Intervention

April Showers Bring May Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Casting Call

Posted on January 21, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , |

Last week, I received the comment below on my blog, waiting for approval.  I decided to post the note after doing some research to ensure that this new TV show, therapist Dr. Tara Fields, and WEtv were all “legit”. I not only contacted my friend, professional interventionist, author of The Lost Years, and former crack addict herself, Kristina Wandzilak to get her input, but I also have had further correspondence with the casting producer, Julia Jenkins, who was most gracious in answering all of my questions.  And so, here it is:

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Julia Jenkins and I’m a Casting Producer for WEtv and Ish Entertainment.  I’m working on a compelling new series based in Southern California that will help families who are struggling with difficult issues, such as behavioral issues, addiction, control issues, eating disorders or obesity.  I was wondering if you would be interested in posting my message on your blog.

As you know, these issues not only affect the individual, but the whole family as well – and our Licensed Family Therapist (Dr. Tara Fields, as seen on Oprah, Dr. Phil and CNN) wants to help.  We know that especially in these tough economic times, a lot of families are struggling but don’t know where to turn…and this heart-warming show will be devoted to lending a helping hand to the families who need it.

Please see our casting notice below. If you’re interested in learning more or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

LICENSED FAMILY THERAPIST, DR. TARA FIELDS (AS SEEN ON “OPRAH,” “DR. PHIL” AND “CNN”) WANTS TO HELP YOUR FAMILY!

Is your family in crises struggling with issues that need to be addressed? Is someone in your home dealing with an addiction and you don’t know where to turn?

WEtv’s new show can help!!!

Dr. Tara Fields has made a difference on “Hoarders” and “Intervention” but now YOUR FAMILY can have the chance to work one-on-one with her!  This exciting new one-hour unscripted TV series will delve into the lives of families in crisis.  Tara will work with families to uncover what their real issues are and then help them to overcome them, making the families whole again.

If you – or anyone you know – are in need of help and live in the Los Angeles area, contact us today!  Families who appear on the show will receive free family therapy and a financial honorarium as a thank-you for their time commitment.

We look forward to hearing from you!

When I asked Julia how she found my blog, she answered: I found your blog on Google.com. I typed in addiction blogs and it popped up.

And when I asked about some specifics of her program, this was her response:

We are dealing with all types of issues. From drug addictions, to marital problems, to obesity issues. Here is a list: addictions, eating disorders, obesity, infidelity, control issues, marital problems, bullying, blended family stress, toxic in-laws, job loss, depression, anger management. Our only criteria for the families is that they live in Southern California. Dr. Tara Fields will be working directly with the family and her office is in that area.

We will be filming each show for a week. Dr. Tara will work with the entire family throughout the week. Once the cameras leave, the family will receive 6-8 weeks of continued therapy, free of charge and not a part of the show. We feel it’s important to continue therapy once the cameras leave. The WHOLE family will receive therapy, not just the addict.

In regards to the (type of) therapy, treatment facilities etc, this will all be worked out once productions starts. The therapy will be done by Dr. Tara Fields.  Our goal with the show is to make these families whole again. We are not just targeting the addict, we will be working with the entire family, really getting to the root of the issues in the home and not just pointing the finger at the addict.

I hope I have answered your questions. If you have any further questions, feel free to send them my way. I appreciate your help and look forward to your feedback.

Email:  IshTVCasting.Julia@gmail.com for more info.

*Please be sure to include a description of your family and the issues you’re dealing with, along with a recent photo.

Julia Jenkins, Ish Entertainment / Casting Producer

IshTVCasting.Julia@gmail.com / www.theish.tv

And so, there it is –  a chance to participate in a very professional, dramatic, and public analysis and treatment of your family’s/addict’s problems.  For the record, I’m not endorsing this program or Dr. Tara Fields.  I’m just passing along the opportunity for a chance to participate in this ‘reality TV’ program, and potentially getting some help for your family’s  issues with addiction. And, I can verify that the program, TV cable station,  and this casting notice, are all ‘legit’.  However, before you decide to get yourself and your family involved in such a project, please think through the possible consequences – both positive and negative –  of such a commitment.

If you are a long time reader of my blog, you will remember that I reviewed all of Kristina Wandzilak’s Addicted programs on TLC last spring. My family was offered the opportunity to be one of the families filmed for this series, which we declined.  This post on the Addicted series and professional interventionist, Kristina Wandzilak’s credentials, techniques, and philosophy, might be worth a read while considering whether or not to answer WEtv’s casting call.  For the record, Kristina does not believe in or use the surprise intervention technique that Dr. Fields has used in the past.

I encourage you to explore and consider this unique opportunity to get help for your family – but to also proceed with caution.  Good Luck!

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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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Intersection

Posted on September 24, 2010. Filed under: Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict |

Trying to figure out why Monday, April 26, 2010, was my’ busiest’ blog view day – 565 views.  I had just posted “Take A Seat”, referencing Kristina Wandzilak‘s blog, The Kristina Chronicles,  and the support that Al-Anon and AA provide.  And during that time, I was at my most frantic – desperately trying to save my daughter’s life by orchestrating what seemed like an impossible intervention plan to get her into rehab.  I’m just curious – why so many hits that day?  Were other people as hopeless as I was then?  Or, was it simply cosmic convergence?  There is no answer, of course.  I’m just wondering.

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Advocacy

Posted on July 8, 2010. Filed under: AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I’m baaaaack!  I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging.  I’ve been busy supervising/managing a bedroom/bath remodel project, spending 5 days with family over the Fourth of July, tending to my 93 yo mother who lives two hours away, doing a bit of contract work, and – well –  living my life.  As Hayley continues to progress in her recovery program, I’ve decided to shift my focus.  I want to educate myself, as much as I can, on addiction issues as they impact our health care system, what role they have, if any, in the development of a national public health care policy, and examine/debate current approaches to dealing with drug addiction in our society.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to write about the topic of advocacy and how we, as a society, can more effectively and compassionately ‘treat’ drug addicts.  One of the best sites I’ve run across, as a comprehensive resource for both general and drug specific information about addiction, book reviews, advocacy ideas and links for more humane/compassionate treatment of drug addicts, and reporting on and monitoring the ‘pulse’ of our society in regards to illicit drug use, is Bill Ford’s blog, Dad On Fire. “This web log is inspired from my own experiences with my alcohol and substance abuse early in life and my current struggles with my own children who have or are currently suffering from the ravages of substance abuse.” Bill’s focus is raising public awareness about the damaging economic, social, and personal effects that drug addiction has on our society and the urgent need for solutions.

Bill Ford is a Tucson resident and Architect by profession. He is available for interviews and has become a local encyclopedia of information regarding the damages and costs of substance abuse on the family and on the community.  If you’re short on time, Bill’s blog could be a “one-stop-shopping” site for drug addiction resources, provocative conversation, and new perspectives.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a fascinating interview on National Public Radio, “Tackling America’s Drug Addiction” with Joseph Califano, founder and chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Califano talked about the appetite for drugs in the U.S. and what’s being done to curb it.  Here are a few interesting bytes and shocking stats:

•The U.S. comprises 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs.

NORRIS: Let me ask you about the war on drugs right now. The current administration is trying to focus on a balance between interdiction and treatment: drug courts, for instance, followed by mandatory treatment, things like that.

Will that shrink the domestic market for drugs – since when you’re talking about treatment, there are so many issues surrounding access to treatment?

Mr. CALIFANO: You’re absolutely right. The rhetoric of the administration is good, but the dollars haven’t changed. We’re still putting roughly two-thirds into interdiction and enforcement, and one-third into treatment and prevention. Interestingly, when President Nixon started the war on drugs, his first budget was two-thirds for prevention and treatment, and one-third for interdiction.

The drug courts are great. We’ve analyzed them at our center. They work. And the prison population is important because 65 percent of the people in prison meet the medical criteria for drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. Thats a wonderful – in a sense, a captive audience. But we don’t provide much treatment for them.

NORRIS: Is the U.S. serious enough about the war on drugs?

Mr. CALIFANO: No, we’re not. I’ll tell you – we’re not serious. The government is not serious enough. You can barely hear any of the leaders in the government talk about it. The medical profession is not serious enough. The public-health profession is not serious enough.

Click on the interview title  to read or listen to the entire thought-provoking interview.

On a more personal note regarding advocacy, my deep gratitude to Tom, at Recovery Help Desk.  His words, . . . enabling recovery requires action . . . inspired me to ‘give it a shot’ and make a valiant effort to try to get my heroin addict daughter in to a treatment program.  As of today, Hayley has been clean and sober for 60 days, and is embracing her recovery with passion and commitment.  I believe that, for 31 year old Hayley, the timing was right, along with a few other critical factors.  However, when I recently asked her if she could have found help on her own, she said “no”.  She needed a ‘hand up’ out of her deep, dark hole.  I encourage others to trust their intuition and facilitate your addict’s desire to change their lives and seek recovery.

An Aside: Wow!  Almost 21,000 views of my blog since September 2009.  And what’s with this – 565 views in one day, on Monday, April 26, 2010.  Was it in response to my Take A Seat post on April 25th?  Don’t know – but I’m fascinated by who stops by this blog, what they’re looking for, what they find helpful, and how I can help them feel not so alone.  A heartfelt thank you to all of my blogger friends, fans, ‘regulars’, and all who leave comments.  I’ve learned so much from you , and am am inspired by your own stories. Your support has been instrumental in sustaining my hope, humility, humor, and SANITY over the past year. I am eternally grateful.

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Pinch Me and Pink Clouds

Posted on June 13, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

A little over a month ago, I was certain my daughter would be dead or in jail very soon.  And today, she is thriving in a drug treatment program in southern California.

I glanced through my journal from a year ago, and was quickly transported back to the nightmare I’ve been living for the past 12 months. It was in early June 2009 that I first learned that Hayley was living in a “crack house” and was, essentially, a full-fledged, hard-core drug addict. I immediately donned my Superwoman/mom cape and spun in to action.  I was certain that I could save my daughter – just get her out of that environment and in to a drug treatment program. After hours and days of super-sleuthing,  I was able to locate the drug house where she was living and trace down phone numbers that could potentially provide access to her.  And after countless “drive-bys”, trying to get a glimpse of her, and phone calls to all the phone numbers she had left scattered around her apartment, I was finally able to speak to her.  Her message was,  “Mom – stop. You’re putting too much focus on this place. These guys don’t like it. You’re going to get me in trouble.” And, actually, I think that was why she came home for those few days.  The crack house kicked her out because they were feeling too much ‘heat’.

During those two weeks in June a year ago, when Hayley came home from the crack house for a night or two, she seemed sincere in wanting to get help and go to our local drug/alcohol treatment facility.  However, the treatment center’s admissions requirements proved to be huge barriers –  primarily, the TB skin test that needed to be administered at a medical clinic, read after 24 hours, then a narrow admission ‘window’ in to the treatment facility within the next 24 – 36 hours.  Hayley was never able to meet and follow through with those time-sensitive deadlines.  I thought the process was insane.

At that time, Hayley was “just” using cocaine and smoking crack.  She soon ‘graduated’ to heroin.  How could it all have come down to this – my beautiful, talented, college-graduate daughter, a heroin addict?  It all seemed so surreal.  I was numb.

I discovered that on June 1st, 2009, an eviction notice had been posted on Hayley’s apartment – and I began negotiations with the landlord to be allowed access in to the apartment that Hayley had abandoned.  After paying two months of back rent and June’s rent, I was able to enter, sort through, clean out and salvage some personal belongings from Hayley’s chaotic life over the past five years. That beautiful polar bear Cowichan sweater I knit for her in high school, family photos, her photos and awards from high school and college, her beloved Cuisinart – – – I just couldn’t bear to see her entire life, up to this point, hauled off to the dump.  She deserved some personal history so she could start over some day, didn’t she?  However, this salvage mission was a very traumatic experience.  Witnessing Hayley’s inability to function as a ‘normal’ adult was a disturbing and definitive indication of not only drug addiction, but possibly a serious mental illness. I felt as if I had been in a war zone.

And after one more unsuccessful attempt last August to get Hayley into medical detox and a treatment facility, we went for about 7 months with virtually no contact with her.  That was the “let-her-really-hit-bottom-and-find-her-own-way-to-treatment” period. She not only hit bottom, but kept on digging.  She was in such a deep, dark hole, I just knew she could never get out on her own. After seeing her on her birthday April 6th, I decided that she needed a hand up.  The drama leading up to Hayley leaving for treatment on May 8th was harrowing.  (And She’s Off and . . . Running) But the bottom line is that Hayley has now been at Safe Harbor Treatment Center For Women for a little more than three weeks, was in medical detox for almost 2 weeks prior to that, so has now been clean and sober for 36 days .  This is where the “Pinch Me” comes in. 

Within the last ten days, I’ve received two notes from Hayley and a couple of lengthy phone calls. She sounds so good – so strong, so committed to her recovery program.  She genuinely seems to be embracing the 12-step program at Safe Harbor and finding comfort and support in the staff and all that is involved with the recovery process.  Her voice is strong and joyful and full of promise. Here are some snippets from our phone conversations:

Mom – I’m showing up for everything, even if I don’t feel like it.

You have to attend an AA/NA meeting every day.  If you don’t, it’s a slippery slope to relapse.

I’ve been making myself go to the gym everyday – my body is so damaged.  I don’t have time to fxxk around.

Dave, the cook, wants me to be permanently assigned to the kitchen.  He thinks I do the best job of cleaning up. The food is good – we had mahi mahi last night with mango salsa and coconut rice.

I can’t believe I’m here.

And these excerpts from letters:  We are kept so busy here, time just flies. I had to get my blood drawn this AM – it was a huge trigger for me.  I got real emotional.  Am also scared for the results. I have no power over the outcome at this point though, and have to just deal with the results when they come. I love you so much and miss you.  Am staying strong, healthy, and hopeful.

And this from her most recent, artfully decorated note:  This is a gratitude card. I am sooo grateful to be here at Safe Harbor. I do not take this opportunity for granted and know that I have been given the greatest gift that anyone could ever give me. Thank you, Mom, from the bottom of my heart. I am so peaceful and happy. My future is full of endless possibilities, at last!  I love you, Mom.

WOW!  I know that some of this is the euphoria of early sobriety.  Becky, the program director, calls it the “Pink Cloud”. Becky also warned me that often, at 3 – 4 weeks of treatment, the client will fall off a bit from working the program – emotionally relapse some, I guess you could call it.  However, she also assured me that they are prepared for this, and watch for it.  They coach and mentor the patient through this, if necessary.  Just for today – – – I’m with Hayley – in the pink cloud.

Hayley said that she met the founder/owner of Safe Harbor this week – “Velvet” – who runs a very ‘tight ship’ there.  They are all required to do daily chores, work hard, and contribute to the good of the whole.  This discipline has been very good for Hayley, and she seems to have responded to it.  She said that she takes pride in doing even the most menial tasks well, which is a newly acquired attitude/skill. She said that it makes her feel good to follow through and do these chores well.  Truly – she was sincere and genuine when she told me this.

I think that Hayley has always preferred to live with other people – and that as perverse as the crack house was, it provided a certain sense of community for her.  Thank god that she is now able to experience this phenomenon in a clean and sober living environment. I do think that her age (31 yo) has been an advantage – that she not only relates well to the staff – as a peer, really – but that she also has a level of life experience and maturity that has made her realize that this is, indeed, a crucial turning point in her life.  And because she’s often the oldest client there, she also may be doing some mentoring herself, to younger clients.

She got her hair highlighted (she talked her dad in to paying for this) – has been on walks/jogs/yoga classes to get her body back in shape – and seems to have a greater appreciation for the short time we all have here on earth.  She’s truly engaged in all her group sessions, and reached a revelation with her therapist last week.  For whatever reason, she’s always felt very pressured to excel in a high-powered career – which fed in to her anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.  In reality, it was quite paralyzing for her.  With her therapist, she realized that she just needs to be successful at life – at living a happy, healthy, responsible existence – that this is truly enough.  Everything else is gravy, and may or may not happen.  Often, once you achieve this goal, other things come.

I asked her what was different about Safe Harbor vs La Montagne, the eating disorder treatment facility she was in, back in 2002.  She said that there was no comparison.  First of all, she acknowledged that she is older and more ready to really listen and learn.  And also, the many daily group sessions at Safe Harbor, provide more opportunity to connect and build a sense of community.  And, because the staff members are all recovering addicts/alcoholics around her age, she relates to them in a very personal way.  Also – a huge factor, is that Safe Harbor is in a residential setting, smack dab in the middle of the real world.  Every evening, they all go out in to the community to attend an AA or NA meeting.  Hayley felt that this interaction with the real world was very helpful and motivating.  At La Montagne, they were in a remote/country setting with little/no interaction with the real world.

I heard gratitude and respect for life in Hayley’s voice and talk. Honestly – she sounds transformed.  I think she was ready for this program and changing her life.  I have tried to keep a certain distance from becoming totally invested in Hayley’s recovery. I know what the statistics are for recovering heroin addicts.  They aren’t good.  But, hearing Hayley talk and reading her words of gratitude, I can’t help but think that she has a very good chance of beating the odds.  We’ll see. The fact that there is a huge community of clean and sober young people where she is, is promising.  I think that she feels that she can make a life for herself there, with the support she needs to stay in recovery.

Hayley said that last week was rough.  Her roommate relapsed, as did two of the other ‘girls’.  My gosh – how does one relapse in a treatment facility?  I hadn’t even considered this possibility.  Hayley said that these girls brought in alcohol.  She commented that this really pissed her off, because it put everyone in jeopardy.  “Mom – alcohol is not my drug of choice.  Had it been heroin that was brought in, I’m not sure what I would have done.”  At least she’s being honest.

Hayley has received quite a bit of mail – and she has felt a great sense of accomplishment by responding to each of those letters.  Writing, addressing/stamping notes of her own and getting them in to the mail was a very big deal to her.  The notes I received were very genuine and sincere.

I have to believe that if Hayley does not ultimately recover from her addictions, at least her struggle will somehow be a transforming experience to those around her.  And – just for today . . . I will float in the “Pink Cloud”, along side my daughter.

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A Safe Harbor

Posted on June 1, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, The Bottom, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I apologize for not having posted in a while.  I spent a good part of last week with my 92-year old mother and 3 & 5-year old grandchildren.  Plus, today, I started a major remodeling project on my house and seem to be very behind in all areas of my life.  I had started this post on Memorial Day – so, will now just continue as if it still were May 31st.

First of all – THANK YOU, to each and every one of you, for all your comments, encouragement and support. They sustain me and give me the strength and hope to stay focused on my own recovery and learn how to be happy regardless/in spite of my daughter’s tragic life.

To briefly recap, my 31 year old heroin addict daughter, Hayley, as of May 8th, is in recovery and at a treatment center in southern California.  This is truly a remarkable turn of events. Our family conducted an emergency intervention, of sorts.  Even though Hayley had recently indicated that she wanted to get help and change her life, she was incapable, in my opinion, of doing so on her own.

Hayley was in a medical detox facility from May 8th until May 21st, when she finally “officially” arrived at Safe Harbor in Costa Mesa, CA, a small, all women’s residential treatment program.  She called me after arriving, even though I was told that there would be a two week “black out” period with no communication.  (see post)

She called again today – at 7:45 am.  I was awake, but not out of bed yet. I had just returned home from a hectic/demanding 4 days with my 92-year old mother and my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5.

“Good Morning”, her voice rang out. This was the upbeat, sunny voice I once knew – and always felt buoyed by.

“I thought you couldn’t call out for two weeks”, I said.

“Oh, it’s no biggie”, she replied.  “Turn on the Today Show”, she continued.  “They’re interviewing WWII WASP pilots.”

Hayley’s 92 yo grandmother, my mother, earned her pilot’s license in 1942 and had wanted to join the WASPs.  However, at that time, my dad (her husband) was serving overseas in WWII as a battalion surgeon on the front line in Europe/South Africa, and in order for my mother to be able to join the WASPs, she needed her husband’s permission!  When my mom’s request finally did reach my dad overseas, he wouldn’t sign the papers. He thought that the war would be over soon, and wanted my mother to be there when he arrived back home.  He also had mistakenly assumed that these women pilots would be flying dangerous combat missions in Europe.

Mom and Dad had only been married for three months when my dad shipped out with the first troops ship, on New Year’s Eve, 1941.  He was gone for 2 ½ years.  My dad wrote and sent home over 275 typed, perfectly preserved letters to my mother during that time.  I have them all, and am making my way through them as a project for the Center for the History of Medicine, who wants to feature my father’s medical career as a major exhibit..  These letters are a remarkable up-close and personal glimpse of: World War II, Dad’s experience as a medical officer on the front line, involved in over 20 major engagements with the enemy, – – – and, my parents’ courtship and the early dynamics of their marriage.

Hayley is the ‘child’ in the family who remembers these things – and values them the most.  She is sentimental and appreciates all the family stories, artifacts, and heirlooms.  The sad irony has always been that because of her substance abuse, unstable work and living conditions, and ‘quirky’ personality, that she was the least likely to ever have a place or the means to keep and preserve them all.

Hayley’s voice this morning was bright and energized.  The euphoria of  early sobriety was very apparent – and hopeful.  She sounded in touch with some important things.

“Ya know, Mom – I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin. That’s why I always needed an external source of  numbing/affirmation.”

And then, Hayley launched in to a rundown of the first couple of AA 12 steps – that step # 1 meant, you needed to surrender to the power of your addiction – that you are powerless over its control and seduction.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  I’ve been skeptical of Hayley’s ability/commitment to work through the twelve steps and totally embrace their  guiding force – I still am, kinda.  But she sounded so genuine this morning, and encouraged, and positive. I had to scrap all my “devil’s advocate” rebuttals and just revel in her positive attitude and enthusiasm.  “Just for today”, I am going to believe in her good intentions and renewed spirit.

She said that they had traveled to some fabulous AA retreat center on the beach and heard “Patty O.” speak for 3 hours – that it was a wonderful afternoon.  On the way home, as the sun set on the California coast, Hayley was consumed by gratitude and flashbacks to her not-so-distant past.

“Mom – if you hadn’t stepped in, I would have just been lying in bed, dope-sick, and desperately trying to figure out my next move.”

Hayley has been at Safe Harbor now for ten days.  She said they are kept very busy – up at 7:00 am, followed by chores, a meeting, breakfast, more group meetings, etc.  And, she said, “We go to an AA or NA meeting every day.  You’ve got to. If you don’t, you’re on a slippery slope to relapse.”  Again, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.

She said she’s only seen her therapist once.  Hmmmm – is this something I should monitor/track?  Thanks, Bob D., for reminding me that I can help my daughter get to treatment, but I cannot and should not try to control the outcome.

Hayley said that she especially likes interacting with the staff at Safe Harbor.  They’re all recovering alcoholics/addicts, of course, and, I’m speculating, are close to her own age (31 yo).  She must be connecting with them in some way, because she has called me several times within the last week, from staff members’ cell phones.  Is that ok? Is she manipulating them, as she has done her entire life?  (ok – back off and give it up, Peg)

When I reported this encouraging phone call to Jake, Hayley’s older brother, he was skeptical.  “Mom – she’s always been able to schmooze her way through anything. I’m going to wait and see if there’s any real substance behind all the talk”.  Hmmmm.  OK – guess I’ll slow down a bit.

I’m wondering if maybe Hayley’s age, at 31 yo, is an advantage right now?  She’s probably closer in age to the treatment center staff at Safe Harbor, who are modeling productive, satisfying, clean and sober lives.  She can relate to these women as a peer, and they enable her to tangibly visualize a healthy and happy life.  This is powerful.

I’ve always known that Hayley thrives on a group/communal living environment.  As perverse as it was, the crack house filled that need for her.  And now, here she is, living with other women who are also on the path to recovery, in a lovely residential house setting in southern California.  I mean, if you can’t get sober there, where can you?

I’m still holding back.  I’ve read and been advised that a rehab program won’t necessarily ‘stick’ unless the addict has ‘hit bottom’ and gets themselves to treatment.  I do believe that timing is everything. And on that note, here were the headlines in our community newspaper last week:

Low Price, High Potency:  New form of heroin causes spike in US overdose deaths:

“Mexican drug smugglers are increasingly peddling a form of  ultra- potent heroin (black tar heroin) that sells for as little as $10 a bag and is so pure it can kill unsuspecting users instantly,  sometimes before they even remove the syringe from their veins.”

AND this disturbing follow-up article:

“A 46-year-old Colorado man’s death Tuesday from an apparent  heroin overdose has raised concerns that a potent strain of the drug could be circulating in our fair city.”

Hearing my daughter’s clear, exuberant voice, full of hope and possibility – with some gratitude and humility mixed in – – – well, it doesn’t matter right now how she got there – – – but that she is there, at SAFE HARBOR. The name says it all.

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Saving the Best For Last

Posted on May 23, 2010. Filed under: Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , |

Since learning of Hayley’s seemingly rough time in detox, I’ve felt discouraged.  As usual, I project ahead and go from 0 to 100 in an eye blink.  I’ve done it my whole life.  It’s called, “catastrophizing”, and I learned it from my parents.  My mother could, and still does, turn a hangnail into an amputation with little effort and convincing drama.

So, when I read this passage on May 17th from Al-Anon’s Courage to Change daily meditations, I slowed down a bit.  Maybe it will speak to you, as well:

“When we talk of tomorrow,” says a Chinese proverb, “the gods laugh.” They laugh, I believe, not because they find us ridiculous, but because they know the future is not predictable.  Thus, we have no choice but to live one day at a time – right now – this moment, this day.

I can make plans, but I cannot determine the results.  No amount of scheming about next week can control what will happen then.  Circumstances will be different, and I myself will be different as well.

I can further compress the focus of this slogan to address one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time. In such small increments, life begins to feel not only bearable, but precious. At any given moment, no matter what is going on, if I concentrate on being right here, right now, I know that I am fine.

Today’s Reminder:

My worst fears about tomorrow need not affect this day.  By letting them go, I am free to grow. What bad habit can I change today?  What fear can I face? What joy can I acknowledge? What good fortune, no matter how modest, can I celebrate?  All I have is today.  Let me make today the most fully alive day I have ever experienced.

Do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will look after itself.” The Bible

Last Wednesday, I decided to phone the detox facility and see how Hayley was doing.  Actually, I was dreading the call and was scared. Six days before, this was the report from her dad, Brad, and his wife, Jill:

We saw Hayley this morning because we were in the area and the staff at First House thought it would be a good idea.  When we arrived she was lying on the sofa with a heating pad and asked Brad to help her up.  She seemed to be in a lot of physical pain and was really drugged up – not completely nodding off, but fading in and out a bit.  She doesn’t look so good, her feet, hands, and face are extremely swollen, but she assured us that the physician said it was a normal reaction to the Suboxone.

Edie, at First House, answered the phone, and told me that Hayley was doing much better.  In fact, she was being weaned off her meds and would most likely be headed to Safe Harbor Treatment Center towards the end of the week.  I wept with relief and reminded myself, to take “one day at a time”.  How many times do I need to tell myself this?

Thursday, I packed a box of things for Hayley: books, photos, stationary, stamps, lotion, and other miscellaneous items, and sent it off to Safe Harbor.  And, I sent her a letter, although, I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  I wanted to be encouraging and loving, ‘newsy’ about home and family, but also remind her of a few important things.  Because Al-Anon’s “One Day At A Time” and “Just For Today” slogans have helped me get through my days, I included the May 17th passage (above) as well as this:

ONE DAY AT A TIME: from How Al-Anon Works

. . . a practical approach to our challenges and fears is to take them “One day at a time.” We can’t do anything about the future because the future is not within our grasp today.  Worrying about it, trying to manipulate it, anticipating it – all these activities simply remove us from the moment. We can’t change the future, but by making the most of this day, we prepare ourselves to be able to handle whatever comes tomorrow.  We can only choose how we will respond today.

We can respond to the changes we see before us, confronting new challenges and fears, and enjoying the gifts that sobriety can bring, or we can allow ourselves to become obsessed with the possibility of relapse or failure.  We cannot know what will happen, and we needn’t deny any possibility, desirable or undesirable.  But wasting today worrying about tomorrow will not make us any better prepared for difficulties that may present themselves.  If they do manifest, those painful problems will not hurt any less tomorrow, whether we have stewed about them or set them aside today.  All of our preparation will not have spared us a single ounce of pain.  In fact, it will have lengthened our suffering, since we’ll have added all that extra worrying time.  So, if there is no advantage to trying to live in the future, it only makes sense to stay here in the present and make the very best of every precious moment we are given.

Another advantage in living “One day at a time” is that we break huge, overwhelming tasks into smaller, more attainable goals.  We cannot do what we cannot do.  Worrying about going hungry tomorrow won’t put more food on the table, it will only make us forget to appreciate the food we have today.  This day is ripe with opportunities for joy, for sorrow, for experiencing the full range of human emotion and experience.  Isn’t it time we took advantage of it?

As I’ve mentioned before, I find comfort and support in Al-Anon – but, I’ve learned to “take what I like, and leave the rest”.  For example, if I had only taken “one day at a time” and had not spent weeks putting together an intricate plan to get Hayley to treatment, anticipating all the possible snags and barriers, she wouldn’t be at Safe Harbor right now.  And, I can’t help but note that for the past year, Hayley has been living her own version of one-day-at-a-time.  Oh, the irony of that slogan.

And yes, according to Al-Anon, doing an intervention with Hayley could be viewed as enabling behavior.  However, my mother’s intuition told me that Hayley needed a ‘hand up’ in getting out of her deep, dark hole – – – and that she deserved at least one chance at recovery – especially since the statistics show that most addicts/alcoholics go through multiple rehab programs before, if ever, reaching long lasting sobriety.  It was time to start.

And now – for the best news I’ve had in a very long time.  Friday evening, I received a phone call from my daughter.  She had just arrived at Safe Harbor from the detox facility.  Her voice sounded clear and strong.  She told me how grateful she was for this chance of a new life, and that she was ready to do the hard work required.  We both cried.  And then, in true Hayley fashion, she added that she ‘needed’ to get her hair highlighted and cut, and that her dad had agreed to pay for this – and, that she also ‘needed’ a massage to get more of the toxins out of her muscles.  Hmmmmm – entitlement at its best.  She’s very good at it.  I just spent $102 getting her a pair of glasses so she can read the daily material she’s supposed to read in treatment .  I told her to just take “One Day At A Time”, and we would see what priorities became obvious.  I still struggle with setting boundaries with my daughter and knowing what is reasonable, and what is not.  And so, it continues . . . “one day at a time”.

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