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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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Like a Fever

Posted on January 10, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

I keep in touch with a writer friend of mine, Patti Digh, both through her blog (www.37days.com) and on her Facebook page.  Patti is a gifted and inspirational writer, as well as speaker, and travels all over the country to spread her message of living your best life.  She has a crazy schedule and lots of deadlines to meet – and yet, her posts over the last few days have been solely about her young daughter, Tess, whose high fever was of great concern.  After several days of fretting and posting Tess’ current temperature, treatments, and subsequent recovery, it occurred to me that when a child of ours is sick, in pain, or suffering in some way, that becomes our focus – and can easily consume us.  Whether it be the flu, or tonsillitis, or addiction – – – it’s all the same.  Everything else goes out the window.  We, as mothers, are concerned with only one thing –  doing what we can to help our child get well.  We feel helpless, and scared, and silently battle the big what If/worst-case scenario.  It’s always there – lurking just under the surface, no matter how much others tell us not to worry –  that everything will be fine.  A six year old’s high fever that may last a few hours or days, or an adult child’s heroin addiction – – – it’s all the same to a mother – the worry, the fear, the helplessness, the hard rock in the pit of your stomach.  I’ve heard it said that a mother can only be as happy as her least happy (vulnerable) child.  This is  often true, for me, although I battle against this adage in order to maintain some degree of personal happiness and joy.  I’m constantly working on my own recovery from the effects of my daughter’s disease – but what I suspect, is that there is no full recovery from motherhood.

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On The Road . . . Of Recovery

Posted on October 10, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I just spent almost ten hours in the car with my daughter, Hayley.  Our ‘Thelma & Louise’ trip provided a unique opportunity to talk – – – we both were a captive audience – – – and not having to make direct eye contact during honest, sometimes uncomfortable conversation,  took a little of the pressure off.  Our “Road Trip” took us a little further down the highway and around a few tortuous bends in the road.

I had decided to fly Hayley up from southern California to see my 93 year-old mother, her grandmother, before it was ‘too late’.  My mom is failing, both physically and mentally, with increasing short-term memory loss and hasn’t seen Hayley for a year and a half.  Hayley has been clean and sober now for 5 months, and there was an Alaska Airlines special that prompted me to make these plans.  What started out as a ‘simple’, quick trip to spend a couple of days with family, turned in to a complicated, anxiety-ridden mess.

First of all, I wasn’t even sure that Hayley would be allowed past airport security and onto the plane with no current photo ID.  Her Washington State driver’s license had not only expired, it had been suspended and her passport had also expired.  I had strongly suggested to Hayley several months ago that she get a California state photo ID card; but, she didn’t do it – and seemed confident that she could pass security with expired ID.  I was doubtful.

Then, the idea of Hayley arranging a special court appearance here, in our home town, (we were not originally going to be coming here) to clean up her probation violation charges, emerged.  Rather last minute, she contacted the court appointed attorney’s office about this possibility, and hadn’t heard back from them before she left to fly up here.  (I’m sure she didn’t factor in the heavy case loads that public defenders have – and didn’t leave enough time to make these arrangements.)

So – basically, I’ve been a wreck for the past few weeks – not knowing if Hayley could even get on the plane, and if she couldn’t, there could possibly be another ‘failure-to-appear’ in court.  The potential consequences of such an ‘FTA’ would be the judge issuing a warrant for Hayley’s arrest, and  me getting stuck with her $3,000 bail bond for which I had signed a promissory note last May when I was frantically trying to get her out of town and in to treatment.

But lo, and behold, there she was last Saturday, outside the baggage claim at the airport, waiting for me.  (I guess TSA doesn’t care that much about current photo ID – who knew?)

She looked gorgeous – actually ‘put together’.  She had on a new jacket I hadn’t seen before – and scarf, shoes, and pants I had bought her.  Everything was clean and in good repair. This is in such contrast to the past few years, when Hayley’s appearance and personal hygiene spiraled down along with her addictive state of mind and sordid lifestyle.

I’m going to jump ahead – and summarize the next few days.  Basically, we had wonderful conversations in the car together.  Our ten hours of time on the road was some of the best discussion, disclosure, and verbal exchange we’ve ever had.  Hayley was very forthcoming about her recovery and past addictive behavior/life.  In fact, some of it was difficult to hear.  However, my daughter seemed genuinely committed to her sobriety and recovery program – and was an eloquent spokesperson for AA and the 12 step program.  And because I’ve been going to Al-Anon for the past 8 years, I understood the lingo and program philosophy – and could contribute what I’d learned in Al-Anon.  This was comforting to Hayley, she said – – – that I seemed to ‘get it’.

Our visit with Hayley’s older brother, Jake, and his family, was good, and we celebrated MY birthday while we were there.  Jake harbors a lot of anger, resentment, and skepticism towards Hayley, I think – – and has difficulty being around her.  Basically, he just doesn’t trust her – and had mentioned to me that he didn’t want me to leave Hayley alone with his two young children.  I understood that.  There has been a long history of distrust and bizarre behavior, on Hayley’s part.  And Jake isn’t the best communicator.  His naturally shy personality limits his ability to express himself in an intimate way.  However – all in all, everyone got along – Jake and Hayley went to the gym together to work out, Hayley got to see Lucy (almost 6) and Luke (31/2), whom she hadn’t seen for a year and a half – and I kept myself sane by constantly chanting the first line of the Serenity PrayerGod, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Monday morning, Hayley still hadn’t heard from her attorney.  I didn’t know whether to drive us to our hometown for a court hearing (2 1/2 hrs away) or to my mom’s (a different 2 1/2 hours away).  Finally, as we were loading the car, the call came.  The attorney said that if Hayley were to make a court appearance the next day in our home town, she would most likely be taken in to custody.  We couldn’t risk that possibility, since we hadn’t yet been to see my mom – the main reason Hayley had flown up in the first place.  The Prosecutor was only offering two ‘deals’:  Hayley serve 2 days in jail, then continue her probation until April 2011;  or, serve 20 days in jail and the probation would be terminated.  We consulted an attorney friend, and decided that Hayley would fly up to our hometown at the end of the month for her already scheduled court hearing.  At that point, she would be taken in to custody, and she would serve two days in jail.  Hayley assured me that she could do this – – – that she would be fine, especially now that she was sober.  But, aggghhh – – – it’s scary to contemplate.  She will have almost 6 months of sobriety under her belt – yet still, will she be at risk for relapse – or to be beaten up in jail?

We then hit the road again and decided to drive the two hours to our hometown to pick up a few of Hayley’s things at my house.  I picked up my mail, newspapers, Hayley sorted through some of her things at the house, and then I dropped her off for a pedicure/manicure while I ran a few errands.  This activity may seem trivial and/unnecessary – but one of the most obvious outward signs of Hayley’s recovery and burgeoning serenity, are her hands and nails.  For years, Hayley has nervously picked at her cuticles until they bled and were horrifically swollen – and, she also bit her nails down to the quick.  Now, her nails are long and strong, her cuticles healed and healthy.  It’s truly amazing.  I wanted to treat Hayley to this nail spa indulgence – – – she had earned it, in my opinion –  her healthy nails were  a bit of a metaphor for where she was in her recovery – – – and life.

I picked up Hayley an hour later – and she said she was meeting her ex-boyfriend, Dave, in the parking lot – to say hello – and goodbye.  HUH?  You see, Dave is married.  Why did Hayley call him?  This was disturbing to me and resonated of old manipulative behavior.  I gave her ten minutes with Dave, then told her I was hitting the road – we needed to drive another two hours to my mom’s.  When Hayley got in the car, I was relieved – and pissed.  And then, we had another two hours in the car together.  I tried not to lecture or quiz her too much.  But I did let her know that I thought her call to Dave was inappropriate and selfish.  She commented that their meeting was more difficult for Dave than it was for herself.  So, why would she stir up that pot?

Our visit with my mom was emotional, yet productive.  At a two  hour dinner that night with my mom, Hayley patiently explained details of her addictive personality, recovery program, and dreams for her future.  She was articulate, eloquent, and passionate.  I kept pinching myself.  I truly believed that Hayley believed what she was saying – – – and I was in awe.  Yes, the power of addiction is incredible – but so can be the thrill, force, and intensity of recovery.  I watched, as my 93 year old mother’s chin quivered and her eyes filled with tears.  It became apparent that my daughter’s addiction and powerlessness over drugs paralleled her own mother’s disease of alcoholism.  However, back in the 1930s, there was no help, or support – only shame, and guilt, and helplessness.  My mother’s entire life was shaped by being the child of an alcoholic.  And even though she and my father rarely drank, themselves, I’ve also been immeasurably affected by this family disease – – – in so many ways.

Hayley and I spent another three hours in the car, back to SeaTac Airport.  “I’m anxious to get back to ‘my girls'”, she said.  We had had a lovely visit, but we were both ready for her to leave.  She still has plenty of work to do – and miles to travel on her road to recovery – as do I.  I noticed some eating disorder behavior – and a variety of compulsive behaviors that worried me.  I realized that many of Hayley’s personality ‘quirks’ are hers – are who she is – are not necessarily the result of substance abuse.  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

I just made flight arrangements for Hayley to fly back up here at the end of the month. She’ll spend two days in jail – and then fly back to her sober living community in southern California.  As Willie Nelson would croon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . On the Road Again . . .

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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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Crack House Busted

Posted on March 19, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I had wanted to chat about the program on Wednesday night, Addicted, but will have to save that discussion for another post.  I’m anxious to hear from you all about your thoughts regarding the show.

For me, right now, there’s more urgent business.  The saga/drama continues.  Yesterday afternoon, my drug world “mole”, Eric, phoned to tell me that the crack house was surrounded by a SWAT team and was being busted.  I was thinking that Hayley most likely wasn’t there, since she had told me a couple of weeks ago that she was still living with the “old guy”, even though I had heard differently. (Back to Square One and  Square One Plus a Millimeter)

I drove by the crack house, and sure enough – sheriff’s cars and van, bullet-proof vested officers, etc. were all there “mopping up”.  They were just pulling out of the crack house drive way when I drove by. This was the lead story on our local news last night, and in this morning’s newspaper, there was a small article mentioning that three arrests had been made at a known drug house – two men and one woman.  More arrests were anticipated.

So, I’m thinking – one of the guys arrested was probably Bill, Hayley’s drug dealer and supplier; and, I hoped the woman arrested was Paula, Bill’s “operations manager”.  She’s a tough bitch, who runs things at the drug house, steals, and beat up Hayley last summer.  (I”ll admit, I also kind of hoped that the woman arrested was Hayley).  After a fundraising event I attended last night, I drove past the crack house on my way home.  It looked dark, but all the drapes/shades where drawn.  I thought I saw a light on through one of the window blind slats.  As usual, there were various cars scattered around the property, in the drive way, and on the “lawn” (loose term).

At 1:17 am this morning, I received this text:

Mom, only phone and no minutes. U prob saw news. I’m ok. Was at house when they came in.  Didn’t arrest me or anything. Will  call as soon as I can.  U can txt. H

My text back:  “Where are you? At Bill’s? What do you want to do?”

Hayley’s response:

Yes. With friend. Only ones here. Trying to clean up. Don’t know. Will call u or txt in am. Need to decide. Treatment facilities out of state?  Cal or close to dad.

So – she’s holed up in the shut down crack house.  I’m sure her drug supply has been interrupted, but maybe there’s a stash somewhere, who knows.  And, at some point, she’ll most likely run out of food, let alone drugs.  This appears to be a turning point.

I wonder why Hayley wasn’t arrested herself?  There’s been a warrant out for her arrest since last July, for violating probation on a misdemeanor shoplifting offense.  And, yes – a treatment program in California near Santa Barbara sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Preferably near a beach.  Good lord.  Is she totally insane?  Can you travel out of state if there’s a warrant out for your arrest?  I’m sure she doesn’t have any photo ID on her – how would she fly on a plane?  And then there’s the heroin withdrawal/detox process, TB test waiting period, antibiotics to treat abscesses, before even getting to treatment, let alone paying for it.  Not to get bogged down in minutiae, but all these details seem overwhelming to me.  How could an active drug addict ever manage it all?  And, at this point, neither her father or I are willing to foot the bill or arrange for her treatment.  As you may recall, Hayley walked out of medical detox after 5 days (and $6,000) last August AMA and talked a cab driver in to driving her the 175 miles back here, with out a cent on her.  She is resourceful.  And the zinger is, when she arrived back in town, the crack house wouldn’t take her back!  I guess they recently changed their mind.

I made a few phone calls this morning to gather information.  If Hayley contacts me again, I will tell her to go to DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services) and apply for their ADATSA program.  They will evaluate and assess her, then recommend a treatment facility and pay for it, if she follows through with all the paper work and keeps appointments.  Seems highly unlikely to me.  This is at least a two week process, if not more, and she has no phone, transportation, and is deathly afraid she’ll be arrested if she registers with the state for welfare/medical coupons.  It is a risk.

Her text to me early this morning still sounds like she’s entitled to our help – and has only been pushed to reaching out because of the circumstances.  Is this the “bottom”?  Probably not.  Hayley’s older brother, Jake, just called and is blown away that Hayley just can’t say the words, “I need help.  Maybe I don’t know what’s best for me.”  Her pride and ego are the biggest barriers of all  to recovery.

Wanted to get this out there for your input.  It’s amazing to me how much wonderful comfort, support, information, and advice you guys give me.  Thank you.  I couldn’t get through all of this with out you.

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Compassion When The Shoe Drops

Posted on February 20, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

compassionearthBelow is an email that was forwarded to me.  It’s important enough to share here, because after going to the site referenced, I realized that this message is one I need to remember right now.  Even though I seem to have no trouble feeling compassion for many people in my life and in the world, I often have trouble feeling compassion for my own daughter, the heroin addict.  Again, I get tripped up by the “She’s brought this misery on to herself” voice.  Here’s the email – be sure to go to the website for the entire message.

Karen Armstrong is an amazing woman/scholar, who has written extensively on the 3 monotheistic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity). Her latest book is “The Case For God”, which is not really what this email is about.

In 2008, Karen was one of the recipients of the TED Prize which along with the $100,000 check includes a wish. Her wish was to form an international group of religious leaders from all different faiths to write a “Charter for Compassion”. It is based on the “Golden Rule”. She says, “The core of every single one of the world religions is the virtue of compassion, which does not mean pity. Its Latin root means to feel with the other. Each one of the world religions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule…”  I encourage you to go to http://charterforcompassion.org and watch the short video, and read what the world is saying.

Back to home. Once again, I’m waiting for the proverbial “other shoe” to drop.  I’ve been here before.

Now that Hayley is back at the crack house, I’m anticipating a phone call from her asking for help.  She only lasted at this same crack house a couple of months last summer.  It’s a miserable place, with lots of drug user traffic in and out.  Porno is constantly on the TV; the woman in charge is a tough ‘bitch’, who has physically threatened and assaulted Hayley before and, I think, feels threatened herself by Hayley’s intelligence, education, attractiveness, and manipulation skills.

When Hayley made that call-for-help to me from the crack house last August, she asked me to arrange for a bed at a medical detox facility for her. For almost 72 hours, I called, researched, harangued, and pleaded to try to reserve a bed for Hayley at a medical detox facility ( there are none in our own community) 150 miles away in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Since Hayley was going through withdrawal, I even ‘scored’ some hydrocodone for her from a friend who had just had shoulder surgery, with the hope that Hayley could keep herself from using heroin.  Her dad, from California, prescribed antibiotics for her abscesses and sleeping pills until I could get her in to the detox facility, and then in to treatment.  None of it worked.  I later learned that Hayley had used twice during that long weekend of hell.   And when I finally delivered her at midnight to the medical detox unit of the inner city hospital 175 miles away, the admitting nurse looked at Hayley’s chart and said, “Oh, this is private pay?”  When I said yes, he responded with, “That’s too bad.  Is usually doesn’t work.”  Hours later, after arriving back home, bleary eyed and numb, I discovered an empty beer bottle in the cargo area of the car and an unopened bottle, stashed under the seat.  Apparently Hayley had downed one bottle on the trip, and was hoping to drink the other.  This was on top of sleeping pills, hydrocodone, and heroin.  Desperate.  As some of you may remember, Hayley walked out of that medical detox hospital after 4 days, AMA (against medical advice), and talked a cab driver in to driving her the 175 miles back ‘home’.  ‘Home’ was the crack house – who wouldn’t take her back, a tragic commentary on so many levels.

So now, I am writing a short script of what I will say to my daughter when she calls me from the crack house, wanting help.  I’ll speak to her with compassion, and tell her I love her and want what’s best for her – that she’s amazingly resourceful, and I know she knows what it is she needs to do to begin the journey towards recovery.  I’ll remind her that she can always contact her probation officer and/or Dependency Health Services for confidential evaluation and assistance.  That’s it, I guess – what I’ll say to her  – we’ll see.

And blog friend, Madyson, asked the million dollar question:  How do we get our son/daughter to care enough about themselves to change their life? I know that this is not necessarily our job, or within our “hula hoop”.  I now know that probably I can’t make my daughter care enough about herself to change her life.  But, what do we do in the mean time? Do we just have to leave it to chance and/or time that our addict will have an epiphany or seize an opportunity to get help?  I’m not sure Hayley will survive long enough to experience either of these two options.

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“My Baby Needs A Shepherd”

Posted on February 19, 2010. Filed under: Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

I’m posting this touching comment to my post, Beautiful Child, from a dear friend of mine, Donna.  It made me weep (in a good way) and reminds me of how lost my “little girl” is.

I’ve been thinking about posting this for awhile, Peggy. When I heard it again recently, I decided that I wanted to share it. I am a longtime fan of Emmylou Harris. This is a song she wrote and performed on her album “Red Dirt Girl”. I don’t know what she had in mind, but I think of my daughter every time I hear it. First, a quick disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that all of the lyrics apply to our situations or our daughters. In fact, I feel that some don’t apply at all, but they sure touch a nerve for me. Emmylou sings it beautifully and, if you haven’t heard it, you might want to listen on Pandora or Emmylou’s website. The song is rather long, but here are most of the lyrics to “My Baby Needs a Shepherd”.

My baby needs a shepherd

She’s lost out on the hill
Too late I tried to call her
When the night was cold and still
And I tell myself I’ll find her
But I know I never will
My baby needs a shepherd
She’s lost out on the hill

My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly
She’ll not reach sanctuary
Just by looking to the sky
I guess I could have carried her
But I didn’t even try
My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly

My baby needs a pilot
She has no magic wand
To help her part the troubled waters
Of the Rubicon
But in my soul I know she’ll
Have to go this one alone
After all that is the only way she’s ever known

But there is no lamp in all this dark
That could chase away her shadow
From the corners of my heart

I pray she rides a dolphin
But she’s swimming with the shark
Out where none can save her
Not even Noah and his ark

My baby needs a mother
To love her til the end
Up every rugged mountain
And down every road that bends
Sometimes I hear her crying
But I guess it’s just the wind
My baby needs a mother
To love her til the end

With thoughts of our babies.
Love, Donna

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Beautiful Child

Posted on February 6, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

David Sheff and his son, Nic, will be speaking in Seattle on March 4th at Town Hall.  I’ve got a ticket to attend this talk – and am excited to see David and Nic in person.  I have been a fan of David Sheff and his book, beautiful boy, since reading it last summer.

beautiful boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction, by David Sheff

David Sheff is a writer whose books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune and elsewhere.  His piece for the New York Times Magazine, “”My Addicted Son,” won many awards and led to the writing of this book.

This book is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional roller-coaster of loving a child who seems beyond help. It contains a lot of good information about meth addiction and brain chemistry, treatment programs, and the parent/addicted child relationship.  The personal story of David Sheff and his son, Nic, is touching and heartbreaking.  Nic has ultimately written a book of his own, Tweak.  I also heard that he has relapsed multiple times, even after the success of his book.  This, the sad reality of drug addiction’s powerful pull.  However,  Nic’s story is also one of hope, in that I’ve come to realize that relapse is actually a part of recovery, and does not have to be considered a failure in the addict’s journey towards long term sobriety.

Here are some excerpts from that book regarding addiction:

•”There’s evidence that people who become addicted, once they begin using, have a type of compulsion that cannot be easily stopped or controlled.  They cannot just stop on their own or they would.  No one wants to be an addict.  The drug takes a person over.  The drug, not a person’s rational mind, is in control”.  p. 150

•”with practice, addicts become flawlessly gifted liars, and this coincides with parents’ increasing susceptibility to their lies”.

•”A using addict cannot trust his own brain – it lies, it says, ‘You can have one drink, a joint, a single line, just one.’” p.261

•”Only Satan himself could have deigned a disease that has self-deception as a symptom, so that its victims deny they are afflicted, and will not seek treatment, and will vilify those on the outside who see what’s happening.” p.263

•” . . . thankful that of all the fatal disease my (son) might have gotten, he got one for which there is this little sliver of hope that if he surrenders, he’ll survive.”  Thomas Lynch  p.272

•” . . . in mortal combat with addiction, a parent wishes for a catastrophe to befall his (child).  I wish for a catastrophe, but one that is contained.  It must be harsh enough to bring him to his knees, to humble him, but mild enough so that he can, with heroic effort and the good that I know is inside him, recover, because anything short of that will not be enough for him to save himself.”  P.274

•(Nic):”I had to hit bottom when there was no one and nothing and I had lost everything and everyone.  That’s what it takes.  You have to be alone, broke, desolate, and desperate.” P.279

•” . . . recovery, like addiction itself, is a long and complex process. Families should never give up hope for recovery – for recovery can and does happen every day.  Nor should they stop living their own lives while they wait for that miracle of recovery to occur.”

Here are 8 pages of pearls from that book that spoke to me in some way.  They are categorized under:  Parents of Addicts, Addiction, Recovery, Treatment Programs/info.   There’s a good list of  addiction resources referenced in this book and detailed by David Sheff on his website.

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 “ice-olation”.  I haven’t seen or spoken to her since last August.  We’ve texted just twice since then.  And, even though a professional drug counselor advised me to cut off all contact with Hayley, so she could feel the full consequences of her choices, I’ve reached my saturation point.  I need to hear my daughter’s voice.  My “ex-druggie” contact, Eric, advised that I call her from a phone # she won’t recognize, and maybe she would answer. She seems to just have access to a certain cell phone # once in a while. If I speak to her, I’m merely going to tell her I love her and  . . . and, what?  That’s the big question.  I need a script to keep my boundaries in tact. I know I can’t slip in any kind of directive or ultimatum in to the conversation.  Essentially, I want to connect with Hayley, in a non-judgmental way, to remind her of us – her family – and that we are missing her and waiting for her to once again be part of our lives.  She needs to have a reason to even want to try to re-enter society, our lives, the real world.

I’m internally hounded by the fact that shame is a huge barrier that can keep addicts using and isolated in their own world.  So, I want to try to diffuse that impediment, as best I can.  I know that by calling Hayley,  I’m opening the door for communication that I may not even want. I’m trying to sort out what I want to do vs what I feel I should do.  It’s not all that simple.  Yes, I want to hear from my daughter periodically, that she’s alive.  No, I don’t want her in my life until she takes some steps, on her own, towards help and recovery.  Is that conditional love, or just taking care of myself and protecting myself from Hayley’s manipulation and “I’m gonna” talk?  In the end, however, Hayley will  always be my beautiful child.  And so, I will never give up.

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