Love, Closure, and What It Feels Like to Give Up

This blog post is referencing the whole mess that my brother and I have been swimming through with Passages Malibu and Blue Cross Blue Shield Anthem insurance for my dad’s alcohol rehab. I explain it all in this post. And again I will use the disclaimer that this is the truth as I’ve experienced it, accurate to the best of my knowledge.

First, I’d like to say that you all gave me such wonderful advice and support. The general consensus was that my brother and I needed to get an attorney. We tried. I was in contact with two local attorneys who were recommended to me by friends, and both were very nice and concerned. They also both said that they couldn’t do much of anything without a copy of the full insurance policy.

We don’t have that. We looked through all of the papers from my dad’s house, and it’s just not there. And since Blue Cross has been avoiding paying us for almost four years now, I certainly wasn’t naïve enough to think they’d make it easy to get it. Boy, was that an understatement.

Long story short, we are working with two companies that no longer exist and one that never cared about us to begin with. Anthem, the division of Blue Cross Blue Shield that my dad had, doesn’t even exist anymore, and therefore “doesn’t have any funds.” (Don’t ask me how we got mail from a department that doesn’t exist. It’s clearly some sort of dark magic.) My dad worked for A.G. Edwards, which has since been bought by Wachovia, which has since been bought by Wells Fargo. And on top of that, we are fast approaching the 4-year anniversary of when my dad went into Passages: February 23, 2008, which apparently means important things to legal minds. We’re out of time, options, and energy.

To try to explain the negative effect this ordeal has had on my life seems impossible. Grief is one thing. Stress is another. The aching weight of being mired in a situation you have absolutely no control over is something entirely different. And the fact that it is somehow emotionally tied to my dad and his death only makes it worse. I think, in many ways, it has held me back from the closure I need with all of it.

So I called my brother, had a talk with him to make sure he feels the same way, and made my decision. We’re giving up.

(I’m still going to file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and a couple of insurance boards, etc., but I have no delusions that it will do good.)

To be honest, I’ve been feeling pretty shitty about my choice. How many of you told us not to give up? To take it to TV? To make a loud enough racket to be heard? To produce change? After all, this whole phenomenon of the big companies stringing us along until we’re tired is designed to make us give up. Giving up means they win.

I wanted to fight, guys. I’ve wanted to make it better for four years. But I’m tired.

In the end, what hurts the most is Passages’ treatment of my dad – his need for help that he didn’t get. Blue Cross refusing to pay is upsetting, but it seems less personal. I’m pretty sure they jerk everyone around. And as useful as money is, the closure is what we really wanted. An apology. At least an acknowledgment. A definite reason to move on. I realize now that I’ll probably never get that.

So I guess I’ll have to make my own closure. At some point, I have to say “when.”

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – a day all about love. Love. What does this legal/financial/paperwork nightmare have to do with love?

Do you read Judy Clement Wall’s blogs? You should. Last week at A Human Thing, she talked about love and faith, and this is what stands out to me:

“I wonder if it matters, in the face of such global cruelty and disregard, that there are some of us trying to love through our fear, trying to live like we believe that we hold each other’s hearts in our hands.”

Man, did that hit home. On one hand, I find myself feeling a little self-centered in instantly applying the phrase “global cruelty and disregard” to my situation – as if my problems are the ones J is talking about. I mean, there are people so much worse off. Who am I to count myself among those taken advantage of?

But then I think, no, you know what? It is us. Not me, but the people like me and my brother and the struggles we’ve gone through. Because it’s not just us; we are a symbol of others less vocal. How many people gave up faster than four years in? How many people couldn’t even consider hiring a lawyer? How many people are going through it now, lacking the safety net of inheritance money and supportive friends and family?

It breaks my heart. Where’s the love?

Clearly, the system is broken. Don’t get me wrong; we made plenty of mistakes on our end, too. But should that mean that we’re totally screwed? I think blaming it on the system can be a little bit of an evasion.

See, the problem with blaming it on “The System” is that the system doesn’t retain any responsibility. It can’t: it’s not an entity. The system isn’t accountable; it’s a tool – a tool run by people. People, however, can and should retain responsibility. Regardless of what our bosses and companies tell us to do, each person is responsible for his or her own morality.

At every step of the twisted path that my brother and I have been down, there has been a person who could have – and I would say should have – cared more, starting with Chris Prentiss, ending with the woman at Blue Cross who continually transferred me to out of service phone numbers and “accidentally” disconnected my calls.

People are the only ones who can implement change, make a difference, show love. You don’t have to love someone personally to act with love, and in the past four years I have seen quite a shortage of that. Thankfully, in other aspects of my life, I have also seen a surplus of it. Like you all, who stepped in to show your support after reading the original post.

So when I read that statement by J, above, it hits home for many reasons, on global, personal, and intimate levels. And as a person who has experienced the cruelty and disregard as well as the special people living like they believe they hold each other’s hearts in their hands, I can tell you, J, it matters. When you cut away all of the bullshit, the “systems,” the excuses, it is truly all that matters.

As I struggle to let go of the worst part of the last four years of my life, I am aware that there are some things I need to hold on to. The lessons learned, the power of forgiveness, the beautiful support I have in all of you who took the time to reach out to me when I spilled my guts in my blog (when I could never do it in person). Thank you all.

I want to hold on to my dad, his journey, his pain, my pain. Not because I deserve to hurt, but because pain is part of love. I know on Valentine’s Day we’re all tempted to pretend love is hearts and roses, but I think we all know that love would never be beautiful without the ugly to balance it. The fear I can let go of. But the love – pain and all – I’ll keep forever.

And it’s a love that can only teach me, can only make me more sensitive to the trials of those around me, can only help me become one of those who loves through my fear. I do believe that we hold each other’s hearts in our hands. It’s time we all look at our own and remember their power.

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  • Paula

    Thank you for sharing this, I’m tuning in kind of late to the whole story but my goodness- what an ordeal to be put through… From what I understand, it doesn’t sound like you guys are giving up, it sounds like you’re coping; dealing with it in a different way. I really respect that.

  • Anonymous

    You didn’t give up. You’ve never given up on anything. This just needs to rest for a while. No one should have to go through this.

    • Unfortunately, letting this rest is the same as giving up, since we’ll be past our time limit soon. But maybe “giving up” isn’t the right phrase so much as “letting go.” Thanks Trudie.

  • Anonymous

    I understand the time limit and realize it’s going to pass. I just mean something may end up happening later – maybe not directly by you. It’s too bad Paul Harvey can’t help. The Better Business Bureau isn’t going to like this very much, unless it is resolved. Also, word of mouth can do amazing things. You’ve done more than you know.

    • Word of mouth was part of my motivation in the original blog post. I know from my site stats that people in Malibu (presumably workers at Passages) saw the post and didn’t contact me. But maybe you’re right; maybe someone who can do something about it will step in later. I’m not expecting that, though, and I think I’m ready to move on. Thank you so much for your support, lady. Love you.

  • -j-

    It is you I was referring to, Annie. And your brother. I was thinking of everyone, all of us who feel too powerless (too small, too human) to fight the system, which as you point out is made of people, and that just makes it all worse. The truth is that everyone who should have helped you and didn’t was following some prescribed set of rules, some procedure, some company policy. None of them were tapped into their humanity, none of them stopped to actually listen to your story. How could they have?

    Like everyone else, I don’t think that you’re giving up as much as moving on. At some point, you have to love yourself enough to do that, I think, to stop working on justice and start working on forgiveness and love and acceptance… all the stuff that makes you human (and beautiful).

    Everything about this story is wrong. Everything about it is heartbreaking, but if there’s one silver lining, it might be what you’ve come away with – knowing more about who you are, what you want from your life, the value of connection and compassion and love. I’m working on a piece right now about Sugar (at the Rumpus) and I read this quote from her. She said, “Real change happens on the level of the gesture.” I love that. It means we’re not powerless. I simply have to keep believing that.


    • Thank you. I think we all have to keep believing that. I love that quotation too. I think people underestimate the power of symbolism (or the gesture, as Sugar calls it) in real life. It does bring us out of feeling powerless, to have a definitive end point. Maybe I’ll have a bonfire with the paperwork once this is all through.

      And as far as the people go, you’re right that most of them were probably following policy. My intention was not so much to place blame on the individuals as to point out that any one of them could have changed things, which in turn means that any one of us can change things for someone else. Less an accusation and more an example of the power we all hold to enact love, and the consequences of failing to do so.

      Always an inspiration, J. Thanks for the support.

  • I’m sorry that this has been going on and for so long. You’re right that the toll it’s taken on you must be beyond words. I think you do an excellent job capturing the situation here, but I’m sure we getting only a sliver of the frustration and more you’ve been experiencing. I understand you’re desire to move from the paperwork and endlessness of it all. 🙁

    • Thanks Nina. I was indeed walking a fine line between boring you all to tears with a list of everything that went wrong and being so vague that it seems like there’s nothing to complain about. I’m glad it came across enough to make my points. I always love to see your face in my comments section.

  • Though there is something admirable in fighting and never giving up, it can also turn into a poison and an obsession. Sometimes letting it go is the best thing someone can do — but I think you already know that, since you’re doing this in order to give yourself the closure you need.

    • Yeah, you’re right, Lura. It really can become a poison — like a low-grade drip that just constantly, subtly affects everything else. When you say it like that, it makes me even more glad that I’ve decided to let go. Thank you.

  • I’m so sorry it’s come to this, Annie. You’ve been through so much, but it’s good and healthy to decide when “it’s time”. This may be exceptionally morbid, but there is a comparison to be made between your situation and how we sometimes have to choose the kinder option of euthanasia – it would be cruel to let this continue, so you ensure a peaceful ending. You haven’t given up, you’ve just determined that nothing more can be done to help. That’s okay. That’s a strong and brave decision to make when it’s the right time to do so.

    The final outcome isn’t the part we have to judge ourselves on, because so much of that outcome is completely removed from our control. But with the knowledge that you tried your hardest, you did what you could, and it has brought you here; that can be enough. You can find some solace in knowing you did what you could. No one can ask more of you than that, especially not yourself. I love you, Annie. Somehow, it will turn out alright.


    • I actually think euthanasia is a perfect analogy for this situation. It’s not as important as saying goodbye to someone you love, because goodness knows I never loved this situation, but it is about letting go and moving on – about trying to find peace in sad circumstances. And this: “The final outcome isn’t the part we have to judge ourselves on, because so much of that outcome is completely removed from our control,” is absolutely what I needed to hear, and what I need to remember. Your support and sweetness mean so much to me, it’s hard to explain. Thank you so much, Ashlee.

  • Amanda Myre

    What a terrible and sad thing to go through. Fighting to the end can be a great thing, but I think there’s a very good chance that you’re saving yourself a lot of stress and heartache by letting it go. It was very brave of you to write about it in the first place, and I think the way you’ve reacted is admirable. Some people would dwell on the bitterness, but what you’re taking away from the experience is a heightened sense of the importance of love. That is truly beautiful.

    • (Note- I was updating Disqus when you commented, and I think it might have eaten your comment. It got sent to my email notifications, but never showed up here, so I put it in myself because I thought it was so nice. Let me know if you want me to change it or take it down.)

      Thank you, Amanda. Sometimes I feel like there’s a fine line between brave and foolish, so I’m glad you see it as the former. It isn’t easy for me to let go (of anything), so turning it into something I can learn from is one of the only ways I can cope. The support of you all makes me feel good, like I’m not being weak or selfish. That’s more than I could ask for, and I’m so grateful.

      • Amanda Myre

        Oh, whoops. Thanks for posting it even though it got eaten.

  • Oh Annie, this is a beautiful, bittersweet, and honest entry. I hate the thought of giving up by nature (I’m just stubborn), but there are some things that are out of our hands.

    You’re an amazing person, Annie. I’m glad to know you.

    • Thank you so much, Nina. I’m stubborn too (as the four years might have hinted at), which is a big part of what’s made this so hard for me. But sometimes the universe just schools you, you know? I love your comment so much. I’m glad to know you too. =)

  • Drug Rehab

    “Not because I deserve to hurt, but because pain is part of love.” – I can just relate to this sentence, knowing that I’ve been hurt countless times because I decided to love. Pain and love are two words that can never be apart. I believe that when you decide to love someone, you are giving that person the right to hurt you as well. Amazing article Annie!

    • Thank you so much, Amanda! I actually was thinking most people would find that a little morbid, so I’m glad to hear that it resonated with someone. You’re right; loving someone does give that person the right to hurt you. Beautifully put. Thanks for the comment!

  • spoons

    Your story is going to help countless others suffering from addiction who want so desperatly to believe there is a cure for their disease. Although you didnt get exactly what you hoped for, you will make people think twice about checking into passages when they google it or check complaints on the BBB.. That is priceless and worth the diligent work and effort you put into it. The important thing is you can still hold your father in your heart and know he will always be with you, im sure he would be very proud of you. God bless you!!!

  • Richardsfive

    I am so sorry you’ve had to go through this.

    And you are right about that woman who purposely sent your calls astray.

    Decades ago I worked as a temp. One assignment was to a customer service call center for an insurance company. I was working the switchboard and saw that when I transferred calls back to a rep they bounced back to me 15-20 minutes later unanswered. The people left waiting that long with elevator music were livid when they got back to me. I’d send them off again and the same thing would happen.

    So I spent a couple of days designing a system where the calls could be answered in less than ten minutes by staggering break times, taking call back numbers, etc. and presented it to the supervisor. She laughed and told me they wanted people to stay on hold for a minimum of 20 minutes because most people would give up (especially the ones owed or disputing smaller amounts) and many would never call back which equaled profits.

    I asked my temp agency for a new assignment.

    • Wow, Regina. That story made me feel sick to the stomach. I’ve always suspected as much; but I’ve never heard a story as first-hand and blatant as yours. That just goes to show that there are people out there making the wrong choices. I understand that some people aren’t in the position to be choosey about their jobs, but I really respect your decision to leave that one. There’s too much of that in the world.

  • William

    From William in Jacksonville–About your 4 year runaround from the insurance companies,Passages Malibu,etc. It reminds me of a great Matt Damon movie “The Rainmaker. He played a lawer who was representing the mother of a young man who had died of cancer because the insurance company refused to pay for a bone marrow transplant that might have saved him Fast forward,fast forward–When they were finally able to get a couple of witnesses on the stand, It turned out that the insurance company, Great benefit, had a manual that said to deny each and every claim that came in and to continue to deny them until they had worn out the complainers into finally giving up. I forget what the percentage of payouts actually were of the multi millions they took in in premiums seems like 2 or 3 percent or something like that. Anyway, Matt won the case and his client’s mother was awarded $50,000,000. Great Benefit then promptly declared bankruptcy.

  • Bridgetreneal

    I am deeply sad for ALL of your losses.  My problem is obesity and I went to a similarly priced program for eating disorders that claimed a 92  success rate.  From what I witnessed it was not even close!

    Having said that, and I really am sorry for loss of your Dad, you sounded as though you were willing to accept your Dad could fall into the 15% and that you were VERY willing to give up your inheritance to have your have father.

    Would it, have some way, made you feel better if they had told you, at the end of 30 days, “Sorry you’re Dad falls into the 15%?”  Or, were you only willing to “give up” your inheritance if  you thought 1) the insurance would reimburse it or 2) your dad would live long enough to earn it all over again?

    Just admit it.  You wanted a fixed dad and the inheritance.  That was never an option.

    But, please hear this.  Your dad loved you and your brother or he wouldn’t have gone through all those programs.  He killed himself to get away from himself.  If he wanted to get away from you,or anyone else, he could have packed a bag and left.  But, no matter where you go, there you are.

    The only way to move forward is to quit relying on sympathy, accept the truth and move on.