One Year

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I arrived in Southern California on Sunday, May 8th – Mother’s Day. Monday, May 9th, was my daughter’s One Year ‘birthday’ – a full year of being clean, sober, and actively working a recovery program.  Being able to celebrate Hayley’s One Year of sobriety with her, in person, was my Mother’s Day gift to myself – and one I will always treasure. I had knit and felted a large bag for her – similar to one that I had given her years ago, and that she had loved.  That bag was so trashed and permeated with smoke when Hayley left for treatment a year ago, I threw it out.  I had sewn into this new bag, an inscription commemorating the One Year date and a heartfelt message.  It had been a labor of love.

I hadn’t seen Hayley since last October – and although I knew she was doing well, I was still a bit anxious.  I retrieved my bag from the baggage claim at the airport and waited outside for her to pick me up.  I couldn’t help but flash back to the last four years or so – – – when Hayley’s drug use and desperate lifestyle had escalated to the point where she had sold her car – and didn’t drive at all.  Her driver’s license had been suspended and there was a warrant out for her arrest for probation violation.  I dreaded opening our local newspaper every day – I was certain I’d eventually see her name and mug shot in the Crimestopper’s  column.

As part of her recovery during this last year, Hayley appeared in court to take care of some outstanding traffic and probation violations, rectified the messy suspended driver’s license business, acquired a California driver’s license and, recently, bought herself a used car with what was left in the investment fund my parents had given her as a child.  She was so proud of the fact that she had conscientiously shopped for this car on her own – and had bought it from a used car lot run by two brothers, in recovery themselves.  Their common bond sealed the deal – and she trusted them.  Privately, I wasn’t so sure she was ready for the responsibility of a car.

And then, there she was, driving up in her ‘new’ car to greet me.   The reality of it all was staggering.  We hugged, and kissed, and gabbed nonstop as we drove to her apartment, a few miles away.  She seemed comfortable and careful behind the wheel, even in California highway traffic and despite the fact she hadn’t driven for 3 – 4 years prior.  She freely shared so much in those first 15 minutes – wanted me to know everything.  And, she was so excited to show me the apartment she was sharing with two younger women in recovery.  As we approached, I was surprised at how nice it seemed.  It was in a gated and very secure complex with lovely grounds.  The apartment itself had been well furnished by her roommates and Hayley’s bedroom was neat and orderly.  That was a big one for me.  For the five years she had lived in a little duplex in our hometown, Hayley never let any of us visit.  We knew her living space was a disaster – that she had always had trouble organizing and keeping track of things.  We knew she could get overwhelmed – but eventually chalked up her unwillingness to let any of us in to her house to shame, embarrassment, maybe even ADD – – – and yes, with a big dose of our own denial thrown in.  Hayley and I have subsequently talked about the chaos in which she lived.  She is very forthcoming in acknowledging all the above – and the fact that the crazy disorder of her apartment was a barrier, of sorts, to the outside world – a legitimate excuse to isolate as she was spiraling downwards in to the dark abyss of addiction.

Two years ago, when I had to move everything out of that place after Hayley had been evicted and was living in a crack house, I thought I’d entered a war zone.  I actually felt physically and emotionally assaulted by the filth, chaos, garbage, and clutter.  (Back To Square One) I discovered a drawer where Hayley had stashed almost 4 years of unopened mail.  All of it was bad news – overdrawn bank statements, collection agency letters, failure to appear (in court) notices, pawn shop records, traffic violation notices, etc.  It was astonishing – not only that she had these kinds of long term, serious financial problems and legal issues – but that she had actually saved all of the notices of such. Her way of ‘coping’ had been to throw the evidence into a drawer and try not to think about it – and by not opening any of the envelopes, she could pretend it all didn’t exist.  Yet, why did she keep it? In her own pathetic way and with some twisted reasoning, I think she was trying to be as responsible as she knew how at the time –  by keeping it all together, in one place.  Yeah, it’s difficult to comprehend.

With the help of a dear friend, I was able to retrieve a few things from Hayley’s apartment that I thought were meaningful and worth saving – a wool sweater I had knit her in high school, all her photos from childhood through college, her Cuisinart, original artwork by her younger brother, a handmade quilt, family keepsakes.  Many of those things are now carefully packed away in boxes, stored in my basement.  One day, when Hayley is more permanently settled, I’ll send whatever she wants.  I’m glad that I was able to preserve a little of her personal history from before the heavy drug use years.  She deserves that.

Back to the present: as we stood in Hayley’s room at the California apartment, I was both glad and sad – so happy that she has a clean, safe place to live – and sad, that at age 32, she has to completely start her life over.  My daughter is 32 years old and doesn’t possess much of anything.  Although she did get a dresser and bed for herself when she moved in to this apartment, she could never fully furnish one on her own.  And at one time, she did have everything to make a comfortable home for herself, but lost it all to drugs.  It breaks my heart – and, yet, I have to remind myself that it’s just stuff  – that the most important thing Hayley now owns, is her sobriety.  And as long as she maintains that, the rest will come.

Hayley also has a dog – a 6 month old Shih Tzu/Yorkie puppy, named Bear. She has had three similar dogs over the last few years and lost them all, in one way or another, to drug use.  I know how much she loves dogs – and what they provide for her – a lot of comfort and affection – and relief from the stress and pressures of life.  She has repeatedly told me that her dogs literally saved her life in the last few years.  However, a dog is also a huge responsibility, can be expensive to care for, and limits housing and work options.  She reluctantly told me about the dog a couple of months, knowing I would eventually find out about him – and that I would most likely disapprove of this unnecessary encumbrance.  But – I tried to be positive and not allow this darling little bundle of fur to serve as another trigger of anxiety and worry for myself.  Is this dog a diversion from the hard, daily work of recovery where Hayley’s attention should be focused?  Or, is he a valuable source of love and companionship during this vulnerable time?  We’ll see.

Basically, my daughter and I spent the four days we had together sunning and talking by my hotel pool, going on long walks along the beach, out to dinner with some of her friends in recovery, and doing a little shopping.  May 9th, the day after I arrived, was her actual One Year ‘birthday’.  A little before 7:00 pm, we picked up her boyfriend, Rob, who has been in recovery for over two years, and went to a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting.  It was huge – and full of people Hayley knew. A van and SUV  full of girls/women from the treatment center where Hayely works, arrived for the meeting.  Everyone in the room was eating candy, a common trait for recovering heroin addicts – and most smoked (outside, before/after the meeting. Hayley and Rob were both trying to quit smoking, again, and as of today, they haven’t smoked in about 6 weeks.)  It was a good meeting – and Hayley spoke, tearfully telling the group that that day was her One Year birthday– and that her mom, me, was there to celebrate with her.  She said, “My mom was the one person who never gave up on me, and I’m so grateful.”  I, of course, sobbed with emotion.  I also said a few words – and after the meeting, many young people came up to hug me and said they were glad I was there – that they missed their family and hoped they could one day share such a special day with their parents.  I was so touched, and honored to be amongst so many courageous people, working hard to maintain their sobriety.

After the NA meeting, Hayley, Rob and I went out for a lovely dinner where I was able to get to know Rob better.  He’s a lot younger than Hayley, but is a wonderful young man – deeply committed to his sobriety and recovery program, a very hard worker, and  crazy about my daughter.  They support each other in many ways, so – – – I guess it’s good, right?

On Tuesday afternoon, Hayley, Rob, and I walked along the beach to a street fair in Huntington Beach, just one-mile from my hotel.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had fun browsing through the vendors’ stalls on Main Street.  We arrived back at my hotel ~ 4:00 pm.  Rob left and Hayley and I leisurely showered and dressed for the gathering/dinner that night with friends, to celebrate Hayley’s One Year.  It was then that Hayley couldn’t find her phone.  We tried to call Rob to see if he had it – no answer.  We had to make a choice – either go back to the street fair to try to find Hayley’s phone  (since we were afraid that most of the vendors would be gone the next day, with no way of tracking who/where they were) – or, go to the celebratory gathering where we were due in thirty minutes.  Hayley was certain that Rob must have her phone.  I was sure he didn’t.  I remembered that Rob had carefully emptied our things out of his backpack before leaving that afternoon.  I tried not to over-react – but internally, I quickly accelerated in to panic mode.  If she had left her phone at the street fair, how would we ever recover it?  And if it was lost for good, how would we/she communicate while I was visiting?  I was leaving the next day – should I try to buy her a new phone before I left, if necessary?  Would there be time? Would that be enabling?

I admit, I almost let this incident ruin my entire trip.  We ultimately went to her One Year dinner with about 8 of her friends in recovery.  When Hayley announced that I was stressed out about the lost phone, one guest gently said, “Come on – it’s just a phone.  Let’s celebrate Hayley’s hard work and new life.”  I tried – but still was obsessing about the lost phone.  After dinner, I called her phone number many times, hoping someone would pick up.  Then I texted this message:  This is a lost phone.  If you have it, please call me at ———-. THAT, I thought, was a genius move on my part.  I didn’t sleep much that night, fretting about what to do.  Mostly, I was trying to figure out my role.  Should I help Hayley get a new phone the next day, or not?  She had virtually no money – was barely scraping by, earning just $11/hour at the treatment center where she worked full time. I read some pearls from my Al-Anon Courage to Change book and decided to try to Let Go And Let God – that I really didn’t have any control over the situation and to have a little faith that it would all work out.

And then, at 8:30 am the next morning, my cell phone rang. The woman’s voice on the other end said, “We found this phone at our beach apparel store.  Does it belong to someone you know”.  You can imagine my ecstatic relief.  When I picked up the phone an hour or so later at the beach shop, I was sooooo grateful to this honest young woman/clerk, who had found Hayley’s phone – and had decided to call the number of the last phone  call received.  That was me!  And no, she had not seen the clever text I had sent about the lost phone.  So – three big lessons:  I’m not such a smarty pants afterall; AND, things often do work out, as they’re meant to.  ( I wonder if I would have felt this way if the phone had remained lost?) AND, here is the most important one of all, as quoted from Al-Anon’s book, Courage To ChangeAs wonderful as it is to see a loved one find sobriety, it often presents a whole new set of challenges.  After all the years of waiting, many of us are dismayed when sobriety does not bring the happily-ever-after ending we’ve awaited.  . . . problems that we always attributed to alcohol or drugs may persist, even though the ‘use’ has stopped.   I came to the realization that Hayley will probably always be misplacing her cell phone, or her car keys, or whatever – that sobriety doesn’t necessarily change basic personality traits or behavior patterns.  And, I cannot rescue my daughter from natural  consequences resulting from how she lives her life.

Hayley picked me up at about noon that day.  I checked out of the hotel and we ran a few errands.  My plane didn’t leave until 7:30 pm that night.  Hayley works the 4:00 pm – midnight shift at the treatment center and the plan was for me to go to work with her for a couple of hours and then she’d take me to the airport. We arrived at Safe Harbor‘s Capella House, where Hayley had been a ‘patient’ just nine months before. (A Safe Harbor)

She is a trusted and valued member of the treatment center’s staff – and she is so good at what she does!   She supervises and monitors twenty women at Capella – and counsels them, mentors them, problem solves with them.  She’s got the frigg’in keys to the meds cabinet, for crying out loud!  Yes, she dispenses their medications!   She also has become the designated staff person to pick up an especially difficult new patient at the airport.  Hayley is the first person that a troubled/angry/frightened addict encounters on her path towards recovery.  Her ability to calm down and reassure an agitated newcomer, is respected and appreciated.  I was totally in awe of my daughter and how she conducted herself at work – and  I couldn’t believe that I was there to witness it.

Working at the treatment center is a wonderful opportunity for Hayley – and is a healthy, supportive environment for her right now as she builds some confidence and life skills.  However, the reality is that she only earns $11.00/hr.  It’s not a sustainable living wage, especially in southern California.  Yet, Hayley  hasn’t asked for any help and takes pride in being able to make a ‘go’ of it, thusfar.  I don’t know how this is possible.  There’s certainly no cushion for any unbudgeted expenses that arise.  She has no health insurance, needs thousands of dollars of dental work to preserve her teeth, needs regular blood testing to monitor a chronic health condition, will need to keep her car serviced, and insured, etc.  How will she be able to manage all of this?  Will these daunting financial pressures trigger a relapse?

And there I go, AGAIN.  I am future-tripping in to the dangerous land of “What-Ifs”. And when I do that, I rob myself of the joy of today – and lose sight of how far my daughter has come in one year’s time.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, I, too, am in recovery –  from my daughter’s addiction.  And I still have so much to learn, and so far to go.

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7 Responses to “One Year”

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Congratulations to Hayley for a year of sobriety. A year and a month, by now. … It sounds like you were able to stay present during your visit. I’ve learned that sobriety doesn’t change life; it allows me to deal with life without having to drink or use. Sobriety in Al-Anon allows me to deal with life without having to take inappropriate care of other people. I’m back to working on the flexible, permeable but real boundaries that Al-Anon helps us build. Caretaking, and managing other people’s attitudes and behaviors, really is my first drug. So congratulations to you, too, Peggy.

So well put, Guinevere. I’m working on a post: “What is YOUR drug of choice?” We all have one, (or more) of course. I’m with you – trying to control other people’s outcomes. More on that later. Thanks for stopping by.

Just dug up this great essay by Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project on a Balanced Life: 7 Tips For Minding My Own Business: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-rubin/balanced-life—-7-tips-f_b_873311.html?ref=fb&src=sp It’s a very good reminder for me, and maybe some of you. Within that essay is another good link to an article about “Gossip”. I need to read these every day to keep myself inside my own hula hoop!

Peg, I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day gift than your daughter’s year anniversary of sobriety. I’m so glad you got to spend it with her. As for the phone incident, it’s crazy how when things are going well, we tend to question every little nuance of behavior. But, when you’ve watched someone you love sinking in the pit of active addiction, it’s very hard to not submit to fear on occasion, no matter how healthy the addict is now. Perhaps it gets easier as time goes by. Meanwhile, please tell Heather how proud I am of her. A year is a big deal, and the help she provides to others through her job is just as impressive.
Hugs,
Gal

Thanks, Gal. Hayley has plenty of things to work on, aside from her sobriety. Don’t we all? Hope she continues to manage the stresses of life in healthy ways.

It was wonderful reading this! ONE YEAR. PEGGY! A YEAR! I admit, when I met all the blogging parents and their children a few years ago, I was especially worried for Hayley. She seemed so lost, so hard to reach….but YOU reached out to her, I remember the post about you and her on the park bench. And now look at her!

The phone incident sounds like a good life lesson. Its kind of funny in a way that something like a lost phone could cause you to be upset, can you remember when that would have seemed like nothing compared to all the other issues???? I’m not making light of it, I would have been upset too. Its just nice to have something “simple” to worry about instead of life or death issues!

The bag you made is adorable! You should sell them, I’ll buy one!

Barb – having one of Hayley’s friends in recovery remind me to put the lost phone in perspective, did help. I felt a little sheepish for starting my anxiety spin. However, I still struggle with when to step in and ‘help’ and when to stand back. Basically, I’m relieving my own anxiety when I ‘help’. I know she needs to figure things out for herself – but also, there is a certain amount of enabling recovery that is ok, in my opinion.


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