I’ve encountered victims of Complicated Grief Syndrome many times throughout my life but never considered that my twin sister and I were affected by it. Why? Because for our entire lives we have used compartmentalization and disassociation to “put away” things we cannot deal with in order to function and live normally.
Many people are often shocked about my candor and transparency but shouldn’t be. Cindy and I are and always have been raw and authentic. We raised our three adult children as a twin team and Cindy took on the raising of her daughter, Stephaney’s twin daughters at birth. The twins will be 19 in September. Many grandparents are raising their grandchildren because their adult children are addicts. The numbers would stagger you. The sheer numbers of aunts, uncles, grandparents and others raising someone else’s children continues to grow.
I recall a production executive once telling me while Cindy and I were filming our television pilot, Pawning Planners, “Wendy you are far too honest and we think it would be best if others didn’t know you have problems.” I laughed. We all have problems. Some of us far more than others. I don’t hide any details about my life nor does Cindy. All of our social media profiles are PUBLIC.
In May 1971 (bear with me on the relevance here) our mother, Sharon Tinney Hill sold all four of her children for $50 each to L.B. Thomas (our fathers father). This conversation was recorded by L.B. Stay tuned to find out that he recorded this transaction for a reason and intent. What was it? To use against Wendy, Cindy and Tammy to remind us “no one wants you not even your own mother and I’ve bought and paid for you.”
Assuming that this tape had been destroyed years ago, you can imagine our shock at finding it last year in a storage unit that our father had insisted my twin sister, Cindy get for him when his live in girlfriend, Gretta Fern Ozee passed away. Last year while headed to TDCJ Terrell Unit, I got the call from my brothers wife that our father had died. A father that never protected us. A father with a violent temper. A father that was so hellbent on ignoring the fact that his father had sexually abused Wendy and Cindy after Tammy was adopted by our mothers mother that Wendy and Cindy ran with the clothes on our backs at 15 with no one to run to. Homeless and battered, the Azle Police Department uncertain of what to do with 2 battered teenagers took us to Women’s Haven. After leaving Womens Haven we lived in a $50 car until we could move into a ghetto apt that for 3.5 years we couldn’t afford to have the electricity turned on at. Cindy was raped in that dark apartment one night. Reopening the abuse we had endured all of those years at the hands of L.B. With a family that refused to protect us.
Many people say stupid things to you and we’ve heard plenty. “You need to forgive.” No we don’t. Most workaholics and overachievers are from horrific backgrounds. We are no different. Poverty fueled us to work harder, educate ourselves and crawl out of poverty singlehandedly.
We’ve never fully forgotten our childhoods although I wish we could but finding that tape all these years later reopened old wounds. Realizing that we were at our lowest point searching the streets for Cindy’s daughter who at that time had once again relapsed and became homeless again at the same time our dad died and we paid for a funeral we were never going to attend then finding that damn tape was a literal trifecta of trauma for the Texas Twins.
Our intention was to clean it out but finding that tape was so traumatic we would wait another year before finding the courage to go back as the expense dragged on. What changed? How were we able to go back after a year? Last summer my niece showed up on one of my patios ready to get and receive our help detoxing and getting sober. For 18 years we have put her in rehab after rehab. Visited her in psych wards for meth induced psychosis and ran our companies trying to look normal in an abnormal world while at the same time going through a vicious cycle of rehab, sobriety, relapse then homelessness again.
The problem with loving an addict is the addict doesn’t give a shit what they do to the people they are supposed to love. Sharon didn’t give a damn about her four children either but Cindy saved the twins because Cindy and Wendy saw Maryssa and Makenna in Harris Hospital as ourselves. They had to be saved. We had no one to save us. I called an attorney immediately.
Last summer we took Stephaney to Millwood to dry out. From there to Volunteers of America which is located in every major city in the U.S. and is FREE.
Transitioning from VOA, Stephaney moved to Oxford House a sober living environment. She found a job, bought an older car and saved up to move into her very first apartment.
Cindy and I furnished that apartment Stephaney’s first apartment she had ever gotten on her own after nearly 20 years of addiction issues that had greatly affected our families. We were happy and excited about this. Joyous even but our joy would soon turn to sorrow about ten days ago.
I travel daily for my work. During the week to prisons on weekends to county jails and venues. I work 7 days a week. I field hundreds of emails, DM’s, & phone calls each and every day. I am the most sought after prison wedding planner and officiant in the United States. Why? Because no one does what I do for my clients. What do I mean by that? From providing a ring at no expense to gifts on wedding day to creating a 2 warehouse inventory of bouquets and more to ensure that my clients have bridal photos with “all the fixings” to even treating them to a celebratory meal because I’m often the only person celebrating with them and for them, I do weddings differently.
When you travel thousands of miles each and every week to locations you are often not at home. You sleep in hotels. You plan the grocery shopping and housekeeping at odd hours of the night because time is the one thing you never have enough of.
While Cindy helps me as much as she can she has twins still living at home. One of whom refuses to get her license. Cindy after nearly 40 years is still committed to being a driver. We live about 25 minutes from one another. We are closer for all we’ve overcome and ensured.
Last week Wendy and Cindy went back into that storage unit. Last week Wendy told Cindy “Steph is behaving oddly it’s been going on for about ten days I think we need to do another drug test.” I had waited to tell Cindy this because a helluva lot has happened recently. I’m May I flew to California to move her oldest daughter and youngest granddaughter back to Texas. Marital problems had affected Leigh Ann’s life. Orchestrating 4 days off for this with my schedule was tight and stressful. I’ve never used a sick day or rescheduled anything in my life. My work ethics are stellar. I was still exhausted from moving Stephaney out of Oxford House in April then spending every free moment decorating and or buying essentials to feather her nest. But I powered on…
Three years ago while driving Stephaney to another rehab in Oklahoma, Cindy suffered 3 heart attacks in my suv but refused medical treatment until she knew that Steph was locked down in the rehab facility. I was terrified about losing my twin. By the Grace of God, she made it to surgery and survived. Two years later, my husband collapsed and suffered two heart attacks. I was alone with him too. I can’t put into words what being the only person to save two people you love is like or how traumatic it is. You will never understand it unless you’ve experienced it.
Loving an addict is a toxic relationship when the addict is a child you’ve raised. You can divorce a spouse. You can’t divorce a child who became an adult that destroyed any degree of normality you’ve fought your entire life to obtain.
Parents of addicts grieve the deaths of their children long before they die. They grieve the children they’ve lost to addiction. They mentally prepare themselves for “the call.” They know one day the call will in fact come. They spend thousands of dollars on expensive treatments trying to save someone that doesn’t want to be saved. They cry a River of tears but at some point accept the fate of loving an addict.
Loving an addict destroys your health and your finances. They don’t care and never accept responsibility. Our mother didn’t. Our father had a drinking problem. They never had any degree of accountability for their actions or the impact their choices had on Wendy, Cindy, Tammy and Jerry. Tammy was saved by being legally adopted by our mothers mother as she was a step sister. Wendy and Cindy ran away and Jerry joined the Navy at 16.
I often hear “addiction runs in families” it’s a lame excuse. Addiction is a choice. No one forces someone to experiment with drugs. I’m not going to argue my view with anyone. Cindy and I crawled out of hell and never once considered using drugs to cope. Ever. I also hear “a traumatic event or bad childhood created an addict.” Again I call B.S. our children had the structure, stability, support and love we had never known. We were hellbent on being the parents we would’ve wanted and are.
I was at TDCJ Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony when Cindy called to tell me “the drug test was positive for Morphine & Cocaine.” She was also devastated. I was hours away at a prison. My sister was alone with a daughter who had destroyed this entire family for nearly 20 years. It was a dealbreaker. Cindy demanded Stephaney stop using drugs immediately. Stephaney refused. Now you see where we are yet again depressed, disappointed & lost. Loving an addict is raw hell. I’ve had mothers tell me at funerals I was conducting “I’m glad it’s over I can finally sleep. It was either prison or a plot but regardless I have closure and can move on.” I don’t judge anybody. I know their path and I know their pain.
Mother’s Day as well as Father’s Day are difficult for me. For many years I was both to my son and Cindys daughters as was she. We never had a mother or father to celebrate. We never will.
Matthew and Steve had no children of their own and yet they married Wendy and Cindy with Leigh Ann, Stephaney & Robert then Cindy took on the role and responsibility of raising the twins, Maryssa and Makenna. Effectively our husband married right into a carnival of chaos by choosing to marry us and stayed around. Cindy has been married nearly 30 years. Me about 20. We never had the weddings we give to our clients. That’s why we created Texas Twins Events.
Many people don’t understand my creative business developments and a few even laughed. In 2009, my first business, Texas Twins Treasures raised a few eyebrows. Why? My husband is a real estate developer and builder and in 2007-08 he lost his businesses. To save our home, I sold my own treasures. Couture clothing, jewelry and even home furnishings & furniture.
By 2010 I had to create another company, Defending Debt Lawsuit Consultants LLC. Why? Because I needed to defend my husband against 12 debt lawsuits and did. I’m resilient. I’m also smart.
How did we meet? I was divorcing and couldn’t afford a $1400 car payment so I went to the dealership and got a job selling them and hired my print ad photographer and ran ads in country clubs direct marketing affluent buyers. I sold Matthew not one but 2 Cadillacs.
In my 20’s I realized to get a better job I needed a better wardrobe so I became a clothing model. At 16 I was plucked from behind a Whataburger counter to film 5 commercials with Mel Tillis. My life has been one surprise after the next but after defending Matthew I developed thyroid cancer and a lump in my breast. Fearing the worst, I dissolved my lawsuit company and sold the Lakeside House. From my hospital bed Cindy asked “what if you don’t die? You will be bored. We’ve always worked.” I created Texas Twins Events.
In 2015 after years of bouncing checks and broken promises, Cindy came up with the idea to merge Texas Twins Treasures & Texas Twins Events to create The Pawning Planners. No more hot checks & broken promises.
You see resilience, perseverance and grit were the backbones of the Texas Twins. What we couldn’t fix was Stephaney. We can’t fix her now and with dread wait on the next phone call. Friday I went in with first responders. The apt I had so carefully decorated and was so excited for as was Cindy was trashed. She was high and refused medical treatment. There’s nothing we can do now other than wait with a sense of impending disaster for what comes next with Stephaney
You can’t love an addict into sobriety. I don’t care how resilient and determined you are. You can’t compartmentalize loving an addict because trauma is a daily occurrence. What you can do is realize you did everything humanly possible hoping for a better outcome and have no regrets or second guessing about where you’ve been and what you’ve been through…