A Safe Harbor

Posted on June 1, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, The Bottom, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I apologize for not having posted in a while.  I spent a good part of last week with my 92-year old mother and 3 & 5-year old grandchildren.  Plus, today, I started a major remodeling project on my house and seem to be very behind in all areas of my life.  I had started this post on Memorial Day – so, will now just continue as if it still were May 31st.

First of all – THANK YOU, to each and every one of you, for all your comments, encouragement and support. They sustain me and give me the strength and hope to stay focused on my own recovery and learn how to be happy regardless/in spite of my daughter’s tragic life.

To briefly recap, my 31 year old heroin addict daughter, Hayley, as of May 8th, is in recovery and at a treatment center in southern California.  This is truly a remarkable turn of events. Our family conducted an emergency intervention, of sorts.  Even though Hayley had recently indicated that she wanted to get help and change her life, she was incapable, in my opinion, of doing so on her own.

Hayley was in a medical detox facility from May 8th until May 21st, when she finally “officially” arrived at Safe Harbor in Costa Mesa, CA, a small, all women’s residential treatment program.  She called me after arriving, even though I was told that there would be a two week “black out” period with no communication.  (see post)

She called again today – at 7:45 am.  I was awake, but not out of bed yet. I had just returned home from a hectic/demanding 4 days with my 92-year old mother and my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5.

“Good Morning”, her voice rang out. This was the upbeat, sunny voice I once knew – and always felt buoyed by.

“I thought you couldn’t call out for two weeks”, I said.

“Oh, it’s no biggie”, she replied.  “Turn on the Today Show”, she continued.  “They’re interviewing WWII WASP pilots.”

Hayley’s 92 yo grandmother, my mother, earned her pilot’s license in 1942 and had wanted to join the WASPs.  However, at that time, my dad (her husband) was serving overseas in WWII as a battalion surgeon on the front line in Europe/South Africa, and in order for my mother to be able to join the WASPs, she needed her husband’s permission!  When my mom’s request finally did reach my dad overseas, he wouldn’t sign the papers. He thought that the war would be over soon, and wanted my mother to be there when he arrived back home.  He also had mistakenly assumed that these women pilots would be flying dangerous combat missions in Europe.

Mom and Dad had only been married for three months when my dad shipped out with the first troops ship, on New Year’s Eve, 1941.  He was gone for 2 ½ years.  My dad wrote and sent home over 275 typed, perfectly preserved letters to my mother during that time.  I have them all, and am making my way through them as a project for the Center for the History of Medicine, who wants to feature my father’s medical career as a major exhibit..  These letters are a remarkable up-close and personal glimpse of: World War II, Dad’s experience as a medical officer on the front line, involved in over 20 major engagements with the enemy, – – – and, my parents’ courtship and the early dynamics of their marriage.

Hayley is the ‘child’ in the family who remembers these things – and values them the most.  She is sentimental and appreciates all the family stories, artifacts, and heirlooms.  The sad irony has always been that because of her substance abuse, unstable work and living conditions, and ‘quirky’ personality, that she was the least likely to ever have a place or the means to keep and preserve them all.

Hayley’s voice this morning was bright and energized.  The euphoria of  early sobriety was very apparent – and hopeful.  She sounded in touch with some important things.

“Ya know, Mom – I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin. That’s why I always needed an external source of  numbing/affirmation.”

And then, Hayley launched in to a rundown of the first couple of AA 12 steps – that step # 1 meant, you needed to surrender to the power of your addiction – that you are powerless over its control and seduction.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  I’ve been skeptical of Hayley’s ability/commitment to work through the twelve steps and totally embrace their  guiding force – I still am, kinda.  But she sounded so genuine this morning, and encouraged, and positive. I had to scrap all my “devil’s advocate” rebuttals and just revel in her positive attitude and enthusiasm.  “Just for today”, I am going to believe in her good intentions and renewed spirit.

She said that they had traveled to some fabulous AA retreat center on the beach and heard “Patty O.” speak for 3 hours – that it was a wonderful afternoon.  On the way home, as the sun set on the California coast, Hayley was consumed by gratitude and flashbacks to her not-so-distant past.

“Mom – if you hadn’t stepped in, I would have just been lying in bed, dope-sick, and desperately trying to figure out my next move.”

Hayley has been at Safe Harbor now for ten days.  She said they are kept very busy – up at 7:00 am, followed by chores, a meeting, breakfast, more group meetings, etc.  And, she said, “We go to an AA or NA meeting every day.  You’ve got to. If you don’t, you’re on a slippery slope to relapse.”  Again, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.

She said she’s only seen her therapist once.  Hmmmm – is this something I should monitor/track?  Thanks, Bob D., for reminding me that I can help my daughter get to treatment, but I cannot and should not try to control the outcome.

Hayley said that she especially likes interacting with the staff at Safe Harbor.  They’re all recovering alcoholics/addicts, of course, and, I’m speculating, are close to her own age (31 yo).  She must be connecting with them in some way, because she has called me several times within the last week, from staff members’ cell phones.  Is that ok? Is she manipulating them, as she has done her entire life?  (ok – back off and give it up, Peg)

When I reported this encouraging phone call to Jake, Hayley’s older brother, he was skeptical.  “Mom – she’s always been able to schmooze her way through anything. I’m going to wait and see if there’s any real substance behind all the talk”.  Hmmmm.  OK – guess I’ll slow down a bit.

I’m wondering if maybe Hayley’s age, at 31 yo, is an advantage right now?  She’s probably closer in age to the treatment center staff at Safe Harbor, who are modeling productive, satisfying, clean and sober lives.  She can relate to these women as a peer, and they enable her to tangibly visualize a healthy and happy life.  This is powerful.

I’ve always known that Hayley thrives on a group/communal living environment.  As perverse as it was, the crack house filled that need for her.  And now, here she is, living with other women who are also on the path to recovery, in a lovely residential house setting in southern California.  I mean, if you can’t get sober there, where can you?

I’m still holding back.  I’ve read and been advised that a rehab program won’t necessarily ‘stick’ unless the addict has ‘hit bottom’ and gets themselves to treatment.  I do believe that timing is everything. And on that note, here were the headlines in our community newspaper last week:

Low Price, High Potency:  New form of heroin causes spike in US overdose deaths:

“Mexican drug smugglers are increasingly peddling a form of  ultra- potent heroin (black tar heroin) that sells for as little as $10 a bag and is so pure it can kill unsuspecting users instantly,  sometimes before they even remove the syringe from their veins.”

AND this disturbing follow-up article:

“A 46-year-old Colorado man’s death Tuesday from an apparent  heroin overdose has raised concerns that a potent strain of the drug could be circulating in our fair city.”

Hearing my daughter’s clear, exuberant voice, full of hope and possibility – with some gratitude and humility mixed in – – – well, it doesn’t matter right now how she got there – – – but that she is there, at SAFE HARBOR. The name says it all.


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30 Responses to “A Safe Harbor”

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That is also my hope for all the children. I have been a lucky one with my daughter asking to go to rehab at 21 years old and being clean now for 5 months. She has seen the light truly and I don’t feel she will ever go back. I am wishing the same for all of our children addicts! Hugs to you all!

I am envious and feeling a little sorry for myself, I am also very happy for you and Hayley! I hope that all of our children find a safe harbor.

This is such a promising post. She seems to be doing great, and you’re probably right about her having an advantage with her age. I like that she was actually thankful to you!
Love & hugs 🙂

I forgot to add…

I think you are right to be keeping an eye on the treatment program. It may not be a path to total detachment, but that isn’t really your goal at the moment is it? You are actively promoting recovery for your daughter, paying for treatment, and you want it to make a difference for your daughter and your family. I doubt that crossing your fingers and just hoping that the professionals are handling things well is going to make you feel any less invested in the outcome of the treatment.

I work with many treatment providers in my job, and like you I have experienced many situations where advocacy was required. I’ve also worked in treatment programs, and have seen the desire of staff to push parents away because they don’t want to have to bother interacting with the parents and/or don’t want to be held accountable. Sometimes parents themselves are inappropriate and unhelpful to the recovery process, but I don’t see you being one of those parents.

I think you will have the judgment to stay within the bounds of appropriate monitoring and advocacy.

I think if Hayley is sounding motivated, staying in the program, and staying active in the treatment, things are probably going fine. If something alarms you, I’d talk to Hayley about it first and ask her if she would mind if you talked to the staff about it for you own peace of mind.

I’m glad to hear Hayley is in treatment and doing well. Your parents sound amazing. I want to hear the whole story…maybe you should write a book…maybe the letters with your connecting narratives in between? In you spare time of course 🙂

Tom – I feel, in some ways, that I need more support than ever while Hayley is in treatment. It feels soooo critical, that she ‘gets it’ – and that, of course, the “real” work begins when she’s out of the controlled environment and in transition with the ‘real’ world. I welcome any suggestions you may have regarding my role, as a concerned parent, and ‘tips’ to pass on to Hayley.

Gal, its great to hear someone else is clean for a long term ( 5 months) to me is long, maybe not? All I can say Peg, is when you see the true spirit and healthiness of your daughter coming through after she gets through rehab and is on the road to recovery it puts the sunshine in your day. My daughter is very beautiful inside and out but when she was using she wasn’t a very pretty sight inside or out. Her true self is now shining and her intelligence is startnig to come back which was suppressed. I with the same for all of you mothers that you may see the true spirit of your daughters and sons and it gets to shine forth! Sorry for going on and on. Hugs

Peggy, She will always have to watch out for her triggers. She has been to parties where there is alcohol and has had a non alcoholic drink and was ok. She said it was hard but she can’t have anything being a recovering addict. Each day is another goal met from where she sees things. I am hoping you will be where I am in a few months. I still worry. Actually last night she didn’t come home from work which isn’t unusual. She sometimes goes to her boyfriends on the way home but she wasn’t answering her cell phone and by 10 p.m I was getting really worried. They she strolls in the door like nothing. I said could you possible let me know when you are not coming home and she said sorry mom my phone was dead. I said please use some consideration. So in the back of my mind she was out doing something wrong and she was planning a trip to the DC zoo for Sunday which she has wanted to do forever. Keep the faith. I know how hard it is sometimes. Every day is a challenge no matter what stage we are at. My thoughts and prayers are with your daughter and yourself daily.

Dear Peg….With respect and love, and at the risk of being a little harsh, I need to ask this. Is the gift to Hayley from the family, of a rehab program, “free” or are there strings attached?

Well – that’s an interesting question. I’ve never really experienced gifts that were meant to be “for free and for fun.” I think that there are definitely strings attached to Hayley’s rehab program, whether intentional, or unintentional. The problem is, those strings are somewhat camouflaged and difficult to identify. I’ve grown up with certain expectations/strings attached to most behavior and situations. So, it’s difficult for me to not only recognize that component, but to also re-boot my internal computer and respond in a different way. We need to talk about this in more detail. See you at Al-Anon on Saturday!?

First of all – WOW! I am so impressed by your mother and father! Both sound like amazing people (who raised an amazing daughter!)

I feel encouraged by everything you said about Hayley. Of course we have to remain “cautiously optimistic” but why not enjoy the good days while they are here? This could be the turning point for her, it sounds like she is very open and positive. I think all addicts are schmoozers to some degree, a common trait they share, and the women who work there are probably very aware of that since they were all schmoozers at one time too. I think they just like her and are giving her some perks to encourage her by letting her use the phone 🙂

Thanks for this, Barbara. You’re right. Hayley has always been a gifted “schmoozer” – and to hear from other people, like you, who know about this and recognize it, helps so much. This trait isn’t all bad, if used in a positive way. And – I know you hit the nail on the head when you say that it’s possible that the staff at Safe Harbor have been totally charmed by Hayley – and that her ‘reward’, is using their phone to call home. I guess that’s not so bad. However, in my own sickness, I’m also wondering if Hayley tried to call her drug dealer, Bill – not to ‘score’, but to find out how he’s doing, etc. Hayley has a huge heart – which is familiar to me, since I seem to suffer from the same DX. I often reach out to random people in need and then end up taking on a long term relationship that I can’t possibly sustain. Oh, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree, I’m afraid.

Pegy – As to trying to relax, I’m afraid old habits die hard. This period you’re going through is actually pretty difficult, because all your hopes are on the line. Forgive yourself for feeling tense and wanting to control things. You’re trying to heal, too. I was just like you, only the rehab facility was just about two miles from my house. I started off trying to control everything and making a total pest of myself. Needless to say, the rehab staff set me straight. I’m afraid I’ve always been a total control freak over the health and well-being of my kids, but I’m trying very hard to choose my battles now that they’re adults. Ok, I admit it, I’ve just transferred the same manic-concern to my elderly parents’ health issues and my sister who is fighting cancer. I wish I was less of a worrier and more of a pragmatist, but it is what it is. We have to learn to love ourselves, flaws and all, right?
As for my daughter, she continues in her commitment to stay clean, thank God. June starts her 5th month. It’s a joy to see her wearing sleeveless shirts, shorts and sandals, no longer having to hide track marks. For me, the fear of her relapsing never goes away, but every day I am grateful that she remains on the right path. As for the oil leak in the Gulf, it’s a terrible disaster. It is all we can talk about around here, and yet we feel so helpless. Reminds me of the period following Katrina when the destruction totally defined our lives, and still does to a certain extent. There’s a lot of frustration in these parts. Thanks for asking.

Glad to hear Hayley is soaking up her beautiful enviornment!

I’m so glad to hear that she is enthusiastic about the 12 steps. From my experience that sounds like a good sign. I’m praying for all of you

I am glad that things are going well for you. What a sweet age your grandchildren are!

The treatment center sounds fine. I almost sent Beth there. An expensive consultant recommended it but she would not go. These places often do a great job while they are in them. Try to keep her in the center as long as possible.

Anna – thanks for this. Yeah – I need to relax a bit and work on my own recovery. I just tried to visit your blog and had a problem. Is it up and running?

So glad you have your daughter back. She and you deserve these happy moments. It’s true they can and often do relapse; but the joy of the moments you are sharing right now cannot be taken away.

I’m happy for you. It doesn’t matter how she got there. She agreed to go and she IS there. That’s what counts. She’s also getting plenty of help and tools that she can use on this journey. I’m glad you have some peace at the moment. Revel in it!
Still praying for you both

So true. If I can’t relax a bit now that Hayley is in treatment, when the hell will I ever be able to let go? I, obviously, need to do a lot of work of my own.

Some of the articles in your blog are really wonderful and right on target for twelve-steppers. Would you consider submitting them to a Stepper’s Wisdom blog carnival? You can find information about the carnival here:

the only thing you said that bothers me is ….hmmmmm, should i be monitoring that situation?…

NO. you should NOT. Where Hayley is is a rehab facility. It may simply be that they realize counseling is not productive until the addict has reached a certain lucid point in their detox/recovery to actually BENEFIT from in depth counseling.

Stay out of it. You are sliding backwards LOL, into controlling Hayleys addiction/recovery. Let Hayley and the rehab center own the problem. It is now an SEP (somebody else’s problem) which is the ultimate detachment goal for a parent. Let it BE somebody else’s problem, NOT YOURS.

Love ya and hang in there…

Dawn – thanks for checking in. I’ve missed you. And, as usual, you call it like it is. I need those reminders. I have a long history of “meddling”. However, I’ve also been able to sometimes prevent a potentially disasterous outcome by asking pertinent questions and challenging mediocrity/sloppy work. I’m feeling a bit of entitlement since “we”, her family, is footing the bill for the rehab program. Will I ever learn?

Peggy, enjoy the moment. She is in a safe environment and you are concentrating on yourself. Whatever goes on there is out of your control. Just have faith in the staff. You’d think that they know what they are doing. She has to own her situation and make the best of it. You cannot influence it in any way. Don’t have any expectations and you won’t be disappointed, only pleasantly surprised. It will all work out.

Helga – you are so right. I tend to want to control the outcomes – and spend way too much time trying to anticipate and avoid potential problems – that don’t even exist yet! Still – I’m mindful of the thousands of dollars being spent on Hayley’s rehab program, and the reality that treatment programs aren’t very well regulated or monitored. It’s hard to tell what is a truly exemplary program that uses the most current/data driven treatment approaches – and whether or not the staff is well-trained/experienced enough to effectively deal with very intelligent, highly manipulative clients. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve hired a professional to do a particular job, and I often knew more than they did! (well – not really – but if I hadn’t asked certain questions, or followed-up with research of my own, the problem would have never been resolved. Just hope we’re getting our money’s worth. Peggy

So Glad that she sounds clearer on the phone, my daughter did also. I wish her the best and hope she sticks with it and really works the program. I am behind you all the way. Take what you need from what she says but don’t go overboard. One day at a time just like Hayley. My daughter has been clean 5 months today and I am so proud and happy and wish Hayley the same!

Yay, Renee. I’m so proud of Kristen, also. Does she talk about any cravings at this stage – or whether or not she still has to be careful of her triggers? Just curious. It’s probably easy to let up a bit when you’re doing well and have 5 months of sobriety under your belt. It’s most likely more difficult to keep working hard at recovery when you’re seemingly ok. Keep us updated with your insights at this stage of your daughter’s progress. With luck, I’ll/we’ll be there in several months also. Peggy

Peg, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring, whether your child is in rehab or just driving across town. Absolutely live in the moment and enjoy every one of them. Life has absolutely no guarantees, so rejoice in what you know right now. And what you know is that Hayley has a real chance now. I could cry in relief just knowing she’s no longer in that horrible crack house. Thank God. So glad to hear from you. Missed you!

Thanks for checking in, Gwynn. How are things going in your world? Is your daughter still on the recovery path? And what the hell are we going to do about that oil disaster? I get sick just thinking about it every day, let alone living with it, as you must be. Thinking of you. Peggy

Sounds promising! I am so happy for you…. and praying He continues to do miracles in the hearts of all our addicts!

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