Name: Kerri Ruby
From: Sioux City, Iowa
Someday, She’ll Call
Kerri Jean Ruby
Another phone call of gibberish, yelling, and nervous laughter takes place during my second break at work. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. I try to make some sense of what she is saying, but there isn’t any. My heart thuds heavy in my chest with the familiar panic that comes with this. I can’t help her this time, she’s in Kansas nd I’m stuck in for another six hours at Target in Iowa. Maybe it’s for the best, I tell myself, maybe this time she’ll hit that rock bottom they speak of.
It’s been another five years since that phone call. It’s been around eight since my best friend went from pot and pills to an IV meth user. It’s been at least four hospital trips, six or more times of picking her up from some trap house, three or so times of her calling after being drugged unwillingly or assaulted… It’s been catching her huff duster in my bathroom. It’s been all these things and so much more.
For the last eight years, I never know if I’ll get the other kind of phone call – the one that tells me she’s gone. There’s a sense of impending doom that comes with having a loved one with an addiction. You start to lose yourself in them, in trying to save them from themselves. When that brings you to your knees, when you start to do the things they are doing in some misguided attempt to save them, when your life becomes unmanageable because you are trying to control another person… that’s when it becomes something just as ill as their substance addiction. Codependency. It’s skipping work to try to keep them sober. Almost selling my car to bail her out of jail, sacrificing sleep, grades, work, everything… with the slim hope that it’ll keep her sober.
I finally drew the line a few years ago. That firm concrete boundary between her and I. It took many Codependents Anonymous meetings, many times working Steps 1, 2 and 3… but I did it. I learned that I can’t keep her sober, and I can’t control or manage other people. I still have to take it one day at a time, just like every addict, but my addiction isn’t one you can see, it doesn’t leave track marks – but it ruins lives just as easily, and just as deadly.
All of the times I went to places I never should’ve been just to try and save her – those could of killed me too. That phone call from Kansas? A week or so later she came back to Iowa and found out the man she’d stayed with had been shot in the head. I surrounded myself with danger under the guise of care.
She knows now that I cannot be active in her life until she has a year clean time. This is still hard for me, especially when I know how much she’s struggling. But I can’t save her. I gave her tools, give her resources when she needs, but I cannot be the person I used to be – the enabler, the rescuer, the codependent.
Addiction tries to destroy all of us, either directly or indirectly. It’s why treatment facilities, meetings, and therapy are so important. I work in addiction treatment now, an adolescent inpatient ward. I’ve always felt a calling to working with teens, but after living beside my best friend’s addiction (which started at about sixteen or seventeen years old) I felt a calling towards addiction treatment.
I work my own program daily so that I don’t fall back into old, toxic patterns of thinking I can save everyone. I can save myself, each and every day that I work the steps. In my own journey, I can share my hope and light with those still suffering in their addiction. There’s that old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” That’s how I view addiction treatment these days. Treatment provides the tools and teaches us how to use them, it’s up to the person if they use them and embrace recovery or not. Sometimes, we have to learn something over and over again before it clicks. Someday, I hope to get a coherent, happy call that tells me she’s finally choosing recovery and actively using the tools. Until then, I’ll keep repeating Step 1 & 2 of CODA : We admit we are powerless over others and our lives have become unmanageable. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.