Archive for August, 2010
It was just a few months ago that the term, “Getting Well” took on a whole new meaning for me. My 31 yo heroin addict daughter, Hayley, was living in a crack house, ‘shooting up’ and smoking crack. Her lifestyle circumstances were desperate – and sordid – and frightening. I happened to speak to her on the phone one day, and she said she was ‘dope sick’ and needed to “get well”. In other words, she needed to find some heroin. What a euphemism. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines euphemism as: “the use of a word or phrase that is less expressive or direct but considered less distasteful, less offensive, etc. than another.” What an understatement.
Today, my daughter is “getting well”, in the more conventional context. She has just completed a 90-day drug treatment program and last Friday, moved in to a sober living house. This is, of course, the next logical step in her recovery – but, nevertheless, it scares me. The nurturing, safe, ‘scheduled’ environment of the treatment center has been replaced by a house of 7 recovering addicts, all trying to stay sober and move forward with their lives.
Basically, each of them is on their own, with no schedule or formal program. They are monitored, somewhat, with random urine tests. And, I think there are general house rules and expectations. Ideally, they are all working their program and supporting each other. However, it’s a bit of a dice throw. Hayley needs to find a job, attend AA/NA meetings, work on getting her driver’s license restored, tend to some legal issues resulting from probation violation, deal with the thousands of dollars of debt she owes, figure out a way to get thousands of dollars of dental work done, monitor a chronic health issue, and on, and on, and on. Post treatment is when the real work of recovery begins – and the steady, meticulous effort to build a new life is daunting. I’m overwhelmed with all she faces – and am wondering how she’ll ever get a decent life back.
Hayley sounds strong and still very committed to the 12-step program. Yet – – – I worry about her ability to handle all that she faces. Today, I had to remind her to send a letter to her court-assigned attorney regarding her upcoming court date on Friday for probation violation. Should I have to do that? Shouldn’t staying out of jail be at the top of her priority list? How long will I have to ‘baby-sit’ her? What is appropriate at this point? Hayley needs to not only work at staying sober, but also learn and practice independent living skills. She does need help, in my opinion, but it’s a delicate balance.
My worst fear, of course, is that Hayley will soon be overwhelmed with the details and demands of life – – – and then, . . .relapse. The professionals say that ‘relapse’ is a part of recovery. I know. However, when you’re a heroin addict, ‘relapse’ seems to have such dire consequences. And, there I go – jumping ahead and worrying about what hasn’t even happened yet.
I am so grateful for Hayley’s sobriety and hard work. I am trying to live “one-day-at-a-time”, as is she. But it’s very hard. And so – – – I think I need to take myself to an Al-Anon meeting and try to ‘get well’, myself.
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The First Step prepares us for a new life, which we can achieve only by letting go of what we cannot control and by undertaking, one day at a time, the monumental task of setting our world in order through a change in our own thinking. One Day at a Time in Al-Anon
It’s been a week now since I returned home from visiting Hayley in California. I’m still a bit numb – almost in denial, that she has so completely embraced her sobriety and the 12-step recovery program. I’m still wrestling a bit with my daughter’s history of manipulation and mastery of ‘talking the talk’. In realty, Hayley has ‘walked the talk’ for over 90 days now. The recovery statistics for heroin addiction are abysmal – around 13 %, I think. So – I’m a bit hesitant to jump in with both feet. This skepticism is evidence of the work I still need to do for my own recovery. Although Hayley’s recovery seems almost too good to be true, her response seems genuine and, in her own words, Mom – I don’t have time to f*ck around.
Hayley has not only surrendered to her powerlessness over alcohol and drugs – she seems to have also undergone a spiritual transformation. This is not necessarily a “come-to-jesus” religious experience, but rather, believing that her personal journey led her to Safe Harbor, to the women that are there right now, and to a fuller, richer, and yes, sober life. Allowing herself to consider the possibility of a higher power and turning over some of her fear and anxiety to that higher power, has been one of the biggest changes I’ve witnessed, besides the obvious of getting sober. This concept of surrender is something I’ve never seen in my daughter before. For her to acknowledge that she might not know what’s best and to be able to draw upon some entity outside of herself for strength and guidance, is a totally new approach to life for Hayley. (OK – the truth is that Hayley did go outside of herself for help in coping with life – in the form of alcohol, pot, pills, crack, and ultimately, heroin. Now, however, ‘using’ the concept of a Higher Power to cope with her anxiety and surrounding herself with sober people who’ve had success in recovery, provide her with a healthy, more sustainable framework for living.) AA’s Step Three suggests to try to be receptive, to open yourself to help from your Higher Power. Hayley appears to have done this.
For 31 years, my daughter has maintained a certain “know-it-all” persona. I am not only completely amazed by her current humility and willingness to defer to recovery professionals, recovering addicts/alcoholics who have significant sober time under their belts, and a Higher Power, but I’m also blown away by her new-found – – – well – – – serenity. I have to attribute Hayley’s personal transformation to the program and staff at Safe Harbor, to the ‘cosmic convergence’ of timing, opportunity, and to the benevolence of some kind of Higher Power. My god – this must seem like a ranting testimonial for Alcoholics Anonymous, and the 12-step program. I guess it is, and I couldn’t be more surprised, myself. I never thought this particular recovery program would work for my daughter. I thought she was too far gone and her ego would prevent her from the concept of surrender. Guess I was wrong.
I saw my daughter on Friday, July 30th, for the first time since May 8th. She was tanned, and toned, and beautiful. She exuded a “joie d’ vivre” I’ve never seen in her before. But more importantly, she seemed calm and serene. The most outwardly visible evidence were her hands and nails. For the last 20 years, Hayley has bitten her nails to the quick and picked her cuticles until they bled. They were always red, puffy, and swollen – very difficult to look at. I felt that the condition of her nails and cuticles were an external barometer for her internal level of angst. Here’s a picture of her hands now, after I treated her to a manicure and pedicure – – a visual metaphor for her personal transformation, in my opinion.
Last May, Hayley’s appearance was startling. I took some pictures of her right before she boarded the plane to the treatment center in California. (the harrowing tale of extricating Hayley from the crack house is one that has been indelibly seared in to my memory bank) The color “gray” sums it up. Her skin and hair had a deathly pallor that was both frightening and heart breaking. She looked years older than her age – – – and was, essentially. The woman that walked towards me a week ago Friday, was not the person I have known for the last too many years.
Hayley greeted me around 10:00 am on Friday at Safe Harbor. She showed me her room in one of the cottages behind the main house, and toured me around the facility’s grounds. I was impressed with the home-like/residential setting of Safe Harbor, the caring staff, and the well-appointed, orderly, immaculate living conditions. “Velvet runs a tight ship”, commented Hayley. This tidy, organized living situation for Hayley was significant since, for most of her adult life, she has lived in filth and chaos.
Once again, I pinched myself.
At 11:00 am, I met with Hayley and her therapist. The session went very well, although, it was too short. Instead of asking a lot of questions about Hayley and her “issues”, I ended up tearfully sharing my own revelations and regrets as a mother. I felt that a door had been opened, and that I could have shared some of my deepest, most intimate fears, hopes, disappointments with Hayley, in the presence and with the guidance of a professional. I did a little of that, but there just wasn’t time to say all I wanted to say. However, the important point was, the stage was set and the spigot opened, and for the rest of the weekend, Hayley openly answered every question I asked, as well as offering information that gave me insight in to her road to addiction.
Marissa, Hayley’s therapist, is a big proponent of psycho-drama, and explained this technique’s process and why she thought it could uniquely access buried emotions and new perspectives/insight. I was impressed with her commitment to Hayley’s therapy and, more importantly, felt that she was able to deal with and cut through Hayley’s “bullshit” quotient.
At noon, we attended an AA meeting a block away. And at 1:30 pm, I met with Hayley’s case manager. All of these meetings were emotional and therapeutic – both for myself, as well as for Hayley. Our casual conversations throughout the weekend were honest, and revealing, and satisfying.
Later in the afternoon on Friday, I checked in to my hotel. Hayley spent Friday and Saturday nights with me in my room. I can’t tell you the joy I felt in seeing her peacefully asleep in the bed next to me – with her blankie, of course. I haven’t witnessed that image since December 1996.
On Saturday, we did some shopping (bedding for the Sober Living house and other supplies ), and went to a beach in Laguna. There, as my daughter and I basked in the sun, I saw the black track marks on her thighs and breasts. Yes, they are fading. Nevertheless, there they are – – – visual reminders of her desperate, sordid past.
Sunday morning, at 7:00 am, Hayley and I attended an AA meeting where I met her sponsor, Brooke. Brooke got clean and sober at 31, like Hayley, and now is married with two darling children. She pushes Hayley and requires a lot of in-depth writing that takes a full year to work through all 12 steps of AA. She sees Hayley twice a week – at a Thursday evening potluck dinner women’s meeting, and at this early Sunday morning meeting where an older, more professional crowd attends. These meetings, connections, and support are instrumental in keeping Hayley sober. She will tell you that. She believes it. She is living it.
Attending the two AA meetings with Hayley was emotional. I’ve gone to Al-Anon for 8 years, but had never been to an AA meeting. The meeting process, language, and principles were very similar to Al-Anon’s, and I felt at home. Sharing personal stories of experience, strength, and hope is courageous, as well as therapeutic. There is no judgment in the room – just focused attention, active listening, and support.
AA is one way to heal a person’s brokenness. I’m sure there are other ways that work. All I know is that the 12 step program appears to be working for my daughter – and that, is a frigg’in miracle. I feel guilty giving such a glowing report of my daughter’s recovery. I’m sorry that so many of you are still experiencing the pain of addiction in your family. All I can say is, don’t lose hope. And to quote Tom at Recovery Help Desk: “ . . . enabling recovery requires action.” All for now.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 24 so far )