April Showers Bring May Flowers

Posted on April 5, 2012. Filed under: addiction, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Recovery, The Bottom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

My daughter’s birthday is today.  She is 33 years old.  She’s living in southern California and working at a small, private women’s drug/alcohol treatment center. She has a wonderful ‘boyfriend’, a darling dog, and recently moved in to an apartment of her own.  She’s healthy and happy and a consistent source of love and support to me.  I just sent her five large boxes of household items that I had been storing – things I had salvaged from the nightmare of her apartment from which she had been evicted almost three years ago.

Soon, on May 9th, Hayley, will celebrate two years of sobriety.

 This time of year prompts such a jumble of conflicting emotions for me.  The trees and plants are budding with new life – so full of hope and promise.  Spring is here as manifested by Mother Nature’s relentless cycle of new beginnings. With a symphony of birds chirping, the greening of lawns and surrounding hills, trees leafing out, buds and blossoms everywhere, it’s hard not to feel renewed and optimistic – even buoyant. 

However, three years ago, all that changed – and this particular time of year took on a very different mood –  a different kind of feeling – a sort of pallor.  Despite the loveliness and allure of the season, it will forever be tempered by the grim reminder of what could have been.

In 2009, when my daughter turned 30, I threw her a birthday party in a desperate attempt to cheer her up and show her how much we, her family, loved her.  There were mostly family members and a few close friends  who had gathered for the weekend. Hayley had been unemployed for almost nine months – and seemed increasingly depressed, remote, and ‘unavailable’, punctuated with episodes of erratic/bizarre behavior.  On the Saturday afternoon before her birthday dinner, we had planned a family hike.  Hayley ‘begged off’, claiming she had some important errands to run.  Huh?  We had all come together, many from out of town/state, to be with her on this milestone birthday.   However, over the years, we had become so accustomed to Hayley’s ‘flakiness’ and narcissism, that we shrugged off her ‘lame’ excuse, determined to spend quality time together on the hike, in spite of her absence.

The birthday dinner went well – it was so wonderful to have everyone together – including my 91 year old mother. The next morning, however, Hayley didn’t show up for the family brunch we had planned.  She finally arrived ~ 1:00 pm – late, disheveled and spacey. I was very upset and suspicious – but focused my attention on smoothing things over for my elderly mother’s benefit, who is a professional worry-wort.

Many months later, I learned that Hayley had spent Saturday afternoon at a dentist’s office, getting prescription painkillers.  And after the family birthday dinner, she had used a variety of drugs, crashed/overslept at a friend’s apartment, and couldn’t remember where her car was the next morning.

Two years ago at this exact same time, amidst the riot and rejuvenation of spring, I was almost paralyzed with despair, fear, and overwhelming gloom.

My daughter was now an active heroin addict, living a very abusive, risky, dangerous lifestyle in a crack house.  Her likely life outcomes had boiled down to a few grim options: untimely death by overdose, violence, infection or, going to jail.

Here’s an excerpt from a post during that time to give you some context:

I’m getting ready to meet with my daughter for the first time in seven months.  In June 2009, I had learned that Hayley had become a heroin/crack cocaine addict and was living in a crack house.  A couple of months later (August 2009), she had reached out and asked for help – specifically, would I get her in to a medical detox facility?  She had managed to get herself out of the crack house and had found a safe place to stay for a few days.   She was dope sick, covered with abscesses, and desperate for help.  Of course, I donned my ‘supermom cape’, and whirled in to action. 

The logistics of quickly getting Hayley in to a medical detox facility were complicated, since there was no such facility here, in our small-ish city, and no available beds in the detox facilities 150 miles away.  We needed to first get her on antibiotics to treat the abscesses, before any facility would take her (MRSA risk). And, I procured some hydrocodone for her, to try to keep her off the heroin and away from the crack house. After 72 hours of constant phone calls and involved paperwork, and buying food and clothes for my daughter, and checking in on her, and trying to keep her hopeful and moving forward, and not using heroin (this was my fantasy, as it turned out), a bed finally became available at midnight, and I drove Hayley three hours to the detox facility.  The plan was, after detoxing for ~ 5 days, Hayley would go directly to a women’s treatment center 50 miles away.  However, after 4 days in detox, Hayley walked out AMA (against medical advice) and talked a taxi drive in to driving her the 150 miles back to our town – and her drug life.  One of the many ironies in this chain of events, was that the crack house wouldn’t take her back!  Can you imagine? This is a whole story, in and of itself. 

 We decided as a family, at that point, to pull back and let Hayley really hit “bottom” –  to let her feel the full impact of her life choices, hoping that this approach would jolt her in to seeking recovery on her own.  She’s smart.  She’s resourceful, and I truly believed that she knew where to go to get help for herself.

 And so, for the next 7 – 8 months, we had little to no contact with her – just an occasional text, since the failed treatment attempt.  During that time, I was desperate with fear and worry, and felt overwhelmed with helplessness. However, after about 5 months of not speaking to or seeing her, I had reached some kind of “tipping point”, and decided to try to contact her. It all started with a text, then a phone call, and then a few more, culminating in my determination to actually see my daughter on her birthday in April.  We had re-established enough of a connection to build the foundation of trust and desire necessary for our eventual birthday meeting.  I was convinced that Hayley’s life was at stake and time was running out –  that I needed to make one last valiant attempt to help her get the help she needed to change her life.  If I could appeal to her and tell her, face to face, how much I loved her – – – and that we, her family, would help her get the help she needed when she was ready, maybe it would make a difference. I had to try.

 My reaching out to Hayley was influenced, in part, by Tom, a drug counselor at the  Recovery Helpdesk blog, who made a good case for challenging the notion of  Hitting Bottom– that . . . 

” . . . an opiate dependent person does not have full exercise of their free will.  Their free will is compromised.” And, ” Opiate dependence is powerful enough and the opiate dependent person’s free will is compromised enough, that waiting for the person to “hit bottom” can mean the person goes on to experience HIV infection, Hepatitis C infection, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, loss of child custody, loss of family relationships, risk of violence, or worse.”

It was uncomfortable to read this, because it challenged our family’s position that Hayley needed to feel enough pain before seeking help, which was what most professionals/groups/literature advocated.  Leaving Hayley alone for 7 months hadn’t really had the effect we had hoped for – she just seemed to spiral further down in to the deep dark hole of addiction and become more entrenched in her risky lifestyle.  And from what I could tell, she was getting more desperate – dope sick almost every day, no money for drugs, let alone food.  I was driving myself crazy contemplating how my daughter might be getting her drugs.

My post, Birthday Gifts, gives you the details of my preparation for this crucial meeting with my heroin addict daughter on her birthday, two years ago.  And Yes . . . She’s Still in There is the account of the actual meeting.

Thinking back to that time is still very painful – and a frightening reminder of how close we came to losing our daughter completely.  But, it also is a powerful testament to hope – and miracles –  and how the most desperate circumstances can change.

There are so many variables that affect an addict’s recovery – timing being one of them. Apparently, for Hayley, the combination of our birthday meeting, followed by a crucial/random phone call from an acquaintance, subsequent phone calls and texts from family members, and other serendipity events –  all came together in to a powerful vortex that started to draw her in – and remind her of the ‘normal’ world and life she had left;  that there was a possibility of a different kind of existence; and maybe she could accept help.  Who knew, or could predict, that these somewhat arbitrary events could converge in to the powerful push my daughter needed to walk away from her life of addiction.

A phrase of drug counselor Tom’s, at Recovery Deskhelp, kept running through my head: that taking action to enable recovery is very different from enabling the addict’s drug use.  I was convinced that my daughter was incapable of getting the help she wanted or needed – that navigating the complicated labyrinth of getting herself into a detox/treatment center, was too overwhelming – and I was right.  I am grateful to Tom for articulating what I felt in my gut – and for his strong voice in advocating harm reduction and a wide range of recovery options for drug addicts.

Tom’s post at Recoverydesk, Tough Love Delays Recovery For Heroin Addicts,  is especially relevant to this discussion and his view that “enabling” and “tough love” are the two “black and white” extremes – both of which can be harmful to the drug addict’s recovery.  There’s a lot of gray area in between that is sensible and reasonable and should be considered.    http://www.recoveryhelpdesk.com/

I ended my post, Open For Business, a little over two years ago, with this:

Hayley’s birthday is a little over a week away.  She’ll be 31 years old.  What do I get her for her birthday?  What does one buy, wrap up, and deliver to their heroin-addicted child?  I know, I know – love, encouragement, hope – – – and recovery, are what she needs most.  At this point, I just don’t know how to give and get those gifts to her.

I guess my point in recounting all of this is, to never give up – that as long as ‘your’ drug addict is still alive, there is hope for recovery.  My daughter is living proof of this miracle.  And today – this year – this April 6th, I am reveling in the hope, promise, and wonder of spring . . . and recovery.

 

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11 Responses to “April Showers Bring May Flowers”

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i´m an addict myself and reading your blog is a strange experience for me. makes me think a lot, for sure…. seemingly you stopped posting, why is that? i´d be very happy if you contacted me via email, i´d like to now whats up with your daughter at the moment… (pls excuse my strange english,its not my native language…)

Thanks for stopping by. I’ve felt sooooo guilty about not posting in almost a year! I started a new job a year ago that involves a lot of writing, was out of the country for 6 weeks on a Habitat For Humanity Build in Nepal, and now my 95+ year old mom is in Hospice. So, I just have not taken the time to post. I’m thrilled to report that my daughter will celebrate 3 years of sobriety in May. She lives in southern CA and works full time at a drug/alcohol treatment center there. She is working a 12 step program and is very committed to her lifelong recovery. She’s almost 34 yo, and knows she has a lot of catching up to do to make the kind of life she wants for herself. I’m so proud of her. She has become a wonderful source of hope, courage, and support for myself. I’ve also been going to Al-Anon for almost 12 years and find a lot of experience, strength, and hope in those rooms, for my own recovery from my daughter’s addiction.

I hope you are finding the help and support you need to change your life – it’s difficult/impossible to do on your own, in my opinion. Good Luck.

Thank you for your words. For so long I have felt like a ping pong ball..help my child..let them hit bottom..watch him die…help him to live?? What is a mother to do? All I know is I can’t give up…not yet anyway. I am not there yet. My 24 year old son has been in and out of “recovery” from opiate addiction since around age 20.
He just came out of a what I have come to call a “binge cycle” and is looking for a treatment facility..I agree with you…he is so down right now. I know he wants help,
but, jeez, I am a fairly educated, non drug addicted woman and I can hardly navigate
the system…millions of programs…insurance companies with representatives who sound like robots

omg, Lisa. Can’t believe I just now read your comment and haven’t replied sooner. I’ve been so busy with work, a 3 month sabbatical for a Habitat For Humanity Build in Nepal, and now, we just put my 95 yo mom into Hospice. I haven’t posted on my blog for almost a year, and it’s weighing heavily on my mind.

“The System” is soooo confusing, and difficult to navigate. It was almost a full time job, on my part, to put all the pieces together. We were fortunate to be able to afford (actually, my ex-husband paid for it) a small private treatment facility (for women – “Safe Harbor”) in southern CA. It, amongst a few others, came highly recommended by a professional interventionist I consulted with, Kristina Wandzilak (sp?). Her website is fullcircleintervention.com. “Oceans” is a good treatment facility for men in Costa Mesa/Newport Beach, CA. And we have a good, affordable treatment center where I live in Yakima, WA: “Sundown M Ranch”.

I think it’s next to impossible for an addict to navigate the system him/herself. My daughter could only think ahead about 2 hours to the next fix. We put everything in place – medical detox facility, treatment center, relay team of family members to get her there, withdrawal drugs for the trip down, etc. I knew she wanted to get help, but couldn’t do it on her own. She’s been in recovery now for almost 3 years, and worked at her own treatment center for 2 years before moving to another great treatment center as a ‘house manager’.

If you read my posts close to the beginning (Sept 2009 – June 2010), you may find some hope. From her living in a crack house shooting heroin, to recovery, was a harrowing, high drama journey. We almost lost her.

Good luck. As long as your son is alive, there is hope. Check out some of the websites/blogs I’ve listed on my blog for good info and help.

Peggy

My daughter’s situation sounds exactly like your daughter’s. During the times before recovery when you were trying to contact her, I would like to know if she was angry with/at you? My daughter curses at me and says terrible things. I do not reciprrocate in anger, I believe it’s the drugs, but it still scares me. She has physically attacked me (choking me to the point it left fiinger bruises and scratches around my neck). All I did was gently touch her elbow and say “I’m really worried about you”. I really appreciate the information about tough love and that hitting bottom isn’t the answer for heroin addicition. As a mother, I am constantly mindful and worried about enabling the drug use and life style. It is so hard to know what to do or say that will not trigger her need to “run an errand”. After reading your story, I wonder if “running an errand” is a common phrase addicts use with family members. She will be 33 years old in January. I love her so very much and I am also…. hopelessly hoping. I sincerely appreciate the information you have presented. I have been very lost in this experience.

Thank you so much for your story of hope. I have an opiate addicted son and it’s good to hear stories of recovery. I’m not giving up!!

Thanks for your comment, Annette. My heart goes out to you. And, you’re right – – – you can never give up! It’s been over two years since my daughter got in to recovery – yet, I still hold my breath at times, when I hear stress in her voice, or she’s struggling with the “real world” as a clean/sober ‘delayed’ adult. She lives a couple of thousand miles away from me, yet we talk often. She seems strong and committed to her sobriety and program. And now, SHE has a sponsee, whom she’s mentoring! This is all truly a miracle – but it CAN happen. Hang in there! My approach was that I would do anything to enable recovery vs the disease – even if it meant letting her go to jail. Good luck. Peggy

Congratulations on making it this far! What a wonderful milestone. It only gets easier from here. I just celebrated six years since I last used – I was on Methadone Maintenance for almost this entire time though I am now finished this treatment and use no opiates of any kind.

peace, love and happiness…

Wow! Congrats to you – for your hard work and commitment. Your words are sooooo encouraging. I will pass them on to my daughter. Was it difficult getting off the methadone? I’ve heard that it can be – even more so than heroin itself. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment. You don’t know how much those few sentences can mean to both me, the mother of a recovering addict, and my daughter, as she continues down the road of sobriety. Cheers to you both!

Happy Birthday to Hayley!

Re-living the events of the past two years of her life, here on your blog, was very inspirational. She was in such a dark place and chose to break free and to the hard work to reach the place she is today.

Tom was a big influence on me too, he was saying the opposite of what I heard from so many others. It made sense. I think each person is different and each situation has to be evaluated individually.

In the case of Hayley, you made a good call! They say no one can help you, you have to help yourself, but this is proof that sometimes you do need help to get to the point that you can help yourself.

So true, Barbara. Heroin addicts can barely think more than an hour or two ahead – and those thoughts are usually focused on how to get their next fix. Hayley had gotten to the point that she was using heroin, and anything else she could get her hands on, to keep from getting ‘dope sick’. In other words, it wasn’t the high she was chasing any more, but avoiding the withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from opiates can be very unpleasant and debilitating – vomiting, aching, itching, twitching, diarrhea, etc. It can be terrifying and overwhelming, especially if you don’t have any one to take care of you.

Hayley was lucky, in that she had known a ‘normal’ life for her first 25 years or so. She had a college education and a supportive family – so there was something to ‘go back’ to. She had become so isolated and acclimated to ‘the dark side’ of the drug world, and so ashamed and guilt-ridden about her predicament, she needed a gradual, steady re-orientation into the possibility of a ‘regular’ life. And, she needed to hold someone’s hand to walk away from that life of addiction and towards the light.

You’ve been ‘in the trenches’ yourself, Barbara. You know exactly what I’m talking about. And yes, there’s no one ‘right’ formula for an addict’s recovery. In the end, the addict has to want to change his/her life enough to overcome the powerful seduction of numbing out with drugs.

Your constant support means so much. There is still so much to learn and work to do. Recovery is a lifelong journey – for all of us.


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