Archive for November, 2011
She was euphoric when she called. The treatment center where she works full time was finally offering her health insurance. She was feeling a huge sense of relief and accomplishment – that she could now pull herself back from teetering on that precarious cliff edge of no healthcare coverage – where any medical emergency, let alone the preventative and routine healthcare visits she needs, could plunge her down in to an abyss of lifetime debt – and yet another deep, dark hole to climb out of. Making just $11.00/hr is really not enough to fully support herself – although, she has been making a valiant effort to do so. And, for some reason, up to now, her employer hadn’t either been pressed to offer health insurance – or Hayley didn’t qualify in some way.
Mom, would you please send my birth certificate? I’ll send it right back to you.
This important piece of paper has been in my safe for her entire life, and I felt a bit nervous letting go of it. Yes, my 32 yo daughter, who has been in recovery from heroin addiction for ~ 18 months, should probably have this personal legal document in her possession – – – and keep track of it. But her track record regarding these kinds of things, is abysmal. (Come to think of it, I also have my two adult sons’ birth certificates in my safe. Is this just something that mothers do?)
However, I sent it – certified mail, so it could be tracked. My confidence in the US Postal Service is sketchy, at best. And due to increased national security and immigration politics/issues, the process for replacing an original birth certificate these days is a herculean task that requires a lot of time, documentation, and persistence. There was a deadline pending for Hayley to choose a specific health care plan and get all the application paperwork in – and nothing could be processed without the birth certificate.
I did a somewhat restrained/succinct version of encouraging her to carefully research the coverage and details of the insurance plans – and was proud of myself for not offering to do it for her! I figured that since she called to ‘chat’ about the pending health insurance, she was looking for my input, right?
After a week to ten days had passed, and she still hadn’t received the birth certificate, I settled in to a funk. I bounced between anger and panic – mad at the inept/bureaucratic government and postal service, at Hayley for not allowing enough time for snafus, and anxious that this delay would result in Hayley not being able to get the health insurance she so desperately needs. To top it off, I had misplaced the certified mail receipt, so had no way of tracking the envelope. Now, I was also mad at myself.
A couple of days ago, Hayley called to say:
The good news is, I finally received the envelope with my birth certificate. Thanks, Mom. And the bad news is, (I held my breath!!!!!) I guess my place of employment isn’t offering health insurance. After I turned in all my paper work, they announced that there weren’t enough employees interested in participating (?) at our small facility – but that maybe I could apply for a job at one of the other, larger treatment houses in the complex where they do offer health insurance.
In the discussion that followed, there were glimpses of Hayley’s all too familiar indignant and entitled attitudes from years past: They can’t do that! I listened and tried to be as encouraging and supportive as I could. But, I also couldn’t help myself from giving her a dose of reality:
Make a case for yourself, Hayley. Ask for what you want/deserve – in writing. Remind them what a valuable employee you are and what skills you bring to their treatment center and program. And do a little research about California State Law and what small businesses are required to provide to their employees.
I don’t have time for all of that, Mom, she whined.
And I responded with:
Join the club, Honey – and real life. Most working people have a myriad of responsibilities they need to tend to on their days/time off. It’s hard, I know. But your health is at stake and it looks like it will take some homework to follow up on this. And be careful how you approach your employer. Document all your requests, comments, and questions. If you threaten them in any way, that they aren’t following the law regarding health insurance for employees, they could decide to terminate you based on some subjective ‘poor job performance’ evaluation. And the reality is, there are probably 20 other young women standing in line to take your job.
She didn’t like hearing this. She truly has no idea how much time and follow-up it takes to check billing statements, call and talk to health insurance companies about benefits, monitor and track all the details of life that crop up on a daily business.
I know I probably said too much in our phone conversation. The boundary between being a parent/ adviser and supporting recovery is fuzzy – for me, at least. I try to ration the amount and frequency of some basic ‘independent adult living’ knowledge that I dispense, which I don’t think Hayley ever acquired. You know what they say – that a drug addict’s emotional/social/cognitive development is essentially arrested back to when they started using and abusing substances. For Hayley, I figure that is 10 to 15 years ago. Plus, her brain chemistry has been changed – maybe forever – and who knows in what ways?
I’m trying to not be so afraid to speak the truth to Hayley – fearing that it could trigger a relapse. She’s had a history of being overwhelmed by life – and then numbing herself in order to cope – or push aside – or not deal with things. I want to nurture some confidence in herself – that she can handle these ups and downs, challenges, surprises of life; that it takes some work and follow-through to make things happen; and that it’s ok to feel frustrated and/or not know exactly what to do.
The truth is, I’m struggling with recovery, too – maybe even as much as Hayley. My drug of choice is worry – obsession with things over which I really have no control. I come by it honestly. My 94 year old mother is still actively ‘using’ worry to frame every conversation and choice she makes. Worry is at the center of who and how she defines herself. Is that what kind of life I want? Allowing obsessive worrying to rob me of the joy of today – and all the things I have to be grateful for?
I heard at an Al-Anon meeting last night that “Worry” is, in reality, a prayer to make something you don’t want, happen. Huh? After thinking about this for a long time, I got it. If I constantly worry about what could happen or the ‘worst-case scenario’, I am expending so much energy and thought towards that negative outcome, who knows – could I unintentionally tip the balance in that direction? My younger son, Brian, is convinced that what we send out in to the universe – our positive and negative thoughts, have power and a determining effect on what actually happens.
And so, right now – and for as long as I can, just today, I am sending out strength – and hope – and love to whomever needs it and will let themselves feel it – along with all the other sh*t floating around. We’re all in this together.
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