SLCC's Premiere Art & Literary Magazine

Life with an Addict

Meckell Barlow

If there was one word to describe my childhood it would be secrets. It's what our house ran on. Mom would take us shopping, we couldn't tell dad. Mom would get the mail, we couldn't tell dad. We would go to the pharmacy with mom, but we couldn't tell dad. "Don't tell your dad because he will get mad, and we don't want that do we?" That phrase was the reason I grew up being afraid of my dad. At times I thought he was a monster. Behind closed doors, I would hear him yelling at my mom with so much anger behind his voice. I would always try and listen to what they were arguing about, but I always seemed to get hushed away. I had no idea what was going on. I thought it was normal for parents to fight all the time, I thought it was normal to have so many secrets. I thought it was all normal. Let me tell you this, nothing about my childhood was normal.

I was the youngest of three kids. I had a brother who was six years older than me and I had a sister that was two years older than me. To the world, we looked like the most perfect family, but that obviously wasn't the case. We were all very active in sports. My brother played football and baseball. My sister and I danced like there was no tomorrow. Dad was the coach for all of my brother's sports and mom was the complete dance mom. We looked like we had it all together. I had a great relationship with every single one of my family members. My sister and I have always had the typical sister relationship. We hate each other one second but love each other the next. My brother has always been my protector. If I ever needed someone to confide in, he is who I went to. I loved my dad, but I was scared of him at the same time. He yelled a lot, and I often looked at him as a mean guy. Then there is my mom. The most loving, caring person you'll ever meet. I was her little buddy until I was about ten years old. That was the age that everything started to make sense to me. The lies, the weird behavior and the secrets. All of it came from my mom, and all of it was to look out for herself.

My mom had the weirdest behavior. She was happy, active and involved one day. Tired, lazy and unhappy the next. The tired, lazy and unhappy days were more than just bad days, she was completely nonexistent. My mom would sit in bed for days pretending to be sick. She would either have a headache, toothache, or some kind of muscle pain. Keeping a stable job for more than a few years was out of the question because there was always something wrong with her. You would hear the noise of rattling pill bottles coming out of her drawer on those days. I just thought that that's what you do when you don't feel well. That wasn't the case. My mother was addicted to prescription drugs.

Prescription drug abuse is one of the highest leading causes of addiction? Did you know that Utah has one of the highest rates of prescription drug addiction in the United States? Pain pills are the highest addictive prescription drug in Utah. Prescription drug abuse is definitely something that is not taken as seriously as it should. Just because they are legal drugs, does not mean that it is safe or okay to abuse. Prescription drug addiction can often lead to other drug and alcohol addictions.

My mom's addiction started before I was born. It was always off and on. I never knew anything different, so I just assumed her behavior was normal. I never knew she was addicted to pain pills until I was eleven that was when some of my aunt's pain pills went missing out of her bathroom after my mom and I went to visit. My mom denied it, but I knew something was up. As I got older, I got smarter and more aware of what was going on. That's why our relationship changed so quickly. I knew what she was doing and I hated her for it. The more addicted she got, the meaner and weirder she got. I was becoming a pre-teen so I bet you can guess that we did not get along at all.

For the next few years, she continued to be off and on with her addiction. She would have a very good job and then she would get "sick" and stop showing up. The arguments between her and my dad got more and more intense. Her relationship with my siblings and I got a lot worse. Back in 2011 is when everything started falling apart, I was fourteen years old at the time. It started getting weird when my mom got sick again. She got super skinny and couldn't keep food in her system. We were told that she had E-coli. She began to get extremely malnourished and eventually had to get a feeding tube put in her. A few months after that got better, she told us that she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had never been so scared in my life. She started withering away almost. Again, my mom became nonexistent. Something about all of the sickness was very off. None of us were allowed to go to doctors' appointments with her, not even my dad. Eventually, my dad called the insurance company and figured out that there was nothing billed, we came up with a conclusion, and she didn't have e-coli or cancer. She physically made herself malnourished so that she could get prescriptions and so she could get attention. With cancer, I think she lied about it because she felt her family drifting away from her and she knew she couldn't stop becoming an addict. I thought this would be rock bottom for her, but again, I was wrong.

I was almost done with my ninth grade year and was preparing to start the high school drill team with my sister. My life was changing dramatically and my mom wasn't present enough to enjoy it with me. Her behavior became weirder and weirder. Random people were pulling up to our driveway and she would go out there for a few minutes, we didn't know what was going on. Her sleeping schedule was off, she would go into the bathroom for long periods of time, and she would never let her purse and her phone out of her reach. My dad worked night shifts, so he was never home to see what was going on. My sister Kenzee and I were the only ones living at home with my parents at that time so we began to get very suspicious. We would ask my mom questions about her behavior and she would just get very defensive, so we would keep it between us.

There was one night where everything changed. Kenzee and I were cleaning our rooms upstairs and my mom was downstairs doing laundry. I was vacuuming my room so I decided to vacuum my mom's as well. While I was vacuuming her room and I noticed her phone on her nightstand. I grabbed it and went into my sister's room very frantically.

"Kell, what is it?"

I handed her the phone, "She left it on her nightstand."

We both felt like we won the lottery because we knew that we would find answers one way or another. My sister starts going through her text messages and then she looks at me and says,

"Go downstairs and make sure mom doesn't come up here."

"Kenz we're fine."

"Kell, go downstairs please." She sounded concerned.

"What is it?" I asked

"Nothing yet, but I don't want you to see anything that will hurt you."

"I'm fine, but you don't always have to do this. I can handle it."

"I'm protecting you. Please just go downstairs. I promise I'll tell you everything, just give me a minute okay?"

My siblings always had my best interest. Kenzee knew how fragile I was and I know that she was just trying to protect me. It would frustrate me, but I understood where she was coming from. I did as she said and went downstairs into our living room. My mom was sitting on the couch doing laundry so I sat on the other couch and watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; that was my mom's favorite show. We didn't really have much of a relationship, so neither of us really said anything. Five minutes passed and I started getting very curious. Did she find anything? Is mom doing something she's not supposed to be doing? I then heard my sister running down the stairs, I could tell she was about to unleash. There she was, standing in our kitchen above us with tears in her eyes. Tears of hurt, and tears of anger.

"I HATE YOU!" She yells at my mom.

My mom fights back, "What in the hell is wrong with you?"

"You're on drugs mom! Don't you even deny it because I have proof. I can't believe you would do this to us. I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU!"

I was in shock! We knew she had a prescription drug problem but is it something more extreme. I didn't know what to do, so I just sat there.

"Meckenzee, I don't know what you're talking about! You need to calm down!"

"Stop lying, mom! Your whole life has been a lie and you can't lie your way out of this one!" She pulls the phone from her pocket and flashes it at my mom.

"What in the fuck are you doing with that? Give it back to me right now." mom was angry, that's when I knew we caught her in something she didn't want to be caught with.

"No. I finally have proof and I'm going to tell dad all about it." The next thing I knew my mom starts approaching my sister and my sister runs back up the stairs. My mom follows her. I follow them too. My sister locked herself in the bathroom and my mom was pounding on the door to get in. My sister comes out of the bathroom and gives my mom the phone, "Don't worry about deleting all of the messages, I forwarded them all to me." My mom just stared at her.

"Kenz, what's going on?" I questioned.

"Mom's doing drugs Meckell. Those people that keep coming to our house are drug dealers." I was passed the point of being said about my mom, at this point I was pissed.

"Meckell, don't listen to her. It's a misunderstanding, your sister is out of control." My mom persuades.

"You know mom, I find that extremely hard to believe. It actually explains everything perfectly. You can just admit it and we can go from there, or you can continue to be in denial that you have a problem." I was yelling and she didn't say anything. My sister and I were in tears and had so much anger that we could strangle someone. I started having a panic attack.

"Kenzee, can we please leave? I can't be here right now." I could barely form a sentence.

"You aren't going anywhere!" My mom grabs my arm to try to pull me in her direction.

Kenzee pulls my arm away from my mom and tells me to go get her keys and to get in her car. She looks at my mom with anger, "Don't you dare touch my little sister like that again. We are leaving whether you like it or not." She ran down the stairs and we both ran and got into her car.

We got down the street and she pulled off to the side of the road. She knew we both needed to calm down for a second.

"What kind of drugs is she doing?" I asked

"Cocaine and bath salts." She replied quietly.

"What were in those messages?"

"Her texting Kerrie asking for more of those drugs. There were also text messages from Kim talking about them switching around some pills." Kerrie was my mom's psycho best friend from High School and Kim was my mom's cousin who was also addicted to prescription drugs. It all made so much sense at that point. She was always on the phone with those two, and always acted very strange if we ever overheard one of their conversations.

"It all makes sense now."

"It really does."

"Kenz, we have to call and talk to dad about this."

"I know, but we need to calm down before we talk to him. It's not going to be easy for him to hear."

"Fair enough."

My sister and I drove around for some time and talked about what we were going to do. We both came to the conclusion that we wanted nothing to do with our mom. We didn't want to be around that kind of behavior, and mentally, we couldn't be around that behavior. We called my dad that night and told him everything that happened. We talked out our options for a good hour. He asked my sister and me if we would be okay if they got a divorce. We both said yes.

Our parents' marriage has been a train wreck for years and it was such a relief for me when I finally heard him say those words. My dad tried for years to get my mom the help she needed, but she ended up just lying to his face. Her addiction almost made my dad lose the house twice and he was always struggling to make ends meet. My dad is amazing. As I got older and realized what my mom was doing, I realized my dad wasn't a monster. He was protecting us and himself. He also knew about her problem a lot longer than we did. He wanted was to keep our family together, but he then realized that none of us could do it anymore. It took me and my sister threatening to go live with our grandma for him to finally open his eyes to the bigger picture. We were all done.

Two months later, the divorce was finalized and my mom moved out. It was bittersweet. I was relieved that I didn't have to deal with it all anymore and I was relieved that my dad could finally live his life too. My parents were married for twenty-two years. Twenty-two years of fighting, my mom lying to him, my mom stealing his money and my mom tearing our family apart.

I hoped my mom would get better after the divorce, but you know the saying, "Things get worse before they get better." My mom completely hit rock bottom a year after they got a divorce. She turned into an alcoholic, and there were multiple times where we had to take her to the hospital to detox her. After doing that three times, my siblings and I had to be done. We emotionally couldn't do it anymore. After we cut her out of our lives she got a DUI and went to jail. Complete rock bottom. That's when she finally got help and went to rehab.

I am proud to say that today my mom is almost three years sober, and I couldn't be more proud of her. She is a completely different person and we actually have a great relationship. She has had a solid job for over three years and is the happiest I've ever seen her. I went years without having a mom. Although those years were rough, I am so grateful I have her now. I am happy that she is happy and that she is here with us today.

Addiction is a very difficult thing for any person or family to go through. I have learned that addiction runs on my mom's side of the family, and if I'm being honest, that terrifies me. I will not be one of those people that become addicted, I refuse. Prescription drug addiction is a problem, and it needs to be taken more seriously