Right now, fentanyl kills one American every seven minutes. It is at least 50 times stronger than heroin, and if you have an addictive bone in your body, good luck. It will get you in its clutches, wrestle you to the ground, and never release you. How do I know this?
My daughter, Lola, went to private schools, graduated with honors, was loved to pieces, taught manners, and went on to become a successful artist. But with the advent of the most dangerous drug in history, it’s come to this.
It’s five a.m. and a white Suburban S.U.V. crawls to a stop outside a shabby Spanish-style apartment block.
The motley crew in my daughter Lola’s MacArthur Park apartment has finally settled down to sleep—the dark, black sleep of fentanyl, after days of cruising, scoring, shooting up, shoplifting, and hustling any sketchy way they can.
In the bedroom I’d painted pale lavender just 12 months before, the floor is covered in stolen credit cards, driver’s licenses, expensive stolen clothes, purses, shoes, magnets that allow you to shoplift without alarms going off, drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a safe filled with drug money.
And yet, oddly, the lovely face of my flower-obsessed and baby-loving daughter on her vintage linen pillowcase looks so peaceful.
Next to her, in boxers and requisite wife-beater, is Beau, who has decided, since her last boyfriend shot himself dead, that he’ll be her protector. He snuck in to “borrow” her iPad and watch Netflix. My account.
In the other bedroom, Mack, a pimply, ferret-faced junkie who’s afraid of needles and begs others to shoot him up, is shoving the printer under the bed after churning out five thousand bucks’ worth of counterfeit bills while his partner in crime, Bella, a blonde with faded tats and a festering boil on her cheek, is sprawled on the bed naked.
Suddenly, a loud banging.
Mack rushes to the door, forgetting the golden rule in a trap house: Do not open doors. Check the camera first. But the metal grille is still locked. In his face are four scary-as-hell Hispanic gangbangers. One with a missing front tooth points a gun.
“Yo, open the fuck up! Unlock this door now or I’ll blow your head off. My name’s Whitefolks.”
Mack knows that Whitefolks is high up in the 18th Street gang. He feverishly unlocks the door.
The four guys swagger into the room. Two have guns. Whitefolks asks, “And where is the lady of the house?”
A sweating Mack points to the second bedroom.
“Hey, Lola. We’re here, bitch!”
Beau switches from protection mode to “I’m getting the fuck out of here” mode in a nanosecond. Poof.
Whitefolks kneels next to Lola, grabs her wrist. She wakes, terrified that rape or death—or both—are imminent. But she’s lucky. They want her money since she’s been dealing on their turf.
She has about $7,000 in her safe. She gets up, in bra and panties, and quickly hands over the cash.
With a menacing laugh, Whitefolks says they’ll be back “whenever we feel like it,” and makes a crack about her great security team.
And her Instagram feed. “Hey, you ain’t been posting your art. How you gonna sell if you don’t post, fool?”
My kind, charismatic baby girl is off the rails. I’ve bailed her out of Burbank jail on felony drug charges at four a.m., slapped dealers in a Koreatown alley at midnight, and sprinted down a Hollywood street chasing a meth-crazed, gun-toting psychotic junkie who’d just stolen her phone and wallet as the sun rose. (He’s now in jail for the murder of a friend, using the same gun, outside a Home Depot.)
And when I’m not meeting interventionists, going to N.A. and Al-Anon meetings, talking to lawyers, and secretly checking text messages on iPads, I’m casing her joint late at night and trying not to get too involved. Ha ha.
And no, before you ask, I’ve not truly heeded the well-meaning advice of folks at Al-Anon who insist I should “let go and let God” or “detach with love.”
Am I an enabling, controlling pushover with no boundaries? Maybe so. But stepping aside is not in my DNA. And I’m trying to keep her alive!
As Gabor Mate, the Canadian doctor and addiction specialist who recently interviewed Prince Harry on a livestream, believes, it’s not about tough love. It’s about healing childhood trauma and getting the addict to feel connected and loved.
Fentanyl is dangerous for everyone but there are two very different, distinct scenarios. There are “party people,” some of them high-schoolers, who indulge just now and then and unknowingly buy coke—or heroin, or even Internet Xanax—laced with fentanyl. They can die within minutes. Then there are the hard-core addicts like my daughter, who knows her source and confidently boasts that she’s never overdosed and never will. But then I point out how many of her friends have died, and she pipes down.
Let’s go back. In September 1999, Vogue published a piece I had written about Lola, titled “Daughter Dearest.”
“In three months, my Lola turns thirteen,” it read. “Her life is turning into a horror story. A terrifying experience. For me, not her. I may be a mother but I’m not a moron. I’ve seen Dawson’s Creek. I’ve listened to Eminem: First it’s sex, then drugs, then sex on drugs.”
If I found her entry into teenage years upsetting, worrying whether I was parenting well as a single mother in Hollywood … well, fast-forward a couple of decades. Fentanyl is everywhere. And it has become a way of life for my darling bundle of joy.
Don’t get me wrong. The past 24 years have not been one continual train wreck. Glorious moments have transpired where my heart’s nearly burst with pride.
Lola found herself an extraordinary mentor: Anjelica Huston’s late husband, the sculptor Robert Graham. Drawn to his sensibilities, she transferred from the Chicago Art Institute to Otis College of Art and Design here in Los Angeles so she could be his part-time assistant. Her graduate show was spectacular.
Lola’s empathy and kindness are boundless. When her beloved grandmother’s health was failing, Lola moved in and slept on the floor until she literally died in her arms. When Bob Graham was dying, she read him The New York Times and barely left his side.
I’ve been wildly impressed and moved, watching her play so creatively for hours with her brother, my adopted son, Nick—she is crazy about kids—or humbly greeting folks at a new show of her art.
Amazed as she created unique, massive flower sculptures in the wild to commemorate the ashes of her father and granny being flung into the sky.
Not so proud when the local Beauty Supply store owner announced grimly 18 months ago that it was only because he’d known me for years that he didn’t call the cops when Lola and her friend tried to pay for their haul with counterfeit $100 bills.
I’d married her dad, Chris Thompson, a gifted TV comedy writer, after a whirlwind romance. Chris discovered Tom Hanks and created the sitcom, Bosom Buddies, that gave Hanks his first big break. We met three weeks after Chris had left St. John’s hospital following yet another cocaine binge.
Warning bells should have clanged loudly, but he was sober now. Recently arrived in L.A. after 10 years as a journalist in London, I went to a dinner one night and was drawn to this gorgeous guy who made me laugh. I’d been trying to further my new career as a director of comedy shorts for Rowan Atkinson and Tracey Ullman, meeting with dull goody-two-shoes execs, and suddenly this sexy bad boy had me roaring. A plumber-turned-stand-up comic, discovered by Garry Marshall, he was already the funniest and highest-paid guy in any writer’s room.
Yes, I was taken by Chris. Sober and still funny. Three weeks later I flew to Australia to see family. He followed, we holed up in my Bondi Beach apartment, and the romance went into high gear. We flew to London. He bought me a vintage diamond ring on Bond Street.
If I found her entry into teenage years upsetting, worrying whether I was parenting well as a single mother in Hollywood … well, fast-forward a couple of decades.
Back in L.A. He’s still sober and we’re desperate to have a baby. So 10 months after meeting him I was walking down the aisle, three months pregnant (but not showing) as a gospel choir sang “Waltzing Matilda” in a celebrity-packed Westwood church.
He’d fallen off the wagon a few weeks earlier, and it was a tad alarming. But I was pregnant and busy directing music videos, including one for Chaka Khan involving Busby Berkeley choreography.
Even if I’d been as well versed in addiction as I am now, I would not have backed out. Still, the fact that he nearly missed the wedding after a drug-fueled bachelor party hosted by Timothy Leary at Larry Flynt’s should have given me pause.
But he made it. Outside, a videographer recorded Tom Hanks, Richard Lewis, and Bill Maher trying to out-joke each other as Robin Williams, Jack Nicholson, and Lauren Hutton partied in the background. You get the idea.
I finally watched the wedding video for the very first time only recently—more than three decades later. I laughed. And cried. Loved seeing my dad’s speech. But less touching and more in the spooky, prophetic category is a moment at the end.
Chris, sober, with me standing next to him (grinning like a fool at my cute new hubby), is making remarks straight to the camera.
“You know, there was a black raven perched on our limousine when we arrived earlier. We’re probably going to have a devil baby, and if I’m talking to my devil baby right now, you are pissing me off!”
I’d had zero recollection of those words.
A Call from an Unknown Number
We left for a honeymoon in Tahiti. But the joy was short-lived. A few months after Chris had caught our (devil?) baby as I squatted on the bedroom floor, he was far from clean and sober and having an affair with the lead actress in his latest TV sitcom.
I was busy directing—more music videos, some S.N.L. comedy shorts, TV episodes, and a feature for Paramount, Back to the Beach—but I tried hard to make the marriage work. He walked out for good one day when Lola was two.
He was back on coke and booze. I’d foolishly believed I could love this narcissist into sobriety, into being a father to our exquisite wee girl. I didn’t understand then the death grip addiction had on him.
I began a seven-year fling with Al Pacino and made sure Lola saw Chris, now diagnosed as bipolar, on a regular basis. From an early age, she realized that her dad—left with relatives by his single mother for months at a time through his pathetically dysfunctional childhood—had a serious alcohol and cocaine problem and would likely be in and out of rehab for the rest of his life.
She lived in dread that her adored father would die. Out of guilt, he spoiled her and skipped actual parenting. In later years, when he’d pass out on someone’s lawn or get arrested as a public nuisance, it was Lola he would call to bail him out. He treated her like a friend, not a daughter.
Chris thought I was insane for insisting that Lola should attend “after-school rehab” for smoking pot. He may have been right about that, since she was then exposed to all manner of older druggie kids, but it’s hard to say. By the time she was in her mid-20s she had tried heroin. And it did not stop there.
The last series Chris created was Shake It Up Chicago, for which he’d discovered Zendaya and Bella Thorne. Chris was ecstatic, back in the saddle. But after two seasons he was fired from his own hit show for drinking on set. Guess who he called, in tears, having just blown the best thing he’d had for a long time? His sensitive, traumatized daughter—who else?
A year later he was homeless, broke, and living in the tiny spare room of an old friend. We were thrilled when out of the blue his old superagent, Ari Emanuel, had a gig for him: reworking an Israeli comedy for Amazon. Chris wrote a treatment. “I might be relevant again,” he told me.
In turn I told him that Lola had started using heroin again. He agreed we had to get her into treatment. We would talk with Lola at her birthday dinner in three days.
Two days later, four days before his Amazon pitch meeting, he called several friends. No one was free to hit golf balls with him. So he cruised into a bar in the Valley, drank martinis, and scored drugs.
That night in 2015, there was a call from an unknown number. I picked up and was told, “We cannot revive a Chris Thompson.”
“Please keep trying!” I shrieked so loudly, several dogs in the building started barking.
A long silence.
“Is he dead?,” I asked after what seemed like an eternity.
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
Nick was at Lola’s apartment that night. I called him to make sure they were there and raced over. Lola was asleep. I woke her and, in one of the most painful moments of my life, had to tell my girl that her father was dead. Though Nick had never called him “dad,” he knew Chris loved him and he was shattered. Lola dressed and we battled 11 p.m. traffic to Toluca Lake.
Lola headed straight to Chris’s bedroom but was stopped at the doorway by two policemen. She collapsed onto the floor, howling in pain. Nick burst into tears. It was unbearable.
Lola and Nick sat in the dining room, smoking and crying, remembering that seven months ago Chris had produced an epic Thanksgiving feast for us at a jolly gathering right here.
The coroner finally arrived. We were told to go outside so they could drag the body through the hallway.
We shivered in the cold as the front door opened. There in the foyer we saw Chris on a gurney, naked in a body bag zipped to his waist. They’d taken the needle out of his arm. His eyes were open, his skin tinged slightly blue. It was a sight none of us will ever forget. I told them to give him a kiss and say good-bye. Lola, sobbing, told him how much she loved him, and closed his eyes.
Her entire life she’d feared her dad might die like this, and then it happened. On her 26th birthday.
Right then, I knew she’d never get over it.
High Highs, Very Low Lows
The next day Nick and I went to Lola’s apartment with bagels and coffee. I’d called Ari Emanuel with the news; already Chris’s death was in the trades with a photo of Chris with Zendaya and Bella Thorne, who’d both posted that they were devastated. Zendaya wrote he’d taught her everything, had been “a father figure to her.”
The night of his memorial, Lola shone brightly. Greeting the comedy writers, chatting up Penny Marshall, who told funny stories of Chris from his days producing Laverne and Shirley.
But I looked in her bag and saw the drugs, the pipe, all the fixings. It was going to be a long and bumpy ride.
Lola insisted she could get off heroin herself. Cold turkey. But the reality of watching my sweating, groaning daughter writhing in tears for days in my apartment, as Nick rubbed her back, was tough.
When a loved one kicks heroin, your own life comes to a halt. One attempt ended with police and a psychiatric-evaluation team as physical violence broke out between me and some of Lola’s “friends,” who’d brought ketamine to “cheer her up.” After a second relapse, she lost the love of her life, whom she’d met in 10th grade. He couldn’t take it and broke up with her. Lola still dreams of him.
But her art drove her on, and she became a hot, hip talent to watch. She was invited onto a new Bravo show, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. She made it to the second-to-last episode, but didn’t win. Lola, realizing “it was vacuous and led to nothing,” got back to her art and was full of life.
Until she wasn’t. Huge mood swings. High highs, very low lows. She was diagnosed as bipolar, like her dad. Despite being high, or maybe because of it, long nights of painting till dawn paid off. She was in her first group show at a shopfront on Washington Boulevard. More group shows followed, then her first big solo show.
The crowd at the opening was cool and avant-garde. Some works glowed mysteriously under black light. Her neon sculpture of a mermaid had folks fighting to buy it. Her sparkle paintings sold like hotcakes. The flower paintings, which were her real passion, vibrated with joy.
More openings. People loved her sexy, well-priced nude watercolors. Her witty captions. She was prolific. And like her dad, she had a wonderfully sharp, edgy sense of humor. She wrote naughty poetry, took part in readings all over town. She’d visit the downtown flower market at dawn and fill her convertible with peonies, pansies, and poppies.
But Lola, still grief-stricken, had started using more and more drugs.
I took her to see doctors, then grief therapists. Finally I dragged her to a bare-bones rehab near Palm Desert. Health care, especially for addiction in the greatest country on earth, is almost nonexistent without money or good insurance. Somehow in the chaos she’d let her great Obamacare health coverage lapse. I’ve made sure to pay it every month since then. (Please bear in mind that having a bunch of rich pals doesn’t make you rich. Being an outspoken female director was not always appreciated by the deeply chauvinist folks of Hollywood, and I’ve had to struggle like so many in this world. Lola has not been cheap, but I have a few very kind and generous friends who have helped enormously along the way.)
Surrounded by barbed wire, the facility resembled a women’s jail. Instead of therapy, clients had to clean toilets and do laundry. But after Lola was peer-pressured to smoke meth at midnight by a “bunch of court-ordered crackheads,” she decided the joint was iffy and left.
From an early age, she realized her dad had a serious alcohol and cocaine addiction and would likely be in and out of rehab for the rest of his life.
Next stop, another rehab, this one suggested by Giles, Lola’s new pot-smoking artist boyfriend. It was in Tijuana. (And no, her American health insurance was not accepted.) They gave her Ibogaine, a psychedelic—illegal in the U.S.A. but unregulated in Mexico—made from the bark of the iboga tree. The trip can result in diminished dependence on opioids. It seemed worth a try, but I had to beg, borrow, and hit up loan sharks before I dropped her off at a car park in San Diego, where she threw up twice, then nervously waved good-bye as a mini-bus sped her to Tijuana.
Two weeks later, I’m in San Diego again. It’s family day at an aftercare she’d been shipped to, filled with cultish beardos. Out of the blue, they demand to know what responsibility I take for the childhood trauma she’s suffered. I lose it, pointing out I’m not a perfect parent but clearly I care—so what’s with the guilt trip???
Lola loves my outburst. We share our first good laugh in a while. In the bedroom there are five mattresses on the floor. I see what $32K gets you: a big dose of “God’s medicine” followed by frog venom and regular “Let’s blame your parents for your childhood trauma” sessions.
Lola stayed clean for four months as Giles did his best to be a caring boyfriend. Except when he took her to Costa Rica to do ayahuasca, drank ten times the dose, and had to be hog-tied to a tree to stop him jumping off a mountain.
Then alarming things begin to happen:
- During a dog-sitting stint at Giles’s apartment, Lola starts a fire. The dog survives. Not the apartment.
- Lola’s apartment swiftly turns into a “trap house,” where drugs are used all hours of the day. Lola sincerely hates to be unkind and welcomes anyone who needs to chill or take a hot shower.
- Jane, a Midwestern college grad, introduces Lola and friends to fentanyl, the cool new street drug that’s easy to find when heroin is scarce.
- The jailbird counterfeiting couple, Mack and Bella, move into the second bedroom.
- Giles returns from an out-of-town gig to find a drug deal going down. They fight, and Lola throws him out. He kicks the door down. I arrive as Mack pulls a knife, and Jane confesses to me that they’re now all on fentanyl. Giles and I depart, devastated.
I research fentanyl. It started in Chinese labs. Cheap, easy to make, and 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin. Drug cartels love it because it’s easier to smuggle and transport. Dealers love it because it’s so addictive. Addicts can’t get enough. Until they do.
Then, as always is the case with Lola, out of nowhere something good happens that gives me hope. Lisa Gorman, an Aussie fashion designer, spots Lola’s Instagram posts and asks to put her “exceptional art” onto clothes to launch Gorman’s first American store. At the opening, models wear striking creations with Lola’s flower art printed on black with FUCK YOU and Some Super Cosmic Shit embroidered onto sequined dresses.
Lola then pulls off her best solo art show yet at the Lodge art gallery in Hollywood, exhibiting huge, stunning watercolors and smaller, gorgeous oil paintings of flowers and plants. In the glow of her success, I see my window and beg her to go back to rehab. She tells me she’s desperately needed help to fight the crippling self-loathing, grief, and shame. The shame that she’d already ruined her life, like her dad. Fentanyl makes her feel light, happy, and pain-free.
Soon after, Giles puts her paintings into storage and quits their shared studio. He can take no more. Mothers have to be fatigue-free, but weaker mortals, like boyfriends, drop by the wayside.
His departure leaves her reeling. Unanchored.
The Patron Saint of Hollywood Junkies
Finally time to get clean? Um, no. She becomes a full-on drug dealer. Her own dealer thought this sexy badass could move fentanyl and sold her some at a good price to retail to friends. Word spreads. On fentanyl she was fearless. She liked the thrill. The danger. And the money. But she’s still so generous—cooking up a storm for the gang, handing out clothes to girlfriends, and letting anyone crash on her couch.
I first realize my daughter is a drug dealer when she leaves her phone unattended on a rare visit.
There are messages from sick dope addicts begging for “more of that great shit you sold me last week.” Reminders that “this is the fourth text—why you disrespecting me girl?”
Texts to warm the cockles of your heart.
My worst fears are confirmed when I FaceTime her one Saturday. She cheerfully says she’ll call right back.
But she doesn’t hang up and I watch, utterly stunned, as Lola stocks up. Drugs, tattooed creeps, a big bodyguard, and scales come in and out of view.
“You got any more of that Midnight Special?” she asks. “I can move that all day long.” And then, “Give me all the clear you have. And how much fent you got?”
This continues until I see a strange face come closer to the screen. Realizing that the video call is continuing, the face starts to scream and curse Lola out: “What the fuck? Are you a snitch?” The screen goes black.
By now, many of Lola’s friends, realizing I’m empathetic, have gravitated toward me. I’ve let them stay over for weeks at a time.
Helped them get health insurance, abortions, food stamps, money for underwear, or money for a lawyer. Many, many rides to detox hospitals or rehabs.
I’ve chased down Lola in back alleys at night, crept past gang members in hotel corridors on a tip that Lola was in the last room on the right. I’ve tried to reason with crazy boyfriends who start beating up the wrong person in the street at six a.m. after a deal gone wrong.
Three years ago, Lola falls in love again. Charlie is baby-faced and polite but also, it turns out, a drug dealer on the run from the F.B.I. He’d spent seven months in prison before they met and vowed to not spend another day in jail. He would kill himself first. He buys a Caddy, puts it in Lola’s name. Oh, and did I mention he runs a fentanyl lab? And doesn’t tell Lola?
Knowing none of this, I think she might have found a “nice boy.” So does she. But months later she calls, hysterical.
Charlie is staying with a friend in Silver Lake, the cops show up, and true to his word, he shoots himself in the head. Lola and her pal Leah track the car down to a police lot. There’s still blood on the seats.
I meet with several interventionists, but when they hear about her out-of-control life—counterfeit money and friends with guns—they run. I even speak to expensive bounty hunters who will do what I ask—but, alas, it’s illegal to kidnap one’s adult daughter.
Then I get a call from Leah about the visit from the 18th Street gang we heard about at the beginning of this tale. Lola, finally and properly terrified, has been staying with friends.
Now truly desperate, I call Sean Penn, a very well-connected old pal, who’s seen loved ones struggle with addiction. He thinks an undercover cop he knows can scare some sense into her. He suggests a dinner. He’ll bring friends in the rehab world, plus the undercover cop.
The next day Lola shows up unannounced. I make her a latte, and, as she nervously tells me she has to leave, I calmly find myself telling her an unrehearsed pack of lies: I tell her, I know everything! I’ve had private detectives casing her joint for over a week, I say. They’ve told me she was extorted by the 18th Street gang, and a snitch has videoed activities inside her pad.
I continue the fiction: an undercover cop I found through Sean, whom she knows, says her apartment is about to be raided. I tell her Sean wants to meet and help. Panicked, she disappears to make calls while I dial Sean to explain all the lies. He’ll send an S.U.V. I tell Lola that Sean will meet her at her apartment so she can get some belongings.
An S.U.V. appears in front of my building; she jumps in. Sean gives me the undercover cop’s number so I can brief him, and he dashes to meet Lola in her apartment. All the junkies are shocked to see Spicoli standing there.
Finally, she’s ready. Sean says, “Let’s go to dinner, meet my guy. He’ll be useful.”
Sure enough, waiting at an old-school Westside Italian place are the undercover cop Joe, Sean’s girlfriend, and two other men. Sean finally appears and I see Lola following 10 steps behind, obviously anxious to bolt. An ambush is an ambush.
Joe launches into his speech, saying she won’t enjoy federal prison, which is where she’s going for even allowing counterfeit money to be produced in her apartment. It’s almost certain rape for a pretty girl like her. He lays it on thick.
Her only hope, he claims, is to leave the state tomorrow and not be there when her apartment’s raided. I’m already texting rehab admissions people. There’s a bed in Tucson. Tomorrow!!
Sean excuses himself, and returns a few minutes later, saying he’s hired a private jet to take her to any rehab she chooses: tomorrow. I’m gobsmacked—blown away by such generosity. I was looking up flights to Tucson. I protest. He says it’s done.
“But this has to be your decision, Lola. You’re a free agent. Are you sure?” he asks. She says yes.
“Lola, you go alone in the Suburban … you probably have some loose ends to tie up. I’m very excited for you. The plane will take off at 10:30 a.m., sharp.”
My worst fears are confirmed when I FaceTime her one Saturday. She cheerfully says she’ll call right back. But she doesn’t hang up and I watch as drugs, tattooed creeps, a big bodyguard, and scales come in and out of view.
Now Lola must get rid of her drug inventory and burner phones. By nine a.m. she’s exhausted, sad, and terrified, locking herself in the room, until I literally kick the door down. It’s 10:30, then 11. After more chaos and screaming, Lola and I finally hit the road at noon. We make it to Burbank airport, onto the private tarmac area where a jet awaits.
Airplane staff take her duffel bag, suitcase, and makeup bag. For a junkie, she’s certainly well-groomed.
As I hug her good-bye, she bursts into tears and says, “I don’t deserve this.”
Yes, it is a revoltingly privileged, elitist scene. And no, she didn’t deserve it. I did not expect Sean’s extreme and generous gesture. However, he’s an extraordinary, admirable human being. He’s a gem.
The plan works. For a bit. Lola spends 32 days in rehab. When we speak, she sounds different: deliriously happy, grateful, and proud of herself. Like the Lola of old. Naïve idiot dreamer that I am, I’m somehow imagining the nightmare has ended.
But on day 32, she makes a silly joke to a therapist. She announces that with Subway sandwiches for dinner (the chef had quit), she’s so hungry she might as well kill herself.
Lola is kicked out. Corporate-run rehabs don’t like people threatening suicide, even in jest.
I only hear about this 24 hours later, by which time she’s AWOL in Tucson. For an entire month.
My greatest fear is that, once clean, she’ll take a bunch of drugs, OD, and die. Remember Amy Winehouse?
I call hospitals, morgues, police stations. I even call Sean again; he connects me with ex–Navy SEALs to help look for her.
Turns out, Bella had flown to Tucson, where she and Lola printed fake money, took fentanyl, and shot up meth. Finally, of her own accord, Lola hops a Greyhound bus back to L.A.
Another three long years of hell as fentanyl drags her down, down, down. No one who knows Lola can believe she’s still alive.
And still I haven’t given up on her for a second. Because I know the combination of mental illness and addiction drenched in shame are almost insurmountable foes. I had a front-row seat. I still do.
“It’s no small thing to feel perpetually out of sync with L.A. and sunshine,” she wrote to me once. “And feel a pain pressing on your heart and lungs that suffocates you some days. There was no relief till I found fentanyl. Dying cancer patients take it for pain. I was dying. From grief.”
Am I angry she’s continued as a homeless drug addict when I’ve offered constant help? Anger doesn’t begin to describe it. She’s put other people’s lives at risk. And her own. Every single day.
Am I sick that I’ve spent countless nights walking through Skid Row or MacArthur Park at dawn? Arriving at vile downtown hotels at midnight, screaming at employees, threatening to call the cops? Her friends, and even Lola, would finally laugh, incredulous that I always managed to track her down.
Was I devastated when I got the call to come bail her out after she was charged with a “dealing” felony? Oh yes. Should I have left her there in jail? Maybe. But most jails have drugs.
Horrified to learn that her last thieving boyfriend, Beau, had some idiot shoot him up, only to die in agony minutes later.
Was I deluded, helping sick dope addicts score one last time so they would come with me to rehab? Hear me out: Addicts will not go to rehab without being high.
Idiotic to be running through Koreatown back alleys to confront armed drug dealers? One of Lola’s pals dubbed me the “patron saint of Hollywood junkies.” Not really my goal.
Long, heartbreaking years of lawyers, meetings, eight more rehabs, and always another gut-wrenching call to tell me she’s left once again. Years of misery. For me, for poor, sensitive Nick, who worshipped his older sister, and for Lola.
I just didn’t have it in me to do the “tough love” thing. Not when you wake up a dozen times a night with your heart beating like a jackhammer, convinced your daughter may be lying dead that second.
I wish I’d done more.
But I have infinite sympathy. She’s an addict. She inherited it and has it bad. And I’m one of the lucky ones. My daughter’s alive.
Somehow, on this long and lonely road, I’ve morphed into a warrior—not a victim. I don’t mean it grandly. Definitely an annoying, foul-mouthed, interfering one. But I’ve been strong as I’ve tried to help Lola and her friends, hoping for a domino effect. If I saved one, perhaps it would inspire another, maybe even Lola, to clean up. And that would be everything. I know there’s nothing to do but keep fighting for your kids. Nick and Lola are the loves of my life.
In the time it’s taken me to write this, Lola has gone to rehab three times, been kicked out, got sober, and then slipped. I think, This is it, as she sounds enlightened and lucid on the phone before I drive over to the rehab to visit recently. By the time I get there, she’s walked out with another addict and disappeared.
I’ve written this account and shared my story in the hopes that it will help other parents and addicts not to feel ashamed or alone. Honesty is crucial. Finding a path back to sanity and a drug-free life is brutally hard.
And almost impossible to do alone without the support of friends, family, and community, because this country is not doing anywhere close to enough to ease its epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths. There’s not enough mental-health or addiction treatment or housing or job training after jail. It’s pitiful.
Three more of Lola’s friends have died from fentanyl in the last six months. One was a woman in her early 30s with a rich dad, a lovely house, and a nine-year-old son. Addiction does not discriminate.
Everyone needs to know—it should be taught in school—that man-made fentanyl is almost impossible to get off of. The relapse rate is above 90 percent.
Wicked cravings last for years. Lola knows no one who has managed to free themselves of its shackles.
Friends who work in rehabs talk of countless former clients who leave a 30-day facility, go straight back to fentanyl, and—no longer used to its toxicity—die in droves.
So many fail, but I try to stay hopeful that Lola will succeed, make amends, return to her art, and help others in their recovery.
I have finally embraced the fact that my life took a whopping detour.
The days of being the youngest-ever female on-air reporter in Australia and the U.K., living with London’s hottest impresario, marrying one of Hollywood’s funniest comedy writers, dating a movie star for seven years, and staying at Sandringham with Prince Charles are long gone. I just try to take it one day at a time.
Lola is back in rehab, this time in South Africa. I moved heaven and earth to get her there. I’m hopeful. But it’s early days.
And when Lola has told me, “Mum, you’ve saved my life,” it’s all I need to keep going. Because there’s no way of knowing when fentanyl might get her in its grip again. Fentanyl is the worst drug to come along in history. Over 100,000 fentanyl overdose deaths were reported in 2022 in this country. Figures for 2023 will almost certainly be higher. It can cause severe brain damage, memory loss, depression, strokes, genetic disorders, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances, seizures, dementia, Parkinson’s, and an inability to make any sort of reasonable decision.
President Biden talked about it in his recent State of the Union speech. State and Federal governments are finally starting to take action. Because even a mother’s love is not enough.
Depending on when you read this, Lola may be sober, she may be high, or she may be dead. But as long as she’s alive, it’s not too late for my devil baby.
Lyndall Hobbs, a former journalist, is a writer and director. Her memoir, A Girl from Oz, was published in Australia and the U.K.