Crazy things can and do happen…

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I tested positive at 349 ng/ml. The cutoff was 300 ng/ml. No other metabolites were found.

I was desperately trying to figure this out. My whole world was about to crash down, everything I have worked so hard for over the last four and a half years. My stomach had been in knots since 5 pm the previous day.

There’s another angle.

My internship is located in what has been documented as “the most opiate addicted/overdose city in the United States”. The stories have been on NPR, PBS, and other news sources.

Based on my observations from interactions, two out of the three individuals’ involved so far, did not believe me. And I understood why they didn’t.

What’s the first thing an addict would say? I didn’t do anything.

I already felt the stigma and disbelief.

There was no official policy for this. All I knew is that I had to get another drug test. The Chief Medical Examiner, the RN, suggested I go request a blood test specifically looking for morphine.

I was still thinking at this point that it was human error and the last place in the world I wanted to perform the new test, was the lab that tested my urine sample the first time.

I called Quest Diagnostics.

The closest location to me did not perform actual testing, nor did they take samples. They suggested I drive to Charleston – roughly an hour away.

I thanked them and hung up. I drove to the closest urgent care. The waiting room was full of people. I can’t quite describe the unwarranted humiliation I felt when I walked up to the window and told them I wanted a drug test to screen for morphine.

They initially were skeptical of me, explaining how court-ordered tests, blah blah blah. I zoned out because the shame and humiliation was growing. It was becoming more than I could take.

At the end of her speech, she informed me that they only do alcohol screenings. She also explained that without a doctor’s order, it’s next to impossible to get a drug test. I explained I was new to the area and didn’t have so much as a dentist set up yet. She suggested I go to the lab at the hospital.

I drove to one of the hospital’s in the area and went straight to their lab, again requesting a voluntarily drug screen for morphine.

By this time, I was about to lose it. I felt like scarlet letters had been burned in my forehead and being falsely accused of something I know I didn’t do. Trying to jump all the hoops to clear my name, if that was an option (it was not yet decided), was proving to be even more difficult.

I never broke down crying, but honestly, if I had, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten up. I knew that I could not just surrender and lose everything, but in that moment I was silently screaming at God, the universe and anything else I could think of.

The dark haired woman at the hospital lab held me together. She listened to my story and vowed to help me. She made phone calls, some of which took her over an hour. She finally confirmed there was absolutely no way I could get a drug test without a doctor’s order.

I asked about the ER. She got back on the phone and called the ER charge nurse. Within 10 minutes, I was in the ER, again explaining my story.

Imagine my shock, yet strangely, encouragement when the ER nurse there shared that her niece went through an eerily similar experience. My blood was drawn and it was sent to Quest Diagnostics.

They told me it would take 5-7 business days to receive the results. There was no way to expedite the service.

I was not allowed to return to my internship without proof that there was not morphine in my system. It was also not clear what exactly would happen if I could prove it. I sat at home for a week immersed in literature relevant to my experience.

I had gone through all medications I consumed or used topically, which basically was narrowed down to rubbing Aspercreme on my neck during my road trip to move south. I can’t even remember the last time I took an Ibuprofen.

I went through the list of vitamins I take daily.

I finally began to think about what I ate…

The day before the drug testing, our supervisors provided breakfast and lunch during orientation.

You’ll never guess what I ate.

An everything bagel with poppy seeds.

Sound crazy?

Yeah, I thought so too, until I started to look up the information.

There’s probably more scientific literature on poppy seeds and positive morphine results than there is rural mental health care literature. It’s been noted on Seinfeld and tested with Mythbusters.

I never would’ve believed this was possible until I found myself in this position. But I assure you it is.

In 1998, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) raised the federally mandated cutoff concentration limits for morphine and codeine from 300 ng/ml to 2,000 ng/ml in order to minimize positive results caused by poppy seed consumption. Apparently the lab that performed my initial urinalysis, still uses the 300 ng/ml cutoff.

I was on a mission, printing, reading, and highlighting literature on poppy seeds. This was my life for 9 days.

My blood work came back negative and I returned to my site to complete my internship. I had to sign paperwork to allow them to random drug test me from here on out, due to the first screener. It was humiliating, but I understood their position.

Few things have rattled me quite like this experience has. And to be honest I’m still not quite sure as to why… the false accusations, the looks, the stigma I felt, the nearly losing everything… maybe it was a combination of factors.

It saddens me that my patients had to be rescheduled and it was not just my life impacted by this. I can say that I learned some things through this process, about the science of drug testing, poppy seeds, myself, as well as a greater compassion for those who experience this stigma.

I am also pretty much convinced that crazy things can and do happen.

Note to others…



© LifeasChristine, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.








© LifeasChristine, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




“Christine, you tested positive for morphine.”


I never ate dinner that night. I went back to my apartment in the heart of the city and attempted to collect information. Not exactly knowing what the results made that nearly impossible, but in that moment I had to do something.

I reached out to some friends and family. One of my friends works at a methadone clinic as a substance abuse counselor. I didn’t even know what a “split specimen” meant. That was my first goal. I needed to understand what the process was and how it worked.

My first thought is this has to be human error. Nothing else made sense.

I didn’t sleep much that night, maybe a few hours. I remember thinking, I may as well sleep in because the medical exam officer doesn’t arrive to the psychiatric center until around 8 am. My body, brain, or spirit defied me. I woke up at nearly 6 am, thinking once again this must be a bad dream. It wasn’t.

I was well aware of the consequences of failing a drug test for pre-internship requirements. We had discussed it nearly six months prior in seminar back in Buffalo. It meant losing one’s internship. It meant delaying graduation for a year. It meant getting out of a year lease. It meant going through the whole internship application and interview process all over again.

I thought of all of this and remembered the words of my main supervisor, “Christine, if you’re legit, fight this”.

There was no way I was going to go down for something I did not do. I needed to find out what the results showed.

I began calling at 8:34 am. I know the exact time because I began to log everything. I left a voicemail because she didn’t answer the phone. Nearly an hour later, at 9:34, I again called back – did not leave another message, but still no answer. At 9:35 am, I called the main switchboard and had the medical review officer paged. She did not respond to the page, however the receptionist provided me her direct extension. At 9:40 am, I tried the direct number. Again I received voicemail. At 10:34 am, I tried again – voicemail.

At nearly 11 am, she finally called me back.

“Christine, you tested positive for morphine.”

“That’s impossible. I’ve had morphine one time in my life, in 1992, after nearly dying from a motor vehicle accident. I don’t even know how someone “does” morphine, other than a morphine drip in the hospital!”

I inquired about the chain of custody (COC), a new term that I had recently learned the night before. I inquired the confirmation levels, another new process that I was new to understanding.

The cutoff level for the testing lab was 300 ng per ml. I tested at 349 ng per ml.

The whole situation was bizarre. I could barely grasp this was my reality.

I told her I would be challenging this and asked what the policy was. She indicated that there was not a policy in place for psychology internship. She advised me that I could go get another test, which I was financially responsible for, and send her the results.

I hung up the phone and remembered my asking my training supervisor to hold off on calling my Director of Clinical Training at my school. The minute I knew what I was up against, and the craziness of it all… I dialed his number.



© LifeasChristine, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



felt like the twilight zone…


twilight_zone_1050x700It was near 3:00 pm. She came to my office and handed me a yellow sticky note. On it, she had written to meet her (in third person) and another individual at 5 pm. She didn’t say much else.

Immediately I knew something was off – and not in a good way. Most of my life, my intuition has been pretty good at predicting events – not always, but often.

I wracked my brain.

Did I do something wrong? Did I do something unethical? Was there a problem with the paperwork?

My last appointment of the day showed up. Within the first five minutes, they looked at me and said, “You are so strong”.

I gave nothing to imply that. But those words, burned into my memory. Looking back, it felt like a prelude of things to come. Life is funny sometimes.

At 5 pm, my supervisor met me at my office with two words, “You ready?”

We walked down to the other side of the building.

I sat down in a chair. It was the office manager’s office.

“We received your drug screen results. You failed.”

I immediately got defensive, “Well there’s a mistake”.

“It’s a split specimen. There is little to zero room for mistakes.”

My supervisor chimed in, “I will have to call your director of training”.

I requested she wait. I knew what that meant.

I informed them that I was challenging this.

My head was swimming.

“What does the test show?”

“We don’t know, it’s against HIPPA for us to know. You’ll have to call the RN in charge.”

She handed me a number. That number turned out to be a fax number. I know because I tried calling it about a dozen times – it was a fax every single time.

I asked if they wanted me to clean out my office. My supervisor said, “Christine, I am surprised as you. If you are legitimate, fight this”. She was as supportive as she could be, with the limited information she had. I will always be grateful for that. I held onto those words in the darkest moments. I doubt she will ever know that.

I left, bought a bottle of wine and two packs of cigarettes. I was in the middle of quitting – had made it down to 8 smokes a day. It flew out the window in that moment.

I was alone – in the middle of what felt like the twilight zone, in a different place in the country, without supports, where they spoke a different language, being accused of something I knew with every part of my being I did not do.

Problem was… I did not yet know what I was being accused of.

My head was swimming.

That night I immersed myself in the scientific literature – all the ways one could fail a drug test without consuming drugs.

I was ready to fight a battle, but I had yet to know what battle I would be fighting.



© LifeasChristine, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Zero tolerance is black and white thinking…


Perhaps it is a conversation for the bonfire, but even so, it is worth thought and discussion.

Can we talk a minute and think about this?

I am and always have been a muller. Someone may say something to me, I may experience something, or it may simply be an observation …but I mull – sometimes long after the moment has passed.

I have come to the conclusion that zero tolerance policy was originally designed and/or set in place with good intentions. I 100% believe it was originally set in motion as a way to prevent something, to set the ground rules, to keep things in order.

Zero tolerance…

Take a minute and consider the angles, if you can.

I find it can be unjust and without mercy.

Maybe you wonder why?

In order for zero tolerance to work…to be just …there has to be zero ways for it to occur in ANY other manner other than the policy it stands for. It HAS to be an absolute.

If you are not sure what an absolute is, please inquiry and understand it. It matters.

There cannot be any other explanation, no other causation, no other possible way – ZERO WAY- that the “thing”  not tolerated can occur.

Zero tolerance is black and white thinking.

Can I repeat that? Can you sit with that for a minute? Can you digest it?

Zero tolerance is black and white thinking.

How many things in this life are black and white? Without a doubt, an absolute?

We are alive – that’s an absolute. We will die – that’s an absolute.

The rest?

It may come down to faith, beliefs, opinions, theories, etc.

Maybe you came up with more absolutes… but the point is, there are still very few absolutes in this thing we call life.

In which case, how does zero tolerance help? Is it not unjust and without mercy when it occurs without absolutes? Perhaps grace is a better term than mercy…I’m not quite sure on that yet and will continue to mull it over.

We judge based on zero tolerance. It has become a common policy throughout our land. We make decisions, rulings, and change lives based on zero tolerance… but did they think this through all the way before it became policy in so many places, in so many areas across our land?


© LifeasChristine, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


He never caged me…

this one

I was sitting in advanced family therapy class. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I remember the context. We were discussing our significant others – basically what made them significant.

“He’s like my favorite pair of warm, cozy socks”

I wasn’t sure if they would understand.

My professor looked at me when I tried to justify and interrupted me,

“Christine, I think that makes all of us wish we had our own favorite pair of warm, cozy socks”.

She was in the middle of a divorce. I think she got it.

It took a while for me to tell him this. I was afraid he wouldn’t quite understand.

He took offense. He didn’t get it.

He never caged me.

He sure as hell wasn’t perfect, though I tried to make him be. About six months in, I learned to either lean into the imperfection or let go.

I leaned in. It was not an easy process.

But he never caged me.

The writer in me wants to leave it at that.

But I know there will be questions. I know some need more.

He never impeded my growth. He challenged me to rise. He encouraged me to believe in myself. He advocated that I go on, even if I grew ahead of him – and asked that he never hold me back from being the best version of me that I can be. And he always wanted me to make it. Without a doubt, I know he wants to make it with me, but I also know his heart. I know he wants me to make it – with or without him. I also know that he hopes I hold on until he catches up, if he delays. I know him well.

He never caged me.

There is something else.

Although no single force has grounded me quite like having children did, he is the first love that ever made me grow roots.

Maybe you don’t understand this.

If life were up to me – I’d be a gypsy.  A little unorthodox, but unorthodox never scared me.

If you’ve been following along with my writing, perhaps you understand this aspect, or maybe not.

Regardless, that’s a story for another day.

I was never a fan of roots. Oh, I get the importance of them and all that. But my experiences never provided me the sense that roots were the be-all-end-all. In order for me to grow – I had to go beyond the roots. I had to see what else there was, what else was there to know, how else do people do it.

Ducks don’t have to follow ducks, and sometimes…they shouldn’t.

He grounded me. He made me grow roots. No matter how hard I fought it – and I assure you I did.

He never left the small town. God, I wanted him to. But his argument was always legit. I wanted to sell the house, move on, and experience more. He wanted me to remember what it was and what it meant.

He made me grow roots.

He never caged me.

He will always be my favorite pair of warm, cozy socks.

And I will always love him for that – all of that.

© LifeasChristine, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.










She will learn. She will grow. And she will be okay…

23514763_10214453718834808_1116343915_o.jpgI never gave three days.

I decided then that I would figure out why she needed to talk to me – and honestly pregnancy was the last thing on my mind.

There was a reason she hadn’t come to me.

I remember the day she told me she lost her virginity. I remember she cried and told me she was sorry. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that was a hard confession for her. We had a long talk that day.

Looking ahead, I’m pretty sure this also would’ve been pretty difficult to tell me.

It was a Walmart bag in my camping book bag, inside the trunk of her car.

Do you know what was in that bag?

It was a dead giveaway.

Prenatal vitamins.

I was twenty-one when I gave birth to my first child. I had zero idea what I was doing or what I was in for.

I was also married at nineteen.

That’s a piece of it. She’s a teenager, unmarried, still has to finish her schooling.

It’s the unwed pregnant teenager that got me initially. Man, I grappled with this one. Initially, I felt shame.

We live in a small town where people love to talk. It’s part of the reason I left at nineteen.

Many talk and few listen. And vision is sometimes clouded by small towns.

About six months prior, my daughter returned from California. A place I never wanted her to go to. She grew up a lot in California. She experienced more than she ever should’ve and it hurt her more than she knew it would.

When she left, not many noticed. When she returned I heard various comments from people in the village, “Wow. Sadie is soo skinny”.

Unspoken suggestions or truly a concern for a young girl’s weight is yet to be determined.

They all come in different constructs of sentences, but the gist was the same.

Ya know the kicker? For years my daughter would debate me about abortion. We had multiple conversations about it. She had said from the get-go that she never wanted children. She also said that if she ever got pregnant she would get an abortion.

Perhaps it was the freedom of choice that she was ultimately debating with me. I’m not really sure.

That first week I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wanted to run so badly. I needed space to figure out what I felt, what mattered, and how I would act. 

Maybe you wonder why this was so difficult for me.

I gave birth four times and had two mothers during that time in my life. Neither of them showed up for any birth.

In their defense, I never asked.

In my defense, neither did they.

Being a “good mom” was always on my list of things to do well. I question myself from time to time, but it’s mattered to me from the first day I found out I was pregnant.

So how do I do this?

It’s a rhetorical question.

She made a comment to me one night that I didn’t “like” her Facebook status when she posted a picture of the ultrasound.

I sat on her bed and gave her a hug.

“Sade, this is hard for me. I will support you and your decision, but you have to give me a little bit of time.”

I don’t know if she truly understood in that moment.

I told a few people initially. When I got the words, “Congratulations Grandma”.

I wanted to punch them.

I told my cohort and I got a lot of “babies are a blessing”.

I wanted to puke.

I wasn’t feeling celebratory. I wasn’t feeling blessed.

One friend had recently lost her daughter. Initially she said “Congratulations”, but she followed it up with “better than a funeral”.

That hit me – hard. Talk about perspective.

I went out the next day and bought two little onesies and a sleeper.

It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

A few weeks later, my daughter had a melt-down. She sat on her floor in her bathroom and sobbed.

“Mom, I’m not ready to be a mom. I don’t know how to be mom. I don’t know what I’m doing. Alex isn’t ready to be a dad. I’m so scared Mom”.

It’s hard to describe what that moment was like for me.

I hugged her and I reassured her. Hell, I have never met a mother yet that knew what they were doing from the get-go.

I told her she will learn. She will grow. And she will be okay.

That was hard, but that was needed. Maybe for both of us.

I helped her find a mid-wife. I went to her first appointment. I set her up with a program where she can ‘learn to earn’ baby necessities. And later on, I will be her birth coach when the time comes.

There’s another angle.

When I became pregnant with my daughter, it was baby #4. I wrote about it in Friendship, Strippers, and Rainbows…

Not many were happy about my pregnancy. I had just given birth to baby #3 prior. Life was difficult.

I stood alone. It was beyond challenging.

I never regretted my choice. Not once.

And later, others thanked me for standing alone. Had I not, Sadie would not be here and they would never have had a chance to love her.

I never want my daughter to feel that. I never want her to stand alone.

I don’t always agree with the choices she makes, but I will always believe in her. I will always love her. And I know she has great things to come.


© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.













I never gave three days…

125806194609612954500101197_Life_PRETRAILERMy oldest son called me as I was on my way home. He was living in Vermont at the time.

“Mom, you need to have a conversation with her”.

“I am always having conversations with her”.

“Maybe just tell her that if there is something she is struggling with, she can come to you – no matter what.”

My first thought?

Doesn’t she already know that? After everything…doesn’t she know this?

My second thought – Drugs.

Oh bloody hell. Seriously??

I recently attended a funeral of a friend who lost their daughter from heroin addiction.

It was unimaginable from a parent perspective.

“Just tell me what is going on. I don’t want to play private detective. I hate playing detective”.

My son’s final words: “Mom, if she doesn’t tell you in three days, I’ll tell you. But ya gotta tell her what I said first”.

Turns out I played detective.

I never gave three days.

I searched her car instead, looking for clues.

I found nothing inside the car, but in the trunk, I found my camping book bag.

That’s odd.

I wondered why that is in her trunk.

I peeked inside and saw a Walmart bag. I never looked in the bag, but instead flung the book bag over my shoulder, closed the trunk, and headed in the house.

I set the book bag down on the kitchen floor, unloaded my school book bag, and my purse. I glanced over at the camping book bag.

I looked inside.

My heart sank.

A million dreams I had for her shattered in an instant.

I put the bag back down, grabbed a wine glass, and poured a glass.

I grabbed the Walmart bag out of the book bag and my glass of wine and headed to the couch.

I sat there for a minute just processing.

I slowly sipped my wine. I didn’t want this moment to be happening. I didn’t want to be processing this. I didn’t want her to hide this from me. I didn’t want any of this.

I slowly sipped my wine.

I searched for wisdom in that moment.

I took some long, deep breaths and I drank my wine slowly contemplating my words, processing my feelings, and trying to make sense of all of it.  

When I finished my glass of wine, I called her downstairs.

“How long have you been pregnant?”                                                          

“About six weeks”.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I thought you’d kick me out of the house.”

“Duh. Have I ever kicked anyone out yet?”

In her defense, I have kicked one out – not my own child.

“I’m sorry. I was scared Mom. I’m still processing.”

That was the first answer that made sense to me. I understood her in that moment.

From then it was a whirlwind of information being thrown at me.

I stopped her when she said “…emergency room last weekend…some word that started with ‘a’…a cyst…”

“What word that started with ‘a’?”

“I don’t remember”.

It was this moment that my stomach began to hurt. My baby is having a baby.

I explained to her what to say and why it was important.

She called the emergency room that she visited the weekend before.

After numerous transfers and three phone calls later I finally got on the phone with radiology.

“We cannot rule out ectopic pregnancy”.

It was the first thing I thought of when I heard “some word that started with an ‘a’”.

I admit, I silently prayed for an ectopic.

She wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. None of us were ready.

I poured another glass of wine.

I called my best friend. She was an expert on ectopic pregnancies.

She walked me through what tests would be needed. She gave me all the info. She ended with, “You have to take her now”.

I had Sadie drive.

I called another friend, she asked me, “Mom, do you have to?”

I did.

I needed a person to ground me. I explained this and she understood.

My girlfriend met us at the hospital.

My husband met us when he got out of work at nearly 1:30 am.

Around 2 am, the staff came in and explained that it wasn’t ectopic, but the ultrasound from last weekend did not pick up a heartbeat.

More tests needed to be run.

I sat there thinking for hours that my 18 ½ year old daughter would either be having a D&C due to a baby with no heartbeat or an operation removing her fallopian tube because of an ectopic pregnancy.

I thought – Okay, this is will all be over shortly. It won’t be pretty, but it will be a lesson.

I was wrong.

Around 3 am, the nurse came in and told our small clan that they found the heartbeat, it was in utero, and she was about 12 weeks.

My heart sank and a million scared thoughts ran through my mind.

This was really happening. It didn’t matter if she or anyone else was ready. It was happening.

The second question I had asked her in the living room was, “What’s your game plan?”

“I’m having the baby Mom”

To be continued…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.