Acknowledgement

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

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


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

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

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

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


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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.

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.

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.

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.

Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And never judge someone by their actions again.

Warrior

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

According to dictionary.com:

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

According to the World English Dictionary:

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

Merriam Webster dictionary:

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

And lastly, the online Urban Dictionary:

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

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

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

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

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

Not a day goes by..

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

 

Point Proven.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

You don’t know

With as much research, books, and articles I have read, I still don’t understand the drug. I don’t understand addiction, because I have not been faced with the disease. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are a completely different addiction than a drug addiction. A drug addiction is completely different from a heroin addiction. From speaking with other addicts, listening to Carla tell me how badly Anna hated her addiction, I have come to understand one thing- heroin is not just a mental addiction. It is a physical addiction. Someone trying to quit smoking after smoking for 15 years is typically going to be very irritable, annoyed, uncomfortable, and distracted. Someone who is addicted to heroin and hasn’t had their hit for the day- can’t get out of bed, can’t eat, can’t function. Even if they wanted to move, if they were hungry, if they wanted to go lay on the couch instead of bed- they physically can not do anything without the drug. It’s not a little voice in their brain or a little itch on their leg that they can just block out and keep living normally. The receptors in their brain have been re-formed and their neurotransmitters have created new pathways that will not allow their body to preform without first having the drug. They no longer have the same pathways as you and me. They have a whole new way of thinking, after just one hit.

Part of rehabilitation process is attempting to once again, create more new pathways, so that the body no longer has to function with drug. It is always a constant battle for someone with a previous heroin addiction. For the rest of their lives, they will be labeled as ‘an addict in recovery.’ Heroin addiction is so strong that every single day is a constant fight against the neurotransmitters in their brain. How many of you are strong enough to over come the thoughts about your financial stress, problems at work, the things you forgot on your to-do list that keep you up for hours when you’re trying to fall asleep? Imagine those thoughts, times ten, every second of the day. That is what an addict in recovery is going through. Eventually, these thoughts become less and less, until something triggers the old pathway in their brain to light up. There they are again, trying to fight back against their brain. Can you imagine? Can you imagine what they are going through? I don’t care if they chose to shoot up in the beginning- they did not chose to be living a constant battle, every day, against the most powerful thing on this earth: their own brain. Honestly, (before learning more about it) I would think that if I were to do it one time- I would be able to fight the urge to do it again. I’m strong enough to fight back. Yeah, well, that is how I think before my normal brain pathways are completely reconfigured. The brain I have now is not the brain I would have after using heroin.

Stop looking at addicts like it’s their own fault they got there. Stop judging them by what you think you know. You don’t know. You know nothing. Many addicts in recovery are one hundred times stronger than you will ever be. Stop treating them as worthless people. They were just like you- until a monster took over everything they have ever known. Yes, it was their choice to use, but the consequences were not their fault. That is the world we live in that offered them the drug in the first place, us doing nothing to get these drugs off the streets, the rest of us treating them scum, doing nothing to help them, and watching them suffer a battle that none of us could ever fight ourselves.

Brian, Anna’s uncle, shared with me  what a previous addicted shared with him:

What do you do when you really have to pee? You hold it.

What do you do when you’ve held it for 3 hours and you can’t hold it anymore? You pee yourself.

That’s what a heroin addiction is. It becomes an involuntary bodily function. They hold back from using as long as possible, but there comes a point when they can’t hold it anymore. The addiction takes over their brain and it is no longer their choice, they can’t fight it any longer.


I truly believe that is why God gave me Anna. I was a very judgmental person to drugs and addicts before Anna’s death. Anna never told me about her addiction because she knew I would freak out and start running in circles like a chicken with it’s head cut off without a clue on what I was supposed to do. I would have probably laughed and prayed that she was joking.. and then poop myself because of the fact that my best friend is driving me around in her jeep high on heroin. I don’t associate with heroin- how could this happen to me? Anna’s two best friends are criminology majors in college- how is she addicted to heroin, doesn’t she know better? I was just like everyone else who has never known what an addict goes through. I believe part of the reason God gave me Anna, the most beautiful person I have ever known, was to show me the truth- and so I can share that truth with the rest of the world, to give a bigger inspiration to follow my criminology track and fight back against the jerks selling this crap. People can be so ignorant and heartless. Until you walk a mile in their shoes, shut your mouth- shame on you. You don’t know. You don’t want to know.

Heroin

What is heroin? I don’t know.

Who does heroin? I don’t know.

When did heroin come to Iowa? I don’t know.

What does heroin look like? I don’t know.

Where do you get heroin? I don’t know.

How much is heroin? I don’t know.

What do you do with heroin? I don’t know.

What does heroin do to you? I don’t know.

Why was my best friend addicted to heroin? I don’t know.

Being a senior at the number one party University in the Nation, I have seen my fair share of drugs. From people snorting lines at parties, kids throwing around ecstasy and “raging” all night, people hitting acid at concerts, to putting ‘magic mushrooms’ on pizzas at 3am. I can say, proudly, that I have not tried these drugs for fear of jeopardizing my future in the justice system or the government, so I don’t know how these drugs effect the body or brain. I do know, however, how people act and what they look like on multiple drugs. Heroin though? No clue. In my little pea sized world, heroin didn’t exist. Until I found out my best friend was an addict for over a year without me knowing and later died from a heroin overdose.

Since her death, I have done plenty of research trying to figure out what this drug is all about, how it works, who does it, and why my best friend was taken from me because of heroin. Although I am still learning, the information I have found is unbelievable.

Our state neighbor, Illinois, has seen a sharp increase in heroin use in the Chicago suburbs. The number of heroin overdoses doubled from 2011 to 2012, and increased AGAIN from 2012 to 2013. The youngest heroin overdose death was 15 years old. Heroin is easier for kids to buy than beer- and it’s just as available on the streets. Heroin is simple to hide, and no- heroin users do not always have track marks. There is plenty of places you will never see. (Between fingers, between toes- when was the last time you looked in between your 21-year-old child’s fingers and toes?) Pharmaceuticals still remain to be the drug causing the most overdoses in the United States. However, prescription drugs are expensive. Heroin is the same high, for 1/8 of the the price. One ‘balloon’ of heroin (essentially 3 ‘hits,’ which is enough for a decent high for most of the day), usually costs $5-6. Give your kid $10 to go to the mall and hang out with his friends, he buys 5 chicken nuggets for $1, even gets a medium soda- and still has enough to walk outside, sit on the bench and be offered this stuff that you sniff, the big guy was doing it and he looked like a boss- who wouldn’t want to be like this dude? Drug overdose rates in the United States have increased 102% from 1999 to 2010. The government has now called the drug overdose situation an epidemic. Overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle accidents in 29 states in the US just last year.

Still think it’s not your neighbor?

51,045 people were admitted for drug abuse treatment in Iowa in 2013. In 2011 1 case with 112 grams of heroin was seized by police, in 2013 14 cases with 290 grams were seized. The heroin overdose death rate increased by 700% in Iowa from 2003 to 2012. Iowa is one of the top 3 states in the fight against drug abuse. THESE ARE THE SOME OF THE LOWEST NUMBERS IN THE NATION.


IT IS YOUR NEIGHBOR. IT IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. IT IS THE KID CHECKING OUT YOUR GROCERIES. STOP DENYING IT. Do something about it.

Please share this post with your family and friends. You never know who will see it, or what they’ve been doing.

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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.

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

DONT BE RUDE.

Now, I don’t expect any “sympathy” or want anyone to pity me. That’s not why I did this. However, often times we walk around looking at other people, and in our heads we can play out their entire life story. We see a beautifully tan, thin, attractive girl walking around campus with Michael Korrs shoes, watch, and purse, sun glasses on, and her hair freshly hi-lited– in our heads she has a perfect family in her Chicago suburb home, mommy and daddy are sending her money every week, she doesn’t have to work for anything and she has never been told “no” in her life. Well, I’m telling you no. Would you believe me if I told you her Mom was in jail two weeks ago? That she hardly sees her Dad? She doesn’t have a bedroom at her Mom’s house? Her MOM has stolen over one thousand dollars from HER in the past month? She has dealt with more police showing up at her house than friends? She bought those Michael Korrs luxuries herself. Her job allows her to have free hair services. She works almost 40 hours a week, while earning a degree in biochemistry.

Didn’t see that coming did you?

THAT’S why I wrote this blog. I’m sick of people looking at me like I have a perfect life, and when I am crying, sober, in a bar- they look at me like I should be embarrassed of my horrific behavior. Little do they know, I just found out a friend had drown.

Get your heads out of your @$$es and TALK to people. Ask if they are okay. Hear their stories. You might learn something.