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. 

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Things Parents DON’T Want to Hear

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


 

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

Pause.

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

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


 

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

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

Stories of Reality

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

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


 

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


 

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

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

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

Funny, isn’t it?

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

 

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

 

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

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

Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And never judge someone by their actions again.

Point Proven.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Recovering Addict

After getting to spend the last couple weekends home, it’s amazing how much I have learned.. about everything! We were so lucky that Anna’s best friends from Nevada were able to come visit and stay with Carla, and I was able to spend a lot of my time over there catching up with the girls.

We had our share of ups and downs during the trip, but I soon learned it was all part of Anna’s plan. Nancy and Kathryn have been such a help in explaining to me how the mind of an addict and addict in recovery works. They have allowed me to ask nosey questions in order to pick their brains as an attempt to understand. They explained the details of addiction in a ‘dumbed’ down version, so that my (very innocent to addiction) self could better understand what they meant. Everything, good and bad, that happens now seems to always relate back to something Anna said before or some scheme she’s up to in heaven. I, personally, over the last couple weeks have learned a very hands on approach to what addictive behaviors look like. How the behaviors and mind of an addict are truly warped from this world and so far out of their control. After explaining all of the occurrences to Carla, she said to me, “Can you imagine Anna being that way?” That’s when I knew that Anna was trying to show me what it was like for her and how hard she struggled without any control over what she was doing, so that I can share that with you and help you to also understand what goes on.

Not every addict is exactly the same- some steal, some don’t. some manipulate with tears, some manipulate with pity, some feed off the people that love them most, some feed off of the helpful people who don’t know them at all, some are incredibly mean, some overly nice in order to receive care and affection, some push their families and friends away, some keep them close and use them as a crutch. Now matter the form in which the behaviors are being done, they are still doing them one way or another.

For me to really see it hands on was quite the experience! I fell into the trap as quickly as I’m sure most parents and close friends would. When I saw the way people that had previously dealt with addicts could spot these behaviors, their reactions to the behaviors, and observations the could make almost instantly- I was amazed! Even just saying something a different way, would change the behavior of the addict. If I were to say, “Don’t worry, I can lend you $5 for toothpaste and a soda.” The response would be, “Well, I actually need $10 because I really want to stop and get McDonald’s too.” But when someone can spot the behaviors of an addict, their response is, “Let’s go get you what you need, and nothing more. No you’re not going in alone I’m going with you.” and suddenly, that was the end of it. No more manipulation to suck more out of someone. When an addict says, “I’m going to a meeting now.” You can’t just hand them the keys and off they go. The correct behavior is for you to drop them off, walk them in, and pick them up afterwards. (Or have your sneaky friends with connections check up on who is attending the meeting that day.) Many parents have no idea how to respond to the behaviors of an addict. Even when their child is clean for days, weeks, months- the behaviors still tend to come out on occasion. As a friend, I would have no idea how to deal with the behaviors. That is a scary thought to know that we are allowing them to continue these behaviors without making a change, simply because we don’t know how to respond. We don’t want our child/friend to think that we don’t love them, don’t trust them even though they did make such a big life change, or that we don’t want to help them now that they’ve been sober. So what do we do?? When it seems like they are suffering so badly, do we just let them suffer? No, you get them proper help and care. Take them to a professional who knows what they are doing.  Unfortunately, many financial means do not allow for everyone to get immediate, professional care. There are resources to help for free! Check out this link for a list of centers around you.

Addiction is truly, truly not something that one can control on their own. Most of the time, the addict doesn’t even realize what they’re doing until someone snaps them out of it. They don’t catch onto their behaviors because everyone is feeding into them and not telling them they are wrong. We don’t want to cause any pain to our loved one, or send them into a place where they are contemplating relapse, so instead we just go along with the behaviors and allow them to treat us poorly. That is not the right thing to do. People who have friends that are addicts or family members that are addicts should have a class or resource for online lessons that will teach them how to cope and behavior with recovering addicts in the home (another one of my personal issues with addiction facilities and treatment centers). Right now, we are sending the addict home from rehab, family thinking they are perfectly healed and can go about business as usual, but that is not the case. The need boundaries. In rehab, they have a set time to wake up, a set time for lunch, group meetings at certain times- a very strict schedule. In order for the recovery process to continue working so well, these things need to continue to be implemented when they leave the center. Giving them a free schedule with plenty of free time allows the addict to pick up old behaviors and friends almost immediately. The recovering addict also cannot be stuck in a little box while trying to figure out how to live life while being clean. It can lead to depression, causing another psychological issue that needs to be treated, and again leading to a relapse.

Living with an addict very closely resembles living with a handicap that can function alone, but needs to be monitored for the half of the day. It is not an easy task. I applaud any family that is willing to take their child back in and give them the help and stability they need because it is not easy for them to do. I can imagine it would be very frustrating having to babysit your thirty-year-old son the same way you did when he was thirteen- but it has to be done for a least the first few months post inpatient rehab. They need to get back on their feet, meet new people that aren’t triggers, and create a schedule for themselves that includes commitments they simply cannot miss (i.e. a close knit AA group that counts on their arrival, exercising with their sponsor who picks them up from home, a concrete work schedule, volunteering in places they enjoy and want to be, etc.) Anything to keep them busy and on track, without suffocating them completely from normal life. I can imagine it would be hard as the addict to do come home and have to do all of these things that they are not accustomed to, and I’m sure they often fight back- causing more stress and tension between family members, but it is so necessary. It’s not as easy as it seems, and people don’t understand the stress and difficulty behind it for the friends and family involved. Families and friends need to be educated on these things; only educating the addict and putting them right back into their trigger city is not going to keep them clean forever- some people, yes, but many young people need more motivation and supervision than only relying on themselves.

Humor me, please.

I have a riddle for you all, and a lot of my personal thoughts and research to back it.

If you have ever had surgery, you know that you are prescribed two to four weeks of pain medication to help ease the pain. If you need more, it’s not too entirely difficult to get it. I mean, the doctor doesn’t know what you’re feeling, so if you say you hurt- here’s another month of pills for ya, buddy!

Almost everyone says, it’s up to the patient to decide how much meds they need, when to stop, and when the pain is unbearable. What people don’t understand is that, just like heroin, pain pills and all other opioids are a disease of the brain. Taking opioids repeatedly for an extended period of time changes the structure and the biochemistry of the brain. Many people, including myself, follow the doctors orders to a T. They are the professional, so I should trust them, right? When they prescribe me a months worth of pain killers and tell me to take one or daily as needed, and to come back if I run out or the pain is unbearable, I am going to do just that. Following the doctors order in this way, can change my the biochemistry of brain to then think that my pain is still there, even when it is not- just because of the addiction that has started in my brain and my need for the medication in order to function.

So, why is it that the doctor continues to prescribe us such a large dose of pain pills, knowing the chance for addiction is so high and that the rate of opioid abuse in the United States has sky rocketed year after year? How is it that when one doctor prescribes you medication and you run out, your are able to go to another doctor with the excuse of, “I’m still having pain here from this incident, I ran out of pills. Can I have more?” and there ya go, a brand new script for your addict brain! How do we not have enough technology to fix these issues? Why do doctors continue to create more addictions that we don’t need?

How many of you have heard about TakeAway: Iowa? My guess is very few. I didn’t even know about TakeAway. You probably still have no idea what I’m talking about! TakeAway is a twice a year, nation-wide event started by the DEA and put on in Iowa by the Iowa Pharmacy Association as a way for citizens to safely dispose of prescription drugs that are either old or left over, in order to create safer households and less addictions. (Learn more about TakeAway: Iowa) A large majority of teens that begin using prescription drugs, stared that they had originally found the pills in their home medicine cabinets or from a friend who had easy access to the medications. Even worse, many kids who start by using prescription pills, turn to heroin because of the ‘better’ high and one-eight the price. Almost everyone I know, that had been addicted to heroin, all started by using prescription pills. There have been 7 days of the nation-wide take back event put on by the DEA in the past four years. In these seven days, over the past four years, a total of 780,158 pounds or 390 tons of old or expired prescription pills were returned. Many people had no idea how to dispose of old medications, and would result to either flushing them (contaminating the water) or throwing them away (potentially handing them out to rubbage searchers). As soon as someone searching through trash finds the address, name, and type of medication prescribed- it makes that house a very easy target for robbery and theft. Many people don’t realize how dangerous prescription pills are. On the streets, a single oxy pill sells for $20. If you don’t use all of your pills and just throw them away- you just gave a dealer $200 and helped cause a death by overdose. See more prices of drugs on the streets.

No one is thinking about the consequences of their very mild actions. I mean, who in their right mind goes digging through trash for old pills? A LOT OF PEOPLE. That is some of the quickest and easiest money for people to come by. With the increase in opioid and prescription pill addictions we are facing today, it’s time for us to open our minds and think about things in a different light. You can help stop all of this, you can make a difference. You can help save a life, even by the smallest steps.

You can start today.

Find a safe place to dispose of your medications HERE.

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.

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?

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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.