Archive for March, 2010


Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Parent of an Addict | Tags: |

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anais Nin

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Back Open For Business – – – and other stuff

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , |

I texted Hayley a couple of times last week with no response.  I asked if she was ok, followed by a request to contact me a couple of days later.  I haven’t heard from her and I’m worried.  I sent these text messages to the unfamiliar phone # she texted me from at 2:00 am on Friday, March 19th (see Crack House Busted), so who knows if she ever received them?  I need to hear from my daughter.

The most recent news is that Eric, my drug world “mole”, is back in jail for violating parole. He had a minor relapse and ‘used’ (cocaine, I‘m assuming), and failed his weekly UA (urinalysis) check.  Poor Eric – almost 45 yo and still battling the addiction demon.  He has tried so hard to get and stay clean. After helping get Hayley out of the crack house last August, Eric went to rehab again last September, his 5th or 6th stab at it.  Since finishing this most recent rehab program, he’s faithfully gone to NA, AA, after care treatment/programs, meeting his parole obligations, staying in touch with me and keeping his ear to the ground about news of Hayley. He’s had trouble finding a steady job, getting his old beater car going, just dealing with the day-to-day reality of staying sober, and “up”, and trying to make something of his life.  He’s been so helpful to me – I wish I could support him in some way.  I’m a little reluctant to get “involved” – initiate contact with him, visit him in jail, encourage him, offer to take him somewhere, give him some personal contacts for job possibilities, etc.  Am I being paraonoid? Selfish?  Probably. And yet, I think about someone “stepping out” of their comfort level and  befriending my daughter at some point, giving her the encouragement and support she might need at a vulnerable time.  I’m not sure what I’ll do.

The second bit of significant news is that “Bill”, the head honcho at the drug/crack house who was arrested with 2 others in the drug bust 10 days ago, is out of jail and back at the crack house, where Hayley has been living.  This hardly seems fair – drug dealer released, struggling drug addict jailed. With Eric in jail, I don’t have details of this recent development.  I wonder who posted bail for Bill?  I thought his charges were serious enough that he wouldn’t be back in circulation for awhile.  Guess not.  Since I’ve had trouble reaching Hayley at the phone # from which she texted 10 days ago, now I’m considering  calling “Bill” myself, and ask to speak to my daughter.  I’ve done this before, and Bill was very ‘cordial’ and cooperative on the phone – almost solicitous.  Yes, I have the phone # of my daughter’s drug dealer and lots of other information I’d rather not know.

Did anyone watch program # 2 last week on TLC’s Addicted? What did you think? I thought they did a decent job of showing some of the treatment center’s program, Klaya’s struggle with leaving her family and the co-dependence issues of mother and daughter.   The fact that Klaya was using meth and prostituting to support her habit while living at home, was unbelievable.  The power of denial and co-dependence  were well documented. And, from what I know about hard-core drug addicts, Klaya seemed too well-groomed and ‘put-together’ to me – nails done, always fashionably dressed and coiffed, etc.  My daughter’s lack of personal hygiene and carelessness regarding her appearance during the last year or two, were huge red flags of drug abuse, in restrospect.  (see Dirty Fingernails) The program’s ending seemed a bit too tidy, and happy, and unrealistic, especially given the fact that Klaya had been using drugs and meth, in particular, for years.  However, she was quite young (19/20?), and still fairly malleable.I would love to see a follow-up on Klaya’s post treatment progress.  She appeared to be genuinely transformed after treatment – I do sincerely hope that she has been able to sustain her recovery.  Interventionist, Kristina Wandzilak, continues to appear very credible, professional, and effective in her no-nonsense and respectful approach. She would be an asset on anyone’s recovery team.  Wish she was on my daughter’s.

Hayley’s birthday is a little over a week away.  She’ll be 31 years old.  What do I get her for her birthday?  What does one buy, wrap up, and deliver to their heroin-addicted child?  I know, I know – love, encouragement, hope – – – and recovery, are what she needs most.  At this point, I just don’t know how to give and get those gifts to her.

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Responses to the new TLC program, “Addicted”: Wednesday nites, 10:00 pm

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , |

I have a tiny slice of personal history with Kristina Wandzilak, the ‘star’ and professional interventionist featured in TLC’s new program, Addicted. See my recent blog post, Addicted, for context and details.

I highly recommend Kristina’s memoir, The Lost Years. Here’s a brief overview:

The Lost Years, Surviving a Mother and Daughter’s Worst Nightmare, by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry.

A child caught in the depravity of alcohol and drug addiction; a mother helplessly standing by unable to save her. The Lost Years is the real life story of just such a mother and child, each giving their first hand accounts of the years lost to addiction and despair. Both mother and daughter are now in recovery – the mother from co- dependency and the ravaging effects of an addicted loved one; and the daughter, Kristina, now a nationally acclaimed speaker on addiction and is a professional addiction interventionist.  Visit her website at:

This memoir was helpful by giving an honest, disturbing look in to the underworld of cocaine and crack, ending  with its message of hope and recovery.  I tucked this book in to the bottom of my daughter’s suitcase when I helped her pack for medical detox in August 2009.  Four days later, she walked out of detox, AMA (against medical advice), and back to her life of addiction.  Has she ever even glanced at the book?  Who knows.

Kristina’s approach to intervention is this:  I don’t do surprise interventions. I don’t ambush or plan any sort of attack or confrontation. The addicted person is informed about the family intervention, but with or without them, I move forward with the intervention. The skill of a great interventionist is to find the crack in a very well-defended disease — to find a connection with the addicted person who, underneath it all, is hurting, ashamed and terrified. I believe, and always have, that the best way to create a connection is to be honest and direct, not to ambush someone. I refused to build an intervention practice based on deceit. See the complete article.

I was anxious to watch Kristina’s new program and see if there would be any new info, approach, strategies to ‘help’ an addict.  Kristina, a former crack addict and alcoholic, is now a professional interventionist in the San Francisco Bay area and believes that addiction is a family disorder. She tries to engage an addict’s entire family in the recovery process.  While trying to connect with Amanda, the ‘star’ addict of this first show, Kristina whispered to Amanda,   “I would never ask you to do something I haven’t done myself”.  This is true – and gives Kristina instant credibility and a more personal slant to the intervention process.  Kristina says that “the family can lead and the addict will follow”.  I’m not so sure about this.  You might want to visit The Kristina Chronicles, Kristina’s blog about addiction issues.

Personally, I thought that much of the program was melodramatic and a bit contrived,  focusing on the actual addictive behavior (to shock?  draw in an audience in a voyeuristic way?).  I would have  preferred to see more on the realities of recovery after completion of the treatment program vs the  pre-intervention/intervention process.  It would have been more helpful to me to see  Day 30 of treatment and how the addict then deals with post-treatment issues/challenges and sustaining sobriety.  This is when real recovery starts, and appears to be the most challenging for the addict – when the structure of a treatment program is stripped away and the recovering addict faces the reality of maintaining  sobriety amidst the triggers of depression, mental illness, lack of interpersonal skills, confidence, and self-esteem.  I also would have liked some footage dedicated to counseling family members in their post-treatment role to support the addict vs enabling behavior.  Jeez – will I ever get that part right?

I know that my own daughter will need some kind of long term treatment program and supervised living setting if she ever does decide to change her life.  Does any one have recommendations for 6 – 12 month, reasonably priced programs?

Here are some comments from my blog, pertinent to the program and intervention process:

I have been clean for 4 years and 3 months and can tell you from personal experience that an addict will not stop using until they are ready to stop. They can be threatened, prayed over, consoled, jailed, beaten, but they will not stop until they are desperate enough to stop. Bob –

What does desperation mean to you?  To the addict?  There is such a wide range of responses, no wonder it’s impossible to predict or recognize when an addict has “hit bottom”.

I think every single attempt, program and approach has the potential to be 100% successful if and only if the addict wants it. It doesn’t matter how much any of us want it for them. Lisa C.

So – here are some essential questions:  does the intervention process work?  If an addict says “yes” to treatment after an intervention, what are the statistics regarding length of recovery?  Is it ‘real’ recovery if an addict responds to the pressure of a family intervention?  Does it matter whether or not the addict is responding to family pressure vs recovery and treatment being initiated by the addict her/him self?

I asked a few friends to watch Addicted last week.  A couple of them had to turn it off – it was just too raw and made them extremely uncomfortable.  They’re right.  It was.  I didn’t particularly like watching it either.

And yet, I am desperate to learn more, find some concrete answers to how to facilitate (vs enabling) my daughter’s recovery.  I’m running out of time, I’m afraid.

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Crack House Busted

Posted on March 19, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I had wanted to chat about the program on Wednesday night, Addicted, but will have to save that discussion for another post.  I’m anxious to hear from you all about your thoughts regarding the show.

For me, right now, there’s more urgent business.  The saga/drama continues.  Yesterday afternoon, my drug world “mole”, Eric, phoned to tell me that the crack house was surrounded by a SWAT team and was being busted.  I was thinking that Hayley most likely wasn’t there, since she had told me a couple of weeks ago that she was still living with the “old guy”, even though I had heard differently. (Back to Square One and  Square One Plus a Millimeter)

I drove by the crack house, and sure enough – sheriff’s cars and van, bullet-proof vested officers, etc. were all there “mopping up”.  They were just pulling out of the crack house drive way when I drove by. This was the lead story on our local news last night, and in this morning’s newspaper, there was a small article mentioning that three arrests had been made at a known drug house – two men and one woman.  More arrests were anticipated.

So, I’m thinking – one of the guys arrested was probably Bill, Hayley’s drug dealer and supplier; and, I hoped the woman arrested was Paula, Bill’s “operations manager”.  She’s a tough bitch, who runs things at the drug house, steals, and beat up Hayley last summer.  (I”ll admit, I also kind of hoped that the woman arrested was Hayley).  After a fundraising event I attended last night, I drove past the crack house on my way home.  It looked dark, but all the drapes/shades where drawn.  I thought I saw a light on through one of the window blind slats.  As usual, there were various cars scattered around the property, in the drive way, and on the “lawn” (loose term).

At 1:17 am this morning, I received this text:

Mom, only phone and no minutes. U prob saw news. I’m ok. Was at house when they came in.  Didn’t arrest me or anything. Will  call as soon as I can.  U can txt. H

My text back:  “Where are you? At Bill’s? What do you want to do?”

Hayley’s response:

Yes. With friend. Only ones here. Trying to clean up. Don’t know. Will call u or txt in am. Need to decide. Treatment facilities out of state?  Cal or close to dad.

So – she’s holed up in the shut down crack house.  I’m sure her drug supply has been interrupted, but maybe there’s a stash somewhere, who knows.  And, at some point, she’ll most likely run out of food, let alone drugs.  This appears to be a turning point.

I wonder why Hayley wasn’t arrested herself?  There’s been a warrant out for her arrest since last July, for violating probation on a misdemeanor shoplifting offense.  And, yes – a treatment program in California near Santa Barbara sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Preferably near a beach.  Good lord.  Is she totally insane?  Can you travel out of state if there’s a warrant out for your arrest?  I’m sure she doesn’t have any photo ID on her – how would she fly on a plane?  And then there’s the heroin withdrawal/detox process, TB test waiting period, antibiotics to treat abscesses, before even getting to treatment, let alone paying for it.  Not to get bogged down in minutiae, but all these details seem overwhelming to me.  How could an active drug addict ever manage it all?  And, at this point, neither her father or I are willing to foot the bill or arrange for her treatment.  As you may recall, Hayley walked out of medical detox after 5 days (and $6,000) last August AMA and talked a cab driver in to driving her the 175 miles back here, with out a cent on her.  She is resourceful.  And the zinger is, when she arrived back in town, the crack house wouldn’t take her back!  I guess they recently changed their mind.

I made a few phone calls this morning to gather information.  If Hayley contacts me again, I will tell her to go to DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services) and apply for their ADATSA program.  They will evaluate and assess her, then recommend a treatment facility and pay for it, if she follows through with all the paper work and keeps appointments.  Seems highly unlikely to me.  This is at least a two week process, if not more, and she has no phone, transportation, and is deathly afraid she’ll be arrested if she registers with the state for welfare/medical coupons.  It is a risk.

Her text to me early this morning still sounds like she’s entitled to our help – and has only been pushed to reaching out because of the circumstances.  Is this the “bottom”?  Probably not.  Hayley’s older brother, Jake, just called and is blown away that Hayley just can’t say the words, “I need help.  Maybe I don’t know what’s best for me.”  Her pride and ego are the biggest barriers of all  to recovery.

Wanted to get this out there for your input.  It’s amazing to me how much wonderful comfort, support, information, and advice you guys give me.  Thank you.  I couldn’t get through all of this with out you.

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“Addicted” on TLC Wednesday Night

Posted on March 16, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , |

Watch this new series, Addicted, on Wednesday evenings @ 10:00 pm –   (check your local listings) on the TLC channel.

Last June, when I first learned that my 30 year old daughter, Hayley, was living in a crack house and smoking crack/using cocaine, I spun in to action with my supermom cape on.  Go to my blog entry Graduation, for a little context.

During that frantic, intense time of locating the crack house, trying to communicate with my daughter to encourage her to come home, investigating treatment centers/options, local addiction resources, talking with Hayley’s Probation Officer, the police, mental health care professionals, etc., I also read the book, The Lost Years, Surviving a mother and daughter’s worst nightmare, by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry.  This book had been given to me months before by a dear friend/avid reader.  She wondered if I might find it interesting.

The book was stunning – full of unpleasant, but interesting information about crack and addiction and, of course, an up close and personal look at the tangled and complex mother/daughter relationship.  Here’s a quick summary of the book:

“A child caught in the depravity of alcohol and drug addiction; a mother helplessly standing by unable to save her.  The Lost Years is the real life story of just such a mother and child, each giving their first hand accounts of the years lost to addiction and despair. Both mother and daughter are now in recovery – the mother from co-dependency and the ravaging effects of an addicted loved one; and the daughter, Kristina, from her alcohol and cocaine addictions”.

Kristina, the adolescent/young adult addict in this book, is now a nationally acclaimed speaker on addiction and is a professional addiction interventionist.  Visit her website at:

I was so moved by this book – and so desperate for help, that I visited Kristina’s website and left a personal message on her “contact me” tab.  I was stunned to receive a phone call from her the next day.  She lives and works in San Francisco.  I gave her a brief overview of Hayley’s situation – that I had just learned she was living in a crack house and smoking crack/using cocaine – and that I was exploring the possibility of an intervention.  Kristina was empathetic, helpful, and supportive.  When I mentioned how ironic it was that one of Hayley’s favorite TV programs was Intervention, Kristina was intrigued, and told me about her new, upcoming TV show, “Addicted”. She was looking for families willing to be filmed through the intervention process – that they would be compensated after filming with an all-expense paid treatment program for the addict featured.  She thought that Hayley might be receptive to such a proposal, especially with her substance use history and fascination/obsession with the program, Intervention.

WOW!  This possibility sounded enticing – and was the first shred of hope that had crossed my path, in a very long time. My daughter is very dramatic – and seems to crave the spotlight.  Being the star of her own drug addiction intervention and treatment program might just appeal to her.  And, if that is what gets her closer to recovery – why not?

When I discussed all of this with my therapist – and at Al-Anon meetings – the responses were the same. If Hayley were to submit to a treatment program as a result of the very commercial/public venue of a nationally syndicated  television program, she would not be entering rehab for the “right” reasons, which would most likely end in failure. Also, there was the “sticky wicket” of getting my family members to agree to be filmed and exposed very publicly ( to millions of viewers).  I didn’t think I could get the ‘key family players’ to agree to that. So, ultimately, I phoned Kristina back and said thanks, but no thanks.

I’ve wondered since if this was the ‘right’ thing to do.  And one family member posed the burning question:  Well, if being filmed and on TV is what it takes to get Hayley to treatment, then why not try it?

What are your thoughts on intervention?

Because an intervention would logistically be almost impossible with Hayley (in a crack house, no way to reliably communicate with her, get her to show up somewhere, the time/dollar expense of flying in family members from California, working around Hayley’s ‘fixes’ and physical needs, etc. ) – – – all of these factors seemed overwhelming and impossible to coordinate for some kind of group intervention.  Today, it still seems impossible to arrange.

However – my current mantra is to remain open to any and all options.  And after visiting Kristina’s web site regarding her professional approach to intervention, I still wonder.

Below, interventionist Kristina Wandzilak, C.A.S, BRI-II, Executive Director and the founder of Full Circle Intervention, co-author of the riveting memoir, The Lost Years, shares her thoughts on addiction, intervention, and recovery:

When most people think of intervention, they tend to think of an addict walking into a situation that he or she knows nothing about. I’ve been a maverick in the field of intervention for 14 years, throwing out the old idea that intervention needs to be addict-focused and secretive.

I don’t do surprise interventions. I don’t ambush or plan any sort of attack or confrontation. The addicted person is informed about the family intervention, but with or without them, I move forward with the intervention. The skill of a great interventionist is to find the crack in a very well-defended disease — to find a connection with the addicted person who, underneath it all, is hurting, ashamed and terrified. I believe, and always have, that the best way to create a connection is to be honest and direct, not to ambush someone. I refused to build an intervention practice based on deceit. See the complete article.

The memoir, The Lost Years, was helpful to me by giving an honest, disturbing look in to the underworld of cocaine and crack, ending  with its message of hope and recovery.  I tucked this book in to the bottom of my daughter’s suitcase when I helped her pack for medical detox in August 2009.  Four days later, she walked out of detox, AMA (against medical advice), and back to her life of addiction.  Has she ever looked at or read the book?  I don’t know.

So – tune in to Kristina’s new program on TLC, Addicted, 10:00 pm on Wednesday nights – and, let’s chat about all of it – does intervention work? When/where should intervention be considered?  What are the statistics regarding the success of intervention and recovery, yadayadayada.

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Staying Alive

Posted on March 15, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , |

A few days ago, my friend, Ang, texted me to tune in to National Public Radio (NPR) and listen to an interview that they were doing with Dr. Gabor Maté.  I wasn’t near a radio and couldn’t listen to the program, but later, I did google Dr. Maté.  Here’s some interesting info regarding Dr. Mate’s controversial work in Vancouver, BC.

Dr. Gabor  Maté is a physician specializing in the treatment of drug addiction in Vancouver, BC. For over seven years Gabor Maté has been the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and harm reduction facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. His patients are challenged by life-threatening drug addictions, mental illness, Hepatitis C or HIV and, in many cases, all four.

Tune in to an overview of this drug addiction treatment center on CBC’s TV series, Staying Alive and read what’s been written about it below:

“It has been called “an abomination” by a minister of Stephen Harper’s Canadian government. Its staff members claim it “saves lives.” A regular client calls it “a community centre for junkies.” Whatever you might call it, Insite is the only one of its kind in North America — a supervised injection site for drug addicts.

Insite, located in Vancouver’s notorious downtown eastside, has been controversial since it first opened its doors in 2003. An exemption from federal drug laws was granted to allow addicts to bring their drugs onto the premises and inject them; Insite provides clean needles and medical supervision. It’s funded by British Columbia’s government and championed by community leaders, but Harper’s government is openly hostile to it and is trying to shut it down.

Now, for the first time, cameras have been allowed to record the daily dramas at Insite. Inside is a world not many have seen before. In Staying Alive, reporter Hana Gartner introduces us to some of those who work there, including Darwin Fisher, the intake manager, and Dr. Gabor Maté, who has been caring for addicts, prostitutes and the homeless for the past 10 years. You’ll meet three addicts doing their best to survive. There is Dave, a user for half of his 40 years who has been coming to Insite since it first opened and who speaks to the harsh realities of life on the street. And Taz, who comes to the centre to detox and, in the process, confronts her past sexual abuse as she struggles for a better life. And finally, Shelly, who, despite her addiction, wants us to know: “I’m somebody’s kid. I’m somebody’s sister. All I want is for people just to say ‘hi’ sometimes and remember I have a heart that beats.”

Insite‘s future is uncertain. In this CBC exclusive, for the first time, viewers can see inside Insite and make up their own minds.”

Dr. Maté has written a book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

I haven’t yet read this book, so I’m including the review I found online, below.  If anyone has read this book, or is familiar with Dr. Mate’s work, please comment.

“In this timely and profoundly original new book, bestselling writer and physician Gabor Maté looks at the epidemic of addictions in our society, tells us why we are so prone to them and what is needed to liberate ourselves from their hold on our emotions and behaviors. But if Dr. Maté’s patients are at the far end of the spectrum, there are many others among us who are also struggling with addictions. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, work, food, sex, gambling and excessive inappropriate spending: what is amiss with our lives that we seek such self-destructive ways to comfort ourselves? And why is it so difficult to stop these habits, even as they threaten our health, jeopardize our relationships and corrode our lives?

Beginning with a dramatically close view of his drug addicted patients, Dr. Maté looks at his own history of compulsive behavior. He weaves the stories of real people who have struggled with addiction with the latest research on addiction and the brain. Providing a bold synthesis of clinical experience, insight and cutting edge scientific findings, Dr. Maté sheds light on this most puzzling of human frailties. He proposes a compassionate approach to helping drug addicts and, for the many behavior addicts among us, to addressing the void addiction is meant to fill.

I believe there is one addiction process, whether it manifests in the lethal substance dependencies of my Downtown Eastside patients, the frantic self-soothing of over-eaters or shopaholics, the obsessions of gamblers, sex-a-holics and compulsive internet users, or in the socially acceptable and even admired behaviors of the workaholic. Drug addicts are often dismissed and discounted as unworthy of empathy and respect. In telling their stories my intent is to help their voices to be heard and to shed light on the origins and nature of their ill-fated struggle to overcome suffering through substance use. Both in their flaws and their virtues they share much in common with the society that ostracizes them. If they have chosen a path to nowhere, they still have much to teach the rest of us. In the dark mirror of their lives we can trace outlines of our own.
from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Dr. Maté asks an important question regarding the treatment of drug addiction, How do you measure and define success?

When asked why he finds his work so gratifying and how he keeps himself going in the face of such such tragic, depressing outcomes , Dr. Maté answered that the deep authenticity of his patients is something he could never find in any other pool of patients.  At the point when these addicts enter his clinic, their honesty is so compelling and heart wrenching, that Dr. Maté and his staff will do whatever it takes to give them the care and compassion they deserve and are so desperately seeking.  Their need is  huge,  and the fact that often, Dr. Maté can mitigate their suffering, is a powerful and satisfying motivation for his work.

Maté contends that addicts are almost always abused.  The essence of his treatment approach is one of harm reduction:  to treat the symptoms of addiction and reduce the harm of the habit – that this is a legitimate medical goal. He advocates the decriminalization of drug possession and medically supervised drug use and treatment – that these ‘simple’ societal changes could be a huge economic savings to our entire society, that addicts shouldn’t have to commit crimes to support their habit – and that rehab settings should be comfortable and loving environments that prepare addicts to re-enter society with skills training and psychological support.  This approach to recovery is a  less costly and safer approach, at the very least, and more importantly, is more humane.

I’m anxious to hear from you about some of these ideas.  My own have changed a lot since beginning this blog last September.

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Add Your 2 Cents

Posted on March 13, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , |

Quick reminder before I post my next entry – please visit my Supportive Friends post and contribute to Letty’s book, “How To Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick.”  She will be including a chapter on families and addiction.  Letty is a nationally known author, NY Times columnist, founding editor of MS magazine.  She is a personal friend of mine, and was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  As a result of this personal health crisis, she decided to write a book, How To Be A Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick. After learning about my daughter’s heroin addiction, she solicited information from me to include in her book. And so, blogger friends, I ask you for your input.  What dialogue, questions, actions from friends have been most helpful regarding your child’s drug addiction?  What have been least helpful – even hurtful?   Also, please read my post, Beautiful Child, as background/context to my most recent post,  beautiful boy – up close and personal.

See you on Sunday.

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beautiful boy – – – up close and personal

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Last Thursday evening, I attended a speaking event in Seattle, sponsored by the Recovery Café. It featured David Sheff, author of beautiful boy, a father’s journey through his son’s meth addiction and his son, Nic, who wrote the book tweak, growing up on methamphetamine. (Listen to David and Nic in an interview)   First, a little info about The Recovery Cafe:

The Recovery Café is a loving, supportive community serving men and women traumatized by homelessness, addiction and mental health challenges. Recovery Café was founded on the belief that every human being is precious and beloved regardless of past trauma, mental and emotional anguish and addictive behaviors. Recovery Café seeks to embrace everyone who enters; to help each individual come to know him/herself as one who is loved, with gifts and love to share with our community.

David Sheff is not a natural speaker.  He gets tongue-tied a bit when he’s speaking ‘off the cuff’.  However, when he began reading from his notes, he became more confident and impassioned.  And, as the evening went on, he became more comfortable as a spontaneous speaker and did well in fielding questions from the audience. It was touching how he and his son, Nic, demonstrated their love and respect for each other in an uninhibited, affectionate way that almost made me weep.  I fantasized that one day my lost daughter, Hayley, and I could come together and be as forgiving, generous, and loving with each sother.

David recounted his own drug use and experimentation as a young adult – that drugs helped make him feel more – – – and less.  He expressed guilt about his drug use and admitted to a lot of self-blame and regret, which were, ultimately, useless and incapacitating.

He acknowledged that he became addicted to his son’s addiction.  Here are some excerpts from Sheff’s book that express this co-dependence:

•Nic’s addiction became far more compelling than the rest of my  life. p.305

•This realization impelled me to do whatever I could to get past  my obsessive worry about Nic.  I could not change Nic, only me.  And so instead of focusing on Nic’s recovery, since then I have  focused on mine.  I  learned that  at some point,  focusing on Nic’s perpetual crises became safer territory than focusing on myself. p. 309

• . . . it’s futile. You cannot control an addict.  Family members’ moods become dependent on how the addict is doing.  People become obsessed.  There is no joy left in their life. p. 153

•Therapists say that parents of children on drugs often get a form of posttraumatic stress syndrome made worse by the recurring  nature of addiction.  We pretend that everything is all right.  But we live with a time bomb.  It is debilitating to be dependent on          another’s moods and decisions and actions – codependent on  his/ her well-being for ours. p.228

•Some of the times when Nic wasn’t all right it got so bad that I  wanted to wipe out and delete and expunge every trace of him from my brain so that I would not have to worry about him anymore and I would not have to be disappointed by him and hurt by him and I would not have to blame myself and blame him and I would no longer have the relentless and haunting slide show of images of my lovely son, drugged, in the most sordid,  horrible scenes imaginable.” p.241

•. . . we are connected to our children, no matter what. . . the perpetual angst and humming anxiety and intermittent depression that comes with Nic’s addiction.  I don’t remember me before this.  I am accustomed to the way that joy can be fleeting and I can sometimes fall into a dark pit. p.249

David Sheff is very much of the “school” that Nic is ill and suffering from the ‘disease’ of addiction.  And although he is a strong supporter of AlAnon, he admonished the popular ‘cliché’ to Let Go and Let God.  “How can a parent ‘let go’ of a child?” he proffered. Yeah – that’s the million dollar question that I struggle with.

David, like the rest of us, struggles with the contradictory advice and opinions regarding his son’s recovery, and his own role in that journey.  The anguish and hysteria that a parent of a drug addict experiences, is paralyzing.  But David reminded the audience that we need to ‘let go’ of the fantasy that we can control – well, anything, most especially our addict – and that that is what ‘letting go’ truly means.  David went on to admit that he was in denial for a very long time regarding the seriousness of Nic’s addictions.  With Nic excelling in school academically and on the varsity swim team, it was ‘easy’ to rationalize and/or excuse some of Nic’s aberrant behavior.  While listening to this and recognizing my own denial, I recalled something I heard in AlAnon recently about there being an elephant in the living room . . . with a doily on its head.  Now that’s denial!

David also advocated sharing your family’s ‘dark secret’ of addiction with close friends, family, and at AlAnon.  You’re only as sick as your secrets, was his advice, referencing AlAnon.

I didn’t want to like Nic Sheff.  He looked and sounded like a bit of a punk when I’ve seen him before in interviews.  However, as the evening wore on, I did warm up to him – and he seemed to have some genuine self-awareness regarding the damage he had done to the family and himself.  He also was adept at handling questions from the audience in a non-reactive and careful, respectful way.

Nic Sheff’s parents divorced when he was 4, and he grew up in and around San Francisco with his father, David and stepmother, Karen. Without too many words, Sheff does a good job of setting the scene: privileged in a Northern California artsy way, with semi-famous (never named) family friends floating in and out of the narrative and easy access to good schools. Sheff’s addictions seem to come from a place outside reason or logic or any kind of easy explanation; he got drunk for the first time at age 11, smoked pot through high school, dropped out of college to go to rehab, relapsed and never knew how to stop. Meth and heroin become his drugs of choice.  

Nic talked about his feeling like he didn’t fit in with the other kids/groups his age – that he wasn’t all that comfortable in his own skin.  He first got high at age 11 or 12 – and, spent all the subsequent years chasing that initial high – which was an impossible quest.  Drugs enhanced his performance, he maintained. Pot stimulated and heightened his activity level, versus the stereotypical notion that after smoking pot, the user becomes sedated.  Same with alcohol.  For Nic, drugs were a “medication” verses an euphoric agent – necessary to feel more genuine, confident, and  . . . him self – (or who he wanted to become.)

Nic has been sober now for a little over a year.   He’s had two major relapses since writing his book. Here’s what he had to say about relapsing in a CNN interview in April 2009:

“When I did crystal meth for the first time, it was like the answer to my problems. I felt strong and confident, just like a superstar or something,” said Sheff, who is 26. He kicked his addiction and wrote “Tweak,” a popular book about the toll drugs took on his life. His recovery looked like a success. Everyone, including Sheff, thought he had beaten his disease.  But he went over the edge again. He relapsed in May 2008 and again in October.

Sheff, who has bipolar disorder, said a split with his girlfriend and an episode of manic behavior precipitated his return to drug abuse.

“I am isolated, alone, disgusted with everything and, most especially, myself. I am filled to overflowing with pain and torment and weight,” Sheff wrote in a remarkable four-page letter to CNN. Read about Nic Sheff’s drug relapse in his own words Sheff admitted to taking prescription drugs and smoking pot.  “I just felt like a needed relief so badly,” he said.

The peril of relapse haunts most addicts.

“Relapse is certainly sometimes part of the disease process,” said Dr. Kevin Clark, medical director at the nonprofit Hazelden addiction treatment center near Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Our figures are about 53 percent to 56 percent of patients remain abstinent for a year.” That means about half relapse. Hazelden, one of few rehabs to publish results, hopes to improve its abstinence rate to about 75 percent over the next five years, Clark said.

Back to last Thursday’s appearance by the Sheffs – – – In response to a question from the audience about what he thought about Suboxone, Nic Sheff  ‘admitted’ to currently being on Suboxone – that he didn’t understand the controversy surrounding it, and that it was crucial to his recovery.  He said that initially he did get high from it, but now it was just a ‘maintenance’ medication.  He hated having to be dependent on it – that he would get ‘sick’ if he didn’t take it, but it was kind of a fact of life for him.  He didn’t elaborate or go in to detail regarding how long he would be using Suboxone.

Nic  now lives in Portland with his 2 dogs.  He said he had found meaning in life through his dogs and his writing, and that treatment had taught him to love himself.  I’m not sure if he has a ‘real’ job or not – or if he supports himself with speaking engagements and the publication of his book, Tweak.

Since hearing the Sheffs speak, several younger friends have told me that their middle school-aged kids read Tweak. I haven’t read Tweak yet myself;  but I was shocked to hear this news.  The material seems a little raw and provocative – which is maybe why adolescents like it, I guess.

Is drug addiction a choice or a disease? Is relapse a necessary part of recovery?  Almost every story of recovery that I read or hear, talks about the recovering addict having gone through at least 4 – 8 treatment programs.  Is my daughter capable of such commitment?  Will she ever get to # 1?  Can I endure 5 or more rehabs, and what is involved, which is what it seems to take?  Are these questions pointless and futile?  Probably.

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The Deep, Dark Hole

Posted on March 2, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, The Bottom | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I’m going to be ‘on duty’ for the next week, taking care of my two grandchildren (3 & 5 yo) while their parents are out of the country.  I’m sure I won’t have much time to post on my blog.  But please, still check in.  Especially since Thursday evening, I will be hearing David Sheff, and his meth addict son, Nic, speak at Town Hall in Seattle..  I really enjoyed David Sheff’s moving memoir, beautiful boy, and am looking forward to seeing/hearing him in person.  His son, Nic, about whom Sheff wrote the book, will also be appearing with him.  Nic has written his own book, Tweak, an up close and personal view of meth addiction.  I know that Nic has relapsed several times since his father’s book was published – and since writing his own.  I’m curious to hear the parent/child journey through addiction, and where they both are now.  Check out my beautiful boy book review and book notes/excerpts, and tune in for my impression/reaction to the Sheffs’ appearance on Thursday evening.

In the mean time, if you haven’t visited the Recovery Help Desk blog, do.  Tom, a professional addiction counselor, has good information there and interesting perspectives on a variety of provocative topics.  I’ve been thinking a lot about his post,  Hitting Bottom. It was uncomfortable to read, because it challenged my current position with my daughter and went against what most professionals/groups/literature have said about addicts and their ‘need’ to feel enough pain before seeking help.

After trying to ‘help’ my daughter over the last several months (and years!), I backed completely off  and decided to let her feel the full impact of her life choices, hoping that this approach would jolt her in to seeking recovery on her own.  She’s smart.  She’s resourceful, and I truly believe that she knows where to go to get help for herself.  However, Tom makes a good case for challenging that notion – that ” . . . an opiate dependent person does not have full exercise of their free will.  Their free will is compromised.” And, ” Opiate dependence is powerful enough and the opiate dependent person’s free will is compromised enough, that waiting for the person to “hit bottom” can mean the person goes on to experience HIV infection, Hepatitis C infection, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, loss of child custody, loss of family relationships, risk of violence, or worse.”

I know all of this.  I am obsessed by it.  And yet, I felt like I had made some kind of personal progress by ‘detaching’ from my daughter and trying the ‘tough love’ approach.  It hasn’t worked.  And one final blow – Tom wrote that the concept of purportedly letting the addict hit bottom,  ” . . . excuses those who sit idly by and do nothing to prevent suffering.”  Ouch.  I must admit, as hard as it has been to ‘sit idly by’ and  ‘do nothing’, it also has brought some perverse relief. I haven’t seen my heroin addict daughter since August 24th, nor been subjected to her dramas, lies, excuses, pathetic state.  This tears me apart, but also provides me with some sort of emotional protection. Is this selfish?  Probably.  But now, after reading Tom’s post about the ill-conceived concept of “hitting bottom”, I’m trying to work up the courage to more actively engage with Hayley.

But, how do I do that? What does it look like?  What, specifically, would be helpful in moving her towards recovery?  To my knowledge, we don’t have many of the resources that Tom references in his article.  However, I did find the only doctor in town who can prescribe suboxone.  I wasn’t impressed with him when Hayley and I visited him last summer.  The doctor was anxious to fill his one remaining open slot (he’s allowed 100 suboxone patients), and suggested that Hayley begin suboxone immediately.  She was covered with abscesses, and he didn’t examine her, or even take her blood pressure.  When I mentioned her abscesses, he ignored my question and moved on to the treatment and fee schedule.  That night, a bed became available at a medical detox facility 150 miles away, so Hayley never went back to the ‘good doctor’.

After reading posts at the Recovery Help Desk, I am more informed and receptive to using diversion medications (methadone, suboxone) to treat opiate addiction.  But how can I help my daughter even get to that point, and care enough about herself to want to move towards recovery?  I have no idea.

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Soft Addictions: We all have them, don’t we?

Posted on March 1, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , |

My daughter, on our way to medical detox last August, asked if she could have a beer?  I said no.  She responded with, “Isn’t beer better than heroin?”  Hmmmm.  Yes and no.  She did have a point,  especially from a hard core drug user’s perspective.  If your qualifier is primarily an alcoholic, then no, alcohol would not ever be considered “ok”.  But if your qualifier is a heroin addict, then maybe a beer isn’t so bad?  Is it analogous, in some ways, to Tom at Recovery Help Desk, advocating for methadone use, itself a very addictive drug, to help get someone off heroin, out of the risky lifestyle, and lessen the addict’s craving? I don’t know. I’m merely posing the question.

I got to thinking about so-called ‘soft’ addictions, the insidious, more culturally acceptable crutches we all use to get through our days and lives.  What exactly is the difference between a habit and an addiction?

Have humans always used something to alter their consciousness in some way?  I think so.  And why?  Perhaps it’s because life is hard, and we all need coping mechanisms.  Some of these are healthier than others – but they all have a similar purpose – – – to numb and/or fill some kind of hole.

I have come to believe that we are born (nature) with a certain outlook on life – that is usually reinforced (nurture) by our life circumstances and family dynamics.  For me, life is hard.  We all, in my opinion, ‘use’ something to ease the burden of life’s everyday stresses and demands.

Yes, my heroin addict daughter represents the extreme in regards to this topic, but I ask the question – – – can you relate?  In many ways, I can.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines habit as:  a pattern of action that is acquired and has become so automatic that it is difficult to break; an addiction, especially to narcotics.

And what about obsessive-compulsive behavior?  Where does that fit in to the habit/addiction continuum, and can’t OCD become harmful to relationships and life?

OK – let’s look at ‘soft addictions’.

After a tough day, do you come home and flop in your easy chair, grab a bag of chips and zone out in front of the television? Or maybe you compulsively check your e-mail, spend hours surfing the internet or stay up late chatting with strangers in chat rooms. Whether you get lost in cyberspace, over shop, watch too much TV, gossip, bite your nails, daydream excessively, procrastinate or over-exercise, you may be caught in what Judith Wright calls a “soft addiction”.

Soft Addictions are seemingly harmless habits that rob us of our time, zap our energy, numb us from our feelings, mute our consciousness and keep us from living the satisfying, meaningful lives we desire.

Soft Addictions can be activities, moods or ways of being, avoidances, and things-edible and consumable. Many soft addictions involve necessary behaviors like eating, reading, and sleeping. They become soft addictions when we overdo them and when they are used for more than their intended purpose.

Author’s Bio
Identifying Soft Addictions is just one of the eight key life skills shared by national best-selling author, speaker, and educator, Judith Wright in her new book, There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions.

So – let’s look at ourselves.  Are you involved in a regular activity, avoidance, mood or habit that is a soft addiction?
Take this ‘Soft Addiction Quiz’ and find out, if you’re interested.

These questions, regarding addiction, are things to consider when evaluating if behavior is  a habit, compulsion, or addiction:

You Might Be an Addict If:

  • You are no longer comfortable around your old friends
  • You surround yourself with people who live their lives “high”
  • You have given up previously enjoyable activities – playing baseball, swimming, dancing, etc. to get high instead
  • You find yourself isolating yourself more and more – you spend countless hours totally alone and non-productive
  • People who love you (trusted family and friends) are telling you they think you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol
  • The only people that agree with your assessment (you are not an addict) are the people you use with
  • If you have lost jobs due to drugs/alcohol
  • If you have lost friends due to drugs/alcohol
  • If you have tried (time and time again) to control your habit … “I’ll only drink/use on weekends” … and you have failed repeatedly.
  • If you sleep something like 2 hours or 18 hours each day
  • If you have gained or lost a significant amount of weight rapidly
  • If you have ever been jailed because of substance use or issued a DUI

These are only some indicators that might suggest you have an addiction. Maybe the best indicator is how happy are you? Or, are you miserable a great deal of the time? As stated earlier, only you can determine if your substance use/regular behavior is a habit or an addiction.

“Our” heroin addicts are, of course, living with and exercising  ‘hard’ addiction.  But how big of a jump is it, really, from our culture’s socially acceptable  “soft addictions”, to the ‘big time?  What is the tipping point?  How many soft addictions are we allowed?  Which are ok?  Just wondering.

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