Listen Up, Because…. Time’s Up!

 


“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk more” Erika Jong 

This is a true and a somewhat embarrassing story. However, if in the telling this story enlightens others then so be it.

I’ve always been considered a knowledgeable person; book smart, analytical, problem solving and possessing just enough street smarts to know better.  But alas, this was one of the hardest lessons of all, to be played like a fiddle by a master manipulator and not even realize it!  I was no match for this person, henceforth to be called “Madam X.” Madam X had a pattern of leading unsuspecting people on a journey to hell and back.

I should have known better…

I didn’t know at the outset of the relationship that I would once again become a crime victim, but also demonstrate an ability to rise above the pain and abuse to save a perpetrator’s life, whatever that was worth.

It all began when I hosted a Woman’s Sunday Brunch gathering within a major hotel in an elite community in central Connecticut.  One Sunday, a new guest, Madam X, arrived.  She was small in stature, was well scrubbed, freckle faced and appeared too cute in looks and personality for words.  In fact, unbeknownst to me, she didn’t just stroll in, but rode in on her motorcycle.

Madam X was charming and cast her spell towards me during our first meeting. It was almost like a dream.  Someone should have rounded the corner, taken me by the shoulders and said, “Wake up woman, this person is bad news!” but no one did.

Madam X and I became friends, but there was something not quite right about the situation.  I had met others like her in the past that were in a tough spot, living on the edge for awhile until finances improved.  But I should have known that the transient little barn converted apartment was for the wayward and not a charming fixer-upper.

Madam X was down on her luck. She had a job but lived paycheck to paycheck. She was a licensed handyperson, but was working in a hotel catering department.  She was a good cook, skilled at arts and crafts, and voiced goals and aspirations.

One day while sitting on the couch in her ramshackle apartment, after finishing a call to someone, she said to me with warning, “You don’t want to know about my problems,” when I innocently offered her help. I had just rescued her stranded with her bike, needing a ride. I should have walked out the door, but I was blinded. This cute and perky person fed into my care taking nature and knew exactly what she was doing.

Madam X needed a temporary place to stay so I obliged, thinking that it was the right thing to do to help a new friend and that our friendship would grow as a result. She moved into my place with a considerable amount of belongings, taking over my “neat nick condominium” and rearranged her life in my home.

Background

Madam X came from a neighboring state and had two sisters.  Both were successful professionals. She portrayed herself as the black sheep of the family who was always trying to prove herself, always the one who was misunderstood.

What I wasn’t aware of initially was that she had burned many bridges, including her family.  It appeared they were in a state of inertia when I desperately called them the first time she disappeared.  I wasn’t in total denial of her problems, and my former rescues, but I wasn’t helping her to face the music and suffer the consequences for such things as losing her drivers license. Unbeknownst to me, she had a drug problem.

I often drove Madam X to her hotel job, rising at 4 am to arrive at 6 am at a location over the hazardous Avon Mountain.  Rather than be the constant chauffeur, I decided to put her on my auto insurance as a driver because her motorcycle was not always the best means of travel. One fine day, she borrowed my Subaru Forrester, fell asleep at the wheel, landed in a ditch and totaled the car, with only a few scratches to her body.

As time went on, the naiveté on my part remained and so did the loans of a few dollars here and there, accumulating over time. I did record all her expenditures in a book as proof of what she owed.  She liked nice things, and a glass of wine with dinner, which didn’t seem terribly out of place at first, until it became every single night.

I wasn’t thrilled with the situation, but kept the thought that the inconveniences were only temporary and would improve as soon as she got a better paying job.  The inconveniences mounted and the psychological control and lies began, so much so that I wanted out of the relationship altogether.  But, I knew she would not go easily.  She was a “hanger on” whose job it was to charm the world. I was never afraid physically, but I was in a constant state of worry, tired of being manipulated by charm and tired of  beating myself up for the stupidity of being duped.

I was able to purchase a new car to replace the one she wrecked, a 2003 midnight blue Toyota Matrix, but, there was more to come.

One night, while I slept, Madam X got up and borrowed my car keys and stole my new car!  The next morning, the car and Madam X were nowhere to be found.  I learned quickly that drug addicts are good at disappearing and re-appearing.

I had to go to work that morning, but was too ashamed and embarrassed to tell my family.  She said she tried unsuccessfully to arrange for rides from co-workers.  I reported the latest incident to the police immediately. My brand new car was placed on the NCIC-National Crime Information Center’s data base for missing vehicles. Although Madam X had no criminal record, I finally woke up and wanted her arrested for stealing my car.

I had to swallow my pride and notify my family members for transportation and for support.  They also didn’t see Madam X’s addiction, they only knew and expressed that she was one of those people from the wrong side of the tracks, a user. They were truly concerned for my welfare. For the first time, I heard my mother threaten bodily harm, and my sister wanted to throw all her belongings out on the street.

A plethora of emotions were at work in my head; anger, disgust, worry, even a little compassion for this criminal.  What made her do this to me?  I was full of self disappointment for being so easily taken in. Can you imagine how anyone could sink so low as to steal the only transportation available for a single person with a disability?

I just couldn’t get over this and began to look into eviction procedures, a legal morass.  I learned that it was no easy task to evict someone who is not an official renter and without a lease.  Time passed with no word from Madam X, and no sign of the car in almost two weeks.

Then I discovered my ace in the hole. Madam X’s motorcycle was left on the property. After consulting the police, or maybe it was an attorney, I asked a neighbor to sell the motorcycle, and he did, giving me a little bit of sweet revenge.

When Madam X finally showed up, dazed and confused, she was totally dumbfounded and felt betrayed that I would have sold the motorcycle.  No sense of responsibility was taken, nothing about my car, only concern for the motorcycle.

My brand new car was located unscathed, thankfully not stripped,  in a high crime area of Hartford. The interior was a mess with many McDonald’s wrappers and a couple hundred miles on the speedometer.  Upon seeing it, I physically shook and was unable to drive it to the detail shop to have it cleaned.

And, big surprise, Madam X stole the car in exchange for drugs.  As she told it, she had a once a month cocaine habit in addition to  an alcohol addiction. My second surprise was when Madam X’s family turned against me for having her arrested. In truth, I saved her life.

I tried to take the high road and be supportive of her inpatient drug rehabilitation, where she was a model patient. She made me arts and crafts projects and colored pictures as gifts. I was biding my time until the court date.  On the surface, temporary remorse was exhibited by Madam X, and as a compassionate person, I didn’t see the value in sending her to jail if she could be put on the right path.

 

The court date came and I had my opportunity to list all of her despicable behaviors. Madam X said all of the right things to the judge.  The judge was very surprised at my generosity to not send her to jail. Drug rehab, urine tests, probation and a halfway house were part of the plan going forward.

There was a near miss, a potential relapse during this time for Madam X.  The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services policies supposedly interfered with the ability to demonstrate a clean versus a dirty test. However, she called me hysterically telling her story, that she was pushed to the brink of purchasing drugs and at the last minute, she flushed them down the toilet.  I saw an injustice happening in her story and dutifully wrote a letter to the Medical Director.

She didn’t achieve the making amends step of the 12 step program during the time we were together, she never showed an ounce of remorse towards me. Several weeks later, Madam X, a couple of transient friends and her sister arrived with trucks to finally vacate my home. It was a tension filled day.

A few weeks later, the Medical Director of DMHAS responded to my letter on Madam X’s behalf and promised to do staff re-training concerning their policies in the future. As a final loose end, I tried to do the right thing and notify Madam X of the letter and its promise.  Response to the message left at the halfway house – a call from the local police warning me not to harass Madam X!!  I continued on with my life by going to Alanon Meetings and tried to forget.

Moral of This Story

Had I not bothered in the first place with Madam X, the master manipulator, the entire sordid tale would not have happened.

If I had not demonstrated the courage to have Madam X arrested, she would not have had the benefit of drug rehabilitation and the court system trying to set her straight.

I would have retained my first car and all of the money owed, but that is never to be seen again.

In other words, even with all of Madam X’s mess-ups and devaluing of other humans, I saved her life, even if it was against her will, and feel good about that one and only fact!  She was headed to being found in an alley somewhere.

I just recently traded in the same “drug car,” which had about 150,000 miles on the speedometer, and the bad memories vanished with it. As for Madam X, who knows where she is today, hopefully living a cleaner life.

 

 

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Awakenings, Serenity and Respect… Realizations in the Aftermath of Addiction

 

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The Recovery Prayer from Narcotics Anonymous:

“We cannot change the nature of the addict or addiction. We can help to change the old lie “Once an addict, always an addict,” by striving to make recovery more available. God, help us to remember this difference.” 

Such is the personal mission of Melissa Cote… to change the old lie….  For she has proven beyond any stretch of the imagination that indeed, “A leopard can change her spots.”  She can thrive and assist others in their struggle…thereby helping herself to stay on the clean and sober track.

“Life is about the choices that you make…. Taking the easy way out is never the right way.” Melissa Cote

graduationMelissa came from a good family….  She was provided with love and all of the creature comforts offered in a “normal childhood”.  Despite this…she plunged into the depths of darkness and deprivation. She cared not for herself or others….choosing instead to chase the illusive drug… escalating out of control …ultimately leading to incarceration. Fifteen years later and many lessons learned, with the respect of the Pardons Board in Connecticut, Melissa has a college degree and forges on  asking for a helping hand…a  chance to meet her future goals… NOT a hand out.

Ladyjustice and Delilah spent a revealing hour on “Shattered Lives” learning about Melissa’s inspiring and incredible journey back.

To listen to the podcast, CLICK HERE

  • Introduction to guest:
  • Delilah on People who aren’t well known have the most touching stories… We can relate better…
  • Melissa “If I can help one person…one teenager…..”
  • The cold hard facts of the beginnings of drug abuse…
  • The blame game…and a special anniversary…
  • Delilah asks about how to recognize when you’re addicted?
  • The flu times100….and Melissa’s “gateway drug;”
  • The frontal lobe and teenager’s ability in making decisions;
  • The reasons for drugs…. “the long haired boys” and not being the most popular;
  • The beginnings of recovery…and a soul mate hiding alcoholism ;
  • A father and daughter’s relationship;
  • Drug Addiction and use of IV’s…. Intervention questions;
  • Arrests catching up to me…. and going cold turkey in prison;
  • Differences in treatment in men versus women’s prison;
  • A discussion withdrawal and how it manifests;
  • Ladyjustice asks Delilah her perspective as a mother in such a situations…and other factors involved;
  • Life on the streets prior to incarceration….
  • The male benefitting from Melissa’s  activities;
  • Melissa’s horror and fear for her daughter in the future;
  • Leaving the man ….at loose ends for a year…
  • “Arrest is a gift”…..
  • The journey of prison…
  • Melissa’s recovery program described and her will…
  • “Forcing me to grow up-“a wonderful experience;”
  • Parental response  and “tough love”;
  • Sneakin’ around…  typical teenage behavior;
  • The intersection of Parole with Ladyjustice and Pardons with Melissa;
  • Doing the work  to apply for Pardons  and “putting it off;”
  • Social work, and juvenile just as special interests;
  • “The pardons process was made for me”…
  • Misdemeanor crimes… not on her record….
  • Discussion of her personal hearing… so unique and awesome!
  • Minimum versus maximum….going above and beyond;
  • Recommendation from her arresting officer – A FIRST!
  • Mellissa’s daughter’s and her recommendation letter to the Pardon’s Board…
  • Wonderful feedback from Pardon’s officer and feeling “so scared”;
  • Starting a two-year degree…seven years later-  Drug & Alcohol Counseling;
  • Mental health and behavioral health cuts in Connecticut effecting Melissa’s future;
  • “When you really want something….you have to make time…”
  • Welcoming Melissa back …
  • Delilah asks Melissa about what her advice would be bringing up little girls and the inappropriate forces in our culture etc…
  • Guilty conscience….
  • Appealing to colleges and employers:
  • Contact Info: Melissaxina@yahoo.com:  Tel: 860-798-1780;

 

Questions, Questions, Questions…

  • How do drugs become all powerful?
  • Does “just say no” work?
  • What’s the difference regarding different types of addictions- Cocaine and heroin?
  • Did Melissa’s childhood “Drive her to drugs”…or were there other factors?
  • What factors come into play in high school and fitting in;
  • Does being in recovery have an impact on other family members needing help?
  • What types of intervention are most helpful when you are addicted?
  • Detoxing… the dangers involved in withdrawal of different types of drugs?
  • In 2013 is the pervasiveness of drugs or the good upbringing key factors?
  • How does guilt play a factor?
  • What was Melissa’s relationship with law enforcement then and now?
  • What is “Assessments” in prison?
  • What is that “One last chance?”
  • How do you become eligible for Pardons?
  • What are the realities of employment and the type of crimes committed?
  • What are the different types of pardons and who are they designed for?
  • What is the process of getting references?
  • How does Melissa use her experience as a teaching tool?
  • What’s it like to be on the other side of drug and alcohol as a professional?
  • Did Melissa have to let go of her former peer group after recovery?
  • What coping strategies are effective for Melissa to resist the temptations of drug today?