Archive for March, 2011

Hangover

Posted on March 28, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , |

This morning I feel like I have a horrible hangover – only it’s not due to drinking too much alcohol last night, but from an intense few days of catastrophic anxiety and “mind-tripping”.  I made myself crazy – almost sick, when I couldn’t get a hold of my daughter for 3 days.  Her cell phone voice mailbox was full, and after a while, I started imagining all the worst-case scenarios – from lying in a gutter with a needle in her arm to ‘merely’ losing her phone – which was, in my mind, not so benign, but the first tell-tale sign that she was likely on the road to relapse.

It started a few days ago, when I received a phone call from my financial adviser at a local brokerage firm where my daughter, Hayley, had recently opened an account. She sold some stock that had been given to her almost 25 years ago, in order to buy a car.  There were a few thousand dollars left over in stock that “Mike” is now managing.  He’s been trying to reach Hayley for a week or so to follow-up with some important paperwork. Mike wondered if there was another phone number he could use to reach her, since her voice mailbox was full and couldn’t receive any more messages.

Almost ten days ago when I finally got through to Hayley after receiving the same automated message, she had promised me that she would clear out her message box.  I HATE it when I call Hayley, and if she doesn’t pick up, I can’t even leave a message. It not only aggravates the hell out of me – it also sends me in to a ‘catastrophic’ orbit.  When she was using drugs, it was the norm – and due to, I thought, her chaotic lifestyle. But now, after being in recovery for eleven months, I don’t understand why she doesn’t tend to this detail of life.  Why would anyone let so many phone messages back up until the phone can’t handle any more?  What if there was a family emergency and I needed to reach her? What if a potential employer was returning a phone call? What if, what if, what if . . . ?

I texted Hayley, sent her emails and messages on Facebook – and even sent a Facebook message to her boyfriend, asking if she was ok.  It took Hayley almost three days to call me and say, “Mom – relax – I’m fine”.  I was definitely relieved to hear from her – but also had to work hard at keeping my rage in check.  When I asked her why it had taken so long to get back to me, she gave some feeble excuse about “not feeling like it”, or being too busy, etc.  And then I quietly asked, “Do you think you were being just a little mean in not letting me know you were ok?”  She did acknowledge, rather begrudgingly, that she was being insensitive and yes, a little mean, in not responding sooner.

When we hung up, I was mad at myself for being so distraught the last few days and letting my anxiety spiral out of control.  And, I was mad at Hayley, for being so irresponsible and insensitive, given her history.  But this incident also triggered a huge reality check for me.  It forced me to acknowledge several things:

•that getting sober didn’t necessarily change some of my daughter’s innate personality quirks, priorities, and personal style

•that I have no control over my daughter and what she does or doesn’t do

•that my ideas about how to live/organize one’s life, are not universal truths

•that I have a long ways to go in my own recovery process

I’m working on Step One of AA’s 12 steps with my Al-Anon sponsor:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or any addiction) – that our lives had become unmanageable.

My life becomes unmanageable when I get obsessed with worry over things I can’t control – namely, my daughter’s addiction, recovery, and personal style,  to name a few.  I shake my head in amazement when Hayley makes choices that seem to make her life harder – unnecessarily, in my opinion.  My Al-Anon sponsor made me write down 5 times:  Hayley’s life is none of my business. She pointed out that I want other people to change to make my own life more comfortable.  And then she asked, “Where is Peggy”?  Who am I and what do I care about when I’m not obsessed with my daughter’s life? That is what needs to be my focus, is authentically/legitimately my business, and will be my ongoing personal work and journey.

I read somewhere that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.  We need to learn to accept that pain as a part of life – then move on. Al-Anon helps me to accept what is.  I don’t have to like the reality, only accept it for what it is.  When I accept everything as it is, I tend to be reasonably serene. When I spend my time wishing things were different, I know that serenity has lost its priority. While I’m responsible for changing what I can, I have to let go of the rest if I want peace of mind. (Courage To Change)

Part of the acceptance process is grieving and loss – the loss of what I wanted for my daughter and expected of her: becoming an independent, productive adult; trust; a reciprocal and satisfying relationship; help and support when I need it; the last ten years of life together.  Acknowledging that my dreams of what my daughter’s life would be were not, or ever would be, the reality; and allowing myself to actually feel that loss, brings freedom, I’m told – freedom from fear and resulting in the simple joy of living fully in the present moment. I can intellectually believe this is what I need to do – but living it is another thing.  It will be a constant challenge for me.  Al-Anon’s slogan of “Progress, not perfection”, keeps me going, One Day At A Time.

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Recovery Helpdesk

Posted on March 27, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , |

My last post was a request from Tom, at Recovery Helpdesk, to recruit participants for his Recovery Moms Survey. I have found Tom’s blog, Recovery Helpdesk, to be a great resource for information about opiate addiction and recovery. (Opiates include heroin and pain killers like OxyContin.) As the mother of a heroin addict (who is now, thankfully, in recovery), I searched frantically to find accurate information about heroin addiction and how/where to get help.  Recovery Helpdesk was one of the places I ‘landed’, and I visit this site often.  Tom is a professional drug counselor, and his postings are always very informative, passionate, and sometimes, provocative. There seems to be a lot of controversy and debate surrounding the use of medication-assisted treatment programs for opiate addicts.  Many 12 Step Recovery Programs don’t approve of their use – and insist that addicts are merely substituting one drug for another, and are not in ‘true’ recovery.  Since Tom is an advocate for the use of suboxone and methadone as possible treatment options for opiate addiction, I wondered about how he came to feel so strongly.  Was he in recovery himself and using suboxone/methadone?  I asked him these questions, and here was his response: (with Tom’s permission)

Peggy,

Thanks for posting about the survey!  I am a professional drug counselor, and I supervise a specialized program (which I started over 10 years ago) for people who are opiate dependent at a large mental health and drug treatment non-profit.  I’m not personally in recovery.  I do have what I experience as a “calling” to work with people who are opiate dependent.  I also have a public health perspective in my work, and previously worked on public health initiatives both for non-profits and the government.  I think this is another reason I have a different perspective in my view of addiction.  I see addiction and recovery in health terms (separate from the debate over the “disease mode” of addiction, it’s clear that addiction and recovery affect personal and public health).

The funny thing about the medication-assisted treatment issue is that I don’t see myself as an “advocate” of these treatments.  I see myself as an advocate for people who are opiate dependent and their families, but not of any particular treatment.

In my own work with clients, my focus is on helping clients recognize their full range of recovery supports/treatment options and helping them figure out when and how the various supports work together to create a solid recovery plan.

I had the experience of working in a state with no methadone and pre-Suboxone.  Then the town I work in became the site for one of the Suboxone clinical trials.  And eventually, we also got a methadone clinic, and Suboxone was FDA approved.  So I kind of got to see the contrast between before and after medication-assisted treatment became available as part of the menu of options.  It was a big difference.  So I very much recognize the value of these treatments.  That’s one reason I think I’m perceived as an “advocate” for methadone and Suboxone (because I am very clear that they are valuable options).

The other reason is because I talk about these options a lot.  But to me this is in reaction to the huge amount of negativity about these options coming from some treatment providers, self-help groups and even some people living with opiate dependence.  I feel like I have to provide a lot of info to counter the stigma/misinformation just to get people to consider the option.

In my own work, we educate people about all of the options, help them understand the pros and cons of each and when each is more useful and less useful, help people identify and remove barriers including psychological barriers related to stigma and barriers related to holding on to myths or misinformation.  This is something I think is lacking for a lot of people –they don’t have someone knowledgeable to explore all options with.  Instead, they encounter a series of treatment providers each focused on the treatment they happen to provide.

Hope this helps clarify.  I really should do a post on this because I think a lot of people probably have the same perceptions/questions.

Tom

I guess I need to add my own disclaimer here, that I don’t necessarily support or endorse the use of suboxone and methadone as preferred treatment protocols – but that they are options in a wide range of treatment plans and can be used when indicated and recommended by licensed professionals.

I encourage you to visit Tom’s site and explore all the information that he has gathered there, to better help all of us affected by the disease of addiction. And, with the intent of providing a balance of information, here’s another perspective on the use of suboxone as a ‘maintenance’ drug for recovery, from Dr. Steven Scanlan, in an interview on one of my favorite recovery blogs, Guinevere Gets Sober. Steven Scanlan, M.D. is board-certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine. In his practice, Palm Beach Outpatient Detox (PBOD), on the Florida coast, he has detoxed more than a thousand patients off many drugs, including alcohol, benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc.), and sleep aids. But his specialty is opiate detox.  Dr. Scanlan is a recovering drug addict, himself.  Read about why he thinks suboxone is an amazing detox tool, but a monster maintenance drug.

I hope you can find some useful and helpful information at Recovery Helpdesk, as well as other recovery sites I’ve listed to the right.


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Recovery Moms Survey

Posted on March 7, 2011. Filed under: Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict |

Tom, at Recovery Help Desk, asked me to post his request for moms of drug addicts to take his  Recovery Moms 2011 Survey.  Tom is hoping to get at least 50 participants, more if possible. The more responses he gets, the better he will be able to help us help ourselves – and, our addict son/daughter. Tom is an experienced drug counselor and seems very committed to educating readers/parents about opiate addiction and its treatment.

The Recovery Helpdesk  blog is a great resource for information about opiate addiction and recovery. (Opiates include heroin and pain killers like OxyContin.)

Post image for Calling All Recovery Moms: I Need Your Opinion!

Calling All Recovery Moms: I Need Your Opinion!

If you are the mother of a son or daughter who is addicted to heroin or prescription pain killers, then I need your opinion!

Please take the Recovery Moms Survey 2011

It’s only 5 questions and it’s anonymous.

Please check back here for survey results, and learn what’s on the minds of your fellow recovery moms.

Thank you so much for your help and support.

Tom

p.s. this information is important because it will help me help you!

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PTSD – Hers and Mine

Posted on March 6, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

My daughter has been in recovery from heroin addiction for ten months now. Within the last two months, she has acquired her driver’s license, bought a car, begun working full time, and moved out of her sober living house and into an apartment with two other women in recovery. Did I mention that she has a ‘boyfriend’ that’s ten years younger?  (Does that make her a ‘cougar’?)  “Rob” is in recovery, himself, and is a personal trainer at her gym. He seems crazy about her – and she feels the same way about him. They both quit smoking, together, over a month ago.

When I spoke with Hayley a few days ago, she mentioned that she’s been having ‘using’ dreams.  She assured me that this is ‘normal’ for someone in recovery, approaching his/her’s one-year sobriety ‘birthday’.  Yet, these dreams are disturbing – both to her, and to me.  I could tell that in her voice – and  in her next breath, that she was working very hard at trying to reassure me – and, most likely herself, that these were typical of the dreams recovering addicts have.

Yet, I’m skeptical of anything my daughter calls normal. It’s all relative, isn’t it? It hasn’t been that long since she explained to me how ‘normal’ it was for heroin addicts to get abscesses.  And now, I’m wondering if dreaming about shooting up is a preliminary step towards her actually using again – and, of course, the BIG ‘R’ relapse.

Please don’t tell me that ‘relapse is a part of recovery’.  I’ve heard that adage many times, especially at Al-Anon/AA meetings. When an alcoholic relapses, the consequences don’t seem quite as dire as when a heroin addict relapses. The immediate addictive nature of heroin, illicit activity and connections to acquire the drug, paraphernalia required, exposure to chronic, life-threatening disease with just one needle poke, and threat of arrest, all accumulate into making heroin relapse a very different beast from alcohol relapse, in my opinion, although the end result can be just as devastating.  Yeah – I know – here I go again, escalating from a dream to the nightmare of reality.  It’s my “M-O”

Why did Hayley feel it was necessary to tell me about her dreams?  Was she just being transparent, and honestly answering my question of “How are you”?  Was she needing reassurance and support, or something more?  Is she not really working her program? Should she be talking to her sponsor about such dreams? How serious is this?

I’ve been wondering, lately, if I’m suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).  I can easily travel from 0 to 60 within milliseconds, ramping up my anxiety, fear, and sense of doom when I encounter certain ‘triggers’. I still get a cold chill down my spine when I hear a siren’s wail.  When I open up our local newspaper, I still expect to see my daughter’s mug shot there, in the Crime Stoppers box that posts names and photos of individuals wanted for arrest.  When I drive past certain streets, parking lots, houses, hotels/motels, restaurants, I look carefully, half expecting to get a glimpse of Hayley or one of her drug dealers.  I have flashes of very disturbing images of my daughter injecting herself and the depraved, sordid living conditions of the crack houses where she lived for a year and a half.  I can see her abscesses and track marks on her arms, legs, feet, and breasts, and scenes of her physical and sexual abuse – all throbbing in my head – and get almost sick to my stomach.  Will I ever be free of these disturbing images?

Although support groups, like Al-Anon, help family members of alcoholics and drug addicts recover from the effects of the disease, it’s really not enough for me.  I feel emotionally scarred.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at my daughter again, the way I did prior to her life in the drug world.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. People with PTSD often internalize the event and re-experience the trauma again and again in at least one of several ways. They may have frightening dreams and memories of the event, feel as though they are going through the experience again (flashbacks), or become upset during anniversaries of the event.  In effect, they are not only traumatized during the “activating” event, but every time something triggers a memory of the event. A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm and is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or to the stability of one’s world.

Here’s a quick definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from Wikipedia:

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.[1][2][3] This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity,[1] overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress response. Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.[1]

And, a more comprehensive review of the disorder and a more credible resource, can be found at the government’s National Institute of Health (NIH) website.

The irony of PTSD, as I’m applying it to an addict in recovery – and to family members who suffer from the effects of the addiction, is that alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and drug abuse, are all side-effects, symptoms, and complications from the disorder.  Yes – a drug addict in recovery can suffer from PTSD and be triggered to use drugs again!  The proverbial dog chasing its tail.

Here are the typical symptoms, treatment, and complications of PTSD, from the NIH:

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:

1. Repeated “reliving” of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity

  • Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again
  • Recurrent distressing memories of the event
  • Repeated dreams of the event
  • Physical reactions to situations that remind you of the traumatic event

2. Avoidance

  • Emotional “numbing,” or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Less expression of moods
  • Staying away from places, people, or objects that remind you of the event
  • Sense of having no future

3. Arousal

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exaggerated response to things that startle you
  • Excess awareness (hypervigilance)
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Sleeping difficulties

You also might feel a sense of guilt about the event (including “survivor guilt”), and the following symptoms, which are typical of anxiety, stress, and tension:

  • Agitation, or excitability
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Feeling your heart beat in your chest (palpitations)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Paleness

Signs and Tests:

There are no tests that can be done to diagnose PTSD. The diagnosis is made based on a certain set of symptoms that continue after you’ve had extreme trauma. Your doctor will do psychiatric and physical exams to rule out other illnesses.

Treatment:

Treatment aims to reduce symptoms by encouraging you to recall the event, express your feelings, and gain some sense of control over the experience. In some cases, expressing grief helps to complete the necessary mourning process. Support groups, where people who have had similar experiences can share their feelings, are helpful.

People with PTSD may need to treat depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or related medical conditions before addressing symptoms of PTSD. Behavioral therapy is used to treat avoidance symptoms. This can include being exposed to the object that triggers your symptoms until you become used to it and no longer avoid it (called graded exposure and flooding).

Medicines that act on the nervous system can help reduce anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), can be effective in treating PTSD.

A number of other medicines used for mental health disorders may be prescribed. A doctor should monitor you if you take these drugs, because they can have side effects. Sedatives can help with sleep disturbance. Anti-anxiety medicines may be useful, but some types, such as benzodiazepines, can be addictive.

Support Groups

You can find more information about post-traumatic stress disorder and coping with a national tragedy from the American Psychiatric Association — www.psych.org.

Expectations (prognosis):

The best outcome, or prognosis, depends on how soon the symptoms develop after the trauma, and on how quickly you get diagnosed and treated.

Complications:

The most well known cases of PTSD are seen in war veterans. However, PTSD is not only caused by war. Any significant traumatic event or a series of traumas over time can lead to symptoms of PTSD. Some common causes are:

  • Child or domestic abuse
  • Living in a war zone or extremely dangerous neighborhood
  • Sexual Assault
  • Violent Attack
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Witnessing a violent death such as a homicide

When I Googled “PTSD in Drug Addiction”, it directed me to this website and a treatment option offered at some drug addiction treatment centers:  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). (NOTE: This site was informative, but I think it is sponsored by the Promises treatment centers that offer EMDR – just be aware that this is NOT an unbiased, clinically researched site.)  I seem to remember that EMDR was listed as a treatment option at Hayley’s treatment center, Safe Harbor, but she never received it.  However, I think that NOW, with Hayley well in to recovery, perhaps she could benefit from such specific treatment for PTSD.  Dunno.  I’m going to do more research.

Yes, I worry about Hayley suffering from PTSD and it becoming a trigger for relapse.  And, I wonder if I, too, am experiencing a version of PTSD and need to find a way to re-process and cope with the trauma of my beautiful daughter becoming a heroin addict.  Yeah – I know I do.

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