Today, Hayley has been drug free for 75 days. By most standards, this is considered early sobriety. Her head is relatively clear, her body is physically healing, and she’s reached a point in her recovery program where she is beginning to think about and plan what comes next: a job, transition in to a sober living house, and basically, learning how to live a substance-free, responsible and productive life. On top of all that, she has begun to take a look at the financial and legal messes she needs to untangle and sort through: getting her suspended driver’s license reinstated, paying off municipal court and probation fees and fines, meeting her probation requirements while living out of state, paying down some of her debt, and managing some chronic health issues while not having any health insurance.
I get overwhelmed with anxiety just thinking about all that Hayley has to face and ‘undo’. And then, I go from 0 to 60 mph, worrying about all these consequences of Hayley’s addictions stacked on top of the hard work she is doing to maintain sobriety. My biggest fear, of course, is RELAPSE.
Drugs and alcohol are often used to numb anxiety and depression. And, now that Hayley is substance-free, how will she deal with these emotions that drove her to use in the first place?
David Sheff’s son, Nic, says that . . . the work he’s doing in treatment isn’t about finding excuses for his debauchery or his craziness and it isn’t about blaming anyone. It is about healing. His therapists have told him that he has to work through whatever it is that causes him to harm himself, to put himself in danger, to turn from those friends who love him, to lash out at his parents and others who love him, to lash out at himself, mostly at himself, to try to destroy himself. He is an addict, but why? Besides the luck of the gene-pool draw, what is it? They want him to face it all so he can heal and move forward. (p.301)
Click here for more excerpts from beautiful boy that I thought were helpful and interesting.
Yes, Hayley is healing. And yes, I’m a worry wart. Hayley remarked recently that she can get overwhelmed with all that she faces. But she also added that she is learning to take “one day at a time”, and that it might also work for me. I remember when taking “one day at a time” for her meant trying to score enough heroin to get her through a day without getting dope sick. For me it meant, for one more day, my daughter is alive.
It appears that Hayley has surrendered to the 12 step program and is deferring to the experienced staff members at Safe Harbor. She told me that a few days ago, she had mentioned to her case-worker that she might want to go to a beautiful sober living house owned by a friend of her sponsor’s. Velvet, founder and owner of Safe Harbor, said to her: Hayley – look me straight in the eye. No. No, that would not be a good idea. You need to live in a sober living house affiliated with and close to Safe Harbor, where you will have the support and resources you’ll need to maintain your sobriety. And Hayley responded with, OK. You know best. This conversation totally blew me away. I don’t think I’ve EVER witnessed or heard Hayley respond in this manner.
Next week, I fly to California to visit Hayley. We’re both very excited to spend a few days together. She’s anxious to show me ‘her world’ at Safe Harbor, meet her friends, staff members, her sponsor. Hayley, her therapist, case-worker, and I will all meet on Friday for a couple of hours. I’m thinking about what questions to ask and what topics to raise. These are a few, and I welcome any suggestions:
•Hayley – what can I do to support your recovery? What does that look like and feel like to you?
•Is there anything you want to talk about that would help your recovery in some way?
•When you said you’ve never felt comfortable in your own body, what does that mean, feel like?
•What have you learned in recovery that you didn’t know before?
I will try to be on my best behavior and not ask some of the blunt, stereotypical questions I really want to ask – like:
•when did it all go so wrong for you?
•how long have you been substance dependent?
•when did you start using and why?
•why did you jump to using IV heroin last summer?
•what was it like living in that crack house?
•can you get all the awful stuff out of your head? . . . yadayadayada
I know, I know. Now I need to focus on my own recovery, not my daughter’s. I’m trying.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 23 so far )
Yesterday, on April 2nd, it snowed for several hours with white out/blizzard conditions. This was unusual and must have resulted from a number of variables converging to create just the right conditions for a spring blizzard – the “perfect storm”.
Exactly one year ago, there was another type of “perfect storm.” My daughter, Hayley, was turning 30 years old and I had a birthday party/celebration for her. I didn’t think any of her current “friends” would be organizing any kind of party for her – so, I felt I needed to. I knew that this birthday was a big one for her, and that she was struggling. She hadn’t worked since the previous October and was receiving unemployment with no good job prospects on the horizon. She seemed to be having a really hard time paying her bills – but then, she always was in some kind of financial crisis. Her dad had moved away to California in January with his relatively new, much younger wife, Jill. Hayley and her boyfriend of almost four years had broken up months before, and he was now seriously involved with another young woman. Hayley’s “checking-in” phone calls to me became much more sporadic and we weren’t getting together as often. I had a huge sense of dread in the pit of my stomach, but “stuffed” it. Whenever I asked Hayley if she was ok, or wanted to talk, she said she was fine – to “get off her back”. I felt this family gathering, in honor of her 30th birthday, was important – a genuine display of our love and support for her.
I invited the few friends I knew of Hayley’s (just 2) and flew her younger brother, Brian, home from California. Her older brother, Jake, and his family came – wife, Megan, and 2 and 4 yo darling children, Luke and Lucy – and, I drove 2 hours to pick up my 91 yo mother so she could be with us.
The family all gathered on Saturday around noon, had lunch, then decided to take a hike through the river canyon, a short distance away. It was a beautiful day, spring flowers were beginning to bloom, and we had a few hours before the dinner guests would be arriving. To our amazement, Hayley announced that she couldn’t go on the hike with us, that she had “errands” to run. Huh? We were shocked. Hadn’t we all come together to celebrate her birthday – and now, she was telling us she had to run errands? The whole purpose of the weekend was to spend time together with Hayley, and it had taken a fair amount of planning and effort to do so. Nevertheless, we shrugged off Hayley’s quirky behavior, which we had become accustomed to over the years. She was always finding excuses not to participate fully in family activities. And, she was notoriously disorganized – perhaps she needed to pay some bills? (she had no checking account or debit card – they’ve caused huge financial problems in the past. She carries wads of cash around to pay bills for which she has to get a money order and then make a delivery in person, in a car that barely works and is usually out of gas – talk about making things hard for yourself.) Still – we couldn’t quite believe it.
The dinner party was festive and wonderful, and Hayley seemed thrilled that we were all there to ceremoniously launch her in to her thirties. Everyone dispersed around 10:00 pm, with Hayley going home to her apartment. The plan was for the family to convene the next morning for breakfast at 10:00 am, after which Megan was going to cut and highlight Hayley’s hair before they (Jake and family) headed back home over the mountains.
Ten o’clock came, and went. As did 11:00 am, 12:00 noon – and no sign of Hayley. We all were waiting to eat, and finally went ahead without her. We tried to call her on her cell phone, with no luck. Finally, at ~12:45 pm, Hayley called to say she had “overslept” and was not at her apartment and didn’t have her car. This seemed so odd – and troubling, on this birthday weekend we had planned for her. Things spiraled down from there. At lunch on Monday with my mother, Brian, and Hayley, I learned that Hayley’s power and water had been turned off in her apartment. She was couch surfing at night with friends, she said, and was at her apartment during the day. Her grandmother took her birthday shopping after lunch at Target – supposedly to buy thngs that Hayley might need for a new job. What ended up in the bag seemed seemed totally inappropriate to me. And when we stopped at Costco to buy Hayley much needed house/toiletry supplies, she decided to stay in the car – and was sobbing. I thought it was due to the 30th birthday milestone, with no job, boyfriend, overdue bills, etc.
Later in the month, after not seeing Hayley since the birthday party, she called me to report that she would be going to jail for 4 days for a shop lifting offense (her third) from the previous summer. She sounded pissed – at me, of all things! She said that I didn’t sound “supportive”. Apparently, her shoplifting offense stemmed from a “beer switching” attempt at a grocery store, where you put more expensive beer in to a different brand carton and check out, paying less than was due. However, cameras in the beer aisle videotaped her doing the beer switching. Hayley never told us about this charge – and had apparently been trying to deal with it on her own for ~ 9 months. That week of her birthday, she was in court for several mornings to receive her sentencing, which was the real reason behind her sobbing when we were together in the afternoons. And, I later learned, when cleaning out her apartment after she was evicted in June, that the” errand” she ran on her birthday party afternoon, was to a dentist to get a prescription for hydrocodone.
I’m emotional and kinda shaky this weekend. Hayley’s 30th birthday party was exactly one year ago. This has been a year from hell watching my daughter lose everything and slide in to crack, cocaine, and finally, heroin addiction – a variety of circumstances and choices coming together to culminate in . . . “the perfect storm”. And next Tuesday, Hayley will turn 31 years old. What’s in the forecast? Even Willard Scott or Al Broker can’t reliably predict.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
I just finished a wonderful first novel by Ginnah Howard, Night Navigation. The characters, language, personal dilemmas, the emotional roller-coaster of addicts and their families, all were hauntingly familiar. It’s obvious that Howard has had personal experience navigating the landscape of addiction and mental illness.
The book opens with Del giving her 37 year-old bipolar son, Mark, a ride to a medical de-tox facility for heroin addiction. “Through the four seasons, Night Navigation takes us into the deranged, darkly humorous world of the addict – from break-your-arm dealers to boot-camp rehabs to Rumi-quoting NA Sponsors. Al-Anon tells Del to “let go”; NAMI tells her to “hang on”. Mark cannot find a way to live in this world; Del cannot stop trying to rescue him. And yet, during this long year’s night, through relapse and despair, there are flare-ups of hope as Mark and Del fitfully, painfully try to steer toward the light.”
Told in the alternating voices of an addict and his mother, this riveting novel adds new depth to our compassion for and understanding of addiction, parents and their troubled children. I identified with Del’s desperate attempts to save her sons: “She always gave them warm clothing: long underwear, mittens, hats – this jacket – hoping somehow to shelter them from their chaotic lives”. P.155 And this: “She puts her feet up on the stool and rocks a little. Even when he came toward her, looking so not like himself, she saw in his eyes the child who sat in his yellow sleepers on the edge of his bed, reading his Richard Scarry book by the light from the hall, circling with a blue crayon all the words he knew. Year later he said to her, Sometimes I circled a few I didn’t know. She still has dreams where she picks up the phone and he says, Mom, it’s Aaron”. p. 157
This book is not only beautifully written; but the revealing glimpses it gives us into the world and psyche of a struggling addict, mental illness, and depression, contributed to my growing knowledge base and a better understanding of what my daughter must be experiencing.
Here’s a little prayer that I’m told, is a favorite of the Dalai Lama’s and is a favorite of my Buddhist friend, Donna:
And now, as long as space endures.
As long as there are beings to be found.
May I also endure
To wipe away the sorrows of the world.
This book helped ease my sorrow, a bit. Thanks, Ginnah.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
David Sheff is a writer whose books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune and elsewhere. His piece for the New York Times Magazine, “”My Addicted Son,” won many awards and led to the writing of this book.
View this brief video featuring David Sheff and his addict son, Nic. Then, read excerpts below that I selected from Sheff’s book, beautiful boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction regarding the constant pain, anxiety, and vulnerability of the addict’s family.
•Whatever the parental failings may be, it is almost inevitable that the addicts will recognize these vulnerable spots and take advantage of the parents.
“Addicts may have many complaints, including major and minor grievances from years past. Some of their accusations may, in fact, have truth in them. Families may well have caused pain for the addicts. They may well have failed the addicts in some significant way. (After all, what human relationship is perfect?) But addicts bring up these problems not to clear the air or with the hope of healing old wounds. They bring them up solely to induce guilt, a took with which they manipulate others in pursuit of their continued addiction.” p. 146 Beverly Conyers, Addict in the Family
•therapists say that parents of children on drugs often get a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome made worse by the recurring nature of addiction. We pretend that everything is all right. But we live with a time bomb. It is debilitating to be dependent on another’s moods and decisions and actions – codependent on her well-being for ours. p.228
•”Some of the times when Nic wasn’t all right it got so bad that I wanted to wipe out and delete and expunge every trace of him from my brain so that I would not have to worry about him anymore and I would not have to be disappointed by him and hurt by him and I would not have to blame myself and blame him and I would not longer have the relentless and haunting slide show of images of my lovely son, drugged, in the most sordid, horrible scenes imaginable.” p.241
•we are connected to our children, no matter what. . . the perpetual angst and humming anxiety and intermittent depression that comes with (Nic’s) addiction. I don’t remember me before this. I am accustomed to the way that joy can be fleeting and I can sometimes fall into a dark pit. p.249
• . . . some of us come to a place where the good news is that our children are in jail. P.176
•Al-Anon’s 3 Cs: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it.”
•. . . it’s futile. You cannot control an addict. Family members’ moods become dependent on how the addict is doing. People become obsessed. There is no joy left in their life. p. 153
•(Nic) is absent, only his shell remains . . . I have lost him. . . I have been grieving for him since the drugs took over – grieving for the part of him that is missing. P.269
•” . . . people told me to give up on him, but I didn’t. How does a mother give up on her son? If I had, he wouldn’t be here now. That’s a guarantee. He would have died. I called just to tell you this story. Do not give up hope and do not give up on him.” P.276
• . . . it feels too risky to wait for him to “bottom out”. p.276
•”. . . I am not naïve enough to believe that any expert has the answer to our family’s problem. Nor am I arrogant enough to think that I know the answer. I will not blindly follow anyone’s advice, but I gather information and will weigh it and decide what, if anything, to do. I know that no one know the answer to what is right for (Nic) or any other addict. No one knows what will work. No one know how many times. p.277
•Every call fed my growing obsession with the promise of reassurance that (Nic) was all aright or confirmation that her was not. My addiction to his addiction has not served (Nic) or me or anyone around me. (Nic’s) addiction became far more compelling than the rest of my life. p.305
•Parents of addicts learn to temper our hope even as we never completely lose hope. However, we are terrified of optimism, fearful that it will be punished. It is safer to shut down. p. 305
•This realization impelled me to do whatever I could to get past my obsessive worry about (Nic). I could not change (Nic), only me. And so instead of focusing on (Nic’s) recovery, since then I have focused on mine. (Al-Anon) I learned that at some point, focusing on (Nic’s) perpetual crises became safer territory than focusing on myself.; p. 309Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )