12 Step Recovery Program

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Posted on June 15, 2013. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Recovery | Tags: , , , , |

calendarI haven’t posted for over a year now, but have intended to many times.  I started a new job in February 2012 that requires a lot of writing – not a great excuse, but I guess I’ll try it.  An even better one is that my almost 96 yo mother is at the end of her life and on Hospice. Whatever the reasons for my absence here, thanks to those of you who are still hang’in with me. I do still have a lot to learn, work out, and explore.  If you’re new to this blog, I invite you to look back at where my drug addict daughter and our family were 4 years ago at this time – and how far we’ve come.

Initially, this blog was a place for me to vent and share my despair as the mother of a heroin addict.  I felt “Helplessly hopeless” and overwhelmed.  I was numb with disbelief, anxiety, and crazy worry over my brilliant, beautiful, well-educated 30 year-old daughter’s life choices. Don’t most parents breathe a sigh of relief when their child successfully graduates from college and begins her own adult life?

Hayley’s drug addiction was a slow erosion that occurred over a period of about 10 years after college. It happened so insidiously, it was almost imperceptible – like the constant flow of water smoothing stonesriverrocks over the course of time, or a river gradually changing course after a millennium of steadily wearing away the riverbank.

My daughter Hayley, a 34-year old former heroin/crack/everything addict, has been in recovery now for over 3 years.  If there ever was evidence of a miracle, she is it.  It’s not all smooth sailing – and she’s still fairly early in her recovery.  However, I am so grateful to be able to share her story of experience, strength, and hope.

Today, Hayley works at a wonderful treatment center in southern California and recently referred one of her ‘clients’/patients and her mother to this blog for comfort and support.

“Mom”, she began. “Why haven’t you updated your blog for so long?” Of course, this fact has haunted me for over 14 months now, and has become one of those nagging, burdensome undone tasks over which I constantly beat myself up.

And then she continued, breaking in to a sob:

“Ya know, Mom – I’ve never really read your blog.  But after  suggesting to my client’s family that they might benefit from reading it, I thought I better check it out more carefully.  After work yesterday, I stayed up almost all night reading through the nightmare of my addicted life.  I had no idea that I was that screwed up and caused you and the family so much worry and pain.  I knew it on a somewhat suppressed, in-the-past-foggy level; but to actually read   your words detailing the particulars of my frightening, dangerous, and sordid life 4 years ago, made it all so visceral.  I’m not sure I was ready to read about it and resurrect those horrible images until now. Can you ever forgive me? Will I ever be able to fully repair my relationship with Jake? (her older brother)”

Both Hayley and I are in recovery from her addiction.  I’ve been at it longer than she.  We both actively work a ‘program’ – she goes to AA, has a sponsor, and now even sponsors others who are new to recovery.  I go to Al-Anon and limp along at a snail’s pace, learning how to take one day at a time, live in the present, let go, and maintain healthier relationships.  We both have a lot of work to do – and will, for the rest of our lives. There is no end point to recovery, no diploma.  It’s an ongoing commitment and winding path full of triggers that tempt relapse.  You have to work every day to stay ‘sober’ – which in my case,  means staying inside my own hula hoop, and getting ‘clean’ from my addiction to worry.

Yes, it’s very painful and almost surreal to read those early posts – particularly from September 2009, when I started this blog, to May 8, 2010, when Hayley ‘walked away’ from her life of addiction. The months, weeks, days, and even hours leading up to that event were harrowing. It’s a miracle she didn’t die.  Writing about it helped me get through it – – – I couldn’t have written a more horrifying screenplay.

I heard this Pearl at Al-Anon today: For true healing to occur, we must abandon all hope of a better past.  We’ll never forget the past, but we cannot change it. We acknowledge it, learn from it, and move on.

hulahoop

 

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The Circle Game

Posted on August 19, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Recovery | Tags: , , , , |

And the seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round,

And the painted ponies go up and down. 

We’re captive on the carousel of time. 

We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came,

And go round and round and round in the circle game.

This Joanie Mitchell song, “The Circle Game” is a favorite of mine. I’ve listened to it since the early 70s.  My daughter, Hayley, sang it for talent shows and various stage performances throughout high school.  I wrote a poem about her beautiful, lilting voice and its eventual deafening silence called “Laryngitis”.  You see – – – she lost her voice to drug addiction. 

 I live in a rich agricultural valley known as the “fruit bowl of the nation”.  On both sides of my road are apple, pear, peach, and cherry orchards.  From spring through fall, something is always in bloom, pollinating, growing, ripening, and/or being picked.  Even winter’s hush and muffled silence are noticeable, as the bare trees rest and replenish themselves before warmer days invite them to begin again. The seasons come and go and shape my days.  The cycle of life, so relentless and visible around me, continues on – with or without me.

I walk or run with my dog past this rich tapestry of change every day.  It never fails to amaze and humble me – and today was no different.  I was awestruck at how much the young green apples had grown and changed in color in just 24 hours. And, it occurred to me that this is the third crop of apples since my daughter became a heroin addict.

I quickly flashed back to August 2009, two years ago at this very time – on this same walk and route.  Then, I was numb with the recent news that my beautiful, talented, well-educated thirty-year old daughter was injecting heroin in to her veins and living in a crack house.  How was this possible?  I felt desperate, and nauseous, and guilty.  Why hadn’t I seen this coming?  What could I have done to prevent such a horrific existence?  What should I do?  How could I rescue her?  She was trapped, right – there against her will? She didn’t want to be a drug addict, did she?  I could hardly feel my legs moving.

I started this blog in September of 2009, “helplessly hoping” to connect with other parents of heroin addicts.  I needed some place/way to vent my deepest fears and anguish, share information, and get some emotional support – some experience, strength, and hope, in order to function – maybe even to survive this nightmare of my child’s addiction.

Those early posts are so raw and frightening, I have trouble reading them now.

Last year at this time, as I passed those very same apple trees, I felt a little lighter.  I wasn’t holding myself so tightly.  My breath came a little easier.  The sky seemed bluer and the orchard scents slightly sweeter. My daughter was in recovery and had been drug free for a little over two months.  The events leading up to May 9th, 2010 had been harrowing and had taken a huge toll on my family, my body, and my psyche.  And yet,  a year ago August, I allowed myself to feel a tiny shred of hope.  I knew it was too soon to skip, and jump, and relax.  But there was something to hang on to.

And now, just this morning, I ran past those very same trees.  The apples look the same as in years past, but are different, of course.  They aren’t the same apples as last year, or the year before.  They will never be the same, and never will I.  I have seen, and felt, and imagined things I never thought possible in the last two+ years.

Hayley was just home for 4 ½  days.  She’s been clean and sober now for 15 months.  We spent a long weekend at our summer lake cabin – a nostalgic gathering place for four generations of family members.  My 94 year old mother was with us, as well as Hayley’s brother, Jake, and his family.  Hayley hadn’t been there for many years.  She was relaxed and engaged – and after three days, decided she needed a meeting.  And on Sunday morning, she took herself to the closest AA meeting she could find.  “You know how when you need a meeting”, she said, after returning home, “and you go and hear exactly what you needed to hear?”   Well, yes, I do know about that.  That has also been my experience with Al-Anon meetings.

I still hold my breath.  I’ll never fully relax and feel confident about Hayley’s sobriety.  But running past those orchards today,  I felt some acceptance – and a healthier detachment from my daughter’s addiction and recovery.

And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round. 

If you are a parent of a heroin addict, feeling helpless and hopeless, visit some of my earlier posts, particularly those leading up to my daughter walking away from the crack house and her desperate, dangerous drug addict lifestyle. As long as your ‘child’ is alive, there is hope:

She Is So Alone . . .

Graduation

Things I Would Like To Say To My Heroin Addict Daughter

It’s Not Easy Being A Heroin Addict

Perverse Relief

Tips For 2010: Things I’ve Learned That I’d Rather Not Know

“Impt Stuff”

“Getting Well”

Ready . . . Set . . . . . . Go!

And She’s Off . . . And Running

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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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Mother’s Day Gift

Posted on May 4, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Next Sunday, on Mother’s Day, I will fly to southern California to be with my 32 year old daughter, Hayley, and celebrate her one year clean and sober ‘birthday/anniversary’.  I can hardly believe this milestone.  It is truly a miracle. A year ago at this time, my daughter was very close to death, in my opinion.  She was an active heroin addict, living a very abusive, risky, dangerous lifestyle in a crack house.  Her likely life outcomes had boiled down to an untimely death by overdose, violence, infection or, going to jail.

I’ve always reveled in the first week of May with all its warmth, new growth, beauty and fragrance.  EVERYTHING  is in bloom – from forsythia to tulips to lilacs to all the thousands of fruit trees in our valley – apple, pear, apricot, peach, cherry, plum.  (After all, we are the “Fruit Bowl of the Nation”.)  However, when I think back to this time a year ago, I can still viscerally feel the fear, panic, desperation, and helplessness that filled my days as we counted down to our ‘rescue’ attempt, on Saturday, May 8th, and getting my daughter out of the crack house and in to treatment.  We didn’t know if it work, or if it would be in time. And so, this time of year has now taken on a different kind of feeling and pallor.  Despite the loveliness and allure of the season, it will also forever be a grim reminder of what could have been.

Here are a few excerpts from my blog posts during that week a year ago, leading up to Hayley’s ‘escape’ from the crack house and her desperate/dangerous life of addiction.  Click on the post name to read the full post:

May 2, 2010 “Getting Well:

Over this past week, Hayley announced she was ready for treatment. She said she is tired of being ‘sick’ – as in ‘dope sick’, which translates to: “I can’t easily get my drugs any more and don’t want to go through withdrawal every day.”

Friday, Hayley called me and asked if I would take her to DSHS (state welfare office), to apply for food stamps and the state-funded drug treatment program.  (I hadn’t seen or talked to her since her birthday, on April 6th.  And, as you may recall, I hadn’t seen her, prior to that meeting, since last August.)  I told her I would, fixed a peanut butter sandwich for her, and picked her up at the crack house.  She looked terrible –thin and pale with over-sized men’s slippers on her swollen, abscessed feet, dirty clothes, and a hat pulled down over ½ her face.  An overall gray pallor had washed over her – every part of her was faded.  It was difficult to just look at her, let alone, be with her. 

“I should be a phlebotemist”, she quipped, as we drove. “I’m really good at finding veins, especially on other people,” she proudly announced, and then showed me her red, throbbing foot where she had not had any luck that morning. And the irony here is, that professionally, I was well known for my phlebotomy skills.  She added, “Yeah, I’ve often said that I wish my mom were here.”  Some type of weird chortle/sound bubbled up and out of my throat.

(click here to read more)

May 6, 2010:  Ready, Set, . . . Go!

My daughter says she is “ready” to go to treatment. And so, after a very intense and frenzied 10 days or so, we are “set”.  Now, we just have to “go”.

Waiting for the “go” is the hard part.  There’s way too much time from now until Saturday morning at 9:00 am when I’m scheduled to pick Hayley up at the crack house, drive 3 hours to the airport, and send her off.  Will she truly be ready?

We have definitely reached a major milestone.  A couple of weeks ago, after virtually no contact with Hayley for ~ eight months, I decided that she might never get herself to treatment, and needed a “hand up”. If the heroin and other drugs didn’t kill her, the dangerous lifestyle would.  She has never been to a drug treatment program, and I felt she deserved a chance – – – to change her life, to get clean and sober. I know how her brain works – and understand her anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed.  Since seeing her on her birthday, April 6th, she has been saying to friends and some family members that she wants to go to treatment. In reality, I suspected that her shift in attitude was due to her drug supply being seriously interrupted.  After the crack house was raided a couple of months ago, she no longer had easy access to her drugs.  Whatever . . . in order to be able to live with myself and know that I had done everything possible to help my daughter, I decided to take this “ball” of opportunity, and run with it. (click here to read more)

May 8th finally arrived – and after weeks of planning, and with much drama and harrowing, unpredictable events leading up to our actual departure, Hayley did get on the plane to California, with her brother as chaperone, to detox and treatment.  This next post could have been named, “Mission Accomplished“. There were so many factors outside of our control that could have derailed the intricate rescue plan .  In fact, many things did go wrong – but many went right. Moments before getting in to the car to drive to the airport three hours away, Hayley was “arrested” by a bail bondsman’s scary-looking  ‘strong man’ and marched across the street to jail.  I considered all sorts of desperate measures in those few panicked minutes – – – you can read all about it in the full post.  Here’s an excerpt:

May 10, 2010:  AND . . . She’s Off And Running

The “rescue”/departure plan was intricate and tightly scheduled.  We needed to be on the road by 9:00 am Saturday morning in order to connect with her brothers,  Brian and Jake, and then make the plane flight at 2:30 pm.  I was a nervous wreck.  So much could go wrong.

There was just a bit too much time between Thursday and Saturday, in my opinion, to be able to successfully pull this mission off – too much time for Hayley to change her mind, to OD, to have the plan sabotaged in some way by her drug addict ‘family’.  On Friday afternoon, I tried to call Hayley to just check in, and got a message from Paula’s phone that it could no longer receive messages.  I went ballistic – – – my mind catapulted to the worst-case scenario in a millisecond.

Finally, after many phone calls, Paula did pick up – and handed her phone over to Hayley.  “I’m fine, Mom”, Hayley chirped.  I burst in to tears.  “When I couldn’t reach you, Hayley, I thought the worst.  I’ll pick you up at 8:45 am.  Be ready. And if you need or want me to pick you up anytime earlier, just call.”

Friday afternoon and evening flew by, with all my packing and organizing for Hayley.  There were lots of details – and, I was in my highest level of obsessive-compulsive mode.  It was getting closer – – – a chance for Hayley.

I went to bed and was amazed to actually fall asleep.  And then, at 5:30 am on Saturday morning, the phone rang.  I bolted upright in a daze, my heart pounding out of my chest.  “Can you come get me”, Hayley sobbed.  I didn’t know what was wrong – or what I’d find when I arrived, but I quickly dressed and flew out the door. (read the rest of the scary details here)

 

For about an hour on Saturday, I was with my three children – all of us together at the same time, on the same team, to get Hayley help and out of the risky lifestyle she had been living in for over a year. It was a miracle – – – and the best Mother’s Day present imaginable.  However, now comes the waiting.  Will she stick it out? Can she schmooze her way through a team of professionals like she did in 2002 at the eating disorder treatment center? Who and what has she become?  Can you “undo” ways of thinking and behaving?

P.S.  I drove back home from delivering Hayley to my sons, yesterday, and this morning got back in my car and drove two hours to spend Mother’s Day with my 92 yo mother.  At around 1:00 pm at brunch, my phone rang.  It was the detox center, and my heart sank.  “Hi – – – this is Megan at First House Detox”, she said.  “Normally, phone calls aren’t allowed, but I have your daughter here and she wants to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.”  I was thrilled to hear Hayley’s voice. She sounded good.  Her message to me was sweet and sincere.  She seemed pleased that she had slept so long that now, it was time for her first suboxone dose.  Hmmmmmm.  That phone call was testimony to Hayley’s incredible persuasion skills.  I just hope that the treatment center staff is up to dealing with them. 

 Now, here I am, getting myself ready to visit Hayley and her new life in southern California. Almost a year ago, she spent 12 days in medical detox, 120 days in a small, all-women’s long term treatment center, has totally embraced and is working a 12 step recovery program, lived in a sober living house for 5 months, bought a used car, moved to an apartment with two other young women in recovery, and is working full time at the treatment center from which she ‘graduated’.  Now she picks up clients at the airport and supervises/counsels addicts in recovery. Hayley has become a trusted staff member at the treatment center. Still, it’s “one day at a time”.

On Sunday evening, May 8th, Hayley, with a few good friends and myself, will participate in the “Watch”, a ritualized party, of sorts, held during the last couple of hours leading up to the recovering addict’s one year ‘birthday’.  We will gather to celebrate and support Hayley’s sobriety as the clock ticks toward midnight and May 9th – her actual anniversary date.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

On Mother’s Day, one year ago, my daughter began her journey to recovery.  It was the first day in probably 15 years that she didn’t chew, swallow, inhale, snort, drink, smoke, or inject a chemical substance that altered her consciousness in some way.  What a gift – not only to ME, but to herself, as well.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ME . . . AND TO ALL OF YOU MOMS OUT THERE!

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One Year Ago . . .

Posted on April 6, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, The Bottom, Treatment Centers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I just spoke with my daughter, Hayley, who has been in recovery from heroin/crack/alcohol addiction since last May 9th.  Tomorrow, April 6th, is her 32nd birthday.  She called to tell me that she had just had a wonderful dinner with her older brother, Jake, and his wife, Megan, who were in southern California attending a business meeting.  “It was so good seeing them,” she said – and “I really do miss my family so much.”  She went on to say that she had also re-connected with her original AA sponsor, Brooke –  which was a ‘big deal’ in a number of ways.  Hayley had let this relationship slip over the past few months and, hence, hadn’t been actively working through the 12 steps of her recovery program.  Having a good sponsor, with whom you relate, is  a wonderful resource in recovery: for general advice, a cheerleader when you need comfort and/or support, someone to hold you accountable and check in with.  Hayley  realized that she needed to ‘make amends’ to Brooke – and re-establish this important sponsee-sponsor relationship.  And apparently, she pushed aside her ego and called Brooke.  They met yesterday, and Hayley said it felt really good – that she will try to do things differently this time.

All of this was very good news for me, on the eve of my daughter’s birthday.  And, I couldn’t help but think back to a year ago at this time, when circumstances were very different, and I was 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.  And Yes . . . She’s Still in There is the account of the actual meeting.

Thinking back to this time a year ago, 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 life; and maybe she could accept help.  Escalating physical abuse at the crack house was the final straw – and when her dope dealer ‘boyfriend’, Bill, confiscated her “blankie” and threatened to burn it, the switch flipped.  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 than 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 most recent 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.   

I ended my post, Open For Business, a little over a year 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 upthat as long as ‘your’ drug addict is still alive, there is hope for recovery.  My daughter is living proof of this miracle.

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Hangover

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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Recovery Helpdesk

Posted on March 27, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , |

My last post was a request from Tom, at Recovery Helpdesk, to recruit participants for his Recovery Moms Survey. I have found Tom’s blog, Recovery Helpdesk, to be a great resource for information about opiate addiction and recovery. (Opiates include heroin and pain killers like OxyContin.) As the mother of a heroin addict (who is now, thankfully, in recovery), I searched frantically to find accurate information about heroin addiction and how/where to get help.  Recovery Helpdesk was one of the places I ‘landed’, and I visit this site often.  Tom is a professional drug counselor, and his postings are always very informative, passionate, and sometimes, provocative. There seems to be a lot of controversy and debate surrounding the use of medication-assisted treatment programs for opiate addicts.  Many 12 Step Recovery Programs don’t approve of their use – and insist that addicts are merely substituting one drug for another, and are not in ‘true’ recovery.  Since Tom is an advocate for the use of suboxone and methadone as possible treatment options for opiate addiction, I wondered about how he came to feel so strongly.  Was he in recovery himself and using suboxone/methadone?  I asked him these questions, and here was his response: (with Tom’s permission)

Peggy,

Thanks for posting about the survey!  I am a professional drug counselor, and I supervise a specialized program (which I started over 10 years ago) for people who are opiate dependent at a large mental health and drug treatment non-profit.  I’m not personally in recovery.  I do have what I experience as a “calling” to work with people who are opiate dependent.  I also have a public health perspective in my work, and previously worked on public health initiatives both for non-profits and the government.  I think this is another reason I have a different perspective in my view of addiction.  I see addiction and recovery in health terms (separate from the debate over the “disease mode” of addiction, it’s clear that addiction and recovery affect personal and public health).

The funny thing about the medication-assisted treatment issue is that I don’t see myself as an “advocate” of these treatments.  I see myself as an advocate for people who are opiate dependent and their families, but not of any particular treatment.

In my own work with clients, my focus is on helping clients recognize their full range of recovery supports/treatment options and helping them figure out when and how the various supports work together to create a solid recovery plan.

I had the experience of working in a state with no methadone and pre-Suboxone.  Then the town I work in became the site for one of the Suboxone clinical trials.  And eventually, we also got a methadone clinic, and Suboxone was FDA approved.  So I kind of got to see the contrast between before and after medication-assisted treatment became available as part of the menu of options.  It was a big difference.  So I very much recognize the value of these treatments.  That’s one reason I think I’m perceived as an “advocate” for methadone and Suboxone (because I am very clear that they are valuable options).

The other reason is because I talk about these options a lot.  But to me this is in reaction to the huge amount of negativity about these options coming from some treatment providers, self-help groups and even some people living with opiate dependence.  I feel like I have to provide a lot of info to counter the stigma/misinformation just to get people to consider the option.

In my own work, we educate people about all of the options, help them understand the pros and cons of each and when each is more useful and less useful, help people identify and remove barriers including psychological barriers related to stigma and barriers related to holding on to myths or misinformation.  This is something I think is lacking for a lot of people –they don’t have someone knowledgeable to explore all options with.  Instead, they encounter a series of treatment providers each focused on the treatment they happen to provide.

Hope this helps clarify.  I really should do a post on this because I think a lot of people probably have the same perceptions/questions.

Tom

I guess I need to add my own disclaimer here, that I don’t necessarily support or endorse the use of suboxone and methadone as preferred treatment protocols – but that they are options in a wide range of treatment plans and can be used when indicated and recommended by licensed professionals.

I encourage you to visit Tom’s site and explore all the information that he has gathered there, to better help all of us affected by the disease of addiction. And, with the intent of providing a balance of information, here’s another perspective on the use of suboxone as a ‘maintenance’ drug for recovery, from Dr. Steven Scanlan, in an interview on one of my favorite recovery blogs, Guinevere Gets Sober. Steven Scanlan, M.D. is board-certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine. In his practice, Palm Beach Outpatient Detox (PBOD), on the Florida coast, he has detoxed more than a thousand patients off many drugs, including alcohol, benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc.), and sleep aids. But his specialty is opiate detox.  Dr. Scanlan is a recovering drug addict, himself.  Read about why he thinks suboxone is an amazing detox tool, but a monster maintenance drug.

I hope you can find some useful and helpful information at Recovery Helpdesk, as well as other recovery sites I’ve listed to the right.


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. . . But A Molecule’s Difference

Posted on December 8, 2010. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, The Bottom, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

One of my favorite blog readers, Nora, who also has a blog of her own, Works Aside, recently left this message regarding her sister, Hannah, who is a heroin addict:

Last night, my family and I found out that Hannah is in a bad place. Despite telling us all she has been clean since she left rehab in April she actually been using heroin since then. Her ex-boyfriend Dave rang my mum to tell her she had just been to his house to ask for money. We are back where we started. The shock. The turmoil. The pain. The fear. Even though this isn’t the first time we’ve had news like this, it slaps you right between the eyes.

Your last post, Waiting For Bill was incredibly poignant to read because last night my parents asked me what they should do.  Everyone says “do nothing” –  but how can they? Is there anything you can suggest we do? We don’t know where she is what state she is in, etc. Should we at least try and find her?

That, of course, is always the $64,000 question and the family’s painful dilemma.  There’s a lot of debate around what to do and not do –  and, there doesn’t appear to be a ‘right’ or simple answer. So, in response to Nora’s burning questions and passionate plea for help, I can only recount my own daughter’s road to recovery and hope there will be some relevance to her/your own situation.  This is just one ‘case study’, one story of recovery.  Please take what you want and leave the rest.

A year ago at this time, I was as desperate as Nora.  My college-educated, 31 year old daughter, Hayley, had been living in a crack house for about seven months, using heroin, crack cocaine, and anything else she could get her hands on.  I knew where she was, but had little contact with her.  After she walked out of medical de-tox AMA (against medical advice) in August 2009 and returned to her abusive, sordid drug addict lifestyle, we, as a family, decided to take the “hands-off” approach.  We had gone to extreme lengths to get her to a medical detox facility a couple of hundred miles away (there are none where we live) in response to her call for help.  After de-toxing, the plan was for her to go to a reputable women’s treatment center near by.  But after 4 days in the de-tox facility, she ran, and talked a cab driver in to driving her 175 miles back to her old life.  

We were stunned.  It hadn’t occurred to us that after courageously extricating herself from the crack house and deciding to get clean, she would give up, part way through detox.  After that failed attempt to get Hayley in to recovery, we/I had virtually no contact with her for five long months.  I nearly drove myself nuts thinking about and envisioning how she was living, what she was doing to herself, and what she might be capable of in order to procure her drugs. I was a wreck, valiantly trying to just hang on to my own life and sanity.  Al-Anon meetings helped, I saw a therapist, and started writing this blog.  Still, I felt devastated and hopeless, and found myself thinking more about preparing myself for my daughter’s funeral, rather than her recovery.

I must say, that after a few months, it became easier to compartmentalize and detach.  This was mostly a coping mechanism, based on fear and complete despair.  The logistics of trying to do a formal intervention and ‘rescue’ seemed impossible.  Plus, most family members had been so badly ‘burned’ by Hayley walking away from de-tox, they were not especially interested in having any further contact with her.  “Let her find her own way to recovery”, was the unified front we all adopted.

Around January, after Brian, Hayley’s younger brother, had not been able to reach her by text, my ‘mother lion’ instinct kicked in.  I realized that I needed to do something. Was she even alive?  Although a professional drug counselor had advised me to cut off all contact with Hayley so she could feel the full consequences of her choices, I had reached my saturation point – my bottom. I needed to hear from and see my daughter.  The scale had tipped – one tiny atom had changed valence and upset the ‘balance’. 

In early March, the ‘perfect storm’ began to gather and gain force.  On March 4th, I was headed to Seattle to hear David Sheff, author of beautiful boy, and his recovering addict son,  Nic Sheff, speak. In re-reading my notes from beautiful boy, I was inspired to try to call my daughter and “break the ice” of her shame/guilt-driven isolation.  That, combined with a serendipitous series of events and Hayley’s pending 31st birthday in April, pushed me to action.  I was determined to be with my daughter on her birthday, to remind her of who she still was and how much we all loved her.  My daughter was going to die if I didn’t intervene in some way.  She had never been through drug rehab and I felt strongly that she deserved a chance to get sober.  I knew she couldn’t do it on her own – and that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try to help her.

Some of you may be familiar with blogger, Dawn (DHAM).  A while ago, Dawn sent me this excerpt from a recovering addict’s blog:

I was zombie like–running on automatic. Addicts don’t desire financial ruin, loss of self respect, ruining good relationships with family or friends, or spending time in jail/prison.  Those are all just consequences of being an addict. People w/o addictions generally make their decisions based on their conscious motivations.  An example, normal people get jobs so they can pay bills and support their families.  For me as an addict, my decisions were made based on an impulsive, physiological drive for drugs.  Every decision I made in life was centered around my drug addiction.  The only reason I got a job was so I could pay for my drugs.  If it was a choice between paying bills and copping a bag, the bag would always win.  If I had a choice between eating a meal and drugs—-drugs.

Self control was non existent for me.  My probation officer told me if I failed another piss test at one point I’d go to prison for five years.  So for two weeks I’d quit using 3 days before I saw my probation officer.  Then the lack of self-control took over me.  During my 3 days of not using, I’d continually obsess over the drug, and despite the potential consequences of 5 years in prison, the drug would win.

The drug came before everything in my life.  The high was more important than my family, my friends, money, food, water, my health, my future, my own life. Consequences never even crossed my mind like they do for ‘normal’ people.  I needed it.  I lived it.  I breathed it.  It became me…

And, my now recovering daughter, would add:  . . . it got to the point where I wasn’t using heroin to get high –  I needed it in order to not become violently ill . . . to “stay well’.

Back to the story.  I had an advantage at that point.  I had seen on the news that the crack house had been busted by federal agents and Hayley’s drug-dealer boyfriend was arrested.  As a consequence, her ‘easy’ drug supply had been seriously interrupted. I received a text from her after the crack house raid that she was ‘ok’, still at the crack house, (now boarded up with no power), and living with Paula, the tough, ‘professional’ junkie and crack house ‘operations manager’, whose fierce competition with Hayley for drug dealer Bill’s attention and favor, often led to violence.  Hayley had no money for food, let alone drugs.  I was afraid of what she might do in order to “stay well”.  I knew that Paula shoplifted at Wal-Mart regularly, and who knew what else, to generate cash flow. Hayley was most likely desperate enough to overcome her shame and guilt and agree to see me on her birthday to perhaps ‘score’ some merchandise that could be sold for drugs.  In fact, that is exactly what happened.  Soon after the crack house bust, I received a text from Hayley asking if I could meet her to deliver her quarterly stock dividend check (a couple of hundred dollars).  I jumped at the invitation and told her we’d meet on her birthday, a week later.  That would give me time to investigate some treatment centers, develop a plan,  and gather her Birthday Gifts.

After that first meeting with Hayley in months  (Yes, She’s Still in There . . .), I continued to stay in contact with her.  I took her grocery shopping and on a few other errands.  Each time we were together, it was easier and not so awkward. She began to talk more and revealed disturbing details of her life. We laughed about silly, mundane things.  I brought her some make-up samples, shampoo, and underwear – and was gradually able to introduce the possibility of treatment, the facilities I had researched,  how/when it could all happen.  She was interested yet, at the same time, terrified – especially of the de-toxing process.  On one of our visits together, I called “Lloyd”, the security guard and groundsman I had been in contact with at the small, all women’s 6 bed detox house we were considering.  Lloyd reassured Hayley – his voice was gentle, and confident, and full of hope for her.  He, too, had been where she was – and spoke her language.

But after each visit with her over the course of a few weeks, I would drop her back off at the abandoned crack house and just pray that we could get her to treatment before she OD’ed.  That month of contact (combined with  other serendipitous events and phone calls from other family members and a couple of random ‘normie’ friends) built a foundation that seemed to be the tipping point. 

These words, from Mr. SponsorPants, are particularly insightful:

Sometimes I think there is but a molecule’s difference between helping and enabling . . . between hope and expectation . . . between faith and fantasy . . . and further more, sometimes all the clever slogans in the world can’t help you discern when one slips into the other.

Hayley has now been clean and sober since last May 9th.  It’s a bloody miracle.  Our family’s journey through hell and out the other side is just one story – and it’s not the end of the story. We all know that Hayley’s sobriety is one day at a time. How/why  Hayley embraced recovery at that particular time, when the option was offered to her,  is still not completely clear.  Ultimately, it is the addict that needs to want to change his/her life – I know that.  Yet, it’s not always that simple.  The addict is often incapable of taking steps towards change on their own – even if they fiercely want to.  In my mind, the clock was ticking – it was a “dice-throw” as to whether or not Hayley could get herself out of her drug addict lifestyle before it killed her.  

There are some things, I think,  that seemed to help Hayley walk away from drug addiction and get on the long and winding road to sobriety.  More importantly, these things helped me stay sane and take charge of my own recovery – the only real control I have.   (Thanks to Guinevere Gets Sober for her words: “. . . be present and have low expectations . . .”)  I hope you can find something here that brings you a molecule of hope and possibility:

•Be Present: stay in contact with the addict – but not excessively. It will help narrow the gap between the ‘normal’/real world and the addict’s crazy, dangerous drug life.  Today, Hayley says that it was easier to compartmentalize and ‘forget’ about family and ‘normal’ life than it was to stay in contact and connected. In her case, the less contact we had with her, the further down she spiraled, in to the deep, dark abyss of addiction.  The shame, guilt, and fear of her situation were overwhelming to her – and paralyzing.  In order to cope, she isolated.  Her drug user ‘friends’ and ‘roommates’ became her family –  one that didn’t judge her and accepted her for who she was – right at that moment.  Even though they stole from one another and often couldn’t trust each other, they also shared what they had (food, drugs, fringe-y lifestyle)  and ‘covered’ for each other.  They all had a lot in common, and lived for the moment.

After Hayley walked out of medical detox in August 2009, our family essentially washed our hands of her.  This was her first experience in medical detox, and she was then scheduled to go to a woman’s treatment center in Seattle.  I just learned that after almost 5 days of de-toxing, with the worst behind her as far as physical withdrawal symptoms, she was ‘sober’ enough to actually feel her own anxiety and fear.  She just couldn’t face going to treatment.  That unknown seemed too overwhelming to her, whereas going back to using heroin and its accompanying life style, was something she knew, was familiar with, in a ‘community’, of sorts. She had earned a place there.  A sense of belonging is  a very seductive reason to re-join and/or become a part of any group, as evidenced by the abundance of gangs in our society.  The ‘disenfranchised’ are welcomed.

Kristina Wandzilak, in her blog, The Kristina Chronicles, had this to say regarding “Fear and the Addict”:

How much is fear responsible for a person’s descent into addiction and inability to retrieve him or herself from it? Addicts, in general, are fear-based individuals. I’m not sure that fear has a lot to do with the manifestation of the disease, per se, but once we’re in it, fear keeps us from getting better.

We’re afraid of what will happen to us. We’re afraid of success, of failure, of living and of dying. We’re afraid to try to get better. It can feel easier to be resigned to a life of addiction than to live a different, sober life. Sobriety changes everything.

Through some of Hayley’s ‘friends of friends’ and acquaintances, I became ‘educated’ about the underbelly of our ‘fair’ city.  I salvaged and saved every scrap of paper with a phone number or name on it that I found in her apartment when she was evicted. I spoke with drug counselors, our two community hospitals’ social workers and ER staffs, and found a ‘mole’ within the drug community who was willing to give me periodic reports on Hayley’s condition.  I found out where all the crack houses were and dropped off letters to her – and, a Christmas present from her grandmother.  I discovered that texting was  a more non-threatening and reliable way to reach Hayley and get a response.  (However, usually her own cell phone was out of minutes or not charged -so she was dependent on her ‘friends” phones, who often exercised their power over her by refusing to pass on messages, etc.)  When I did hear from Hayley, I noted the phone number and kept it on file.  The bottom line was that Hayley always knew how to reach me and other family members.  But, she seldom initiated the contact herself. When I increased contact with her in March and April (2010), it helped  break through that barrier of shame and guilt on Hayley’s part, and of helplessness on mine.  Being with her reminded her of some things – that she had choices, that she was loved, that it wasn’t too late to change her life.

One caveat: if you’ve tried to ‘help’ your addict multiple times and it just hasn’t worked, you may need to step back and let him/her come to you – in their own time and on their own terms.  You do need to protect yourself from the roller coaster of the addiction drama – it can suck you in and eventually use you up.

•Have a Plan (but not an outcome): Do some legwork and research in to possible treatment facilities and options. What type of treatment center would be best – short (28 days) or long term (90 days or longer)? all female or co-ed? 12 step based program? post treatment options? medical detoxing prior to treatment – and if so, how and where?, etc.  Hayley was very fearful of the detoxing process.  It was a huge barrier for her. During the last few months of her drug use, she was constantly dope sick.  She didn’t have the money/means to reliably maintain her habit. Being dope sick was so unpleasant and withdrawal so horrible, that she would have never agreed to detox without medical supervision and palliative drugs to get her through the worst of it.

And, I guess, consider an intervention.  The kind and degree of intervention can be tailored to your situation.  We used a professional interventionist, Kristina Wandzilak, as a consultant rather than as an actual interventionist.  She advised us regarding good long-term treatment centers of which she had personal knowledge.   She served as a non-biased facilitator/mediator during two conference calls involving our entire family, as we expressed our individual  concerns and fears. We all had our own diverse opinions about what we should do or not do and Kristina skillfully acknowledged and managed them all. And, there are so many treatment centers out there, it’s difficult to know which ones are truly effective.  They all look good on the internet and sound great on the phone.  The recovery industry has become huge, and is ‘big business’, with little regulation.  It helps to get professional expertise and experience in choosing a reputable program.  Getting Kristina involved was the best $450 we ever spent.

Go to this blog post to read about our family’s debate/discussion regarding an intervention with Hayley. Another post,  Al-Anon vs Intervention, also discusses this controversial topic.

Hayley said that knowing there was a treatment plan in place was an incentive and helped make it become a real possibility.  She would get immediately overwhelmed at the thought of needing to initiate the process herself.  Just filling out the necessary paperwork required to receive treatment through the state seemed impossible. She was so ashamed – and was such a prisoner of her addiction cycle and physiological dependence on the drugs, that she could really only think a couple of hours ahead – and that focus was always on how to get her next fix.

•Timing is Everything: and often something over which you have no control.  Hayley was a college graduate and started using heroin at age 30.  Addiction is a progressive disease – and Hayley began with seemingly innocuous pot smoking and some alcohol use in high school/college.  In 2002, having graduated the year before from a small liberal arts college, she was diagnosed with a serious eating disorder (bulimia).  As a result of her ED, she developed some chronic dental issues and irritable bowel syndrome that lead to legitimate prescription pain killer use and, of course, eventual abuse.  And, it all compounded to the point of moving through and using cocaine, methadone, smoking crack and ultimately, shooting heroin.  After almost a year of living in a crack house, going to the ER multiple times to treat abscesses and GI problems, having her unemployment checks discontinued resulting in no source of legitimate income, getting beat up and abused, being dope sick almost every day, there were few options left. However, she told me recently, that she had resigned herself to being a junkie for the rest of her life, and dying a junkie. She couldn’t see any way out.  And then, Bill, her drug dealer/boyfriend, started ‘messing with’ her blankie, which she has always had since she was a baby.  Bill started hiding it and threatening to burn it to sadistically tease and control Hayley.  That was the final straw, Hayley later recalled – but all of these factors collided with each other and accumulated into a critical mass that ultimately resulted in Hayley walking away from her life as a drug addict. And, at age 31, she was finally realizing that she didn’t have time to f*ck around. 

•Keep Expectations Low (but keep trying): one small step can shift the balance; one atom moving into a different orbit may make the difference for bigger changes down the road.  Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and failure.  We have no way of knowing when an addict is ready to recover – or what small things can have a significant impact in shifting an addict’s desire/ability to get and/or receive help.  Just don’t ever give up.

•Get Support and Work a Recovery Program For Yourself: I started going to the anonymous fellowship of Al-Anon over 8 years ago when Hayley’s eating disorder was first diagnosed.  I am still learning how to shift the focus from Hayley to myself and be happy in spite of what Hayley is doing or not doing.  To have such a safe place to find help – – – and hope, has been crucial in traveling down this road of drug addiction with my daughter that I didn’t choose, or know how to navigate.  I’ve learned that if I apply the Traditions and Principles of Al-Anon to my life and relationships, serenity is possible (I’ve gotten a glimpse of it) and there are no hopeless situations. I invite you to Take a Seat.

Seek out true friends who don’t judge and want to listen – who rarely offer advice, and only when asked.  I have discovered some  Unlikely Friends and Neighbors whose compassion and support have been so incredibly comforting – and often, a pleasant surprise.   Journaling, blogging, reading Al-Anon and addiction  literature and good recovery blogs, all add to your body of knowledge about addiction.  They can calm your mind, ease some frustration and guilt, and give you hope.  All these resources helped me feel not so alone, for which I am grateful.  See my BlogRoll and Recovery Blogs in the far right column, for reference.  And, a Gratitude Journal helps to regularly think about, remember, and write down the things and people in your life you are thankful for.  It’s a bit of a diversion tactic that helps to get your self out of your own misery for a while – and focus on what is good and positive in your life.

And finally, try to be of service to someone else who is in pain due to or struggling with addiction.  This may be as simple as setting up chairs at an Al-Anon meeting, reading and commenting on blog posts, calling a friend who needs support and encouragement, giving someone your full attention and truly listening to them.

•Luck, Serendipity, a Higher Power, God: they all play a part that is impossible to predict or control.  I don’t discount any of these and try to remain open to their presence.  I will say that as of May 9, 2010, I do believe in miracles. And, I’ve learned that it helps to let go and turn some of the burden of worry and despair, over to a higher power. I’m still working on this.

So, Nora – I know this has gone on far too long and that I’ve left some things out.  I don’t pretend to know what to tell you to do regarding Hannah.  But, I do know that there is always hope, that YOU can find serenity, and that miracles do happen.  One tiny molecule can make all the difference in the world.

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Waiting For Bill

Posted on November 8, 2010. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , |

Hayley was just home for a few days to take care of a probation violation charge, and we had the unexpected opportunity to spend quite a bit of time together. The Prosecutor ended up sentencing Hayley to one day in jail – and because she already had credit for one day served when she was arrested over a year ago, her case was dismissed. Instead of spending 2 – 3 days in jail, my daughter spent Friday through Monday with me.

GULP! This was Hayley’s first time home, sober. Last May 8th, we, her family, orchestrated an elaborate intervention/rescue plan that culminated in Hayley going to an all women’s long-term treatment center in southern California, Safe Harbor. After seeing Hayley on her birthday, April 6th, it became apparent that she wanted to change her life. But as an active heroin addict, she was incapable of doing anything about it on her own. The words of Tom, at Recovery Help Desk, still resonate:

Voices in the “tough love, anything-you-do-to-‘help’-is-enabling-addiction, let them hit rock bottom” crowd tend to shout the loudest. But parents should know that the scientific research is on the side of the experts who say that early intervention is better than waiting for someone to hit bottom, and that enabling recovery requires action.

I realized that I had hit rock bottom and could no longer stand on the sidelines as my daughter played Russian Roulette with her life. As of May 9, 2010, my daughter has been on the road to recovery and working hard to maintain her sobriety. It’s a bloody miracle. And yes, I do now believe in miracles. The actual “rescue” was on Saturday, May 8th , the day before Mother’s Day. That day, I was scheduled to pick Hayley up at the crack house at 8:30 am. We had to be ‘on the road’ by 9:00 am in order to get her to the airport on time in Seattle and off to the treatment center. She was cooperative – but there were so many variables. At 5:30 am that day, my phone rang. It was Hayley, sobbing hysterically. “Mom, please come get me, right now”. That scene was a nightmare, and it was a miracle I was able to extricate my daughter from the cloying grip of her drug dealer/’boyfriend’, Bill. That relationship was so incredibly complex and convoluted, it seemed impenetrable. But, on that day, Hayley did walk away.

I assumed that Hayley had used right up until I picked her up that morning.  (actually, I had naively considered that perhaps she had begun to ‘cut back’ on her heroin use, in anticipation of going to treatment) I had packed a new bag with all new clothes, a new backpack with toiletries, and a new purse, with a new wallet, personal essentials, etc. Everything was clean, and new, and fresh. I knew what was in each one of those bags.  When I picked Hayley up at 5:30 am, I took her to my house to shower and dress for the trip. I dumped everything she had with her directly in to the garbage, and handed her the beginnings of her new life.

Hayley just told me that that day, on our way to Seattle, she ‘used’ one last time, in a bathroom stop about 30 miles from the airport. How was that possible? How did I not know? Why would she risk everything when there was so much at stake? My vision of her shooting up in the Starbuck’s bathroom stall, with mothers and young children going in and out, makes me sick – and is another harsh reminder of the power of addiction. If you think that love, or personal physical risk, or guilt, or virtually anything can compete with a craving and syringe, you’re woefully mistaken.

Although my daughter made good decisions and worked her recovery program while she was ‘home’, it was still difficult.  As we drove past seemingly mundane locales – parking lots, motels, convenience/grocery stores, Hayley would comment and divulge creepy details of her drug life. It was both fascinating and repulsive. I won’t be able to look at/pass by those places in the same neutral way as before. They’ve now become contaminated.

If I was ever going to write a book, said Hayley, I’d call it, “Waiting For Bill”. The last few months I was always dope sick, changing locations frequently, and waiting for Bill to bring me something – to ‘get me well’. Bill was Hayley’s “boyfriend”/dope dealer. He was in his mid/late 40’s, fat, in poor health, and facing years in prison. According to Hayley, he did have a heart, of sorts – when he wasn’t verbally/physically abusing her and other vulnerable parasites in their circle. Apparently, he ‘supported’ quite a few addicts.

When Hayley talked about “. . . waiting for Bill . . . “, you know what immediately came to my mind? Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous – a very different Bill, although both Bills suffered from the disease of addiction. Since Hayley has so positively responded to AA’s 12 step recovery program, I’m thinking that Waiting For Bill is the perfect title for a book about Hayley’s recovery.  She was, in fact, waiting for Bill Wilson to lead her down the path of sobriety. 

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