Soul Doubt: One Guilt Trip, All Expenses Paid

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One Guilt Trip, All Expenses Paid

I've been mulling this over for days, wondering if I'm being selfish and petty, or merely looking out for our little family's best interests- and always end up right back where I started. Trying to discuss it with my husband is even more pointless: he's firmly convinced I'm being the former (selfish, heartless, petty, etc.) rather than the latter, and every time it gets brought up, a measured exchange of views quickly escalates into a full-blown fight.

And you know, I'm not even sure if this is appropriate blog fodder, hitting as close to home as it does; when the story involves personal details of people besides myself, I usually shy away from airing the laundry here. Be it dirty or sparkling Clorox white. But I've long ago gotten full clearance from Tonydaddy to share the goriest details of our lives in whichever forums I may choose, so I'm going to exercise that option now, in hopes that transcribing the situation may even help my thoughts fall into line a bit more clearly and eventually lead to some sort of resolution. That often does happen with me- I'm much more of a writer than a debater.

So here's the scoop. Tony and I have been together around 6 years, and in the beginning one of the reasons he became so enamored of me was because of the way his two daughters and I hit it off. Apparently, after his divorce, there had been quite the parade of women through his life, none of whom his girls were willing to share their daddy with. I was an exception, and to have finally found someone whom they liked, Tony was overjoyed to say the least.

The odd thing was that once we both went through the whole bloody process of end-stage drug addiction/sales, multiple arrests, drying out and cleaning up while incarcerated, managing to struggle our way through outpatient treatment, 12-step meetings, probation and the like- somehow Tony and I got closer, but the girls and my relationship became more and more strained.

Looking back, I think there were a few different factors involved. For one, changes having little or nothing to do with their father or I: J, the younger daughter, had evolved from a sweet little single-digit tomboy into a rebellious, sullen teenager. B, an awkward and shy adolescent to begin with, morphed into a dark, angst-ridden highschooler with multiple piercings and an attitude toward everybody. So it's not like I'm part of some exclusive club.

I think that they may have also blamed me in part, even if it were subconsciously, for the eventual downfall of their dad. See, when we first hooked up, we were living pretty high on the hog because of drug sales: lots of cool toys, cars and trucks with bumping stereo systems, a well-stocked garage in a home Tony still owned... and of course much of this ill-gotten wealth spilled over into J and B's lives as well. When they stayed with us, they were spoiled rotten. And every effort was made to shield them from the sordid realities of dealing huge quantities of dope. Oh, I'm sure they had an inkling- after all, we rarely slept; fed them but didn't eat much ourselves; dropped them off at Skate Plaza, Triple Play or the mall with wads of cash waaay too often, so we could "take care of grown-up business" and pick them up hours later.
So when the house of cards all came crashing down, it was Tony who got arrested first. I liquidated much of our "holdings" to bail him out on a $90,000 bond, only for him to be arrested again, on new charges, the next day. That's how demented our lives had become, and how well-acquainted the law had become with us. It was a relief, really, when the cycle repeated itself with me a few months later- I got arrested, bailed out, and was rearrested a few weeks later; both times with large quantities of drugs and paraphernalia.

So there we sat, in the crossbar hotel, probably within 50 yards of one another but of course unable to communicate except through collect phone calls to my mother, who would pass on messages, albeit reluctantly. She, at this point, was every bit as disgusted with us as everyone else in the straight world was- and NOBODY held any hope for Tony and I to stay together. After all, we were both facing long prison sentences, had basically lost everything (I had put everything in storage after the house was foreclosed on, but after being incarcerated myself, there was no one to make the payments), and it was common knowledge that toward the end we fought like banshees almost daily... so what future could a relationship possibly hold between two such idiots?

I'm sure the girls had picked up on much of this- after all, they're neither blind nor stupid; they knew Dad had been arrested for drug dealing and that Mom blamed his demise on Dad's trashy new girlfriend. And in their family, at that point, it was most certainly NOT fashionable to stick up for me, regardless of what buddies the girls and I had been before. As S.E. Hinton titled her book, That was Then, This is Now.

So for the next year or so, things were in limbo as Tony and I reaped the rewards of our short-lived drug-dealing career. What a career, really- sure, the short-term benefit package was alright; but the retirement package truly sucked. Somehow, we got through it and made a fresh start from scratch upon release. Not much of one, though- Tony was living at a halfway house, I in my mother's attic. Both of us were under the strictest supervision, something which Tony handled well but I chafed at, eventually exploding under the pressure and violating probation. I had managed to get a little apartment and a decent job, both of which I lost as I was sentenced to my full time in prison- four solid years before eligible for parole, a potential of fourteen total (in the lingo: four fixed, ten indeterminate). I was devastated, to say the least, but I also knew this was all of my own doing, and I think at that point the inner change began to take place... actually, I'm sure it did: I've been clean ever since.

Of course, I didn't bother telling anybody else this- why would they believe me? I'd just let a whole lot of people down with my relapse and recidivism- no one was gonna believe I had all of a sudden finally decided to take my recovery seriously! The exception to this was Tony. Amazingly enough, he believed me- he believed in me, too. And he stood by me. He visited. He wrote almost daily. He stayed faithful and kept me convinced I was worth staying faithful to. It was remarkable, how solid this guy was. And while the months dragged by for me, Tony meanwhile was reestablishing a relationship with his daughters, trying to salvage the wreck it had become. He was still living at the halfway house while saving up money, so the girls couldn't stay overnight or anything, but they did start spending a lot more time together. And at this point, neither one of them could understand why their dad was wasting his time and money on a loser jailbird like me who obviously couldn't stay off the dope. Whatever friendship they and I had once had was totally kaput, try as Tony may to play peacemaker.

A miracle occurred: Judge Mitchell signed off on a "Rule 35", a loophole granting me alternative sentencing. Instead of rotting away in a state hold, I was given another chance at the Idaho Retained Jurisdiction program: 120 days in a minimum security prison which was heavy on the treatment programs and transitioning for release. I aced the program, something fairly rare. People were starting to wonder if I maybe was serious. I no longer had to wonder about how successful I'd be upon release: I knew. Something had shifted inside of me, and from that point on I was determined to do whatever it took to stay clean and out of jail.

. . . . . . . .

Fast-forward a few years. After a huge scare from the Idaho Court of Appeals- no fault of mine, it was due to the Judge's procedural error- and a brief period of newsworthiness, I escaped fairly unscathed: a scant month of incarceration, this time fully supported by friends, family and the community at large; a happy ending and reunion with my now-husband and newborn son. Heady stuff, to be sure. The silver lining to the cloud?
1) A great job- Daphne Taylor, owner of Namaste Foods, hired me on salary to work from home doing promotional mailings and some light online duties for her company. I've since been promoted, gotten the hang of things in the allergen-free market, and adore being able to work from home while raising my son.
2) A great church- His Place, where Tony and I have grown closer by including God in our marriage and every other part of our lives.
3) This blog- as well as HBO, some online buddies and real-world relationships which all came about as a result of my notoriety.

So, all this and more has transpired over the last I don't know how long, but to travel back to the issue which inspired this post: J and B are now both somewhat troubled girls, J in particular, and their relationship with their mom is strained to the point where B is living in the Seattle area with a friend of the family (at 18 years of age, something she is entitled to do) and J, while still technically residing with her mom, is rebelling so viciously that if something isn't done, their relationship may be damaged to the point where the law is forced to step in. Yeah, it's that bad.

B lived with us for a short time last year, attending school in this district for maybe a semester, before deciding her uncle's house was much more fun- after all, we were out in the middle of nowhere, led staid, boring lives, and a kid brother wasn't as fun to live with as he was to visit. And heaven forbid she would be asked to do some chores around the house, maybe wash a dish or clean her room from time to time!
Bottom line was, it didn't work. There was a mild clash of personalities, and although there are no hard feelings now, I doubt she'll ask to stay here again.

J, on the other hand, has only had the joys of staying with Daddy and family over the weekends in the last couple years since we've lived here- which entails pizza, staying up all night on MySpace, movies, her friends staying over with her to keep her company, all that jazz. No reality check whatsoever. So of course, to her this seems like paradise compared with her mean old mom. Especially due to the fact that Tony is by no means a disciplinarian in any way, shape or form, and in pretty much everyone's opinion who knows her, J is in sore need of some discipline right now. And I concur, having been a 14 year old girl myself at one point- one very similar to J, as a matter of fact. I too was smoking pot and drinking at parties, cussing like a truck driver, and enamored of guys in leather jackets way too old for me. I can also relate to hating my mom at that stage in life, and sympathize with J's desire to escape her.

This is where the quandary comes in- on one hand, I want to help this child. She really is a sweet girl, despite the tough front and potty mouth. Her dad adores the ground she walks on, and is able to laugh off the school suspensions, drug use, and fighting. She shows a tender side to her little brother, and when asked to do the dishes or whatnot, only drags her feet I think for show. And again, the situation with her mom has just about reached the boiling point. I will feel extremely guilty if J ends up in juvie because I forbade her to move in with us.

Hell, I feel guilty already. Guilty for not just welcoming her with wide open arms, guilty for trying to talk this through with Tony, guilty for bringing up questions like: where is she going to sleep and keep all her stuff? we don't have a spare room. What if we go through all the trouble to get her in school and get her moved in, only to have her do what her sister did, change her mind a couple months down the road? Or worse, what if the problems escalate and next thing you know, we have the law knocking on our doors again? Are we really doing her any favors by bringing her into our home, when we both know full well Tony's not cut out to be a hard-ass? And don't even try to make me assume that role, that wouldn't even be fair.

But right now, J is staying with us. Sort of. I guess she's been dividing her time between here and her aunt's house- her and her cousin are really close: same age, same problems, etc., and of course it's much funner for her to be in town rather than out in the boonies where we live.
But things are still very much in limbo. Nothing has been promised, nothing has been laid out in the way of plans or rules or anything, and I think both her and Tony are halfway hoping things will just sort of fall into place without any big "talk" or any of that uncomfortable nonsense. And maybe they will, I don't know. Maybe the longer J sticks around, the more I'll warm to the idea of her living here with us. Maybe I'm just being unreasonable and cynical. Perhaps I should give her a chance, the way so many others have given me chances throughout the years. And even though at her age I personally was just getting started in my career of disappointing and breaking the hearts of those who cared for me, it could be that she is just going through a brief phase of it, one that could be cured if her and her dad would just give her a fresh start here at our house.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to give her this chance, but I'm not nearly as sure that all will work out for the best. And there lies the rub.


  1. That is a tough situation, and a hard decision to make, especially with emotion running so high on all sides. I will definitely be praying for you, all of you! *hugs*

  2. baby i love you so much and i know we will make the right decesions!!!!!!!!!

  3. hmmmmm. tough. She has to really want life with you and Tony so much that something inside of her will shift. but until that time, she imposes her burden on a situation that has been nurtured and grown by you and Tony but still is developing into a less fragile state. I dunno, Sister. Be good to you, okay?

  4. I remember you from high school, though I think I was in a different grade. I didn't know about all you went through not living in Idaho anymore. But, I was intrigued by your story and am glad you had the guts to tell it. Kudos to you for that and living through it.

  5. Um sorry no, you don't know her from high school. sigh. Not in Couerdelane anyway. It's impossible.

    You are right about one thing though... Kendra has more guts (internal strength) than just about anyone.

    - The mysterious knower of one or two and a half partial things. ;)

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Thanks for taking the time to read what I ramble about- I consider it an honor to get feedback from you guys, so please tell me what you think, feel, if you have a similar story... whatever you'd like! Thanks again and God bless.