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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23 Responses to “Dealing With the Hole in the Soul”

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I think you’re probably either gone by now or you may even be back it’s taken me so long to get over here. I think that Dawn and Helga said it all, so there’e no point in my adding my two cents. Other than to mention that I think asking questions falls into the same category as “Dialing for pain”. You ask for it…
Something I try to remind myself in my contacts with my daughter lately.
btw…I LOVED both Tweak and Beautiful Boy. I could so identify with what David Sheff went through.
I hope your visit is everything you want and need it to be.

Peggy – just back from holiday to read this post. Hayley must be 83 days clean by now – what an incredible achievement!!! I took have a host of unanswered questions jotted in my mental notepad for Hannah – the simple, the unanswerable and the gritty. I probably won’t ever get an answer. As time goes by the need to know lessens, only occasionally surprising me with a huge questionmark. I loved reading ‘seek to understand’ – I am trying. And with it I am finding peace.
Keep us posted on her progress. I am so happy for you all. We only have to think about to 3 months ago to think what an amazing achievement this is..

Have a great trip! Judging by the dates, you may be there now – or going soon. How exciting – 75 days – awesome!!!
If you’re not there and are reading this – With regards to questions to her, I recommend treating her more as you would a friend than as a daughter – for example you wouldn’t say to your friend, “how did you get in all this financial trouble and how far in debt are you???” type thing. I hesitate to give you advice b/c how in the world do I know???? But, taking that approach has given positive results for me with Heather. Also, I’ve only given advice when asked (okay, so for the most part! lol).
God bless.
Looking forward to hearing how the visit went.

Sorry it took me FOREVER to get over here and leave a comment. I remember when you hadn’t even spoken to Hayley, when she was in a very ugly, scary place – so I am rejoicing that she has come so far! I can’t wait to hear how it goes this weekend and will be thinking about you!!!

BTW, I read Beautiful Boy and Tweak a long time ago, when they first came out. I read David’s, the Dad, first. Then Nic’s.. thinking I wish I had done the opposite. Nic has replapsed.. several times I believe. I think CNN has an interview with him. I believe he said he was dx’d with Bi Polar. My hearts aches for them, as they are still struggling , like all of us.

When I heard David and Nic Scheff speak in January, it came out in the end that Nic was on Suboxone. I wonder if he’s been able to stay sober since then? It must be an additional pressure to have written a book, on the speaking circuit, and still struggling with the craving and addiction stuff.

How interesting that Nic is on Suboxone. Not surprised, and I’m sad for him, since it’s very, very difficult to get off Suboxone once it’s been used long-term.

Dave Sheff’s book is a brilliant memoir.

My recommendation for your visit, Peg, would be simply to be present, as one might with any loved one who is recovering with any life-threatening illness. Which is what addiction is.

And to enjoy the time you have together. Much respect, G

Guinevere – thanks for your comment. As a result, I just discovered your amazing blog. You are an excellent writer, and I hope to spend more time exploring your posts. In fact, I’m going to quote you and refer to your blog in some upcoming posts of my own. Best, P.

awhh Peg.. I totally get what you really want to ask.. as I have been there.. and never close enough, like the answers slipped from my grasp as we had another relapse. I am slowing getting those answers as my daughter learns them, works thru them and can talk about them. By the time I am understanding, it’s old news. LOL
I spent the entire day with my daughter yesterday and one of her best friends, whom she hasn’t seen in 2 years , due to him being in AZ in rehab. But I learned a ton yesterday.
They used to feel better about themselves. It made them feel their low self esteem was gone for awhile.
They jumped to Heroin because 1, it was cheaper and easier to get. 2, because it felt the best once they started doing it.. but that feeling left quickly and they were physically dependent on it. My daughter does not remember much about living in her crack or heroin house. Memories are blurry. Same with getting the awful stuff out of her head.. she doesn’t remember awhole lot… in her heroin haze.
I am really hopeful for Haley! She sounds like she is making so much progress and your communicating in healthy ways. Enjoy your trip to CA and time with her. I will look forward to your post when you get back.

Thanks, Kelly, for understanding me and giving me some important input. Hayley jumping to heroin occurred, I’m sure, as a result of the ‘perfect storm’ – a variety of circumstances that all came together at a critical time. Individually, none of it is very complex – but the cumulative effect of it all is what most likely tipped the balance.

Hi Peg and Hayley..
The following is my experience…
I did not become addicted in one day so unraveling my list of problems should not take one day.
When I look at my list of problems it becomes overwhelming, I take care what is in front of me and move on to the next one.
Helping someone in the recovery process simply means…’I respect what you are doing, if I can help and it’s within reason I will try.
I beleive the second set of questions are not necessary, after all she is where she is right now. It’s not where Hayley has been…It’s where she is going that matters.

Love and Respect….Bob

Thanks for this, Bob. I know that second set of questions is out of line and not necessary. I was just being honest about my perverse desire to know some of the details of Hayley’s drug life, as well as possible reasons why she traveled that path in the first place. And just knowing that some one, like you, can maintain sobriety even in the face of daunting problems, is a comfort and source of courage, strength, and hope. Thank you. Peggy

These are all such wonderful comments, Peg. What a blessing to have this community of friends for help and support. I had a boss several years ago, who coached me through some very difficult interactions with parents of kids I worked with. His strongest message to me, in my interactions with these parents was to “seek to understand” – and not at some superficial level – to really, deeply try to understand. Perhaps that can part of your mantra. By listening to Hayley, you will seek to understand. Maybe you can also use the rule of “no cross-talk” to guide your interaction. Might that be helpful, do you think?

Wow, Donna – three powerful, simple words: “Seek to understand” – – – not to be right, or heard, or warn, or ‘help’ – but to try to understand. It’s a bit of an epiphany for me. Thank you, dear friend.

A agree 100% with Dawn. Unintentionally, we often come across in a patronizing fashion when we ask the questions as parents. We put the kids in a defensive stance because more than likely they don’t have the answer ready we want to hear. They think we are trying to infer that there is something wrong with them because their self esteem is more than fragile or that we don’t believe that they are capable to handle their own affairs.
Ask yourself all these questions and try to answer them concerning your own recovery. My five cents worth. I am excited for you to be able to spend some time with your daughter. I don’t know what I’d give to do the same. Good luck!

Once again, Dawn and Helga have beat me to the punch. I completely agree with them both. I especially like the idea of asking yourself those questions for your own recovery and see how that feels. Keep the conversation light and have a loving spirit and allow Haley the dignity to own her recovery because in the end, it really isn’t any of our business unless they ask or share. Excited for you and so happy Haley is truly working her program.

Yes – expressing my concerns, and anxiety, and trying to prevent some disaster, seems to be my MO. And, you’re right. It unintentionally sends the message to Hayley that she isn’t competent, and can’t handle what’s coming, and hasn’t even considered some important things. However – – – Hayley’s history and past behavior patterns, have conditioned me to think and worry for her, I guess. This will be a big challenge for me – to stay in my own hula hoop. Thanks for the reminders.

Oh, and I am just finishing David Sheff’s book and will be starting Nic’s book this weekend. My sponsor sent me her copy of Tweek and stated she liked it a bit better so I am excited to finish them both and compare both sides of the coin. Sending you prayers for a peaceful and joy-filled visit with Hayley.

actually, i don’t think you should ask her ANY questions at all. it’s really none of your business. it’s HER recovery, let HER own it. It’s part of the process she needs to go through.

to have a parent question any of it only interfere’s and makes you the ‘controlling mom’ figure again. which will piss her off and make her pout and non communicative.

i would talk about the extended family, what her brother is doing, etc. talk about your work, talk about a good restaurant you found, talk about anything at all except her addiction and rehab.

don’t say what can i do to support you in your recovery. just say I love you Hayley.

just my thoughts.

Peg Its awesome that you are going to see her. Just take in her clean person and enjoy your time together. Learn what you need to learn and let her tell you what she wants to. As you know by our emails, my daughter has the debt issues also and I had some recent concerns about her and asked her if everything was ok. She Said “MOM, WHAT DID WE LEARN ABOUT WORRYING?” When did she become the teacher and me the student. I am praying for you and Hayley. Let us know how it goes and just be yourself with her. That should be enough. Hugs to you. Keep us posted on how it goes.

Yes, Renee. I am discovering that Hayley is teaching me what I need to learn.

Hi, Peg- For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t suggest asking Hayley a lot of questions when you see her. Let her take the lead. As times goes by, she may ultimately tell you everything you want to know, but when she’s ready. My daughter has opened up quite a bit about her heroin days, but I do my best to let the conversation flow naturally. As for this coming weekend, from my perspective (which means little), nothing matters beyond how far she has come over the last 75 days and her commitment to stay clean tomorrow. I am so proud of her for working at this so hard.

Good advice, Gal. I’ll try to keep myself under control. This is the work I need to focus on. I just spoke with Hayley’s therapist to set up our meeting when I’m there. And, I was able to voice a couple of concerns I had – and then, will let the therapist take the lead when she meets with Hayley on her own. Basically, I’m worried about Hayley’s money management issues – and fearful that old behavior patterns with erupt when she’s out on her own. I think her money problems (and impulse control) were a major source of her anxiety and depression, which she then used substances to try to control. I’ll try to stay ‘clean’ myself when I’m there.

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