Archive for December, 2009

Today, I Will be Hopeful

Posted on December 25, 2009. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

It’s almost 3:00 pm on Christmas Day.  My youngest son, Brian, is asleep on the couch in front of the fire.  My 92# golden retriever, Abby, is at my feet.  Soft classical holiday music plays in the background.  Most of my blog postings thus far seem to fall in to the category of “helplessly . . . “.   This year, Christmas means hope and new beginnings for me.  I am going to try to balance things a bit more by periodically interspersing my usual postings with things that are more positive and encouraging and swing the pendulum in to the “ . . . hoping” column.

I am missing my daughter today, and can hardly bear to think about how she is spending her Christmas.  Is it different than any other day for her?  Is she able to feel and show compassion to some one else?  Is there any joy or beauty in her world?  Will the isolation she feels today be an excuse to numb herself even more?

Oops – there I go again.  OK, I’m back on track now.  Here are some excerpts about recovery and hope from David Sheff’s book, beautiful boy – I have noted page #s. These are “pearls” that sounded more realistic versus tired clichés.

David Sheff is a writer whose books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune and elsewhere.  His piece for the New York Times Magazine, “”My Addicted Son,” won many awards and led to the writing of this book.  Go to my “Book Recs” tab to see more excerpts from this book.

•” . . . thankful that of all the fatal disease my (son) might have gotten, he got one for which there is this little sliver of hope that if he surrenders, he’ll survive.”  Thomas Lynch  p.272

• . . . recovery, like addiction itself, is a long and complex process. Families should never give up hope for recovery – for recovery can and does happen every day.  Nor should they stop living their own lives while they wait for that miracle of recovery to occur.”

• . . . relapses can be part of recovery. As Dr. Rawson said, it sometimes takes many of them before an addict stays sober.  If they don’t die or do too much damage, there’s a chance, always a chance. P.272   . . . recovery is an ongoing process.  He may have relapsed, but rehabs interrupted the cycles of using.

•regarding relapse:  failure, even serial failure, may lead to success.  Treatment catches up with you.  Treatment should be conceived as an ongoing process rather than as a cure. P.167

•As they often repeat in AA, you’re as sick as your secrets. Though it is not a solution, openness is a relief.  Our shared stories help us remember what we’re dealing with.  Addicts need ongoing reminders and support, and so do their families.  It helps to read others’ stories.  Taking it one day at a time.  p.315

•The idea is that any behavior, including behaviors that seem automatic or compulsive, can become conscious and can then be interrupted.  Time in treatment – time measured in many months if not years- is usually required for dramatic change.  In the process, the drug user’s brain is probably regenerating, and dopamine levels may be normalizing.  A cycle of abstinence replaces a cycle of addiction. p. 207-08.

•”Recovery is . . . about dealing with that hole in the soul.” William C. Moyers, son of journalist Bill Moyers and a recovering addict.  P.310

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The Other Shoe Has Dropped

Posted on December 22, 2009. Filed under: Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Junkie.  It was not a familiar word to me, not one I had any occasion to use.  It was more of an exotic reference, a hip term. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure what it meant.  I used to think of it in more remote, dramatic terms – as applied to some sketchy character in an artsy film, or attributed to one of those scroungy, homeless figures on the street corner, holding up their cardboard sign, hoping for . . . something.  Now, I’m realizing, it’s my daughter.

When I typed junkie into my Word dictionary, this message appeared:  “No results were found”.  Apparently, it’s not recognized in Webster’s. Wikipedia defined it as: (slang, pejorative) A narcotics addict, especially referring to heroin users.  And, of course, liar, criminal, prostitute, thief, victim, pathetic parasite on society, should also be included.  And, if you’re interested in the full gamut of drug vocabulary, you can go to:  I’m becoming bilingual.

My daughter is ‘safely’ ensconced in the cocoon of her drug house on the other side of town, curtains drawn, always dark inside. And I’m here, anticipating the next text from her that will completely ruin my Christmas, not that it isn’t already ruined.  When that text comes, it will be a personal test for me – a challenge to hold the ‘hard’ tough love line, or succumb to the more natural motherly instincts that want to rescue, protect, enable my child.  This is the real “Most-tested Mother’s Club” – – – the one with exorbitant membership dues.

She rehearsed what she’s supposed to say.  It doesn’t feel like
anything she would ever say.  Not a part she would get if she
had to audition.  Maybe that’s the key:  where (Hayley’s)
concerned, she should do the opposite of what feels right.
From Night Navigation, by Ginnah Howard

OK – in rereading this and other entries, I’m starting to sound like a victim myself.  So – – – for the next few days, I hope to publish posts that are more upbeat and positive.  Hmmmm – – – that will be a challenge, but one that I need to practice more often.  Gratitude – – – I am overdrawn in my “gratitude” account and need to make some deposits.

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Shutting Down

Posted on December 17, 2009. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , |

I received a phone call from a dear, long time friend yesterday.  I hadn’t seen her for ~6 – 8 months and hadn’t the opportunity or initiative to share the tragic news about Hayley with her.  Her busy schedule, mine . . . our paths just hadn’t crossed.  She was sobbing when she called.  She had just received my ex-husband’s Xmas card/letter with the family update which, of course, included the phrase “ . . . we have lost our daughter to drug addiction . . . “  I felt terrible that I hadn’t informed her personally about Hayley.  She felt horrible that she hadn’t checked in with me sooner.  And so, I filled her in on the whole sad story.  It took almost 30 minutes and, I left out a lot.  She was distraught – and broke down many times during our conversation.  The strange thing was, I did not.  I felt almost clinical in my narrative, but was privately aware of my lack of emotion.  It does concern me.  I seem to have shut down emotionally in regards to Hayley.  I don’t cry about her any more.  I can go for a few hours now without thinking about her.  What has happened to me? Have I become so calloused and immune to Hayley’s pain and circumstances that all compassion seems to have completely evaporated? It’s all so surreal.  I do obsess about the visual image of Hayley preparing the heroin and injecting herself, but feel mostly disgust and even a perverse fascination with the whole idea.

I’ve always been a “half-empty” kind of person.  It’s self- protection against disappointment and preparation for tragedy, in a sense.  If I expect the worst, then I’m never surprised, or caught unaware or off guard.  I learned to catastrophize from my parents, who were raised during the Great Depression with both World Wars as bookends in their formative years.  It was a life based on fear and “what ifs”.  Being careful and skeptical, especially in new or uncertain situations, was the prudent approach.

In some ways, the ‘½ empty’ perspective could also be considered hopeful, I guess, since if I always expect the worst, then anything different is usually better – and, I’m grateful.

And so, it is inevitable that I have very little hope for Hayley’s recovery.  And the statistics back up my pessimism. Recovery from heroin addiction lasting over a year, is only at about 13 – 18%.

I’ve imagined my life without Hayley in it.  She has felt so far away, for so very long, it’s not hard.

Can any one send me a link to non-biased, commercial-free statistics on heroin addiction and recovery rates that are based on objective research, and not just reported by some treatment center, trying to get your business?

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#2 – or Sh*t Happens

Posted on December 12, 2009. Filed under: addiction, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Essentially, at the beginning and end of life – and even in between, it all boils down to . . .  well, love, of course – – – but also . . . bowel movements . . . whether you have them or you don’t, when and where you have them, whether they’re too hard or too soft, etc.  My 2 ½ year old grandson is recently potty trained.  One day, he just decided to do it himself.  It didn’t drag on and on – and was fairly ‘easy’.  It was a really big deal.  One day a month or two ago, he and I were playing in the park and he said in his sweet little voice, “MorMor – do I have a diapewh on?”  I said, “No.  Do you have to go potty?”  He nodded, and off we went to the woods.  WOW!  This has been such a major milestone.  My 92 yo mother just had her 2nd surgery in 18 months for another small bowel obstruction.  Getting her back in to a ‘regular’ routine has been a project – and, a big deal.  And now that things are back to ‘normal’, she/we are so grateful.  The last year or two of my dad’s life, his main focus became his bowel movements.  As a physician, he was so very aware of their importance and the implications of his constipation.  He even kept a chart – date, time, amount, consistency.  I would roll my eyes and show some impatience.  But, I had taken my own ‘regular’ bowel habits for granted.  And, my heroin addict daughter went to the ER last July with severe abdominal pain.  After multiple GI tests, the diagnosis was ‘constipation’ – due, of course, to her opiates use.  The ER bill for this, plus stool softeners, was $950.  Unfortunately, you and I are paying that bill, not my daughter.

So – – – whether it’s hard or easy, regular or irregular, painful or smooth – – – sh*t happens.  It ‘binds’ us (pardon the pun) in a powerful, way and gets us right back to basics.  It’s humbling, universal, and yes, a metaphor for so much more.

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Happy Hollowdays

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

I need help.  Every year I send out a “Holiday Headlines” letter.  It’s an overview of my family’s year and a bit of a spoof on those insufferable letters that everyone receives, detailing the sender’s every trip, child’s accomplishments, and privileged life.  My letter is a parody on all of that.  It’s filled with self-deprecating humor, some of the ‘worst things’ that happened all year, plus a few philosophical ponderings and musings.  All in all, the letter is a creative/literary challenge for me, and my friends seem to clamor for it every year.  They say that it’s the only thing that keeps them sane and laughing after reading through the onslaught of the more typical ‘report card’ letters.

Since about 2002, it’s always been a challenge to write Hayley’s paragraph.  I wanted to be honest, yet preserve her dignity.  In dealing with her eating disorder, job changes, living situations, etc., I sweated bullets to present things in a positive way, with humor woven throughout.  Generally, it worked, and Hayley was pleased with the results.  But, I am absolutely stumped as to what to do this year.  I like being funny – it’s one of my ‘gifts’.  But there is absolutely nothing amusing about my daughter being a heroin addict – plus the fact that most people on my mailing list don’t know about the seriousness of her troubled history.

One friend suggested I just leave out a reference to Hayley all together.  I don’t think I can do that.  I guess I could ‘come clean’, as I did in 2002, regarding Hayley’s bulimia (*see below) – but acknowledging that my daughter is a heroin addict ‘publicly’, to a mailing list of ~150, seems unnecessary – and it would literally kill my 92 yo mother, who is filled with fear and shame that her friends will find out about Hayley’s drug addiction.  Other years, I’ve alluded to Hayley trying to ‘find herself’, ‘navigate through the labyrinth of adult life’, ‘find her way’.  These euphemisms seem ridiculous now.  And yes, I guess I could send out a more traditional card – but that’s truly compromising who I am and how I want to be.


Hayley, 23, is in transition.  In July, she made the courageous call from Santa Barbara to confront her eating disorder.  I helped move her back home and she left, shortly thereafter, for a residential treatment center in Missouri.  She is now back in (our small city) working full time, doing a lot of personal work and focusing on getting well, the ultimate journey. She has a long road ahead of her, but we are enormously proud of her and hopeful for her complete recovery.  She misses her friends and life in SB, and her job with ComputerMotion, an exciting SB-based medical micro-robotics company (they develop, manufacture, and market the “Zeus” endoscopic equipment, world-wide).  For now, this is where she is and needs to be.

So – if anyone has any language suggestions that would be less harsh, yet still somewhat honest, please let me know.

The other dilemma I’m grappling with is:  what to do about Christmas?  I haven’t initiated contact with Hayley since August, when she walked out of a medical detox facility against medical advice.  I decided to try the ‘no contact’ approach, which we have never used before, thinking that this would be more effective in letting Hayley feel the full impact of her lifestyle choices.  However, on Thanksgiving I broke down and sent this text to her:

Missing u, loving u, praying 4 u.

Hayley’s text back, on Friday:

I love you so much mom. Yesterday was so difficult for me.  I  miss my family so much it’s almost too painful to bare.

My response:

You are the only that can change that – and it is possible. What are you so afraid of?


I don’t know.  Being reminded of what I have left behind and how selfish I am, I guess.  I do want to see you and would seriously consider it.

I haven’t responded to this last text of Hayley’s, because I don’t quite know what to say.  What would be the point in seeing her?  Honestly, I don’t know if I can take seeing her again as a heroin addict with her abscesses, deteriorating health, and fading beauty.  It’s too painful; plus, I feel very vulnerable to her manipulation – and never know what to believe.

The holidays have become hollowdays for me.  My oldest son doesn’t even like coming home anymore, because Hayley’s sordid life is right ‘in his face’ when he does.  I can’t wait for January 1st.

And then, it will be a countdown to her birthday in April – always something to not look forward to.

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Never Give Up . . . and, The Thing Is

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Parent of an Addict, poems, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Two poems:

Never give up.
No matter what is going on,
Never give up.

Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country
Is spent in developing the mind
Instead of the heart.

Be compassionate.
Not just to your friends,
But to everyone.
Be compassionate.

Work for peace,
In your heart and in the world.
Work for peace.

And I say again,
Never give up.
No matter what is happening.
No matter what is going on around.
Never give up.

H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama

The Thing Is

To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you,
its tropical heat thickening the air,
heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this!
Then you hold life like a face
Between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes I will take you,
I will love you, again.

Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love

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Choosing Happiness

Posted on December 3, 2009. Filed under: addiction, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , |

Can you?  Is it possible?  Al-Anon and my therapist both say yes.  I don’t know.  It isn’t so simple.  I tend to go with the adage:  “A mother is only as happy as her least happy child”.  This feels more natural and familiar.

Today, at Al-Anon, we read a chapter, “Choosing Happiness”  from Discovering Choices. Here are some notes and underlines that seemed pertinent:

•  . . . acceptance is “living life on life’s terms.”  Acceptance means putting aside the wish that our situation could be different from what it is.  It’s a costly luxury to worry, obsess, criticize, or pine for something that we  can’t have.

•It is our attitudes, not our relationships, which can keep us trapped in the past.  If we choose to be resentful and unhappy, it is not the fault of anyone else.  “So much depends upon our own attitudes, and as we learn  to place our problem in its true perspective, we find it loses its power to dominate our thoughts and our lives . . . “

•Respond, not react.

So true.  Words.  They make sense.  But how do you act on them, implement them in to your life, truly integrate them in to your core?

I go to Al-Anon, and participate, and share, and nod my head, and feel a connection to everyone in the room.  Hearing other people’s stories always helps keep my own in perspective.  And yet – how does one actually walk the talk?

This morning before my Al-Anon meeting, I read in the paper that 80 people had been rounded up and arrested on drug charges by the police – for distribution, use, illegal activity. When I read these front page headlines now, I always wonder if my daughter is one of the targeted ‘small time’  junkies?  My physical therapist was lamenting to me about those who use and abuse the health care system, with no insurance, no job or intent to work, drug addicts and ‘users’ of the system. I agreed with him, but also wanted to shout:  “And my daughter is one of these people.  They are so desperate, and sick with addiction and other mental disorders.  They can’t help it.”  Or, can they?  I have an entirely new take on health care reform.  No, I don’t want to indulge drug addicts/my daughter in services that she should be paying for herself. But, damn it – how can she get the health care she needs – treatment for her abscesses,  her irritable bowel syndrome, her root canals – when she’s a heroin addict and doesn’t work, can’t register with the DSHS system because she’s afraid she’ll be arrested, etc.  It’s overwhelming, and I can’t think about it.

Sirens, and health reform debates, and newspaper headlines about drug busts – – – I have a whole new take on it all.

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