healthcare, law

When a miscarriage during pregnancy leads to a miscarriage of justice…

Last night, as the evening was winding down, I noticed an op-ed in The New York Times about a young woman from Oklahoma named Brittney Poolaw. I have gifted the op-ed in the above link, so if you don’t have a subscription to the paper, you should be able to read it for free.

So who is Brittney Poolaw, and why should anyone care about her? According to Michelle Goldberg, author of the op-ed, Brittney Poolaw is a woman who is sitting in prison because she miscarried during her seventeenth week of pregnancy. At the time of her miscarriage, Poolaw was just 19 years old. She was at home when the miscarriage happened, and had presented herself for medical attention at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.

A police detective interviewed Ms. Poolaw after she admitted to hospital staff that she had used methamphetamines and marijuana during her pregnancy. The medical examiner who examined Brittney Poolaw’s fetus cited her drug use as contributing factors in the miscarriage. Also cited were a congenital abnormality and placental abruption.

Poolaw was arrested on a charge of first degree manslaughter. She didn’t have the money for the $20,000 bond, so she spent a year and a half in jail, awaiting her trial. The trial finally occurred this month, and jurors spent less than three hours deciding Brittney Poolaw’s fate. She was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, even though an expert witness explained that Poolaw’s drug use might not have been the direct cause of the miscarriage.

I recently mentioned that I’ve been watching a lot of videos by Jessica Kent, a YouTube personality who has a lot of experience with being in jail and prison. Jessica has done time in several states, mainly because she is a recovering drug addict. She also had the unfortunate experience of giving birth while incarcerated. I have been studying prison reform independently for years, but Jessica Kent’s videos have really opened my eyes to just how unjust and inhumane the U.S. prison system is, particularly for people with drug addictions.

Jessica Kent was pregnant in prison. She’s also a recovering drug addict.
One of Jessica Kent’s videos about her experiences with pregnancy…

I know a lot of people would say that the answer is simple; just don’t do drugs. And I think that advice is easy to follow if you are fortunate enough to come from a supportive family, live in an area where there are many opportunities for work and socializing, have access and the ability to pay for healthcare, and have the will and the drive not to succumb to temptation or peer pressure.

In Poolaw’s case, simply being able to get to a doctor and, perhaps, having an abortion available to her might have prevented her from being imprisoned. According to Goldberg’s opinion piece, Poolaw told the detective that “when she found out she was pregnant she didn’t know if she wanted the baby or not. She said she wasn’t familiar with how or where to get an abortion.” Seems to me that it would have been kinder and better if Brittney could have either had an abortion, or had access to a physician and, perhaps, a social worker or other advocate while she was pregnant.

When I was studying social work, I did part of my internship with what was then called Healthy Families South Carolina. It was a program that was affiliated with Prevent Child Abuse America, and it was designed to help people like Brittney Poolaw maintain healthy pregnancies and get very young children off to a healthier start. Those who were enrolled in the program got home visit services from workers who would help them access healthcare and teach them about making safe and healthy decisions for their babies. These families got coaching from trained parent educators and, in fact, that made a noticeable difference in the outcomes for a lot of the clients. That was something I noted in the massive paper I wrote and presented for my MPH/MSW degrees. Wow… it just occurred to me that the babies I saw when I was finishing my degree are now adults! Time really flies!

Why didn’t someone direct Brittney Poolaw to a program like that? My guess is because she couldn’t access the healthcare system and never got a referral. What would have happened if she could have gotten to a doctor early in her pregnancy? Maybe she would have chosen to have an abortion, or maybe she would have had her baby. And maybe she would have been able to access support from people who are trained to work with young people with big problems. I know nothing about Brittney Poolaw or her past, but experience tells me that a lot of people who end up in her situation have had some pretty terrible traumas in their lives and experienced abuse.

I know a lot of people think that Brittney Poolaw deserves to be in prison for taking drugs while she was pregnant. But having worked with young people who are poor, disenfranchised, and lacking meaningful mentorship, I can understand why she turned to drugs. It happens to so many people. And I think instead of prison, Brittney Poolaw should have gotten compassionate medical attention and real help from someone who might have shown her that she has worth. Having watched so many of Jessica Kent’s videos, I realize that Brittney Poolaw is probably facing even more abuse and degradation on a daily basis now. I don’t think that’s going to help her turn away from drugs when she is finally released from prison.

But, aside from the fact that I think Poolaw’s community really failed her, I also think that other women have much to fear from this ruling. It really is a slippery slope when pregnant women wind up in legal trouble for things they do while pregnant that lead to a loss of the pregnancy. In Poolaw’s case, the actions that contributed to her miscarriage were illegal, but what if she’d had one too many glasses or wine, or something? What if she’d been in a car without a seatbelt or was wearing it incorrectly? What if she tripped and fell down some stairs?

I think it’s very scary that any woman who gets pregnant might find herself being scrutinized by law enforcement after a miscarriage. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, but it also may cause women like Poolaw to avoid seeking medical care. That might be especially true if she’s doing something like drinking alcohol or using drugs. I know a lot of physicians would prefer not to have to deal with drug using pregnant women, but they are precisely the women who need the most attention from someone who has medical expertise. Moreover, it really is chilling to think that the developing fetuses in already born people are superseding the already born people’s civil rights.

The pro-life/anti-abortion movement has been working tirelessly to change laws so that developing embryos and fetuses are seen as “babies” and “children”. But if you take a close look at what happens during pregnancy, it actually takes a pretty long while before the developing embryos and fetuses turn into anything viable outside of the womb. Until then, they really are part of the mother, and it really does seem wrong to me that we should put pregnant women in a different class–with different rules and civil rights– than people who aren’t pregnant. It’s beyond creepy that some judges, particularly in the South, are using situations like Brittney Poolaw’s to chip away at Roe v. Wade and promote the whole “sanctity of life” movement. It seems to me that life is only sacred to these types of folks when it involves the unborn. Once a person has been born, they’re on their own… and God help them stay out of prison.

Should Brittney Poolaw have had an abortion? I suppose she should have, especially since she clearly wasn’t ready to be a mother and had no resources to help her maintain a healthy pregnancy. I’m not sure how open she would have been to receiving help from a social worker or someone else who works with at risk parents and children. But I do think she should have had the option presented to her. It sounds to me like she didn’t have anyone to go to for help when she got pregnant. Instead, she turned to drugs.

I admittedly haven’t looked at Oklahoma’s social welfare programs and I don’t what is available for young people like Brittney Poolaw, but my guess is that even if they are widely available, Poolaw didn’t know how to access them. That’s not really something that is taught in school, at least in my experience. In my first year of my MSW program, I did my internship at a multi-disciplinary rural physician’s practice associated with the University of South Carolina. My clients were referred to me by a family doctor in a rural community. But it sounds like Brittney didn’t have a doctor, and it looks like she was no longer in school… so where would she have gotten a referral to someone like I was when I was in graduate school?

Perhaps the police could have referred her, instead of arresting her and putting her in prison… Or… the medical staff, who should have advocated for her and helped her with her medical problems could have assisted her in finding someone to help her with her problems. Sadly, it sounds like instead of getting the help she obviously needs, Brittney Poolaw will be wasting four years in a prison cell… along with so many other Americans. I hope someday the United States gets over its obsession with incarcerating people. We’ve got to do better than this.

book reviews, celebrities

Reposted review of God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem, by Darrell Hammond

This review was originally written for on January 29, 2012 and appears here as/is. I was in the United States when I wrote this. Seems crazy now!

A few weeks ago, actor and comedian Darrell Hammond was on an episode of Dr. Phil,talking about his new book, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem.  I usually scream at the TV when Dr. Phil is on, but I have to admit I enjoyed the episode starring Darrell Hammond, who is probably best known for being on Saturday Night Live for an amazing fourteen years, doing impressions of Bill Clinton and other political figures.  I quit watching SNL many years ago, so I didn’t actually recognize Hammond on Dr. Phil’s stage.  But when I saw him do a hilarious impression of Dr. Phil himself, I decided I wanted to buy his book.  Off I went to, where it was being offered in print and for the Kindle.

Who is Darrell Hammond?

Darrell Hammond is a comedian and actor.  He’s also an addict.  The reason he was on Dr. Phil was because he’s spent some time in rehab, recovering from his attempts to self-medicate the pain resulting from a very painful childhood.  Hammond reveals that his parents were very abusive.  Growing up in Melbourne, Florida, Darrell Hammond was the son of a World War II veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an abusive mother who happened to be very good at mimickry.  Hammond reveals that he got his comedic gifts from his mother, the same woman who tortured him when he was coming of age.

Such an upbringing does not come without a price.  Though he is a very successful comedian, Darrell used to drink constantly and abused cocaine and crack.  He was also a “cutter”, slicing his skin to relieve his psychic pain.  In a laid back, personable writing style, Hammond reveals everything as if he’s sitting next to you in your living room.  He writes about the good– getting to work as a professional comedian with some of the biggest people in show business– and the bad– sinking to the depths of addiction and being arrested in the Bahamas.  Hammond also includes pictures and they show up very clearly on the Kindle. 

My thoughts
It took me awhile to get through Hammond’s book.  That’s not because it wasn’t a good read.  His story is a lot to digest.  Even though his parents were abusive people, I can tell he still loves them.  Toward the end of the book, he writes about visiting his dying father, who passed away in 2007 of cancer.  As his dad lie in bed, missing an ear that was removed in an attempt to stop the cancer, Hammond sat by his side, remembering the good times he had with him.  He has less to say about his mother, who died a couple of years ago.  And yet, even though she put him through hell, his tone is never bitter.  In fact, toward the end of the book, he offers some insight as to what people must do to get past anger.  And his solution has nothing to do with justice or payback and everything to do with letting go. 

I have noticed that a lot of really funny people usually have personal demons and trauma in their past.  Some of the most hilarious people suffer from depression or addictions or both.  Hammond is not bitter when he writes his story, because he’s expressed that bitterness in different ways… by abusing himself.  And now he’s written about those times in a very compelling memoir. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be on SNL, you might also want to read Hammond’s book.  He reveals a lot about what it was like to be discovered and how it was working with Tina Fey!


This is a good book for anyone struggling with addictions, either personally or through watching a loved one or a friend.  I give it five stars.

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book reviews

Repost: A review of Rock Monster: My Life With Joe Walsh, by Kristin Casey

Here’s another repost, this one about a book written by Kristin Casey, former stripper, current counselor, and rock star Joe Walsh’s ex girlfriend. It appears as/is, the way I originally posted it on May 8, 2018.

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying a lazy afternoon and happened to read an article on the Daily News about rock star Joe Walsh’s proclivities toward BDSM.  I probably shouldn’t have been too shocked about Walsh’s love for kink.  He’s always been drawn to life in the fast lane.  Walsh is also a notorious recovering addict and alcoholic and has been so for as long as I’ve known about him. 

I grew up listening to Joe Walsh’s music, both as an Eagles’ fan and as a Walsh fan.  The man can play guitar like no other.  He also has a wry, offbeat sense of humor that has always been appealing to me.  However, it’s not a secret that he used to party really hard.  Now, at age 70, Walsh is on his fifth marriage, having married Marjorie Bach in 2008 (sister of Barbara Bach, who is married to Ringo Starr).

In the late 1980s, Walsh was in his early 40s and freshly divorced from his third wife, Juanita Boyer (Jody).  He met Kristin Casey, former stripper turned author, at the Radisson Hotel in Austin, Texas.  At the time, Casey was about 20 years old and a college dropout.  Walsh had just done the “moonwalk” and snorted some cocaine.  Casey, in her infinite wisdom and tender years, determined that Walsh was the man she was gonna marry someday. 

Casey is not among the five women who have married Joe Walsh.  However, she did spend several years as his girlfriend, snorting cocaine, smoking crack, traipsing around the country and occasionally abroad, following Walsh in his rock star life.  She chronicles her life with him in her new book, Rock Monster: My Life With Joe Walsh.

Ordinarily, I might have put this review on my music blog.  I felt that my review of Casey’s book should go on this blog, though, because her book is not just about the life of a rock star’s girlfriend.  Rock Monster actually made me think and feel some things.  I think this review of the book deserves the negligibly larger audience it will get on my main blog. 

First off, Kristin Casey is a good writer.  She’s only a little bit older than I am, so I can relate to how things were in the late 80s and early 90s.  She was in her early 20s then, but I was a teenager.  All three of my sisters are older than Casey is; she could have been my sister had the stars aligned differently.  On some level, I feel a slight kinship to Kristin Casey.  We have a few things in common.  Of course, I was not blessed with a body that any man would want to see stripped in public. 

Casey, apparently, was a great exotic dancer back in the day and, based on her pictures, I can see that she was also very pretty.  It’s also plain to me that Casey is intelligent.  Her writing is mostly very solid, although I did notice that she misspelled Taylor Dayne’s name.  I hesitate to judge her too harshly for that.  I haven’t thought of Dayne myself in many years, although she was quite popular in the late 80s. 

Casey explains that she grew up with a very strict and disapproving Catholic mother, who went to church all the time and never seemed satisfied with her daughter’s achievements.  From a young age, Casey rebelled against her mother’s strict religious beliefs.  I don’t know why, but it seems like a lot of young Catholic women do this.  I can think of a couple of other memoirs I read of beautiful young women who were raised in strict Catholic households and turned to stripping.  Here’s just one review I wrote about a book written by former Catholic girl gone wild.  I know there have been others, although I’m not going to take the time to look for them right now.

Growing up, Kristin Casey was smart and liked to write.  As a youngster, she dreamt of writing books, and even tried her hand at a writing contest.  Unfortunately, she was terrified of failure and needed a lot of reassurance.  Her parents, particularly her mother, reportedly didn’t supply her with the attention or regard she needed.  She also failed to find any mentors in other places.  Consequently, by the time she was about to finish high school, she had become an alcoholic.  It would be easy for me to criticize Casey for “blaming her parents”, but actually, she seems to own her part of why she turned to stripping and drugs instead of exploring her dreams of being a writer.  She flat out admits that she’s not a resilient person; or, at least she wasn’t when she was much younger than she is now.

So there she was, 20 years old, living in Austin, a college dropout who was a knockout.  She and Joe Walsh started dating and very quickly, she became aware of Walsh’s exotic tastes, both in drugs and sex.  Although Casey was no stranger to exotic sex herself, Walsh’s love for BDSM was a new experience for her and something she apparently didn’t enjoy very much.  She doesn’t write too much about her bondage sessions with Walsh.  I get the sense that she was bored by BDSM and basically tolerated it for Walsh’s sake.

What Casey did enjoy was snorting cocaine, and she and Joe Walsh snorted a whole lot of cocaine.  In fact, one time they snorted some bad stuff that pretty much destroyed Casey’s nasal septum.  A doctor told her that if she wasn’t careful, her nose would be destroyed.  Casey’s solution was to attempt to use the substance in new ways, including rectally (which evidently didn’t go well).  She also started using crack.  At one point, she was so desperate for the stuff that she pawned a $1000 bracelet Walsh gave her for $15 so she could get a rock.

Meanwhile, Walsh, whose career had slowed somewhat since the Eagles first broke up in 1980, was still touring with other bands.  Sometimes Casey tagged along with Walsh, hanging out with the likes of Dr. John, Clarence Clemons, Billy Preston, Dave Edmunds and Ringo Starr.  Sometimes, she stayed home and waited for him.  One time, Walsh judged a Miss USA pageant and Casey later saw him on TV, getting out of a limo with one of the contestants.  He cheated on her and, though he had invited her to live with him, never really allowed her to make their house feel like her home.  She basically always knew that he could ditch her without a second thought if he wanted to, so she was caught in a situation where she had to look the other way when he stepped out.

Casey also includes some fun snippets about the rock stars and actors she met via Joe Walsh.  I particularly enjoyed her take on Stevie Nicks, who also dated Walsh back in the day.  I was a little shocked and saddened by a comment Casey made about Bonnie Raitt, whose music thrills me.  Apparently, Bonnie can be catty when she wants to be… but then, can’t we all?  As a music lover, I enjoyed reading about some of the people I can only dream of encountering.  On the other hand, I also think it’s sad that Casey was basically fucked up the whole time she was living that lifestyle.

Seriously…  Casey had so much going for her.  I think it’s a shame that she fell into serious drug abuse to the point at which she almost destroyed her nose.  I give Casey credit, though, because she isn’t defensive about her drug abuse.  She even writes about how Joe Walsh even tried to help her launch a writing career.  She was having trouble coming up with an idea of what to write about, so Joe offered to let her write a book about him.  The plan was for her to record him telling his stories and answering questions about his life.  Sadly, cocaine ruined that opportunity for her.  She was too blitzed to interview him coherently. 

Walsh did ask Casey to marry him.  In fact, Lionel Richie even offered to perform the ceremony.  However, as a condition of their marriage, Walsh wanted Casey to go to rehab.  She was unable to get clean.  You know your drug addiction is super bad when Joe Walsh wants you to get rehab! 

Fortunately, Casey’s story has a relatively happy ending.  Although she and Joe Walsh did not get married and live happily ever after, Casey did finally manage to get cleaned up.  She and Walsh briefly got back together after they both got sober, though they realized their relationship couldn’t work.  Casey makes it sound like they parted amicably.  And Casey did finally manage to write her book.  She now works as an “intimacy coach” and drug counselor.

Overall, I liked Rock Monster.  I think I’d give it at least four out of five stars.  I commend Casey for surviving her time with a rock star and being able to share her story with curious Walsh fans like me.  I also appreciated that Casey didn’t leave me thinking Walsh is a total asshole, even though he sometimes acted like one (but in fairness, so did she– cocaine does that to a person).  Her account seems very fair minded to me, especially given how crazy things were when she and Walsh were together.  It would be easy for her to be bitter and blaming everything on other people.  I’m happy to report that Casey doesn’t do that.  It sounds like she’s finally become resilient after all.   

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mental health

The “real” causes of depression, addiction, and anxiety…

Yesterday, someone who is Facebook friends with my former therapist shared an insightful Huffington Post article from January 2018. The subject was depression and anxiety, and what really causes them. I was interested, since depression and anxiety have been a part of my life for a very long time… in fact, I’d venture to say they’ve affected me for almost my whole existence. I have a lot of photos from when I was younger, especially around puberty, where I look positively downtrodden.

The Huffington Post article, written by Johann Hari, is entitled “The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And They’re Not What You Think”. Hari writes that in the 1990s, when he was a teenager, a doctor told him that his depression was caused by a chemical imbalance. All he needed to do to feel better was to take some medication that fixed his “broken brain”. So Hari took the drugs, and they worked somewhat, although he was always having to up his dosage. The pain of depression would always come back. Hari thought something was wrong with him, since this “magic” drug cure wasn’t helping him the way the doctors had promised it would.

Some years later, Hari went to Cambridge University and spent three years studying depression and anxiety in an attempt to find out what really causes the condition. He discovered that conditions like depression, anxiety, addiction, and eating disorders are often caused by trauma and a lack of a meaningful connection to other human beings. Do people sometimes have “chemical imbalances” that are helped by antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or other psychiatric drugs? Yes, sometimes they do, and psychiatric drugs can be very helpful even when a chemical imbalance is not solely to blame. But more often than not, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are caused by something horrible that happened in the past.

Regular readers might remember that I recently binge watched a bunch of Intervention episodes. Intervention is a show that has been on the A&E channel for many years. One thing I’ve noticed in almost every episode is that almost every addict was affected by a traumatic event. It seems like an overwhelming majority of the females profiled on that show, and quite a few of the males, too, were victims of sexual assault or molestation of some kind. Those who were not sexually abused in some way usually suffered some other kind of childhood trauma that was never addressed. Divorce, physical abuse, death of a parent or other close family member, abandonment and even adoption have figured into the addict’s history.

I recently watched one episode about a guy named Gabe who was born on the streets of Calcutta and abandoned by his mother when he was three years old. He was later adopted by a very white bread Christian family, who brought him to the United States and tried to raise him among his very white, middle class siblings. Throughout the episode, Gabe kept talking about how different he felt, being this dark skinned Indian child in a culture that was so different from where he originally came. He felt like an outsider, which caused him to feel depressed and anxious. When he was in high school, the formerly happy boy began to resent his white, Christian upbringing. Gabe turned to marijuana, cocaine, and later heroin to help ease his psychic pain.

My husband’s ex wife was the product of an affair. Her biological mother was married to a man who didn’t want to raise another man’s child, so she was put up for adoption. The couple who adopted her split up when she was still very young. She didn’t know her adoptive father until she was about seven years old. Meanwhile, her mother married an abusive man who molested Ex, his wife’s adopted daughter, but left the biological daughter he’d had with Ex’s mother alone. The end result is a woman who is abusive and cruel to others, especially those closest to her. She also does destructive things to herself, perhaps in a bid to make herself feel better about her unresolved traumas and, perhaps, the feeling that she was never loved by anyone. That kind of trauma can be contagious. Passing it to others can cause them to perpetuate it in ripple effects. Bill and I are grateful, though, because it looks like at least one of Ex’s children has recognized the pattern of abuse and is taking steps not to repeat it.

It’s no secret that there is no love lost between Bill’s ex wife and me, though it may surprise some readers to know that there is a part of me who has great empathy for her situation. I’m sure she had a terrible, traumatic, abusive childhood, as a lot of people have. There are underlying reasons for the destructive ways she and other people behave, although being an abuse victim is not an excuse to abuse other people.

I can even look at myself and see this phenomenon at work. I come from a family of alcoholics and depressives. My father was abused by his father, and in turn, my dad was sometimes abusive and cruel to me. Add in my run ins with the neighborhood pervert, who used to show me pornography, pinch my ass, and make suggestive comments to me, and maybe you might see a cause for me to be depressed and anxious. When I finally addressed my longstanding depression back in 1998, I took antidepressants and got psychotherapy. Prozac wasn’t very helpful, and in fact, it eventually made things worse. But Wellbutrin was a lifesaver for me. After just four days, my attitude changed. I woke up one morning and decided I needed to make some big changes, and I proceeded to do just that.

I took Wellbutrin for about five years before I weaned myself off of it. I had no problems getting off of the drug. The only thing that changed was my weight. I gained some in the wake of quitting antidepressants. I have noticed some other changes since then. For instance, I used to have meltdowns. I used to cry a lot over anything that upset me. Some of the things that bothered me were pretty insignificant, at least to other people. Now, I don’t cry very often at all. I sometimes get misty eyed when I’m moved, but I no longer get that painful, deeply hurt feeling I used to get in my throat in the futile attempt to fight back tears. I rarely cry anymore when I’m sad or angry. I only cry when I feel emotional. I don’t know if that’s a result of my use of antidepressants or the fact that I’m just getting older and my body chemistry has changed. It’s also been a long time since my last panic attack, although I used to have them fairly often.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d like to go back on antidepressants, but then I realize that would mean having to deal with doctors. I don’t like dealing with doctors unless I’m pretty damned sick. I’m sure a lot of other people are the same way. They’d rather turn to something else to ease their pain… like drugs or alcohol, compulsive shopping or porn, religion or abuse… or food. Writing and singing are two somewhat healthy activities I do to head off depression, although some people have told me that they don’t think what I write is “healthy”.

Personally, I think writing is a very healthy thing to do, especially if it’s all I do (as opposed to taking destructive actions toward others). I write for myself. I share what I write for others, since I know that there’s a good chance that someone out there can relate. Maybe some of the more personal posts I write are helpful to those people out there, even if I do seem “unhealthy”. Maybe I’m not interested in presenting an image of “health” to other people. Maybe my image to others isn’t all that important to me, although it is for many other people.

A couple of days ago, I shared with my mother-in-law a comment that I got from a reader who was upset about a post I wrote about my husband’s ex wife. The post is on my old blog, which is no longer public. The commenter took me to task for constantly “trashing” Bill’s ex wife, said my posts were way too negative and contained too much inappropriate information, and she advised me to “let it go”. She wrote that I came off as “bitter” and “petty”, which I thought was pretty funny. Obviously, not appearing to be “bitter” and “petty” to others is something that is important to the commenter. I wondered what made her think that was important to me. What made her think that I would care about how I “come off” to other people? What made her think that every other person sees me in the way she saw me that day, or that her impression of me was the correct one? And what made her think that her decision to chastise me would ultimately be productive?

I guess, in a way, her negative comment about “my negativity” was productive in that I’m now thinking about what she wrote and composing a blog post about it. But telling me to “let it go” didn’t result in my “letting it go”, did it? All it did was make me realize that she’s one of the many people who don’t get it and isn’t about to put forth the effort to get it. In fact, trying to impose your version of what is “the right image” on other people is bound to lead to depression and heartache, isn’t it? It’s ultimately a waste of time. Because every person is different, and not everyone sees things in the same way. For every person who thinks what I do is unproductive and unhealthy, there’s probably at least one person who understands and is maybe even helped. And honestly, trying to write for other people’s expectations is impossible, anyway. Trying to please everyone is truly a one way ticket to Crazyville, with stops in Depression Town, Anxiety City, and Self-sabotageburg.

Anyway… I think that mental illnesses like depression and anxiety frequently do have their roots in traumas, particularly during childhood and adolescence. I won’t say that’s always what causes those problems. Some people really do have chemical imbalances, and I’m sure for many, there’s a combination of causes that lead to depression, addiction, anxiety, and other conditions like eating disorders. On the other hand, if a simple chemical imbalance causes someone to be depressed and the depression causes that person to be mean, grumpy, controlling and abusive to another person, which then leads them to depression and anxiety, then you might have a true chicken and egg scenario, right? Sigh… well, it’s time to get on with the day. We’re still in France and will go home tomorrow. Maybe then, I can write something that rambles less.

Reality TV

Hot messes…

I’ve been bingeing on old episodes of Intervention all week. I’ve been on the wagon since Sunday night, although I have a feeling Bill and I will be toasting tonight when he comes home from his latest trip. The weather is positively miserable this morning. It’s raining, and they’re calling for snow showers, too. I hope Bill makes it back in one piece, but I have faith in my retired soldier. He’s the opposite of a hot mess… and man, have I been overdosing on them this week!

I used to watch Intervention casually back in the day. When I was in the States, I’d catch it on A&E while flipping channels. When we were in Germany the first time, I got hooked on iTunes and downloaded a couple of seasons to pass time. I added more seasons over the years, but I don’t think I ever really stopped and watched a lot of what I had. That changed this week. Some of the stories are downright heartbreaking and some are infuriating. A few have funny elements. If I had gone on to practice social work, I could have been working with people like the ones featured on Intervention. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t, since I pretty much lived that experience in real life growing up with my dad.

This morning, I happened to watch a couple of episodes that were real doozies. The one that inspired today’s post featured a young woman named Cristy. Cristy has been written about a lot on the Internet. I did a quick Google search and found her the subject of a lot of threads about Intervention as well as people who are, in general, incredibly fucked up for whatever reason. Just type “Cristy from Intervention” into your favorite search engine and you’ll find a flood of reactions from people. She definitely made an impression. A lot of people say that episode is the “craziest” of all of them, which seems amazing, given that she appeared in the second season. I think they’re up to twenty seasons now, so that means Cristy’s episode was a “high point” in low points… and she hadn’t even hit “rock bottom” after her intervention.

Anyway… before my morning coffee, I watched Cristy cavorting around in the nude, extremely drunk and high on crystal meth. I watched her standing on the street, hitting up men for alcohol. I heard about how she made her living stripping. In 2005, she had a cute figure, although her face was pretty messed up. She’d bleached her hair and did something strange to her eyebrows. Her personality, which had been described as “bubbly” and positive, had become arrogant, obnoxious, and dishonest.

I felt sorry for her parents, especially her dad, a musician who obviously loved her dearly and even wrote a song for her when she was a child. Sounds a little Disney-esque, although it’s interesting that he sings it in a minor key, especially given how she turned out. She was supposedly a real firecracker as a kid… but then she turned into a crack addict. Er… well, I don’t know if crack was her drug of choice. I’m sure she’s tried it.

Someone decided to turn it into a club mix. You can see some of the more salacious highlights from the episode in this video.

I frequently empathize with the people featured on Intervention. They usually have something about them that is compelling or sweet. A lot of times, the subjects are further humanized as family members talk about how loving, kind, and talented they were as children. Family pictures and heartwarming videos are shown and viewers see why their families are so distraught that their loved ones have fallen down the black hole of addiction. There were home videos and pictures of Cristy, too, and she did appear to be a charming child. For some reason, I have hard time feeling a whole lot of sympathy for her as an adult. I have more compassion for her family, especially her dad. I can tell he adores her. She’s so lucky he cares about her. Not everyone has parents who care so much.

Many people who have been on Intervention are able to put their lives together. Yesterday, I watched an episode about a young mom named Kristen who was also featured in season 2. Kristen had an adorable five year old daughter named Sadie who lived with her dad because Kristen was a heroin addict and a prostitute. I looked up Kristen yesterday and was astonished to see that Sadie had grown into a very tall high school graduate (like, she dwarfs her mother, who is now clean and also has a son). Kristen got off drugs and now lives the straight life. She looks wonderful. In comparison, here’s a more recent video of Cristy— from October 2018. She went to Taco Bell, pissed herself, and broke a lot of windows. She also had a baby boy a few years ago, who reportedly lives with his father (thank God). There were Facebook pictures of her, obviously drinking a lot of booze while she was pregnant. They’re easy to find, too.

As I’ve been watching Intervention all week, I’ve been thinking about how hard it must be for the family members of addicted people who end up featured on the show. I do have an inkling of it, since my dad was an alcoholic. We’ve had our share of family dramas over the years, but it wasn’t until I was almost a high school graduate before I knew that my dad had a drinking problem. I remember hearing the odd whisper about it growing up. When I was about fourteen or fifteen, our family went to counseling for a while, and my dad’s drinking was mentioned then. I only attended a couple of sessions because I wasn’t interested and didn’t see the issue as my problem. I refused to cooperate, so my parents let me stay home and watch Three’s Company reruns on TV. Meanwhile, my parents and two of my sisters attended the sessions with a master’s level therapist named Nancy who had an office in a strip mall near our house. I now kind of wish I’d kept going to the sessions. Maybe they would have been insightful.

At that time, back in the mid 1980s, my parents were fighting a lot with two of my sisters, both of whom were then in their 20s. One of them, in particular, seemed to be causing the most drama and concern. I think my mom was actually afraid she might harm herself, which was unusual for my mom– you’d have to know her to understand. She’s a good person, but she’s not very maternal at all. I remember one night, she begged my dad to go after my sister, who had just left the house in a rage. My mom was afraid my sister might end up killing herself or getting in an accident. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

But when I compare the drama in the house I grew up in to the drama on Intervention, it seems pretty tame. Then I remind myself that Intervention is a carefully edited hour of television, designed to be dramatic and compelling. What we see is the end result of hours of filming. A lot of what goes on daily might be relatively mundane. I guess it would have to be, or else the addictions would not have the chance to get as bad as they do. People turn a blind eye to the craziness and simply try to live with it until it becomes intolerable. It’s like letting a minor infection go untreated until it turns into septic shock.

I definitely don’t think my sister was the whole problem in our house. She was just a symptom of the problem. When I look at our family as a whole, I can see that the roots run very deep. The problem started many years before my dad was even born. He had a violent, alcoholic father, too, and I think chances are excellent that Pappy’s father was also an alcoholic, as were his forebears. In fact, from the stories I’ve heard, my grandfather was much worse than my father ever was, and my dad, who was the oldest son in the family, bore the brunt of Pappy’s abuse until he moved away from home. Having talked to and observed my aunts, uncles, and cousins, I can see that it’s a family wide problem, even if no one really talks about it much. I guess, in a way, that’s one reason why going home makes me uncomfortable, even though my family is generally wonderful and a lot of fun. There are many elephants in the room that no one ever addresses. Also, many of them are recalcitrant Trump devotees, which when mixed with alcohol, is not a pleasant combination. Although I used to love being around them when I was younger, getting away from that environment opened my eyes. I feel like I can’t unring the bell. The cognitive dissonance is too much for me to bear.

My dad– underneath the alcoholism– was a very kind, decent, intelligent, and sensitive man. There was a noble aspect to his personality. He was fascinated by meeting people from other cultures and enjoyed helping others. Even though my dad was a Republican, he was fully supportive when my eldest sister and I decided to be Peace Corps Volunteers, and he even helped me collect books in English for the school where I taught. He was musically talented and artistic, had a good sense of humor, loved crossword puzzles, and was generally a high achiever. Despite drinking too much and suffering from depression and PTSD, he was a very good provider. We never went without anything, but I think a lot of that was because my mom worked hard to make sure we didn’t. She was concerned about optics and her own comfort, but I also think she was concerned about my dad. She loved him, even if he often drove her crazy.

Watching Intervention, I kind of wonder if my sisters and I turned out reasonably well because my parents didn’t divorce. But then, they did love each other, and they wanted to be together. They had good times, even with the heavy drinking. I remember my parents went on trips together. I’d stay home while they went to Europe or the Caribbean, or they’d go to a timeshare somewhere in the Bahamas or out west. It didn’t happen every year, but I remember at least a couple of big trips they took together. They used to be very involved in biking, and my dad loved doing things like hang gliding and white water rafting. He was an adrenaline junkie. We also had exposure to our extended family, particularly on my dad’s side (mom’s side was very small and had pretty much died out by the time I was eight years old).

Some of the people on Intervention, you can tell, didn’t love each other. They got together, had children, and the relationship fell apart. A lot of times, one of the parents is also an addict or has some other problem that exacerbates the situation. Also, it seems like a lot of times, in the wake of a divorce, the mother ends up with a man who molests the child who ends up sick. It’s interesting that this happens, too, since stepmothers so often get a bad rap for “destroying” the lives of their stepchildren and stepfathers are often revered for “stepping up” and raising another man’s children. And yet, in so many of these stories, I see that the addict hits trouble when there is a remarriage and the stepfather turns out to be an abusive, child molesting creep. Or… the child goes out and finds attention from someone who is a molester because he or she isn’t getting the necessary attention from family members. That’s kind of what happened to me– although thankfully, the molester in my case only showed me porn and made a lot of inappropriate comments.

Thank God my mom allowed me to get much more involved with horses when she did. Otherwise, who knows? You might be watching an episode of Intervention starring me. Seriously… as much as I used to fight with my riding instructor, I think in many ways, she and a lot of other good people in Gloucester, might have saved my ass. I was too busy taking care of my horse and going to horse shows to get into trouble. I was very fortunate to grow up in a close-knit community where there were a lot of people who, for whatever reason, took an interest in me and helped me grow up, even though my parents weren’t as involved as they could have been.

My sister likes to say that my mom bought me the horse because she suggested it– to “save” me from dating losers, getting knocked up, using drugs, or whatever. It offends me that she thinks that I ever would have turned to that. I wasn’t all that interested in dating when I was a teenager, and I didn’t drink much at all until I was a sophomore in college, although I got drunk for the first time at a family party, when I was about fifteen. But even in college, I wasn’t hanging out with men looking to hook up, and I never once used illegal drugs, EVER. I just drank a lot of beer and played a lot of Asshole. Granted, I played Asshole with men, but they were drinking buddies, not hookup buddies. The first time I ever tried marijuana, I was 43 years old and visiting the Netherlands, where it’s legal. I enjoyed it, but I haven’t used any since then.

Moreover, I don’t remember my sisters acting as saviors to me. They might have protected me a couple of times when my dad would get enraged, but they were mostly not home enough to act in that role when I was under 18. And there were times when I was a child that my sisters raged at me themselves. It was mostly verbal in nature, but there were times when it also got physical. I think growing up with verbal abuse is one reason why I can’t deal with people who rage at me now. Seriously… if you yell and scream at me, there’s a good chance I’ll eventually end up hating your guts. I have very little tolerance for that anymore. Bill isn’t a yeller, which is probably the main reason why we get along so well. Unfortunately, there are times when I yell, but I don’t yell at Bill and I rarely yell at other people. I just yell in general and vent in my blog, which I know pisses some people off. But I’m not sure that writing is worse than losing my temper and screaming at someone, even if some folks think I should keep these things private. Frankly, I think those who don’t like what I write should simply exercise some self-discipline and go somewhere else. The Internet is a big place. Find your happy place and leave me alone. 😉

Whew… well, I kind of got off the track in this post. Back to Intervention and hot messes. Although Intervention is kind of a depressing show, it’s fascinating to me. Everyone has a story, and I love a good story. I’m also glad to see people recover and go on to live productive, happy lives. I guess it’s plain why I find the show so compelling… maybe there’s a part of me that feels somewhat better about myself when I watch it. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel good watching Cristy, who seems completely clueless and remorseless. I feel sorry for her family. It’s must be devastating to have to deal with someone like her on a regular basis. I hope her son grows up okay. And I hope the people at Taco Bell got a raise and Cristy put some clothes on…