, but it has not been a second since I have last thought about Anna. It’s not that I stopped posting because I don’t think about her, or because I have nothing else to say- I have plenty to say- but something has been holding me back from writing about it. I would have an idea here and there, but it would quickly disappear. I would try to write down the ideas, but I found that I could no longer recall what it was that had popped into my head less than 45 seconds ago. As usual, I put the blame on ADHD and assumed I would think of it later when I was trying to do 13 tasks at once. People would stop me and ask why I haven’t been writing, tell me I should keep writing, and there were times I felt bad about not writing more often. I brushed the disappointment to the side, and  just kept moving forward. I never really thought about why the ideas never came back.

But now…

Looking back…

What was it that was holding me back? I could’ve sat at my computer, forced myself to keep going and ranting and writing and writing and writing.. But where would I be now if I had spent the last six months only writing and not talking to anyone about Anna’s death, staring at pictures of us together and creating a false reality of us still being together? It is possible that I would be exactly where I am today, but it is also possible that I would be stuck in the same place I was six months ago. I would be idle in my life with no direction, no happiness, no sadness, and no real emotions to get me back into the real world. Anna was always the one telling me to “get over it, life is too short,” and to, “live a little.”

And I have.

In the past six months, I have been doing things I had never done before, doing things I never wanted to do, doing things I have always wanted to do, and have found myself thinking, “Anna would be so proud,” after each new encounter.

Right now, today, is the happiest I have been in the last sixteen months.

I was browsing Facebook today, and I saw the video I made after Anna passed. I played the video, listened to the songs, watched the pictures fade away, and that’s when I realized the last six months of my life were meant to be spent living life. The experiences I have had, the friends I have made, the stories I have heard, have all brought me to the peaceful place I am in now. I am not angry at the entire world anymore, now I want to go out and fix the world. I don’t hate people that make rude, hateful comments about junkies, I simply correct them… Publicly. With facts. In front of their friends. Emphasizing their incompetence and ignorance towards the subject. Okay, I might still hate them. BUT at least I respond using a nonviolent approach, unlike the wishful approach I currently I have developing in my head. 😉 I’m kidding. Sort of.

Moving on, the point is… I am finally in a peaceful place. A place where I can freely, happily, and constructively address Anna’s death. I miss her just the same as I did sixteen months ago, but I am so, so proud to be her best friend. The looks people would give me when I told them my best friend over dosed and died on heroin, used to break my heart. I was so hurt that they were judging such an amazing person based on the manner in which they died.

Now, I love seeing the look on their faces when I tell them how my best friend died. Because the look on their face when I tell them how many people she has saved from overdosing on heroin is priceless.


 

Author’s note: Congratulations again, Sam, on 9 months clean! I am so proud to call you my friend. Even though Anna is gone, my heart hurts a little less every day knowing that she has been on your mind during your time battling sobriety. I love seeing you around town and seeing your smile explode when you get to tell me you’ve made it another day, week, or month. I can’t wait to see your one year! Life is short, my love! Stay strong. 

Things Parents DON’T Want to Hear

I have been thinking about my posts, how bluntly open I am about my experiences/knowledge of drugs, and how quickly many adults can be immediately turned off knowing I smoked pot in high school. Well, parents, this is the rest of the story that you don’t understand.

It is no secret that 1960-1970 birth cohort has experienced their fair share of experimentation with drugs. Back then, no one knew the effects of these drugs. So many people were using drugs and smoking cigarettes that the thought of saying “no” hardly even came to mind. My parents were born in the early and late 60’s. To this day, I do not know the extent of their drug experimentations, and to be quite frank, I do not think I should ever know, being as I’m their daughter. I can assume that they joined in on illicit activities with friends, but it is something I will never know for a fact. We never talked about drug use in my home, never mentioned ‘cocaine’ or ‘crack’ or anything like that. The one time the word ‘pot’ was ever used in my home was when I was about 13-years-old and my brother 16-years-old.

My mom sat us down and said, “Are any kids in your grade smoking dope?” With a very, very confused face, I looked at her and said, “What does that mean?”

To me, ‘dope’ was a term used to describe a goofy, outlandish, strange person. (i.e. the “Grandpa is a dope!” notes I left scattered around my Grandparent’s home as a playful prank.) She then corrected herself with more ‘hip’ language and said, “Do kids at school ever smoke pot? Do you know how much a dime bag costs?”

Note to parents: Kids do not say ‘dime bag’ or ‘dope’ anymore. ‘Dope’ is now a term used to describe something awesome, cool, or ‘far out’ as some of you would call it. Also, a ‘dime bag’ is no longer a thing. I found out 2 weeks ago that dime bag means it costs $10, and not the amount of marijuana you receive is the size of a dime. I’m 21. 

At age 13, I did not know what a dime bag was, where to get marijuana, and no one I knew openly talked to me about smoking weed. My older brother was more shy in high school, and also looked at my mother like she was crazy and felt very uncomfortable during the entire conversation. It was very apparent that we had no knowledge of ‘dope.’ That was the end of drug conversations in my household. 


While writing these blog posts, my parents, as well as all of you strangers, found out for the first time that I had smoked pot in the past. I commented on the how uncomfortable it was telling my parents, and apologized in my post as well. In the same post, I mentioned seeing cocaine in college, and knowing several people who have done that and beyond.

Here’s the kicker, parents. Your kid has too.

You can be as naive as you would like and continue to tell yourself that whatever college your child attends “doesn’t have that problem,” your kid “would never associate with people who do stuff like that,” “he/she doesn’t go to parties where that stuff is present, they would leave.” Ok, let’s put it like this. Kids here at Iowa, snort cocaine in the library. Iowa State, same thing. “Well, he/she has never seen that before.” Ok, let’s move on to the party scene. You have to be 21 to be in a bar, which leave house parties, lots and lots of house parties. House parties do not have security roaming around, do not require an ID or really even an invitation, and do not have people regulating your drinks. House parties make a very great place for drugs. Surprise, surprise. I was at a house party in college when I first saw cocaine. I walked into the bathroom to find two girls with a $100 bill up their nose. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me, and I have never seen them since. Welcome to college, parents. Your kid has seen drugs. 


 

My major is criminology, so I would say I’m pretty well-versed in the topic of drugs. However, many students are well-curious in the topic of drugs, due to lack of knowledge. The way kids describe drugs, it sounds like a great time. “Take these caps, your body feels so good, and you will have so much fun, just laugh all the time, and hug everybody!” Who wouldn’t want to do that, right? Oh, but you are going to be pounding water like a fish. Oh wait, and don’t drink too much water, a bunch of kids keep over-hydrating themselves causing their brain to swell, and now they’re dead. But you’ll feel so great!!!

Pause.

I had no clue what the difference between ‘molly’ and ‘ecstasy’ was prior to coming to college. You could show me two pills, one ibuprofen and one ecstasy, and to this day I won’t be able to tell you which one is which. (pictures of drugs are VERY outdated in my textbooks.) Freshman year, I didn’t know girls who were going to the bathroom together, were actually doing lines together. I would have no clue that my friend’s random roommate was stashing blow in her desk drawer. I didn’t know how much a gram cost, or that the group of kids behind me just did a drug deal under the table.

But parents, you do know these things. You know the differences between these drugs, things to look out for, behaviors that are correlated with different drugs. You know what deadly additives can be in cocaine. The bad side effects of a ‘bad trip.’ These are all things your kid doesn’t know and needs to know. How is it that you can sit your kid down, tell them how babies are made and not to have sex, at age 13 when she first gets her period, but you can’t sit your 15-year-old kid down and explain to him the dangerous opportunities every single one of us has experienced? Isn’t that less traumatic; warning your kid about something that they may never even come in contact with, opposed to handing over condoms and praying they don’t use them until after age 30?


 

I have a very close relationship with my little brother, and am very open with him about how persuasive someone can be when describing drugs, but how dangerous they really are. He knows he can ask me anything about drugs, dangers, etc, and I am more than willing to explain it to him. I will get down to the very last, nitty-gritty detail of what I know about drugs, in an effort to completely diminish his curiosity (and to traumatize him with the idea that simply looking at drugs causes immediate death). Tell your kids whatever it is you think will scare them away from using drugs, ever. I believed that a Christmas elf was writing me letters during his break from making toys until I was 11-years-old, because my parents told me they also had elves visit them when they were kids, so obviously our family was just extra special. Your kid is going to believe whatever it is you have to say, as long as you make it sound legitimate. When other kids say, “No man, that’s not true.” Your child is still going to have that little voice in the back of their head reminding them of their Mom’s friend that overdosed on MDMA her first time and died at age 15. Trust me, disappointing your parent is 100 times worse than being the lame kid at the party. The guilt your child will feel knowing how disappointed you would be if you knew they did Molly will eat away at them enough that they won’t do it again.

Drugs are far too available, unpredictable, and intriguing for you to still think your kid is immune. The least you could do is have a conversation with your child, even if you know for a fact they aren’t using drugs, maybe they know someone who is very curious about drugs and don’t know what to do. The best thing you can do for your child is to be open to their curiosity. Let them ask you questions, otherwise they are going to ask friends’ questions… Next thing you know, they have the pill in their hand.

HBO: Addiction

For those of you suffering from technological deficits, the links below will take you to each of the clips that make up the entire documentary produced by HBO titled “Addiction.” Most documentaries about addiction or addicts tend to lean more towards the “hollywood” side of things and slip away from the raw truth. This documentary has done a great job of including science, emotion, socioeconomic differences, and in the last clip- the raw, harsh, extremely emotional truth to what is happening in the world of drug addiction and recovery. I cannot stress enough the importance of each and every one of these clips.

(WARNING: when my Dad tried opening these links from his phone, he was prompted to download the HBOnow app. However, when clicking on the link from a computer- it takes you directly to the page with the correct video.) 

HBO: Addiction: Film Opening

HBO: Addiction: Saturday Night in a Dallas ER

HBO: Addiction: A Mother’s Depression

HBO: Addiction: The Science of Relapse

HBO: Addiction: The Adolescent Addict

HBO: Addiction: Brain Imaging

HBO: Addiction: Opiate Addiction: A New Medication

HBO: Addiction: Topiramate: A Clincial Trial for Alcoholism

HBO: Addiction: Steamfitters Local Union 638

HBO: Addiction: Insurance Woes

Reflection

One year. An entire year has gone by since the day I found out my best friend was gone forever. To this day, I could very easily describe the day I found out about Anna’s death just as easily as I did in my post months ago. It feels like just yesterday, and to think and entire year has gone by is sickening.

I have been dreading this day, “one year since the worst day of your life and the day your life changed forever.”I have been dreading it for weeks. As a mental defense mechanism, I attempted to block out the thoughts of how awful ‘one year’ will be, I won’t be able to get upset if I just don’t think about it! If I just store all of memories in a little hidden box, keep myself excessively busy, and pretend like nothing is happening- nothing will happen, right?

Wrong.

Avoiding my thoughts and feelings might have been the worst plan of attack possible. I will say, realizing it has been a year since Anna’s death might actually be even harder than the day I found out she died- at least I was still in shock then. There is no more shock. I can no longer get away with thinking, “No way, it’s not possible, she’ll be back.” The wishful thinking is gone and now it is just pure reality punching you in the face (& stomach) with brass knuckles that spell “APRIL 4TH.” That’s basically what it feels like for the two weeks leading up to this very day. In the midst of being sucker punched by the invisible hand of reality, the imaginary wall barricading all of the memories, thoughts, and feelings, from my mind finally poured over the edge and took me under like a tsunami. The tears came pouring, the loneliness set in, and reality hit me over and over like a semi-truck. This is about the same time I decided that ignoring my feelings was, in fact, a horrible idea. Since these emotions had been building up for weeks, my little ‘don’t think about this stuff’ box filled up quickly and burst open like a grenade. I was still away from my family, Anna’s family, and the people who knew her best. I was still in classes, scheduled for work, and had endless amounts of stress not related to Anna’s death. I was planning on letting this all build up, then allowing it to explode when I said so, fully prepared with puppies and 7 month old nephew for immediate cheering up. Instead, it was just me.

…and my cellphone. Which comes in handy when you have a meltdown at 11:30pm on a Tuesday! As most college students are, the majority of my friends were out enjoying $1 “waters” and making wonderful (horrible) decisions. However, one friend responded with, “I know, reflection can be difficult.” I deemed this understatement of the year, but it is a perfect summary of everything that was going through my head at the time. I was simply reflecting on the past. I was thinking about what I was doing at this time last year, how I was feeling, I was simply relieving the horrible emotions and horrible feelings all over again. I was reflecting on how different my life was that Friday compared to that Saturday. I was reflecting on life before I found out and what I wish I could redo. I actually had the thought of, “If I would have just gone to work that night then..” -Seriously? WHAT WOULD THAT HAVE EVEN CHANGED, JORDON, WHAT? My point is, reflection is not only difficult- it’s torture. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to not reflect on how much better life was with Anna, but it just lets the hurt linger and linger. The reality goes from a semi-truck hitting you over and over, to a plane flying through your house and ripping you away with it, repeatedly, if that were possible.

Reflection should be on how far I have come since losing Anna. Yes, life without her sucks and it’s hard and I miss her more and more every single day- but if I think about how far I have come in accepting her death and living my life again, I know she has been pushing me along the way. At this time last year, I locked myself in my bedroom for the next 3 months, ordering delivery food, throwing it back up shortly after, not showering- essentially withering away in the shell of my body terrified to go on with my life. I didn’t think I would ever get out of that stage, and I never in a million years thought I would see any part of my old self again. I can’t even explain the changes I have gone through in this one short year, and I know I didn’t do it alone.

Life after losing someone doesn’t get easier, ever. You never miss them any less, you never wish they were here any less, and your love for them doesn’t shrink. You miss them more and more every day, you need them now more than ever, and you love and appreciate who they were to a higher degree the longer you go without them. That will never change. One year without Anna doesn’t mean I feel any differently about her death than I did one year ago. I feel exactly the same and often worse every day of my life. But one year without Anna on earth, has shown me there is hope for a future. It is possible to have life ahead of this tragedy, and not all of it is the horrible stuff I was expecting. One year is just one baby step in my life without Anna. Trying to live my life without a backbone of a friend to hold me upright is hard, it’s lonely. I often find myself searching for that person in the wrong places and depending on the wrong people, but I’m learning. It takes time to learn how to hold yourself up, when the world continues to shove you down, it’s not easy, but it does get easier as the days go on. This year is just one out of many years without Anna to come, and one out of an eternity of years with Anna, that I get to spend in Heaven- and for that, I couldn’t be more excited.

Big Moments

As you can all tell- It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, mostly because I didn’t even know what to say or think at all.

You know that feeling you get in your stomach when something big is coming up, you don’t know if you’re prepared, you don’t know if you’re ready, you keep repeating scenarios of what will happen and how to deal with that big moment in your head? Imagine having a really big speech coming up, where you have to tell everyone your life story, even the part when you pee’d your pants in 3rd grade. What if someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer? What if people think you’re weird when you tell them about how sad you were over your hamster dying? Are you going to stutter? That’s the kind of big moment I’m talking about, one that makes your stomach twist and turn and keeps you up at night as if the future of your life depends on this big, huge moment. Finally, that big moment will arrive. It shows up, and suddenly everything you planned is useless. All of that information, staying up late preparing, playing it out in your head- it’s completely different when the big moment shows up. Your body is numb and you have no idea what to do because nothing is going the way you watched it happen in your head for three weeks. You’re stuck in the moment, not knowing how you feel, what to say or what to do.

That was Anna’s birthday for me this year. I spent about a month preparing for December 11th, the day I was to spread the ashes of my best friend’s body around her memorial bench. A bench that I can visit forever, with the ashes of her body spread into the ground around it forever. I spent countless nights tossing and turning, trying to fall asleep, while continuously watching scenarios in my head of what it was going to be and feel like when I went to that bench and spread the beautiful shell of my best friend in the whole world. I had felt several emotions during those nights. Some nights I was angry that I had to spread ashes at the age of 21, I was sad that it was my very best friend in the whole world, I was happy to feel closure, I was lost in the world with no idea what I was going to do next, I was scared of how I would react in front of her family, I was nervous and sad for her Mom and Dad, I was angry at myself for being so worried about how I was going to handle it when they were the ones saying goodbye to their daughter. It was a range of emotions that I couldn’t seem to get a handle on. My head was filled day and night with the idea of what was going to happen eating away at my skull for weeks. Then- it came. December 11th. I stared at my closet trying to decide what one is to wear to spread ashes, especially when it’s only about 40 degrees out. I contemplated for a bit, decided on a perfect cheetah print skirt with a black top- Anna would love it. I packed up and headed to Des Moines. I listened to some of Anna’s favorite songs the whole way, and not a single song bothered me or made me sad- I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t sad either. When I had planned this big moment in my head, I was sobbing the entire car ride and I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it back to Des Moines. I got off on the exit to go to Anna’s Dad’s house, the only time I ever use this exit was if I was, in fact, going to Anna’s Dad’s house. Mentally, I knew exactly where I was going, but this is when the emotions and anxiety started fluttering in my stomach. As I got closer and closer, make the turn towards her house and seeing the stop sign I had spent several times screaming Korn with Anna, the emotions grew from my stomach, to my lungs, to my heart, to my throat, and eventually made it up to my eyes, where it all just came spilling out. This is one of the few times I really believed Anna was gone, when I was parked outside her house that was filled with her entire family, and she wasn’t there. I got myself together, and in I went. It was so relieving to walk in and hear Carla yell, “YOU GUYS, LOOK SHE MADE IT!” then to see Mark, Dionne, Katie, and Julia all come running up with each with a big smile on their face- it took all of the nerves and pain away. At that point, I wanted to start crying because I was so thankful that all the stress I had just let build up inside me was gone- but instead I just took a deep breath and found some birthday cake. (Typical) After some time of mingling with family I hadn’t seen in a while, it was time. Time to go to the bench and spread ashes. We got in the car, I was trying to focus on my breathing while also making small talk with Mark and Carla and before I knew it, we were out of the car walking to the bench. It was all I could to restrain myself from half sprinting instead of walking to the bench so that I could hopefully stop feeling like I was about to spew my cake all over the bike path. Finally, we were there. A beautiful clearing, overlooking the river and trees surrounding us. My first thought was, “This is so you, Anna.” My second thought was, “Wow, I really don’t have to puke anymore, thank you God.” By the way, none of this is matching up with what I watched in my brain so far. I didn’t have many words when I got there, I didn’t have very many tears, I can’t explain the feeling I had because it was a feeling I have never felt and will probably never feel again. To look around, look at the squirrels playing, the river flowing, the world still going on around me, knowing the shell that incased my best friend’s one in million soul is spread around my feet, keeping me warm in the winter air- it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel like it could be real. You couldn’t see Anna, I didn’t feel her hand, I didn’t feel like she was touching me or anything weird- I just felt her. Her spunkiness, happiness, warmth, and contagious smile- I felt it all, but it was inside me. I swear I’m not going crazy, not completely crazy anyway. Even I think I’m going crazy when I read the last three sentences, so I know you are all thinking I’m going crazy- but I swear I’m not! Even when Anna was with me, she and I could finish each other’s sentences, knew what the other was thinking and feeling before they said it- and that hasn’t changed. I knew exactly what she was thinking while I was sitting on her bench, I knew exactly how she was feeling and I could feel it too- not because I’m crazy, but because thats how close we are. When you lose the body of someone so close to you, you don’t lose their soul in your heart. I was almost happy to be at that bench, holding her ashes. Yes, I was also begging for her body to come back and just spend one day with her, but I was so encompassed with her love, the love from her family, the love from my family, that it almost made me happy to be there. That moment and feeling passed after about 20 minutes when reality slowly started to set in, but those 20 minutes were just about the best 20 minutes of my life since April 5th, 2014- the day I got the phone call that Anna had died on April 4th.

I guess what I’m trying to say is A) I swear I’m not crazy. B.) More importantly, I learned that when it comes to the big moments in your life- stop planning them. Stop getting worked up over how you want it be and how you think things will go. *spoiler alert* it won’t go the way you want and 80% of the time, because it didn’t go the way you wanted, you will be twice as upset. I’m not saying don’t practice things in your head every once in awhile, but don’t keep yourself up worrying about every little thing that will go wrong. You never know who will be there with you, surrounding you, and keeping you warm- taking away all of your stress, completely changing the plan in your head, and maybe, just maybe, you will have the happiest 20 minutes of your life- if you just stop trying to plan the life God already planned for you. He already has it set up, you can’t change it, you have to trust it.

Tugging, caving, sinking, ripping

Although i have clearly been kept very busy lately between the holidays and school, I never go a day, or even 3 minutes, without a little Anna banana reminder.

First, it was Thanksgiving break. All of the college kids go rushing home for Thanksgiving break mostly for a real home-cooked meal, but secondly to be reunited with the true, life long friends from high school. My instagram newsfeed was filled with pictures of classmates igniting old friendships and reliving old memories. My snapchat ‘newsfeed’ (for lack of a better word) was filled with my new friends, smiling and laughing with their old friends, in a way that only real friends can make you laugh. Then, there was me. Cleaning my Dad’s house on the second biggest party day of the year. I wanted to go out with old classmates, I did. I wanted to see all of my old friends, but I couldn’t. I could not bring myself to go do all of these things knowing that such a big piece was missing. One day I will be able to accept the missing piece in my life, but I still could not celebrate a true ‘Thanksgiving break’ without being able to rush over to Anna’s house as soon as my family stuff wrapped up.

Next, Anna’s 22nd birthday. December 11th. The same day I got my first tattoo. “Seize the day, Family over Everything.” Anna’s 18th birthday party. December 11th either meant we were going to have a great night, or we were skyping in the library and talking about how great it was going to be to see each other so soon and have a really great night.

December 27th, 2014: One of the last days I saw Anna before heading back to college. Anna was using, I had no idea. Now, it makes sense and little things add up in my head.

Some of my fondest memories were over Christmas break. Us girls getting together to exchange gifts, staying up late and cooking literally any food we could find, driving the jeep through extreme death warning blizzards just so Anna could go to Kum & Go, wearing pajamas all day and running around the house, ordering pizza and having a 20minute debate on how to approach the pizza man if he actually turned out to be a she- a mind boggling puzzle we have yet to solve. School breaks were always the time to go home and see your real friends, the friends that have kept you grounded through it all. That’s not how it is anymore. Going home for Thanksgiving break is no where near as happy and cheery as it is for a lot of other kids, December 11th will never just be ‘December 11th’ ever again, Christmas break will never have the same cheer, relief, and relaxation it used to.

I’m currently laying here writing this post as a way to fight the urge to FaceTime Anna. I know I can’t FaceTime Anna, but I laid in bed for much too long wishing I could FaceTime Anna. My heart was literally being tugged down into my stomach before writing this. It was just today that I put together all the pieces as to why I haven’t been my happy holiday self lately, and the sequence of events that are going to happen the next few weeks for me. I honestly hadn’t even thought about what was happening at this time last year until today. Partially because I didn’t have time to think about it, but also because my mind doesn’t want to remember what was happening at this time a year ago. The thoughts just kept rushing into my head. I would remember one vague memory from last December, then all of the sudden each and every second of the month is replaying in my head. I couldn’t call Anna on her 21st birthday last year because I was in the library. Not only could I not call her, I was 33 minutes late. I know this because it was supposed to be the greatest day of our lives. I was 33 minutes late sending her a text message, she was right on time whispering in my dreams on my 21st birthday. All of these memories coming back to me, slowly but steadily, seem to build up on my chest and get heavier and heavier until I have to stop remembering and start focusing on my breathing. It feels as though my heart is gone and the memories are falling on my chest, harder and harder until they are heavy enough to fall right though the place where my heart should be. My heart had been ripped out and now just the thought of Anna is falling through me and I can’t even grasp it. That’s how quickly memories can fade. Which is also a good part about this bog, I can’t tell you how many times I read my own blog posts just to remember. Remember Anna, remember how I felt, remember how she looked, remember the smallest little memories that pop into my head when I’m writing, but completely disappear immediately afterwards. I don’t want the memories to fall through me. Anna’s memories will be forever engraved in my heart, no matter how hard it is ripped from my chest, rung out, and squeezed to it’s last beat- Anna’s memories are still there. They can never go away. And wit these posts, I have a way to always go back and remember how Christmas break used to be, what Christmas break will be one day, and who I used to be with my best friend by my side.

Again

Everyone experiences stressors in life. Some people are better at handling them than others, some can’t handle them on their own at all. Some, like me, have to add depression and anxiety on to these normal stressors. That, my friend, sucks.

The worst part about depression is that we don’t get to chose when it happens. When don’t get to chose when it shows up, when it goes away, or how long it stays. After I lost Anna, as you all know, I was in a severely depressed state and my whole world just didn’t seem to make sense at all. I couldn’t put two and two together. I would try to eat and immediately throw it back up, I would try to get up but my body was too weak to stand. It was hell on earth.

Luckily, I made it through this state. Eventually I came to realize that I needed to get up and live my life. I couldn’t sit inside like this any longer. I had to force myself out of bed, force myself to go outside no matter how many tears were streaming down my face the entire time. I would force myself to walk down the stairs, even though my legs were shaking so bad I nearly fell. I had the motivation then to finally get up and fix it, after three months of staying inside. That was almost five months ago. I have been out of the house living life to the fullest extent for five months now.

I can’t tell you what triggered it to come back, why, when..nothing. When depression does come back, and you’ve been on top of the world so proud of yourself for the past five months, it hits you like a plane flew right into your face. It hurts ten times worse than before. I was so proud of who I was the past five months. I had been doing things normal kids would do, disobeying my parents orders, blowing off a night of studying to go watch movies with friends, going out and doing whatever random thing I could think of that I thought would make me happy- and most of them did. I was very spontaneous, and I almost felt free some days. Free of my depression, my guilt, my worries, just free in the sense that I was here living life to the absolute fullest; I had nothing to complain about. Out of no where, it hit me again. (Sorry for the harsh truth Mom and Grandma)

I’m twenty-one years old. I live every day as a constant battle to find happiness. Happiness isn’t given to you, you have to make happiness. I live every single day trying to block all of the darkness I have seen by searching for happiness. These thoughts all kept running through my head, and I was becoming more and more angry, disappointed, and alone. At this point I realized, I haven’t truly, really been happy these past five months. I’ve just been searching for ‘happy’ and forcing myself to feel that way when it seemed logical. Very little of the ‘happiness’ I felt was actually genuine happiness. It was more of a ‘if you tell yourself it’s real, you’ll believe it’s real’ sort of happiness. When I came to this realization, I broke down. I just wanted to stop searching for happiness. I wanted to stop dealing with this every single day when I wake up. I wanted it all to be over, and to not have to continuously lie to myself. I couldn’t help but to think, ‘How much more of this can I take? I’m 21, I have so many more years of darkness coming my way. How am I going to deal with that? How much more can I put myself through.” At that point, I didn’t want to put myself through anymore else. I spent most of the day in my room, keeping myself away from anything and everything I thought could be potentially dangerous, and just laid there. I ended up sleeping for about 16 hours, and just kept sleeping until I could wake up and not hurt anymore. I would wake up and the feeling was still there. That I wanted to give up and be done with all of it. I wasn’t thinking about my baby brother, my family, nobody else besides myself and how much I hated what I was dealing with. As bad as I wanted it that day, I know I would never have the guts to actually go through with anything, but the pain I feel just knowing that’s the way I’m thinking is bad enough. I’m not one to talk about it in real life to people, I would much rather write about it and not see anyone’s reactions to how crazy I am. Plus, I think saying it out loud makes it more terrifyingly real.

People say when you feel this way you should ‘get help’ or ‘call the crisis line,’ but when this is not your first time having these thoughts, the crisis line is almost worthless. They tell you the same thing over and over, and because of legal issues, they actually have to. For me, the way for me to ‘get help,’ is by surrounding myself with my friends and talking to my family. The hard part about that is, when I’m in that state, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I know I should, but I absolutely do not want to whatsoever. It begins to be a never ending cycle. Going to work and seeing friends helps, but it’s the fake smile that starts to make things difficult. It would all just be a lot easier if my close family and friends could actually understand what it is like. I know my Mom worries and it makes her sad to hear these things, but these are things I hear in my head on a daily bases. I know it is sad, and I’m sorry for that, but these are real life problems. I’m not the only one suffering from it, and so many other people do not understand what it is like to deal with it.

So for now, I just write. Let all of my stress and anger out here while waiting to see who lectures me first on how scary my thoughts are. The good news is, writing it does help. Getting out and sharing your true feelings, knowing someone out there can relate, helps. I am no longer a harm to myself, but I can say I have had harmful thoughts. I have had a lot of practice in learning how to deal with these thoughts, and I’m unfortunately getting really good at it. I turn to faith and pray that something good will be coming my way. Until then, I sit, wait, and I don’t give up. I won’t give up.

Stories of Reality

This semester I’m taking a creative writing class. We are supposed to be writing ‘short stories’ that we will be turning in at the end of the semester. However, I don’t want to write short stories. I don’t want to make stuff up in order to have an affect on people. I want to tell people the harsh reality of life, the way things really are, and how easy all of your lives are compared to the man sitting next to you, and the woman next to him, so on and so forth.

Our assignment today was to read a short story titled Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin. It is a good read, but requires that you have a very strong stomach and a mind open to acceptance. During our conversation about the story, my professor read off some of his favorite quotes. One of them being something about if your writing doesn’t offend someone, than there really is no point to your work, it is more important to have someone absolutely hate your writing, than for them to just put it on the shelf and never remember it. He also mentioned that some of the best works come from authors that talk about the one topic that no one wants to hear about, talk about, or even know about- just as Going to Meet the Man had done. When I was talking about my feelings on the story I had just mentioned how much I felt that the best part of the story was the fact that he was so openly speaking of such a harsh, hidden topic. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, this blog and the responses I have got from people jumped into my head.


 

I have had people thanking me for writing, appreciative for giving others a different outlook on addicts, and just thanking me for the information they otherwise wouldn’t have known. The information on my blog isn’t new information, I didn’t find these statistics or feelings or create any of this. Everything I am writing are things that have been felt by several other people, statistics that were found by someone else– I am simply putting the information out there since no one else has. If I hadn’t lost Anna, I wouldn’t have learned this statistics. I wouldn’t be able to share this information if my best friend didn’t die. Heroin use was nothing I ever wanted to talk about, know about, and a death by overdose was absolutely something I never wanted to experience in my life. It is not something I would ever wish for any other person to experience in their life, however, it is absolutely something I love writing about. I love writing about it, in hopes that none of you do have to experience it in your life. In hopes that you will all see that pain, hurt, and disaster that is created from this monster. If you can stop one person in your life, if you can give one person any sort of information on how to help their loved one- I have succeeded. Although my posts are kind of all over the place- sad here, happy here, REALLY sad there- all in all, I hope you all can find something to share with another person, one thing that will help one person.


 

I have had a couple people message me with their personal thoughts on my writing (which I love hearing!! hint, hint), but the messages I have received are amazing. One of the first messages I received, an old high school classmate shared her experience with alcohol and pain killer addiction. First of all,  I can only imagine the amount of strength it takes from someone suffering from an addiction to share that with someone who she was never super close with, so I was already impressed. She continued to share her story, and by the end I read, “So thank you for talking about it, and telling people what it’s like. My family won’t even talk to me anymore because of it.” I couldn’t believe it. She just told me some of her most intimate thoughts, and then thanked me?! To me, hearing her story and how she related to my posts was plenty enough. That is all I ever wanted from this, was to effect one person and to help them in their recovery, overcoming their addiction, anything. I just wanted one person to listen.

So you can imagine my reaction when I then received another message from another high school classmate. This time, she thanked me for being friends with Bryant. Thanked me for being friends with Bry, and thanked me for talking about how amazing he was and just telling his story. The next sentence I read, “I don’t know where I would be without that eye opener, so I probably owe him (and you) my life.” Wow. I had to read the message about four times before I could actually process what I was reading, and afterwards, I had no words. I could not believe it. “I probably owe Bryant my lifeMY LIFE.” Bryant is gone and he is still here. He saved this persons life. I can’t stop repeating it in my head. I can’t tell you the happiness, the sadness, the joy, and just the overall overwhelming feeling I got from reading that message. I could not have been more proud to be his friend in my life.

Both of these messages I received were things no one wants to talk openly about, most people don’t want to hear about, and the person on the other side absolutely does not (but needs to) speak about. They are very personal, very real, and very hard to tell another person. That’s what makes it so important. That’s why we need to share these things. That’s what makes each and every one of us so important- the stuff that we don’t want to tell people, is the stuff we need to tell people. I never would have thought of myself as ‘a writer.’ I remember in high school, my parents would always get so frustrated that I had a better grade in German than I did in English! “You speak english! How does that happen?!” It was because I hated to read and write! So I have no idea how this blog comes out, I just know that it is important for other to hear it. This is my reality. This is happening. This happened to me. Everyone needs to know, just as much as you need to share your story. You never know who will be effected.

Warning: Here come tears

I keep photos of my friends I have lost on my bedroom wall. Some people think it’s morbid, but for me- it’s so I know I will never forget. Never forget their smiles, their laughs, their faces, I can trace every inch of them and know that I have life here left to live for my friends who do not.

The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it. -Lion King

I recently added this quote to my wall, right next to the faces of my friends that have passed away. I do believe there is a lot of truth in the quote. I do believe that you can let the past hurt you forever or you can learn to cope and grieve and better yourself.

I was laying here, looking at the quote, staring at Anna’s pretty smile, and in my head I kept repeating, “Anna’s dead. Anna’s dead. Anna’s dead. She’s dead. No more Anna. She’s not coming. Anna’s dead.” I can’t put these words together and have it make logical sense. Anna’s dead. It doesn’t even sound right. It’s been six months. Anna has been dead for six months. No, she can not be dead. Nothing inside me can fully accept the fact that she’s gone. I keep looking at her pretty smiling face, hearing her laugh, listening to her childish jokes, and the squeak in her voice when she would call me babe- none of it implies that she could ever be dead. What my head isn’t telling me, is that all of those things are only in my head, they aren’t in front of me anymore. They are no longer things I can share with the world. I can’t call Anna and hear those things, they’re only in my head. They will stay in my head forever.

I keep trying to picture her laying in the casket, and the casket driving away with my best friend’s body inside, but it still will not click. My head still can not accept it. She can’t have left me here. A young, beautiful girl like Anna can not be dead. She isn’t. She is my best friend and I can’t not have her.

I look at Anna, Bryant, Brandon- it can’t be real. They are all such young, attractive people. There is no way they are gone. To this day it is still hard for me to believe Bry is really gone. I had watched the video of his car in flames thirty times, and it still is not real. I listened to the most heart breaking speeches of my life dedicated to Bryant, and he still can’t be gone. I stared at Brandon in his casket, and it still doesn’t seem real.

When someone close to you passes away, it almost makes you crazy. You can’t even fathom life without them, and in your head it is very hard to live a life without them. There is not a second of the day that goes by when I don’t think of Anna. Every stupid thing I do, I can hear myself saying, “Anna would say this.. Anna would do that… I should call Anna and tell her.”

Some people say this feeling goes away. That one day, you stop thinking those things and you finally accept it, but I really don’t know if I could. I don’t know if I can accept life without Anna’s laugh. I hear that she is dead, and it’s just not real to me. Emotionally, I don’t think she could ever be gone. There are days it hurts, it rips me apart to know I can’t call her or hug her or listen to her. But other days, it’s almost like a warmth, the happiness that I still have her inside me, that I can still hear her voice. I play it over and over in my head, so I never forget it. I never want to forget it. I will never forget her. She will never be gone. She will never be dead. As long as I have her inside me.

Different

It’s strange when you notice the small differences in yourself. We notice the day we lose 2 lbs, but have you noticed the way your actions towards your coworkers changed today compared to yesterday? How you had a much bigger smile last week than you do right now? How much your body was radiating happiness yesterday, and today it’s just average?

All of you college kids out there (and adults who just genuinely dislike your desk job), you know that creeping yourself on Facebook takes the cake over studying nine times out of ten. As I had run out of places to creep myself on Facebook, I moved towards Instragram (definition of instagram for those over 50: a form of social media where kids post ‘selfies,’ food, and other irrelevant photos). I can scroll all the way through my instragram photos to my first day of college, 4 years ago. As I was scrolling back, I kept picking up changes in myself. Black hair to blonde hair, freshman 15 to “go eat a cheeseburger,” but the most noticeable one- my happiness.

Everyone has told me during the sporadic times I fall into my super-sad-near-depression-probably-PMS’ing mood- that they can see it in my face, but I never saw it for myself. Since Anna died, more and more people that have only met me a handful of times will say, so what’s going on, you seem down. I was always really confused by this question, and often replied with, “I don’t know, nothing! I mean I guess my best friend died back in April, but I’m okay now!” Too often they respond with, “Ah-ha! I can see it in your face.”

SEE WHAT IN MY FACE? My face is fine! I had no idea what these crazy people were seeing, and I eventually just ruled it down to the fact that I need to get a spray tan, NOW.

However, now I can see it. When I compare my really pretty selfies (that I take too many of) from last week, to the pictures I took a year ago; it looks like a whole different person. It’s not a bad person, a sad person, or a person who hates life. It’s just a different person. The person I see today doesn’t have the same care-free, live in the moment persona as the girl in the pictures a year ago. The woman now seems to be more solidified, tired, and on a much more narrow track than before. Last year, I could do anything in the world I ever dreamed of without worrying about who saw me, what anyone else was doing, what I was supposed to be doing- none of it. Now, I can’t sleep at night without knowing all my friends are in place, safe and sound. This isn’t exactly a bad thing. I suppose for some of you parents, you praying your child meets an overly cautious, worry wart like me while little Beth is running around drunk as a skunk in college- but to be the college girl that is more worried about tucking her drunk-skunk friends in to their own bed in one piece every night, instead of living her last year being a drunk-skunk college kid, is pretty strange. It’s very, VERY rare to find a college kid that would rather sit in a quiet, calm bar with her friends, cheers’ing with wine; rather than getting beer dumped on your head at union and stumbling out the door screaming, “COLLEGE IS AWESOME!” Maybe I’ve matured and that’s what I’m seeing in myself. Or maybe I really have become the uptight, worrisome twenty-one year old that all of the kids laugh at.

There comes a point in life when you have seen so much, you want to stop every issue before it arises. You want to change God’s plan, so that it fits yours and what you want to happen. You are always planning ahead to every single horrible scenario that could possibly happen, you have also prepared a plan A, B, C, D, E, and F, and when that doesn’t work out- the pain is twice as deep. I feel like that’s the person I have become. I automatically assume my Mother has caught the black plague and can’t answer my call because she is quarantine in the hospital, instead of assuming she just won the lottery and can’t talk because she’s depositing $7 million into my account. Let’s hope the first scenario never happens, and let’s pray the second one does!

My point is- it’s not just the maturity that has changed the way my face looks, it’s life. Life takes it’s toll on us and changes our attitudes and way we interact, without us even noticing. I’m sure I’m probably way less entertaining at work than I was eight months ago- and I had no idea. I am probably rude to people with any sort of opinion other than mine, not only because I’m right ;), but also because I don’t want them to believe the wrong thing and get upset/hurt. I am so worried about what is going to happen to other people, that I haven’t even realized how little of my life I have actually lived in the past few months. I lived more life in one week last year than I did in three months this year.

I don’t think this only pertains to the death of a best friend either. We all have our life problems, and we deal with them and we move on. But did you ever really move on? Or did you get past the situation, and the memory still sits in your head dictating your actions at every moment of the day? Yes, your college sweetheart cheated on you with his stats professor, and your life was ruined for three months- you cried and  moved on, yet at age twenty-four, you’re still questioning your three year-long boyfriend about why he had to stay after to meet with his boss about the 3 million dollar contract they are signing tomorrow. Your girlfriend asks you if you think it’s weird her boyfriend has been giving his co-worker, Lindsey, a ride to work all week because her car broke down, and you respond with, “Omg, that was me in college!! Leave him!” …then you Facebook stalk the co-worker and realize Lindsey is actually a fifty-year old man. This is awkward.

We get so caught up in things that have hurt us in the past, and many times we don’t realize how much they are still effecting our every day lives. We let them eat away at us until we are no longer living our lives, and now what do you do? You can’t get that time back. People come and people go. For me- I have to learn to cherish them while I know they’re here, instead of watching them from a distance to make sure they don’t leave. Live care-free again, make dumb decisions, bring cupcakes to a friend’s house- instead of just creeping their twitter to make sure they are still alive. I can’t tell you how many times my advice to people has been, just go for it- life is too short! I supposed it’s time to take my own advice.

Life Plans

We all spend hours daydreaming of what our lives will be. As children we are always asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up little girl?” I had my whole life planned out. I was going to grow up, skip over all that law school business, and become Judge Judy. I was going to find a tall, beautiful man that had a mysterious resemblance to my Ken Barbie Doll, and he would become my husband. We would have a huge wedding with white sheets everywhere, doves flying around the church, and I would walk down the aisle in a huge, fluffy white princess dress with a six-foot long tail following me. It would be perfect.

We later find something else that fits us better. I grew up, I adapted to my surroundings, I have felt different emotions, and eventually I grew into a whole new person that six-year-old little girl could have never imagined. I have no desire to be Judge Judy, nor do I want doves flying around pooping on my wedding guests. I met reality. I faced life. I have seen and lived through things I didn’t even know could happen.
Beep, beep, beep! By far the worst noise any freshman can hear at 6:55 in the morning. Rubbing my eyes with my ears still ringing from the beeping reminder that I have to get ready for school. I slowly get (fall) out of bed and start stumbling towards the bathroom. My eyes are squeezed shut tight enough to not give me a headache, but just enough to not let a peep of light through. Trying to regain stability, I slowly start to open my left eye in an attempt to decide if I really need to shower today, or if I can go sleep for twenty more minutes. Ugh, fine! Flipping on the showerhead, I go fall into my comforter until the water heats up. Why so early?

Finally ready for my first day of school, sporting a great pair of jean shorts and a sweater with just a couple holes. I stop in the mirror and decide I still look cute, but not like I’m trying to hard, perfect. I look at my phone, school starts in fourteen minutes and my brother has texted me three times to come get in the car. Oops. I grab my bag and head for the garage. I hop in his jeep and start texting Anna.

“Where’s your locker? I’m going to be late. Where you at?”

“Dude I don’t know, we aren’t there yet either. Meet me and Rachel at the gym door.”

“Lol, okay, cool.”

It was inevitable that Anna was late to school. Teachers eventually just stopped expecting her to be on time at all. I can’t say much, however, considering I was sent to the dean’s office for having too many excused tardy slips in a row. Anna and I were two peas in a pod.

As a six-year old, I would have never imagined what it was like to have a best friend that was so similar to you in so many ways, but yet so completely different. Anna was the ‘naughty’ one, and I was the ‘curious-but too-scared-my-dad-is-gonna-find-out’ one. I would always be the one to talk Anna into just telling our parents because I was scared they were going to find out anyway. Anna still had a way of manipulating me to live life on the edge every once in awhile. Together, we brought out the best in each other. There is something to say about a best friend who knows you better than you know yourself. I would die for Anna, and I have no doubt in my mind she would do the same for me. Blood alone could not have made us any closer. That’s a very rare thing to find in life. I could tell Anna anything, call her anytime, annoy her all I want when I was bored, and it only brought us closer. We would fight about real life, serious issues. I would scream at Anna about how stupid she is being and how much trouble she can get in, telling her she is being a complete idiot, speed away from her house, and she would call me back to tell me I’m right and give a sincere apology. Typically, she would end up doing whatever I told her not to anyway, but she would just tell me after she did it so I didn’t have time to force her out of it. Little snot. Looking back, that’s one of the things that kept us so close. If she always gave in and let me have my way, we wouldn’t have been as close as we were. We tested and pushed each other to points that no one else could. When I was feeling down or complaining about some rumor someone started about me, she would just look at me and say, “Dude why do you even care?” As I was defending myself, coming up with the most logical argument I could, her response was usually, “Dude whatever, screw that b*itch! She sucks anyway. People say sh*t like that about me all the time. Whocares. Let’s go make some guac.” We would jump in the jeep, jamming out to some Eminem, the bass shaking the entire car, and nothing else mattered anymore. Anna is the only one who can make everything in the world seems so small and a stupid song blaring in the car be the most important thing in the world. I was always worrying about the future, and Anna was living in the now. Together we would balance our thought processes out to be able to live in the now, but still think about the consequences in the future. The most perfect relationship.

Throughout high school, things never changed. We were always the same Jordon and Anna, and most of the school knew us as ‘Jordon, Anna, Rachel, and Sarah.’ Senior year brought up it’s own challenges, but in the end we were always the same best friends forever.

As we were planning for college, weighing our options, it became official. We were going to be separated. Rachel and I going to Iowa, Anna going to Iowa State, and Sarah going to DMACC. We made the best of our last summer together, and eventually said our teary eyed good-byes. Anna promised she would come visit me every weekend, and we would skype every day. I don’t think any of us realized how much work college was actually going to be. We did still keep in touch and skyped often. However, Anna’s plan of coming to Iowa City every weekend was a bit of a long stretch and only happened twice. Even the distance couldn’t tear Anna and I apart. Every time we talked we just picked up were we left off, and it was Jordon and Anna once again.

You can imagine my shock when I got the worst phone call of my life. Anna was dead. Anna overdosed on heroin. HEROIN. Anna was always a pot-smoker, but she never did heroin before. Yes she did. She was an addict for a year. That’s all it took. One year, and she was gone.

There is no one here to make me focus on the song playing quietly in the background of the hair salon as I process the news. There is no one to go make guacamole with me, and pretend like nothing happened. It happened, and that person was gone. No one could make me feel the same, and no one had the spunk Anna did to fix all of my problems. I had to deal with this without her. The worst day of my life and Anna wasn’t there to fix it. As I sat in the chair trying to wrap my head around what had just happened, I could feel myself sitting on the world’s axis as everything around me kept spinning. I felt like I could literally see the people spinning in a circle and I was just stuck in time. I couldn’t do anything about it. The tears were just falling down my face, I couldn’t stop them, I couldn’t make them come any faster. I had no control over anything, and I had no idea how I was going to live the rest of my life without Anna. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the rest of today without her. How I was going to show up at her Mom’s house in four days when she got back to Iowa with her daughter’s body. What I was going to say to her little sisters, her Dad, her Brother, her Step-Mom. All of these thoughts and I just needed Anna there to tell me to shut up as she turned up No Scrubs to the max volume in her car. I’ll never get that again, and it’s all because of one stupid f*cking drug that continues to run ramped through our streets. A drug addiction that we as a society discriminate against so bad killed my other half. The greatest thing I could ever ask for in life, a best friend, a sister, is gone forever because of heroin. And I didn’t even know.

The Past

The past quickly becomes irrelevant in times like these. It’s weird to think that last year, at this same time, I would have never been having the same thoughts I am now.

Recently, Anna’s long time boyfriend requested to be my friend on facebook. They have their own history, and there was a point in time when I had my own opinions of their relationship that Anna was not happy about. He is now also an addict in recovery. Many of the later months of their relationship involved addiction, and I have had a bad taste in mouth towards the relationship for a long time.

When your best friend overdoses on heroin, you immediately find someone to blame. It was obviously not my Anna that chose to use this drug in the first place. It was someone else who pressured her into using, and they are the sole reason why she is gone. Anna’s boyfriend, we’ll call him.. Mitch– was my outlet for the blame. Since Anna’s death, in my head, it was all Mitch’s fault. He’s the one who made her use (I didn’t know this to be true, but I wanted it to be true), and he is the reason she is dead. When I received the facebook friend request from Mitch, my heart dropped. I had so much I wanted to scream at him, yell at him, punish him for, and now he wants to be my friend.

It took me a good three days before I finally accepted the request. There was a time in the first couple years of Mitch and Anna’s relationship that we were all really good friends. Anna, Mitch, and I would all hangout, I would go over to his house, hang out with his family, and we just all had a really close connection. Part of me remembered that Mitch, and eventually my anger suppressed, and I accepted the request.

As I sat there, slowly creeping and pondering the memories we all had together- it hit me.

I don’t even know the story. I don’t know who used what when, who told who it was a good idea, who instigated what, where the drugs came from. Mitch dated Anna for nearly 6 years. He loved her, and she loved him. How am I going to sit here and blame all of this on him when he is suffering just as bad as I am, when I don’t even know the truth?? I finally broke down, and sent him a message on facebook. To sum it up, I basically just poured my heart out into the message. I told him how much I hated him, how much I didn’t actually hate him, but wanted to hate him, how bad I felt for hating him, how broken I was because of our situation, how badly I wanted him to be clean, and I made a point to remind him how much he meant to Anna. He was Anna’s world, the love of her life. She told me multiple times she would absolutely spend the rest of her life with him. Mitch is not a bad person– they had been through a lot together, and both made bad choices. Mitch lost his Dad three years ago, and from there Mitch and Anna’s life together seemed to tumble down a rocky road.

I honestly didn’t know how to talk to Mitch anymore. I didn’t know what to say, and after I sent the message it almost felt like I was cheating on Anna by talking to Mitch without her. It was very strange, but when I got the first phone call from him- I immediately burst into tears. It was so good to hear from him again, and it really felt like the old Mitch was back. We talked for a half hour, and he filled me in on some of the story. The one thing that stuck out the very most was hearing him say, “There is not a second of the day that goes by that I don’t wish I was dead and Anna was still here. She was so much of a better person than me, and she didn’t deserve this. I did.”

I broke into tears, and my heart shattered at the very same moment. Honestly, I have felt the same way. I have wished I could take Anna’s place and she could have mine. That can’t happen. I could hear Mitch’s voice breaking as he continued to elaborate on his feelings of brokenness, loneliness, and pain since losing Anna.

At the moment, I realized nothing from the past mattered. Anna is gone and she isn’t coming back. She would be so angry with me if she knew I was just shutting the door on him, not caring if he got clean or made something of himself. She would be so mad at me for not pushing him to do what she wanted from him the entire time. She wanted me to approve of him the whole time, and the last few years I couldn’t. Now, all of that is gone. It happened, and who am I to put the blame on him and not care if another family goes through this again because I’m bitter about my friend’s life that is no longer here? I had tears streaming down my face, but I was trying to smile as I’m listening to Mitch tell me about how well his recovery is going. He was telling me how thankful he is for being in the program he is in now, and that it literally saved his life. If he wasn’t in this program, he honestly did not believe he would still be alive. He told me out of respect for Anna (and himself) he refuses to ever touch another pill again, no heroin, nothing. He can finally think clearly now that he’s sober, and all he wants is to make things right with her. Staying clean and making something of himself is his way of doing that.

As hard as it was to get the courage to finally talk to Mitch, I am so thankful I did. I will always think of him as Anna’s boyfriend, but I can hear and feel Anna thanking me from above for being there for him. He has no one who really knew Anna in his corner, and he thanked me for speaking to him. I know Anna is smiling as she says, “Aw, babe. Dude, thank you so much. This why I love you!!”

Vests, Lies and Videotape: The Cover-Up of Brandon Ellingson’s Murder

Another one of my friends who passed in an unjust way… Please read

The American Spring Network

After the Coroner’s inquest concluded Thursday Sept. 4 in Versailles, Craig Ellingson, father of drowning victim Brandon Ellingson, called the jury’s decision a “hometown verdict”. The Morgan County jury was seated to review the death of Brandon Ellingson, a 20 year-old native of Clive, Iowa and Arizona State University student, who died while in custody of the Missouri State Water Patrol on May 31 at the popular Midwest tourist destination, the Lake of the Ozarks. The Ellingson family was disappointed in the jury’s determination that Brandon’s death by drowning while handcuffed and in custody of Missouri State Highway Patrolman Anthony Piercy was ‘accidental’.

Brandon Ellingson, native of Clive, IA and Arizona State student murdered on the Lake of the Ozarks. Brandon Ellingson, native of Clive, IA and Arizona State student murdered on the Lake of the Ozarks.

“I still think the inquest was a joke.” Craig Ellingson said following the decision Thursday. “Basically what they were trying to do was get Piercy off the hook so he…

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Love is weird

After losing a person you love and care for, you start overthinking things every time anyone else you love gets in a car, on a plane, doesn’t answer and return your phone call within the hour.

 

I first learned this after Bryant passed away. After seeing news of Bryant’s death on Facebook, but seeing Bryant just 9 hours before, I texted him telling him that it isn’t funny for people to joke about stuff like that and to take it down; That text never got a response. Instead, minutes after I sent the text message, I got a phone call with the worst news a seventeen-year-old, high school senior, preparing to graduate in 6 months wants to hear. Since that day, I have always had a little anxiety when people don’t show up to where they’re supposed to be, don’t call back, etc. Although, it’s one of the things I’m working on, I don’t think it will ever fully go away.

After the second, third, and fourth times of losing people who all hold very special places in my heart, I started to worry twice as often- about the most irrational things! My dad is notorious for showing up a good ten minutes after he said he would. Now, on the ninth minute of him being late the thoughts start racing through my head. “What if he rolled on the gravel, what if someone didn’t see him, what if he hit a deer, what if he had a stroke, oh my gosh- what if it was a heart attack while he was driving, OK- two more minutes and I’m calling him, wait what if he dies in those two minutes, I should call now.” *picks up phone and starts dialing immediately* When my father does answer I usually hear something along the lines of, “Well Princess, I can’t finish up here and get home if you keep calling me. What’s up?” Annnnnd then I’m embarrassed, pretend to ask where the remote to the tv is (even though it’s in my lap) just so my Dad doesn’t think I’m crazy, hang up, and scold myself for worrying so bad when I told myself yesterday I would stop doing this. It’s really just a never ending, embarrassing, and slightly humorous cycle.

My father is very healthy, has been driving since before he was legal, and although sometimes unfortunate for me- has a very good sense of his surroundings and anything unusual happening around him. Even when he’s sleeping… and his daughter snuck out back to chit-chat and hand out free sodas to her friends that were walking home from who knows where after also sneaking out. Moral of the story, it would be a very, very small success rate for one of these crazy thoughts of mine to actually play out.

That’s just the way my brain has become wired. As I prepare for my senior year and changes that are coming my way- I realize that I really can’t prepare for many of these. My whole life has been filled with spur of the moment, unexpected, and one in a million life circumstances. There is no way my whole life is going to change now and become this smooth sailing road for my big, senior year of college. No way God would let me get off that easy! The good news is, however, that now I can recognize it. I no longer expect smooth sailing or the thought of, “Well maybe this month will be better and less stressful.” Yeah, right! Each month and each year has just been a little pretest for me, for God to make sure I can handle whats coming next- even when I think I can’t.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m still very nervous, and stressed to be hoping a loved one will just please get a job in the states instead of sending him off to Canada, putting an end to the best four years of my life and beginning lots of exciting adult years to come, mentally preparing myself to bartend twelve hours a day for a bunch of drunk football fans while trying not to pull out my hair, becoming Auntie Jo and restraining myself from inducing my sister-in-law myself because I’m sick of waiting to see what the little guy will look like, budgeting my money well enough to make it through my year, crossing the I’s and dotting the T’s on my financial aid/bills/mounds of paperwork taking over my desk space, and trying to stay sane the whole time… which is the hardest part!

The difference is- this year, this month, this time, I know there’s something coming that I’m not planning on and when it gets here, I’ll be ready for it! Even if it takes 3 bags of cotton candy!

 

 

 

(Okay, I’m not sure what could ever happen that would require three bags of cotton candy. There is a small chance I’m just using a potentially horrible situation as a way to eventually suppress my current craving for cotton candy, but who are you to judge?!)

Why hide it?

Why not brag to the world about how much strength, determination, and self-discipline you have, that allowed you to overcome such a horrible addiction? Why be shy about the fact that you are no longer that person anymore?

 

I ran into a familiar face and his girlfriend around Iowa City last week, one thing led to another and it turned out he knew Anna and was an addict in recovery himself. He knew Anna before the heroin, and during the heroin. He has been clean for a couple months now, but he hadn’t heard the whole story on Anna’s passing. I told him the whole story, and so many times he just kept saying, “That was me, I would do that too,” “Yeah, it so hard. I can’t even explain,” “No one else even can try to understand.” The conversation went on, and I was explaining to him the research I’m doing now, what I’ve learned, and how I want to change another person’s life. Throughout the conversation, he was sharing very personal details with me and his girlfriend about the dark thoughts and situations of heroin addicts, and the uncontrollable mentality that he so deeply regrets.

 

It got to a point about an hour into the conversation, his girlfriend randomly burst into tears and walked away. He ran to follow her, and I followed as well to make sure everything was okay. She kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s just… I can’t imagine him being that way, and I just love him and it just really hurts to hear him talk like that. Its scary to know that’s him.”

 

It took her awhile to clam down, but when she did I tried my best to explain to her that he is not that person anymore. He doesn’t even have the same mental processes he did back then. The fact that he is willing to talk about those things in front of her and who he was, is a very important thing. There is such a stigma against speaking out and the judgement that comes along with heroin addiction, no one wants to admit that they were in that place. My best friend couldn’t tell me either, and she is my best friend. Personally, I think people who overcome heroin addiction are some of the strongest, most amazing people in this world- not only heroin addiction but all addictions. It is such a monster, and so difficult to beat- they should be able to walk around sharing with the world what they went through and we should be congratulating them on becoming themselves again, not shunning them for who they used to be. Be proud of who you are, were, want to be. No matter what that is, share your stories with the world. I bet this world would be a much better place if we weren’t so scared of what other people are going to think of us for our actions.

How can it be?

I know a lot of my writing is just me expressing feelings- hatred, sorrow, love, and grieving- toward Anna and the entire situation. However, today a whole new light was shed over me.

I was at work until 3am Friday night, knowing I was to be at my second job again at 7am. I have made these shifts work frequently in my past, and was mentally prepared to do it again. I got home around 3:15am Friday night and I could not sleep for the life of me. I laid in bed, not thinking about anything, not worrying about anything- simply content, but not tired enough to somber my body. As I lay there, hugging Anna’s robe, rolling over every half hour to check the time- I could not pin point the reason for my insomnia. I rolled over again at 6:54am, and shut off my alarm that was set for 6:55. I continued to lay in bed, nothing major crossing my mind other than the fact that I knew I was going to be exhausted during my eight hour shift. I needed to get myself together. Finally, I rolled out of bed, got ready, and with some help from McDonald’s breakfast menu and a very, very large iced coffee I was ready to take on my shift.

I was nearing the end of the shift, thirty minutes to go, when I received a phone call from my Dad’s fiancé. It wasn’t unusual for her to call me, but something didn’t feel right. I called her back on my work phone, fifteen minutes left in my shift, and I hear, “Jordon, I need you to stay calm okay?” The most terrifying words a daughter can hear. I did my best, but the fear of my father being in pain and sickness got the best of me. The tears started flowing, and refused to stop. My father was in the hospital with severe abdominal pains, and my fifteen year old brother was the hero that drove him there. There was something blocking his small intestine, and he was filled with tubes to help correct it. I was able to speak to him, and he sounded just like my Daddy, which helped to ease my nerves. He was tired, I told him I loved him, and he went back to sleep.

An hour passed, and my grandma called me to tell me he was going into surgery. Of course, this sent me into panic mode. What if he’s allergic to the sedatives? (He’s had surgery before, unnecessary Jordon) What if this, what if.. STOP! This continued in my head for the next hour and a half until I got the call that surgery was over. During that time, I had made three trips from my old house to my new apartment moving my things. My dad was supposed to be there to help, and this was the first time I felt like he wasn’t there because he physically could not be there, not because he was too busy. My dad was always there for me, no matter what. I felt empty and alone. It was my daddy, my big, strong, tough Dad- in surgery. Out cold, being cut open. The tears were on and off until I finally got a call from my grandma that my dad was doing well, surgery went great, and he was sleeping. It had been the best case scenario and they didn’t have to remove his intestine, just open a pinched piece of scar tissue.

I was relieved, happy about having my new apartment, and excited to spend time with my friends without fear tugging on my soul. One thing led to another, and there I was sitting in the middle of downtown when the fear came back and the realization that my dad had just overcome emergency surgery three months after I lost my best friend. I had a bit of a break down, and finally took it upon myself to go home. I felt weak, empty, and hungry! I stopped by the walking taco stand to grab a bite to eat, without knowing what was coming next.

As I was soberly, patiently waiting my turn- A groom and his obvious group of groomsmen following behind him like ducklings, causally made their way in front of me. They clearly needed to soak up the alcohol in their system, so I didn’t say anything, but just let them by. The woman working the stand said something to the men, who apologized and asked me how my night was going. I looked at them, tears beginning to fill my eyes, I replied, “It’s horrible actually. But I’ll be okay. Congratulations on your wedding! Where’s the wife?” My weak attempt at a subject change did not fly with Mr. Groom. The groom looked at me, apologized, gave the woman money for my meal and asked me what had happened. Everything immediately poured out of me, the fact the I had lost my best friend, the surgery.. The words came out before I knew what I was saying. The groom looked at me and said, “You know what? I’m 32 years old, I just got married. I had buried way more than you at your age. By the time I was 21 I had buried five friends to suicide. I can tell you right now- it sucks. You’re going to lose people you love so dearly and it’s miserable. You keep thinking, ‘Why do I keep meeting these people when they all just die?’ I can tell you right now, it’s because you are a better person from it. You are a better friend to those around you, you can show more compassion to those you love, and you will never forget a single memory. You will become stronger from it, it sucks right now but just wait.”

How can it be that I met this man (who was possibly blacked out drunk), at a walking taco stand for goodness sake, downtown Iowa City, an hour after his wedding– still willing to take the time to stand there and tell me exactly what I needed to hear? A complete stranger! How does that happen? It doesn’t happen. Unless someone made it happen, for a reason. Just like everything else we have thrown at us. There is happiness in every dark storm, we just have to hold on tight until we figure out where it is and how to grasp it.

Funny, isn’t it?

Last night as I was chatting with an old friend of mine, I was telling her Anna’s whole story and my struggles that came along with it. When I was finished, she said to me, “It just makes me so mad. Like, my uncle is 38- he’s been using heroin his whole life, he will go to prison for a year, get out and be clean for a few months before he’s using again, and he really doesn’t even want to get clean. Why did it have to be Anna, so young and wanting so badly to get clean, instead of someone like my uncle who doesn’t even care to stop using and care about getting clean at all. He barely has anything going for him anymore, why did it have to be her?”

 

And for the first time, I actually believed what I was saying when I replied, “You know, I used to wonder the same thing- but now, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it was Anna for a reason. If someone like your uncle had passed- not as many people would be affected by it, people would almost expect it to happen at this point. If it was him, it would just confirm the alledged stereotype of drug addicts. Before all this, if you asked me what a heroin addicted looked like I would say- an old man, lots of wrinkles, long hair, sitting next to a dumpster on Skid Rowe shooting up- that’s just the image that came to my head. I would have always kept that vision of a heroin addict, and I would continue not to give a crap about those people. I, and many others, needed a punch in the stomach before we realized that addicts are people, they are deserving, and they need my help. Which is why it was Anna, who knew and loved everyone she met- so that it would affect so many people, and people would start realizing what is happening. It was an eye opening experience for hundreds of people, and those hundreds of people wouldn’t be able to help another hundred people if it wasn’t Anna that passed away.”

 

Everyone has that feeling after losing someone. The thought of, “Why couldn’t it have been me? Take me don’t take them.” I can’t tell you how many countless times I have yelled at God for taking Anna away when she had so much going for her, and so much life inside of her- that why couldn’t he have taken me? I looked up to Anna in such a way that I saw her life to be more important than mine even. THAT’s how important and special she was. She was not just an ordinary girl- which is why so many people were so devastated to hear the news. It took me days, months, just to get over the shock of her death. To this day I can still stay that I have yet to fully accept her death, but I can say that I have a small idea of why it was her death. I would not be as motivated for my future goals, my future career, and the rest of my life if I hadn’t lost her. I would have never given addiction the time of day or even a small glimpse of a thought. I would have continued on my original career path, with a little motivation but not much, and not really knowing what the meaning of my life was. Now I know, I know I’m meant to be doing this. I meant to do DEA or drug rehab work, and there is nothing that could have motivated me more than losing my best friend.

I know so many other people have gained so much more insight since she has passed as well. People are learning about addiction, learning about heroin, and watching so many young people being judged because of their wrong choice, and eventually losing their lives due to the wrong choice. Anna was a child when she passed. She was twenty-one years old. Statistically she had lived just over one-fourth of her life before it abruptly ended. She was still dependent on her parents, who raised her her entire life, she was still in the process of making bad choices and learning from them- just like all twenty-one year old children do. How many children does the world need to lose before you step up to help save them? Not every twenty-one year old child is lucky enough to have parents that love and care for them as much as Anna did- and those children can potentially lose their lives a lot sooner, or stay here a lot longer being completely miserable, living in hell, with no bright light at the end of the tunnel- no way for them to get help because they have no one left to care for them. Without help from our society, more and more children are going to lose their lives to addiction because there is no one there to stand behind them and  give them a chance to get the help they are longing for. Twenty-one year olds who’s family has given up on them, refuses to care for them any longer don’t have $30,000 to get rid of the monster that is eating away at them. They shouldn’t have to have $30,000 in order to be themselves again. All in all- more and more children are going to keep losing their lives, until more and more parents have to suffer through the worst experience they could even imagine- or we can put an end to it all now, and stand up against it before it gets to that point. We can’t do it alone, and the more people who know that this is happening- the more people that will help. Stop hiding it under a rug and being ashamed of who your family members are or were- speak out and help save someone else’s family member. Stop being selfish and thinking your reputation is more important than another person’s life.

Ignorance

Every day I am more and more amazed by our society and their complete lack of respect for themselves, and especially for others around them. Ignorance and disrespect is nothing new to our society, and it has been happening for many years. With all of the changes we have implemented, trying desperately to make ourselves into a whole, equal society- how come we never seem to find respect for each other?

During the time of slavery and discrimination, people obviously had no respect for each other. What’s worse, they had no logical reasoning behind their actions. Simply ‘because he/she is black,’ was a fair enough reason to spit on somebody as they walked by. How? What makes their inside any different than your inside? Nothing. MLK Jr. made that point, and proved to the world that we are all exactly the same. When my mother was younger, (after MLK Jr. had changed the idea of discrimination) as a mixed baby being raised by two white parents, others would continue to say disrespectful comments to her parents. In the seventies, my grandparents were walking through the grocery store with my mother in the cart. Another person had the nerve to ask, “What are you doing with a nigger in your cart?” They were speaking of a four-year-old baby. Can you imagine? How can you disrespect such an innocent soul, at such a young age.

We all wish to think that disrespect in these ways cease to exist in today’s society. Homosexual couples are now allow to be married, our president is black, so clearly the world has changed! People hardly even see color any more, and if they do- it’s typically to compliment someone on their beautiful skin tone.

If only that were true. If it isn’t one type of discrimination it’s another. If someone is rude to us at the store we automatically assume that are a huge b**** and they deserve whatever horrible karma comes their way- but what if they just lost their job? Lost their house? Is trying to leave an abusive relationship? You have no idea what is happening in their life. You have no reason to shun them for one rude action. What if you respond to their action by saying, “I hope you have a better day.” And that person bursts into tears because you are the first person in their life to care for them.

The discrimination that now hurts me the most in today’s society is the way people view addicts and recovering addicts. Many of you know that Des Moines has suffered multiple heroin overdose deaths since Anna died, and most recently was a young man from Roosevelt High School. The story was on the local news, and Anna/Anna’s Warriors was mentioned in the story. The stiry is absolutely horrendous and so wrong it makes me sick- but that is for another post. The part that really got to me was the online comments being made about the story on the KCCI website.

I quote, “Look at the bright side: with every overdose death there’s one less addict.”

How can you, as another person living in the dark world we live in, honestly think that way? What makes your live more valuable than the one who accidentally died? What are YOU doing with YOUR life that gives you the right to find the death of another person has a ‘bright side?’ It is mind boggling to me that people actually think this way of another human. Especially when they are saying it about my best friend. We are all people. People are people. We are not defined by the choices we have made, and no one should be judged by the mistakes they have made. Half of the people living on the streets, half of the people using drugs, they all have a bigger heart and more love than most of you reading this- because they are living in the worst hell they could ever imagine. Many of them are in this hell because they are masking such intense emotions. They would never wish that upon anyone else, and because of that- their love for others is amazing. They know they have made wrong choices, they are not proud of their drug use, but they are proud of each and every one of you who have never used drugs and most of them would give anything to be sure that you never do use drugs. So please- think about what you’re saying, think about how you’re comparing and judging people, think outside the box about who they could have been before and after using drugs or becoming an addict. The one who died of cocaine overdose because he was in med-school up studying all night on cocaine- could have cured cancer. Yes they made a wrong choice, but that doesn’t mean their life is not worth living.

Think about it. Think about who you are and how you look at those around you.

And never judge someone by their actions again.

Warrior

Now that I have reached 1,500 views, I guess I should probably mention why the title of this page is called “warrior,” considering most of my messages are about death and heroin addiction. To some, that doesn’t sound like much of a warrior. Here is why.

According to dictionary.com:

warrior: (war-ee-er, wawr-yer, wor-ee-er, wor-yer) 1. a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier. 2. a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.

According to the World English Dictionary:

unknown soldier or warrior: (in various countries) an unidentified soldier who has died in battle and for whom a tomb is established as a memorial to other unidentified dead of the nation’s armed forces.

Merriam Webster dictionary:

warrior: a man engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly :  a person engaged in some struggle or conflict <poverty warriors

And lastly, the online Urban Dictionary:

warrior: A person who beyond all obstacles still manages to be successful. A warrior will often be troubled in life, but will persevere in the end.
Socially, a Warrior will often be down to earth, functioning entirely off of what they perceive as logic. While this can lead to arrogance and stubbornness, a Warrior has a soft center, and can be befriended with ease by anyone knowing how to reach it.
Often intelligent, strong, determined, and skillful. A Warrior, despite whatever problems they may have, is perfect. In their own way, each Warrior is perfect.

All of these definitions come together to create a new definition of a warrior, my definition of a warrior.

Warrior: a man or woman, who chooses to fight a battle, even if they know it can not always be won. A warrior is not perfect, but does not squander their time on personal issues. A warrior learns from their imperfections, and shares their lessons with the world. No matter how big or how small the challenge, a warrior fights with the same determination and strength in order to succeed. A warrior never gives up. A person who fights vigorously for themselves and for the people around them. A warrior is selfless, willing to make large sacrifices. A true warrior takes charge and shows initiative to help others win their battle, doing whatever it takes in order to succeed. A warrior is someone who carries on their legacy, their fight, their strength, and their determination to win the battle, even after they are gone.

That is my understanding of a warrior, and my understanding of who my best friend was and still is. Anna made the choice to use heroin, but she also made the choice to change. She went to rehab, she fought the horrible disease in her brain. She prevailed, and she went through the worst hell anyone can imagine to do so. Anna was not perfect, she did relapse (along with the other 90% of opioid addicts in the first year after treatment), but Anna went back to rehab. She went back to detox and put herself through an intolerable misery again. She continued to fight, she never stopped fighting. She had journal after journal after journal of her struggles, changes she made, and her thoughts throughout her trying times. She was determined to get clean, determined to make a change for herself and for her family. She never wished to hurt anyone, and she knew that her actions were killing those around her, and she was willing to put herself in copious amounts of pain in order to see happiness in those people.

In the end, Anna did pass away. BUT Anna did not lose the battle. She is still fighting. Anna sacrificed her life in order for the rest of us to see what heroin can do and is doing to so many amazing people. God took Anna, one of the greatest warriors there was, in order for those of us who are still here to become warriors as well, and to succeed in Anna’s fight against addiction. Anna didn’t give up when she relapsed the second time, she was making a point to prove the true power of addiction. She shared with us the lesson she was forced to learn the hard way. Anna saved all of us the trouble of being put through such a hell, by simply showing you her hell. I would have never had a clue about heroin addiction, lack of care in rehab facilities, extreme expenses to get help, or the power opioids have over the brain to create such a strong addiction- without first losing Anna. Anna is one of, if not the, best person I have ever known, and for this I know she left me here, with her family, because she knew we would never stop fighting for her. She knew we could be the ones to step up and make a change in so many of the one-minded, stubborn people in our world that refuse to see the bad that is surrounding them. That is why Anna’s family created “Anna’s Warriors,” because that is exactly what we are, what Anna is, and what we are doing. We are fighting for Anna, Anna’s battle, and we sacrificed the most amazing person we knew without wallowing in our grief- but instead using it as motivation to save the rest of you, your family members, your friends, from experiencing anything like what we have been forced to go through. Along the way, we will continue to pick up more warriors until we have a fully stacked, impregnable army to fight Anna’s fight of addiction and raising awareness of drug use. It is not a race, together all we have to do is save one soul at a time, and we will succeed: together.

Not a day goes by..

I was up last night, unable to sleep, and missing my best friend once again. I was searching through music and listening to old songs on youtube when I came across the song “Meant to be” by TLC. It was written when TLC got back together after one of their members had passed away. Anna loved TLC, and it was just too perfect of a song for me to find while missing Anna so much. I decided I needed to do something to remember this song, and remember Anna with forever- and thats how this video came about! I have plenty of pictures of her, a couple songs that fit her perfectly, and her voice at the end reminding me she’s still my “long lost best friend, Anna.”

 

Point Proven.

I had to share with you a real life example of why the world needs Anna’s Warriors, Anna’s story, and a complete attitude change.

I work two jobs in order to pay for school, rent, and life in general. One of them is a receptionist at a hair salon, and the other is working at one of the better known bars in my college town as a bartender. Part of doing your job well, (without a required uniform) is adjusting yourself so that you ‘fit’ the position you hold. When I go to the salon, I wear conservative clothes, jewelry, cover my tattoos, fresh make up, hair done, and I’m prepared to interact with clients from age two to ninety-two. When I work at the bar, I change into a whole different mold. If I were to show up to the bar the same way I show up to the salon- students would either make fun of me for looking like an old woman, not order anything but water from me for fear that I had no idea what I was doing, or.. my boss would probably just fire me for losing more money than selling. If I were to show up to the salon the same way I show up to the bar, I’m pretty sure Ethel would have a heart attack on sight. Therefore, when I go to the bar, I wear more college-friendly clothes. Dresses (with shorts on underneath because I’m too much of a tomboy to trust myself without), short shorts (not too short, but you understand), crop tops, etc. I have no worries about showing my tattoos, and usually end up getting complimented on my ink. Because I am constantly flipping bottles, scooping ice, running back and forth, grabbing, stacking, and shaking things around with 180 students screaming, sweating out their alcohol consumption, and giving off more body heat than usual- it gets really hot behind the bar, so I always try to wear outfits that are going to keep me as cool as possible in fear of customers running from me because of my sweaty armpit B.O. (hot, I know). One tip for future bar employees: definitely NO full length pants, NO long sleeves, and as much as you hate them- crop tops and high waisted shorts ARE your friend. I cringe just thinking about my first shift while wearing jeans and a cute t-shirt (luckily it was black, so you couldn’t see the pit stains that reached to my waistline). Ugh.

 

The other night I was waiting for the bar to get busy and I could start working my shift. I usually sit at the bar, so I can still chat with other coworkers and friends around me. I was sitting alone at the time and an old friend walked in and sat next to me with his buddies. We were chatting and eventually he introduced me to one of the friends (we’ll call him Henry). Henry and I were chatting about school, where we are from, just normal, small talk things. He grew up in Texas, but his parents now live in Singapore due to a job transfer, because of this he told me about his envy of me for growing up so close to our college town that many of my childhood friends are still nearby. I chuckled a bit, and he said, “Well I mean, just like you could have childhood friends, I moved a lot so I never really got to have any, but yeah.” I’m assuming he thought I was a huge loser who actually didn’t have friends growing up, but I smiled again and said, “Yeah, I do. A few of my friends study here as well so it’s pretty cool to have people I know so well around, but unfortunately, I’ve had to bury a few of the others. I know they are still with me in spirit though.” His face just froze while he brainstormed an appropriate response. He apologized for my loss, and asked what had happened. I told him my best friend died of a heroin overdose in April, and I’ve had a couple other friends die of suicide. He apologized again, and told me about how he had to watch his father die of cancer when he was 19, so he knows what it’s like to lose someone so close.

As we kept talking, I told him it definitely is a very hard thing to go through, and that I was in a terrible place after Anna’s death. I then explained how I have finally come to find that I can do something good from her death, and I am now interested in DEA or drug rehabilitation counseling, since my degrees are in Criminology and Psychology.

He looked at me, laughed, and said, “You’re wearing a snap-back hat backwards, you have tattoos, you’re wearing that, you work in a bar and you want to be DEA? Ha! How does that work?”

With a little attitude, I promptly and conceitedly replied “Ask me how many times I’ve gone out drinking in the past 8 months. Then ask me how many drugs I’ve done in my life.”

Henry pondered for a bit, “Li- wait, you’re going to say 0 aren’t you?”

“Yep. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been out drinking, I just don’t think it’s very fun anymore. I smoked weed before (sorry Grandma, Mom, and Dad & Elisa), but I don’t like it because I have a very controlling personality and it just wasn’t fun. That’s the only drug I’ve ever done. And my best friend since I was nine still managed to overdose on Heroin. Didn’t expect that did ya?”

Henry was shocked. “Wow,” he said, “I just completely judged you so differently and wrong. I thought you were like a typical college party girl who gets smashed like every night.”

Nope! I’m very far from it. I personally don’t understand the fun in spending an hour to get ready just to go sit in an extremely loud, crowded, dark place where you can’t hear each other, and having people not even look at my hair or face that I just spent an hour beautifying, but instead everywhere below that I haven’t spent twenty minutes on in the past month. That just really does not sound like my idea of a good time, personally.

After I had explained all of this to him, I began to giggle saying, “You know, it’s funny. I had written a blog about this same exact thing a bit ago. Anna’s family started a non-profit for this exact reason. People don’t know about heroin, don’t know who is doing heroin, and judge people by their outer appearance- often being so far from the truth. You just proved to me exactly why I am doing this, to educate people and show them the way their society really does judge people instead of love and listen to people. I told you Anna is with me all the time!”