Taking the Plunge

Posted on October 16, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Recovery | Tags: , , , |

I haven’t posted now in almost two months.  I’m not sure why I’ve been procrastinating.  It seems I let almost any thing distract me from sitting down and putting words to ‘paper’.  And now, it’s like a black cloud hovering over me.  I seem to have hit some kind of wall.  The longer I wait to write, the more I think about it and the harder it is to actually do it.

Yes, it’s true.  I don’t feel as compelled to write as when I started this blog over two years ago.  Then, we had cut off contact with our heroin addict daughter, Hayley, who was spiraling deeper and deeper in to the underworld of addiction and an escalating risky lifestyle.  I was desperate – and felt hopeless.  I used this blog as a forum to vent and share the emotional devastation that comes with a child’s addiction, learn more about opioid drugs and share information, give to and receive support from other parents in the same dubious ‘club’ that no one asked to be a member of, and essentially, record Hayley’s eventual demise.

Today, Hayley has been ‘clean’ and sober for ~ 18 months.  I still consider it a miracle. I still hold my breath.  I am in recovery myself from her addiction and have a long ways to go until I can ‘let go’ of certain triggers and the need to control outcomes .  Al-Anon and meditation help.  I’ve come to realize that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life.

Hayley is sober, working full time at her treatment center, and trying to make a new life for herself at age 32 – but, there is still plenty to write about.  I’m constantly learning more about addiction, neuroscience and brain chemistry breakthroughs, reading books about compulsive/obsessive behavior, articles debating the “addiction-is-a-disease” issue, and important principles of long-lasting recovery.  I read several blogs written by recovering addicts/alcoholics (guineveregetssober is a favorite), searching, I guess, for the ‘secret’ to life long sobriety. I’m sure these are all symptoms of my ingrained fear and continued need to ‘fix’ Hayley for good.  I know.

This ongoing struggle to lovingly detach from my daughter’s life choices – yet support her recovery, is a challenge.  She works full time in the treatment center community, but only earns $11.00/hr – not exactly a sustainable living wage, especially in southern California where the cost of living is high.  She has no health/dental insurance, yet has ongoing health issues that need to be monitored as well as lots of restorative dental work to be done.  Thus far, my 94 yo mother and I have been taking care of her dental bills, a couple hundred dollars a month.  There is a prioritized schedule of what needs to be done when, if she wants to ‘save’ her teeth.

I started collecting social security a year ago – and also refinanced my house so that I have lower monthly mortgage payments.  So, since last May, I’ve put a few hundred dollars into Hayley’s account every month to ‘help’.  I’ve told her that this will not necessarily be a regular occurence – that she shouldn’t count on it. I don’t want her to spend it before she has it. I consider this money to be ‘extra’ in my budget, so it’s not really impacting my lifestyle.  And if I want to ‘help’ another one of my children (as happened this month), then that ‘extra’ money will be diverted to their account.  So – does this money, going in to Hayley’s account, constitute ‘enabling’?  That’s a topic for future conversation.  However, I do think there’s a difference between enabling addiction and supporting recovery.  I believe I’m supporting Hayley’s recovery.

I have received so much heartfelt empathy and support from readers over the last two years, that I feel a certain obligation to ‘give back’ – and offer Hayley’s story as a pinpoint of hope – encouragement to parents and family members who felt the same way I did 2 years ago – desperate, and sick, and overwhelmed with grief, anger, bewilderment.  As I mentioned, I’ve started several posts, but just haven’t gone back to finish them and pull the trigger.

And so, until I get a full-fledged post finished and ‘up’ for you to read, here are a few provocative tidbits from my stash that shouted out at me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a record of where they all came from:

•Drug use and high-risk drinking are self-imposed, but no one consciously decides when they’re young that they want to grow up to be a drug addict.

•Drug use seems, in my opinion, to be the symptom of something – and then becomes the disease. 

•Sometimes we enable, and support, and intervene purely because it helps us to feel better – even though, in reality, it most often doesn’t do shit: I pray for those that are sick and suffering and ask that God hold them and give them hope. That is about all that I can do.  from Pam’s blog Sobriety is Exhausting. It is a good statement about letting go and how powerless we are over what others do.

“It really doesn’t matter sweet precious normies……do what you are comfortable with. Spend all your money trying to help or spend none of your money. Take their calls or don’t take their calls. Pay for their apartment or give them your home. Disown them or clutch them tight. All your pain is about you….saying this with love. Your fear of (just) wanting them to be healthy and happy and sane. Since none of this is within your power to give them, then do what makes you able to sleep at night, do what makes life bearable for you. Your addict/alcoholic is doing what makes life bearable for them……aren’t we all?”  (sorry – don’t know where I got this although I believe it was from an addict’s blog)

I’m hoping this preliminary ‘toe-back-in-the-water’ is the nudge to jump back in again.  Thanks, dear readers, for your patience.

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17 Responses to “Taking the Plunge”

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Peggy, I found your blog through Guinevere’s. I am glad that your daughter has been clean for 18 months. Reading back over your posts I can feel the pain. Thanks for sharing here. I will start following your posts.

Syd – thanks so much for stopping by. Guinevere’s blog is one of my favorites. She writes and expresses herself so beautifully. She is an inspiration to me and gives me such hope.

Guinevere is so right and so is Mary Karr – don’t you just LOVE her?!!

Peggy, so glad to see you posting again. You have so much to offer those who suffer with compulsive caretaking (including myself). Example—one new person to our blogging scene and to Al-Anon recovery: the author of The Circle Game of Sobriety (http://thecirclegameofsobriety.wordpress.com). She could really benefit from your experience, strength and hope.

As Mary Karr would say, apply your ass to the chair and write, my dear! 🙂 x/G

It is so encouraging to read that she has 18 months.

Congratulations to both of you.

Thanks, Tori. I so appreciate your support and “cheerleading”. It really helps – and, I seem to need it. I’m very familiar with the abysmal statistics of heroin addiction recovery – so I do not take my daughter’s recovery for granted – and still hold my breath every day. One day at a time.

So good to see your post, Peg. I know the feeling of not being able to write. Good for you for getting past that hurdle. What resonated most for me, in your post, was the issue of wanting so much to make Hayley all better for always. I really struggle with that feeling around my daughter. This is what I once heard at an Alanon meeting: “That old nagging fear that I can only be happy when all aspects of my life are going as well as I can possibly imagine.” That fear is huge for me. It’s not even just that I want my life to go well. I want ALL ASPECTS of my life to go well. And, not just go well, but they must go as well AS I CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE. Yikes. How can that be achieved? Well, it can’t, of course. So, I live in fear. But, lots of things help – meetings, friends, yoga, tai chi, meditation, exercise. I’m trying to accept the fact that I will never be the same as I was before my daughter became ill and, of course, neither will she. But, one day at a time, we can get better and better.

Oh, Donna. You and I share so many fears, disappointments, hopes . . . I’m trying to come to grips with the fact that “worry” is my drug of choice. Hoping to post about this soon. Thanks for always being so honest and sharing your vulnerability with me and other readers. I don’t feel so alone – or screwed up, when I read your comments.

It seems like just yesterday that she was headed down here for rehab….18 months! This makes me feel so hopeful and so happy – especially for Hayley. I hope things continue to go her way. And I hope continued research finds answers to give all addicts a better chance for continued success.

Thanks for your good wishes, Barb. You’re such a terrific ‘cheerleader’ for all of us struggling with the disease of addiction. I hope that you, too, are able to experience a child’s recovery one day, and the hope and healing that are slowly restored. I’m not sure they’re always “fully” restored – but at least, they poke their heads out and begin to grab hold. As you well know, sobriety does not necessarily solve all the problems that were present before the addiction. Plus, the addict’s brain and maturity development have been arrested. Hayley’s recovery is still, and will always be, a miracle that I will never take for granted.

My son, a real “low bottom” addict, has 18 months also. I should be thrilled..and I am, because heroin is just the most awful thing. But in reality there are a lot of issues he has yet to clear up–legal fines in the thousands, still no driver’s license because he screwed that up so badly, bad teeth. And lots of addict thinking. I see him fall back into it whenever the going gets tough. I am proud of him, and the gains he has made, it’s just that my initial idea of “recovery” and the time it actually takes for the brain to start functioning normally are vastly different.

I think you were getting at this in this post. I don’t go to as many meetings anymore, but I still use Alanon to navigate many areas of my life that have nothing to do with addiction. Didn’t agree with everything, but it helped me through the worst of times.

Glad to hear Haley is doing so well!

First of all I am happy for you that Hayley is in recovery and doing well. Personally, I am not comfortable with giving money liberally “every month”. I believe that by 31 years of age, you should be self sufficient, and if you have screwed up, you have to pay the price. Maybe she could get a second job to get back on her feet. But I believe it is a personal call. I have lost so much money on my daughter that was misused, however your daughter has a long recovery period behind her and has shown to be trust worthy, something my daughter has never done. Go with you gut, just be vigilant. Its all about a “hand up” vs. a “hand out”. Again, I could not be happier for you and Hayley.

Thanks, Helga. I always appreciate your point of view. As I mentioned, I do struggle with the “enabling vs support” issue. I’m thinking now that I may put any extra dollars I have in to Hayley’s dental bills, instead of just in to her checking/savings accounts. That way, I’ll know where the money is going, and will be contributing to her long term health. Aaaggghhh – where to draw the line!

Peg, so good to hear from you. I’m delighted to hear things are running along smoothly with Hayley’s recovery. My daughter also remains in recovery. Her last relapse was February. Since then, she has gotten very involved in AA and is working the steps slowly, but surely. She works full-time and still struggles to cope with life’s everyday stresses. But she’s taken up yoga, and together with AA, she’s discovering there are ways to deal with problems without resorting to pills, syringes, etc. I’m not sugar-coating this, because life is harder for her than it is for most, but it’s nice to have her taking steps forward rather than backwards. One day at a time, right?
P.S. Her Christmas and birthday presents are dental work this year!

Gal! So good to hear from you and your daughter’s status. Yay! Yes, being in recovery does not solve all the problems that existed before addiction. Hayley has yet to work completely through the 12 steps. It worries me a bit. Because she takes clients to AA/NA meetings every day, I think she’s a bit complacent about attending meetings of her own. Plus, she doesn’t really have a sponsor right now, so there’s no one to check in with. I’m hoping this isn’t a ‘slide’ backwards. Fingers crossed.

Peg, the sponsor issue can be a problem. My daughter has had two of them so far, and, honestly, the sponsors’ issues are sometimes as problematic (if not worse) than the sponsee’s. My daughter’s first sponsor totally abandoned her after a while. She finally resurfaced when my daughter moved on to a new sponsor, but berated my daughter for leaving her. Her new sponsor had a nervous breakdown last month. Ugh. My daughter words… “she may be crazier than I am.” Love it. I keep repeating to her, “Take what you need and leave the rest behind.” Hayley doesn’t have to have a sponsor to be in successful recovery. (Ha, she may even be better off without one!)

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