With the literal dawning of a new year, it’s time to address the opiate-addicted, shoplifting, felony-convicted, chaotic hot mess of an elephant in the room: what all has been happening in my life since 2017.
In June of 2017 we lost our home. The truth is, it wasn’t a sudden thing – though the homelessness was. One day we had a place to live, the next the sheriffs were at our door. Truth be told, between Daniel’s physical and mental health issues putting him out of work from 2012 onwards, and then my own physical health crises and multiple emergent and scheduled abdominal and pelvic surgeries and hospitalizations that began in 2010, we were struggling financially, and struggling earnestly, from 2013 onwards. We didn’t have centralized heat. We floated and bounced checks, robbed Peter and Paul to continue robbing Peter and Paul to eventually pay them both off – while still finding ways to help out my mom and brothers. There were times Daniel and I pushed food around on our plates, and then put it on the kids’ plates when they weren’t looking so as to make sure they ate, because there wasn’t enough food to go around. I vividly remember the day I realized I could go to a food bank: while loading up my trunk with donated groceries, I received a call from the county assistance office informing me we qualified for nearly $900 in crisis SNAP funds, and that they would be available the next morning. I could barely drive to the office and park the car in order to go in and pick up the debit card because I was crying so hard.
So there we were on June 15th, 2017, two days after my 33rd birthday: we lost our home. To make matters worse, six months before, I had had yet another emergency abdominal surgery – my sixth emergent surgery, my 14th surgery overall. Around that same time I was switched to a medication that, in rare instances (usually in elderly patients), caused severe short-term memory loss. It happened to be. So we were homeless, and I felt and acted like I was losing my mind for several months during a hard physical recovery (also a hard mental recovery, because that surgery, which was a vertical open surgery, just absolutely shook me).
June 2017 – June 2018 would be a blur of staying at my mother’s apartment, then with a friend, then in motels, then losing Alyssa and Ryan to foster care. This was when Daniel and I fell apart and nearly lost each other and ourselves. But we were still standing (barely). In January of 2018, after finding out we were living in our car, an online friend offered to let Daniel and I come stay with her, her husband, and her two children. You know how they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Indeed they are. It was around this time I was becoming addicted to my prescription pain medication (Oxymorphone), and my emotional addiction was jacking up my physical tolerance. She was becoming addicted to whatever opiates she could get from family and friends, and then from me. She was also, like me, severely depressed. And her depression was manifesting as neglect of her family and home, as well as hoarding behaviors, so Daniel and I walked into a huge mess that we cleaned up and continued to keep clean during the three months we spent staying with her and her family.
Two addicts living together will never end well, and our situation was no different. We spiraled individually as well as together. We were the worst possible type of person for the other. We left abruptly when she lost control of her emotions and pulled a gun on us. Admittedly, the I began the verbal confrontation over opiates, but she pulled out a gun. At no point did Daniel or I threaten her or her family. When the gun came out, we packed and left, and with the exception of getting our cats the next day, we never looked back. I got in touch with her once to wish her well, and that was that. She wrote a lot of untrue things about me on the internet – things I have not bothered to read in detail, because to be honest at the end of the day I know who I am, and people who care about me know who I am, you know? I do hope she is getting to and staying in a healthier place. I truly do wish her and her family well. Addiction is an ugly beast.
In April of 2018, when Daniel and I came back to Lancaster, we ended up at the Water Street Rescue Mission. In June of 2018, I broke a minor rule by saying something stupid, and was abruptly thrown to the streets. For next six months I would live on the streets and in motels, with a very small group of people who would turn out to be true friends. Unfortunately I would also run into situationships. I was physically assaulted. I was nearly raped. I ended up catching charges — retail thefts (shoplifting) — because we were stealing merchandise to steal to pawn shops in order to have money for motels. I’m not proud of what I did, but I will say that I do what I had to do to put a roof over my head when the weather is getting cold and I had nowhere to turn.
During all of this time, my opiate addiction continued. But I did not turn to street drugs or needles.
In November of 2019 I found a shelter in Columbia, Pennsylvania. They took me in. They were a godsend.
And on January 19th, 2019, I was arrested on an outstanding bench warrant for a retail theft. The secure bail of $10,000 was ridiculous considering I stole $51 of merchandise from CVS, but the 88 days I spent in jail were eye-opening: the women I met, the stories I heard, the pieces of broken lives I saw. And, I consider January 19th, 2019 to be the day I got clean. The very day I was released from jail, April 15th, 2019, I made arrangements to go to rehab. On May 1st, 2019, that’s what I did, and I would spend eight weeks in two different rehabs, going to individual and group therapy, and starting Suboxone medication-assisted-treatment. I will be three years clean with no slips in just a few weeks.
I was successfully discharged from rehab in June of 2019, and after spending two months in the Lancaster shelter Daniel was at, then spent a few months sharing an apartment with one of the two true friends I made while living on the street for six months, T.
On December 13th, 2019, Daniel and I moved into a house together, along with a roommate, J. J shared the house with us until July 3, 2020. We’ve opened our home since then to T and to another friend, Z, but since October of this year our house has once again been ours.
Alyssa and Ryan were reunited with us at the start of the COVID crisis, on March 20th, 2020. And in October of 2020, full physical and legal custody were returned to us. COVID has been horrible for so many people and for our economy, but for us personally, COVID has been a blessing.
I did attempt to go to school at the start of COVID, but mentally I wasn’t ready. The breakdown I had this past October was in the works last year. I was put on academic probation, but I am going back to school this coming spring semester – aka in a few weeks.
I know there is a lot I’ve probably skipped over, but in a nutshell, this has been my life for the past four and a half years! Feel free to ask me anything in the comments.
4 Comments - Leave a Comment
I’ve been following you for a long time. Like, kiwibox long. I knew you were going through a tough time, but had no idea things got this bad. I’m glad to see you’re coming out the other side now. I hope 2022 is a year of healing and growth for you. Thank you for sharing your story.
I am so proud of you getting clean and staying clean! I lost my cousin, whom I was extremely close to, in November 2019 to drugs. I hope you and yours have a wonderful New Year filled with health, happiness, and love!
I’ve been following your blog online for YEARS. You went through the shit, Jenn, WOW. thanks for sharing, and I’m so glad you’re back on track with your hopes and wishes.
I have been following you for a very long time. Even when you had the message board. I am so glad you and your family are together and I am praying for you all always. Welcome back!