It was during the economic downturn in late 2009 where I found myself without a job and no steady income. I had been unemployed for months and in early 2010, an opportunity came to me through the Fellowship. One where I would have a private room, free meals, a gym membership – and I would be able to keep Lucy. My soon to be Boss Lady knew that Lucy was my lifeline (my 5 year old boxer mutt) and that I needed a job quickly. Boss Lady was getting ready to open a sober living home and she needed a House Manager. By this point in my sobriety I was almost five years sober, and I ran a good program – I had a sponsor, I worked the steps, and I went to a lot of meetings – I had my shit together. It was an easy decision for me to make and within a week, I moved into a gorgeous, sunny, five bedroom fully furnished house complete with a pool and ocean view. It was like moving into my own Golden Door Spa – until the sober housemates showed up.
Our first client was just released from the local 28 day treatment center and she was as fresh as a 19 year old girl could look. Dewy perfect skin, gorgeous healthy hair and a sparkly smile. She was a little soft spoken who came across quite shy. She was a heroin addict who didn’t look like she had ever spent a minute with a needle in her arm. We soon found out that most young female addicts were just that. Heroin addicted and sparkling fresh. None of these young girls resembled skid row heroin addicts. They were all sent their by their parents and none wanted what I had – sobriety.
During my ten months as House Manager, there were five young women in particular; all attractive, all H addicts and all very good liars, cheats and manipulators. But isn’t that what addicts are? You bet your fake urine drug test they are. We had had to learn the ropes the hard way. We soon figured out that they were buying fake pee and that they were in cahoots with their housemates and would trade pee when needed. When we caught on to the fake pee circulation, we had to start following them into the bathroom and watch them pee. We also learned that you could insert a tube of fake urine into your vagina and pop it with a pin to give you a steady urine stream. Genius.
Additionally, most were taking Suboxone® and I was the keeper of all meds. We kept these meds in a safe as I would have to dole out their Suboxone® individually and watch it dissolve into their mouths as these girls were also swapping pills with each other. One girl came back from a weekend pass saying she had caught the flu from her Mother and that she was really ill. Within 24 hours we realized she was dope sick and had to kick her out of the house – as it was her third strike. She’d had a few months clean prior to that relapse. Another girl was selling her Lyrica® pills to her boyfriend (who was living in a men’s sober living home) and using the proceeds to purchase Suboxone® from the girls in our house. We found out about her shenanigans by going through the text messages in her phone. Nothing was off-limits to us.
We also had women in the house that were traditional alcoholics who really wanted to get sober. These women were a little older and they had more life experience. They too would try and hide their drinking from us. However, their relapses weren’t as routine as the H girls were. In addition to random drug testing, we also performed random breathalyzer tests – it was a revolving door of wondering who was high and who wasn’t.
Since I was the House Manager of the home, I was involved in these women’s daily activities, as I was also their chauffer driving them to meetings, job interviews, the store, the gym – wherever they needed to go. I soon developed friendships with some of them – and just when I would feel safe and think I’m her friend now, she won’t lie to me – they’d spin their addict web of lies and relapse.
This job had me feeling like I was a Doctor as I was on call 24/7. Even on my days off – there was no respite for me. I’d be sitting in a movie and my phone would start blowing up with texts and phone calls; she didn’t make curfew, she needs a ride to work tomorrow, she needs to visit her Mom, she and she got into a fight tonight, Lucy ate her stuffed animal –on and on it would go.
It got to a point where my own sanity and sobriety were at risk. I couldn’t go to a meeting and share about “what was going on with me” nor could I confide in anyone at the house. I never knew who to trust and who to believe. My sponsor was on speed dial, as were my other sober sisters. I soon heard the alarming statistic that anyone working in the recovery community has a much higher chance of relapse. As soon as I heard that, I knew I had to step up my recovery and start focusing more on my program. I went to Boss Lady and confided in her that I needed to take care of my sobriety as the last thing any of us wanted was a drunken House Manager. I never really wanted to drink, but I had access to the safe where we housed all the medication and some of those pills were addictive. A little harmless pill would be nice – just to take the edge off. Just one. That thinking kept churning around in my head – but luckily someone else would relapse and I’d be jarred back to the reality of the disease. Cunning, Baffling, Powerful — it was happening every day right under my nose.
After ten months, my life took a drastic turn and I was summoned to move back East and assist with my ailing mother. It was January and moving back East wasn’t something I was longing for — but I’d much rather babysit and take care of my own Mother than keep trying to be a Mother to some who weren’t ready.
I have stayed in touch with some of those young girls and although they still needed to live out their own story of addiction and recovery, most are all now clean and sober. They are the lucky ones, as am I.
I know it can be cruel – I had my own things going on and I was in charge of the medicine cabinet for over a decade and let me tell you, the thought probably did cross my mind also. I'm glad to be out of the paid care support staffing role from so many angles and it is so good to read others have had similar experiences. Sometimes being on a diet and working in a cake shop just don't go together.
If most of them are clean and sober now, you must have done a helluva job!
Thanks Bren for your comments and your support!
Ha, thanks – I left in 2010 and I believe all of them had relapsed – and some had some really tough journeys – but I heard that all are sober now! This was 5 yrs ago when I left….
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