And the seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came,
And go round and round and round in the circle game.
This Joanie Mitchell song, “The Circle Game” is a favorite of mine. I’ve listened to it since the early 70s. My daughter, Hayley, sang it for talent shows and various stage performances throughout high school. I wrote a poem about her beautiful, lilting voice and its eventual deafening silence called “Laryngitis”. You see – – – she lost her voice to drug addiction.
I live in a rich agricultural valley known as the “fruit bowl of the nation”. On both sides of my road are apple, pear, peach, and cherry orchards. From spring through fall, something is always in bloom, pollinating, growing, ripening, and/or being picked. Even winter’s hush and muffled silence are noticeable, as the bare trees rest and replenish themselves before warmer days invite them to begin again. The seasons come and go and shape my days. The cycle of life, so relentless and visible around me, continues on – with or without me.
I walk or run with my dog past this rich tapestry of change every day. It never fails to amaze and humble me – and today was no different. I was awestruck at how much the young green apples had grown and changed in color in just 24 hours. And, it occurred to me that this is the third crop of apples since my daughter became a heroin addict.
I quickly flashed back to August 2009, two years ago at this very time – on this same walk and route. Then, I was numb with the recent news that my beautiful, talented, well-educated thirty-year old daughter was injecting heroin in to her veins and living in a crack house. How was this possible? I felt desperate, and nauseous, and guilty. Why hadn’t I seen this coming? What could I have done to prevent such a horrific existence? What should I do? How could I rescue her? She was trapped, right – there against her will? She didn’t want to be a drug addict, did she? I could hardly feel my legs moving.
I started this blog in September of 2009, “helplessly hoping” to connect with other parents of heroin addicts. I needed some place/way to vent my deepest fears and anguish, share information, and get some emotional support – some experience, strength, and hope, in order to function – maybe even to survive this nightmare of my child’s addiction.
Those early posts are so raw and frightening, I have trouble reading them now.
Last year at this time, as I passed those very same apple trees, I felt a little lighter. I wasn’t holding myself so tightly. My breath came a little easier. The sky seemed bluer and the orchard scents slightly sweeter. My daughter was in recovery and had been drug free for a little over two months. The events leading up to May 9th, 2010 had been harrowing and had taken a huge toll on my family, my body, and my psyche. And yet, a year ago August, I allowed myself to feel a tiny shred of hope. I knew it was too soon to skip, and jump, and relax. But there was something to hang on to.
And now, just this morning, I ran past those very same trees. The apples look the same as in years past, but are different, of course. They aren’t the same apples as last year, or the year before. They will never be the same, and never will I. I have seen, and felt, and imagined things I never thought possible in the last two+ years.
Hayley was just home for 4 ½ days. She’s been clean and sober now for 15 months. We spent a long weekend at our summer lake cabin – a nostalgic gathering place for four generations of family members. My 94 year old mother was with us, as well as Hayley’s brother, Jake, and his family. Hayley hadn’t been there for many years. She was relaxed and engaged – and after three days, decided she needed a meeting. And on Sunday morning, she took herself to the closest AA meeting she could find. “You know how when you need a meeting”, she said, after returning home, “and you go and hear exactly what you needed to hear?” Well, yes, I do know about that. That has also been my experience with Al-Anon meetings.
I still hold my breath. I’ll never fully relax and feel confident about Hayley’s sobriety. But running past those orchards today, I felt some acceptance – and a healthier detachment from my daughter’s addiction and recovery.
And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round.
If you are a parent of a heroin addict, feeling helpless and hopeless, visit some of my earlier posts, particularly those leading up to my daughter walking away from the crack house and her desperate, dangerous drug addict lifestyle. As long as your ‘child’ is alive, there is hope:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
This morning I feel like I have a horrible hangover – only it’s not due to drinking too much alcohol last night, but from an intense few days of catastrophic anxiety and “mind-tripping”. I made myself crazy – almost sick, when I couldn’t get a hold of my daughter for 3 days. Her cell phone voice mailbox was full, and after a while, I started imagining all the worst-case scenarios – from lying in a gutter with a needle in her arm to ‘merely’ losing her phone – which was, in my mind, not so benign, but the first tell-tale sign that she was likely on the road to relapse.
It started a few days ago, when I received a phone call from my financial adviser at a local brokerage firm where my daughter, Hayley, had recently opened an account. She sold some stock that had been given to her almost 25 years ago, in order to buy a car. There were a few thousand dollars left over in stock that “Mike” is now managing. He’s been trying to reach Hayley for a week or so to follow-up with some important paperwork. Mike wondered if there was another phone number he could use to reach her, since her voice mailbox was full and couldn’t receive any more messages.
Almost ten days ago when I finally got through to Hayley after receiving the same automated message, she had promised me that she would clear out her message box. I HATE it when I call Hayley, and if she doesn’t pick up, I can’t even leave a message. It not only aggravates the hell out of me – it also sends me in to a ‘catastrophic’ orbit. When she was using drugs, it was the norm – and due to, I thought, her chaotic lifestyle. But now, after being in recovery for eleven months, I don’t understand why she doesn’t tend to this detail of life. Why would anyone let so many phone messages back up until the phone can’t handle any more? What if there was a family emergency and I needed to reach her? What if a potential employer was returning a phone call? What if, what if, what if . . . ?
I texted Hayley, sent her emails and messages on Facebook – and even sent a Facebook message to her boyfriend, asking if she was ok. It took Hayley almost three days to call me and say, “Mom – relax – I’m fine”. I was definitely relieved to hear from her – but also had to work hard at keeping my rage in check. When I asked her why it had taken so long to get back to me, she gave some feeble excuse about “not feeling like it”, or being too busy, etc. And then I quietly asked, “Do you think you were being just a little mean in not letting me know you were ok?” She did acknowledge, rather begrudgingly, that she was being insensitive and yes, a little mean, in not responding sooner.
When we hung up, I was mad at myself for being so distraught the last few days and letting my anxiety spiral out of control. And, I was mad at Hayley, for being so irresponsible and insensitive, given her history. But this incident also triggered a huge reality check for me. It forced me to acknowledge several things:
•that getting sober didn’t necessarily change some of my daughter’s innate personality quirks, priorities, and personal style
•that I have no control over my daughter and what she does or doesn’t do
•that my ideas about how to live/organize one’s life, are not universal truths
•that I have a long ways to go in my own recovery process
I’m working on Step One of AA’s 12 steps with my Al-Anon sponsor: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or any addiction) – that our lives had become unmanageable.
My life becomes unmanageable when I get obsessed with worry over things I can’t control – namely, my daughter’s addiction, recovery, and personal style, to name a few. I shake my head in amazement when Hayley makes choices that seem to make her life harder – unnecessarily, in my opinion. My Al-Anon sponsor made me write down 5 times: Hayley’s life is none of my business. She pointed out that I want other people to change to make my own life more comfortable. And then she asked, “Where is Peggy”? Who am I and what do I care about when I’m not obsessed with my daughter’s life? That is what needs to be my focus, is authentically/legitimately my business, and will be my ongoing personal work and journey.
I read somewhere that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. We need to learn to accept that pain as a part of life – then move on. Al-Anon helps me to accept what is. I don’t have to like the reality, only accept it for what it is. When I accept everything as it is, I tend to be reasonably serene. When I spend my time wishing things were different, I know that serenity has lost its priority. While I’m responsible for changing what I can, I have to let go of the rest if I want peace of mind. (Courage To Change)
Part of the acceptance process is grieving and loss – the loss of what I wanted for my daughter and expected of her: becoming an independent, productive adult; trust; a reciprocal and satisfying relationship; help and support when I need it; the last ten years of life together. Acknowledging that my dreams of what my daughter’s life would be were not, or ever would be, the reality; and allowing myself to actually feel that loss, brings freedom, I’m told – freedom from fear and resulting in the simple joy of living fully in the present moment. I can intellectually believe this is what I need to do – but living it is another thing. It will be a constant challenge for me. Al-Anon’s slogan of “Progress, not perfection”, keeps me going, One Day At A Time.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 11 so far )
I apologize for having been gone so long. I’ve had other personal/writing projects in the works, as well as tending to my 93 year old mother’s increasing needs and care. And with Hayley now in recovery, there isn’t as much high drama to report on and vent about. The reality is, however, I need to focus on my own recovery from my daughter’s addiction, more than ever. And, I struggle with that process. More on that, later.
Hayley has now been clean and sober for nine months. During that time, she was in medical detox for 12 days, then completed a 120 day residential drug treatment program, then moved to a sober living house for 5 months, recently acquired a California driver’s license, bought a car, started working at the treatment center from which she ‘graduated’, and just moved in to an apartment with two other women in recovery. So far, so good. It’s a lot. These milestones in her recovery are all very encouraging, and I’m so proud of her hard work and commitment to sobriety. It’s almost difficult to comprehend – and fully embrace. I’m very aware of the enormous amount of financial support that was required to facilitate her recovery – and that NOW, with that financial tether mostly severed, the real work of genuine, lasting recovery begins. Hayley has just begun to deal with the reality of managing her own time, money, impulses, and recovery program. Unfortunately, getting sober didn’t automatically reverse or eliminate many personal issues/traits that eventually led to her descent in to drug addiction. So, I’m somewhat guarded – and trying to just take one day at a time.
To those of you new to my blog, Hayley was a heroin/crack cocaine addict (or anything else she could get her hands on) – and was living a high-risk, dangerous life of depravity and desperation in a series of crack houses. She became a serious drug addict at the age of 30, after years of ‘dabbling’ with a variety of substances, from alcohol, to pot, to prescription painkillers, et al. As a beautiful, well-educated young woman from a family of ‘privilege’ who had been given/earned a variety of enviable opportunities throughout her life, Hayley defied the stereotypical drug addict profile and predictor statistics. Yet, there she was, less than a year ago, with only two possible outcomes if she continued doing what she was doing: death or jail. She came close to both.
I want to offer hope to those of you in desperate need of good news, information, and help for your own situation. First, if you haven’t already, you can read about the harrowing events in the months and days leading up to Hayley’s dramatic turnaround and walking away, with our family’s help, from the world of addiction. My January through May 9th 2010 posts chronicle the timeline leading up to my daughter’s recovery. Timing, luck, synchronicity, opportunity, higher powers and who-knows-what-else, all converged to create the perfect storm for Hayley’s decision to change her life. I am grateful beyond words, humbled, and still mystified by this bloody miracle. There is no magic formula for such a positive outcome. However, there is support and help for you to get through what you thought you never could .
I understand that when trying to cope and deal with a child’s life-threatening illness, you gather as much information as you can, and don’t rule out anything. And, of course, addiction is an illness. I encourage you to reference and visit the sites I’ve listed to the right of this post. They can provide you with important resources, information, and the emotional support you need to soldier through the roller coaster of addiction:
•Addiction Recovery Blogs are written by those currently in recovery themselves. They have walked the talk and know more about addiction and recovery than any professional ‘expert’. Their perspective and insight is of particular help to me right now, and a credible source of experience, strength, and hope. Professional interventionist, author of The Lost Years, and recovering alcoholic/crack cocaine addict, Kristina Wandzilak, just came out with a new blog worth visiting: Sober and Shameless. And, I highly recommend Guinevere Gets Sober. “Guinevere” is recovering from a prescription painkiller addiction, is a mother, wife, and eloquent writer. Actually, I don’t mean to necessarily single out any one of these blogs. All those listed are worth visiting/reading. They offer hope and a realistic glimpse of the daily struggles a recovering addict faces. I find myself wanting to learn more about addiction, especially from the addict’s perspective. These blogs help.
•Addiction Resources will give you a variety of good, practical information about the signs and symptoms of addiction, definitions of terms and drug language, descriptions of drug paraphernalia, treatment options, and more. Become educated about what you’re dealing with.
•Favorite Blogs list some good blogs by other parents who are struggling with addiction in their family, where you can get a wide range of perspectives and scenarios, and, perhaps, not feel so alone. The ‘community’ of other desperate parents, dealing with their child’s addiction, is such an important resource. Even though my daughter is now in recovery, I still like to visit these sites and take the time to give any words of support that I can. I so appreciated viewers responding to my own posts that were usually written in despair and in the midst of a crisis. Their support would often keep me going through, what I thought, were impossibly painful and frightening circumstances. I also learned through these blog posts, that many situations were worse than my own. It helped keep things in perspective for me.
•Inspiration For Living your Best Life: blogs that don’t necessarily deal with addiction, but will lift you up and inspire you to live your best life. I make an effort to go to these sites regularly, to help keep the focus on myself rather than my recovering addict, and expand my knowledge on how to be my best self.
My Own Recovery
Trying to take one day at a time and keep my focus on changing the things I can, is a process and takes time – it is and will most likely be, a lifetime of work. I am trying to recover from my obsession with what my daughter is or is not doing. The daily vigilance and monitoring become a nasty habit. There is a fine line between enabling and truly helping. It is incredibly hard not to interfere with the natural consequences of my daughter’s choices. And, I will continue to seek out the help and support I need to stay within my own hula hoop. We cannot climb up a rope that is attached only to our own belt. William Ernest Hocking
Right now, I feel that I’m taking a break and stepping back from almost 10 years of constant worry and anxiety. I am slowly shifting my focus – and working on not letting my daughter’s life take over my own. It’s time to face my own demons and create the life I want for myself. Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop. Ovid
This from Al-Anon’s Courage to Change: . . . I was busy projecting a horrible outcome to my loved one’s crisis and dreading the ways in which the consequences might affect me. The slogan, “One Day at a Time” reminds me that, in spite of my fears, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Why am I leaping into the future? Perhaps I’ve given my feelings no room to exist. Part of me gambles that by worrying in advance, bad news will be easier to face if it comes. But worrying will not protect me from the future. It will just keep me from living here and now. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.” A.J. Cronin
Will I ever overcome the effects of my daughter’s addiction? Anger, resentment, and fear are my demons. Can I accept the reality of my life? When I try to control a situation by making suggestions, asking prodding questions, and feel the compulsion to comment, I am losing my focus and need to put my energy back where it belongs – on myself. We should have much peace if we would not busy ourselves with the sayings and doings of others. Thomas a Kempis
I still struggle with accepting that I am just as powerless over my daughter’s recovery, as I was over her drug addiction. Trying to” let go and let God” and break the cycle of my addiction to worry and fear, is difficult – it becomes a convenient distraction from focusing on my own life and what I need to be working on: my own actions, behavior, motives, and relationships. Am I afraid to live life for myself? We’ll see. In the meantime, I will try to stay in the present – it’s really all I have.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
I’ve been MIA from the blogging world for the last few weeks – busy with finishing up my house remodeling project, other necessary house repairs/expenses that sprang up as a result, spending time with my grandchildren and 93 yo mother, community projects (author Patti Digh, of 37days blog and Life is a Verb fame, is coming here in November for a Hospice fundraiser, and I’m in charge!), trying to find a home for my beloved golden retriever, Abby (due to a dog-biting incident with my neighbor’s dog), dealing with constant problems with my new car that appears to be a “lemon”, yadyadayada. My plate is full. I’m barely able to keep up with my own life, let alone worry about/monitor my daughter in recovery. I guess that’s good. But if she lets things “fall through the cracks”, she’ll go to jail.
As most of you know, my heroin addict daughter, Hayley, has been in California since May 8th: in medical detox for 12 days, then a patient at a 90 day residential treatment center for women (Safe Harbor). For the first couple of months, she didn’t have a phone or computer and wrote a lot of letters and notes – to me, other family members, and any one who wrote her. She received a ton of mail from all sorts of people, cheering her on. It really made her feel loved and supported. But now, most communication has dropped off. Hayley has now been sober now for 135 days – that’s 4 ½ months. However, she doesn’t call or write much anymore, and I find myself reverting back to my familiar ‘expect-the-worst’ mode. It’s a bad habit, but is what I know, and has been authentically built on hard evidence from the past. Hayley may just be busy working her program, making friends, going to meetings, going to the beach, and is snipping the tether. (Well – certainly NOT the financial tether. She still doesn’t have a job, and is being completely supported by her father. He is paying for her after-care treatment program, sober living rent and fees, and monthly expenses. Why should she get a job?) I really don’t know what’s up.
Sarcasm and cynicism aside: of course, Hayley still needs help – probably more than ever. I do think that her “post-treatment” out patient program is essential. She’s never learned or developed the skills necessary to live as an independent, productive adult. However, after getting sober and being the stellar student in her rehab program, I thought for sure she’d move on to the next logical step of getting a part time job and begin to manage her own life. I’m realizing, and trying to accept, that she is not doing that. My fear is that she’s depressed, overwhelmed, and/or somewhat aimless. She has never been willing to just “sing in the chorus” and gradually work her way up to the solo. She’s always wanted to start at the top, whether or not she had the experience or deserved it. “Entitlement” is the working term here. She appears to want a ‘career-building’ job with a good salary and benefits, or none at all. Both her sponsor and I feel that right now, she needs a ‘get well’, part time job with a low stress level, within walking/biking distance of her sober living house, and the flexibility to enable her to stay active in recovery as well as the time to gradually learn and practice time/money management skills. She’s posting her puffed up resume on Monster.com, and waiting for potential employers to call her. This just won’t work in this economy – – – and, the reality is, Hayley has no car or driver’s license, and really needs a job within her neighborhood or on the bus route.
Hayley has now been living in a sober living house for a month. She says she likes it and is getting along well with the 6 other women. However, the fact that she hasn’t found a job yet, makes me a bit suspicious. Is she ardently pounding the pavement to find employment? Will she be capable of holding a job as well as working her recovery program, at the same time?
I appeared in court for Hayley on August 27th to address her probation violation and failure-to-appear charges. I had spent way too much time making sure Hayley’s treatment center in California sent an official progress report to her Probation Officer and court-appointed attorney. I drafted a letter for Hayley to sign and send to her court-appointed attorney with important questions about and details of her case. AND, I told Hayley that I was now officially handing over the responsibility of her legal issues – – – that she was in charge of making all the phone calls and correspondence necessary to keep herself out of jail.
When I did go to court in August, neither the judge nor the prosecuting attorney had the letters in hand. Luckily, I had brought copies of the letters, but the judge was annoyed. He was ready to issue a warrant for Hayley’s arrest, when the Prosecuting Attorney piped up to say that that wasn’t really what they wanted – that they just wanted better communication. The PA said that Hayley’s Probation Officer was supposed to forward any treatment program reports to their office, which the PO, when questioned later, said that that wasn’t her responsibility. What’s the deal? What is the procedure? Please, just tell us, what goes to whom and when, and we’ll do it.
I’m realizing that Hayley still does not feel she has a personal stake in these legal proceedings, that she doesn’t have a good organizational system, and is not being as proactive as she needs to be – that if I had not appeared in court for her with copies of the treatment program’s progress report, the judge would have issued a warrant for Hayley’s arrest. I just recently acquired a sponsor in Al-Anon to help me work the 12 steps myself. She said, “Well – maybe Hayley needs to learn that lesson herself.” Really? Have her go to jail to learn that she needs to pay closer attention to the obscure details of how the convoluted court system works? And risk relapse? I’m not sure that I can let that happen. But then again, maybe I need to.
I’m flying Hayley up to Washington State on October 2nd. We’ll spend two nights with my son and his family, then go visit my mother for her 93rd birthday, about 3 hours away. My plan was to NOT go to our home town, at all. So now, here are the concerns that I need to try to let go of: Hayley does not have any current, government-issued photo ID. Will she even be able to pass security and get on the plane? I, of course, advised her to get a California photo ID card months ago. She didn’t do it, and has assured me that she can get on the plane with her xeroxed copy of her expired/suspended Washington Driver’s License. Huh! Are you kidding me? My Al-Anon sponsor also told me that maybe this is a lesson I need to learn – that I can’t make some one do anything. And so, if that worst-case scenario plays out, I’ll be the one to pay the consequences – I’ll be out $300, and my 93 yo mother may never get a chance to see her granddaughter again. (it’s been 1 ½ years since their last visit) That hardly seems fair.
OK, I know I’m a bit on a rant – so, I’ll let it all out. Why can’t my sober daughter give me a call once in a while, just to find out how I’m doing, and coping, or not? In the meantime, please pass the mashed potatoes – – – AND, gravy.
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With permission, Hayley’s most recent letter from recovery:
I got the meditation book a couple of days ago. I read it every morning in our meditation group. People seem to like it – thank you! I’ve been wearing the bracelet and earrings you sent almost every day, too. You do such a great job finding little special “Hayley-isms”. It means a lot to me that you take the time to look for and find things that you think I would like, or remind you of me.
It’s been a tough week for me – no sugar coating or smiling my way through. It’s really hard for me to admit sometimes that I’m not OK, that I’m sad, that I’m f*cking terrified. A couple of my friends relapsed, and it scares the sh*t out of me how easy it was. It also makes me angry. “What makes them so special that they get to use again?” I am still working hard and grateful to be sober, but thoughts of the future overwhelm me sometimes. I am reminded by my addict fellows to stop thinking about tomorrow and just think about the moment, the minute, today. Becky told me today not to worry about other people or their consequences and/or lack there of, but instead focus on the fact that I am working a good program, that I am trusted to go places on my own, that I am honest and not partaking in other addictive behavior, etc. It’s strange to be the one doing things “right” for once. I’ve been the other for so long, it’s who I still identify with.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 10 so far )
This morning at my ‘home’ Al-Anon meeting, one member expressed his frustration with the First Step: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or anything else, for that matter) – that our lives had become unmanageable. “Kirk” was referencing his struggle to try to control his alcoholic wife’s drinking. He said that finally, after months of disposing of hidden booze he’d find, checking his wife’s cell phone records, monitoring her where abouts, etc. he was giving up. “Maybe this is what step one means”, he said, with resignation in his voice. Subsequently, each one of us in the room voiced our own difficulty with Step One, as well. And if you can’t get past Step One, well – you’re really quite stuck.
Disclosure Statement: I admit, I really haven’t worked the 12 Steps myself. I read about them, think about them, but have not studied, explored, ‘worked’ them with a sponsor. I realize that I need to do this, once I find a sponsor. In any event, today I looked up some references on Step One in one of my Al-Anon books, Discovering Choices. This page, which I had heavily underlined and starred several months ago, is worth revisiting and quoting here:
We can still find meaning in our lives by helping others, but it would be illogical to make the meaning in our lives dependent upon things that fall outside the boundaries of our personal responsibility. Detachment with love means letting go of unreasonable expectations for ourselves. We can continue to love people and care about them. Hurting ourselves by persisting in negative and stressful speculation, however, is not proof that we’re helping ourselves or anyone else.
It’ s not wrong to hope for a positive outcome, but we also have to accept the limits of what we can possibly know. We don’t know for sure if the outcome we desperately pray for will prove to be the most beneficial result for ourselves or the alcoholic/addict. We do know from experience that failure and frustration often turn out to be the first steps in a process that ultimately brings more positive results. While there’s no guarantee that every negative will turn into a positive, there’s also no guarantee that things will turn out to be as bad as we fear. We just don’t know what the long-term results will be. They are out of our control. It doesn’t make sense to focus all of our attention worrying about something that may never happen – or if it happens, to worry about what the consequences will be. Detaching with love also means detaching from the outcomes that we- from our limited perspective – think will be the best.
The slogan, “One Day at a Time” defines an appropriate boundary. We know that we can’t predict or control the future. Why are we so convinced that we know what will be best for everyone? What basis do we have for being so certain about what the future will bring? When we focus on a future we can’t know, we prevent ourselves from knowing the satisfactions that the present day could offer.
There is wisdom in admitting that we simply don’t know everything and in accepting that we don’t have to have the answer to everything. There is wisdom in doing nothing if we don’t know what to do. We can find serenity by accepting what we can’t change.
Detachment doesn’t mean giving up on love. It means opening the door to the joy, hope, love, and kindness that are available to us every day. We can detach from old ways of thinking that make our day’s challenges appear to be unmanageable.
I need to tattoo these words on my brain. Hayley is doing so well in treatment, yet I find myself jumping ahead to find something to worry about. I’m in the habit of trying to anticipate and avoid every potential disaster, before it even happens. As a result, I rob myself of feeling the joy of today that is real, is here, right now.
Hayley’s phone calls and letters continue to sound encouraging. In her younger brother, Brian’s, words, she seems to ‘get it’. Here are some recent letter excerpts that underscore my burgeoning sense of hope:
•Now that I’m not using, I have such a deeper appreciation for the relationships in my life. They are everything! You really can’t believe the sisterhood and support here.
•I have been loving the AA/Na meetings we go to every day. They are such an important part of recovery and each group/meeting is so vastly different. Every single one offers something important.
•This place is so special, and I really believe that I was meant to be here and meant to be here now, with these particular women.
•I meet regularly with Arleen, who is our ‘spiritual’ leader and a fantastic African American woman who just exudes love and joy which really is contagious.
•In the beginning, I was taking an ADD medication, Strattera, as well as Vistiril for anxiety. The Vistiril can be taken up to 4 times/day, and I was finding myself taking it 4X/day, regardless if I needed it or not. After a certain moment of clarity a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I was just taking these meds because I am an addict and I was drug seeking. So – I stopped all of my meds, except for 1 ibuprophen and Trazadone at night. I plan to stop even the Trazadone in the next couple of weeks as well. As for smoking, I am still smoking about ½ pack a day. This is my last vice/addiction and I recognize that I do really need to stop – and soon. It does help that I have been so active and either go to the gym or yoga every day. I really haven’t had exercise on a regular basis since college. It’s amazing how my body still remembers what it’s like to be in shape, and I notice a huge difference from when I first started to now. People often comment that I am glowing, and my resolve to beat my addiction and ALL my addictive behaviors is strong.
Hayley remarked that she is STILL on Step One – that her sponsor is very thorough and demanding and requires an entire packet of writing about this step. Her sponsor said that really working the 12 steps in depth, will lay down a stronger foundation for recovery – that taking the necessary time now will pay off in the future. It’s good advice for me, as well. I, too, am trying to recover from my daughter’s heroin addiction. I’ve got a lot of work to do.
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I was flabbergasted to learn that Hayley called my 92 yo mother a week or so ago. I’m not sure what it meant – but I have to think that this was some kind of step towards something. However, I’ve learned not to make too much of almost any/every thing. I don’t really know the full details of the conversation, and never will. However, within a few days of Hayley’s and my meeting on her 31st birthday, she must have felt guilty/moved enough to call her elderly and failing grandmother. My mother hasn’t seen or heard from Hayley since her 30th birthday dinner/party more than a year ago.
For several months I had tried to keep Hayley’s ‘situation’ from my mother, but it became way too hard and was just too much work. I didn’t want my mother to know about Hayley for very selfish reasons – to protect myself, as well as Hayley, from my mother’s projected anxiety, wrath, and blame game. During this past year of dealing with Hayley’s ‘hard’ addictions, my mother has said the cruelest things to me – like, “Your daughter hates you” (then why am I the one she calls and stays in touch with?); “The reason Hayley is so screwed up is because you made her take ballet lessons as a little girl”; “Maybe it would be better if we would just find her floating in the river”; “I’d like to come down there and talk to Hayley and straighten her out – she won’t talk to you”; and, “You’ve lost her, you know. Start grieving.” These are just a few of the bombs she dropped.
Two weeks ago on Hayley’s birthday, my mother called me in the evening. She didn’t bother to ask how I was doing, or to offer any comfort or support, such as “I know today must have been difficult for you, Peg.” When she asked if I’d heard from Hayley and I told her that I had actually met with her, she didn’t believe me, then insisted that Hayley hates me and wondered how I was able to arrange the meeting.
My mother is clinically narcissistic – she aggrandizes, exaggerates, turns everything back to herself, and is also committed to finding someone to hold responsible for anything that goes wrong. She, herself, at age 92, is still a deeply wounded child of an alcoholic mother. I’ve learned only bits and pieces about my mother’s childhood, but know that it was filled with shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety. She grew up in a small town in Minnesota where her mother’s alcoholism was difficult to hide, let alone treat in any way. When Mom was about 7 hears old, her 5 yo sister was killed by a drunk driver as she played in the front yard/on the street median in front of their house. And when my mom was almost 15 yo, her younger sister was born. Her parents divorced a few years later and her dad, my grandfather, took the baby sister with him to Duluth to live with his Danish immigrants parents, So, my mother never really had much of a childhood and left home as soon as she could at age 17. In fact, after Mom left for college, she came home for a visit one weekend and found her mother passed out on the couch, and her baby sister no where to be found. Baby sister was hanging out at the neighbors’, and this frightening incident was forever, indelibly emblazoned in to my mother’s persona. It was at that point that my beloved grandfather moved to Duluth, taking his toddler daughter with him.
My mom essentially had no contact with her mother after that, except at the funeral of her (my mother’s) younger brother, killed in action during WWII. I’ve learned that she received a phone call, in her early 30s, after marrying and having two children, learning of her mother’s death. My grandmother never met me or my brother – in fact, I didn’t even know she existed.
With 8 years of therapy and AlAnon meetings under my belt, I know that my mother has transferred all the guilt, shame, anger, and anxiety about her mother over to Hayley. Hayley’s addiction has stirred up all sorts of buried, repressed feelings and issues in my mother. And, I know enough about my mother’s need to cope and her lack of skills in this area, to forgive her for the way she treats me and her granddaughter.
While on this journey of addiction with my daughter, I have inadvertently learned a lot about my mother and the impact her mother’s alcoholism had in shaping who she became and is, today. And, I’ve developed a lot more compassion for and understanding of why she is the way she is. I also greatly admire my mother’s spunk, and strength, and determination to carry on with her life, in spite of her compromised childhood. She, unfortunately, didn’t ever have the resources or tools to deal with the fallout of her mother’s alcoholism and, as a result, her nurturing skills and interpersonal relationships suffered greatly.
For the past 8 years, I have been trying to sort out, identify, and understand three generations of mother/daughter relationships in our family. I need to do this work. I am convinced that armed with a better understanding of these systemic family dynamics, I can break the problematic, toxic relationship cycle in our family. I’m going to give it my best shot.
My mom is 92 years old – living independently 2 hours away from my brother and me, still driving, active in the community, playing golf and bridge. And, I love her now more than I ever did as a child or young adult – because I better understand the devastating effects addiction can have on a family. I am grateful to my daughter for opening the door – and leading the way.
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As you may have read, I met with my heroin addict daughter, Hayley, last Tuesday, on her 31st birthday. I hadn’t seen her for 7 months and was both dreading and yearning for this get together. Read the gripping (? :-)) details of our hour together and you’ll feel and understand why I think She’s Still In There.
The update of that meeting on Tuesday is that Hayley texted me later in the evening to tell me that she had re-charged her cell phone and wanted me to send her all family members’ cell phone numbers to enter in to her phone, which I did. This is one tiny step towards re-connecting with the family and the “normal” world. We’ll see what comes of it. I am comforted to know that today, I can text/communicate with my daughter if I need/want to. This is progress over the past seven months. I am choosing to believe that the birthday money I gave her on Tuesday was used to buy cell phone minutes.
Today, Saturday, I ran in to my daughter’s second grade teacher, “Linda”, who innocently asked, “How’s Hayley?” Now, when I’m asked that question, I try to give an honest answer. “Not good”, I said, followed up by a fairly detailed summary of my daughter’s past ten-year history of struggle and challenges. For some reason, I felt comfortable telling Linda the sad, tragic reality of my daughter’s life – and not because Linda and I had some kind of personal connection 24 years ago. After I finished telling Linda my/my daughter’s story, I asked her about her daughters. They were both closer in age to my younger son, Brian – so I knew of them, even though they attended the ‘other’ community high school. Linda’s daughters were both adopted from China – and she proceeded to tell me about her older daughter, Amy, who had a child at age 19, lived at home with them (her parents) and baby/daughter for 4 years, then abruptly announced she was gay and moved to Seattle. During this time of living at home, Amy had been diagnosed as being bi-polar.
After Amy moved three hours away with her granddaughter, to live in the ‘big’ city with a woman whom no one had ever met, Linda had two serious surgeries and lost her mother. Needless-to-say, it was an emotional and traumatic year. I couldn’t help but feel that my own problems didn’t compare.
My daughter’s addiction and the circumstances of her life, allowed me to connect with her second grade teacher, Linda, and relate to her own story of tragedy, disappointment, and challenge. It was a humbling encounter, and reminded me to step out of my own troubles and reality in order to be open to the suffering of others. The irony of this is that I am much more able to relate to others’ problems and family challenges because of my own daughter’s calamity.
Now – on a purely trivial note. Some time on Wednesday, I passed the 10,000 mark for viewers to my blog. Not that I’m keeping track, but I feel that I should commemorate this milestone in some way, and wish I could award a prize to that 10,000th “fan”. The gift I would give would be that of peace/serenity. So – whoever you are, the 10,000th visitor to my blog – here it is – – – serenity, peace, and HOPE!
THANK YOU, dear friends, for your loyalty, wisdom, compassion, time, encouragement, and support over the past 7 1/2 months. TRULY – I could not have endured the pain, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety of my daughter’s heroin addiction with out you. I am humbled and touched by your own stories – and hope that I can give back to you, and other viewers, a fraction of what you’ve given to me.
My next post will be a review of programs #3 & 4 on TLC’s “Addicted”. I’m interested in your comments regarding this program, as well. Stay tuned.
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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 just learned that Hayley has moved. She was living in a ‘decent’ house with two brothers, whom, I believe, were cocaine dealers. I’ve driven by the house. It was neat, well kept, with a nice RV in the driveway. However, all the windows were heavily curtained during the day, as well as at night – which is one indicator of something ‘fishy’ going on inside.
My ‘contact’ for Hayley, Eric, has been in jail for a couple of months – so recently, I’ve had no reliable source as to Hayley’s true whereabouts. Eric is now out of jail, and is going to and leading AA and NA meetings. He says he’s doing well – or, at least a lot better than he was. He called me yesterday to report that he had heard that Hayley has relocated. She’s now living with an ‘older’ guy, who must be at least 60 yo, says Eric. Sh*t – – – I wonder what that means? My head is going in a million directions analyzing this bit of news. Eric said that he knows the general location of the house, but puts himself at risk by visiting Hayley and subjecting himself, once again, to the drug world/arena. But, he said, he would try to find out more info about Hayley’s current living situation.
This recent news of Hayley moving has really underscored the impossible logistics of doing a family intervention with her. We just can’t be sure of where she is, how to reach her, and getting her to a location for an intervention. As an alternative, we’ll probably all try to write Hayley individual letters and see if Eric can deliver them. The intent of these letters will be to merely make contact with Hayley, remind her that we love her, and then – – – each of us will say what we feel we need to say to her.
If I were to write a letter now, I think it would be very different than what I would have written a week or a month ago. Today, I would tell her that she is my teacher . . . that I am learning things about myself and those ‘in the margins’, that I would never have considered were it not for her heroin addiction. And even though I posted the Tips for 2010 – Things I’ve Learned But Would Rather Not Know , and it’s all true, I am sincere when I say that my daughter’s disease has enabled me to discover and develop new compassion and understanding for people that I had previously made stereotypical assumptions about and/or judged harshly.
And the following excerpt from a post by a recovering ‘functional’ heroin addict and freelance writer, Laura Lang, is an example of the lifelong struggle addicts face.
I encourage you to visit Laura Lang’s site and read the entire post:
I wish I could videotape myself writing this because I am shaking. It’s been two years since I last did heroin, but I know if someone were to walk in with works and a bag, I would have that needle in my arm before you could say HIV. I miss it. Sometimes I wonder how I have gone this long without even dosing once. And I look forward to a time when I can dose again. I even know when that day is, and I am counting down. It’s not until April though, so I have a while to wait. You might ask, “Why would you quit for two years only to take another shot?”
Well the answer is obvious. I miss heroin. I miss the routine. I miss waking up everyday and knowing exactly what I need to do that day. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it until just now. Just now while trying to put into words what I think about when I think about H. Besides, you don’t get addicted in one shot. I figure since I haven’t had one for two years I can have a couple, and be ok. But that’s a saga for another day. Actually I’m pretty interested to find out what it feels like after all this time. I’ll probably puke my guts out.
I’m not going to pretend that heroin is okay — most people who develop a real addiction to heroin never quit. I don’t know the exact statistic, but I know this previous statement is true. I am lucky to have been born with the willpower I have, and as stated previously, I only know of one other functional addict. I’m lucky to remember what I wanted before heroin. And what I want from life is much bigger and better than one small moment of heroin bullshit. But that one small moment of bullshit is something that I can’t get out of my head.
As difficult as this is to read, somehow, I understand it.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
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