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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13 Responses to “Shutting Down”

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I can’t help with any statistics… But, I wanted to comment 🙂 Hey, I’ve been accused of “catastrophizing” although until I saw it written here I thought that person had made the word up!

I briefly looked at your blog last night before going to bed, just so I could bookmark it, and one line caught my eye. Where your ex-husband wrote, “we have lost our daughter to drug addiction.” It played through my head at various times today… such SIMPLE words… but there’s a whole book of STUFF behind that one simple line.

I’m a glass 1/2 empty type of person too, and if I think about the recovery statistics long enough (or how LONG it can take for even a 1st attempt at treatment) I can spiral down – but I hope one day we can both say, “We had temporarily lost our daughter to drug addiction.”

Glad to see your post, Peggy. I was thinking of you this morning and missing you, altho I knew you were with Brian. I find all of these comments so helpful and stimulating. They cause me to see things in new ways. I hear you being critical of yourself for not crying for Hayley. I don’t think you need to add that weight to your baggage. You will cry when you need to and not cry when you don’t need to. I identify with your comment because I’ve often felt guilty about not crying, while also finding myself crying at (what seemed to me) odd times. Maybe crying is another of those things we think we have control of, and we really don’t. I agree with Dawn that, as much as possible, you might want to concentrate on positives in your life, especially right now with Brian home.
Here is a quote from Richard Biggs:
“Burn brightly, but don’t burn out.”

Opiate use can certainly be harmful, but keep in mind that some of the disgust and fascination that you feel when thinking about the visual image of Hayley preparing heroin and injecting comes from being exposed to a lifetime of negative social/cultural messages about heroin and injecting. Injecting heroin is portrayed as one of the most extreme forms of drug use, which is itself already heavily stigmatized.

Take a step back, and consider that most of us have used opiates in our lives. Ever have Tylenol with codeine? And most of us have been injected with a syringe. Injecting heroin is really not that exotic. When it comes right down to it, these are garden variety people in pain using a pain killer to feel better in the way that feels the best.

I have the benefit of having worked with hundreds of people who inject opiates over a period of more than 10 years. And I’m not in the role of parent. So it’s much easier for me to take that step back from the social lore and stigma. But you should try to take that step back too. Because the stigma hurts you and your daughter, and works to separate you.

I’m lucky because I feel a lot of affection, respect and admiration for so many of the people I know who inject heroin, or have in the past.

And I certainly don’t feel hopeless about the prospects for recovery. I’ve been through the process with many people and it happens all the time.


Thanks, Tom. I need perspectives like yours. My professional background is in science and health care. I have used needles all my life, injecting them in to patients, animals (research), and myself. So, my “fascination” is not based on unfamiliarity or novelty. However, thinking about my daughter, living in a sordid setting, injecting herself and using non-sterile techniques, her life dominated by her craving and despair, prompts me to visualize and imagine very unpleasant circumstances. I know about finding good veins and possible injection sites. My daughter has learned this skill, obviously, but is also lacking the basic knowledge and initiative to prevent infection and minimize health risks. Still – I appreciate your encouragement to remain hopeful, and will carefully consider your input. Best, Peggy


You are wise to be thinking in terms of health. Recovery is a process, and it takes place over time. For most people, it includes periods of use and non-use. This is why learning safer injection practices is so important. A good resource for information about safer injection is the Chicago Recovery Alliance. They have a safer injection guide here: (not sure how to make that a live link). And their website at is worth exploring.

If you would like to email me a mailing address, I can send you a copy of an even better safer injection guide (a thin paperback book). You can contact me at


here is the site of the governmental studies done by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Samhsa).

this is the place to go for real statistics. They arent good, the statistics I mean.

here is a link to an interactive site by Samhsa where you can put in different criteria and pull up statistics.

And as for shutting down emotionally, it’s healthy. It’s necessary. It’s normal.

Actually, after the past 11 years, I have no feelings left for my daughter. I neither love nor hate her. I simply do not care.

I grieved for my daughter’s death 4 years ago. She is not yet physically dead, but heroin took over my child, and what is left is NOT my baby girl. It is a complete stranger.

That is what has saved my sanity. I can DETACH, but I am not able to detach with love.

the lesser of two evils. If I love, I have hope and expectations. Those are dangerous for the mother of a long time heroin addict. It only leads to heartache and a broken heart.

there are many who tell me I am wrong. Perhaps I am. Perhaps if I believed in my daughter, it would help. Of course, I did in fact believe in her for 7 years, and it did not help.

I don’t know. I wish I had anything at all positive to say. But after a 10 year habit, there just isn’t anything positive to say.

Be numb. It’s much healthier and safer. Concentrate on all of the good things in your life and devote as little time to thinking about her as you possibly can.

Dawn – your honesty and candid response are refreshing and soooo appreciated. You articulate what I feel, and are not afraid to express it. I admire your ability to focus on the positive aspects in your life, and to be a ‘mother’ to your daughter’s children. What a gift that is, and is far more relevant and productive than stewing over your daughter’s addiction. Thanks god those children have you.
Has your daughter been through rehab? Are you trying to get custody of the baby? Wish I could help you and give you a break once in a while. You are strong, and are an inspiration to me. Thank you for doing what is right – and for having the strength to invest in your grandchildren’s future. So far, yours is the only blog I’ve listed on my site – I’m very discriminating. Peggy

I obviously have a different take on the whole heroin addiction thingy than the majority of your other readers.

My basic feeling is that

1. your daughter’s addiction and recovery are HER business, not yours.

2. you have already done everything possible to help her to overcome the issue, disease, problem, whatever you choose to call it.

3. she still chooses to use, to be addicted.

4. i don’t believe in 90% of the programs out there, my jaded experience has been that most of them are ‘for profit’ endeavors and the profit margin is huge. while they may give lip service to helping addicts, their main focus is keeping the addict from using by medically assisted means. Whether suboxone (which works for short term addicts only) with or without naltroxone added; or MMT, or 12 Steps; none of them try to repair the damage done to the family. Their focus (due to their funding) is always on the poor addict, who really is not poor, they are manipulative, survivors and can easily take care of themselves as evidenced by virtue of the fact that the main deaths are not from freezing to death, from starving to death, or from a host of other ‘normal’ related issues. Their deaths are from overdosing, abscess or one of the associated diseases you get from IV use of drugs. Or, they go to jail for criminal behavior.

I really would like to see a program out there BESIDES Nar-Anon that understands what the destroyed families of the addict deal with on a daily basis. Who offer help to replace the money stolen, the emotional damage done to the children (but of course, WE have to PAY for our help, and hold jobs, and pay bills and act like responsible citizens, which we ARE).

I do admit, I am sick of the “OH the POOR POOR heroin addict” bullshit.

We did not CHOOSE to have a heroin addict in our family. The addict however CHOSE to be a heroin addict.

Doesn’t seem fair that all the funding goes to the addict and helping them get clean, even though research shows repeatedly that 87% of the time the addict will continue to relapse.

We have done so many rehabs with my daughter. We have attended counseling, gone to joint meetings, done everything in the world possible.

The whole thing pisses me off. Can you tell? LOL.

Peg. My daughter has been through 9 rehab attempts, several of them inpatient programs, suboxone, methadone, etc.

My anger is far away now, it does still exist. Anger that she put me and us through what we went through.

It isn’t really relevant anymore.

I think honestly, the one thing that saved me, and extending from that, the whole family, is that we had the children to focus on.

The parent of an addict tends to focus on the love they had for their child.

Protecting the innocent children of the addict from the harmful side effects of the addicts life became paramount to me.

Gaining custody of the oldest two (the youngest didn’t exist yet) was necessary to accomplish the safety of their lives.

It also allowed me to focus my energy on THEM instead of their mother.

Then, after a few years, I found out that I had already detached. Transference of the love I used to have for my daughter to her children was a natural outcome. I had to chose between them, and the kids won out.

Right? Wrong? I don’t know. It just is what it is.

I think perhaps it was easier for me, not that I would wish this on any other person.

It is a difficult road to walk.

I can say I am glad your daughter doesn’t have children, but I preface that with the statement that IF she did, you would soon feel very different about her addiction, and be able to distance yourself from her much easier. And, you would be VERY busy raising her kids, so you dont’ have much time for sitting around thinking about all the angst that goes with being the parent of an addict.

I’m with ya, Dawn. I’m trying to leave Hayley alone and let her find her own way to recovery. I doubt it will ever happen. I have a slight nagging fear that she doesn’t, and never has, feel loved. We tell her we love her, but I don’t think she can internalize, or believe it. My youngest son, Brian, desperately wants the entire family to have an intervention with Hayley – not to get her to treatment, but to come together and witness with each other our love for Hayley. In some ways, I think Brian wants and needs this process as part of the divorce healing, which has never happened – us coming together and telling each other how much and why we love one another. And so, guilt again plays a major role in my life – – – how and why doesn’t Hayley feel loved or valued by her family? I am at the beginning of my daughter’s hard drug addiction. Dawn, you’re 11 years in to it. You are the model, now, that can lead the way. You have a right to be pissed. In some ways, your anger must mean you’re still emotionally attached to your daughter. Of course you are. I just hope that it doesn’t dominate your life. I’m glad you have a life partner that can share in your grief and struggles. Keep talking and writing. I’m listening.

My daughter has told me she never felt love either. That is truly hilarious in a bizarre way.

She was the most spoiled, best treated, and truly loved child. (as evidence by her siblings LOL)

All of my children have separately said that they felt another child was loved more than they were.

I think that is normal. Each child always feels that you love the other one more.

Perhaps the addicts aren’t able to process emotions in a positive way. maybe that is what is wrong with them?

who knows.

I do know that sometimes intervention works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

here is the blog of a mother who has followed the instructions of an interventionist to the letter.

I just read your blog and I chuckled a little when I saw how your friend learned about Hayley (I just blogged about “Christmas letters”).

I don’t have statistics to share with you; and I agree, wouldn’t they be nice if we had “proof” that they all come out of this. But the truth is, if Hayley turns her life around and gets control of her addiction and gets into recovery and stays there, her statistic will be 100% and that’s the only statistic that matters.

My son is 3 years into his addiction that started with Oxy and became a heroine addiction and he’s done it all this year…detox, recovery, relapse, active user, overdose….and right now he is in an inpatient treatment program and is working on himself. Only God knows if this time it will work, but I will not give up hope. Because he is my only son; and I hope that he wants to come back to the family as much as we want him back (the son without the drugs).

Stay strong, it is okay not to cry…I never use to cry over Bryan’s situation…I would only cry for others’ pain. And I know I get tired of hearing this from others but it is true…take care of yourself. Find joy in your other children; and have hope for Hayley. I do.

Lisa – thanks for your words. It truly does help to hear from other parents who are experiencing the devastating effects of a child’s drug addiction. I will visit your site to learn more about you and your situation. Best, Peggy

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