Archive for July, 2010

Dealing With the Hole in the Soul

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

David Sheff, in his book, beautiful boy . . . a father’s journey through his son’s addiction, notes that:

. . . the bitterest irony of sobriety – the reward for your hard work in recovery, is that you come headlong into the pain that you were trying to get away from with drugs. (p.229)

Today, Hayley has been drug free for 75 days.  By most standards, this is considered early sobriety.  Her head is relatively clear, her body is physically healing, and she’s reached a point in her recovery program where she is beginning to think about and plan what comes next:  a job, transition in to a sober living house, and basically, learning how to live a substance-free, responsible and productive life.  On top of all that, she has begun to take a look at the financial and legal messes she needs to untangle and sort through:  getting her suspended driver’s license reinstated, paying off municipal court and probation fees and fines, meeting her probation requirements while  living out of state, paying down some of her debt, and managing some chronic health issues while not having any health insurance.

I get overwhelmed with anxiety just thinking about all that Hayley has to face and ‘undo’.  And then, I go from 0 to 60 mph, worrying about all these consequences of Hayley’s addictions stacked on top of the hard work she is doing to maintain sobriety.  My biggest fear, of course, is RELAPSE.

Drugs and alcohol are often used to numb anxiety and depression.  And, now that Hayley is substance-free, how will she deal with these emotions that drove her to use in the first place?

David Sheff’s son, Nic, says that . . .  the work he’s doing in treatment isn’t about finding excuses for his debauchery or his craziness and it isn’t about blaming anyone.  It is about healing.  His therapists have told him that he has to work through whatever it is that causes him to harm himself, to put himself in danger, to turn from those friends who love him, to lash out at his parents and others who love him, to lash out at himself, mostly at himself, to try to destroy himself.  He is an addict, but why?  Besides the luck of the gene-pool draw, what is it?  They want him to face it all so he can heal and move forward. (p.301)

Click here for more excerpts from beautiful boy that I thought were helpful and interesting.

Yes, Hayley is healing.  And yes, I’m a worry wart.  Hayley remarked recently that she can get overwhelmed with all that she faces.  But she also added that  she is learning to take “one day at a time”, and that it might also work for me.  I remember when taking “one day at a time” for her meant trying to score enough heroin to get her through a day without getting dope sick. For me it meant, for one more day, my daughter is alive.

It appears that Hayley has surrendered to the 12 step program and is deferring to the experienced staff members at Safe Harbor.  She told me that a few days ago, she had mentioned to her case-worker that she might want to go to a beautiful sober living house owned by a friend of her sponsor’s.  Velvet, founder and owner of Safe Harbor, said to her:  Hayley – look me straight in the eye.  No.  No, that would not be a good idea.  You need to live in a sober living house affiliated with and close to Safe Harbor, where you will have the support and resources you’ll need to maintain your sobriety. And Hayley responded with, OK.  You know best. This conversation totally blew me away.  I don’t think I’ve EVER witnessed or heard Hayley respond in this manner.

Next week, I fly to California to visit Hayley.  We’re both very excited to spend a few days together.  She’s anxious to show me ‘her world’ at Safe Harbor, meet her friends, staff members, her sponsor.  Hayley, her therapist,  case-worker, and I will all meet on Friday for a couple of hours.  I’m thinking about what questions to ask and what topics to raise.  These are a few, and I welcome any suggestions:

•Hayley – what can I do to support your recovery? What does that look like and feel like to you?

•Is there anything you want to talk about that would help your recovery in some way?

•When you said you’ve never felt comfortable in your own body, what does that mean, feel like?

•What have you learned in recovery that you didn’t know before?

I will try to be on my best behavior and not ask some of the blunt, stereotypical questions I really want to ask – like:

•when did it all go so wrong for you?

•how long have you been substance dependent?

•when did you start using and why?

•why did you jump to using IV heroin last summer?

•what was it like living in that crack house?

•can you get all the awful stuff out of your head? . . . yadayadayada

I know, I know.  Now I need to focus on my own recovery, not my daughter’s.  I’m trying.

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A Book As A Bridge

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

My dear friend, Donna, is an avid reader.  She’s my ‘go to’ person for personal reviews of the best, most recent literature.  Some of you have undoubtedly read Donna’s comments on my blog posts.  Her words are always insightful, wise, balanced, authentic, and full of compassion.  I met Donna almost 8 years ago in Al-Anon.  Both of us were there for similar reasons – we each had  a daughter with a serious eating disorder.  Donna has since become one of my most trusted, cherished friends.

Years ago, I had read and loved Anne Lamott’s book:  Bird By Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. And so, when Lamott’s latest book, Imperfect Birds, was released and reviewed recently, my interest was piqued.

However, I just haven’t had the time to read much lately, and since Donna had just finished Imperfect Birds, I asked her to jot down a few thoughts about the book.  

First, here is the New York Times ‘official’ review of that book:

If the novel has a fault, it’s that it almost works too hard, insisting on doing a little too much of our thinking for us. Occasionally I craved a bit more space, the room to slow down and analyze things for myself, to sweat toward my own, perhaps more ambiguous, conclusions. If I didn’t know Lamott was herself a recovering alcoholic, I think I would have guessed it. Just occasionally, all the supportive hugging and talk of higher powers made me want to pull back.

But Lamott nearly always tempers her understandable evangelism with honesty and humor. Laughter redeems this book, and so does the fact that it’s ultimately not just a novel about deception and drugs but about the great big bloody battle of love and sorrow that is parenthood. When James and Elizabeth discover that their daughter has been cheating them all along, with her urine tests and her lies, James moans that “the hits just keep on coming.” I doubt there’s a parent anywhere who wouldn’t respond to that.

And here is Donna’s review of the book – note the similarities to the NYTimes review:

IMPERFECT BIRDS, Anne Lamott’s newest book, is the story of a California family, Elizabeth, James and Rosie.  Elizabeth, the mom, is a recovering alcoholic – pretty fearful and insecure and extremely protective and loving.  James is her second husband and Rosie’s step-father.  Her first husband died when Rosie was little.  Elizabeth has been married to James for quite awhile and he has been a partner in raising Rosie.  Rosie is 17 and the book begins during the summer before her senior year in high school.  Rosie is athletic, beautiful, and smart (straight A student in AP classes).  Elizabeth and James are not blind to the drinking and sex that Rosie and her friends engage in, but they struggle with trying to figure out what to do.  It turns out that Rosie has a much, much bigger problem with alcohol and drugs than they could even imagine.  The clues are everywhere, but Rosie is adept at manipulating and lying, having done it for years and Elizabeth is desperate not to see the truth.  There is a lot of enabling and constant denial.  This struggle of getting caught and wiggling out of any consequences goes on in the book for quite a long time.  I found myself thinking “OK, I get the scenario – when is something big going to happen?  Let’s move along!”  Something big finally does happen and the last part of the book and the ending were much more satisfying to me.  We are left with hope that treatment will help Rosie, although we are given no definite answers.  Very real-life, I thought.  Lamott’s humor is excellent and it saved the book for me.  In my own experience with an adolescent child with an addiction, I just could not summon up the courage or skill to use humor to cope.  I think it is an important strategy and I have a lot of admiration for people who can laugh at life’s worst moments and help me to laugh.  Lamott does this so well.  I found out after I read the book, that Lamott also wrote two other pieces of fiction about this same family (Rosie’s younger years, I believe).  In her non-fiction, Lamott describes her own difficult growing up years, and her struggles with being a single parent to her son.  It felt likely that IMPERFECT BIRDS was partly memoir.  Lamott exhibited a lot of knowledge about addictive behavior.  She  communicated well the feel of the struggles of both parent and child when the hard, hard work of growing up is made worse by addiction.  This is worth the time to read, but I think Lamott is at her best when she writes non-fiction.

Yes – some of you may want to read Imperfect Birds, with its up-close-and-personal look at a family struggling with addiction.  But Donna’s addendum to her book review, was even more pertinent:

One more thought about books….my daughter is an avid reader and I have found that we can (often) discuss very difficult subjects by talking about books we’ve read.  It is sometimes clear to me (and probably to her too, she isn’t dumb!) that, at a deep level, we are actually talking about ourselves or family members or friends or experiences, although on the surface we are discussing a book.  Same goes for movies.  It has allowed us to share opinions and feelings at times, without such a big risk.  I am careful about passing along a book or movie suggestion if I know that my motives are manipulative.  For example, I hesitated to recommend the movie “Crazy Heart” to her, thinking the message would be too obvious.  However, when she was visiting a week ago, she picked up the CD soundtrack that was laying around and I asked if she’d seen the movie.  She said “no”.  Without pushing it, I said how much I’d liked it.  Anyway….it’s just another value of books.  In addition to educating ourselves and reducing our ignorance, it can be an avenue of communication.

So true.  I found the movie, Crazy Heart to be one of the best movies about alcohol I’ve seen.

And so – use a book, a TV program, and/or a movie to start a conversation – with a spouse, a child, any one with whom you need a ‘safe’ arena in which to discuss ‘prickly’ topics.

Donna also noted that as parents, we’re led to believe that if our kids are good students, and involved in sports, school, and community activities, that they’re somehow protected from the disease of addiction.  We both now know that this is not necessarily true.

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Rescued From the Sea

Posted on July 12, 2010. Filed under: addiction, The Bottom | Tags: , , , , , |

I’m cruising a bit today.  It’s summer, and I feel I haven’t played yet.  The days just fly by, with me tending to ‘important’ details of my remodeling project, Hayley’s recovery, family demands, and – – – life!  And so, instead of hacking out my own post, today I am featuring a ‘guest columnist’, professional interventionist Kristina Wandzilak. This is her most recent post, June  30th, from her blog:  The Kristina Chronicles. Kristina’s fabulous memoir, The Lost Years, is a story of hope.  I read this book last summer, when I was certain that I had lost my daughter to heroin and crack cocaine, forever.  The book was informative, touching, raw, and honest. Kristina and her mother, Connie, wrote alternating chapters – from the addict’s and mother’s points of view.  You may also read reviews of Kristina’s television series, Addicted, on my previous blog posts.

And so – if you are feeling despair, and hopelessness, and overwhelming grief and fear that your addict ‘child’ will never get clean/sober – or even survive, take a look at Kristina’s story and journey to recovery. It can happen.  It does happen.

Rescued from the Sea

I drowned today.

In a sea of memory and emotions, I drowned.

Just like the ocean, the memory took me over slowly. The water covered my toes and feet first, the sand melting away beneath them; then my knees, thighs and stomach. My chest next, with a slight loss of breath as the shock of the cold memory swirled around me. Then my shoulders, and finally my face was the last to go under as it looked up at the sky. My mouth let out a small gasp — and then bittersweet submersion as the memory pushed and pulled all around me.

I was very naive when I first hit the street. I learned very difficult lessons, the hard way. I was taken in by a man who told me he had a bunch of crack and he wanted to share it. I know — looking back, I should have foreseen what was coming — but I was lost, hurting and hopelessly addicted. And when he held up the bag of rocks, I could not turn away.

We went into a muggy motel room and he put down the bag and a pile of cocaine for us all to enjoy. It was me and an older black woman who was very thin and looked hard and a little scary. She had a scar above her eye, and I remember wondering how she got it. Her eyes were a deep brown, like dark chocolate, her hair short with a bandana wrapped around her forehead. I could tell she was pretty at a time in her life, but the street wears hard on pretty faces and kind souls. She had on a torn lavender T-shirt and tight jeans, dark blue. She was wearing a pair of white K-Swiss, I remember because I had a pair of the same exact shoes, at some point. She did not say much but took hit after hit off the crack pipe. It was warm in that room — smoky and dirty — but warm. The drugs were endless. It was heaven.

After some time of getting high and simple talk, I went into the bathroom, which was through the bedroom. I left the front room, and when I came back the man was standing in the doorway, blocking me from walking into the main room where the older woman was partying and listening to music, ABC by Jackson Five. I’ll never forget it. It was such a happy song for such a shit place.

He said to me, “Pull up your shirt and pull down your pants so I can see how much you’re worth.” I was shocked, speechless, and fear shot through me, making my hands shake. He said, “You didn’t think this was free, did you? You’ll be paying before you leave.” He just stood there blocking the doorway with a sleazy smile and a creepy look. Panic flooded me. My head was dizzy. I felt weak and sick and terrified. There was a knock on the motel room door, which distracted him. He said, “I’ll be back,” and stepped away to see who was at the door.

The moment he was out of the doorway, I gasped “…I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this.” I slid down the wall and began to hyperventilate. “I don’t know how to get out of this…” The older woman stood at my feet. She took a hit off a crack pipe, knelt down in front of me, pulled my face to hers, placed her lips on mine, and blew into my mouth. I inhaled as deeply as I could. The crack smoke filled my lungs like a baby’s first breath. Then she lifted my chin and looked into my eyes and said, “You don’t belong here.” Just those words, nothing else. She pulled me up off the floor, led me into the bathroom and helped me escape through a small window. She told me not to return.

As my feet landed on the walkway outside and the fresh air filled me, I ran. I ran blocks away. I ran as fast as I could. Running when you have nowhere to go is like a nightmare. My feet were moving so quickly, my breath was fast but it was like I was stuck in a dream I could not awake from. There was no escape from what I had done to myself. So I ran until I simply could not run anymore. I slept on concrete that night, at the far end of an alley, pushed into a corner. I closed my eyes until dawn was upon the city.

I do not know her name; I will never forget her face or the mercy she showed me that day. I was not so lucky the next time.

I bring her words with me into each intervention; no one deserves to be caught in the wicked, lonely, despairing disease of addiction. I have intervened on homeless drug addicts and fortune 500 CEOs, and I can tell you the desperation is the same; the fear, the madness, the brutal cycle of shame and self-loathing is our common denominator, and no one belongs in it or deserves to die of it.

When I doubt — and trust me, at times I do — that there is a higher purpose for me and a reason I survived, I picture her face, I remember her words, and she gives me strength to carry on and to continue to wage this war against addiction.

Sober and Shameless, KW

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Pink Cloud Fading

Posted on July 10, 2010. Filed under: Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , |

With permission,  Hayley’s most recent letter from recovery:

Dear Mom,

I got the meditation book a couple of days ago.  I read it every morning in our meditation group. People seem to like it – thank you!  I’ve been wearing the bracelet and earrings you sent almost every day, too.  You do such a great job finding little special “Hayley-isms”.  It means a lot to me that you take the time to look for and find things that you think I would like, or remind you of me.

It’s been a tough week for me – no sugar coating or smiling my way through.  It’s really hard for me to admit sometimes that I’m not OK, that I’m sad, that I’m f*cking terrified. A couple of my friends relapsed, and it scares the sh*t out of me how easy it was.  It also makes me angry.  “What makes them so special that they get to use again?” I am still working hard and grateful to be sober, but thoughts of the future overwhelm me sometimes.  I am reminded by my addict fellows to stop thinking about tomorrow and just think about the moment, the minute, today.  Becky told me today not to worry about other people or their consequences and/or lack there of, but instead focus on the fact that I am working a good program, that I am trusted to go places on my own, that I am honest and not partaking in other addictive behavior, etc. It’s strange to be the one doing things “right” for once.  I’ve been the other for so long, it’s who I still identify with.

Anyways, love you and miss you and am still so grateful you’re my mom.  Love, Hayley

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Posted on July 8, 2010. Filed under: AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I’m baaaaack!  I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging.  I’ve been busy supervising/managing a bedroom/bath remodel project, spending 5 days with family over the Fourth of July, tending to my 93 yo mother who lives two hours away, doing a bit of contract work, and – well –  living my life.  As Hayley continues to progress in her recovery program, I’ve decided to shift my focus.  I want to educate myself, as much as I can, on addiction issues as they impact our health care system, what role they have, if any, in the development of a national public health care policy, and examine/debate current approaches to dealing with drug addiction in our society.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to write about the topic of advocacy and how we, as a society, can more effectively and compassionately ‘treat’ drug addicts.  One of the best sites I’ve run across, as a comprehensive resource for both general and drug specific information about addiction, book reviews, advocacy ideas and links for more humane/compassionate treatment of drug addicts, and reporting on and monitoring the ‘pulse’ of our society in regards to illicit drug use, is Bill Ford’s blog, Dad On Fire. “This web log is inspired from my own experiences with my alcohol and substance abuse early in life and my current struggles with my own children who have or are currently suffering from the ravages of substance abuse.” Bill’s focus is raising public awareness about the damaging economic, social, and personal effects that drug addiction has on our society and the urgent need for solutions.

Bill Ford is a Tucson resident and Architect by profession. He is available for interviews and has become a local encyclopedia of information regarding the damages and costs of substance abuse on the family and on the community.  If you’re short on time, Bill’s blog could be a “one-stop-shopping” site for drug addiction resources, provocative conversation, and new perspectives.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a fascinating interview on National Public Radio, “Tackling America’s Drug Addiction” with Joseph Califano, founder and chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Califano talked about the appetite for drugs in the U.S. and what’s being done to curb it.  Here are a few interesting bytes and shocking stats:

•The U.S. comprises 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs.

NORRIS: Let me ask you about the war on drugs right now. The current administration is trying to focus on a balance between interdiction and treatment: drug courts, for instance, followed by mandatory treatment, things like that.

Will that shrink the domestic market for drugs – since when you’re talking about treatment, there are so many issues surrounding access to treatment?

Mr. CALIFANO: You’re absolutely right. The rhetoric of the administration is good, but the dollars haven’t changed. We’re still putting roughly two-thirds into interdiction and enforcement, and one-third into treatment and prevention. Interestingly, when President Nixon started the war on drugs, his first budget was two-thirds for prevention and treatment, and one-third for interdiction.

The drug courts are great. We’ve analyzed them at our center. They work. And the prison population is important because 65 percent of the people in prison meet the medical criteria for drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. Thats a wonderful – in a sense, a captive audience. But we don’t provide much treatment for them.

NORRIS: Is the U.S. serious enough about the war on drugs?

Mr. CALIFANO: No, we’re not. I’ll tell you – we’re not serious. The government is not serious enough. You can barely hear any of the leaders in the government talk about it. The medical profession is not serious enough. The public-health profession is not serious enough.

Click on the interview title  to read or listen to the entire thought-provoking interview.

On a more personal note regarding advocacy, my deep gratitude to Tom, at Recovery Help Desk.  His words, . . . enabling recovery requires action . . . inspired me to ‘give it a shot’ and make a valiant effort to try to get my heroin addict daughter in to a treatment program.  As of today, Hayley has been clean and sober for 60 days, and is embracing her recovery with passion and commitment.  I believe that, for 31 year old Hayley, the timing was right, along with a few other critical factors.  However, when I recently asked her if she could have found help on her own, she said “no”.  She needed a ‘hand up’ out of her deep, dark hole.  I encourage others to trust their intuition and facilitate your addict’s desire to change their lives and seek recovery.

An Aside: Wow!  Almost 21,000 views of my blog since September 2009.  And what’s with this – 565 views in one day, on Monday, April 26, 2010.  Was it in response to my Take A Seat post on April 25th?  Don’t know – but I’m fascinated by who stops by this blog, what they’re looking for, what they find helpful, and how I can help them feel not so alone.  A heartfelt thank you to all of my blogger friends, fans, ‘regulars’, and all who leave comments.  I’ve learned so much from you , and am am inspired by your own stories. Your support has been instrumental in sustaining my hope, humility, humor, and SANITY over the past year. I am eternally grateful.

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