On The Road . . . Of Recovery

Posted on October 10, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I just spent almost ten hours in the car with my daughter, Hayley.  Our ‘Thelma & Louise’ trip provided a unique opportunity to talk – – – we both were a captive audience – – – and not having to make direct eye contact during honest, sometimes uncomfortable conversation,  took a little of the pressure off.  Our “Road Trip” took us a little further down the highway and around a few tortuous bends in the road.

I had decided to fly Hayley up from southern California to see my 93 year-old mother, her grandmother, before it was ‘too late’.  My mom is failing, both physically and mentally, with increasing short-term memory loss and hasn’t seen Hayley for a year and a half.  Hayley has been clean and sober now for 5 months, and there was an Alaska Airlines special that prompted me to make these plans.  What started out as a ‘simple’, quick trip to spend a couple of days with family, turned in to a complicated, anxiety-ridden mess.

First of all, I wasn’t even sure that Hayley would be allowed past airport security and onto the plane with no current photo ID.  Her Washington State driver’s license had not only expired, it had been suspended and her passport had also expired.  I had strongly suggested to Hayley several months ago that she get a California state photo ID card; but, she didn’t do it – and seemed confident that she could pass security with expired ID.  I was doubtful.

Then, the idea of Hayley arranging a special court appearance here, in our home town, (we were not originally going to be coming here) to clean up her probation violation charges, emerged.  Rather last minute, she contacted the court appointed attorney’s office about this possibility, and hadn’t heard back from them before she left to fly up here.  (I’m sure she didn’t factor in the heavy case loads that public defenders have – and didn’t leave enough time to make these arrangements.)

So – basically, I’ve been a wreck for the past few weeks – not knowing if Hayley could even get on the plane, and if she couldn’t, there could possibly be another ‘failure-to-appear’ in court.  The potential consequences of such an ‘FTA’ would be the judge issuing a warrant for Hayley’s arrest, and  me getting stuck with her $3,000 bail bond for which I had signed a promissory note last May when I was frantically trying to get her out of town and in to treatment.

But lo, and behold, there she was last Saturday, outside the baggage claim at the airport, waiting for me.  (I guess TSA doesn’t care that much about current photo ID – who knew?)

She looked gorgeous – actually ‘put together’.  She had on a new jacket I hadn’t seen before – and scarf, shoes, and pants I had bought her.  Everything was clean and in good repair. This is in such contrast to the past few years, when Hayley’s appearance and personal hygiene spiraled down along with her addictive state of mind and sordid lifestyle.

I’m going to jump ahead – and summarize the next few days.  Basically, we had wonderful conversations in the car together.  Our ten hours of time on the road was some of the best discussion, disclosure, and verbal exchange we’ve ever had.  Hayley was very forthcoming about her recovery and past addictive behavior/life.  In fact, some of it was difficult to hear.  However, my daughter seemed genuinely committed to her sobriety and recovery program – and was an eloquent spokesperson for AA and the 12 step program.  And because I’ve been going to Al-Anon for the past 8 years, I understood the lingo and program philosophy – and could contribute what I’d learned in Al-Anon.  This was comforting to Hayley, she said – – – that I seemed to ‘get it’.

Our visit with Hayley’s older brother, Jake, and his family, was good, and we celebrated MY birthday while we were there.  Jake harbors a lot of anger, resentment, and skepticism towards Hayley, I think – – and has difficulty being around her.  Basically, he just doesn’t trust her – and had mentioned to me that he didn’t want me to leave Hayley alone with his two young children.  I understood that.  There has been a long history of distrust and bizarre behavior, on Hayley’s part.  And Jake isn’t the best communicator.  His naturally shy personality limits his ability to express himself in an intimate way.  However – all in all, everyone got along – Jake and Hayley went to the gym together to work out, Hayley got to see Lucy (almost 6) and Luke (31/2), whom she hadn’t seen for a year and a half – and I kept myself sane by constantly chanting the first line of the Serenity PrayerGod, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Monday morning, Hayley still hadn’t heard from her attorney.  I didn’t know whether to drive us to our hometown for a court hearing (2 1/2 hrs away) or to my mom’s (a different 2 1/2 hours away).  Finally, as we were loading the car, the call came.  The attorney said that if Hayley were to make a court appearance the next day in our home town, she would most likely be taken in to custody.  We couldn’t risk that possibility, since we hadn’t yet been to see my mom – the main reason Hayley had flown up in the first place.  The Prosecutor was only offering two ‘deals’:  Hayley serve 2 days in jail, then continue her probation until April 2011;  or, serve 20 days in jail and the probation would be terminated.  We consulted an attorney friend, and decided that Hayley would fly up to our hometown at the end of the month for her already scheduled court hearing.  At that point, she would be taken in to custody, and she would serve two days in jail.  Hayley assured me that she could do this – – – that she would be fine, especially now that she was sober.  But, aggghhh – – – it’s scary to contemplate.  She will have almost 6 months of sobriety under her belt – yet still, will she be at risk for relapse – or to be beaten up in jail?

We then hit the road again and decided to drive the two hours to our hometown to pick up a few of Hayley’s things at my house.  I picked up my mail, newspapers, Hayley sorted through some of her things at the house, and then I dropped her off for a pedicure/manicure while I ran a few errands.  This activity may seem trivial and/unnecessary – but one of the most obvious outward signs of Hayley’s recovery and burgeoning serenity, are her hands and nails.  For years, Hayley has nervously picked at her cuticles until they bled and were horrifically swollen – and, she also bit her nails down to the quick.  Now, her nails are long and strong, her cuticles healed and healthy.  It’s truly amazing.  I wanted to treat Hayley to this nail spa indulgence – – – she had earned it, in my opinion –  her healthy nails were  a bit of a metaphor for where she was in her recovery – – – and life.

I picked up Hayley an hour later – and she said she was meeting her ex-boyfriend, Dave, in the parking lot – to say hello – and goodbye.  HUH?  You see, Dave is married.  Why did Hayley call him?  This was disturbing to me and resonated of old manipulative behavior.  I gave her ten minutes with Dave, then told her I was hitting the road – we needed to drive another two hours to my mom’s.  When Hayley got in the car, I was relieved – and pissed.  And then, we had another two hours in the car together.  I tried not to lecture or quiz her too much.  But I did let her know that I thought her call to Dave was inappropriate and selfish.  She commented that their meeting was more difficult for Dave than it was for herself.  So, why would she stir up that pot?

Our visit with my mom was emotional, yet productive.  At a two  hour dinner that night with my mom, Hayley patiently explained details of her addictive personality, recovery program, and dreams for her future.  She was articulate, eloquent, and passionate.  I kept pinching myself.  I truly believed that Hayley believed what she was saying – – – and I was in awe.  Yes, the power of addiction is incredible – but so can be the thrill, force, and intensity of recovery.  I watched, as my 93 year old mother’s chin quivered and her eyes filled with tears.  It became apparent that my daughter’s addiction and powerlessness over drugs paralleled her own mother’s disease of alcoholism.  However, back in the 1930s, there was no help, or support – only shame, and guilt, and helplessness.  My mother’s entire life was shaped by being the child of an alcoholic.  And even though she and my father rarely drank, themselves, I’ve also been immeasurably affected by this family disease – – – in so many ways.

Hayley and I spent another three hours in the car, back to SeaTac Airport.  “I’m anxious to get back to ‘my girls'”, she said.  We had had a lovely visit, but we were both ready for her to leave.  She still has plenty of work to do – and miles to travel on her road to recovery – as do I.  I noticed some eating disorder behavior – and a variety of compulsive behaviors that worried me.  I realized that many of Hayley’s personality ‘quirks’ are hers – are who she is – are not necessarily the result of substance abuse.  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

I just made flight arrangements for Hayley to fly back up here at the end of the month. She’ll spend two days in jail – and then fly back to her sober living community in southern California.  As Willie Nelson would croon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . On the Road Again . . .


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11 Responses to “On The Road . . . Of Recovery”

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“I noticed some eating disorder behavior – and a variety of compulsive behaviors that worried me. I realized that many of Hayley’s personality ‘quirks’ are hers – are who she is – are not necessarily the result of substance abuse.”

Hello Peg, been awhile.
This is an excellent post and this line caught my attention. I talked about it last week with some folks.
I haven’t used drugs in almost 5 years. I no longer have a ‘drug problem’ because I don’t use drugs. I have a ‘Bob’ problem. I don’t over-eat alcoholicly (if this is even a word) I eat compulsively. I hear the term ‘alcoholic behavior’ thrown around quite a bit and what I would offer is we know the 2 things that make up true addiction:
1) Obsession
2) Compulsion

Obsession is that fixed idea that takes us back time and time again to our drug of choice, or some substitute, to try and recapture the ease and comfort we once knew.

Compulsion is once having started this process with one fix, pill, or drink, we cannot stop through our own power of will.

For the recovering person there are 3 areas that seem to be most difficult once clean: Food, Sex, and Money. I do not know of any addict, myself included, who has not struggled in these areas while clean. I can use almost anything to try and change the way I feel about myself, and in essence this is the building block of addiction. The effort to change the way we feel about ourselves.

Happy Belated Birthday.
I hope to hear more from you soon.
Bob D.

Thank you so much for your comments, Bob. Food, sex, money. No one ever told me before that these are pretty much universal problems in a program of recovery. Knowing that in such a direct way, helps me understand and be more compassionate, to the people in my life struggling with addiction. Thanks so much. I would like to hear more comments and discussion of this topic.

Wow, Bob. As usual, you offer incredible wisdom and information about addiction and the recovery process. Yeah – – – it makes sense that it all boils down to food, sex, and money. The obsession/compulsion stuff is very interesting to me. I wonder if there’s a gene for that behavior? My father, a family doctor and surgeon, was borderline OCD. When I would point this out to him, he would reply with “Yeah – maybe I’m OCD – but don’t you want the person who’d operating on you to be somewhat OCD?” He had a point, I guess. But my point is, that I recognize my own O/C behaviors – and realize that my daughter has them, too. Al-Anon is helping me with these issues more than any individual psych therapy has ever done.
I’d like to learn more about what you do to mitigate your own O/C behaviors. Thanks so much for stopping by.

What a contrast to BEFORE she went into recovery. I love reading all this. Sure, things aren’t “perfect” and never will be but they sure are a lot better!!!!! It makes me happy to think of you two on a road trip 🙂

[…] her daughter’s body in the worst of conditions. Peg’s daughter’s body has recovered… and now she’s witnessing the recovery of her daughter’s emotional and spiritual health—and hoping … “Gasping at glimpses of gentle true […]

I just went back and read bits and pieces of your blog in October 2009, Peg. What a mix of feelings – such hope due to Hayley’s commitment to her current program and her vstly improved physical health – concern and trepidation knowing her history and how far she has to go – hope for you that are finding ways to work a program and find strength and peace. Each time I read 12-step literature that says that addiction is a lifelong disease which cannot be cured, but can be lived with, it leaves me fearful. I long for a cure for everyone with an addictive disease. But, each step that you and Hayley take gives you both resilience and the capacity to get well. We can all be well without being perfect or cured. When asked “how are you?” and being able to truly say “I am well” gives me strength and hope.
I send wellness to you and Hayley, Peg.

Donna – your insight, encouragement,and perspective always help me to look at things in a new way – in a more hopeful way. “Be well” will be my mantra – and wish for everyone. “I’m good” will mean exactly that – I’m not perfect or cured – (I may not even be ‘well’) – but I’m getting through it – and doing the best I can. And yes, I can enjoy life and be happy regardless of what my addict daughter is doing or not doing. Right? (I’m still learning this part, and need practice). Thank you, dear friend.

I am really happy for you and Haley! It sounds like it was perfect time and one giant step for both you on the road to recovery. Great news.
I was just telling a friend mine, the exact thing about Emily and her nails. My friend has the same issue with her daughter..we know when they are using due to their nails. When our girls are sober, their nails are beautiful, either clean or painted. When using they are a mess and specks of old polish. Weird huh?

Hi, Kelly. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Read my blog post, “Dirty Fingernails”.

Overall it sounds like an amazing trip and part of the road to recovery. I’m really happy for you and especially for Hayley.

Thanks for sharing Peg. I have been wondering about you and Hayley. Keep in touch. Sounds like she is working the program. Hugs to you.

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