Treatment Centers

Finding Home

Posted on June 22, 2011. Filed under: Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , |

My daughter, Hayley, has been in recovery from heroin/crack cocaine (and anything else she could get her hands on) addiction for a little over a year.  As I recounted in my last blog post, One Year, she has come a very long way.  It’s a bloody miracle.  After a harrowing escape plan to extricate her from the crack house where she was living, she spent 12 days in a medical detox facility, 90+ days at a small residential women’s treatment center, then moved to one of their sober living houses close by.  After about 5 months, she was encouraged and invited to move into an apartment with two other younger women in recovery, all ‘graduates’ of the Safe Harbor Treatment Center program.  I visited her last month to celebrate her One Year of sobriety, and was impressed (or shall we say, ‘blown away’?) by what I saw. The apartment was well furnished (by her roommates), clean, orderly, and located in a very secure complex/compound with lovely grounds.  Hayley had her own bedroom – had even bought a bed, dresser, and bedside table.  She was working full time at the treatment center, but only earning $11.00/hour.  She was proud of the fact that she had been able to ‘make it’ on her own, without asking either me or her dad for money.  Yet, things are very tight, financially, and don’t allow for any extras – including medical/dental expenses, car repairs, random, unplanned-for expenses, etc.

And now, after just getting really settled and in to a routine, her two roommates are moving, and Hayley needs to find another place to live.

There are complicating factors: she can’t financially afford an apartment on her own (the family of one of her roommates has been ‘helping’ with their rent); her credit score/record is so miserable, she could never sign/co-sign a lease; and, she has a dog – a darling dog, mind you, who brings Hayley so much joy and affection – – – but, is also a liability.

Hayley has known this was coming for a month or so – and has been diligently looking for potential roommates.  She has cycled through quite a few possibilities, with all of them falling through due to one reason or another.  And with the deadline looming on June 25th, I’m getting nervous.  She’s stressed, too.  She called last week to give me a lengthy update on the roommate and apartment choices that were left.  And the one she’s settled on, isn’t ideal, which she acknowledges; yet, she feels it will ‘do’ until next fall when her preferred roommate choice, Kristin, will be ready to move to an apartment.

Here’s the plan:  Hayley met a very nice ‘older’ guy in her apartment complex who has a little dog with whom Hayley’s dog, Bear, likes to play.  This ‘Guy’ (don’t even know his name), is moving to a 2 bedroom apartment within the same complex, and offered to rent Hayley the second bedroom.  She figures that this will be a temporary arrangement, until she can find a more ideal and permanent situation. Hayley has seen his current apartment – and says it’s well appointed and clean/neat.  The ‘Guy’ would love to have Hayley’s dog around on a regular basis for his dog to play with.  Hayley has discussed preliminary details with the ‘Guy’ – letting him know she has a serious boyfriend, setting clear boundaries, discussing expectations, etc.  There’s internet service there, but still, her rent will be a little more than what she’s now paying.  The ‘Guy’ has a cleaning person every couple of weeks – so Hayley offered to do the cleaning, for a slight reduction in rent.  (YIKES!  Her ‘clean’ standards are very different from mine!  Will she actually be able to do this?  Sounds iffy, to me)

The ‘Guy’, is also asking for a $500 deposit to cement the deal.  Hayley indicated she would need help with this, which has already created a dilemma for me regarding ‘enabling’.

Of course, a million red flags go up, for me.

•is this guy really a pervert who will try to take advantage of/hit on my daughter?

•does he have some weird habits/quirks that Hayley will find out about only after moving in?

•is he honest and a good person, and someone who is just trying to help out some one in need?

•is this guy in recovery, himself?  Or, will there be alcohol, at the very least, around?

                                                    JUST WHAT IS THIS GUY’S STORY?

 

And why am I so suspicious? Hayley’s past history with choosing roommates hasn’t been especially stellar.  She’s always been able to convincingly rationalize why she’s moving in with so-and-so – and almost always, it has proven to be a disaster.

And, to further complicate matters, this new apartment won’t be ready for move-in until July 15th, which means Hayley will have to pack up and store her things in a friend’s garage, and ‘couch surf’ at friends’ for three weeks.

Can any of this work?  Of course, I have no control over any of it, and need to just let it all go.  I did pose some questions to Hayley for her to consider – which she did not take offense to, and seemed to have already thought of them.

I do  believe there is a difference in enabling addiction and enabling recovery.  In fact, I prefer to use the term, supporting  recovery.  If I give Hayley the $500 for the room deposit, I’m sure I’ll never see it again.  I would need to give it “for fun and for free”, to quote an Al-Anon slogan.  I’m glad that she’s not just automatically moving in with her boyfriend, Rob. And – – – I guess anything is better than the crack house, right?

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One Year

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I arrived in Southern California on Sunday, May 8th – Mother’s Day. Monday, May 9th, was my daughter’s One Year ‘birthday’ – a full year of being clean, sober, and actively working a recovery program.  Being able to celebrate Hayley’s One Year of sobriety with her, in person, was my Mother’s Day gift to myself – and one I will always treasure. I had knit and felted a large bag for her – similar to one that I had given her years ago, and that she had loved.  That bag was so trashed and permeated with smoke when Hayley left for treatment a year ago, I threw it out.  I had sewn into this new bag, an inscription commemorating the One Year date and a heartfelt message.  It had been a labor of love.

I hadn’t seen Hayley since last October – and although I knew she was doing well, I was still a bit anxious.  I retrieved my bag from the baggage claim at the airport and waited outside for her to pick me up.  I couldn’t help but flash back to the last four years or so – – – when Hayley’s drug use and desperate lifestyle had escalated to the point where she had sold her car – and didn’t drive at all.  Her driver’s license had been suspended and there was a warrant out for her arrest for probation violation.  I dreaded opening our local newspaper every day – I was certain I’d eventually see her name and mug shot in the Crimestopper’s  column.

As part of her recovery during this last year, Hayley appeared in court to take care of some outstanding traffic and probation violations, rectified the messy suspended driver’s license business, acquired a California driver’s license and, recently, bought herself a used car with what was left in the investment fund my parents had given her as a child.  She was so proud of the fact that she had conscientiously shopped for this car on her own – and had bought it from a used car lot run by two brothers, in recovery themselves.  Their common bond sealed the deal – and she trusted them.  Privately, I wasn’t so sure she was ready for the responsibility of a car.

And then, there she was, driving up in her ‘new’ car to greet me.   The reality of it all was staggering.  We hugged, and kissed, and gabbed nonstop as we drove to her apartment, a few miles away.  She seemed comfortable and careful behind the wheel, even in California highway traffic and despite the fact she hadn’t driven for 3 – 4 years prior.  She freely shared so much in those first 15 minutes – wanted me to know everything.  And, she was so excited to show me the apartment she was sharing with two younger women in recovery.  As we approached, I was surprised at how nice it seemed.  It was in a gated and very secure complex with lovely grounds.  The apartment itself had been well furnished by her roommates and Hayley’s bedroom was neat and orderly.  That was a big one for me.  For the five years she had lived in a little duplex in our hometown, Hayley never let any of us visit.  We knew her living space was a disaster – that she had always had trouble organizing and keeping track of things.  We knew she could get overwhelmed – but eventually chalked up her unwillingness to let any of us in to her house to shame, embarrassment, maybe even ADD – – – and yes, with a big dose of our own denial thrown in.  Hayley and I have subsequently talked about the chaos in which she lived.  She is very forthcoming in acknowledging all the above – and the fact that the crazy disorder of her apartment was a barrier, of sorts, to the outside world – a legitimate excuse to isolate as she was spiraling downwards in to the dark abyss of addiction.

Two years ago, when I had to move everything out of that place after Hayley had been evicted and was living in a crack house, I thought I’d entered a war zone.  I actually felt physically and emotionally assaulted by the filth, chaos, garbage, and clutter.  (Back To Square One) I discovered a drawer where Hayley had stashed almost 4 years of unopened mail.  All of it was bad news – overdrawn bank statements, collection agency letters, failure to appear (in court) notices, pawn shop records, traffic violation notices, etc.  It was astonishing – not only that she had these kinds of long term, serious financial problems and legal issues – but that she had actually saved all of the notices of such. Her way of ‘coping’ had been to throw the evidence into a drawer and try not to think about it – and by not opening any of the envelopes, she could pretend it all didn’t exist.  Yet, why did she keep it? In her own pathetic way and with some twisted reasoning, I think she was trying to be as responsible as she knew how at the time –  by keeping it all together, in one place.  Yeah, it’s difficult to comprehend.

With the help of a dear friend, I was able to retrieve a few things from Hayley’s apartment that I thought were meaningful and worth saving – a wool sweater I had knit her in high school, all her photos from childhood through college, her Cuisinart, original artwork by her younger brother, a handmade quilt, family keepsakes.  Many of those things are now carefully packed away in boxes, stored in my basement.  One day, when Hayley is more permanently settled, I’ll send whatever she wants.  I’m glad that I was able to preserve a little of her personal history from before the heavy drug use years.  She deserves that.

Back to the present: as we stood in Hayley’s room at the California apartment, I was both glad and sad – so happy that she has a clean, safe place to live – and sad, that at age 32, she has to completely start her life over.  My daughter is 32 years old and doesn’t possess much of anything.  Although she did get a dresser and bed for herself when she moved in to this apartment, she could never fully furnish one on her own.  And at one time, she did have everything to make a comfortable home for herself, but lost it all to drugs.  It breaks my heart – and, yet, I have to remind myself that it’s just stuff  – that the most important thing Hayley now owns, is her sobriety.  And as long as she maintains that, the rest will come.

Hayley also has a dog – a 6 month old Shih Tzu/Yorkie puppy, named Bear. She has had three similar dogs over the last few years and lost them all, in one way or another, to drug use.  I know how much she loves dogs – and what they provide for her – a lot of comfort and affection – and relief from the stress and pressures of life.  She has repeatedly told me that her dogs literally saved her life in the last few years.  However, a dog is also a huge responsibility, can be expensive to care for, and limits housing and work options.  She reluctantly told me about the dog a couple of months, knowing I would eventually find out about him – and that I would most likely disapprove of this unnecessary encumbrance.  But – I tried to be positive and not allow this darling little bundle of fur to serve as another trigger of anxiety and worry for myself.  Is this dog a diversion from the hard, daily work of recovery where Hayley’s attention should be focused?  Or, is he a valuable source of love and companionship during this vulnerable time?  We’ll see.

Basically, my daughter and I spent the four days we had together sunning and talking by my hotel pool, going on long walks along the beach, out to dinner with some of her friends in recovery, and doing a little shopping.  May 9th, the day after I arrived, was her actual One Year ‘birthday’.  A little before 7:00 pm, we picked up her boyfriend, Rob, who has been in recovery for over two years, and went to a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting.  It was huge – and full of people Hayley knew. A van and SUV  full of girls/women from the treatment center where Hayely works, arrived for the meeting.  Everyone in the room was eating candy, a common trait for recovering heroin addicts – and most smoked (outside, before/after the meeting. Hayley and Rob were both trying to quit smoking, again, and as of today, they haven’t smoked in about 6 weeks.)  It was a good meeting – and Hayley spoke, tearfully telling the group that that day was her One Year birthday– and that her mom, me, was there to celebrate with her.  She said, “My mom was the one person who never gave up on me, and I’m so grateful.”  I, of course, sobbed with emotion.  I also said a few words – and after the meeting, many young people came up to hug me and said they were glad I was there – that they missed their family and hoped they could one day share such a special day with their parents.  I was so touched, and honored to be amongst so many courageous people, working hard to maintain their sobriety.

After the NA meeting, Hayley, Rob and I went out for a lovely dinner where I was able to get to know Rob better.  He’s a lot younger than Hayley, but is a wonderful young man – deeply committed to his sobriety and recovery program, a very hard worker, and  crazy about my daughter.  They support each other in many ways, so – – – I guess it’s good, right?

On Tuesday afternoon, Hayley, Rob, and I walked along the beach to a street fair in Huntington Beach, just one-mile from my hotel.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had fun browsing through the vendors’ stalls on Main Street.  We arrived back at my hotel ~ 4:00 pm.  Rob left and Hayley and I leisurely showered and dressed for the gathering/dinner that night with friends, to celebrate Hayley’s One Year.  It was then that Hayley couldn’t find her phone.  We tried to call Rob to see if he had it – no answer.  We had to make a choice – either go back to the street fair to try to find Hayley’s phone  (since we were afraid that most of the vendors would be gone the next day, with no way of tracking who/where they were) – or, go to the celebratory gathering where we were due in thirty minutes.  Hayley was certain that Rob must have her phone.  I was sure he didn’t.  I remembered that Rob had carefully emptied our things out of his backpack before leaving that afternoon.  I tried not to over-react – but internally, I quickly accelerated in to panic mode.  If she had left her phone at the street fair, how would we ever recover it?  And if it was lost for good, how would we/she communicate while I was visiting?  I was leaving the next day – should I try to buy her a new phone before I left, if necessary?  Would there be time? Would that be enabling?

I admit, I almost let this incident ruin my entire trip.  We ultimately went to her One Year dinner with about 8 of her friends in recovery.  When Hayley announced that I was stressed out about the lost phone, one guest gently said, “Come on – it’s just a phone.  Let’s celebrate Hayley’s hard work and new life.”  I tried – but still was obsessing about the lost phone.  After dinner, I called her phone number many times, hoping someone would pick up.  Then I texted this message:  This is a lost phone.  If you have it, please call me at ———-. THAT, I thought, was a genius move on my part.  I didn’t sleep much that night, fretting about what to do.  Mostly, I was trying to figure out my role.  Should I help Hayley get a new phone the next day, or not?  She had virtually no money – was barely scraping by, earning just $11/hour at the treatment center where she worked full time. I read some pearls from my Al-Anon Courage to Change book and decided to try to Let Go And Let God – that I really didn’t have any control over the situation and to have a little faith that it would all work out.

And then, at 8:30 am the next morning, my cell phone rang. The woman’s voice on the other end said, “We found this phone at our beach apparel store.  Does it belong to someone you know”.  You can imagine my ecstatic relief.  When I picked up the phone an hour or so later at the beach shop, I was sooooo grateful to this honest young woman/clerk, who had found Hayley’s phone – and had decided to call the number of the last phone  call received.  That was me!  And no, she had not seen the clever text I had sent about the lost phone.  So – three big lessons:  I’m not such a smarty pants afterall; AND, things often do work out, as they’re meant to.  ( I wonder if I would have felt this way if the phone had remained lost?) AND, here is the most important one of all, as quoted from Al-Anon’s book, Courage To ChangeAs wonderful as it is to see a loved one find sobriety, it often presents a whole new set of challenges.  After all the years of waiting, many of us are dismayed when sobriety does not bring the happily-ever-after ending we’ve awaited.  . . . problems that we always attributed to alcohol or drugs may persist, even though the ‘use’ has stopped.   I came to the realization that Hayley will probably always be misplacing her cell phone, or her car keys, or whatever – that sobriety doesn’t necessarily change basic personality traits or behavior patterns.  And, I cannot rescue my daughter from natural  consequences resulting from how she lives her life.

Hayley picked me up at about noon that day.  I checked out of the hotel and we ran a few errands.  My plane didn’t leave until 7:30 pm that night.  Hayley works the 4:00 pm – midnight shift at the treatment center and the plan was for me to go to work with her for a couple of hours and then she’d take me to the airport. We arrived at Safe Harbor‘s Capella House, where Hayley had been a ‘patient’ just nine months before. (A Safe Harbor)

She is a trusted and valued member of the treatment center’s staff – and she is so good at what she does!   She supervises and monitors twenty women at Capella – and counsels them, mentors them, problem solves with them.  She’s got the frigg’in keys to the meds cabinet, for crying out loud!  Yes, she dispenses their medications!   She also has become the designated staff person to pick up an especially difficult new patient at the airport.  Hayley is the first person that a troubled/angry/frightened addict encounters on her path towards recovery.  Her ability to calm down and reassure an agitated newcomer, is respected and appreciated.  I was totally in awe of my daughter and how she conducted herself at work – and  I couldn’t believe that I was there to witness it.

Working at the treatment center is a wonderful opportunity for Hayley – and is a healthy, supportive environment for her right now as she builds some confidence and life skills.  However, the reality is that she only earns $11.00/hr.  It’s not a sustainable living wage, especially in southern California.  Yet, Hayley  hasn’t asked for any help and takes pride in being able to make a ‘go’ of it, thusfar.  I don’t know how this is possible.  There’s certainly no cushion for any unbudgeted expenses that arise.  She has no health insurance, needs thousands of dollars of dental work to preserve her teeth, needs regular blood testing to monitor a chronic health condition, will need to keep her car serviced, and insured, etc.  How will she be able to manage all of this?  Will these daunting financial pressures trigger a relapse?

And there I go, AGAIN.  I am future-tripping in to the dangerous land of “What-Ifs”. And when I do that, I rob myself of the joy of today – and lose sight of how far my daughter has come in one year’s time.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, I, too, am in recovery –  from my daughter’s addiction.  And I still have so much to learn, and so far to go.

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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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PTSD – Hers and Mine

Posted on March 6, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

My daughter has been in recovery from heroin addiction for ten months now. Within the last two months, she has acquired her driver’s license, bought a car, begun working full time, and moved out of her sober living house and into an apartment with two other women in recovery. Did I mention that she has a ‘boyfriend’ that’s ten years younger?  (Does that make her a ‘cougar’?)  “Rob” is in recovery, himself, and is a personal trainer at her gym. He seems crazy about her – and she feels the same way about him. They both quit smoking, together, over a month ago.

When I spoke with Hayley a few days ago, she mentioned that she’s been having ‘using’ dreams.  She assured me that this is ‘normal’ for someone in recovery, approaching his/her’s one-year sobriety ‘birthday’.  Yet, these dreams are disturbing – both to her, and to me.  I could tell that in her voice – and  in her next breath, that she was working very hard at trying to reassure me – and, most likely herself, that these were typical of the dreams recovering addicts have.

Yet, I’m skeptical of anything my daughter calls normal. It’s all relative, isn’t it? It hasn’t been that long since she explained to me how ‘normal’ it was for heroin addicts to get abscesses.  And now, I’m wondering if dreaming about shooting up is a preliminary step towards her actually using again – and, of course, the BIG ‘R’ relapse.

Please don’t tell me that ‘relapse is a part of recovery’.  I’ve heard that adage many times, especially at Al-Anon/AA meetings. When an alcoholic relapses, the consequences don’t seem quite as dire as when a heroin addict relapses. The immediate addictive nature of heroin, illicit activity and connections to acquire the drug, paraphernalia required, exposure to chronic, life-threatening disease with just one needle poke, and threat of arrest, all accumulate into making heroin relapse a very different beast from alcohol relapse, in my opinion, although the end result can be just as devastating.  Yeah – I know – here I go again, escalating from a dream to the nightmare of reality.  It’s my “M-O”

Why did Hayley feel it was necessary to tell me about her dreams?  Was she just being transparent, and honestly answering my question of “How are you”?  Was she needing reassurance and support, or something more?  Is she not really working her program? Should she be talking to her sponsor about such dreams? How serious is this?

I’ve been wondering, lately, if I’m suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).  I can easily travel from 0 to 60 within milliseconds, ramping up my anxiety, fear, and sense of doom when I encounter certain ‘triggers’. I still get a cold chill down my spine when I hear a siren’s wail.  When I open up our local newspaper, I still expect to see my daughter’s mug shot there, in the Crime Stoppers box that posts names and photos of individuals wanted for arrest.  When I drive past certain streets, parking lots, houses, hotels/motels, restaurants, I look carefully, half expecting to get a glimpse of Hayley or one of her drug dealers.  I have flashes of very disturbing images of my daughter injecting herself and the depraved, sordid living conditions of the crack houses where she lived for a year and a half.  I can see her abscesses and track marks on her arms, legs, feet, and breasts, and scenes of her physical and sexual abuse – all throbbing in my head – and get almost sick to my stomach.  Will I ever be free of these disturbing images?

Although support groups, like Al-Anon, help family members of alcoholics and drug addicts recover from the effects of the disease, it’s really not enough for me.  I feel emotionally scarred.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at my daughter again, the way I did prior to her life in the drug world.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. People with PTSD often internalize the event and re-experience the trauma again and again in at least one of several ways. They may have frightening dreams and memories of the event, feel as though they are going through the experience again (flashbacks), or become upset during anniversaries of the event.  In effect, they are not only traumatized during the “activating” event, but every time something triggers a memory of the event. A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm and is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or to the stability of one’s world.

Here’s a quick definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from Wikipedia:

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.[1][2][3] This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity,[1] overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress response. Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.[1]

And, a more comprehensive review of the disorder and a more credible resource, can be found at the government’s National Institute of Health (NIH) website.

The irony of PTSD, as I’m applying it to an addict in recovery – and to family members who suffer from the effects of the addiction, is that alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and drug abuse, are all side-effects, symptoms, and complications from the disorder.  Yes – a drug addict in recovery can suffer from PTSD and be triggered to use drugs again!  The proverbial dog chasing its tail.

Here are the typical symptoms, treatment, and complications of PTSD, from the NIH:

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:

1. Repeated “reliving” of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity

  • Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again
  • Recurrent distressing memories of the event
  • Repeated dreams of the event
  • Physical reactions to situations that remind you of the traumatic event

2. Avoidance

  • Emotional “numbing,” or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Less expression of moods
  • Staying away from places, people, or objects that remind you of the event
  • Sense of having no future

3. Arousal

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exaggerated response to things that startle you
  • Excess awareness (hypervigilance)
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Sleeping difficulties

You also might feel a sense of guilt about the event (including “survivor guilt”), and the following symptoms, which are typical of anxiety, stress, and tension:

  • Agitation, or excitability
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Feeling your heart beat in your chest (palpitations)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Paleness

Signs and Tests:

There are no tests that can be done to diagnose PTSD. The diagnosis is made based on a certain set of symptoms that continue after you’ve had extreme trauma. Your doctor will do psychiatric and physical exams to rule out other illnesses.

Treatment:

Treatment aims to reduce symptoms by encouraging you to recall the event, express your feelings, and gain some sense of control over the experience. In some cases, expressing grief helps to complete the necessary mourning process. Support groups, where people who have had similar experiences can share their feelings, are helpful.

People with PTSD may need to treat depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or related medical conditions before addressing symptoms of PTSD. Behavioral therapy is used to treat avoidance symptoms. This can include being exposed to the object that triggers your symptoms until you become used to it and no longer avoid it (called graded exposure and flooding).

Medicines that act on the nervous system can help reduce anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), can be effective in treating PTSD.

A number of other medicines used for mental health disorders may be prescribed. A doctor should monitor you if you take these drugs, because they can have side effects. Sedatives can help with sleep disturbance. Anti-anxiety medicines may be useful, but some types, such as benzodiazepines, can be addictive.

Support Groups

You can find more information about post-traumatic stress disorder and coping with a national tragedy from the American Psychiatric Association — www.psych.org.

Expectations (prognosis):

The best outcome, or prognosis, depends on how soon the symptoms develop after the trauma, and on how quickly you get diagnosed and treated.

Complications:

The most well known cases of PTSD are seen in war veterans. However, PTSD is not only caused by war. Any significant traumatic event or a series of traumas over time can lead to symptoms of PTSD. Some common causes are:

  • Child or domestic abuse
  • Living in a war zone or extremely dangerous neighborhood
  • Sexual Assault
  • Violent Attack
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Witnessing a violent death such as a homicide

When I Googled “PTSD in Drug Addiction”, it directed me to this website and a treatment option offered at some drug addiction treatment centers:  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). (NOTE: This site was informative, but I think it is sponsored by the Promises treatment centers that offer EMDR – just be aware that this is NOT an unbiased, clinically researched site.)  I seem to remember that EMDR was listed as a treatment option at Hayley’s treatment center, Safe Harbor, but she never received it.  However, I think that NOW, with Hayley well in to recovery, perhaps she could benefit from such specific treatment for PTSD.  Dunno.  I’m going to do more research.

Yes, I worry about Hayley suffering from PTSD and it becoming a trigger for relapse.  And, I wonder if I, too, am experiencing a version of PTSD and need to find a way to re-process and cope with the trauma of my beautiful daughter becoming a heroin addict.  Yeah – I know I do.

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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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Full Plate

Posted on September 20, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , |

I’ve been MIA from the blogging world for the last few weeks – busy with finishing up my house remodeling project, other necessary house repairs/expenses that sprang up as a result, spending time with my grandchildren and 93 yo mother, community projects (author Patti Digh, of 37days blog and Life is a Verb fame, is coming  here in November for a Hospice fundraiser, and I’m in charge!), trying to find a home for my beloved golden retriever, Abby (due to a dog-biting incident with my neighbor’s dog), dealing with constant problems with my new car that appears to be a “lemon”, yadyadayada.  My plate is full. I’m barely able to keep up with my own life, let alone worry about/monitor my daughter in recovery.  I guess that’s good.  But if she lets things “fall through the cracks”, she’ll go to jail.

As most of you know, my heroin addict daughter, Hayley, has been in California since May 8th:  in medical detox for 12 days, then a patient at a 90 day residential treatment center for women (Safe Harbor).  For the first couple of months, she didn’t have a phone or computer and wrote a lot of letters and notes –  to me, other family members, and any one who wrote her.  She received a ton of mail from all sorts of people, cheering her on.  It really made her feel loved and supported. But now, most communication has dropped off.  Hayley has now  been sober now for 135 days – that’s 4 ½ months.  However, she doesn’t call or write much anymore, and I find myself reverting back to my familiar ‘expect-the-worst’ mode.  It’s a bad habit, but is what I know, and has been authentically built on hard evidence from the past.  Hayley may just be busy working her program, making friends, going to meetings, going to the beach, and is snipping the tether.  (Well – certainly NOT the financial tether.  She still doesn’t have a job, and is being completely supported by her father.  He is paying for her after-care treatment program, sober living rent and fees, and monthly expenses.  Why should she get a job?)  I really don’t know what’s up.

Sarcasm and cynicism aside:  of course, Hayley still needs help – probably more than ever.  I do think that her “post-treatment” out patient program is essential.  She’s never learned or developed the skills necessary to live as an independent, productive adult.  However, after getting sober and being the stellar student in her rehab program, I thought for sure she’d move on to the next logical step of getting a part time job and begin to manage her own life. I’m realizing, and trying to accept, that she is not doing that.  My fear is that she’s depressed, overwhelmed, and/or somewhat aimless.  She has never been willing to just “sing in the chorus” and gradually work her way up to the solo.  She’s always wanted to start at the top, whether or not she had the experience or deserved it.  “Entitlement” is the working term here.  She appears to want a ‘career-building’ job with a good salary and benefits, or none at all.  Both her sponsor and I feel that right now, she needs a ‘get well’, part time job with a low stress level, within walking/biking distance of her sober living house, and the flexibility to enable her to stay active in recovery as well as the time to gradually learn and practice time/money management skills.  She’s posting her puffed up resume on Monster.com, and waiting for potential employers to call her. This just won’t work in this economy – – – and, the reality is, Hayley has no car or driver’s license, and really needs a job within her neighborhood or on the bus route.

Hayley has now been living in a sober living house for a month.  She says she likes it and is getting along well with the 6 other women.  However, the fact that she hasn’t found a job yet, makes me a bit suspicious.  Is she ardently pounding the pavement to find employment? Will she be capable of holding a job as well as working her recovery program, at the same time?

I appeared in court for Hayley on August 27th to address her probation violation and failure-to-appear charges.  I had spent way too much time making sure Hayley’s treatment center in California sent an official progress report to her Probation Officer and court-appointed attorney.  I drafted a letter for Hayley to sign and send to her court-appointed attorney with important questions about and details of her case.  AND, I told Hayley that I was now officially handing over the responsibility of her legal issues – – – that she was in charge of making all the phone calls and correspondence necessary to keep herself out of jail.

When I did go to court in August, neither the judge nor the prosecuting attorney had the letters in hand.  Luckily, I had brought copies of the letters, but the judge was annoyed.  He was ready to issue a warrant for Hayley’s arrest, when the Prosecuting Attorney piped up to say that that wasn’t really what they wanted – that they just wanted better communication.  The PA said that Hayley’s Probation Officer was supposed to forward any treatment program reports to their office, which the PO, when questioned later, said that that wasn’t her responsibility.  What’s the deal?  What is the procedure? Please,  just tell us, what goes to whom and when, and we’ll do it.

I’m realizing that Hayley still does not feel she has a personal stake in these legal proceedings, that she doesn’t have a good organizational system, and is not being as proactive as she needs to be – that if I had not appeared in court for her with copies of the treatment program’s progress report, the judge would have issued a warrant for Hayley’s arrest.  I just recently acquired a sponsor in Al-Anon to help me work the 12 steps myself.  She said, “Well – maybe Hayley needs to learn that lesson herself.”  Really?  Have her go to jail to learn that she needs to pay closer attention to the obscure details of how the convoluted court system works?  And risk relapse?  I’m not sure that I can let that happen.  But then again, maybe I need to.

I’m flying Hayley up to Washington State on October 2nd.  We’ll spend two nights with my son and his family, then go visit my mother for her 93rd birthday, about 3 hours away.  My plan was to NOT go to our home town, at all.  So now, here are the concerns that I need to try to let go of:  Hayley does not have any current, government-issued photo ID.  Will she even be able to pass security and get on the plane?  I, of course, advised her to get a California photo ID card months ago.  She didn’t do it, and has assured me that she can get on the plane with her xeroxed copy of her expired/suspended Washington Driver’s License.  Huh!  Are you kidding me?  My Al-Anon sponsor also told me that maybe this is a lesson I need to learn – that I can’t make some one do anything.  And so, if that worst-case scenario plays out, I’ll be the one to pay the consequences – I’ll be out $300, and my 93 yo mother may never get a chance to see her granddaughter again.  (it’s been 1 ½ years since their last visit)  That hardly seems fair.

OK, I know I’m a bit on a rant – so, I’ll let it all out.  Why can’t my sober daughter give me a call once in a while, just to find out how I’m doing, and coping, or not?  In the  meantime, please pass the mashed potatoes – – – AND, gravy.

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Word Games

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

It was just a few months ago that the term, “Getting Well” took on a whole new meaning for me.  My 31 yo heroin addict daughter, Hayley, was living in a crack house, ‘shooting up’ and smoking crack.  Her lifestyle circumstances were desperate – and sordid – and frightening.  I happened to speak to her on the phone one day, and she said she was ‘dope sick’ and needed to “get well”.  In other words, she needed to find some heroin.  What a euphemism. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines euphemism as:  “the use of a word or phrase that is less expressive or direct but considered less distasteful, less offensive, etc. than another.”  What an understatement.

Today, my daughter is “getting well”, in the more conventional context.  She has just completed a 90-day drug treatment program and last Friday, moved in to a sober living house.   This is, of course, the next logical step in her recovery – but, nevertheless, it scares me.  The nurturing,  safe, ‘scheduled’ environment of the treatment center has been replaced by a house of 7 recovering addicts, all trying to stay sober and move forward with their lives. 

Basically, each of them is on their own, with no schedule or formal program.  They are monitored, somewhat, with random urine tests.  And, I think there are general house rules and expectations.  Ideally, they are all working their program and supporting each other.  However, it’s a bit of a dice throw.  Hayley needs to find a job, attend AA/NA meetings, work on getting her driver’s license restored, tend to some legal issues resulting from probation violation, deal with the thousands of dollars of debt she owes, figure out a way to get thousands of dollars of dental work done, monitor a chronic health issue, and on, and on, and on.  Post treatment is when the real work of recovery begins – and the steady, meticulous effort to build a new life is daunting.  I’m overwhelmed with all she faces – and am wondering how she’ll ever get a decent life back.

Hayley sounds strong and still very committed to the 12-step program.  Yet – – – I worry about her ability to handle all that she faces.  Today, I had to remind her to send a letter to her court-assigned attorney regarding her upcoming court date on Friday for probation violation.  Should I have to do that?  Shouldn’t staying out of jail be at the top of her priority list?  How long will I have to ‘baby-sit’ her? What is appropriate at this point?  Hayley needs to not only work at staying sober, but also  learn and practice independent living skills.   She does need help, in my opinion, but it’s a delicate balance. 

My worst fear, of course, is that Hayley will soon be overwhelmed with the details and demands of life – – – and then, . . .relapse. The professionals say that ‘relapse’ is a part of recovery.  I know.  However, when you’re a heroin addict, ‘relapse’ seems to have such dire consequences.  And, there I go – jumping ahead and worrying about what hasn’t even happened yet.

I am so grateful for Hayley’s sobriety and hard work. I am trying to live “one-day-at-a-time”, as is she.  But it’s very hard.  And so – – – I think I need to take myself to an Al-Anon meeting and try to ‘get well’, myself.

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Surrender

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

. . . surrender does not mean submission – it means I am willing to stop fighting reality, to stop trying to do ‘God’s’ part, and to do my own. Courage To Change

The First Step prepares us for a new life, which we can achieve only by letting go of what we cannot control and by undertaking, one day at a time, the monumental task of setting our world in order through a change in our own thinking. One Day at a Time in Al-Anon

It’s been a week now since I returned home from visiting Hayley in California.  I’m still a bit numb – almost in denial, that she has so completely embraced her sobriety and the 12-step recovery program.   I’m still wrestling a bit with my daughter’s history of manipulation and mastery of ‘talking the talk’.  In realty, Hayley has ‘walked the talk’ for over 90 days now.  The recovery statistics for heroin addiction are abysmal – around 13 %, I think.  So – I’m a bit hesitant to jump in with both feet.  This skepticism is evidence of the work I still need to do for my own recovery.  Although Hayley’s recovery seems almost too good to be true, her response seems genuine and, in her own words, Mom – I don’t have time to f*ck around.

Hayley has not only surrendered to her powerlessness over alcohol and drugs –  she seems to have also undergone a spiritual transformation.  This is not necessarily a “come-to-jesus” religious experience, but rather, believing that her personal journey led her to Safe Harbor, to the women that are there right now, and to a fuller, richer, and yes, sober life.   Allowing herself to consider the possibility of a higher power and turning over some of her fear and anxiety to that higher power, has been one of the biggest changes I’ve witnessed, besides the obvious of getting sober.  This concept of surrender is something I’ve never seen in my daughter before.  For her to acknowledge that she might not know what’s best and to be able to draw upon some entity outside of herself for strength and guidance, is a totally new approach to life for Hayley.  (OK – the truth is that Hayley did go outside of herself for help in coping with life – in the form of alcohol, pot, pills, crack, and ultimately, heroin.  Now, however, ‘using’ the concept of a Higher Power to cope with her anxiety and surrounding herself with sober people who’ve had success in recovery, provide her with a healthy, more sustainable framework for living.)    AA’s Step Three suggests to try to be receptive, to open yourself to help from your Higher Power.  Hayley appears to have done this.

For 31 years, my daughter has maintained a certain “know-it-all” persona.  I am not only completely amazed by her current humility and willingness to defer to recovery professionals, recovering addicts/alcoholics who have significant sober time under their belts,  and a Higher Power, but I’m also blown away by her new-found – – – well – – – serenity.  I have to attribute Hayley’s personal transformation to the program and staff at Safe Harbor, to the ‘cosmic convergence’ of timing, opportunity, and to the benevolence of some kind of Higher Power.   My god – this must seem like a ranting testimonial for Alcoholics Anonymous, and the 12-step program.   I guess it is, and I couldn’t be more surprised, myself.  I never thought this particular recovery program would work for my daughter.  I thought she was too far gone and her ego would prevent her from the concept of surrender.   Guess I was wrong.

I saw my daughter on Friday, July 30th, for the first time since May 8th.  She was tanned, and toned, and beautiful.  She exuded a “joie d’ vivre” I’ve never seen in her before.  But more importantly, she seemed calm and serene.  The most outwardly visible evidence were her hands and nails.  For the last 20 years, Hayley has bitten her nails to the quick and picked her cuticles until they bled.  They were always red, puffy, and swollen – very difficult to look at.  I felt that the condition of her nails and cuticles were an external barometer for her internal level of angst.  Here’s a picture of her hands now,  after I treated her to a manicure and pedicure – – a visual metaphor for her personal transformation, in my opinion. 

Last May, Hayley’s appearance was startling.  I took some pictures of her right before she boarded the plane to the treatment center in California.  (the harrowing tale of extricating Hayley from the crack house is one that has been indelibly seared in to my memory bank)  The color “gray” sums it up.  Her skin and hair had a deathly pallor that was both frightening and heart breaking.  She looked years older than her age – – – and was, essentially.  The woman that walked towards me a week ago Friday, was not the person I have known for the last too many years.

Hayley greeted me around 10:00 am on Friday at Safe Harbor.  She showed me her room in one of the cottages behind the main house, and toured me around the facility’s grounds.  I was impressed with the home-like/residential setting of Safe Harbor, the caring staff, and the well-appointed, orderly, immaculate living conditions.  “Velvet runs a tight ship”, commented Hayley.  This tidy, organized living situation for Hayley was significant since, for most of her adult life, she has lived in filth and chaos. 

Once again, I pinched myself.

At 11:00 am, I met with Hayley and her therapist.  The session went very well, although, it was too short.  Instead of asking a lot of questions about Hayley and her “issues”, I ended up tearfully sharing my own revelations and regrets as a mother.  I felt that a door had been opened, and that I could have shared some of my deepest, most intimate fears, hopes, disappointments with Hayley, in the presence and with the guidance of a professional.  I did a little of that, but there just wasn’t time to say all I wanted to say.  However, the important point was, the stage was set and the spigot opened, and for the rest of the weekend, Hayley openly answered every question I asked, as well as offering information that gave me insight in to her road to addiction.

Marissa, Hayley’s therapist, is a big proponent of psycho-drama, and explained this technique’s process and why she thought it could uniquely access buried emotions and new perspectives/insight.   I was impressed with her commitment to Hayley’s therapy and, more importantly, felt that she was able to deal with and cut through Hayley’s “bullshit” quotient.

At noon, we attended an AA meeting a block away.  And at 1:30 pm, I met with Hayley’s case manager.  All of these meetings were emotional and therapeutic – both for myself, as well as for Hayley.  Our casual conversations throughout the weekend were honest, and revealing, and satisfying.

Later in the afternoon on Friday, I checked in to my hotel.  Hayley spent Friday and Saturday nights with me in my room.  I can’t tell you the joy I felt in seeing her peacefully asleep in the bed next to me – with her blankie, of course.  I haven’t witnessed that image since December 1996.

On Saturday, we did some shopping (bedding for the Sober Living house and other supplies ), and went to a beach in Laguna.  There, as my daughter and I basked in the sun, I saw the black track marks on her thighs and breasts.  Yes, they are fading.  Nevertheless, there they are – – – visual reminders of her desperate, sordid past.

Sunday morning, at 7:00 am, Hayley and I attended an AA meeting where I met her sponsor, Brooke.  Brooke got clean and sober at 31, like Hayley, and now is married with two darling children.  She pushes Hayley and requires a lot of in-depth writing that takes a full year to work through all 12 steps of AA.  She sees Hayley twice a week – at a Thursday evening potluck dinner women’s meeting, and at this early Sunday morning meeting where an older, more professional crowd attends.  These meetings, connections, and support are instrumental in keeping Hayley sober.  She will tell you that.  She believes it.  She is living it.

Attending the two AA meetings with Hayley was emotional.  I’ve gone to Al-Anon for 8 years, but had never been to an AA meeting.  The meeting process, language, and principles were very similar to Al-Anon’s, and I felt at home.  Sharing personal stories of experience, strength, and hope is courageous, as well as therapeutic.  There is no judgment in the room – just focused attention, active listening, and support.

AA is one way to heal a person’s brokenness. I’m sure there are other ways that work.  All I know is that the 12 step program appears to be working for my daughter – and that, is a frigg’in miracle.  I feel guilty giving such a glowing report of my daughter’s recovery. I’m sorry that so many of you are still experiencing the pain of addiction in your family.  All I can say is, don’t lose hope.  And to quote Tom at Recovery Help Desk:  “ . . . enabling recovery requires action.”  All for now.

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Pink Cloud Fading

Posted on July 10, 2010. Filed under: Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , |

With permission,  Hayley’s most recent letter from recovery:

Dear Mom,

I got the meditation book a couple of days ago.  I read it every morning in our meditation group. People seem to like it – thank you!  I’ve been wearing the bracelet and earrings you sent almost every day, too.  You do such a great job finding little special “Hayley-isms”.  It means a lot to me that you take the time to look for and find things that you think I would like, or remind you of me.

It’s been a tough week for me – no sugar coating or smiling my way through.  It’s really hard for me to admit sometimes that I’m not OK, that I’m sad, that I’m f*cking terrified. A couple of my friends relapsed, and it scares the sh*t out of me how easy it was.  It also makes me angry.  “What makes them so special that they get to use again?” I am still working hard and grateful to be sober, but thoughts of the future overwhelm me sometimes.  I am reminded by my addict fellows to stop thinking about tomorrow and just think about the moment, the minute, today.  Becky told me today not to worry about other people or their consequences and/or lack there of, but instead focus on the fact that I am working a good program, that I am trusted to go places on my own, that I am honest and not partaking in other addictive behavior, etc. It’s strange to be the one doing things “right” for once.  I’ve been the other for so long, it’s who I still identify with.

Anyways, love you and miss you and am still so grateful you’re my mom.  Love, Hayley

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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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