Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

. . . surrender does not mean submission – it means I am willing to stop fighting reality, to stop trying to do ‘God’s’ part, and to do my own. Courage To Change

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.


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24 Responses to “Surrender”

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Such a great post….I’m so happy for your visit, and your peace in all this. I’m praying that Hayley “gets it!” for sure!! She sure sounds like she’s receiving the message, and taking it to heart. What a blessing!
I love to attend AA and NA meetings when invited to see one of my friends (through my daughter) take a chip, etc. I learn something every single time. I feel comfortable and welcome and I truly love going. Sometimes even more than my own Alanon meetings!

I’m hoping, right along with you. I know everyone has different feelings about hope, but I am hoping for Hayley! Hugs and prayers!

Good to hear from you, Joy. Are you still blogging? How are things going? How’s your daughter doing? Hayley just moved to a sober living house. I need to post an update on my blog. I’ve gotten lazy – and busy! Later, Peggy

YggeP, This is so beautiful to read and you have expressed yourself so fully it is as if I were there with you and Haley on this special visit in a very structured and supportive environment. I will be seeing Carol tonight for the opera and hope you will join us someday. love from Ctown now and forever

Nan – so good to hear from you. We need a phone catch up. So sorry I’ll miss the opera in C-town with my 2 best gal pals. Maybe next summer? Let’s plan now. Love to you. yggep

Hello Peg and Hayley…
Just for Today
I will have a program, I will try and follow it to the best of my ability.

Seems fitting. Today is a gift that is why it’s called the present. Some days are like the pictures you posted. Feel good days full of sand and surf. Some days are clutter filled emotional disasters. What I have learned is that there is nothing that is going to happen today that I need to use over. I have watched births and deaths while clean. Lost jobs and found new ones. The joy of a child saying, ‘Dad I Love You’ to a teenager saying ‘I hate you..go smoke some crack, you crackhead’. My point is this…..Early on I was so concerned about feeling better that recovery started to become a race to feel better. There is no finish line, no trophy, no great plateau of spirituality to arrive at. What I get is another chance each day to do what I was supposed to do from the start….Live like a human being.
Tell Hayley I said hello….and Peg….don’t give up on you either.

I read this the day you wrote it but didn’t comment till now. Hayley’s transformation is awesome and seems to be very real. I like that her sponsor became sober at the same age.

I was talking to a guy today that told me the thing that saved him from his addiction was relocating. He had to get away from all the people he knew in the drug world. I am so glad she is HERE in beautiful So. Cal surrounded by other women that she can relate to instead of that icky drug house!

I know that AA discourages “taking a geographic” – that just relocating isn’t the way to get/stay sober. However, I also think that moving out of a toxic environment and starting fresh somewhere, can be very helpful. It certainly has been with Hayley. Fingers and toes still crossed.

Joy….that is what your post brought forth in me, Peg. I know you are allowing yourself some joy in Hayley’s recovery. I think it is worth taking time to cultivate that. Here is a slogan from the “lojong” (Buddhist mindfulness teachings):
“As you doze off each night, think of the strong determination, that as soon as you wake up in the morning you are going to maintain your practice with continual exertion, which means joy”.
My dear friend, I’m smiling a joyful smile for you and Hayley.

Peg- What wonderful news! I am beaming for you guys! Ya gotta take those times and cherish them.. and enjoy them that moment and it sounds like you did just that. Hayley sounds like she is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk too. Pat yourself on the back.. you deserve just as much credit for yourself.. as you have worked extremely hard thru this whole thing as well.
I know what you mean about the marks.. they break my heart when I see Emily’s. I gave birth to this perfect, markless, beautiful baby girl. I want to “fix” them for Emily..but maybe these scars will remind her never to go back. They remind me of how bad it was, so I have to really appreciate now.. the moment and be happy they are fading.
Big Hugs

Thanks, Kelly. It really does help a lot to know that others, like you, have been down this road. What a life-saving resource this blogging community has been for me. Thank you for your continued interest and support. Both Hayley and I have a long ways to go.

Pinch me too! This is so awesome, and I am so proud of her. I love how she says she doesn’t have time to mess around with this. Her sponsor sounds like a very good role model too, due to the age thing. Thank you so much for sharing the great details!
I am a huge pro-12-step person. Sometimes I get amazed just thinking how over 50 years ago a program was created that has stood the test of time.
God bless.
Love & hugs to you!

Yes – and the 12 step program is free and accessible to all. I know how lucky my daughter is to be at Safe Harbor and living in its beautiful setting. But the fact is, the 12 step program is its core – and can be used by anyone willing to surrender. Thanks for your encouraging and generous words. Peggy

Wow, Peg. So you’d never been to an open AA meeting. My AlAnon sponsor suggested them very early in my program. Aside from eventually saving my life (because by the time I needed it, I had a firsthand knowledge that AA worked for alcoholics/addicts), it was also helpful for me as the child of an alcoholic family and someone who loved alcoholics/addicts. … She still goes after being in AlAnon 20-some years. I remember the day maybe three or four months in AA I went to a Friday noon meeting and I looked up to see her smiling at me from across the room.

I’m glad you made it there. You’d said on my blog that you were looking for insight into the mind of addicts… This is one way to get it.

I’ve been holding you in the light since you left, wondering when you were due back, and very glad to hear from you. … Every transition is difficult in early recovery; she’ll have to move out sometime. As others have said, these changes will be your daughter’s to negotiate… Excellent that you’re reading the Courage to Change. My sponsor used to have me sit down and look up every single passage on a certain topic. “I think you need to detach,” she’d say. “Why don’t you sit down and read all the passages in the Courage about detachment?” Do you know how many there are? –a lot! … much respect, –G

G – thanks for your comments. I’ve read through Courage to Change so many times, you’d think I had it memorized. Not so! Each time I read an entry that I’ve read before, it seems brand new. And I’ve done just what your sponsor suggested, many times – – – read all the entries regarding a specific topic. I just did that with the word, “surrender”. I do need to get a sponsor and work the 12 steps myself. I vow to do that before September 1st (to begin) And, you’re right – I will go to some AA meetings here. I think that will keep me connected to my daughter in a very specific way. When I attended the AA meetings in California, I was so glad I had been attending Al-Anon. The language and format of the meeting were very familiar – and comforting. Stay well. Peggy

Peggy, I am so happy for you and Hayley. Just enjoy the moment. Like Dawn said, heavily guarded optimism is ok. I am hoping and praying that Hayley stays on the straight and narrow. I know that our addict kids’ recovery has it’s own pitfalls for us parents. We like to think ahead and paint pictures in our mind of all that could go right or wrong. It’s best not to do that. I am so happy you had such a good weekend with her.

This just may very well be it for her. At some point after years and years of abuse, an addict ends up reaching one of two decisions – either to keep on going until your addiction puts you in the ground, or finally recognize its power over you and start to accept this and work on defeating it. I found myself there close to five years ago. Enough finally was enough, and this time I really meant it. Your daughter may be in the exact same place now, and hopefully, she is, as it will only get better from here for both of you.

peace, love and happiness…

Don’t feel guilty at all! Hayley’s work (which in itself is a success) provides hope for everyone. With regard to 12-step, if it works for Hayley that is all that matters. I feel the same way about Narconon. It hasn’t worked for all, but it has worked for Bryan (it appears…always cautiously optimistic) and that is what matters. The program and the addict have to connect at exactly the right time to be successful.

I’m very happy for you and for Hayley at this time. My thoughts and prayers continue for you.

Lisa – thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I think you’re exactly right. Timing is crucial in regards to whether or not the addict will connect with a program. It seems to be something over which there is no control or predictabilitiy. At this point, I’m attributing Hayley’s recovery to some kind of Higher Power (or “cosmic convergence”, which I’ve never ‘surrendered’ to before. This is all very new to me. But, I’m going with it.

I’m crying I’m so happy for you…it’s wonderful to hear how fully she has embraced her new life. It’s understandable that you feel a bit skeptical but you just have to remember: let her be in charge of her recovery and you be in charge of yours.
To paraphrase Haley…NONE of us has any time to f*ck around.

So true. As usual, I need to mind my own ps and qs and focus on what it is I need to be doing, want in life, etc. It’s just so much easier obsessing about someone else. 🙂

heavily guarded optimism is certainly okay 🙂

All I can say is “beautiful”. I have lived the recovery of my daughter as you know and it is a wonderful thing when they get it and I have been through all the feelings you describe above! I am so happy for you and Hayley. Keep working on yourself and she will keep working on herself. Talk to you soon. (hugs)

Thanks, Renee. Even though Hayley is doing so well and really working her program, I find myself jumping ahead and finding so many things to worry about. I need practice just staying in the moment and appreciate how far Hayley has come. I guess my recovery, as well as Hayley’s, doesn’t just happen overnight. There are a lot of bad habits to undo.

Peggy, I am overjoyed to read this. In fact, my daughter was asking about Hayley recently. I will send this post to her, because it is truly inspiring. I’m so grateful the weekend went well, for her and for you.

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