Next Sunday, on Mother’s Day, I will fly to southern California to be with my 32 year old daughter, Hayley, and celebrate her one year clean and sober ‘birthday/anniversary’. I can hardly believe this milestone. It is truly a miracle. A year ago at this time, my daughter was very close to death, in my opinion. She was an active heroin addict, living a very abusive, risky, dangerous lifestyle in a crack house. Her likely life outcomes had boiled down to an untimely death by overdose, violence, infection or, going to jail.
I’ve always reveled in the first week of May with all its warmth, new growth, beauty and fragrance. EVERYTHING is in bloom – from forsythia to tulips to lilacs to all the thousands of fruit trees in our valley – apple, pear, apricot, peach, cherry, plum. (After all, we are the “Fruit Bowl of the Nation”.) However, when I think back to this time a year ago, I can still viscerally feel the fear, panic, desperation, and helplessness that filled my days as we counted down to our ‘rescue’ attempt, on Saturday, May 8th, and getting my daughter out of the crack house and in to treatment. We didn’t know if it work, or if it would be in time. And so, this time of year has now taken on a different kind of feeling and pallor. Despite the loveliness and allure of the season, it will also forever be a grim reminder of what could have been.
Here are a few excerpts from my blog posts during that week a year ago, leading up to Hayley’s ‘escape’ from the crack house and her desperate/dangerous life of addiction. Click on the post name to read the full post:
Over this past week, Hayley announced she was ready for treatment. She said she is tired of being ‘sick’ – as in ‘dope sick’, which translates to: “I can’t easily get my drugs any more and don’t want to go through withdrawal every day.”
Friday, Hayley called me and asked if I would take her to DSHS (state welfare office), to apply for food stamps and the state-funded drug treatment program. (I hadn’t seen or talked to her since her birthday, on April 6th. And, as you may recall, I hadn’t seen her, prior to that meeting, since last August.) I told her I would, fixed a peanut butter sandwich for her, and picked her up at the crack house. She looked terrible –thin and pale with over-sized men’s slippers on her swollen, abscessed feet, dirty clothes, and a hat pulled down over ½ her face. An overall gray pallor had washed over her – every part of her was faded. It was difficult to just look at her, let alone, be with her.
“I should be a phlebotemist”, she quipped, as we drove. “I’m really good at finding veins, especially on other people,” she proudly announced, and then showed me her red, throbbing foot where she had not had any luck that morning. And the irony here is, that professionally, I was well known for my phlebotomy skills. She added, “Yeah, I’ve often said that I wish my mom were here.” Some type of weird chortle/sound bubbled up and out of my throat.
(click here to read more)
May 6, 2010: Ready, Set, . . . Go!
My daughter says she is “ready” to go to treatment. And so, after a very intense and frenzied 10 days or so, we are “set”. Now, we just have to “go”.
Waiting for the “go” is the hard part. There’s way too much time from now until Saturday morning at 9:00 am when I’m scheduled to pick Hayley up at the crack house, drive 3 hours to the airport, and send her off. Will she truly be ready?
We have definitely reached a major milestone. A couple of weeks ago, after virtually no contact with Hayley for ~ eight months, I decided that she might never get herself to treatment, and needed a “hand up”. If the heroin and other drugs didn’t kill her, the dangerous lifestyle would. She has never been to a drug treatment program, and I felt she deserved a chance – – – to change her life, to get clean and sober. I know how her brain works – and understand her anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. Since seeing her on her birthday, April 6th, she has been saying to friends and some family members that she wants to go to treatment. In reality, I suspected that her shift in attitude was due to her drug supply being seriously interrupted. After the crack house was raided a couple of months ago, she no longer had easy access to her drugs. Whatever . . . in order to be able to live with myself and know that I had done everything possible to help my daughter, I decided to take this “ball” of opportunity, and run with it. (click here to read more)
May 8th finally arrived – and after weeks of planning, and with much drama and harrowing, unpredictable events leading up to our actual departure, Hayley did get on the plane to California, with her brother as chaperone, to detox and treatment. This next post could have been named, “Mission Accomplished“. There were so many factors outside of our control that could have derailed the intricate rescue plan . In fact, many things did go wrong – but many went right. Moments before getting in to the car to drive to the airport three hours away, Hayley was “arrested” by a bail bondsman’s scary-looking ‘strong man’ and marched across the street to jail. I considered all sorts of desperate measures in those few panicked minutes – – – you can read all about it in the full post. Here’s an excerpt:
May 10, 2010: AND . . . She’s Off And Running
The “rescue”/departure plan was intricate and tightly scheduled. We needed to be on the road by 9:00 am Saturday morning in order to connect with her brothers, Brian and Jake, and then make the plane flight at 2:30 pm. I was a nervous wreck. So much could go wrong.
There was just a bit too much time between Thursday and Saturday, in my opinion, to be able to successfully pull this mission off – too much time for Hayley to change her mind, to OD, to have the plan sabotaged in some way by her drug addict ‘family’. On Friday afternoon, I tried to call Hayley to just check in, and got a message from Paula’s phone that it could no longer receive messages. I went ballistic – – – my mind catapulted to the worst-case scenario in a millisecond.
Finally, after many phone calls, Paula did pick up – and handed her phone over to Hayley. “I’m fine, Mom”, Hayley chirped. I burst in to tears. “When I couldn’t reach you, Hayley, I thought the worst. I’ll pick you up at 8:45 am. Be ready. And if you need or want me to pick you up anytime earlier, just call.”
Friday afternoon and evening flew by, with all my packing and organizing for Hayley. There were lots of details – and, I was in my highest level of obsessive-compulsive mode. It was getting closer – – – a chance for Hayley.
I went to bed and was amazed to actually fall asleep. And then, at 5:30 am on Saturday morning, the phone rang. I bolted upright in a daze, my heart pounding out of my chest. “Can you come get me”, Hayley sobbed. I didn’t know what was wrong – or what I’d find when I arrived, but I quickly dressed and flew out the door. (read the rest of the scary details here)
For about an hour on Saturday, I was with my three children – all of us together at the same time, on the same team, to get Hayley help and out of the risky lifestyle she had been living in for over a year. It was a miracle – – – and the best Mother’s Day present imaginable. However, now comes the waiting. Will she stick it out? Can she schmooze her way through a team of professionals like she did in 2002 at the eating disorder treatment center? Who and what has she become? Can you “undo” ways of thinking and behaving?
P.S. I drove back home from delivering Hayley to my sons, yesterday, and this morning got back in my car and drove two hours to spend Mother’s Day with my 92 yo mother. At around 1:00 pm at brunch, my phone rang. It was the detox center, and my heart sank. “Hi – – – this is Megan at First House Detox”, she said. “Normally, phone calls aren’t allowed, but I have your daughter here and she wants to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.” I was thrilled to hear Hayley’s voice. She sounded good. Her message to me was sweet and sincere. She seemed pleased that she had slept so long that now, it was time for her first suboxone dose. Hmmmmmm. That phone call was testimony to Hayley’s incredible persuasion skills. I just hope that the treatment center staff is up to dealing with them.
Now, here I am, getting myself ready to visit Hayley and her new life in southern California. Almost a year ago, she spent 12 days in medical detox, 120 days in a small, all-women’s long term treatment center, has totally embraced and is working a 12 step recovery program, lived in a sober living house for 5 months, bought a used car, moved to an apartment with two other young women in recovery, and is working full time at the treatment center from which she ‘graduated’. Now she picks up clients at the airport and supervises/counsels addicts in recovery. Hayley has become a trusted staff member at the treatment center. Still, it’s “one day at a time”.
On Sunday evening, May 8th, Hayley, with a few good friends and myself, will participate in the “Watch”, a ritualized party, of sorts, held during the last couple of hours leading up to the recovering addict’s one year ‘birthday’. We will gather to celebrate and support Hayley’s sobriety as the clock ticks toward midnight and May 9th – her actual anniversary date. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day.
On Mother’s Day, one year ago, my daughter began her journey to recovery. It was the first day in probably 15 years that she didn’t chew, swallow, inhale, snort, drink, smoke, or inject a chemical substance that altered her consciousness in some way. What a gift – not only to ME, but to herself, as well.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ME . . . AND TO ALL OF YOU MOMS OUT THERE!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 11 so far )
My daughter has been in recovery from heroin addiction for ten months now. Within the last two months, she has acquired her driver’s license, bought a car, begun working full time, and moved out of her sober living house and into an apartment with two other women in recovery. Did I mention that she has a ‘boyfriend’ that’s ten years younger? (Does that make her a ‘cougar’?) “Rob” is in recovery, himself, and is a personal trainer at her gym. He seems crazy about her – and she feels the same way about him. They both quit smoking, together, over a month ago.
When I spoke with Hayley a few days ago, she mentioned that she’s been having ‘using’ dreams. She assured me that this is ‘normal’ for someone in recovery, approaching his/her’s one-year sobriety ‘birthday’. Yet, these dreams are disturbing – both to her, and to me. I could tell that in her voice – and in her next breath, that she was working very hard at trying to reassure me – and, most likely herself, that these were typical of the dreams recovering addicts have.
Yet, I’m skeptical of anything my daughter calls normal. It’s all relative, isn’t it? It hasn’t been that long since she explained to me how ‘normal’ it was for heroin addicts to get abscesses. And now, I’m wondering if dreaming about shooting up is a preliminary step towards her actually using again – and, of course, the BIG ‘R’ – relapse.
Please don’t tell me that ‘relapse is a part of recovery’. I’ve heard that adage many times, especially at Al-Anon/AA meetings. When an alcoholic relapses, the consequences don’t seem quite as dire as when a heroin addict relapses. The immediate addictive nature of heroin, illicit activity and connections to acquire the drug, paraphernalia required, exposure to chronic, life-threatening disease with just one needle poke, and threat of arrest, all accumulate into making heroin relapse a very different beast from alcohol relapse, in my opinion, although the end result can be just as devastating. Yeah – I know – here I go again, escalating from a dream to the nightmare of reality. It’s my “M-O”
Why did Hayley feel it was necessary to tell me about her dreams? Was she just being transparent, and honestly answering my question of “How are you”? Was she needing reassurance and support, or something more? Is she not really working her program? Should she be talking to her sponsor about such dreams? How serious is this?
I’ve been wondering, lately, if I’m suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). I can easily travel from 0 to 60 within milliseconds, ramping up my anxiety, fear, and sense of doom when I encounter certain ‘triggers’. I still get a cold chill down my spine when I hear a siren’s wail. When I open up our local newspaper, I still expect to see my daughter’s mug shot there, in the Crime Stoppers box that posts names and photos of individuals wanted for arrest. When I drive past certain streets, parking lots, houses, hotels/motels, restaurants, I look carefully, half expecting to get a glimpse of Hayley or one of her drug dealers. I have flashes of very disturbing images of my daughter injecting herself and the depraved, sordid living conditions of the crack houses where she lived for a year and a half. I can see her abscesses and track marks on her arms, legs, feet, and breasts, and scenes of her physical and sexual abuse – all throbbing in my head – and get almost sick to my stomach. Will I ever be free of these disturbing images?
Although support groups, like Al-Anon, help family members of alcoholics and drug addicts recover from the effects of the disease, it’s really not enough for me. I feel emotionally scarred. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at my daughter again, the way I did prior to her life in the drug world.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. People with PTSD often internalize the event and re-experience the trauma again and again in at least one of several ways. They may have frightening dreams and memories of the event, feel as though they are going through the experience again (flashbacks), or become upset during anniversaries of the event. In effect, they are not only traumatized during the “activating” event, but every time something triggers a memory of the event. A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm and is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or to the stability of one’s world.
Here’s a quick definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from Wikipedia:
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress response. Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
And, a more comprehensive review of the disorder and a more credible resource, can be found at the government’s National Institute of Health (NIH) website.
The irony of PTSD, as I’m applying it to an addict in recovery – and to family members who suffer from the effects of the addiction, is that alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and drug abuse, are all side-effects, symptoms, and complications from the disorder. Yes – a drug addict in recovery can suffer from PTSD and be triggered to use drugs again! The proverbial dog chasing its tail.
Here are the typical symptoms, treatment, and complications of PTSD, from the NIH:
Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:
1. Repeated “reliving” of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity
- Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again
- Recurrent distressing memories of the event
- Repeated dreams of the event
- Physical reactions to situations that remind you of the traumatic event
- Emotional “numbing,” or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
- Feelings of detachment
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Less expression of moods
- Staying away from places, people, or objects that remind you of the event
- Sense of having no future
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated response to things that startle you
- Excess awareness (hypervigilance)
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Sleeping difficulties
You also might feel a sense of guilt about the event (including “survivor guilt”), and the following symptoms, which are typical of anxiety, stress, and tension:
- Agitation, or excitability
- Feeling your heart beat in your chest (palpitations)
Signs and Tests:
There are no tests that can be done to diagnose PTSD. The diagnosis is made based on a certain set of symptoms that continue after you’ve had extreme trauma. Your doctor will do psychiatric and physical exams to rule out other illnesses.
Treatment aims to reduce symptoms by encouraging you to recall the event, express your feelings, and gain some sense of control over the experience. In some cases, expressing grief helps to complete the necessary mourning process. Support groups, where people who have had similar experiences can share their feelings, are helpful.
People with PTSD may need to treat depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or related medical conditions before addressing symptoms of PTSD. Behavioral therapy is used to treat avoidance symptoms. This can include being exposed to the object that triggers your symptoms until you become used to it and no longer avoid it (called graded exposure and flooding).
Medicines that act on the nervous system can help reduce anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), can be effective in treating PTSD.
A number of other medicines used for mental health disorders may be prescribed. A doctor should monitor you if you take these drugs, because they can have side effects. Sedatives can help with sleep disturbance. Anti-anxiety medicines may be useful, but some types, such as benzodiazepines, can be addictive.
You can find more information about post-traumatic stress disorder and coping with a national tragedy from the American Psychiatric Association — www.psych.org.
The best outcome, or prognosis, depends on how soon the symptoms develop after the trauma, and on how quickly you get diagnosed and treated.
- Alcohol abuse
- Depression, anxiety, and fear of things that are not usually frightening to other people (phobia), may be part of this disorder
- Drug abuse
The most well known cases of PTSD are seen in war veterans. However, PTSD is not only caused by war. Any significant traumatic event or a series of traumas over time can lead to symptoms of PTSD. Some common causes are:
- Child or domestic abuse
- Living in a war zone or extremely dangerous neighborhood
- Sexual Assault
- Violent Attack
- Sudden death of a loved one
- Witnessing a violent death such as a homicide
When I Googled “PTSD in Drug Addiction”, it directed me to this website and a treatment option offered at some drug addiction treatment centers: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). (NOTE: This site was informative, but I think it is sponsored by the Promises treatment centers that offer EMDR – just be aware that this is NOT an unbiased, clinically researched site.) I seem to remember that EMDR was listed as a treatment option at Hayley’s treatment center, Safe Harbor, but she never received it. However, I think that NOW, with Hayley well in to recovery, perhaps she could benefit from such specific treatment for PTSD. Dunno. I’m going to do more research.
Yes, I worry about Hayley suffering from PTSD and it becoming a trigger for relapse. And, I wonder if I, too, am experiencing a version of PTSD and need to find a way to re-process and cope with the trauma of my beautiful daughter becoming a heroin addict. Yeah – I know I do.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 13 so far )
Addicted: Programs # 5 & 6; Wednesday @ 10:00 pm on TLC
I’m going to try to keep this brief. Instead of a blow-by-blow summary of these programs, I’m just going to list some common themes and pertinent pearls.
In all six of the programs I’ve watched, the physical transformation of the addict/alcoholic after being clean and sober for just 30 days, was remarkable, and gives me hope. The recovering addicts’ change in attitude, willingness to embrace their sobriety and work a program, were also impressive. How long this “honeymoon” period lasts in reality, I don’t know. However, addict Mark, in Night Navigation talks about the 3 – 6 month “fuckits” – when the thrill and euphoria of sobriety wear off and the real work begins. Recovering addicts are particularly vulnerable during this time. Follow-up programs at the 6 to 12 month recovery stage would be interesting and insightful – and, perhaps, give us a more realistic picture of an addict’s difficult struggle and how to better support their recovery.
Interventionist, Kristina Wandzilak’s involvement with the addict through out the treatment process is a crucial component, I think, to the intervention and treatment program’s success. She coaches the addict, takes him/her on motivational “field trips” , and is a fairly neutral (non-family member) mediator when problems arise. Perhaps this is what’s necessary to sustain long term recovery?
Almost all of the addicts’ parents and family members seemed intimidated by “their” addict – somewhat ‘afraid’ of them. They were also experienced enablers. (aren’t we all?) Jeremy’s mother articulated my own feelings: “I feel like such a failure”. She added, “ . . . every time I say yes to him it’s helping him die slowly . . . “ Jeremy’s mother’s intense need to be liked by her son, interfered with her ability to effectively parent.
“Jeremy”, in program # 5, smoked oxycontin, which I had never seen before. And the fact that Kristina had worked with Jeremy two years ago, was interesting. I would have liked to learn more about that first intervention process and how/why it failed.
In program # 6, Annie and Michael were “speedballing” heroin and cocaine. Watching Michael desperately try to find a usable vein on Annie, was difficult to watch. Annie was bruised from head to toe with injection-site infections and cellulitis. Ultimately, Annie has to use veins in her neck in order to get a fix. Mike’s arms were also totally ravaged, infected, swollen. In fact, he could barely bend one of his arms, or use it in a very functional way. The absolute desperation of the addict – in trying to score some junk, pay for it, find a vein in which to inject it – – – all of it was exhausting and full of unbearable suspense. Annie’s intense craving and battered body reinforced the mental images I have of my own daughter. The unbelievably difficult lifestyle of a heroin addict was dramatically portrayed. Annie said she hated the lifestyle, but was afraid to leave it. It recalled something I said to Hayley when I met with her on her birthday, April 6th. I told her that if she could be a heroin addict and all that that lifestyle entailed, she could do or be anything. Ironic, isn’t it?
The agitation, physical pain, and power of heroin withdrawal in Program # 6, were raw and unpleasant to watch, but gave me a better idea of how difficult “kicking it” can be.
One of the things that bothered me, however, was Mike’s statement about speedballing: “ . . . it’s ruined my life.” This statement seemed to shift the blame and accountability from himself and the choices he made to the drug itself. He sounded like a victim: “We don’t have any money to keep us well. We’re screwed.” “WAAAHHH”, I wanted to scream.
Kristina’s words to the family were : it’s possible to be happy, joyful, free, regardless of what the addict is doing.
And to the addicts she re-iterates: “You have to do the work in order to change”. And, “Take a step at a time. You’re not going to get it all at once.”
And to all of us, she says: “With addiction, it doesn’t really matter how much someone loves you.”
I still wonder how, during a 28 day treatment program, are addicts even capable of reflecting, or doing the necessary personal work to change and sustain sobriety? Aren’t the first 30 days or so essentially just getting the toxins out so the addict can think more clearly?
I truly can’t imagine Hayley getting herself out of the powerful addiction cycle without help, ie: an intervention. I feel as if I’m merely waiting around until some catastrophic event occurs. And this is my haunting dilemma. How much time do we have? I’m not sure I can rest until we’ve tried an intervention to give my daughter a chance to get clean and clear her head. And then, if that doesn’t work, I can feel better about stepping back and letting Hayley find her own way – to recovery – – – – or, whatever.
I did check out Kristina Wandzilak’s blog, The Kristina Chronicles, and think it’s worth visiting. Her post on Wednesday, April 21st, Take A Seat, was pretty good.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
First of all, I want to thank all of you for your sweet words of support, empathy, and encouragement. Each of your comments was helpful and carefully considered. Even though many responses were coming from completely opposite perspectives, they all made sense and were comforting. They gave me the strength to do what I wanted and needed to do. I am eternally grateful for your loyalty and concern.
Today, on Hayley’s 31st birthday, we were supposed to meet at 4:00 pm, across the street from the crack house where she is living. I was very nervous. I hadn’t seen her since last August, and I was afraid to see what she looked like after using heroin for nine months. And in addition to these inherent fears, a good family friend, Lilly, called me last night to report that an acquaintance of hers, Dan, had some news of Hayley. Dan lived across the street from the crack house and had recognized Hayley there and her comings and goings. He called our mutual friend, Lilly, to ask if I knew that Hayley was living at the crack house – and to report that Hayley had been over to his house a few times. The most recent visit she made was just a couple of days ago. She did not look good – was dope sick, and had asked Dan if he had any money or drugs he could give her. When he said no, she asked to borrow his phone to call her drug dealer. I was confused by this information – I thought Hayley’s drug dealer, Bill, lived with her at the crack house. As you may recall, Bill and 2 of the other crack house residents, were arrested in a drug bust/house raid by federal agents, about 3 weeks ago. “I hate calling you, dear friend”, said Lilly. But I wanted you to know. Hayley is not in very good shape – and doesn’t look good.” This “Hayley-sighting” sounded so pitiful and desperate, I was shaken, yet grateful for the “heads up”.
So – this was the information I carried around with me all day, fueling my fears and anxieties as I tried to prepare myself to see my daughter. Seeing Hayley was going to be as bad, or even worse, than I had imagined.
I was determined today, however, to focus on who my daughter truly is, deep inside – the beautiful, talented, intelligent young woman she was and hopefully still is, not the heroin addict.
I had put together a bag of birthday gifts for Hayley: new underwear, some glacier blue sweat pants and hoody, t-shirt and turquoise fleece (Costco), toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, tampons, 2 CDs of songs that I had selected and burned for her (SongsForMyDaughter), new mascara, lip gloss, blush, lotion, etc. I also bought some groceries – 2 bags of fresh fruits and her favorite foods.
And then, all day, the lurking question of: “Do I give Hayley her money that she had asked for?” There were good arguments on both sides of this question. My therapist, and a majority of blog viewers advised that I not give her the cash. (see the previous posts’ comments) Again, I so appreciated all your input. Recovering addicts’ words and opinions were especially helpful. I ultimately forged a compromise and decided to give Hayley ½ of her money: $130, and will use the other ½ to pay on her most recent ER bill. I fully acknowledge the fact that this money, Hayley’s money, would buy me some time with her. Most likely just another 5 minutes or so – but worth it to me. And, I didn’t want to get in to a reactive exchange with her regarding the perception of my trying to control her access to her money.
The tension-filled countdown to my daughter’s and my meeting began around 1:00 pm. I was so ambivalent about seeing her. I desperately wanted to, but was also deathly afraid to. I had a busy schedule today, and didn’t arrive back home until around 2:00 pm. I got the birthday gifts and food bags together, the birthday card written with carefully chosen, yet heartfelt words, printed out my last blog post for her about who she was, and hopefully still is deep inside, and loaded everything in to the car.
And then, at 3:30 pm, the phone call came. Not a text, but my daughter’s actual voice on the other end. It was from a phone # I didn’t recognize. “Hi, Mom. Can we meet a little later?” This is her usual pattern and something I’ve come to anticipate. I was certain that this would escalate in to more meeting time delays and eventual cancellation of our get-together. “Sure,” I said. “Just call me when you’re ready”. I intentionally tried to sound nonchalant versus annoyed. The next phone call, from the crack house, was at ~4:30 pm: “How about 5:00 pm?”, she said. And, “Mom – can you do me a big favor and bring cigarettes?”
For an instant, I hardened and felt manipulated – and used. However, I dug way down and tried to focus exclusively on my goal – to see my daughter and make some kind of meaningful connection with her. And so, I got into the car, and headed to the grocery store to buy cigarettes.
This is getting long – I’m sorry. But the upshot of it all is – that I picked up my daughter at the crack house and we went to a nearby park to talk. It was if we had never been apart – in time, and space, and worlds. We talked, and laughed, and cried. My carefully thought out script evaporated, and I was able to ask her important questions and tell her things I wanted her to know. I couldn’t believe how effortless, genuine, and intimate it was. Hayley willingly offered information and details of her life that were both revealing and touching. She made fun of herself and her absurd life, world, and circumstances. She told me that she was still receiving unemployment checks – and they would continue for another nine months – and that this money was used for group living expenses and, of course, her drugs. She said that five people lived in the crack house, including herself, and they were, essentially, like a family. They all shared what they received/had, and checked on one another. No one was allowed to stay in bed all day – that no matter how you felt, you had to get up and do your chores and contribute in some way to the “well-being” of the group. Hayley even wryly added that she had learned some things – like, you make yourself get up and do what you need to do. This news was surreal-ly hopeful to me. I told Hayley about my blog and one of my posts about how hard it must be to be a heroin addict – and that if you can successfully navigate in the drug world and be a heroin addict, live the lifestyle and stay alive, you’re capable of doing anything. We laughed and cried at that revelation.
I was taken aback by Hayley’s appearance. She was very thin and her hair was dark brown. She’s always been “blondish” before – due to regular highlighting sessions. I told her that she looked old. “Really”?, she said. “I’m not surprised”, she added. She looked at least 40 years old. She was pale, and her face very angular. Her teeth were yellow, but at least none had been knocked out like I had imagined. And, I noticed some gray hairs in her head. When I mentioned that, she was shocked. Her hands were reflective of her lifestyle: dirty fingernails, torn, bleeding cuticles. And when I hugged her, her shoulder blades felt so sharp – with hardly any flesh or fat on them.
I felt better about giving Hayley her money after learning that she was still receiving unemployment. I dunno – – – this news about her unemployment money meant, to me, that maybe she hadn’t had to prostitute herself to buy drugs. And even though I’m embarrassed and ashamed by the fact that my daughter is a parasite on society and using our tax dollars to feed her drug habit, I’m also relieved. She’s getting government money to live on and buy her drugs which means that possibly, she hasn’t had to totally compromise her core moral/ethical values as a person. Odd dichotomy, isn’t it? I let myself believe that the $130 I gave her would be used for food and “rent”.
Hayley smoked a cigarette that she “desperately” needed while we were together. I made an analogy between breastfeeding an infant and using heroin – – – that both require careful planning and scheduling. She agreed, and we both laughed. During our visit, the absurdity of her life just seemed to strike both of our funny bones. Was this a manifestation of stress? I don’t think so. For me, it was acceptance, reality, and intimacy with my daughter. When Hayley plowed through her gift bag and discovered the make-up, she immediately applied mascara, eye shadow, and blush, casually commenting that she didn’t spend too much time on her appearance these days. This seemed so crazy and funny to me, I just burst out in to giggling, infectious laughter. Both of us did.
I had been in contact with my youngest son, Brian, all day. (see Cast of Characters tab) He is such comfort and support to me – and is the embodiment of love and light. He tried to send me a text with a video of his birthday wishes and greetings to Hayley, but it didn’t come through on my cell phone. So, while Hayley and I were together today, I called Brian, and he was able to directly speak to her. It was a beautiful, touching few minutes of exchange between baby brother and big sister.
A few miscellaneous tidbits:
•Hayley said that when the federal agents/SWAT team surrounded and raided the crack house a couple of weeks ago, they were not very thorough in their search. They didn’t find any drugs – just 2 scales, that are considered “drug paraphernalia”.
•Bill, the crack house owner and head honcho, was bailed out of jail by his parents. He faces some charges, not sure what.
•Hayley said she was ‘gonna’ apply for food stamps and the Dept of Social and Health Services (DSHS) DATSA program, which could ultimately pay for drug rehab. She’s been reluctant to register with DSHS, the state welfare system, for fear of being arrested (there’s a warrant out for her arrest for violating probation). The fact that she was even thinking about going to DSHS was encouraging to me.
I don’t know if the stars and planets were in alignment today – – – or if god, jesus, buddha, mohammed all converged to hold my hand. Whatever it was, I am grateful for the opportunity to see my darling baby girl on her birthday. My meeting with Hayley today, broke the ice of our 7 month separation. I was able to tell her how much I loved her and connect with her in a meaningful way. I know that she is OK – – – and most importantly, I saw real evidence of the Hayley I once knew.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 30 so far )
I received this text from my daughter at 1:00 am on Easter Sunday morning, from an unfamiliar phone #:
Hey mom, it’s Hayley. Hope u are ok. Was hoping to get my **** stock money. Could really use for food, bills and bday. U still have? Please let me know. Love u. H
Hmmm – and there you have it – it all eventually boils down to money, doesn’t it? My desperate heroin addict daughter makes contact after not hearing from her for weeks, to ask for money. Granted, it is legally her money. However, I now have Power of Attorney (POA) for her, and feel entitled to apply my discretion in her financial affairs.
I’m grateful she’s alive. I learned a few days ago that she was in the ER on March 5th. I received a bill from the hospital addressed to her, at my home address. She owes $350 to one of our two community hospitals for this most recent ER visit (her last ER visit in July was to the other hospital). From a quick assessment of the hospital statement, I’m assuming she went to the ER for injection site abscesses. I can’t help but think about how long she must have waited and how bad it must have been, before she finally got herself to the ER. Her father was a very successful radiologist and practicing physician in this small city for almost 35 years. Her surname is unique enough, that any ER doc/staff would recognize the name and know who she is. I shudder at what it must have taken for Hayley to overcome the name recognition, shame and humiliation to finally go to the ER.
My newly acquired consciousness regarding the inhumane treatment of drug addicts in hospital and emergency room settings, is heightened. I refer you to this post, Puss-y Stuff for details and a new perspective on compassion for and more humane treatment of drug addicts.
I was raised in a very religious family, went to church every Sunday, and sang in the youth choir for the first 17 years of my life. I eventually married a Jewish man and ultimately acquired a more diverse world view and perspective on “god” and different spirituality practices. For this, I am eternally grateful.
Today, I attended the First Presbyterian Church Easter service with my 92 year old mother, my brother and sister-in-law. And even though I couldn’t bring myself to take Communion and pledge myself to Jesus Christ as my “Saviour”, I sang all the familiar hymns and doxologies with sincerity and gratitude.
Here are some phrases and song lyrics that resonated: From this day forward . . . and, . . . all that I’ve done before won’t matter anymore . . .
At this service, I filled out a prayer card to ask for my daughter’s desire . . . and courage and strength, to change her life.
And in that spirit of hope on this Easter Day – and with my daughter’s 31st birthday approaching, I’ve found peace in the decision to make an extraordinary effort to meet with her on Tuesday, her birthday. I will deliver a bag of small, modest gifts: 2 packages of new underpants, tampons and panty liners, an aqua hooded sweatshirt and pants and fleece (from Costco), fresh fruits and veggies – – – – and, $130 in cash – which is ½ of her annual stock dividends. I know this money will be going directly up her veins. That’s ok. The other ½ of the stock dividend money I will be delivering to our community hospital as partial payment of her most recent ER bill. And, I will ask to speak to a social worker and have Hayley’s chart flagged, in hope that the next time Hayley visits the ER, a social worker will be called to speak to her and offer her some options for treatment and recovery.
My message to Hayley on her birthday will be one of love – – – and to offer the possibility of “Harm Reduction” versus detox and a “cold turkey” rehab treatment center. Thanks to Tom at RecoveryHelpDesk, my perspective on realistic approaches to moving opiate addicts away from their risk of acquiring Hepatitis C, HIV, a variety of infections, pregnancy, physical/sexual abuse, and criminal acts, takes precedence over getting them in to some 12 step program that won’t allow diversion alternatives such as suboxone and methadone. I’m hoping that Hayley will consider this option, and feel she could maybe take this step. Personally, I feel that Hayley wants to stop the addiction cycle, but doesn’t want to or cannot do the work required to completely abstain from all substances. Perhaps she needs a transition – a phased move in to recovery. Wouldn’t suboxone be better than using heroin?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 20 so far )
Below 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.
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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 15 so far )
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