“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 2:50 p.m. Part I

I’m sitting here, my heart racing, eating a chocolate bunny left over from Easter, and waiting for a call from the psych ward at DCH Northport. They agreed to alert me when my daughter, Mary, is being released. I tried to impress them with the need to drag their heels during the discharge process. When I get that call, I’ll then call the bondsman whom Mary conned into bonding her out of jail two weeks ago but who has now revoked the bond. The bondsman will be waiting outside the hospital for her and will re-arrest and transport her back to jail. This choreographed maneuver is all that will save Mary’s life. If she gets back on the streets, she will die.

How in God’s name did I get here?

It took about 25 years, but I am here. A friend recently asked, “why isn’t yours and Joe Lee’s life just normal, like everybody else’s?”

That’s easy. We have a terribly drug addicted daughter. What is hard is living it day to day.

This is how addiction ends without successful treatment – jail or dead. Mary has been in treatment programs of just about every kind there is, maybe 20 or 25 times. Mary’s is an unrelenting, unremitting addiction. I believe that she must also be brain damaged from a quarter of a century of putting toxic stuff into her body, from cigarettes and alcohol when she was 12 or so to crystal meth last Sunday and everything in between. Sunday she overdosed with multiple substances and was taken by ambulance to the DCH Northport ICU.

I believe drug addicts and alcoholics reach a tipping point, after which their fates will not be pretty. You’re not sure, even in hindsight, when that person has gone over. I don’t know where or when Mary’s tipping point occurred, but she went over.

This tipping point is far different from what laypeople call “hitting bottom.” “Hitting bottom” is for those who get themselves into treatment and/or 12-step programs and stick with it the rest of their lives.

For many more addicts and alcoholics than is comfortable to believe, the bottom is jail or death.

The Ides of March

Nearly two months ago, I got a call from a sleaze-bag loser from Mary’s past, asking me to bail out his step-daughter, whom I care nothing for, and telling me that Mary was also arrested in this same bust for the manufacturing of a controlled substance (methamphetamines), possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamines), and possession of a firearm.

“Are you insane as well as a sleaze-bag?” I shouted into the phone. “Don’t ever call this number again, Clifton, not for any reason.”

Despite everything, I was stunned, even though red flags had been popping up for a while. I had been allowing Mary to come visit Joanna Leigh, whom we have legal custody of. Normally I would feel a huge sense of relief that Mary was off the streets, whether it was in another treatment program or jail. This time, however, was different.

The dreaded day had arrived: the day this baby would have to face the grief that comes with losing her mother. It would begin that very moment I learned Mary had been arrested. I had decided some time ago, that if this happened, any contact with her mother would cease. Period. So, I dreaded it. Here it was.

Baby Grief

The child psychologist I spoke with warned me that a baby’s grief doesn’t look at all like what we recognize as grief.

As the days became weeks, Joanna Leigh more and more showed signs of confusion and grief. As we drove, she would see a familiar turn or street, she would say, “We going see Mommy?” “Mommy coming my house?” “Mommy coming get me.”

She would have imaginary telephone conversations. She would remember something Mommy gave her, like her Tinkerbelle blanket, and say, “Mommy gave me blankey.”

It is wrenching, a tough way to see a baby’s bond with its mother playing out. I would burst into tears.

Needless to say, THAT wasn’t going to work. I had to get my act together immediately, despite the depression that had settled on me like a fog. My visibility has been low, my confusion high, and my ability to get anywhere seriously compromised. All that mess comes with the territory.

Far Away

With advice from the child psychologist, we decided to say that “mommy has moved away.” That explanation was nearly the truth, as Mary would likely be sentenced – when the state gets around to setting a court date – to a long time in Tutwiler, Alabama’s abhorrent prison for women. She’s been there before.

She’s been to the Tuscaloosa County jail a lot. She was in the Escambia County (Florida) Jail when hurricane Ivan came through. The media doesn’t much cover what happens in jails and prisons when a natural disaster happens. But in acceptable abnormal times, Mary’s being incarcerated has been the only way I could feel any peace about where she was and what she was doing.

Funny things, priorities.

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