I 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 stones 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.
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Charlie Zero is dead – and yes, that was his real name. He was only 44 years old. His funeral was today at one of the local cemeteries and I briefly considered attending. I would have loved to have seen who was there – make eye contact with a few of them, some of the other heroin addicts who had been a part of my daughter’s world for awhile. And given the opportunity, maybe I would have let them know that Hayley would soon be celebrating her 2 year clean and sober “birthday”. My intent would not have been to flaunt Hayley’s recovery – but to let them know it was possible – that there was hope – maybe even for one or all of them.
I had noticed Charlie Zero’s obituary in the newspaper a couple of days ago. He looked about 13 in the picture – sweet, innocent smile, shaggy hair, a normal looking middle school-aged kid. I’m sure his mother treasured that photo.
When Hayley was actively using hard drugs in 2009-10, she lived with the Zero Brothers, Charlie and Brad, for about 9 months – in their ‘crack house’. At one time, the term “crack house” was used to describe an old, often abandoned or burnt-out building, often in an inner-city neighborhood where drug dealers and drug users would buy, sell, produce, and use illegal drugs, including, but not limited to, crack cocaine. However, during my daughter’s darkest months as a heroin addict, I learned that in my own community, although crack houses might look slightly run down, they could also easily blend in with the rest of the neighborhood – and look fairly ‘normal’. Over time, I’ve also learned that a subtle give-away for a drug house is that all the windows are always covered, with curtains tightly drawn day and night, summer, fall, winter, spring.
The Zero house was a decent looking prefab house on my route to Costco. Once I learned that Hayley was living there, I would periodically drive by it. It was where Hayley landed after walking out of detox back in August 2009. Her drug dealer boyfriend, Bill, and his entourage, wouldn’t take her back at their crack house, which was amazing to me – essentially, she was kicked out of a “crack house” – didn’t know that was possible.
I called Hayley to tell her the news of Charlie Zero’s death. She said that she prays for those brothers every day – that Charlie was a diabetic – and, well, since heroin is cut with sugar, Charlie was always in some kind of diabetic crisis. “It was only a matter of time”, she said, “before he either died, or ended up in jail.”
I drove slowly past their house yesterday, after reading Charlie’s obituary. I was familiar with the house. It was where my 94 yo mother sent Hayley a Christmas present, containing a warm winter coat. It was where I picked her up at 5:30 am on May 8th, 2010, to go to treatment. It was where she said goodbye to her drug dealer boyfriend, Bill, out on the front steps of the house.
There were a lot of cars parked in front. I couldn’t help but think about Charlie’s grieving family. No parent wants his/her child to grow up to be a drug addict/dealer. And no child, for that matter, aspires to be a drug dealer.
There was a time when, like most other people, I looked upon drug dealers with scorn and disgust. Now, however – I view them differently. Whereas I don’t condone their activities, I also know that most of them are doing what they feel they need to do to survive. Almost all of them are drug addicts themselves – and becoming a drug dealer is the next ‘logical’ step to support a habit. I have a great deal of empathy and pity for them. They’re stuck in and have no power over their addiction.
According to Hayley, the Zero Brothers were ‘ok’ guys. They didn’t physically abuse her – and Hayley enjoyed chatting with their elderly father when he came by for a visit.
It’s painful to re-read my early blog posts. I was so desperate and helpless then – and didn’t know very much about drug addiction. Here are a few short ones that give you an idea about where I was 2+ years ago, when Hayley was actively using.
An excerpt from: Choosing Happiness: 12/9/09
This morning before my Al-Anon meeting, I read in the paper that 80 people had been rounded up and arrested on drug charges by the police – for distribution, use, illegal activity. Now, when I read these front page headlines, I wonder if my daughter is one of those junkies arrested in a drug raid? My physical therapist was lamenting to me about those who use and abuse the health care system, with no insurance, no job or intent to work, drug addicts – parasites on our society. I agreed with him, but also wanted to shout: “And my daughter is one of these people. They are so desperate, and sick with addiction and other mental disorders. They can’t help it.” Or, can they? I have an entirely new take on health care reform. No, I don’t want to indulge drug addicts/my daughter in services that she should be paying for herself. But, damn it – how can she get the health care she needs – treatment for her abscesses, her irritable bowel syndrome, her root canals – when she’s a heroin addict and doesn’t work, can’t register with the DSHS system because she’s afraid she’ll be arrested, etc. It’s overwhelming, and I can’t think about it.
Sirens, and health reform debates, and newspaper headlines about drug busts – – – I have a whole new take on it all.
This post from October 5, 2009:
It’s getting cold. All of Hayley’s warm clothes and jackets are here, hanging in my closet. Al-Anon tells me to detach. A close personal friend, who is an addiction counselor, tells me that I’m working harder than my daughter is. He says that if I continue to text and communicate with her, I’m enabling her – allowing her to still straddle both worlds. Other resources tell me to “hang on”, and never give up on my daughter. Always let her know I love her and believe in her.
So, what do I do? I haven’t seen my daughter since Monday, August 24th, when I drove 31/2 hours to take her to medical detox. Four days later, she walked out of detox AMA (against medical advice), and talked a cab driver in to driving her the 170 miles back to her “home” town. The crack house where she had been living didn’t want her back. Can you believe that? So where she landed, I didn’t know – – – and didn’t care, at that point. $6,000 down the drain (4 days of medical detox), agonizing hours of making elaborate arrangements for her detox and subsequent treatment program, all vaporized.
I have since learned that Hayley is now living in town with two coke dealers – who are “decent” guys, believe it or not. Should I text her and try to meet her somewhere and deliver some warm clothes? Should I maintain my most recent “hands off” approach so she really feels the isolation and consequences of her decision to reject “help”?
There are as many “experts” and friends/colleagues who expound opposite points of view regarding contact or no contact with Hayley. But in the end – – – I am her mother. I miss her and worry about her. There is a huge hole in my heart when I think about her so far away, yet so close. Does she just sit in her “friends’” house all day, nodding off, watching mindless TV, smoking cigarettes, planning her next fix? Does she remember it’s my birthday tomorrow?
Perverse Relief: posted 10/16/09
There is a strange sort of perverse relief in knowing that my daughter is holed up somewhere, using heroin and keeping to herself. She’s living with two guys who, I assume, are drug dealers. I can make myself crazy speculating about how she supports her habit, her risk for infection and overdose, her desperate, guilt-ridden state of mind. But also, for the first time in many years, I don’t have to worry about her power being turned off, whether or not she has money for gas in her car, is she going to work every day, does she remember it’s my 92 yo mother’s birthday, will she finally get a load of laundry done?
If you, too, are struggling with the issue of detachment, here’s some help: Today’s Pearls From Al-Anon: Detachment With Love
WE, my daughter and I, have come a long way in the last two years. And no matter where she’s been, or where she’s going, I will always love her – perhaps even more now, as we walk down the winding road of our own recoveries, alone and together.
Today, as a mother, I mourn the death of Charles Andrew Zero, and who he was at age 13 – and who he might have become.
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She was euphoric when she called. The treatment center where she works full time was finally offering her health insurance. She was feeling a huge sense of relief and accomplishment – that she could now pull herself back from teetering on that precarious cliff edge of no healthcare coverage – where any medical emergency, let alone the preventative and routine healthcare visits she needs, could plunge her down in to an abyss of lifetime debt – and yet another deep, dark hole to climb out of. Making just $11.00/hr is really not enough to fully support herself – although, she has been making a valiant effort to do so. And, for some reason, up to now, her employer hadn’t either been pressed to offer health insurance – or Hayley didn’t qualify in some way.
Mom, would you please send my birth certificate? I’ll send it right back to you.
This important piece of paper has been in my safe for her entire life, and I felt a bit nervous letting go of it. Yes, my 32 yo daughter, who has been in recovery from heroin addiction for ~ 18 months, should probably have this personal legal document in her possession – – – and keep track of it. But her track record regarding these kinds of things, is abysmal. (Come to think of it, I also have my two adult sons’ birth certificates in my safe. Is this just something that mothers do?)
However, I sent it – certified mail, so it could be tracked. My confidence in the US Postal Service is sketchy, at best. And due to increased national security and immigration politics/issues, the process for replacing an original birth certificate these days is a herculean task that requires a lot of time, documentation, and persistence. There was a deadline pending for Hayley to choose a specific health care plan and get all the application paperwork in – and nothing could be processed without the birth certificate.
I did a somewhat restrained/succinct version of encouraging her to carefully research the coverage and details of the insurance plans – and was proud of myself for not offering to do it for her! I figured that since she called to ‘chat’ about the pending health insurance, she was looking for my input, right?
After a week to ten days had passed, and she still hadn’t received the birth certificate, I settled in to a funk. I bounced between anger and panic – mad at the inept/bureaucratic government and postal service, at Hayley for not allowing enough time for snafus, and anxious that this delay would result in Hayley not being able to get the health insurance she so desperately needs. To top it off, I had misplaced the certified mail receipt, so had no way of tracking the envelope. Now, I was also mad at myself.
A couple of days ago, Hayley called to say:
The good news is, I finally received the envelope with my birth certificate. Thanks, Mom. And the bad news is, (I held my breath!!!!!) I guess my place of employment isn’t offering health insurance. After I turned in all my paper work, they announced that there weren’t enough employees interested in participating (?) at our small facility – but that maybe I could apply for a job at one of the other, larger treatment houses in the complex where they do offer health insurance.
In the discussion that followed, there were glimpses of Hayley’s all too familiar indignant and entitled attitudes from years past: They can’t do that! I listened and tried to be as encouraging and supportive as I could. But, I also couldn’t help myself from giving her a dose of reality:
Make a case for yourself, Hayley. Ask for what you want/deserve – in writing. Remind them what a valuable employee you are and what skills you bring to their treatment center and program. And do a little research about California State Law and what small businesses are required to provide to their employees.
I don’t have time for all of that, Mom, she whined.
And I responded with:
Join the club, Honey – and real life. Most working people have a myriad of responsibilities they need to tend to on their days/time off. It’s hard, I know. But your health is at stake and it looks like it will take some homework to follow up on this. And be careful how you approach your employer. Document all your requests, comments, and questions. If you threaten them in any way, that they aren’t following the law regarding health insurance for employees, they could decide to terminate you based on some subjective ‘poor job performance’ evaluation. And the reality is, there are probably 20 other young women standing in line to take your job.
She didn’t like hearing this. She truly has no idea how much time and follow-up it takes to check billing statements, call and talk to health insurance companies about benefits, monitor and track all the details of life that crop up on a daily business.
I know I probably said too much in our phone conversation. The boundary between being a parent/ adviser and supporting recovery is fuzzy – for me, at least. I try to ration the amount and frequency of some basic ‘independent adult living’ knowledge that I dispense, which I don’t think Hayley ever acquired. You know what they say – that a drug addict’s emotional/social/cognitive development is essentially arrested back to when they started using and abusing substances. For Hayley, I figure that is 10 to 15 years ago. Plus, her brain chemistry has been changed – maybe forever – and who knows in what ways?
I’m trying to not be so afraid to speak the truth to Hayley – fearing that it could trigger a relapse. She’s had a history of being overwhelmed by life – and then numbing herself in order to cope – or push aside – or not deal with things. I want to nurture some confidence in herself – that she can handle these ups and downs, challenges, surprises of life; that it takes some work and follow-through to make things happen; and that it’s ok to feel frustrated and/or not know exactly what to do.
The truth is, I’m struggling with recovery, too – maybe even as much as Hayley. My drug of choice is worry – obsession with things over which I really have no control. I come by it honestly. My 94 year old mother is still actively ‘using’ worry to frame every conversation and choice she makes. Worry is at the center of who and how she defines herself. Is that what kind of life I want? Allowing obsessive worrying to rob me of the joy of today – and all the things I have to be grateful for?
I heard at an Al-Anon meeting last night that “Worry” is, in reality, a prayer to make something you don’t want, happen. Huh? After thinking about this for a long time, I got it. If I constantly worry about what could happen or the ‘worst-case scenario’, I am expending so much energy and thought towards that negative outcome, who knows – could I unintentionally tip the balance in that direction? My younger son, Brian, is convinced that what we send out in to the universe – our positive and negative thoughts, have power and a determining effect on what actually happens.
And so, right now – and for as long as I can, just today, I am sending out strength – and hope – and love to whomever needs it and will let themselves feel it – along with all the other sh*t floating around. We’re all in this together.
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I haven’t posted now in almost two months. I’m not sure why I’ve been procrastinating. It seems I let almost any thing distract me from sitting down and putting words to ‘paper’. And now, it’s like a black cloud hovering over me. I seem to have hit some kind of wall. The longer I wait to write, the more I think about it and the harder it is to actually do it.
Yes, it’s true. I don’t feel as compelled to write as when I started this blog over two years ago. Then, we had cut off contact with our heroin addict daughter, Hayley, who was spiraling deeper and deeper in to the underworld of addiction and an escalating risky lifestyle. I was desperate – and felt hopeless. I used this blog as a forum to vent and share the emotional devastation that comes with a child’s addiction, learn more about opioid drugs and share information, give to and receive support from other parents in the same dubious ‘club’ that no one asked to be a member of, and essentially, record Hayley’s eventual demise.
Today, Hayley has been ‘clean’ and sober for ~ 18 months. I still consider it a miracle. I still hold my breath. I am in recovery myself from her addiction and have a long ways to go until I can ‘let go’ of certain triggers and the need to control outcomes . Al-Anon and meditation help. I’ve come to realize that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life.
Hayley is sober, working full time at her treatment center, and trying to make a new life for herself at age 32 – but, there is still plenty to write about. I’m constantly learning more about addiction, neuroscience and brain chemistry breakthroughs, reading books about compulsive/obsessive behavior, articles debating the “addiction-is-a-disease” issue, and important principles of long-lasting recovery. I read several blogs written by recovering addicts/alcoholics (guineveregetssober is a favorite), searching, I guess, for the ‘secret’ to life long sobriety. I’m sure these are all symptoms of my ingrained fear and continued need to ‘fix’ Hayley for good. I know.
This ongoing struggle to lovingly detach from my daughter’s life choices – yet support her recovery, is a challenge. She works full time in the treatment center community, but only earns $11.00/hr – not exactly a sustainable living wage, especially in southern California where the cost of living is high. She has no health/dental insurance, yet has ongoing health issues that need to be monitored as well as lots of restorative dental work to be done. Thus far, my 94 yo mother and I have been taking care of her dental bills, a couple hundred dollars a month. There is a prioritized schedule of what needs to be done when, if she wants to ‘save’ her teeth.
I started collecting social security a year ago – and also refinanced my house so that I have lower monthly mortgage payments. So, since last May, I’ve put a few hundred dollars into Hayley’s account every month to ‘help’. I’ve told her that this will not necessarily be a regular occurence – that she shouldn’t count on it. I don’t want her to spend it before she has it. I consider this money to be ‘extra’ in my budget, so it’s not really impacting my lifestyle. And if I want to ‘help’ another one of my children (as happened this month), then that ‘extra’ money will be diverted to their account. So – does this money, going in to Hayley’s account, constitute ‘enabling’? That’s a topic for future conversation. However, I do think there’s a difference between enabling addiction and supporting recovery. I believe I’m supporting Hayley’s recovery.
I have received so much heartfelt empathy and support from readers over the last two years, that I feel a certain obligation to ‘give back’ – and offer Hayley’s story as a pinpoint of hope – encouragement to parents and family members who felt the same way I did 2 years ago – desperate, and sick, and overwhelmed with grief, anger, bewilderment. As I mentioned, I’ve started several posts, but just haven’t gone back to finish them and pull the trigger.
And so, until I get a full-fledged post finished and ‘up’ for you to read, here are a few provocative tidbits from my stash that shouted out at me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a record of where they all came from:
•Drug use and high-risk drinking are self-imposed, but no one consciously decides when they’re young that they want to grow up to be a drug addict.
•Drug use seems, in my opinion, to be the symptom of something – and then becomes the disease.
•Sometimes we enable, and support, and intervene purely because it helps us to feel better – even though, in reality, it most often doesn’t do shit: I pray for those that are sick and suffering and ask that God hold them and give them hope. That is about all that I can do. from Pam’s blog Sobriety is Exhausting. It is a good statement about letting go and how powerless we are over what others do.
“It really doesn’t matter sweet precious normies……do what you are comfortable with. Spend all your money trying to help or spend none of your money. Take their calls or don’t take their calls. Pay for their apartment or give them your home. Disown them or clutch them tight. All your pain is about you….saying this with love. Your fear of (just) wanting them to be healthy and happy and sane. Since none of this is within your power to give them, then do what makes you able to sleep at night, do what makes life bearable for you. Your addict/alcoholic is doing what makes life bearable for them……aren’t we all?” (sorry – don’t know where I got this although I believe it was from an addict’s blog)
I’m hoping this preliminary ‘toe-back-in-the-water’ is the nudge to jump back in again. Thanks, dear readers, for your patience.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 17 so far )
And the seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
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:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
My daughter, Hayley, has been in recovery from heroin/crack cocaine (and anything else she could get her hands on) addiction for a little over a year. As I recounted in my last blog post, One Year, she has come a very long way. It’s a bloody miracle. After a harrowing escape plan to extricate her from the crack house where she was living, she spent 12 days in a medical detox facility, 90+ days at a small residential women’s treatment center, then moved to one of their sober living houses close by. After about 5 months, she was encouraged and invited to move into an apartment with two other younger women in recovery, all ‘graduates’ of the Safe Harbor Treatment Center program. I visited her last month to celebrate her One Year of sobriety, and was impressed (or shall we say, ‘blown away’?) by what I saw. The apartment was well furnished (by her roommates), clean, orderly, and located in a very secure complex/compound with lovely grounds. Hayley had her own bedroom – had even bought a bed, dresser, and bedside table. She was working full time at the treatment center, but only earning $11.00/hour. She was proud of the fact that she had been able to ‘make it’ on her own, without asking either me or her dad for money. Yet, things are very tight, financially, and don’t allow for any extras – including medical/dental expenses, car repairs, random, unplanned-for expenses, etc.
And now, after just getting really settled and in to a routine, her two roommates are moving, and Hayley needs to find another place to live.
There are complicating factors: she can’t financially afford an apartment on her own (the family of one of her roommates has been ‘helping’ with their rent); her credit score/record is so miserable, she could never sign/co-sign a lease; and, she has a dog – a darling dog, mind you, who brings Hayley so much joy and affection – – – but, is also a liability.
Hayley has known this was coming for a month or so – and has been diligently looking for potential roommates. She has cycled through quite a few possibilities, with all of them falling through due to one reason or another. And with the deadline looming on June 25th, I’m getting nervous. She’s stressed, too. She called last week to give me a lengthy update on the roommate and apartment choices that were left. And the one she’s settled on, isn’t ideal, which she acknowledges; yet, she feels it will ‘do’ until next fall when her preferred roommate choice, Kristin, will be ready to move to an apartment.
Here’s the plan: Hayley met a very nice ‘older’ guy in her apartment complex who has a little dog with whom Hayley’s dog, Bear, likes to play. This ‘Guy’ (don’t even know his name), is moving to a 2 bedroom apartment within the same complex, and offered to rent Hayley the second bedroom. She figures that this will be a temporary arrangement, until she can find a more ideal and permanent situation. Hayley has seen his current apartment – and says it’s well appointed and clean/neat. The ‘Guy’ would love to have Hayley’s dog around on a regular basis for his dog to play with. Hayley has discussed preliminary details with the ‘Guy’ – letting him know she has a serious boyfriend, setting clear boundaries, discussing expectations, etc. There’s internet service there, but still, her rent will be a little more than what she’s now paying. The ‘Guy’ has a cleaning person every couple of weeks – so Hayley offered to do the cleaning, for a slight reduction in rent. (YIKES! Her ‘clean’ standards are very different from mine! Will she actually be able to do this? Sounds iffy, to me)
The ‘Guy’, is also asking for a $500 deposit to cement the deal. Hayley indicated she would need help with this, which has already created a dilemma for me regarding ‘enabling’.
•is this guy really a pervert who will try to take advantage of/hit on my daughter?
•does he have some weird habits/quirks that Hayley will find out about only after moving in?
•is he honest and a good person, and someone who is just trying to help out some one in need?
•is this guy in recovery, himself? Or, will there be alcohol, at the very least, around?
JUST WHAT IS THIS GUY’S STORY?
And why am I so suspicious? Hayley’s past history with choosing roommates hasn’t been especially stellar. She’s always been able to convincingly rationalize why she’s moving in with so-and-so – and almost always, it has proven to be a disaster.
And, to further complicate matters, this new apartment won’t be ready for move-in until July 15th, which means Hayley will have to pack up and store her things in a friend’s garage, and ‘couch surf’ at friends’ for three weeks.
Can any of this work? Of course, I have no control over any of it, and need to just let it all go. I did pose some questions to Hayley for her to consider – which she did not take offense to, and seemed to have already thought of them.
I do believe there is a difference in enabling addiction and enabling recovery. In fact, I prefer to use the term, supporting recovery. If I give Hayley the $500 for the room deposit, I’m sure I’ll never see it again. I would need to give it “for fun and for free”, to quote an Al-Anon slogan. I’m glad that she’s not just automatically moving in with her boyfriend, Rob. And – – – I guess anything is better than the crack house, right?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
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 Change: As 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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 11 so far )
My daughter has been in recovery from heroin addiction for ten months now. Within the last two months, she has acquired her driver’s license, bought a car, begun working full time, and moved out of her sober living house and into an apartment with two other women in recovery. Did I mention that she has a ‘boyfriend’ that’s ten years younger? (Does that make her a ‘cougar’?) “Rob” is in recovery, himself, and is a personal trainer at her gym. He seems crazy about her – and she feels the same way about him. They both quit smoking, together, over a month ago.
When I spoke with Hayley a few days ago, she mentioned that she’s been having ‘using’ dreams. She assured me that this is ‘normal’ for someone in recovery, approaching his/her’s one-year sobriety ‘birthday’. Yet, these dreams are disturbing – both to her, and to me. I could tell that in her voice – and in her next breath, that she was working very hard at trying to reassure me – and, most likely herself, that these were typical of the dreams recovering addicts have.
Yet, I’m skeptical of anything my daughter calls normal. It’s all relative, isn’t it? It hasn’t been that long since she explained to me how ‘normal’ it was for heroin addicts to get abscesses. And now, I’m wondering if dreaming about shooting up is a preliminary step towards her actually using again – and, of course, the BIG ‘R’ – relapse.
Please don’t tell me that ‘relapse is a part of recovery’. I’ve heard that adage many times, especially at Al-Anon/AA meetings. When an alcoholic relapses, the consequences don’t seem quite as dire as when a heroin addict relapses. The immediate addictive nature of heroin, illicit activity and connections to acquire the drug, paraphernalia required, exposure to chronic, life-threatening disease with just one needle poke, and threat of arrest, all accumulate into making heroin relapse a very different beast from alcohol relapse, in my opinion, although the end result can be just as devastating. Yeah – I know – here I go again, escalating from a dream to the nightmare of reality. It’s my “M-O”
Why did Hayley feel it was necessary to tell me about her dreams? Was she just being transparent, and honestly answering my question of “How are you”? Was she needing reassurance and support, or something more? Is she not really working her program? Should she be talking to her sponsor about such dreams? How serious is this?
I’ve been wondering, lately, if I’m suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). I can easily travel from 0 to 60 within milliseconds, ramping up my anxiety, fear, and sense of doom when I encounter certain ‘triggers’. I still get a cold chill down my spine when I hear a siren’s wail. When I open up our local newspaper, I still expect to see my daughter’s mug shot there, in the Crime Stoppers box that posts names and photos of individuals wanted for arrest. When I drive past certain streets, parking lots, houses, hotels/motels, restaurants, I look carefully, half expecting to get a glimpse of Hayley or one of her drug dealers. I have flashes of very disturbing images of my daughter injecting herself and the depraved, sordid living conditions of the crack houses where she lived for a year and a half. I can see her abscesses and track marks on her arms, legs, feet, and breasts, and scenes of her physical and sexual abuse – all throbbing in my head – and get almost sick to my stomach. Will I ever be free of these disturbing images?
Although support groups, like Al-Anon, help family members of alcoholics and drug addicts recover from the effects of the disease, it’s really not enough for me. I feel emotionally scarred. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at my daughter again, the way I did prior to her life in the drug world.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. People with PTSD often internalize the event and re-experience the trauma again and again in at least one of several ways. They may have frightening dreams and memories of the event, feel as though they are going through the experience again (flashbacks), or become upset during anniversaries of the event. In effect, they are not only traumatized during the “activating” event, but every time something triggers a memory of the event. A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm and is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or to the stability of one’s world.
Here’s a quick definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from Wikipedia:
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress response. Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
And, a more comprehensive review of the disorder and a more credible resource, can be found at the government’s National Institute of Health (NIH) website.
The irony of PTSD, as I’m applying it to an addict in recovery – and to family members who suffer from the effects of the addiction, is that alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and drug abuse, are all side-effects, symptoms, and complications from the disorder. Yes – a drug addict in recovery can suffer from PTSD and be triggered to use drugs again! The proverbial dog chasing its tail.
Here are the typical symptoms, treatment, and complications of PTSD, from the NIH:
Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:
1. Repeated “reliving” of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity
- Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again
- Recurrent distressing memories of the event
- Repeated dreams of the event
- Physical reactions to situations that remind you of the traumatic event
- Emotional “numbing,” or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
- Feelings of detachment
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Less expression of moods
- Staying away from places, people, or objects that remind you of the event
- Sense of having no future
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated response to things that startle you
- Excess awareness (hypervigilance)
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Sleeping difficulties
You also might feel a sense of guilt about the event (including “survivor guilt”), and the following symptoms, which are typical of anxiety, stress, and tension:
- Agitation, or excitability
- Feeling your heart beat in your chest (palpitations)
Signs and Tests:
There are no tests that can be done to diagnose PTSD. The diagnosis is made based on a certain set of symptoms that continue after you’ve had extreme trauma. Your doctor will do psychiatric and physical exams to rule out other illnesses.
Treatment aims to reduce symptoms by encouraging you to recall the event, express your feelings, and gain some sense of control over the experience. In some cases, expressing grief helps to complete the necessary mourning process. Support groups, where people who have had similar experiences can share their feelings, are helpful.
People with PTSD may need to treat depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or related medical conditions before addressing symptoms of PTSD. Behavioral therapy is used to treat avoidance symptoms. This can include being exposed to the object that triggers your symptoms until you become used to it and no longer avoid it (called graded exposure and flooding).
Medicines that act on the nervous system can help reduce anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), can be effective in treating PTSD.
A number of other medicines used for mental health disorders may be prescribed. A doctor should monitor you if you take these drugs, because they can have side effects. Sedatives can help with sleep disturbance. Anti-anxiety medicines may be useful, but some types, such as benzodiazepines, can be addictive.
You can find more information about post-traumatic stress disorder and coping with a national tragedy from the American Psychiatric Association — www.psych.org.
The best outcome, or prognosis, depends on how soon the symptoms develop after the trauma, and on how quickly you get diagnosed and treated.
- Alcohol abuse
- Depression, anxiety, and fear of things that are not usually frightening to other people (phobia), may be part of this disorder
- Drug abuse
The most well known cases of PTSD are seen in war veterans. However, PTSD is not only caused by war. Any significant traumatic event or a series of traumas over time can lead to symptoms of PTSD. Some common causes are:
- Child or domestic abuse
- Living in a war zone or extremely dangerous neighborhood
- Sexual Assault
- Violent Attack
- Sudden death of a loved one
- Witnessing a violent death such as a homicide
When I Googled “PTSD in Drug Addiction”, it directed me to this website and a treatment option offered at some drug addiction treatment centers: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). (NOTE: This site was informative, but I think it is sponsored by the Promises treatment centers that offer EMDR – just be aware that this is NOT an unbiased, clinically researched site.) I seem to remember that EMDR was listed as a treatment option at Hayley’s treatment center, Safe Harbor, but she never received it. However, I think that NOW, with Hayley well in to recovery, perhaps she could benefit from such specific treatment for PTSD. Dunno. I’m going to do more research.
Yes, I worry about Hayley suffering from PTSD and it becoming a trigger for relapse. And, I wonder if I, too, am experiencing a version of PTSD and need to find a way to re-process and cope with the trauma of my beautiful daughter becoming a heroin addict. Yeah – I know I do.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 13 so far )
I apologize for having been gone so long. I’ve had other personal/writing projects in the works, as well as tending to my 93 year old mother’s increasing needs and care. And with Hayley now in recovery, there isn’t as much high drama to report on and vent about. The reality is, however, I need to focus on my own recovery from my daughter’s addiction, more than ever. And, I struggle with that process. More on that, later.
Hayley has now been clean and sober for nine months. During that time, she was in medical detox for 12 days, then completed a 120 day residential drug treatment program, then moved to a sober living house for 5 months, recently acquired a California driver’s license, bought a car, started working at the treatment center from which she ‘graduated’, and just moved in to an apartment with two other women in recovery. So far, so good. It’s a lot. These milestones in her recovery are all very encouraging, and I’m so proud of her hard work and commitment to sobriety. It’s almost difficult to comprehend – and fully embrace. I’m very aware of the enormous amount of financial support that was required to facilitate her recovery – and that NOW, with that financial tether mostly severed, the real work of genuine, lasting recovery begins. Hayley has just begun to deal with the reality of managing her own time, money, impulses, and recovery program. Unfortunately, getting sober didn’t automatically reverse or eliminate many personal issues/traits that eventually led to her descent in to drug addiction. So, I’m somewhat guarded – and trying to just take one day at a time.
To those of you new to my blog, Hayley was a heroin/crack cocaine addict (or anything else she could get her hands on) – and was living a high-risk, dangerous life of depravity and desperation in a series of crack houses. She became a serious drug addict at the age of 30, after years of ‘dabbling’ with a variety of substances, from alcohol, to pot, to prescription painkillers, et al. As a beautiful, well-educated young woman from a family of ‘privilege’ who had been given/earned a variety of enviable opportunities throughout her life, Hayley defied the stereotypical drug addict profile and predictor statistics. Yet, there she was, less than a year ago, with only two possible outcomes if she continued doing what she was doing: death or jail. She came close to both.
I want to offer hope to those of you in desperate need of good news, information, and help for your own situation. First, if you haven’t already, you can read about the harrowing events in the months and days leading up to Hayley’s dramatic turnaround and walking away, with our family’s help, from the world of addiction. My January through May 9th 2010 posts chronicle the timeline leading up to my daughter’s recovery. Timing, luck, synchronicity, opportunity, higher powers and who-knows-what-else, all converged to create the perfect storm for Hayley’s decision to change her life. I am grateful beyond words, humbled, and still mystified by this bloody miracle. There is no magic formula for such a positive outcome. However, there is support and help for you to get through what you thought you never could .
I understand that when trying to cope and deal with a child’s life-threatening illness, you gather as much information as you can, and don’t rule out anything. And, of course, addiction is an illness. I encourage you to reference and visit the sites I’ve listed to the right of this post. They can provide you with important resources, information, and the emotional support you need to soldier through the roller coaster of addiction:
•Addiction Recovery Blogs are written by those currently in recovery themselves. They have walked the talk and know more about addiction and recovery than any professional ‘expert’. Their perspective and insight is of particular help to me right now, and a credible source of experience, strength, and hope. Professional interventionist, author of The Lost Years, and recovering alcoholic/crack cocaine addict, Kristina Wandzilak, just came out with a new blog worth visiting: Sober and Shameless. And, I highly recommend Guinevere Gets Sober. “Guinevere” is recovering from a prescription painkiller addiction, is a mother, wife, and eloquent writer. Actually, I don’t mean to necessarily single out any one of these blogs. All those listed are worth visiting/reading. They offer hope and a realistic glimpse of the daily struggles a recovering addict faces. I find myself wanting to learn more about addiction, especially from the addict’s perspective. These blogs help.
•Addiction Resources will give you a variety of good, practical information about the signs and symptoms of addiction, definitions of terms and drug language, descriptions of drug paraphernalia, treatment options, and more. Become educated about what you’re dealing with.
•Favorite Blogs list some good blogs by other parents who are struggling with addiction in their family, where you can get a wide range of perspectives and scenarios, and, perhaps, not feel so alone. The ‘community’ of other desperate parents, dealing with their child’s addiction, is such an important resource. Even though my daughter is now in recovery, I still like to visit these sites and take the time to give any words of support that I can. I so appreciated viewers responding to my own posts that were usually written in despair and in the midst of a crisis. Their support would often keep me going through, what I thought, were impossibly painful and frightening circumstances. I also learned through these blog posts, that many situations were worse than my own. It helped keep things in perspective for me.
•Inspiration For Living your Best Life: blogs that don’t necessarily deal with addiction, but will lift you up and inspire you to live your best life. I make an effort to go to these sites regularly, to help keep the focus on myself rather than my recovering addict, and expand my knowledge on how to be my best self.
My Own Recovery
Trying to take one day at a time and keep my focus on changing the things I can, is a process and takes time – it is and will most likely be, a lifetime of work. I am trying to recover from my obsession with what my daughter is or is not doing. The daily vigilance and monitoring become a nasty habit. There is a fine line between enabling and truly helping. It is incredibly hard not to interfere with the natural consequences of my daughter’s choices. And, I will continue to seek out the help and support I need to stay within my own hula hoop. We cannot climb up a rope that is attached only to our own belt. William Ernest Hocking
Right now, I feel that I’m taking a break and stepping back from almost 10 years of constant worry and anxiety. I am slowly shifting my focus – and working on not letting my daughter’s life take over my own. It’s time to face my own demons and create the life I want for myself. Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop. Ovid
This from Al-Anon’s Courage to Change: . . . I was busy projecting a horrible outcome to my loved one’s crisis and dreading the ways in which the consequences might affect me. The slogan, “One Day at a Time” reminds me that, in spite of my fears, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Why am I leaping into the future? Perhaps I’ve given my feelings no room to exist. Part of me gambles that by worrying in advance, bad news will be easier to face if it comes. But worrying will not protect me from the future. It will just keep me from living here and now. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.” A.J. Cronin
Will I ever overcome the effects of my daughter’s addiction? Anger, resentment, and fear are my demons. Can I accept the reality of my life? When I try to control a situation by making suggestions, asking prodding questions, and feel the compulsion to comment, I am losing my focus and need to put my energy back where it belongs – on myself. We should have much peace if we would not busy ourselves with the sayings and doings of others. Thomas a Kempis
I still struggle with accepting that I am just as powerless over my daughter’s recovery, as I was over her drug addiction. Trying to” let go and let God” and break the cycle of my addiction to worry and fear, is difficult – it becomes a convenient distraction from focusing on my own life and what I need to be working on: my own actions, behavior, motives, and relationships. Am I afraid to live life for myself? We’ll see. In the meantime, I will try to stay in the present – it’s really all I have.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
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