The Losses, The Advocates, The Hope

This is Mama Penny. I’ve known her since I was 10, when her and my dad began to date. She has been a part of my life for 16 years, and stood with me as “Mother of the Bride” when Daniel and I got married.

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On my way into work, Friday, July 14, 2017, my dad sent me a message. “Call me when you get a chance.” Well it’s pretty odd for my dad to say give me a call when he knows I’m at work. But I really didn’t think anything of it. Most of the time it’s a flat tire or something wrong with this car, to be honest. So I decided, I have a few minutes as I’m walking to the entrance of work. I’ll give him a call now.

“Hey what’s up,” I said. “Penny just called me. (brief silence) Vin died.”

I stopped. I stopped right there in the misty rain. “What?”

“Penny just called me. Jon [Vin’s dad] found him.”  “What?” It was odd. I was taking these like very shallow but very deep breaths. My chest got tight. My mind went blank. My hand went over my mouth and tears rolled down my face. “What?” It was the only thing that was coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t speak. I heard my dad’s voice and disbelief in a similar fashion on the other end. This bomb, this incomprehensible tragedy had just happened and I needed to compose myself for work. What do I say to Penny? What do you say to someone who lost their son? What do I say to Gab? Her little brother is…. I can’t say it… What can I even do? I don’t know how to react. I just want to hug them and be with them and I have to go to work. Should I go to work? I have to go to work. How will I work?

You need to compose yourself, Sam! Compose yourself.

I took a deep breath as I walked to the entrance of work and as I entered, my eyes still watering, I couldn’t stop shaking. Come on Sam, you’ve got patients that are depending on you. Get it together. It took me a good 25 minutes to stop shaking. What the hell do I do? what the hell CAN I do? What can I say? I called Penny when I got the opportunity, but the voice mailbox was full. I sent her a text message pretty much saying just that.

I don’t know what I can say. I don’t know what I can do. Please know I love you and I’m here, whatever you need.

The next day, after work I went to Penny’s house, selfishly terrified of how I would handle everything. I don’t know what will happen when I get to her house. I don’t know what her State of Mind will be like. Will the kids be there? Do they understand what happened? Will Gab be there? How do I watch people that I love hurt so deeply? How do I watch them hurt knowing that I can’t do anything to make it better?

That day and the days following were spent in typical Italian style, the place packed with an assortment of homemade food, mostly carbs, sitting around the table with wine, sharing stories of not just Vin, but everything! Laughing so hard we cried, at times. I sat there, talking with Penny and friends and family and it amazed me, not only just how strong she was, but how much love was in that room.

In the following days, Facebook was flooded with beautiful memories and kind words from friends and family. The day came and I started shaking all over again because, again, I was selfishly terrified of what this day had in store. I hugged the family and I cried with Gab. There was a moment that happened that I don’t even know how to describe. Like, it penetrated the depths of my soul as I watched. I watched my dad extend his hand to shake the hand of Jon’s, Vin’s dad,  as Jon pulled him in for a hug. And he held my dad there. I watched as he tried to speak to my dad in a low voice and he couldn’t get it out. He was choked up and stuttered as he said, “I just wanted to thank you for everything.” I kiss my hand and laid it on Vincent’s urn.

As I waited for the services to begin, I looked around the room seeing familiar faces. None of them the way that I remembered them. Just this look of loss and being lost. The service progressed as usual and, then, came the eulogy. Penny had written it, but a good friend of the family read it for her. It was beautiful. It flooded my mind with memories of Vincent. And, then, it transitioned into why it’s so important that we stand united. That we can’t blame ourselves. That we need to embrace the very few resources that are available, but how God sent those resources are. Penny has allowed me to share her powerful words with you all as we all said “See you later, Vin.”

My dad hides his emotions. The most I ever saw at my nonna’s funeral was him teary-eyed. He never cried in front of me. As the eulogy was read, I held my dad’s hand tight, and would occasionally look at him. There were tears. I could see this raw side of my father as he become entranced by Penny’s words.

I kept looking at Penny and Gab and just wanting to wrap my arms around them. After the services, there was an opportunity to go up and speak or say a few words about Vin and I had a whole list of things in my head, but when I got to the podium, nothing came out the way I wanted it to. I talked about how when he was living with my dad I used to steal his Crunch Berry cereal and Oreos. I talked about how when I was a kid and Penny and my dad first started dating that I was jealous of Vincent. For so long, I was the only person in my Dad’s life. I was daughter and son. I can have a catch. I can watch football. And I remember thinking well, dads going to have a son now… he’s not going to need me. And years went by and then Vincent stayed with my dad, in my old bedroom, as he got back on his feet and started working. It was the cleanest my Dad’s kitchen had been since I had moved out (haha!) and I felt like there was this full circle of events… my dad was alone, and now this kid I was once jealous of, I saw as a blessing… it was like my dad had a new friend. He had someone to keep him company and talk with him and drive him crazy, at times, and I thought that was a blessing. And all of that came out in a very jumbled, very incoherent way through my shaking voice. I looked at Vin’s sister, Gab, niece and nephew, and mother, Penny…told them that I loved them. That they are family. And they’ve got one heck of a guardian angel looking over them.

I left the podium completely frazzled and disoriented, still shaking. Silly little stories that I wanted to talk about, like when I used to pick up cannolis when Serpes Bakery reopened and bring them over to the apartment for him and my dad, had just completely left my mind .

There are so many things that we want to say or we want to do. There are so many things that we want to experience. But our time is being cut short. The resources are not available and the resources that are are understaffed and under managed for the explosive need in this country. There are so many who want to condemn rather than uplift. I’ve been so frustrated losing people to drug addiction. Vincent was the last straw. I’d lost friends before but now I lost family. I’m very blessed that those in my family who have fought this particular addiction are still here and still fighting. I battled my own addiction  and mental health demons and I continue to battle everyday.  But why couldn’t I get the help that I needed? Why did I have to do it alone, armed with just family and friends, just as uneducated in the topic of recovery as me? Why couldn’t I afford the treatment that every doctor who saw me emphatically voiced that I needed? Was my life not worth saving?

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Please take the time to watch the video, featuring Penny, in the link below, as well as read through the article:

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/heroindelaware/2017/08/10/delawares-heroin-crisis-federal-state-emergency-could-help-treatment/550869001/?fb_action_ids=10159151609300228&fb_action_types=og.comments

Whether you try marijuana in college or start working out, addiction is something that unconsciously rewires your brain. “When did you become anorexic?” Well, if I knew that I wouldn’t be 95 lb . You are sucked into whatever fixes that desire and you have no idea you’re doing it. Until the reality check happens… The rock bottom. Then, the conscious mind makes the choice to get the help needed to get better.  It’s a rollercoaster. Yes, it hurts the people around you, but you need those strong people in your life to keep you going, from whom to borrow some strength when you have nothing left to keep you driving forward. You are rewiring your brain, again, but on a conscious level. It’s both biological and psychological.  Yes, it is a disease. You would never abandon a chemo patient, would you?

Don’t stay silent. Don’t condemn. Don’t blame yourself. Learn. Educate yourself.  Be compassionate. Be strong and supportive. You and your family are not impenetrable to any addiction. Speak Out. Advocate for your neighbors and the resources your community needs.

atTAcK Addiction

Hope Street

Cleaning Out My Addiction

I was able to squeeze in about 4 hour of sleep before being woken up by some family quarreling outside my bedroom door. I was pretty nervous that this shift was going to be a long one. I wasn’t sure what today would have in store for me either. If you recall, the last night shift I worked went great and went to hell when I got home.

Some days coffee really hits the spot. Before heading off for night shift last night, I brewed a mug of Chocolate Cherry coffee and added a splash of sugar free Kahlua flavored syrup. Delicious!

I arrived at work to find that I was, again, on a 1:1. Okay, this is looking a lot like last Friday night…

After reading a few chapters of a book I brought, it was lunch time. A nice filling helping of Bundo Broccoli Salad, with slices of apples and cucumbers and PB on the side. I was very full at the end of this meal and prayed that this recognition of fullness would last for the remainder of my shift. And it did! It was a water-filled, fiberful meal!

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I was freezing upon returning to my 1:1 and was so thankful for the hot green tea I had just brewed! I’ve noticed a mildly sore throat the WP_003867last two days, and I’m positive its from the Fall allergies and crazy weather fluctuations. I’ve been trying to stay proactive in the fight buy drinking hot green tea. I managed to get a few chapter read, however, and finalize a project I’ve been working on.

I had a sense that today, too, would be a long one. After getting done work at 7am, I wanted to attend a forum at 730, since it had to do with a large number of my patient population on my unit. My plan was to go home afterwards and whip up a shake.

WP_003869I have been wanting to make a Key Lime smoothie for a while now, but I wasn’t about to pass up National Chocolate Milkshake Day! On my way out of my meeting, I saw someone had brought in a huge bag of Halloween candy… Snickers of all things! I was so proud of myself for ignoring it, but when I arrived home, I attempted a Snickers shake for breakfast. It definitely did not taste like a snickers, but it was very filling and I went with it. In fact, I came back to finish it while working on dad’s birthday surprise. I wound up adding it my mug a coffee to create a mocha latte of sorts. Frank had requested a Pina Colada shake, and I have to say, it was one of the best I’ve made. But, alas, it still was NOT bedtime! It was bake time. For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a recipe for dad’s birthday. Today was the day I finally got to put my creative juice into fruition. I was praying for success and thats what I got! Thank you, God! The house smelled heavenly an I got to use one of my favorite fall ingredient!

WP_003870Around 1pm, I snacked on some dry cereal and sparkling water. Something did not sit right and I actually got sick! I’m always keeping it interesting, aren’t I?

Since I had time at work, I decide to go through my phone. I had so many  favorites that I had created when I was in the height of my illness. I went through, deleting so many things. Why did I save that? I’m never going to cook that. Oh that sound good! I did the same thing when I got home and began weeding through my recipe binders, throwing out useless recipes and things I knew would never be made. I was hoping this might help refocus some of my attention and inspire some healthy meals to come.

Raspberries On The Mind

Saturday (8/31)

Just as I began to think the stress if the night had died down, it flared back up. Mom blew me off twice in one night and then made the excuse that it was because of my eating disorder that she didn’t spend time with me. Calling my dad for some moral support wasn’t mush help either and he too got on me about it. By this point, I was hurt, frustrated, confused, tired, and crying. “Everyone is tired of it,” both my parents yelled. Don’t you think I am, too?! Thank, God, for Frank who came in my room as I cried. He calmed me down, and after a while, I finally fell asleep.

I began the morning with a White Chocolate Raspberry Shake! It was a beautiful shade of pink until I added a handful of spinach. Then, it WP_003728looked like a big grey blob.

  • 1-2 scoops vanilla protein
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 Tbsp sugar free, fat free White Chocolate pudding mix
  • water
  • ice
  • handful of spinach (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp xanthum (optional)
  • extra splash of sugar free raspberry syrup or sugar free raspberry jello mix, for extra flavor (optional)

Frank started the day off with a shake, as well. Still drained from last night, and my dinner for work prepared, I went to take a brief nap. I’m not sure if I actually fell asleep, but I felt better when I woke up.

I made myself a mug of coffee and a snack before heading off to work. The snack really held off my hunger at work. My shift was great, actually! I discovered something that the nurses before me did not find! I felt so empowered! Nurse Sammy! Saving Lives! One of the night shift nurses who took over commended me on finding it!

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WP_003731I sat down around 7pm for a simple dinner. Before leaving for work I had drained a bag of shirataki noodles and cooked a frozen Green Giant box, the digestive health one with yellow carrots, beans, and spinach in a garlic herb sauce. I divided both the box and noodles into two containers for tonight’s dinner and tomorrows. I was a bit bummed that the beans had absorbed so much of the sauce by the time I ate. Luckily, the shift before me ordered hoagies for lunch and I was able to add some sweet peppers, my favorite condiment, to the bowl. It really made this dinner pop!

WP_003730I had a great night of discharging kids to go home, making the patients and parents laugh, and feeling so positive after days of feeling so insecure. I was even surprised my how filling dinner was! Around 930pm, I sat down for some celery and PB, and a quick break that led to working on a birthday treat for dad. I kept with this idea when I got home, and had some more celery and PB.

Sunday (9/1)

I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by, and now its the first of September! Wow!

After a shower to wake me up, I attempted to create a Brew HaHa Latte with my shake. It was pretty good for Take 1:

  • 1-2 scoop Cafe Latte shake mixWP_003732
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp sugar free raspberry jello
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar free chocolate DaVinci
  • water
  • ice
  • handful of spinach (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp xanthum (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp guar gum (optional)
  • dash of cinnamon

Last night at work, the girls were snacking on Cool Ranch Doritos. I wasn’t hungry so I ignored the bag, but as the night continued I tried to remember the last time I actually tasted Cool Ranch Doritos. I took one bite. And then another. Wow! Its been years. A little fix and I was done, and I was proud of myself for listening to my body.

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Before heading to work, I had a small bite to keep me going. I brewed a mug of Blueberry green tea, and with the last of the raspberries, smashed them on a rice cake, along with some Be Well Nutella. I’ve officially fallen in love with raspberries and nutella! Haha!

Dinner repeated itself, tonight. This time, rather than the sweet peppers, I added a bit of Brummel and Brown, red pepper flakes, and steamed slices of bell pepper and onions. Yum! It was quickly followed by celery sticks and PB2 before I was pulled to another unit at 7pm and completely lost my mind.

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WP_003737I desperately tried to ignore my hunger at 9pm, and was able to deter it for a while. I wanted fruit, apples or a peach, but no such luck in the work pantry. After caving, I ate a 90 calorie pack of Teddy Grahams and half an apple sauce. I know and you know, that it was a smart food decision, but tell that to this eating disorder. As soon as I chewed the last teddy graham, my mind went to hell. But why? I WAS hungry. I listened to my body, and it said feed me, even after trying to trick it with lots of water. All I wanted to do was cry. I was mad that I ate, I was mad that I couldn’t hold out for an apple at home, I was mad that I was approaching 600 calorie for the day. I text my dad, Frank, and Barry from whom I received both support and anguish. Frank is a recovering addict, so he understands what its like to mind-screw yourself. Dad doesn’t quite understand that.

Unfortunately, I did the unthinkable… I purged… at work…

I haven’t done that since the height of my bulimia. I can NOT regress! I will NOT regress! My first action in response to this BS disease? Text my sponsor! I should have done that days ago.

Chocolate Rain

Today began early with working day shift. I woke to a gloomy Friday morning, much like most of the east coast. Once I arrived at work and received my assignment, I made a mug of coffee (thank you, Mr. Keurig) and grabbed my breakfast.

WP_002566It has taken this paranoid mind of mine a while to come around to trying this mornings breakfast. I have heard rave reviews about this yogurt from everyone I’ve spoken to about it, but thought 230 calories was a bit much for yogurt. Nonetheless, I finally tried out Chobani flip Almond Coco Loco. This was actual coconut yogurt with actual shredded coconut in it! So sweet! The add-ins were shaved dark chocolate and almond slices. It was quite the rich breakfast, but very filling.

As I entered the break room, I was greeted by sourdough pretzels, red velvet iced sugar cookies, Hershey kisses and Italian chocolates. One of the girls on night shift was raving about this Italian chocolate called Baci so I made a point to grab one. Wow! Smooth velvety chocolate, draped over chopped hazelnuts!

I must admit that my eating was not ideal today. I offered to work overtime to help out the unit, so my dinner wound up being sourdough pretzels and dark chocolate Hershey kisses. Dessert, was a red velvet cookie. I don’t even like red velvet, but there is something about these cooked that get me every time. Yes, I know, I am the pillar of health.WP_002567

Cautiously battling the rain home, I passed a family of geese. It reminded me of how even during these miserable days, there is always something beautiful. Always something magical. Always something to make you smile. The weather was miserable, but the baby geese followed their mom and it reminded me how excited I was to spend the evening with my mom and how thankful I am that her and I battled our addictions and illnesses together and how much stronger a relationship we have now.

On the way home, my body craved more chocolate… veggies. Luckily, there was no guessing what I wanted. A small order if steamed veggies with garlic sauce, no rice, and a small hot and sour soup. Finally, some actual nutrients!

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PS. Do you remember that song “Chocolate Rain?”