Archive for April, 2010

“Addicted”, Intervention, and An Addict’s Fear

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

I was all set to tune in to the program, Addicted last night at 10:00 pm on TLC; however, it wasn’t on.  I’m not sure why.  Did its contract only run for six programs?

I have ‘enjoyed’ the show, in that, even though it’s difficult to watch, I’ve learned things I didn’t know about a variety of drugs. Although my daughter is a heroin addict, I’m sure she has probably tried the entire menu of drugs out there, depending on what was available at the time. Actually seeing how certain drugs are used, the paraphernalia involved, the living conditions of drug addicts, their enabling families, every one’s desperation – all of it adds to my knowledge bank – which is, of course, a painful deposit.

I had also wanted to make a few comments regarding Kristina Wandzilak as a professional interventionist and her process.  First, I found her to be entirely genuine – very authentic in her emotional connection to the addict and their families. Allowing herself to spontaneous emote along with the addict and family members can not be scripted, in my opinion.  And, Kristina’s ability to relate to the addict in a very personal way is unique, I think. Her own journey through addiction and recovery give her insight and strategies that cannot necessarily be taught, but are only learned through experience.

It occurred to me that one reason Kristina is so effective, is that she follows her clients through the rehab process, serving as their personal coach, advocate, and liaison to family.  This is a crucial component, I think, to keeping the recovering addict on track since they can easily detour off the prescribed path towards sobriety.  I wonder if Kristina does this with all her clients, or just those being filmed for the TV series?  I don’t know – but this technique is so crucial, I think, that I would consider using it if and when we do an intervention with Hayley.

Which brings me to that controversial topic of –  INTERVENTION. I’ve raised the intervention issue several times in past blog posts.  Our family considered it last summer when we first learned of Hayley’s crack cocaine use – which quickly led to her heroin use. (Graduation) I can understand the rationale for both sides of the intervention debate.  However – – – things have deteriorated so horribly for Hayley in the last couple of weeks that I’ve decided to try an intervention – for myself, really.  My daughter has never had a professional intervention, and has never been to a drug treatment program, even though she has probably been chemically dependent on something for the last 10 years.  I truly believe that yes, Hayley can be very resourceful in terms of procuring her drug of choice, but is still incapable of getting herself out of this deep, dark hole of addiction. And so – in order to truly know that I tried every thing I could and was available to me to ‘help’ my terminally ill daughter, I want to try this – an intervention. I feel strongly that Hayley deserves a chance – with help – to get clean and sober enough to then be capable of making important decisions for herself and her future.

After Hayley walked out of medical detox last August, our family essentially washed our hands of her.  This was her first experience in medical detox, and she was then scheduled to go to a woman’s treatment center in Seattle.  I just learned that after almost 5 days of de-toxing, with the worst behind her as far as physical withdrawal symptoms, her anxiety issues kicked in and she just couldn’t face going to treatment.  That unknown seemed too overwhelming to her, whereas going back to using heroin and its accompanying lifestyle, was something she knew, was familiar with, in a ‘community’, of sorts, where she had a place.  “Belonging” – – – a very seductive reason to re-join and/or become a part of any group.

Kristina Wandzilak, in her blog, The Kristina Chronicles, had this to say regarding “Fear and the Addict”:

“How much of fear is responsible for a person’s descent into addiction and inability to retrieve him or herself from it? Addicts, in general, are fear-based individuals. I’m not sure that fear has a lot to do with the manifestation of the disease, per se, but once we’re in it, fear keeps us from getting better.

We’re afraid of what will happen to us. We’re afraid of success, of failure, of living and of dying. We’re afraid to try to get better. It can feel easier to be resigned to a life of addiction than to live a different, sober life. Sobriety changes everything. “

Some of you may know blogger, Dawn (DHAM).  She sent me this excerpt from a recovering addict’s blog: (

“I was zombie like–running on automatic. Addicts don’t desire financial ruin, loss of self respect, ruining good relationships with family or friends, or spending time in jail/prison.  Those are all just consequences of being an addict.

People w/o addictions generally make their decisions based on their conscious motivations.  An example, normal people get jobs so they can pay bills and support their families.  For me as an addict, my decisions were made based on an impulsive, physiological drive for drugs.  Every decision I made in life was centered around my drug addiction.  The only reason I got a job was so I could pay for my drugs.  If it was a choice between paying bills and copping a bag, the bag would always win.  If I had a choice between eating a meal and drugs—-drugs.

Self control was non existent for me.  My probation officer told me if I failed another piss test at one point I’d go to prison for five years.  So for two weeks I’d quit using 3 days before I saw my probation officer.  Then the lack of self-control took over me.  During my 3 days of not using, I’d continually obsess over the drug, and despite the potential consequences of 5 years in prison, the drug would win.

The drug came before everything in my life.  The high was more important than my family, my friends, money, food, water, my health, my future, my own life.    Consequences never even crossed my mind like they do for ‘normal’ people.  I needed it.  I lived it.  I breathed it.  It became me…”

I guess it sounds as if I’m trying to justify and make a case for doing an intervention with Hayley.  I am – and, I’m not.  This blog helps me articulate my feelings, think “out loud”, and get some clarity.  Essentially, I’ve decided to do what I can to get Hayley to treatment.  It’s a matter of life and death. She needs help to do this, and deserves a chance  – at life.

P.S. our apple blossoms are in bloom – as is most everything, now. The image at the beginning is a photo I took last year – and represents such hope of new life, new beginnings, re-birth – – –  I sometimes dare not look at it.  But today, I’ve allowed myself this beauty and joy – and I’m feeling a glimmer of hope, that I’m trying to ‘contain’ and keep realistic.  After all, it’s all I have.

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Take a Seat

Posted on April 25, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Today I attended my regular home Al-Anon meeting, and was reminded of why I keep going back. I find such comfort, support, fellowship, and hope in that room.  Hearing other people’s comments/stories never fails to put my own life in to perspective.  And I always learn something new about either myself, or my situation.

If you have never attended an Al-Anon meeting, I encourage you to give it a try. There is most likely an Al-Anon meeting every day (or evening) of the week in your own community.  I suggest you try at least 5 different meetings to find one that feels right.  Different groups have different styles and personalities. My group is a parent focus group, although anyone can attend.  I originally started attending Al-Anon back in 2002, when my daughter, Hayley, was diagnosed with a serious eating disorder.  She was 23 years old, had graduated from college, and was living/working in California. Al-Anon is truly for any one whose life has been affected by any kind of addiction. The most important principle of Al-Anon is anonymity.  First names only are used, and you can be assured that what is said in the room, stays there. Feeling free to truly say what is in your heart and mind, with out fear of judgment, is incredibly comforting, helpful, and freeing.  AND – every single person in the room is there for the same reason you are – to learn how to cope with the devastation of addiction in the family.  And in the process, you  learn how to take care of yourself and be happy, and to acquire tools for strengthening and gaining balance in all relationships, in spite of what your “qualifier” is doing or not doing.

Taking life one day at a time has proven essential in both AA and in Al-Anon’s program of recovery for family members whose life has been adversely affected by addiction.  The Serenity Prayer is timeless and applicable to  all aspects of life:

For me, coming to realize and believe the three “Cs” is a constant work in process:  I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.  And, learning how to love and support without enabling is, again, something that I need a lot of help with.

Today’s reminder in my daily Al-Anon meditation reading was this (paraphrased):

When something isn’t working the way I think it should, I need to slow down and reassess the situation. The answer I seek may be staring me in the face, but sometimes I have to let go of what I’m doing before I can see it. Forced solutions usually don’t work.  “Easy Does It” is an Al-Anon slogan that reminds us that we may not have all the answers today. This is not a failure, only a reality. It is not always our job to solve every problem. Or, maybe we are trying to take on something that is not our responsibility. Sometimes even doing nothing can be far more productive than taking a random action or forcing a solution. If we adopt a kinder, more relaxed attitude, we may be able to see the situation more clearly and act more appropriately.

I have often felt soooo anxious, that I  have to do something in regards to my daughter.  But through AlAnon, I have started to practice just letting things unfold – to pause before I act – to step back and take my time before jumping in.

Professional interventionist and star of the new TLC show, Addicted, Kristina Wandzilak, wrote a post on her blog, The Kristina Chronicles, called Take a Seat. The premise of this post applies not only to suffering addicts, but to their family members, as well.  AA, NA, and Al-Anon are all free, accessible any day of the week, and are a safe place to find help, comfort, and hope.

There are some things about Al-Anon that I can’t quite align myself with – but in general, I have learned to “ . . . take what I want and leave the rest”.  It works for me.  And so, I encourage you to take a seat at an Al-Anon meeting, and see what you think.

(You also might want to pick up the book How Al-Anon Works, an easy to read book that is full of wisdom and one that you can read over and over again – a manual for life, really) 

P.S. I also highly recommend Kristina Wandzilak’s compelling memoir, The Lost Years.    

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“Addicted”: Programs # 5 & # 6

Posted on April 23, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Addicted:  Programs # 5 & 6; Wednesday @ 10:00 pm on TLC

I’m going to try to keep this brief.  Instead of a blow-by-blow summary of these programs, I’m just going to list some common themes and pertinent pearls.

In all six of the programs I’ve watched, the physical transformation of the addict/alcoholic after being clean and sober for just 30 days, was remarkable, and gives me hope. The recovering addicts’ change in attitude, willingness to embrace their sobriety and work a program, were also impressive. How long this “honeymoon” period lasts in reality, I don’t know. However, addict Mark, in Night Navigation talks about the 3 – 6 month “fuckits” – when the thrill and euphoria of sobriety wear off and the real work begins.  Recovering addicts are particularly vulnerable during this time. Follow-up programs at the 6 to 12 month recovery stage would be interesting and insightful –  and, perhaps, give us a more realistic picture of an addict’s difficult struggle and how to better support their recovery.

Interventionist, Kristina Wandzilak’s involvement with the addict through out the treatment process is a crucial component, I think, to the intervention and treatment program’s success. She coaches the addict, takes him/her on motivational “field trips” , and is a fairly neutral (non-family member)  mediator when problems arise.  Perhaps this is what’s necessary to sustain long term recovery?

Almost all of the addicts’ parents and family members seemed intimidated by “their” addict – somewhat ‘afraid’ of them. They were also experienced enablers. (aren’t we all?) Jeremy’s mother articulated my own feelings:  “I feel like such a failure”. She added, “ . . . every time I say yes to him it’s helping him die slowly . . . “  Jeremy’s mother’s intense need to be liked by her son, interfered with her ability to effectively parent.

“Jeremy”, in program # 5, smoked oxycontin, which I had never seen before. And the fact that Kristina had worked with Jeremy two years ago, was interesting. I would have liked to learn more about that first intervention process and how/why it failed.

In program # 6, Annie and Michael were “speedballing” heroin and cocaine. Watching Michael desperately try to find a usable vein on Annie, was difficult to watch.  Annie was bruised from head to toe with injection-site infections and cellulitis.  Ultimately, Annie has to use veins in her neck in order to get a fix.  Mike’s arms were also totally ravaged, infected, swollen.  In fact, he could barely bend one of his arms, or use it in a very functional way. The absolute desperation of the addict  – in trying to score some junk, pay for it, find a vein in which to inject it – – – all of it was exhausting and full of unbearable suspense.  Annie’s intense craving and battered body reinforced the mental images I have of my own daughter. The unbelievably difficult lifestyle of a heroin addict was dramatically portrayed. Annie said  she hated the lifestyle, but was afraid to leave it. It recalled something I said to Hayley when I met with her on her birthday, April 6th.  I told her that if she could be a heroin addict and all that that lifestyle entailed, she could do or be anything.  Ironic, isn’t it?

The agitation, physical pain, and power of heroin withdrawal in Program # 6, were raw and unpleasant to watch, but gave me a better idea of how difficult “kicking it” can be.

One of the things that bothered me, however,  was Mike’s statement about speedballing: “ . . . it’s ruined my life.”  This statement seemed to shift the blame and accountability from himself and the choices he made to the drug itself. He sounded like a victim:  “We don’t have any money to keep us well. We’re screwed.”  “WAAAHHH”, I wanted to scream.

Kristina’s words to the family were : it’s possible to be happy, joyful, free, regardless of what the addict is doing.

And to the addicts she re-iterates: “You have to do the work in order to change”. And, “Take a step at a time.  You’re not going to get it all at once.”

And to all of us, she says: “With addiction, it doesn’t really matter how much someone loves you.”

I still wonder how, during a 28 day treatment program, are addicts even capable of reflecting, or doing the necessary personal work to change and sustain sobriety? Aren’t the first 30 days or so essentially just getting the toxins out so the addict can think more clearly?

I truly can’t imagine Hayley getting herself out of the powerful addiction cycle without help, ie: an intervention.  I feel as if I’m merely waiting around until some catastrophic event occurs. And this is my haunting dilemma.  How much time do we have? I’m not sure I can rest until we’ve tried an intervention to give my daughter a chance to get clean and clear her head. And then, if that doesn’t work, I can feel better about stepping back and letting Hayley find her own way – to recovery – – – – or, whatever.

I did check out Kristina Wandzilak’s blog, The Kristina Chronicles, and think it’s worth visiting.  Her post on Wednesday, April 21st,  Take A Seat, was pretty good.

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A Piece of the Puzzle

Posted on April 21, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I was flabbergasted to learn that Hayley called my 92 yo mother a week or so ago. I’m not sure what it meant – but I have to think that this was some kind of step towards something. However, I’ve learned not to make too much of almost any/every thing. I don’t really know the full details of the conversation, and never will. However, within a few days of Hayley’s and my meeting on her 31st birthday, she must have felt guilty/moved enough to call her elderly and failing grandmother. My mother hasn’t seen or heard from Hayley since her 30th birthday dinner/party more than a year ago.

My mother is very tricky territory.  I’ve come to learn and realize how narcissistic she is. She can be very cruel, mean, and full of blame – really, quite emotionally abusive.

For several months I had tried to keep Hayley’s ‘situation’ from my mother, but it became way too hard and was just too much work.  I didn’t want my mother to know about Hayley for very selfish reasons – to protect myself, as well as Hayley, from my mother’s projected anxiety, wrath, and blame game. During this past year of dealing with Hayley’s ‘hard’ addictions, my mother has said the cruelest things to me – like, “Your daughter hates you” (then why am I the one she calls and stays in touch with?); “The reason Hayley is so screwed up is because you made her take ballet lessons as a little girl”; “Maybe it would be better if we would just find her floating in the river”; “I’d like to come down there and talk to Hayley and straighten her out – she won’t talk to you”; and, “You’ve lost her, you know. Start grieving.”  These are just a few of the bombs she dropped.

Two weeks ago on Hayley’s birthday, my mother called me in the evening.  She didn’t bother to ask how I was doing, or to offer any comfort or support, such as “I know today must have been difficult for you, Peg.”  When she asked if I’d heard from Hayley and I told her that I had actually met with her, she didn’t believe me, then insisted that Hayley hates me and wondered how I was able to arrange the meeting.

My mother is clinically narcissistic – she aggrandizes, exaggerates, turns everything back to herself, and is also committed to finding someone to hold responsible for anything that goes wrong. She, herself, at age 92, is still a deeply wounded child of an alcoholic mother.  I’ve learned only bits and pieces about my mother’s childhood, but know that it was filled with shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety.  She grew up in a small town in Minnesota where her mother’s alcoholism was difficult to hide, let alone treat in any way. When Mom was about 7 hears old, her 5 yo sister was killed by a drunk driver as she played in the front yard/on the street median in front of their house. And when my mom was almost 15 yo, her younger sister was born. Her parents divorced a few years later and her dad, my grandfather, took the baby sister with him to Duluth to live with his Danish immigrants parents,  So, my mother never really had much of a childhood and left home as soon as she could at age 17. In fact, after Mom left for college, she came home for a visit one weekend and found her mother passed out on the couch, and her baby sister no where to be found. Baby sister was hanging out at the neighbors’, and this frightening incident was forever, indelibly emblazoned in to my mother’s persona. It was at that point that my beloved grandfather moved to Duluth, taking his toddler daughter with him.

My mom essentially had no contact with her mother after that, except at the funeral of her (my mother’s)  younger brother, killed in action during WWII.  I’ve learned that she received a phone call, in her early 30s, after marrying and having two children, learning of her mother’s death. My grandmother never met me or my brother – in fact, I didn’t even know she existed.

With 8 years of therapy and AlAnon meetings under my belt, I know that my mother has transferred all the guilt, shame, anger, and anxiety about her mother over to Hayley. Hayley’s addiction has stirred up all sorts of buried, repressed feelings and issues in my mother.  And, I know enough about my mother’s need to cope and her lack of skills in this area, to forgive her for the way she treats me and her granddaughter.

While on this journey of addiction with my daughter, I have inadvertently learned a lot about my mother and the impact her mother’s alcoholism had in shaping who she became and is, today. And, I’ve developed a lot more compassion for and understanding of why she is the way she is.  I also greatly admire my mother’s  spunk, and strength, and determination to carry on with her life, in spite of her compromised childhood. She, unfortunately, didn’t ever have the resources or tools to deal with the fallout of her mother’s alcoholism and, as a result, her nurturing skills and interpersonal relationships suffered greatly.

For the past 8 years, I have been trying to sort out, identify, and understand three generations of mother/daughter relationships in our family.  I need to do this work.  I am convinced that armed with a better understanding of these systemic family dynamics, I can break the problematic, toxic relationship cycle in our family.  I’m going to give it my best shot.

My mom is 92 years old – living independently 2 hours away from my brother and me, still driving, active in the community, playing golf and bridge.  And, I love her now more than I ever did as a child or young adult – because I better understand the devastating effects addiction can have on a family.  I am grateful to my daughter for opening the door – and leading the way.

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“Not Ready”

Posted on April 20, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Today, my heart is heavy.  My chest feels a throbbing ache deep inside that is crushing.  All day long, I have spontaneously broken down in to wracking sobs that convulse my entire body.

Two weeks ago, when I met with my daughter on her 31st b-day, I guardedly allowed myself to feel a glimmer of hope. We hadn’t seen each other in over seven months, yet talked in a relaxed, uncensored way with humor and compassion. I was able to tell her some things I thought were important, and she shared some details of her life that were honest and informative.  All in all, I felt good about our meeting – and reconnected.  I think Hayley also felt that love and connection which, I had hoped, were reminders of the possibility of a more ‘normal’ life.

Last night, however, I heard from my ex-husband’s wife, Jill, who was in town for a few days to visit her family.  She told me that she and Hayley had been texting for a week or so prior to her visit, and that they were planning on getting together so Jill could deliver a belated birthday present.  Jill went on to say that late Sunday afternoon, Hayley called her asking where she was.  When Jill answered that she was at Safeway, Hayley responded with, “I’ll be there in 2 minutes.”  Jill was immediately caught off guard, not anticipating this spontaneous get together, and not knowing quite what to do.  And then, Hayley appeared.  She looked terrible – big bruise on her forehead, scabs on her head, dirty/torn clothing.  Two guys had driven her to Safeway and were waiting for her in their car. Hayley was obviously in bad shape.  She asked Jill for money – was dope sick – desperate.

Jill did not give Hayley any money, but gave her the birthday gift bag from her and Brad – a dress, sandals, earrings, books, a Walmart gift card. The entire encounter lasted about 10 minutes.  Jill did ask Hayley, “Why did you leave medical detox last August?”  And Hayley replied, “I just wasn’t ready.”  And when Jill asked Hayley about the bruise on her forehead, Hayley said that she and Paula, the other woman living in the crack house, had gotten in to a fight.  “What about?” asked Jill.  “We have the same boyfriend”, answered Hayley.

This boyfriend is Bill, the drug dealer, owner of the crack house, older (45-47 yo), a fat, disgusting guy in failing health who wears only his boxer shorts all day. I saw him on our local TV news about a month ago when the crack house was raided by federal agents and he was being led out of the house, in hand cuffs.  Bill was the one who got my daughter hooked on heroin and has porno running 24/7 on the crack house TV.  Get the picture? Depravity at its best (or worst, depending on which direction your scale runs).  This is what my daughter’s life has become. I can hardly fathom or process this reality.  Is there anything Hayley would not do for a fix? I am both repulsed and devastated by the entire scenario.

Today, Hayley texted Jill to thank her for all the great birthday gifts (“. . . the dress is adorable, and I was down to my last pair of earrings . . . “).  Is she fucking serious?  I’m sure that every thing in that birthday bag was sold for some kind of drug to get herself through the night. It’s just so pathetic. And after this birthday thank you text, Hayley proceeded to harass Jill throughout the day, asking to get together again.  She also asked Jill for a $100 loan – “ . . . just until I get my unemployment check tomorrow – and by the way, could you give me a ride to get my check cashed?  I promise I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”

This evening, Jill texted me that Hayley had called her 11 times within 30 minutes.  Jill didn’t respond. Her grandmother just happened to die while she’s been here in town, and Jill has her hands full with family matters.  However, Jill is very susceptible to Hayley’s manipulations . . . and Hayley knows it.

Jill has said  that her heart is breaking – and that she (Jill) feels so guilty about Hayley’s current situation. Yeah – I know about that. I feel it, too. I definitely feel that I failed my daughter in some way as a mother – and Jill’s ‘place’ in our family was the result of an affair with my ex-husband. Her role in my daughter’s life during some crucial developmental years, was – – – well, damaging, in my opinion – unintentional, yet still, inappropriate and confusing for Hayley.

For the first few years, beginning when Hayley was a senior in high school, Jill tried to be best friends with her (after all, she’s only 13 or 14 years older), subtly undermining my role as parent/mother. Whenever Hayley came home during college, if I tried to set some boundaries – or even asked Hayley to pick up after herself, she (Hayley) would storm out the door saying, “Fine – I’ll just move over to Dad’s.”  Hayley was masterful at  manipulating the three of us and triangulating all the adult/child relationships. We never quite knew the truth about anything since we, the adults, rarely spoke to each other to compare notes or corroborate stories.

Brad was essentially intimidated by Hayley, and also was adept at practicing his lifelong habit of avoiding conflict at all costs. Once again, guilt oozed in to and filled the space that should have been reserved for some critical, coordinated parenting.  Brad and Jill both felt very guilty about breaking up two entire families which then bled in to their relaxed parenting style.  Hayley, at age 17, was caught in the middle – not yet an adult, yet beyond the reach of any consistent parental guidance..  In fact, the major area of  conflict in Brad’s and my marriage was always our opposite parenting styles – he was excessively passive and could never say “no”, and consequently, I was probably too controlling.

So – I was feeling very blue all day – but had previously planned on going to our community hospital this afternoon, where Hayley has used the ER multiple times, and speak to their ER social worker – which I did.  I asked the hospital social worker if there was a way to “flag” my daughter’s chart – so that the next time she went to the ER, a social worker would be called to counsel her?.  Yes, there is such a system, the social worker advised me.  I gave him some background info on Hayley, which he entered in to her chart.  And, he is developing a social work plan for Hayley, to be initiated the next time she makes an ER visit.  Finally, I felt as if I was doing something.

Next, I visited the hospital’s business office, where  I asked for a private meeting..  I told “Melissa”, the hospital’s account representative, that my daughter was a heroin addict, essentially homeless, and not willing to get help for herself for fear of being arrested and sent to prison.  We then proceeded to discuss the barriers to getting help and some strategies for overcoming them.

I had intended on paying Hayley’s $320 ER bill from funds that I was holding for her from the sale of her beater car last summer.  As I summarized Hayley’s situation in “Melissa’s” office, I burst in to tears. Melissa tenderly grabbed both my hands and said, “I understand”, she said.  “Not that long ago, I was where your daughter is today. There’s hope.  I’m a living example of that.”

Melissa went on to say, “I think your daughter qualifies for the hospital’s charity program.  I’m going to forgive all her bills from the last few years”.  I was shocked at this sudden, unexpected elimination of my daughter’s hospital bills – and yet, there it was – a gift to “start over”.

I know that Hayley will most likely be nudged towards recovery by some random stranger versus a family member. “Melissa”, at our community hospital’s business office, offered to speak to Hayley and could be “the one”. Or, could it be the social worker that will be called the next time Hayley goes to the ER? I don’t know – but right now, and maybe forever, Hayley’s “not ready”.         

ADDENDUM: Although Jill’s and my relationship started out very rocky due to the circumstances of my ex-husband’s affair with her, over the years I became less threatened by her and began to realize that she was actually an ally in regards to my daughter. She never intentionally tried to come between Hayley and me – and often, in fact, could get through to Hayley in a way that neither Brad or I could.  And, last June, I experienced a complete transformation in how I felt about Jill.  When we first learned that Hayley was living in the crack house and had been evicted from her apartment, Brad and I “bought” some time (one month’s rent) so I could clear out and salvage what I could. (Brad and Jill live in California.) It was so traumatizing for me to sort through the chaos and filth  of my daughter’s apartment, that after a few days, I just couldn’t deal with it any more. I took out mostly personal things: sentimental family artifacts, art work, five years of unopened mail, photos, school mementos,  hand knit sweaters (from me and my mom), etc – Hayley’s personal history and anything that I thought she could use to start her life over.   There was still a ton of junk left and Jill, who happened to be in town visiting family that weekend, offered to finish it up- and she did.  She and her oldest daughter emptied the entire apartment, sending truckloads to the dump and Goodwill.  No one else in the family showed up to help with this, except for Jill and for that, I am eternally grateful. (see Unlikely Friends and Neighbors)

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Addicted – Programs # 3 & 4

Posted on April 14, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

YIKES! I have been trying to post this for days and am way behind.  These are comments on programs #3 and #4 of Addicted. Tonight, program # 5 airs – I’m so far behind, it’s getting confusing.  And, the reality is, maybe I just can’t keep up with these weekly reviews?

For what it’s worth, here are summaries/impressions of programs #3 & # 4 on TLC’s, Addicted.

Program # 3 featured a young alcoholic, ~ 24 yo – can’t remember his name – whose incessant drinking of pure vodka, right out of the bottle, appeared to be a veiled suicide attempt. His parents were enablers – and the ‘kid’s’ cycle of drinking, vomiting, sleeping, and futility, were hard to watch. He was a diabetic, which complicated his situation.  I’m surprised he didn’t slip in to a diabetic coma right on camera.  His mother was either overly scripted, or so detached and in denial, that any human emotion or authentic response, on her part, were stilted and not very believable.

Kristina seemed adept at navigating through the land mines of the family dynamics to get ‘whosywhat’ to treatment. After 2 or 3 weeks in treatment,  Kristina brought the young alcoholic back ‘home’  to clean up his horribly chaotic living space. Her words:

We need to walk through and witness our own wreckage. This is most likely a form of “making amends”.   She went on to say that:

. . . .you could give the alcoholic/addict help, but that would strip her/him of the experience of feeling how it feels to do it on his/her own.  There is no greater source of self-esteem and  pride than doing something on your own, for your self.  Even it it doesn’t turn out the way you expected, the point is ‘ownership’ – of the process and outcome. There is dignity in this.

I think that one of the aspects of this show, Addicted, that I like the most, is that there is some flexibility in the criteria, expectations, and outcomes of the intervention. There is no ‘surprise” factor involved – and Kristina seems genuinely committed to maintaining the addict’s dignity.  The fact that she can honestly say to the addict, “I would never ask you to do something that I haven’t already done myself”,  lends particular credibility to the program and her professional style.  I was also impressed at how helpful and effective it was to have Kristina, a professional and objective/non-family member, involved with and available to the addict through out the rehabilitation process.  This detail is huge, I think, in contributing to the success of the intervention and treatment process..  She invites the addict to the recovery process by asking the question, Are you willing?

I’ve been faithfully watching this new “reality” program, Addicted, showing at 10:00 pm on Wednesday nights on TLC in our area, because I have a personal interest in the program’s content, of course, but also in its ‘star’, professional interventionist and former drug addict, Kristina Wandzilak. I had spoken to Kristina last summer about possibly doing an intervention with my daughter, Hayley, who at that time, was “just” using crack and cocaine.  (Kristina came in to some notoriety after her book, The Lost Years was published. I was so moved by this book, that I visited Kristina’s website, Full Circle Intervention, and left a message there.  Kristina actually contacted me, in response) During our conversation last June, Kristina mentioned that the Discovery Channel had bought her program pitch, and she was looking for families of drug addicts and alcoholics to film. The process would be: the film crew would interview the family, film the addict, Kristina would be brought in to do an intervention, and the addict would go to treatment.  The Discovery Channel (TLC) would pay for the treatment and Kristina’s involvement.

At that time, I was so desperate to get my daughter out of the crack house and risky life style, that I actually considered this option.  However, my therapist, and other trusted advisors, thought that for Hayley to be featured in such a public arena as a television program, would somehow corrupt the motive of going in to treatment – that her reason for getting help would be coerced, and thereby, not as authentic as if she initiated getting help for herself.  This, of course, calls in to question the entire intervention process, whether or not it’s effective, really works, is worthwhile, produces long term results.  I dunno.  In retrospect, if it truly takes an addict multiple rehabs to recover, why not get started?  The barriers/negatives to participating in such a commercialized program were daunting. I’m fairly certain that most of my family members would not have participated in the filming, the logistics of communicating with my daughter, setting everything up, and filming at a crack house, all seemed overwhelming at the very least, and most likely, impossible.

Back to the program, Addicted. I’ve been interested in watching exactly how Kristina Wandzilak, as an interventionist and facilitator, operates.  Some aspects of previous programs seemed too scripted and even implausible. Yet, I’m still tuning in and, I admit, sm somewhat fascinated by the whole scene.

Last week’s show, # 4, was raw, brutal, and difficult to watch.  It was especially relevant to me since it featured a 31 year old heroin and meth addict, Ali, whose life had boiled down to: “I don’t think about anything.  I just do what’s in front of me.”  In Kristina’s words, Ali was ‘living like an animal’, focused almost entirely on the perpetual quest to find a usable vein. Ali’s drug supply didn’t seem to be an issue. She lived with her drug addict boyfriend, Karl, and, they both were ‘employed’ by Ali’s father to do minimal maintenance work around the family’s rental properties. Family enabling was immediately apparent.

Ali was raped at age 13, and from then on, she began to use progressively harder drugs to numb herself.  As I heard Ali’s story about being raped as an adolescent, I thought to myself – – – I understand how a traumatic event like this could potentially cause some one to use drugs – especially during such vulnerable, developmental years. This thought then caused me to speculate, ‘Was my own daughter, Hayley, ever sexually abused as a young girl?’ And, if not, what could have been so terrible in Hayley’s life to drive her to such extreme addiction?

Watching Ali desperately trying to find a vein anywhere on her scarred, used up body, then witnessing the graphic shooting up ritual, was disturbing.  In one scene, Ali ultimately resorts to using a vein in her breast. I’ve learned that most of my family cannot or will not watch these graphic scenes of the addict’s daily life and reality.  Even though I’m both repulsed and fascinated by this up-close-and-personal view of how my daughter lives her life, it’s something I feel compelled to witness – and learn about – and try to process. I liked gory movies as a kid, though –so, maybe that’s the difference?

Ali left the medical detox facility after just a day or two. The detox facility staff seemed miserably inept at dealing with pissed off, vulnerable drug addicts suffering through withdrawal. They didn’t appear to be very well equipped or professionally trained, in my opinion.  The intake staff person was especially cold, detached, lacking in compassion and effective techniques for engaging a shaky addict, and set the tone for the entire detox experience, I think.  This reality was an important lesson in the impact an addict’s first contact at a treatment facility, can have. Details.  Every detail and step of the treatment process can be very significant.

As Ali was leaving the detox facility, after being there  just a day or two, she remarked:  “I just want to get loaded one more time.  I didn’t get to party the way I wanted to before I came to detox.”  I’ve learned that this is very typical addictive behavior.

These are some comments made by Kristina that resonated in some way:

•If the family leads, the addict will follow. (is this a given?)

•Once you cross the line over to addiction, there’s no longer choice involved. Addiction = loss of choice.

Ali’s mother asked:  “Why didn’t I see it?”  Kristina answered that a parent can’t prevent their child’s addiction – that addicts are on their own path.  Is this true?  What do you think?

As I mentioned previously, the medical detox facility where Ali went for a couple of days, didn’t seem very trained or effective in dealing with a pissed off, vulnerable addict in withdrawal. Last August, Hayley walked out of medical detox after 41/2 days.  I was never able to talk to her while she was there – she slept a lot of the time, and there was no phone in her room.  However – when relapse occurs in treatment, and/or a patient walks out of detox, should we hold the facility/program culpable in some way?  One of the nurses at Hayley’s detox facility said that Hayley may have aligned herself with another young woman patient there, finding an ally and support in not embracing the program. So – are there techniques and practices in place to counter such predictable and defensive strategies used by the struggling addict?

Ali also left medical detox, after just a day or two. However, she did later enter a small treatment facility, Amicus House, and stayed for 90 days.  Her physical transformation after just 40 days of treatment and staying clean, was remarkable. And, she was eventually able to admit that she couldn’t outsmart her addiction, and that she liked staying clean more than wanting to use.  She said she was not as emotionally overwhelmed after the 40-50 days in treatment, and she wanted to be normal. The post production note that was flashed on the screen after the program was that Hayley had successfully finished 90 days at the treatment center, 90 days at a transitional living/post treatment facility, and was now living and working in the city (San Jose, CA) where her treatment center was located. And – Ali had broken up with her boyfriend, Karl. This all felt hopeful, but not entirely possible.  I am, after all, a skeptic.

Ali’s  dad was her enabler.  And even though he had some addiction issues of his own, he offered this legitimate advice to Ali: Don’t worry about what you did, but what you’re going to do.

There’s a certain look that hardcore heroin/drug addicts get. Ali had it. And when I met with my daughter a little over a week ago, I saw glimpses of that look. It’s a haunting, angular, pale, sickly, and desperate look.  I am, however, buoyed and encouraged by the extreme physical transformation that Ali showed after being in treatment and being sober for 40 days.  Hallejulah!  Hope that is visible and measurable.

Kristina’s spontaneous tears in hearing and responding to the addict’s and family’s pain, are genuine. I believe her.  She’s been there, herself. I’ll keep watching.

Questions for viewers:

•do drug addicts have choice? Once they’ve become addicted, is choice truly an option in their lives?

•does an intervention process work in regards to authentic, long term recovery? Can the pressure and ultimatum nature of an intervention result in long term, real recovery?

•how much do you want to know about your addict’s daily life and reality?

•do you believe what Kristina said – that addicts are on their own path, no matter what we do or say?

•if the family leads, will the addict necessarily follow?

OK – in an hour, program # 5 of Addicted will air.  Stay tuned.

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Humility, Compassion, and Fireworks

Posted on April 11, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , |

As you may have read, I met with my heroin addict daughter, Hayley, last Tuesday, on her 31st birthday.  I hadn’t seen her for 7 months and was both dreading and yearning for this get together. Read the gripping (? :-)) details of our hour together and you’ll feel and understand why I think She’s Still In There.

The update of that meeting on Tuesday is that Hayley texted me later in the evening to tell me that she had re-charged her cell phone and wanted me to send her all family members’ cell phone numbers to enter in to her phone, which I did. This is one tiny step towards re-connecting with the family and the “normal” world. We’ll see what comes of it. I am comforted to know that today, I can text/communicate with my daughter if I need/want to.  This is progress over the past seven months. I am choosing to believe that the birthday money I gave her on Tuesday was used to buy cell phone minutes.

Today, Saturday, I ran in to my daughter’s second grade teacher,  “Linda”, who innocently asked, “How’s Hayley?”  Now, when I’m asked that question, I try to give an honest answer.  “Not good”, I said, followed up by a fairly detailed summary of my daughter’s past ten-year history of struggle and challenges.  For some reason, I felt comfortable telling Linda the sad, tragic reality of my daughter’s life – and not because Linda and I had some kind of personal connection 24 years ago.  After I finished telling Linda my/my daughter’s story, I asked her about her daughters.  They were both closer in age to my younger son, Brian – so I knew of them, even though they attended the ‘other’ community high school. Linda’s daughters were both adopted from China – and she proceeded to tell me about her older daughter, Amy, who had a child at age 19, lived at home with them (her parents) and baby/daughter for 4 years, then abruptly announced she was gay and moved to Seattle.  During this time of living at home, Amy had been diagnosed as being bi-polar.

After Amy moved three hours away with her granddaughter, to live in the ‘big’ city with a woman whom no one had ever met, Linda had two serious surgeries and lost her mother. Needless-to-say, it was an emotional and traumatic year.  I couldn’t help but feel that my own problems didn’t compare.

My daughter’s addiction and the circumstances of her life, allowed me to connect with her second grade teacher, Linda, and relate to her own story of tragedy, disappointment, and challenge. It was a humbling encounter, and reminded me to step out of my own troubles and reality in order to be open to the suffering of others.  The irony of this is that I am much more able to relate to others’ problems and family challenges because of my own daughter’s calamity.

Now – on a purely trivial note.  Some time on Wednesday, I passed the 10,000 mark for viewers to my blog.  Not that I’m keeping track, but I feel that I should commemorate this milestone in some way, and wish I could award a prize to that 10,000th “fan”.  The gift I would give would be that of peace/serenity. So – whoever you are, the 10,000th visitor to my blog – here it is – – – serenity, peace, and HOPE!

THANK YOU, dear friends, for your loyalty, wisdom, compassion, time, encouragement, and support over the past 7 1/2 months.  TRULY – I could not have endured the pain, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety of my daughter’s heroin addiction with out you.  I am humbled and touched by your own stories – and hope that I can give back to you, and other viewers, a fraction of what you’ve given to me.

My next post will be a review of programs #3 & 4 on TLC’s  “Addicted”.  I’m interested in your comments regarding this program, as well.  Stay tuned.

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Yes . . . She’s Still In There

Posted on April 7, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , |

First of all, I want to thank all of you for your sweet words of support, empathy, and encouragement.  Each of your comments was helpful and carefully considered.  Even though many responses were coming from completely opposite perspectives, they all made sense and were comforting. They gave me the strength to do what I wanted and needed to do.  I am eternally grateful for your loyalty and concern.

Today, on Hayley’s 31st birthday, we were supposed to meet at 4:00 pm, across the street from the crack house where she is living. I was very nervous.  I hadn’t seen her since last August, and I was afraid to see what she looked like after using heroin for nine months.  And in addition to these inherent fears, a good family friend, Lilly, called me last night to report that an acquaintance of hers, Dan, had some news of Hayley. Dan lived across the street from the crack house and had recognized Hayley there and her comings and goings.  He called our mutual friend, Lilly, to ask if I knew that Hayley was living at the crack house – and to report that Hayley had been over to his house a few times.  The most recent visit she made was just a couple of days ago.  She did not look good – was dope sick, and had asked Dan if he had any money or drugs he could give her.  When he said no, she asked to borrow his phone to call her drug dealer.  I was confused by this information – I thought Hayley’s drug dealer, Bill, lived with her at the crack house.  As you may recall, Bill and 2 of the other crack house residents, were arrested in a drug bust/house raid by federal agents, about 3 weeks ago.  “I hate calling you, dear friend”, said Lilly.  But I wanted you to know. Hayley is not in very good shape – and doesn’t look good.”  This “Hayley-sighting” sounded so pitiful and desperate, I was shaken, yet grateful for the “heads up”.

So – this was the information I carried around with me all day, fueling my fears and anxieties as I tried to prepare myself to see my daughter. Seeing Hayley was going to be as bad, or even worse, than I had imagined.

I was determined today, however, to focus on who my daughter truly is, deep inside – the beautiful, talented, intelligent young woman she was and hopefully still is, not the heroin addict.

I had put together a bag of birthday gifts for Hayley: new underwear, some glacier blue sweat pants and hoody, t-shirt and turquoise fleece (Costco), toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, tampons, 2 CDs of songs that I had selected and burned for her (SongsForMyDaughter), new mascara, lip gloss, blush, lotion, etc.  I also bought some groceries – 2 bags of fresh fruits and her favorite foods.

And then, all day, the lurking question of:  “Do I give Hayley her money that she had asked for?”  There were good arguments on both sides of this question.  My therapist, and a majority of blog viewers advised that I not give her the cash. (see the previous posts’ comments) Again, I so appreciated all your input.  Recovering addicts’ words and opinions were especially helpful.  I ultimately forged a compromise and decided to give Hayley ½ of her money: $130, and will use the other ½ to pay on her most recent ER bill. I fully acknowledge the fact that this money, Hayley’s money, would buy me some time with her.  Most likely just another 5 minutes or so – but worth it to me. And, I didn’t want to get in to a reactive exchange with her regarding the perception of my trying to control her access to her money.

The tension-filled countdown to my daughter’s and my meeting began around 1:00 pm.  I was so ambivalent about seeing her.  I desperately wanted to, but was also deathly afraid to.  I had a busy schedule today, and didn’t arrive back home until around 2:00 pm. I got the birthday gifts and food bags together, the birthday card written with carefully chosen, yet heartfelt words, printed out my last blog post for her about who she was, and hopefully still is deep inside, and loaded everything in to the car.

And then, at 3:30 pm, the phone call came. Not a text, but my daughter’s actual voice on the other end. It was from a phone # I didn’t recognize.  “Hi, Mom.  Can we meet a little later?”  This is her usual pattern and something I’ve come to anticipate. I was certain that this would escalate in to more meeting time delays and eventual cancellation of our get-together.  “Sure,” I said.  “Just call me when you’re ready”.  I intentionally tried to sound nonchalant versus annoyed.  The next phone call, from the crack house, was  at ~4:30 pm:  “How about 5:00 pm?”, she said.  And, “Mom – can you do me a big favor and bring cigarettes?”

For an instant, I hardened and felt manipulated – and used.  However, I dug way down and tried to focus exclusively on my goal – to see my daughter and make some kind of meaningful connection with her.  And so, I got into the car, and headed to the grocery store to buy cigarettes.

This is getting long – I’m sorry.  But the upshot of it all is – that I picked up my daughter at the crack house and we went to a nearby park to talk.  It was if we had never been apart – in time, and space, and worlds. We talked, and laughed, and cried.  My carefully thought out script evaporated, and I was able to ask her important questions and tell her things I wanted her to know. I couldn’t believe how effortless, genuine, and intimate it was.  Hayley willingly offered information and details of her life that were both revealing and touching. She made fun of herself and her absurd life, world, and circumstances. She told me that she was still receiving unemployment checks – and they would continue for another nine months – and that this money was used for group living expenses and, of course, her drugs.  She said that five people lived in the crack house, including herself, and they were, essentially, like a family.  They all shared what they received/had, and checked on one another.  No one was allowed to stay in bed all day – that no matter how you felt, you had to get up and do your chores and contribute in some way to the “well-being” of the group.  Hayley even wryly added that she had learned some things – like, you make yourself get up and do what you need to do. This news was surreal-ly hopeful to me.  I told Hayley about my blog and one of my posts about how hard it must be to be a heroin addict – and that if you can successfully navigate in the drug world and  be a heroin addict, live the lifestyle and stay alive, you’re capable of doing anything.  We laughed and cried at that revelation.

I was taken aback by Hayley’s appearance.  She was very thin and her hair was dark brown.  She’s always been “blondish” before – due to regular highlighting sessions.  I told her that she looked old.  “Really”?, she said.  “I’m not surprised”, she added.  She looked at least 40 years old.  She was pale, and her face very angular.  Her teeth were yellow, but at least none had been knocked out like I had imagined. And, I noticed some gray hairs in her head. When I mentioned that, she was shocked.  Her hands were reflective of her lifestyle:  dirty fingernails, torn, bleeding cuticles.  And when I hugged her, her shoulder blades felt so sharp – with hardly any flesh or fat on them.

I felt better about giving Hayley her money after learning that she was still receiving unemployment.  I dunno – – – this news about her unemployment money meant, to me, that maybe she hadn’t had to prostitute  herself to buy drugs.  And even though I’m embarrassed and ashamed by the fact that my daughter is a parasite on society and using our tax dollars to feed her drug habit, I’m also relieved.  She’s getting government money to live on and buy her drugs which means that possibly, she hasn’t had to totally compromise her core moral/ethical values as a person.  Odd dichotomy, isn’t it?  I let myself believe that the $130 I gave her would be used for food and “rent”.

Hayley smoked a cigarette that she “desperately” needed while we were together.  I made an analogy between breastfeeding an infant and using heroin – – – that both require careful planning and scheduling. She agreed, and we both laughed.  During our visit, the absurdity of her life just seemed to strike both of our funny bones.  Was this a manifestation of stress?  I don’t think so. For me, it was acceptance, reality, and intimacy with my daughter. When Hayley plowed through her gift bag and discovered the make-up, she immediately applied mascara, eye shadow, and blush, casually commenting that she didn’t spend too much time on her appearance these days.  This seemed so crazy and funny to me, I just burst out in to giggling, infectious laughter.  Both of us did.

I had been in contact with my youngest son, Brian, all day.  (see Cast of Characters tab) He is such comfort and support to me – and is the embodiment of love and light.  He tried to send me a text with a video of his birthday wishes and greetings to Hayley, but it didn’t come through on my cell phone.  So, while Hayley and I were together today, I called Brian, and he was able to directly speak to her.  It was a beautiful, touching few minutes of exchange between baby brother and big sister.

A few miscellaneous tidbits:

•Hayley said that when the federal agents/SWAT team surrounded and raided the crack house a couple of weeks ago, they were not very thorough in their search.  They didn’t find any drugs – just 2 scales, that are considered “drug paraphernalia”.

•Bill, the crack house owner and head honcho, was bailed out of jail by his parents.  He faces some charges, not sure what.

•Hayley said she was ‘gonna’ apply for food stamps and the Dept of Social and Health Services (DSHS) DATSA program, which could ultimately  pay for drug rehab.  She’s been reluctant to register with DSHS, the state welfare system, for fear of being arrested (there’s a warrant out for her arrest for violating probation).  The fact that she was even thinking about going to DSHS was encouraging to me.

I don’t know if the stars and planets were in alignment today – – – or if god, jesus, buddha, mohammed all converged to hold my hand.  Whatever it was, I am grateful for the opportunity to see my darling baby girl on her birthday. My meeting with Hayley today, broke the ice of our 7 month separation. I was able to tell her how much I loved her and connect with her in a meaningful way.  I know that she is OK – – – and most importantly, I saw real evidence of the Hayley I once knew.

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Today – April 6th – Who She Was . . . and Truly Is:

Posted on April 5, 2010. Filed under: Parent of an Addict, poems | Tags: |

Today, April 6th, is my daughter’s 31st birthday.  I remember the day of her birth like it was yesterday.  I’ve had three children, with all natural childbirths, so I was able to participate in, appreciate, and savor every minute of labor and delivery.  And when Hayley appeared after a few pushes, exactly three years behind her older brother, Jake, it was a glorious moment: a little girl – – 8 pounds, 81/2 oz of perfection. One of the first things I noticed when she was placed on my abdomen, were her small, beautiful, flat ears.  Mine are large and stick out.  I never thought I could wear a ponytail as a little girl, and never did.  “Oh good”, I said.  “She can have a pony tail if she wants.” Trust me –  this observation and comment were a metaphor for all I hoped for, for my daughter.

In honor of Hayley on this day she was born, I want to let the blogging world know more about my daughter as a person – who she was and still is, deep down inside.

Hayley was a beautiful baby and child. She immediately took to the breast at birth and I nursed her for the next 15 months.  The first three months of life, however, she was very “colicky”, with a lot of GI distress.  I could only nurse her for a few minutes at a time before she’d draw her legs up and scream, obviously in pain. After three months, however, she seemed to settle down and was an “easy” baby.  She discovered her thumb and her “blankie”, so she could self-soothe.  Hayley still sleeps with that very same blankie, today.  She gained weight like crazy and when I introduced solid food at 6 months, she would eat any and everything. (no commercial baby food in my house – the babies and kids always ate what ever we were eating). She refused a pacifier and bottle, so she and I were always in close proximity.

Hayley was always a unique, determined little girl – – slightly quirky.  At ~ 2 years of age, she became attached to a spaghetti squash.  Yes, you read correctly – a large, yellow, smooth-skinned, perfectly oval squash that she carried around with her everywhere.  Eventually, she asked me to draw a face on it, which I did with a black Sharpie.  Watching her sleep in her crib with that  squash looking up at me was quite a site. I tried to figure it all out, but couldn’t, and didn’t..  Eventually, after about six months, the squash began to rot, and we had to throw it away.  I was dreading that day, but it had to be done. I can’t quite remember the details, but I did worry about the psychological effect the decaying squash and it’s ultimate demise would have on Hayley. After  a few days, she seemed fine.

My daughter is easy to shop for.  She loves the color glacier blue – it’s the color of her eyes.  It has become her personal “signature”.  Whenever I see a piece of clothing, bedding, tzochke (how do you spell that word?), earrings and jewelry, home décor item that’s in the aqua color family, I know she’ll like it, and she usually does. Today, every time I see that color, I think of Hayley.

Hayley is fairly tall (5’8”) and lean.  She moves very gracefully and with an ease that comes from a childhood filled with sports activities (soccer and tennis) and dance lessons. Her senior year in high school, she played # 1 singles in the AAAA district tennis tournament until one hour before prom, raced home, jumped in the shower, and in a half hour, was ready and glowing. She’s notorious for her smooth, peaches and cream complexion sprinkled with freckles in the summer months. Her natural beauty is quite extraordinary.

Hayley likes to wear skirts, both long and short.  And she loves wearing vibrant colors and East Indian prints.  She’s slightly “Bohemian” and funky in her style sense – definitely not the conservative or preppy profile.  She’s so fluid in her movement, eclectic and creative in her style, that heads turn when she enters a room.

My daughter plays the piano and has a beautiful, lilting, semi-trained singing voice.  In high school, she sang the National Anthem at almost every school assembly and sporting event – usually acappella.  One of her favorite songs to sing at high school talent shows was Joni Mitchell’s, The Circle Game. A couple of years ago, amidst Hayley’s chaos and decline, I wrote this poem:

. . . We’re captive on the carousel of time . . .
Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

On a street corner in Manhattan,
she serenaded passersby with
You Light Up My Life,
barely three but right on key.
Yesterday a child came out to wonder

At four, Somewhere Over the Rainbow
in Toledo, standing on a folding metal chair
in the church basement,
my brother’s wedding reception.
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar

Tomorrow came and she, a perfect Annie,
hair curled, front teeth gone.
Called on to perform, she would,
needing the spotlight to be seen.
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder

She would get into trouble humming in class,
not even knowing she was doing it.
Like a nervous tic, I suppose.
I always knew where she was. I could hear her coming.
And fearful at the falling of a star

In high school between tennis matches,
she opened baseball games
with the National Anthem.
Acappella. Perfect pitch.
And the seasons, they go round and round

Six-two, love-six.
From the courts,
down and across the street to the ball field,
then back again. Five minutes.
Seven-five. No sweat.
And the painted ponies go up and down

We could hear her over
the ball field loud speaker,
all the way back at court-side,
voice strong and clear and pure.
We can’t return, we can only look

She always sang it straight,
on grass or stage,
not trying to be anyone
other than, herself.
Behind from where we came

And now, it’s been a very long time
since I’ve heard her . . .
the melody locked up and kept inside.
No time or place or reason
to sing her song.
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

As a little girl, Hayley loved hanging around her older (by 3 years)  brother, Jake, and his entourage of friends.  He considered her a pest and an intruder in to his social world – and, she was. However, she was also an accomplished social facilitator, which shy Jake eventually discovered to be of some benefit.

Hayley has always had a bold energy and freshness about her that’s charming.  She’s very outspoken and opinionated and can be loud in a group setting.  Her sense of humor is sharp, yet never mean. Those who have worked with her in an office setting, have remarked how refreshing it was to have her around, to break up their “daily routine”.  And a few remarked that they were empowered by her to ask questions and challenge the status quo.  She would innocently ask a secretary who had been in that particular office for 20 years or so, “Why are you doing ‘such and such’ that way?  Wouldn’t it be easier and more efficient to do it ‘XXXX’ way?”  Sometimes, this frankness and naïveté would get her in trouble.

Hayley champions the underdog, those on the ‘fringe’, the underserved or disenfranchised. Her group of friends has always been very diverse and slightly alternative.  I am proud of her enormous compassion in reaching out to those in need, how easily she makes friends, can relate to all types of people,  and her acute observations/perceptions of people’s dynamics, issues, joys, and sorrows.

Hayley graduated in “Politics” from a prestigious private liberal arts college. She took a lot of courses in philosophy and thrived on classroom debates. She ultimately tried to graduate in a newly created and transfused major, “Politics and Philosophy”.  It sounded like a very logical meld, but at the time, was too much of a challenge to the status quo/bureaucracy of secondary education.  Ultimately, following Hayley’s lead, this college major was eventually adopted.

I’m sorry this post is getting to be so long.  But, I received a few “testimonials” from friends of Hayley’s who had these sweet words to say about her on the eve of her birthday:

One of our family’s “oldest”, long term friends sent me this: “ . . . all of us (in the family) are aching … M***, R***, K******… we’ve all talked …. guess this is the example of what addiction does to everyone who loves you ………..I’m here for you.

This from my dear friend, Ang – Hayley’s first babysitter at 6 weeks of age:

Truly, Hayley was always sunny as a little girl, kind, affectionate. I see the pigtailed, blond, smiling girl in the back of the green car ready to go and do. Hayley was so little when I left (our small city) for college, but I remember whenever I was home and saw her it was as if I had never left. I remember when I took her picture up on scenic drive, how grown up she seemed then. It’s hard to imagine Hayley not smiling because whenever I saw her, that’s what she was doing. She’s a good person and I would love to see her, hug her and tell her so. Happy birthday Hayley, you are loved.

And from Anna, a friend from middle school and beyond:
Ahhh, Peggy – – So many things come to mind when I think of Hayley.  One word that comes to mind when I think of her is effortless….she seemd to have the wonderful ability to effortlessly be good at whatever she took on…soccer: she was awesome at, singing: I once told her that I wanted her to sing at my funeral her voice is beautiful, smarts:  she can philosophize for hours, she is gorgeous in a pair of sweats and ugg boots, she can make a delicious meal out of the most random stuff in the fridge, and makes sure that you had seconds and thirds and that your glass was never empty, she, no matter, what we were doing, found a way to make it fun, and if it didn’t hold her attention long enough, which isn’t very long, as you know, would find something else that was more fun, but none the less, she would be laughing that silly  little laugh that she makes while she closes her eyes and shrugs her shoulders up and down.  She has a way of radiating a room…She and I went to Chelan on a whim a few years back, not sure if you knew, but we went for a night out on the town.  We were there only a few days, and of course she brought a few bags of make up, a few more bags of jewelry, and clothes, and another bag stocked full of magazines and books, “just in case.”  Men were drawn to her that night as she and I were having so much fun just laughing, talking and reminiscing about stupid stuff.  I think at some point, as it was a little later in the night, she said something about the guys were only allowed to keep talking to us if they bought our drinks for the rest of the night…and, yep, they did!  We later ditched them and jumped the fence to the hot tub at the condo!  Peggy, I will be thinking about your dear Hayley as she was, and definitely as she is, deep down, which is probably one of the kindest, caring, selfless, smart, beautiful, funny, witty, has a knack for over accessorizing and bright lipstick, little ladies whom I am proud to have as my friend and will always hold in my heart.  I pray for her now, and will continue to pray for her.  God Bless you, Peggy, and know that I love that daughter of yours for who she really is and how I wish I could tell her so.

This has been a bittersweet post for me.  Remembering my daughter as she was – as she may still be.  Happy Birthday dear, sweet, little girl of mine. 

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Birthday Gifts

Posted on April 5, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I received this text from my daughter at 1:00 am on Easter Sunday morning, from an unfamiliar phone #:

Hey mom, it’s Hayley. Hope u are ok. Was hoping to get my **** stock money.  Could really use for food, bills and bday. U still have?  Please let me know.  Love u.  H

Hmmm – and there you have it – it all eventually boils down to money, doesn’t it?  My desperate heroin addict daughter makes contact after not hearing from her for weeks, to ask for money.  Granted, it is legally her money.  However, I now have Power of Attorney (POA) for her, and feel entitled to apply my discretion in her financial affairs.

I’m grateful she’s alive.  I learned a few days ago that she was in the ER on March 5th.  I received a bill from the hospital addressed to her, at my home address.  She owes $350 to one of our two community hospitals for this most recent ER visit (her last ER visit in July was to the other hospital).  From a quick assessment of the hospital statement, I’m assuming she went to the ER for injection site abscesses.  I can’t help but think about how long she must have  waited and how bad it must have been, before she finally got herself to the ER. Her father was a very successful radiologist and practicing physician in this small city for almost 35 years.  Her surname is unique enough, that any ER doc/staff would recognize the name and know who she is.  I shudder at what it must have taken for Hayley to overcome the name recognition, shame and humiliation to finally go to the ER.

My newly acquired consciousness regarding the inhumane treatment of drug addicts in hospital and emergency room settings, is heightened.  I refer you to this post, Puss-y Stuff for details and a new perspective on compassion for and more humane treatment of drug addicts.

I was raised in a very religious family, went to church every Sunday, and sang in the youth choir for the first 17 years of my life. I eventually married a Jewish man and ultimately acquired a more diverse world view and perspective on “god” and different spirituality practices.  For this, I am eternally grateful.

Today, I attended the First Presbyterian Church Easter service with my 92 year old mother, my brother and sister-in-law.  And even though I couldn’t bring myself to take Communion and pledge myself to Jesus Christ as my “Saviour”, I sang all the familiar hymns and doxologies with sincerity and gratitude.

Here are some phrases and song lyrics that resonated: From this day forward . . . and,  . . . all that I’ve done before won’t matter anymore . . .

At this service, I filled out a prayer card to ask for my daughter’s desire . . . and courage and strength, to change her life.

And in that spirit of hope on this Easter Day – and with my daughter’s 31st birthday approaching, I’ve found peace in the decision to make an extraordinary effort to meet with her on Tuesday, her birthday.  I will deliver a bag of small, modest gifts:  2 packages of new underpants, tampons and panty liners, an aqua hooded sweatshirt and pants and fleece (from Costco), fresh fruits and veggies – – – – and, $130 in cash – which is ½ of her annual stock dividends.  I know this money will be going directly up her veins.  That’s ok.  The other ½ of the stock dividend money I will be delivering to our community hospital as partial payment of her most recent ER bill. And, I will ask to speak to a social worker and have Hayley’s chart flagged, in hope that the next time Hayley visits the ER, a social worker will be called to speak to her and offer her some options for treatment and recovery.

My message to Hayley on her birthday will be one of love – – – and to offer the possibility of “Harm Reduction” versus detox and a “cold turkey” rehab treatment center.  Thanks to Tom at RecoveryHelpDesk, my perspective on realistic approaches to moving opiate addicts away from their risk of acquiring Hepatitis C, HIV, a variety of infections, pregnancy, physical/sexual abuse, and criminal acts, takes precedence over getting them in to some 12 step program that won’t allow diversion alternatives such as suboxone and methadone.  I’m hoping that Hayley will consider this option, and feel she could maybe take this step.  Personally, I feel that Hayley wants to stop the addiction cycle, but doesn’t want to or cannot do the work required to completely abstain from all substances.  Perhaps she needs a transition – a phased move in to recovery.  Wouldn’t suboxone be better than using heroin?

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