Archive for June, 2010
This morning at my ‘home’ Al-Anon meeting, one member expressed his frustration with the First Step: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or anything else, for that matter) – that our lives had become unmanageable. “Kirk” was referencing his struggle to try to control his alcoholic wife’s drinking. He said that finally, after months of disposing of hidden booze he’d find, checking his wife’s cell phone records, monitoring her where abouts, etc. he was giving up. “Maybe this is what step one means”, he said, with resignation in his voice. Subsequently, each one of us in the room voiced our own difficulty with Step One, as well. And if you can’t get past Step One, well – you’re really quite stuck.
Disclosure Statement: I admit, I really haven’t worked the 12 Steps myself. I read about them, think about them, but have not studied, explored, ‘worked’ them with a sponsor. I realize that I need to do this, once I find a sponsor. In any event, today I looked up some references on Step One in one of my Al-Anon books, Discovering Choices. This page, which I had heavily underlined and starred several months ago, is worth revisiting and quoting here:
We can still find meaning in our lives by helping others, but it would be illogical to make the meaning in our lives dependent upon things that fall outside the boundaries of our personal responsibility. Detachment with love means letting go of unreasonable expectations for ourselves. We can continue to love people and care about them. Hurting ourselves by persisting in negative and stressful speculation, however, is not proof that we’re helping ourselves or anyone else.
It’ s not wrong to hope for a positive outcome, but we also have to accept the limits of what we can possibly know. We don’t know for sure if the outcome we desperately pray for will prove to be the most beneficial result for ourselves or the alcoholic/addict. We do know from experience that failure and frustration often turn out to be the first steps in a process that ultimately brings more positive results. While there’s no guarantee that every negative will turn into a positive, there’s also no guarantee that things will turn out to be as bad as we fear. We just don’t know what the long-term results will be. They are out of our control. It doesn’t make sense to focus all of our attention worrying about something that may never happen – or if it happens, to worry about what the consequences will be. Detaching with love also means detaching from the outcomes that we- from our limited perspective – think will be the best.
The slogan, “One Day at a Time” defines an appropriate boundary. We know that we can’t predict or control the future. Why are we so convinced that we know what will be best for everyone? What basis do we have for being so certain about what the future will bring? When we focus on a future we can’t know, we prevent ourselves from knowing the satisfactions that the present day could offer.
There is wisdom in admitting that we simply don’t know everything and in accepting that we don’t have to have the answer to everything. There is wisdom in doing nothing if we don’t know what to do. We can find serenity by accepting what we can’t change.
Detachment doesn’t mean giving up on love. It means opening the door to the joy, hope, love, and kindness that are available to us every day. We can detach from old ways of thinking that make our day’s challenges appear to be unmanageable.
I need to tattoo these words on my brain. Hayley is doing so well in treatment, yet I find myself jumping ahead to find something to worry about. I’m in the habit of trying to anticipate and avoid every potential disaster, before it even happens. As a result, I rob myself of feeling the joy of today that is real, is here, right now.
Hayley’s phone calls and letters continue to sound encouraging. In her younger brother, Brian’s, words, she seems to ‘get it’. Here are some recent letter excerpts that underscore my burgeoning sense of hope:
•Now that I’m not using, I have such a deeper appreciation for the relationships in my life. They are everything! You really can’t believe the sisterhood and support here.
•I have been loving the AA/Na meetings we go to every day. They are such an important part of recovery and each group/meeting is so vastly different. Every single one offers something important.
•This place is so special, and I really believe that I was meant to be here and meant to be here now, with these particular women.
•I meet regularly with Arleen, who is our ‘spiritual’ leader and a fantastic African American woman who just exudes love and joy which really is contagious.
•In the beginning, I was taking an ADD medication, Strattera, as well as Vistiril for anxiety. The Vistiril can be taken up to 4 times/day, and I was finding myself taking it 4X/day, regardless if I needed it or not. After a certain moment of clarity a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I was just taking these meds because I am an addict and I was drug seeking. So – I stopped all of my meds, except for 1 ibuprophen and Trazadone at night. I plan to stop even the Trazadone in the next couple of weeks as well. As for smoking, I am still smoking about ½ pack a day. This is my last vice/addiction and I recognize that I do really need to stop – and soon. It does help that I have been so active and either go to the gym or yoga every day. I really haven’t had exercise on a regular basis since college. It’s amazing how my body still remembers what it’s like to be in shape, and I notice a huge difference from when I first started to now. People often comment that I am glowing, and my resolve to beat my addiction and ALL my addictive behaviors is strong.
Hayley remarked that she is STILL on Step One – that her sponsor is very thorough and demanding and requires an entire packet of writing about this step. Her sponsor said that really working the 12 steps in depth, will lay down a stronger foundation for recovery – that taking the necessary time now will pay off in the future. It’s good advice for me, as well. I, too, am trying to recover from my daughter’s heroin addiction. I’ve got a lot of work to do.
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I feel as if a crushing weight, that has been pressing down on me for ~ 15 years, has been lifted a few millimeters. I can at least breathe now. I hadn’t realized how oppressive this heaviness has been. Since Hayley was a senior in high school, there’s been a huge knot in my gut. I’ve known for a very long time there was something ‘wrong’ and percolating deep inside her – it was bound to erupt at some point. This instinctual sense of dread and anticipation quietly and subtly grew over the years, until – like a cancer, it crowded out and replaced most other feelings.
For the first time in many years, I’ve realized a space being cleared within, that has allowed some room for a bit of joy, artistic expression, and hope. Yesterday, I spent four hours on a friend’s shaded patio – an afternoon Art Day; I started a new, big knitting project for my younger son, Brian. It will be a mediation shawl, and I hope I can finish it by Christmas. (I’m slow); I’m almost finished reading a great novel – something I haven’t done for years. And, I seem to have the energy and interest to tackle the layers of paper piles stacked in my home office. Actually, the clutter in my house has become intolerable and I’m beginning to get motivated to deal with it.
Hayley has now been sober for 40 days. Her phone calls and letters continue to express her passionate commitment to recovery. She has not only found sobriety – she has found herself. Her ‘voice’ sounds very different. It is calm, and serene, and full of hope and possibility. She is learning so much, and remarked that she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t thinking ahead to where/how she could get something that would distract or numb her – from hard candy to heroin, and everything in between.
Safe Harbor’s 12-step recovery program, group/individual therapy sessions, daily regimen of house chores and requirement to contribute to the good of the group, all-women setting, and other factors, have contributed to Hayley’s new-found sense of connection and community. I’ve heard humility and determination in her voice that I’ve never noticed before. She’s completely embraced the 12 steps as not only an addiction recovery guide, but also as a framework for living life. She told me that she feels peaceful and content. She’s always felt a self-imposed pressure to achieve – to have some high-powered career. And with the help of her therapist, she recently had this to day:
Mom – my purpose here – on earth – may ‘just’ be to stay sober.
That’s quite a profound statement. And I’m thinking that ‘just’ staying clean and sober could not only be a life-long personal goal, but could also inadvertently have a transforming effect on everyone Hayley comes in contact with.
Hayley has also talked at length about service – that this is a key component to staying sober and active in recovery. Of course, this is classic 12-step chapter/verse lingo. But what is so remarkable is how fervently Hayley is quoting it– and, apparently, believing it.
Hayley has repeatedly mentioned that she doesn’t have the time or luxury of “f**k’in” around. Mom – there are so many things I want in life – and I don’t have the time to go through multiple rehabs.
This statement of Hayley’s summed it all up:
This was not only a literal statement – that many of the other ‘girls’ in the program are hung up on trivial details – but it was also a metaphor for her change in attitude. I’m learning about addictive behavior, she said. That you can be clean and sober, but still exhibit addictive behavior. In the big scheme of things, it’s just not important where I sit in the car when we go places.
For me, Hayley’s “surrender” to some things that previously she would have bristled at – or felt entitled to – or played the blame/victim card – is a remarkable transformation.
Hayley just sent me a text and a photo: Hi Mom. We’re at a girls’ party with my sponsor. Love these women. We’re having a Lakers’ party instead of a meeting.
And there she was, with her arms around three other women – all of them looking happy, gorgeous, and having fun – without any substance, other than the California sun and a deep, common connection.
Hayley has found a place and a way to be – without using any numbing substance. And even though I know, through Al-Anon, that I ultimately need to find serenity regardless of what my addict daughter is doing, the reality is that it’s so much easier to feel relief and move forward with my own life when Hayley is doing well.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 24 so far )
A little over a month ago, I was certain my daughter would be dead or in jail very soon. And today, she is thriving in a drug treatment program in southern California.
I glanced through my journal from a year ago, and was quickly transported back to the nightmare I’ve been living for the past 12 months. It was in early June 2009 that I first learned that Hayley was living in a “crack house” and was, essentially, a full-fledged, hard-core drug addict. I immediately donned my Superwoman/mom cape and spun in to action. I was certain that I could save my daughter – just get her out of that environment and in to a drug treatment program. After hours and days of super-sleuthing, I was able to locate the drug house where she was living and trace down phone numbers that could potentially provide access to her. And after countless “drive-bys”, trying to get a glimpse of her, and phone calls to all the phone numbers she had left scattered around her apartment, I was finally able to speak to her. Her message was, “Mom – stop. You’re putting too much focus on this place. These guys don’t like it. You’re going to get me in trouble.” And, actually, I think that was why she came home for those few days. The crack house kicked her out because they were feeling too much ‘heat’.
During those two weeks in June a year ago, when Hayley came home from the crack house for a night or two, she seemed sincere in wanting to get help and go to our local drug/alcohol treatment facility. However, the treatment center’s admissions requirements proved to be huge barriers – primarily, the TB skin test that needed to be administered at a medical clinic, read after 24 hours, then a narrow admission ‘window’ in to the treatment facility within the next 24 – 36 hours. Hayley was never able to meet and follow through with those time-sensitive deadlines. I thought the process was insane.
At that time, Hayley was “just” using cocaine and smoking crack. She soon ‘graduated’ to heroin. How could it all have come down to this – my beautiful, talented, college-graduate daughter, a heroin addict? It all seemed so surreal. I was numb.
I discovered that on June 1st, 2009, an eviction notice had been posted on Hayley’s apartment – and I began negotiations with the landlord to be allowed access in to the apartment that Hayley had abandoned. After paying two months of back rent and June’s rent, I was able to enter, sort through, clean out and salvage some personal belongings from Hayley’s chaotic life over the past five years. That beautiful polar bear Cowichan sweater I knit for her in high school, family photos, her photos and awards from high school and college, her beloved Cuisinart – – – I just couldn’t bear to see her entire life, up to this point, hauled off to the dump. She deserved some personal history so she could start over some day, didn’t she? However, this salvage mission was a very traumatic experience. Witnessing Hayley’s inability to function as a ‘normal’ adult was a disturbing and definitive indication of not only drug addiction, but possibly a serious mental illness. I felt as if I had been in a war zone.
And after one more unsuccessful attempt last August to get Hayley into medical detox and a treatment facility, we went for about 7 months with virtually no contact with her. That was the “let-her-really-hit-bottom-and-find-her-own-way-to-treatment” period. She not only hit bottom, but kept on digging. She was in such a deep, dark hole, I just knew she could never get out on her own. After seeing her on her birthday April 6th, I decided that she needed a hand up. The drama leading up to Hayley leaving for treatment on May 8th was harrowing. (And She’s Off and . . . Running) But the bottom line is that Hayley has now been at Safe Harbor Treatment Center For Women for a little more than three weeks, was in medical detox for almost 2 weeks prior to that, so has now been clean and sober for 36 days . This is where the “Pinch Me” comes in.
Within the last ten days, I’ve received two notes from Hayley and a couple of lengthy phone calls. She sounds so good – so strong, so committed to her recovery program. She genuinely seems to be embracing the 12-step program at Safe Harbor and finding comfort and support in the staff and all that is involved with the recovery process. Her voice is strong and joyful and full of promise. Here are some snippets from our phone conversations:
Mom – I’m showing up for everything, even if I don’t feel like it.
You have to attend an AA/NA meeting every day. If you don’t, it’s a slippery slope to relapse.
I’ve been making myself go to the gym everyday – my body is so damaged. I don’t have time to fxxk around.
Dave, the cook, wants me to be permanently assigned to the kitchen. He thinks I do the best job of cleaning up. The food is good – we had mahi mahi last night with mango salsa and coconut rice.
I can’t believe I’m here.
And these excerpts from letters: We are kept so busy here, time just flies. I had to get my blood drawn this AM – it was a huge trigger for me. I got real emotional. Am also scared for the results. I have no power over the outcome at this point though, and have to just deal with the results when they come. I love you so much and miss you. Am staying strong, healthy, and hopeful.
And this from her most recent, artfully decorated note: This is a gratitude card. I am sooo grateful to be here at Safe Harbor. I do not take this opportunity for granted and know that I have been given the greatest gift that anyone could ever give me. Thank you, Mom, from the bottom of my heart. I am so peaceful and happy. My future is full of endless possibilities, at last! I love you, Mom.
WOW! I know that some of this is the euphoria of early sobriety. Becky, the program director, calls it the “Pink Cloud”. Becky also warned me that often, at 3 – 4 weeks of treatment, the client will fall off a bit from working the program – emotionally relapse some, I guess you could call it. However, she also assured me that they are prepared for this, and watch for it. They coach and mentor the patient through this, if necessary. Just for today – – – I’m with Hayley – in the pink cloud.
Hayley said that she met the founder/owner of Safe Harbor this week – “Velvet” – who runs a very ‘tight ship’ there. They are all required to do daily chores, work hard, and contribute to the good of the whole. This discipline has been very good for Hayley, and she seems to have responded to it. She said that she takes pride in doing even the most menial tasks well, which is a newly acquired attitude/skill. She said that it makes her feel good to follow through and do these chores well. Truly – she was sincere and genuine when she told me this.
I think that Hayley has always preferred to live with other people – and that as perverse as the crack house was, it provided a certain sense of community for her. Thank god that she is now able to experience this phenomenon in a clean and sober living environment. I do think that her age (31 yo) has been an advantage – that she not only relates well to the staff – as a peer, really – but that she also has a level of life experience and maturity that has made her realize that this is, indeed, a crucial turning point in her life. And because she’s often the oldest client there, she also may be doing some mentoring herself, to younger clients.
She got her hair highlighted (she talked her dad in to paying for this) – has been on walks/jogs/yoga classes to get her body back in shape – and seems to have a greater appreciation for the short time we all have here on earth. She’s truly engaged in all her group sessions, and reached a revelation with her therapist last week. For whatever reason, she’s always felt very pressured to excel in a high-powered career – which fed in to her anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. In reality, it was quite paralyzing for her. With her therapist, she realized that she just needs to be successful at life – at living a happy, healthy, responsible existence – that this is truly enough. Everything else is gravy, and may or may not happen. Often, once you achieve this goal, other things come.
I asked her what was different about Safe Harbor vs La Montagne, the eating disorder treatment facility she was in, back in 2002. She said that there was no comparison. First of all, she acknowledged that she is older and more ready to really listen and learn. And also, the many daily group sessions at Safe Harbor, provide more opportunity to connect and build a sense of community. And, because the staff members are all recovering addicts/alcoholics around her age, she relates to them in a very personal way. Also – a huge factor, is that Safe Harbor is in a residential setting, smack dab in the middle of the real world. Every evening, they all go out in to the community to attend an AA or NA meeting. Hayley felt that this interaction with the real world was very helpful and motivating. At La Montagne, they were in a remote/country setting with little/no interaction with the real world.
I heard gratitude and respect for life in Hayley’s voice and talk. Honestly – she sounds transformed. I think she was ready for this program and changing her life. I have tried to keep a certain distance from becoming totally invested in Hayley’s recovery. I know what the statistics are for recovering heroin addicts. They aren’t good. But, hearing Hayley talk and reading her words of gratitude, I can’t help but think that she has a very good chance of beating the odds. We’ll see. The fact that there is a huge community of clean and sober young people where she is, is promising. I think that she feels that she can make a life for herself there, with the support she needs to stay in recovery.
Hayley said that last week was rough. Her roommate relapsed, as did two of the other ‘girls’. My gosh – how does one relapse in a treatment facility? I hadn’t even considered this possibility. Hayley said that these girls brought in alcohol. She commented that this really pissed her off, because it put everyone in jeopardy. “Mom – alcohol is not my drug of choice. Had it been heroin that was brought in, I’m not sure what I would have done.” At least she’s being honest.
Hayley has received quite a bit of mail – and she has felt a great sense of accomplishment by responding to each of those letters. Writing, addressing/stamping notes of her own and getting them in to the mail was a very big deal to her. The notes I received were very genuine and sincere.
I have to believe that if Hayley does not ultimately recover from her addictions, at least her struggle will somehow be a transforming experience to those around her. And – just for today . . . I will float in the “Pink Cloud”, along side my daughter.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 23 so far )
In the middle of April, a few days after I had met Hayley on her birthday, an old, dear artist friend, Margaret, spent a couple of days with me. She had lived here many years ago, and was in town for a gallery opening of her most recent work. She stayed with me for two days/nights. It was wonderful to reconnect with her and I felt very comfortable sharing Hayley’s tragic story of addiction with her. Margaret is not only a gifted artist, but also an RN and a trained art therapist. She is an experienced and compassionate professional and friend, who has helped many people deal with chronic and terminal illnesses, and traumatic experiences.
Margaret brought me several gifts – a beautiful azalea topiary, a bottle of wine with a braided, hand-woven ribbon ‘bracelet’ adorning it, a tiny cut glass bud vase from a recent trip to her native England, and – – – a little round box that she had lovingly decorated. A week or two later, after reading a post on one of my favorite blogs, 37 Days, I decided that this beautiful, handmade box, would become my PRAYER BOX.
That very day, I started to write people’s names on slips of paper and put them in to my prayer box: Rob, Heather, Sam, Carrie, Angela, Beth, Daniela, Jeff, Faye and family, etc. I keep this Prayer Box on the window sill above my kitchen sink. It’s one of the first things I see every morning. The names inside are safe there, and I regularly look at them to remind me of why that person needs my prayers and positive thoughts. This tangible and sacred vessel that contains my very own collection of people I care about and who are in need of my focused thoughts and positive karma, is a reminder to: get out of myself, be grateful for what I have, share what I have to give, and – – – be humbled by all of you out there who are struggling, in pain, fighting the good fight, yet still able and willing to encourage others.
Please let me know if you would like me to put a name in to my prayer box. I would be honored to do so. I know that many of you have prayed and are praying for me and Hayley – and want you to know that I will do the same for you. Thank you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 28 so far )