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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11 Responses to “Hangover”

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Hi Peggy, I”m glad to catch up on your blog reports and know that things are going well for both of you. Sending special friend love, Nan

I have been clean for 5 years, and sometimes I still really hate to check my messages. I am finally graduating from college, and I am a single mother, who works full time as well. Things are going really well for me now, but sometimes I still hate to check those messages. When things get overwhelming, I tend not to call anyone back, and I seem to hide from all phone contact. I just focus on my busy life. And when I get depressed, I tend to shut myself off from the world a little. Those dark clouds always pass quickly now…but, sometimes we just need a little space to process things. It is natural for you to worry, though.

Thanks for this perspective. It helps. My own recovery from the effects of addiction is a work in progress.

Gosh I can so relate to this post. My Grandmother passed away on Friday so I sent Hannah a text to let her know and to spare a thought for my mother. No reply. I’ve now found out my mother and uncles want her to come to the funeral (abroad) so now this period of grief/ celebration of my mothers life is filled with strains around whether or not her probation officers will let her fly, how she will get enough methadone for 3 days and so on. I don’t think she will come. How can she if she can’t even turn up to a court hearing or return a text but that all of the strain and upset comes flooding out after it has been neatly tucked away for a while really bothers me. I know my mother feels the same way about Hannah when she can’t get hold of her or waits for her to turn up for an appointment. Its hard to separate the Hannah Addict vs the Hannah character traits as you say. pew. its not easy all of this!

Thanks for this, Nora. I’m still trying to not have any expectations about my daughter – and what she’s doing or not doing. I have learned that it’s a set up for disappointment. Hang in there – it sounds as if Hannah may be moving in the right direction. It takes time – and there IS hope. Never give up.

Eleanor Roosevelt is the one who first said “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. Its a wise statement that we all need sometimes. I can relate to your worry in this situation. Each time we recognize how we are “choosing to suffer” its another step closer to learning not to.

Thanks for the correct reference to Eleanor Roosevelt, Barb – and for the wise words. This is something I am challenged with every day – to look at the glass as half full vs half empty.

Imagine you can’t call your daughter because she does not want to talk to you because her husband hates you. You made him accountabla in the past and now he hates your guts. Throw in a pair of grandkids you have never seen, and you have my situation. I have been coping with this for three years now. I live with it, because I really don’t have a choice. I was just like you, but I had to change, because I want to survive. Relax, Peggy, it’s out of your control.

Helga – I am so sorry about your situation. It must be so difficult to not see or know your grandchildren. Your strength and ability to move on with your own life, are amazing. Perhaps one day, your daughter will have a change of heart. Try to keep yours open for that possibility.

Dear Peg, I think of it as two steps forward, one step back. I’m so proud of the work you’ve done on you. You’re incredibly strong. I think you’d have to be a robot not to worry on some level when you can’t reach your daughter, particularly she is in the fragile early stages of recovery. And remember, once they’re clean, they’ve still got a lot of growing up to do. Sending you hugs and lots of positive energy.

Hey, Gal. It’s good to hear from you! You’re absolutely right – sometimes it’s 2 steps forwards and one step back – and other times, it’s the other way around! I just don’t want to continually lose ground! Thanks for your encouragement and support – they mean a lot. The real recovery starts when they leave the treatment center – the truly hard work begins then.

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