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.

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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!”

04/04/2014-04/04/2016

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. 

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.

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!!”

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?!)

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.

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.”

 

21.

Ahh, the big 21st birthday!

Now that I’m 21, I’m obviously much, much older, mature, and smarter- just like every 21 year old out there…. Oh.

Twenty-one doesn’t feel much different than twenty (sorry to spoil it), and twenty-one without your best friend around is even less fun than twenty with her around. Anna and I had been planning our twenty-first birthdays since we were roughly sixteen, and had the best trip to Vegas with all of our high-school girlfriends planned out in our heads. I’m not sure how we thought that trip was going to work out considering we’re all broke college students… No, I take that back- Knowing Anna I’m sure the hotel room would have been charged to Carla’s credit card and Mom would have grounded us for life. On our twenty-first birthdays, Anna and I would obviously meet each other after a long semester of college, go out and show this town how it’s done, and have the greatest night of our lives because we are legally able to drink without our parents taking our cellphones or cars. Anna’s birthday was first, December eleventh, and she was really, I mean reallllly excited to be twenty-one. I’m not exactly sure why thinking back on it now, I suppose just because she could go buy a six-pack whenever she wanted and was no longer terrified of the Kum and Go worker telling her she looked nothing like a 24 year-old Rebecca, with blonde hair like her ID said. That, and the fact that Anna had the height of a sixth grader and would still get ID’d for cigarettes at age twenty, both caused her to be even more excited for her birthday than the average college student. I, who has always looked older than my age (mostly because of my height), was always excited, but never really over-the-top like Anna. At age seventeen, most people assumed I was around twenty-ish and it just went up from there. Luckily, I have remained looking twenty-one for the past couple years, and I’m praying it will stay this way the rest of my life. Wishful thinking. Anyway, Anna had enough excitement for the both of us. She was more excited for my twenty-first birthday than I was. We would set all of these plans, Anna would write out timed itineraries for our celebrations, where we were going to be when, and she was researching our girls weekend in Vegas before we were even out of high-school.

Our twenty-first birthdays were nothing like we planned. The itinerary was bologna. On Anna’s twenty-first birthday, we hadn’t factored in the fact that I was taking a final exam and had three more left to take that week, while her college was already out. We didn’t factor in the fact that Anna was a recovering addict, and couldn’t drink anyway. We didn’t expect Anna to no longer have the jeep that we had spent countless days driving around blaring music in quiet neighborhoods for no reason. We didn’t realize our lives would have made such a sharp turn. That wasn’t the plan. It was all ruined, and I didn’t even get to see Anna on her birthday. All I could do was send her a, “OMGGGG HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY BEST FRRRRAN! TAKE A SHOT FOR MEEEE! And call me when you’re drunk later! Lolz. Love you babbbyyy” text at midnight while I was cramming for my exams at the library. That wasn’t the plan.

But, God had a different plan. He needed Anna to come home before my twenty-first birthday even happened.

I spent my twenty-first birthday in Iowa City with some of my dearest friends, all who know what I’m going through, and they showed me the best time I could have asked for! I mean, I got two free meals that day.. they know the key to my heart, what more could a girl ask for?! Well, okay, yes, I could ask for my best friend, and I often do, but that just isn’t going to happen. I did enjoy my birthday, but in the back of my head I kept thinking back to my birthday itinerary and it was all wrong. It’s little things that pop up in my head all the time reminding me of what I think it should be and what God’s plan really is. I still drove over to Anna’s on Sunday, just like my itinerary said, except this time it was just Carla and I. Carla got me a gift, including Anna’s Chapstick egg that she had signed, so I knew Anna was still there, but it just seemed like something was missing.

It will feel that way for all of the days to come, especially the milestones Anna and I had already planned out, but somehow there is always a comfort around me knowing that change happens, Anna is still popping up around me, and it’s up to me to figure out why my life doesn’t match our itinerary- what I’m supposed to do with the life I do still have on Earth, knowing that it’s not going to match the plan I had all along… and that’s okay.

Sisters

Sometimes, best friends are even more than that. When you find a best friend that you know is going to be there your whole life, she’s now your sister. I looked up to Anna in so many ways. She showed me so much in life, and I learned so much about life from her that she could be nothing less than a sister to me. Blood could not have made us any closer. I had always wanted a sister growing up, and I even went as far as to dress my baby brother up in my clothes and call him Tina. However, Dad was not amused, and little Joshy wasn’t Tina anymore. God did give me Anna though, she was closer to me than anyone in my life. She knew more about me than I knew about myself, she knew how I was feeling before I even said it, and she knew who I was without me explaining myself. I think that’s why these past few months have been so hard for me.

Lately all I can think about is trying to pick back up all the pieces of my life that shattered right in front of me after I got the worst phone call of my life. It seems like nothing is fitting back together the same way it was before. My life changed so quickly in such a way I could have never imagined, and I mentally could not handle it for a long time. As I mentioned before this is not my first rodeo with losing a friend, but this is the first time losing a sister, a best friend, someone who knew me for so long, so well, and a spot in my heart that is completely irreplaceable. It was such a shock to me mentally that I just completely shut down.

I physically could not get out of my bed without breaking down. I couldn’t leave my house without crying. I couldn’t eat without being sick. I sat in my room for days upon days, usually watching Netflix, the sunlight blocked out completely, and just a lamp on to keep me company. I didn’t want to do anything. I did have a need to do anything. I had no motivation to do anything or to live my life at all. I stayed put in my bedroom where the real world couldn’t get to me, and I could block it all from consuming me. Most people say it’s the opposite for them, sitting inside makes it worse, but if I had left my room during that time- I know something terrible would have happened. I was in such a confused, whirlwind place, with thoughts racing through my mind every second of the day, it was exhausting.

Many people, including my Father, Grandmother, siblings, no one knows is that I have been going to therapy for months now. Since Anna died, I have been going twice a week in order to try to keep myself sane. I am a psychology major, but I never in a million years thought therapy would be anything that could help me- I was strong enough. There comes a point however, when you mind experiences so much, that you can’t take it any longer. I was in such a depression I was losing weight by the day, even when I would eat. My hair was falling out, and I just looked miserable all the time- and I was miserable all the time. I didn’t talk to anyone for weeks after Anna died. I had no desire to talk to anyone. I just wanted to curl up in a little ball and wake up a new person, with a new life, and be somewhere far, far away from all of these memories. No matter how badly I wished the next day would be different, it was always the same.

The hardest thing about all of this, was the fact that Anna wasn’t here to understand how I was feeling. No one has understood me the way Anna did, and when I try to explain it to them- they still don’t get it. Until you have been a person suffering from depression, you have no idea what it is like. It is the worst thing you can imagine, and you wake up feeling like hell every single day, praying you can stay out of sight and counting down the minutes until you can crawl back up into that black whole and hide from the world.

I’m on medications for anxiety and depression, and after 3 months of extreme depression I am able to leave my house without having a huge panic attack. Large crowds without someone I trust around are still a trigger for the anxiety and a longing to run back to my black hole, but it has been much easier to cope with when I know it’s coming. The hardest part now, is putting the pieces back together.

I was in my room, alone, not talking to anyone really, for a good two months before I was able to come out of it. In that time, my friends graduated and left, people I cared about deeply came and gone, and eventually I was left with my family, my therapist, and my ex-boyfriends dog (whenever he was willing to let me steal him). I didn’t go out, congratulate my friends, or even tell them goodbye before they left. Even thinking about going to see them made me so anxious I would have a hard time breathing or even moving- I would just freeze up (or faint- which gave me my first black eye).

Now, I have forced myself to be social again. Before all of this set in, I was always with friends. You couldn’t get me to leave anyone’s side for twenty minutes. I’m a twenty-year-old college student, all we do is hang out with friends and have sleep overs on school nights, and do everything our parents wouldn’t let us do when we were nine. The only problem is, I have no one left to be social with. I managed to lose all of my ties with everyone because anytime anyone asked me to do anything, the answer was always no. Eventually, they gave up. Trying to rebuild friendships is not an easy thing, especially when everyone has gone off and made new friends and you’re just there, taking up space, and not understanding any of what’s happening around you. My world is still foggy walking around and seeing people. I feel like I’m moving in slow motion, and everything around me is just passing by in fast blurs. It’s impossible for me to get out of my head, and try to enjoy what is happening around me. With time, things will get more clear, but for now I am still so lost. I continuously have thoughts like, “who’s going to be my maid of honor?” “Who am I going to call when I get engaged?” “Who is going to celebrate with me when I get my first job?” “when I graduate college?” “Who is going to be with me ten years from now” The answer to all of those questions was always Anna. Since high school we had planning on giving each other speeches at our weddings. Instead, I was a giving a speech at her funeral.

It seems like without her here, nothing fits in place. The relationships I want to be in aren’t working, and the places I want to be with myself aren’t there. I have a hard time knowing who I am without her, because so much of my heart was consumed and created through Anna being my backbone.

So for now… it’s just me. Trying to figure out how these pieces change their shape and mold into what my new life is going to be without my sister next to me. I don’t have answer for what my life will even remotely look like next year, next week, or tomorrow- and that ‘unknown’ is a very scary thing. It changes who you are and how you think. Everything I built my whole life is completely changed, and for the first time in my life- I have to figure it out completely on my own.

Weed is a gateway drug

K, No.

Weed is not a gateway drug.

The perception of weed is that you will then want a stronger, different high, but that really is not technically the case. What IS the gateway, is the PEOPLE you meet while smoking bud, buying it, etc. Just because you smoke marijuana, your brain isn’t going to magically crave meth.

Often times, people that are smoking weed typically aren’t growing their own little batch of pot in the basement, keeping it to themselves, and lighting up in their bedroom every once in awhile. They have to meet people who are selling pot, usually go over to the dealer’s house to pick up the pot, meet whoever is hanging out at the dealer’s house, maybe stay to hangout and smoke a bowl with them, then go home to light up before bed. Teens especially have a hard time finding a place where they can smoke it without a.) getting caught by Mom and Dad or b.) get pulled over after hot boxing. They don’t have a home of their own, and very few parents are okay with their child leaving the house reeking of marijuana. This calls for some brainstorming on the child’s part. Some parents are okay with their child smoking in the home (most commonly because they feel the child will do it no matter what- if the child is doing it at home, they aren’t driving, risking trouble with the law, etc.), and kids know which parents these are. The child whose parent doesn’t allow them to smoke at home, Stevie, will then go over to Billy’s house, where smoking pot is allowed, and have a two hour smoking session with Billy and his friends. Little Stevie is going over to Billy’s house every day after school to smoke a bowl with his new found friends. One day, after being the first to spark the bowl Stevie notices the weed tasted a little different, and his high is extremely intense for a good ten minutes. Everyone is watching Stevie, asking him what it feels like and joking with each other. What Stevie didn’t know, is that Billy’s friend had topped the bowl off with some salvia. Stevie had heard of salvia, but didn’t really know what it was. It was fun though, and he continues to smoke salvia every once in awhile after that. Eventually, Billy is caught and is no longer dealing. Luckily, Billy gives Stevie the number for his old friend Ricky who also deals. Stevie hits up Ricky, goes over to his house, but Ricky had just run out of pot. Ricky is high on oxy, and tells Stevie how great it feels, everyone has been talking about oxy- it’s the new thing to do around school, and Ricky has some extra that Billy can try instead of buying pot. Billy now has to make the choice, as a young teen in front of someone he just met, of whether or not to be ‘cool’ and buy the pills instead or just say no and tell Ricky to let him know when he restocks.

That is the gateway. The fact that people are going into sketchy situations in order to get the pot. I don’t want to get into politics, but I do wonder if legalizing marijuana would help to reduce the introduction to other, stronger drugs. If someone just has to walk into the store and buy pot, knowing what exactly they are buying, in a public place- would it reduce the chance of them being peer pressured into anything other than weed? Would is decrease the chance for them to try any drug other than pot? They wouldn’t have to go hide out at Billy’s with his sketchy friends. He could buy the pot, go home, and smoke alone because it is legalized. There wouldn’t be a need to sneak around with scurvy, untrustworthy people. OR would it reduce the number of kids smoking pot all together? Just like alcohol– going out and getting drunk just isn’t as fun once you finally hit 21. At the point, you no longer have the rush of doing something wrong and taking risks. At the same time, could it also lead kids into doing stronger drugs because it is legalized? If pot isn’t fun anymore because it’s legal, are they going to find another drug that isn’t legal and do that in order to get the same rush of breaking rules and taking risks?

Rehab

I have a very strong opinion about our current rehabilitation centers around the country, and most people probably won’t like it.

The fact is,hate our current drug rehabilitation facilities. HATE.

I will gladly tell you why.

First of all, google “heroin rehab,” and the first 10 things that pop up are different rehab facilities. I clicked on every single page, and not one single page tells you the cost up front. Instead, they tell you to ‘contact us right away for help!’ Well, once you contact them they make it sound like this is your only option, you have to do this, and there is no better place for you to go. Not only to have to go to this rehab facility, but you have to go to this facility- on the other side of the country. They claim it’s best for you to get out of the current state you are living in, and completely uproot somewhere else without having any of the people you have left to support you around. What they don’t tell you is that some of the cheapest, low-end facilities still cost $7,500 PER MONTH all the way up to high-end places charging $120,000 per month. The average ‘good’ but not great facility costs about $18,000 to $35,000 a month. The average rehab facilities include amenities such as a room for detoxing, a calm environment, medical services, parks, a gym, counseling services, and many other helpful tools. According to rehabs.com, they way an addict should pay for these services is as follows:

  • Get loans from friends or family: Yeah because someone who is addicted to heroin and seeking help for themselves by searching online is going to have PLENTY of friends and family left. Heroin addiction, and all addictions, drive loved ones away from the person. How could you just sit and watch your child, friend, brother do that to themselves? No matter how badly you want to help them, you can not help them until they want help. Heroin addicts are typically great liars as well. When they ask you for $7,500 a month for rehab- chances are you probably don’t believe them considering they called you 6 months ago asking for an extra $200 to help pay for the rehab costs… when they were never in rehab. Not only that– who the hell has $7,500 laying around!? It’s a freaking recession!!! Great idea, rehabs.com.
  • Rehab Program Financing: Supposedly many rehab facilities offer financing options for the addict to pay back costs once they are out of rehab in a timely fashion. This would be a good idea, except for the fact that someone just walking out of a rehab addiction facility (most likely still living in a sober home- since they have no money for rent) is probably going to have a pretty hard job finding a new job, that pays well enough for them to pay back the $22,500 that they owe for 3 months in the cheapest treatment they could find. Since they are more than likely in a sober home, it’s pretty easy for an employer to look at the address and see that it is a sober home, and because this world has no hope for people and no sympathy for addicts- there goes their chance at getting a decent job. If you can’t get a job to pay for the financing option- rehabs.com suggests for the addict to take out a bank loan or a credit card with a low interest rate. Because plenty of heroin addicts can walk into a bank, without being judged, and take out a $10,000 loan. The bank teller will probably allow that. It’s also really easy to open up a credit card that has a low interest rate without having any past credit at all. Wait- NO IT’S NOT. Again, great idea rehabs.com.
  • Savings: They want the addict to dump out their entire savings account into paying for rehab. The website literally says, “…you may be concerned about having nothing left over after you finish treatment. If your treatment is successful, you will have made one of the best financial decisions of your life.” Okay- great it’s successful and they have their life back… BUT THEY STILL HAVE NOTHING AND ARE NOW ON ROCK BOTTOM AGAIN! How do you expect them to stop living on the streets when they don’t have any money left to get them off the streets? You’re dumb, rehabs.com
  • Sell Assets: I quote from the website “If you have any assets like a car or a boat, you may want to consider selling some of these… this may be less than ideal because they have a personal attachment to their belongings.” Do you really think a heroin addict owns a boat? Seriously? Don’t you think they probably would have been forced to sell all of these things in the midst of their addiction to pay for food, shelter, etc? It is very unlikely for someone with a heroin addiction to get help within the first month of their addiction. Usually, they don’t even realize they have an addiction until it gets too far. That’s why it is called an addiction… because they can’t stop. They. Are. Addicted. If they could stop they would. Once again, another intelligent idea from rehabs.com.
  • Insurance/Medicaid: I am twenty years old, enrolled in college and I still have to pay $130 a month for my health insurance. I was on medicaid for 4 years, but they decided I make $36 too much per month for me to be on medicaid anymore. Applying for medicaid requires a computer, internet, a lot of annoying questions, and then a long 2 week waiting process. Then you get a phone call, are asked to mail in pay stubs for the past 2 weeks. They look over your information, and 2 weeks later decide how much coverage you are allowed to receive. In the meantime, the addict waiting for their medicaid request be approve has had 4 more weeks to overdose and die- when all they wanted was help. Many kids on their parents insurance plans must be either living in the home or be enrolled in school in order for your child to get your coverage until age 25. Well, what about the addicts who are over the age of 25 and can’t keep a job because of their addiction? The addicts that are scared to apply for insurance online for fear of not being able to pay and then later being fined when their insurance is cancelled, thanks to Obama’s great health care plan- more people are just being scared away from even trying to get health insurance. I didn’t have health insurance from ages 13-18 because it was too expensive for me to pay for. Thank God I wasn’t a heroin addict because I would have been screwed. So yes, if you have insurance there is a CHANCE they will partially cover your rehab, but if you don’t… go sell your boat.

Why should an addict have to pay thousands of dollars when they are already in the worst place of their lives? Don’t you think they have suffered enough? They want the help, they want to get rid of the monster that has ruined them, they want to be normal again, so why are we forcing them into a deeper hell by taking away the one thing they need in this world to survive once they are clean-money. Why are we making it so hard for them to get clean?

Everyone sits around bagging on drug addicts for being stupid people for making that choice, worthless people who can’t do anything for us in the world anyway, psychos for being able to stick that needle in their arm… My best friend was not stupid, she was not worthless, and she was not a psycho. She was working towards a degree in event planning, which she would have been AMAZING at. She could have given you the best wedding of your life, and would have done anything for you to make it that way. She taught me more than I could ever thank her for in life. She might have been hyper, but she was not a psycho. She deserved help. She deserved for someone at the rehab facility for care for her as much as she cared for everyone else. She deserved for someone to put her before themselves, and do whatever they could to make sure that little angel got what she so badly wanted- to be clean.

Instead, the great rehab facility was too under-staffed and decided to allow a woman, who had been detoxing for less than 48 hours, to be in the same, unsupervised room as my best friend, and allowed this woman’s addiction to get in my best friend’s 30-day clean brain and kill her. This rehab facility killed my best friend. It was the rehabs job to keep the detoxing individuals, who’s brains are racing and will do anything to get the drug, away from clean individuals who have already begun to reconstruct their brains. A detoxing individual knows exactly what to say to light up that old pathway in an addicts brain and get them to crave the drug just as bad as they are. That is why my best friend died, because these rehab centers are sucking families dry of their money and still not having enough staff to keep these people safe.

This is why something needs to be done. Someone needs to speak out and do something. Thanks to Anna’s family, they are speaking out. They are doing something, and it is time for everyone to listen to their heart, put a stand against discriminating addicts, and help them get the help the want and deserve. No one deserves to be treated the way we treat drug addicts, no one deserves to pay thousands of dollars for one bad choice that they have already suffered from in the worst way possible. They have paid their dues for that bad choice, they know it was a bad choice, and they want to change. Let them change, help them change. You can’t bring back my best friend, Carla and Mark’s daughter, Ryan, Katie, and Julia’s sister, but you can save someone else’s best friend, daughter, and sister.

SPEAK UP.

I was trying to remember which one of my dreams with Anna had the biggest impact on me. I couldn’t officially decide, but there was one dream that really stuck out to me. First of all, you should know:

  • my 2nd best friend/dog of 14 years, Pete, died 2 weeks before Anna died.
  • Anna’s favorite restaurant is Panera.
  • Anna’s favorite thing to do was use her Mom’s credit card, without permission.
  • And I cry more than the average overprotective Mother sending her child to kindergarten for the first time.

Alrighty– So in my dream, Rachel, Sarah, and myself were all meeting at the airport before each getting on separate flights going who knows where. We were meeting at the Panera in the airport before we left to have our last meal together. I was the first one to show up to Panera and I saw Anna standing there with a light-haired gold retriever. I knew Anna was dead, and so I immediately burst into tears and ran to give her a hug, asking her how it was possible that she was here. She replied, “Well, it’s not like I’m gone forever, gosh, chill out.” So I got myself together and stopped crying very quickly.

Sarah and Rachel showed up and we all went up to order. Anna orders first and tells us that she is going to put all of our food on Carla’s credit card (typical). As Anna was ordering, I looked at Rachel and mouthed the words, “Is she really here? Is Anna really here?” Rachel assured me that yes, Anna was here, and I should stop asking about it already. Of course, I started crying again. The Panera worker asked why I was crying and if it was because one of us was leaving soon. Then I really started crying and told her Anna was leaving us again. At this point Anna was so annoyed that I was so upset about her leaving she said, “Dude, I’m not gone. I’m right here.”

 

We finished our meal, and the girls and I were headed towards the airport security. As we were walking away, Anna just stopped and said, “Hey I’m gonna go to the bathroom, see ya later!” And she started walking away (still walking the random dog). I ran back to her and begged her to give me a hug because I didn’t know when I was going to see her again. She finally gave me a hug, but told me that she was going to be right back, she was just going to the bathroom. Then, I woke up..

 

I have always had very lucid dreams, but nothing as vivid as the dreams I have now. I had completely forgot about the dog in my dream until last night. As I was thinking back, I was wondering why Anna had the dog, and if she had gotten a job walking dogs in heaven or something weird. I was trying to remember what kind of dog it was, and as soon as I said golden retriever it hit me– Anna was walking my dog, Pete, but he was about half his age in heaven. Pete is a golden-doodle. He looked more like a golden retriever, but his hair was more blonde. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten all about it. That is just my little proof to the rest of the world that doggies do go to Heaven.

 

 

Image

Throughout my life I will have times of strong faith in God, times of weak faith, and times of complete doubts, so I am absolutely not one to be preaching. However, this time is different. Some of you will understand when I ask- have you ever gotten that feeling after someone passes that their whole life was planned out for an exact reason? Like the time they told you to “live a little,” and put your convertible top down in 36 degree weather- was actually a sign that life would eventually be taken too short? That the only way any of the things that can be happening around you is because God is continuing to put them there, at exactly the right time, exactly when you need it, without anyone else even knowing? 

Thinking back on Anna’s life.. It’s crazy how many things have happened since she passed that prove to me she is with God in Heaven, but that her time here was done for a reason and God had a plan the entire time, and we never even noticed it.

After sorting through 81 entries on Anna’s obituary guestbook I finally found the one I was looking for:

“I am a total stranger to Anna and her family, and have no knowledge of the circumstances of her death. Her obituary in the Des Moines Register just happened to catch my eye. What an eloquent, beautiful, and moving statement about who was apparently a very special young woman. The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the obituary, which I am taking at face value, describe a person who only comes into our lives once or twice, if we are lucky. Cherish your memories. -Gary Norby”

Even still reading that comment brings tears to my eyes. Mr. Norby is so very right. You really do only meet one or two people in the world with life like Anna. What if this was really the plan all along? What if this is what was supposed to happen, so that Anna’s story can change the world and the way people treat addicts? What if THIS girl starts an epidemic? What if God planned this entire time for Anna’s death and the start of the non-profit, “Anna’s Warriors,” to change drug rehabilitation completely? What if, ten years from now, our world is completely different, because God sent us this little earth bound Angel. I mean, that is why I’m here, writing this, because God sends Anna to me (in various ways- yelling at me in my head, dropping lighters everywhere, speaking to me in my dreams about who’s 3 weeks pregnant and they still don’t know yet…) to tell me whatever she wants, and this time- she told me to write this blog, to share her story and my story of losing a beautiful best friend to a heroin overdose. Although she also told me this blog was going to explode, and everyone would hear my story (she went as far as showing me a picture in a dream of ME on the today show, sharing her story) and that this would somehow turn into a world wide publicized thing– I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. If ONE person hears Anna’s story, makes a difference, or changes the way they look at people- I can rest happily.

Way back when..

The first time I met Miss Anna was in fourth grade. I was new to school, and I still remember Abi, Sarah, Anna, Stephanie as the ‘popular girls’ in the class. I knew no one, but they were all very welcoming on my first day of school. I have always seen myself as easy to get along with, but in fourth grade at a new school, it is very intimidating to talk to anyone. Anna always had the cool new shoes, the best outfits, and was the most fun to be around. Her and Sarah were allowed to walk home every day BY THEMSELVES, while I had to wait in line for the bus. The walkers got out of class five minutes earlier than the bus riders, which was a big deal in fourth grade. Being a ‘walker’ alone made you ten times cooler than the rest of us. One day Sarah invited me to walk home with her– I was on the rise, popularity level skyrocketed in my eight-year-old brain. Since Anna’s house was on the way, Anna walked with us too. I’m pretty sure at that point I was still too scared to say anything other than ‘hi,’ but it didn’t matter because I was a “walker” now- the coolest kid in school. The year continued on, and Sarah invited me to her sleepover birthday party in June, so by now I basically ran the school. I was leaving for camp the next morning, but my parents allowed me to go and my grandfather picked up me at seven am sharp. There were so many girls there that were so cool I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I didn’t have a sleeping bag, so I slept in Sarah’s round chair and she gave me a blanket. Although it was one of the more uncomfortable nights of my life, I will never forget how great it felt to be included.

As fifth grade came around, I was still friends with the same popular girls, and I was still rather socially awkward. One day I got up enough courage to invite Anna to MY house. I don’t remember much about what we did, but I do remember my Mom being very angry with Anna. My Mom worked for my Dad doing his accounting stuff for his business, and she often had papers spread out everywhere. Anna and I were being nine-year-olds and doing whatever we could find possible to annoy my Mother. Anna was fidgeting with my moms papers, and my Mom politely asked her to please not touch the papers. My Mom looked back down at her work, and the next thing she hears is riiiip. Anna had picked up a paper and tore the corner just to see how my Mom reacted. I, personally, thought it was the coolest thing ever because I could never disappoint my Mother like that, so in my mind Anna had just got even cooler than cool. However, Mom didn’t agree and decided it was time for Anna to go home IMMEDIATELY. One of the things I had admired about Anna all eleven years of our friendship was the fact that she could care less what people thought of her. She would do what she wanted to do, and if someone didn’t like it- screw them.

On the drive home, Anna was supposed to be giving my Mom directions to her house. (This was way back before GPS, kids.) Anna didn’t always know where she was or what was going on around her, she was very easily distracted. I’m laughing while typing that sentence because of the fact that it is so true, and completely hilarious to watch Anna try to focus on anything for more than four seconds. We get to the main road by Anna’s house and my Mom is still very angry about her torn paper (cry baby). My Mom asks Anna if she is supposed to turn soon, and Anna replies, “Wait, where are… oh yeah you were supposed to turn back there. My house is back there on the corner.” REALLY? This sent my Mom into freak out, hyperventilating angry mode, and she whipped the car around. Needless to say, my Mother was more than happy to have miss Anna banana out of the car. Anna had no clue my Mom was even upset, and IM’d be about how much fun she had after she had arrived home in one piece.

This is the Anna I knew in the very beginning. The Anna I always knew. The Anna I loved more than myself. I looked up to her in so many ways because of her carefree personality and her love for life. I can not think of a dull moment with Anna around. Just laying in bed with her she would crack some wise joke, and we would be laughing too hard to fall asleep. There is no one that didn’t get along with Anna because she knew life was too short to hold grudges. She would call me yelling at me for telling Rachel about the time Anna wet the bed, claim that she was never telling me anything ever again, and three hours later she’s calling me to come make dinner with her because she was bored. I have never met anyone in my life that could love as much as Anna loved, or bring as much happiness to room as Anna did. From fourth grade and for the rest of my life I will always admire Anna’s spunky attitude, and continue to wish I had just a tad bit of Anna in me somewhere.

Also, my Mother says: that she isn’t as mean as I made her sound, and that she grew to love Anna very much. She got over the torn paper, and eventually came to also admire the way Anna could find fun in every situation and every piece of life. -Mom

Anna Renee

Raise your hand when you see the people suffering from a horrible heroin addiction in these photos.

Can’t find anyone? That’s because it is so hard to tell WHO is addicted to heroin. You can’t see the signs, especially when you don’t know what you’re looking for. The people in these photos are not homeless people living on the streets. They are not the ugly, miserable people who have nothing going for them in their lives.

Never in a million years did I think it was my best friend.

A few of these photos were taken at the deepest times of her addiction. No one would ever know.

I can’t sleep.

I’m just going to start out with the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing. It is now 1:40am (after I figured out how to work this thing). I had been laying in bed for an hour, and my mind would not let me go to sleep without starting this thing. So yes, I am writing this in hopes that I will be able to fall asleep within the next hour or so… hopefully.

Where to begin…

Well, I am currently a very confused (typical) twenty-year-old, college woman working two jobs and having absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with my (soon to have) criminology and psychology degrees. I spend most of my time laying in bed, eating candy, watching Netflix and telling myself I’m too busy to go to class, so I should just study from home… tomorrow– that’s college for ya, stay in school kids. Somehow (by the grace of God) I am able to keep my thin figure, stretching about 6ft tall, and having very little hand eye coordination. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I am an athlete at the University I would be able to buy my own TV show, and wouldn’t need to be writing this blog. That’s besides the point. More importantly– if you were walking by me on the side walk or creeping my Facebook profile pictures… you would not be able to tell that I have buried three good friends, my Dad’s best friend, two of my friend’s fathers, and now. worst of all, my best friend of eleven years. When your parents used to tell you “never judge a book by it’s cover,” trust them.

And that’s where my story starts..