Carly said, “I have been taking Oxycontin everyday for over a year and I can’t stop.”
I wasn’t afraid. I was confused. I didn’t know what Oxycontin was. It turned out to be the beginning of eight years for fear, horror, and heartbreak.
I spend the following six years on the phone trying to get her medical treatment. Hundreds and hundreds of phone calls. Screaming, crying, stalking phone calls to one of the best health insurance companies in the world. They would not approve treatment. They refused to treat Carly at the only adolesant treatment facility in the entire city of Phoenix, that held about twenty beds. There were other facilities if you had forty thousand dollars in the bank, but if you are a poor family, with only health insurance to work with, there is no treatment available to you.
As we traveled down the road, Carly overdosed twice. As her addiction progressed she was now not quite sixteen and was shooting up heroin and methamphetamines all day long. I would again make the six hundred phone calls, still, they would not approve treatment. I began to chronicle our journey and frustration.
The health insurance company would speak with Carly, now ninety pounds and violently ill. She would cry and beg for help. They would not approve treatment. They would approve counseling or out patient treatment. Out patient treatment is ineffective for a sixteen year old intravenous heroin/ meth addict. It does not work. It’s money down the toilet. Around this time, I found this letter in Carly’s closet:
I’m okay with the fact that I always give up.
Shooting speed always comes first. It’s not up to me anymore.
I share needles.
I’m a cutter.
I don’t know why I don’t want to live.
I think that the sooner I die, the sooner my family will get their life back.
I feel like I’m alive to show people what happens to those who never stop.
In some sick way I enjoy not knowing if I’ll make it through this shot.
I have decided that when I get caught doing something by the police, I will kill myself right away.
I’ve destroyed my family.
I have become everything I never wanted to be.
sixteen years old
The third overdose was the result of Carly attempting suicide. Her exact words were, “If this is my life, if this is how I am going to live, I don’t want to do it. I can’t live this way anymore.”
Finally, after three near fatal overdoses and a grand total of almost a month in intensive care, which was quadruple to what the cost of an inpatient treatment would have been, Carly was admitted to inpatient drug treatment. I remember after admitting her, and feeling good about packing away some personal things to comfort her, photos, letters, I walked out of the facility and for the first time in years, I was so, so grateful she was still alive.
It was a twenty eight day treatment facility. Five days in to her treatment, the facility called and said the insurance company said she was fine to go home now. Doctors from the facility called the insurance company and told them Carly wasn’t even close to being well. I called, fifty phone calls later the insurance company allowed her to stay. She unpack her bags and went back to her room. Five days later, she was told by the insurance company that she was well. Fifty more phone calls, she unpacked again. We did this five times in twenty eight days.
Carly got out of treatment and immediately relapsed but managed to stay alive until she was eighteen. Because of her past medical record she was able to get in to a facility in another city. She was in and out for a little over a year. In one year my daughter was home for a total of two weeks. While I was so grateful that she could get treatment, it was a very lonely time. I missed her so, so much.
There are young, young kids all across the county that are chronic drug addicts with no place to go. No one wants them. The kids that are fortunate enough to come from a family with money do have a chance at a life. But the poor kids continue to die on the streets and in their bedrooms. I live in America. I shouldn’t have to fight and go in to all out war to get my daughter medical attention. It is wrong. I think of the faces of the kids that I would see one day, then the next day they were released because their insurance company said they had to leave. They were beautiful, and funny and brilliant. But they are from poor families so they are excluded from getting medical treatment. Some of those young people are now dead. And they died because they were poor. It is so wrong that my stomach turns just remembering their faces, laughing, talking, crying.
So what began as me writing my fear and rage, became a book. I have been a stand up comic for twenty years so I made every effort to weave in laughter as I did not want the reader to feel like they have been hit over the head with a bat. Because laughter is what got me through it. Thank God for stand up comedy. I really don’t know how I would have made it.
Today Carly is a year and half clean and sober. I am so unbelievably proud of her. I am so thankful that she is still here. That we are still here. Life is good. Really, really good.
# # #
Dina Kucera was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After completing a project to collect and identify fifty insects, she graduated from the ninth grade and left school for good. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Her first job was a paper route, and she has worked as a maid, bartender, waitress, and grocery store checker. Dina has also been a stand-up comic for twenty years, for which she receives payment ranging from a small amount of money to a very, very small amount of money. When it comes to awards and recognition, she was once nominated for a Girl Scout sugar cookie award, but she never actually received the award because her father decided to stop at a bar instead of going to the award ceremony. Dina waited on the curb outside the bar, repeatedly saying to panhandlers, “Sorry. I don’t have any money. I’m seven.” Dina is married with three daughters, one stepson, and one grandson. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Her latest book is Everything I Never Wanted to Be.