Taking the Plunge

Posted on October 16, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Recovery | Tags: , , , |

I haven’t posted now in almost two months.  I’m not sure why I’ve been procrastinating.  It seems I let almost any thing distract me from sitting down and putting words to ‘paper’.  And now, it’s like a black cloud hovering over me.  I seem to have hit some kind of wall.  The longer I wait to write, the more I think about it and the harder it is to actually do it.

Yes, it’s true.  I don’t feel as compelled to write as when I started this blog over two years ago.  Then, we had cut off contact with our heroin addict daughter, Hayley, who was spiraling deeper and deeper in to the underworld of addiction and an escalating risky lifestyle.  I was desperate – and felt hopeless.  I used this blog as a forum to vent and share the emotional devastation that comes with a child’s addiction, learn more about opioid drugs and share information, give to and receive support from other parents in the same dubious ‘club’ that no one asked to be a member of, and essentially, record Hayley’s eventual demise.

Today, Hayley has been ‘clean’ and sober for ~ 18 months.  I still consider it a miracle. I still hold my breath.  I am in recovery myself from her addiction and have a long ways to go until I can ‘let go’ of certain triggers and the need to control outcomes .  Al-Anon and meditation help.  I’ve come to realize that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life.

Hayley is sober, working full time at her treatment center, and trying to make a new life for herself at age 32 – but, there is still plenty to write about.  I’m constantly learning more about addiction, neuroscience and brain chemistry breakthroughs, reading books about compulsive/obsessive behavior, articles debating the “addiction-is-a-disease” issue, and important principles of long-lasting recovery.  I read several blogs written by recovering addicts/alcoholics (guineveregetssober is a favorite), searching, I guess, for the ‘secret’ to life long sobriety. I’m sure these are all symptoms of my ingrained fear and continued need to ‘fix’ Hayley for good.  I know.

This ongoing struggle to lovingly detach from my daughter’s life choices – yet support her recovery, is a challenge.  She works full time in the treatment center community, but only earns $11.00/hr – not exactly a sustainable living wage, especially in southern California where the cost of living is high.  She has no health/dental insurance, yet has ongoing health issues that need to be monitored as well as lots of restorative dental work to be done.  Thus far, my 94 yo mother and I have been taking care of her dental bills, a couple hundred dollars a month.  There is a prioritized schedule of what needs to be done when, if she wants to ‘save’ her teeth.

I started collecting social security a year ago – and also refinanced my house so that I have lower monthly mortgage payments.  So, since last May, I’ve put a few hundred dollars into Hayley’s account every month to ‘help’.  I’ve told her that this will not necessarily be a regular occurence – that she shouldn’t count on it. I don’t want her to spend it before she has it. I consider this money to be ‘extra’ in my budget, so it’s not really impacting my lifestyle.  And if I want to ‘help’ another one of my children (as happened this month), then that ‘extra’ money will be diverted to their account.  So – does this money, going in to Hayley’s account, constitute ‘enabling’?  That’s a topic for future conversation.  However, I do think there’s a difference between enabling addiction and supporting recovery.  I believe I’m supporting Hayley’s recovery.

I have received so much heartfelt empathy and support from readers over the last two years, that I feel a certain obligation to ‘give back’ – and offer Hayley’s story as a pinpoint of hope – encouragement to parents and family members who felt the same way I did 2 years ago – desperate, and sick, and overwhelmed with grief, anger, bewilderment.  As I mentioned, I’ve started several posts, but just haven’t gone back to finish them and pull the trigger.

And so, until I get a full-fledged post finished and ‘up’ for you to read, here are a few provocative tidbits from my stash that shouted out at me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a record of where they all came from:

•Drug use and high-risk drinking are self-imposed, but no one consciously decides when they’re young that they want to grow up to be a drug addict.

•Drug use seems, in my opinion, to be the symptom of something – and then becomes the disease. 

•Sometimes we enable, and support, and intervene purely because it helps us to feel better – even though, in reality, it most often doesn’t do shit: I pray for those that are sick and suffering and ask that God hold them and give them hope. That is about all that I can do.  from Pam’s blog Sobriety is Exhausting. It is a good statement about letting go and how powerless we are over what others do.

“It really doesn’t matter sweet precious normies……do what you are comfortable with. Spend all your money trying to help or spend none of your money. Take their calls or don’t take their calls. Pay for their apartment or give them your home. Disown them or clutch them tight. All your pain is about you….saying this with love. Your fear of (just) wanting them to be healthy and happy and sane. Since none of this is within your power to give them, then do what makes you able to sleep at night, do what makes life bearable for you. Your addict/alcoholic is doing what makes life bearable for them……aren’t we all?”  (sorry – don’t know where I got this although I believe it was from an addict’s blog)

I’m hoping this preliminary ‘toe-back-in-the-water’ is the nudge to jump back in again.  Thanks, dear readers, for your patience.

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Finding Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                    JUST WHAT IS THIS GUY’S STORY?

 

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

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

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

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

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One Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One Year Ago . . .

Posted on April 6, 2011. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, The Bottom, Treatment Centers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I just spoke with my daughter, Hayley, who has been in recovery from heroin/crack/alcohol addiction since last May 9th.  Tomorrow, April 6th, is her 32nd birthday.  She called to tell me that she had just had a wonderful dinner with her older brother, Jake, and his wife, Megan, who were in southern California attending a business meeting.  “It was so good seeing them,” she said – and “I really do miss my family so much.”  She went on to say that she had also re-connected with her original AA sponsor, Brooke –  which was a ‘big deal’ in a number of ways.  Hayley had let this relationship slip over the past few months and, hence, hadn’t been actively working through the 12 steps of her recovery program.  Having a good sponsor, with whom you relate, is  a wonderful resource in recovery: for general advice, a cheerleader when you need comfort and/or support, someone to hold you accountable and check in with.  Hayley  realized that she needed to ‘make amends’ to Brooke – and re-establish this important sponsee-sponsor relationship.  And apparently, she pushed aside her ego and called Brooke.  They met yesterday, and Hayley said it felt really good – that she will try to do things differently this time.

All of this was very good news for me, on the eve of my daughter’s birthday.  And, I couldn’t help but think back to a year ago at this time, when circumstances were very different, and I was getting ready to meet with my daughter for the first time in seven months.  In June 2009, I had learned that Hayley had become a heroin/crack cocaine addict and was living in a crack house.  A couple of months later (August 2009), she had reached out and asked for help – specifically, would I get her in to a medical detox facility?  She had managed to get herself out of the crack house and had found a safe place to stay for a few days.   She was dope sick, covered with abscesses, and desperate for help.  Of course, I donned my ‘supermom cape’, and whirled in to action. 

The logistics of quickly getting Hayley in to a medical detox facility were complicated, since there was no such facility here, in our small-ish city, and no available beds in the detox facilities 150 miles away.  We needed to first get her on antibiotics to treat the abscesses, before any facility would take her (MRSA risk). And, I procured some hydrocodone for her, to try to keep her off the heroin and away from the crack house. After 72 hours of constant phone calls and involved paperwork, and buying food and clothes for my daughter, and checking in on her, and trying to keep her hopeful and moving forward, and not using heroin (this was my fantasy, as it turned out), a bed finally became available at midnight, and I drove Hayley three hours to the detox facility.  The plan was, after detoxing for ~ 5 days, Hayley would go directly to a women’s treatment center 50 miles away.  However, after 4 days in detox, Hayley walked out AMA (against medical advice) and talked a taxi drive in to driving her the 150 miles back to our town – and her drug life.  One of the many ironies in this chain of events, was that the crack house wouldn’t take her back!  Can you imagine? This is a whole story, in and of itself. 

We decided as a family, at that point, to pull back and let Hayley really hit “bottom” –  to let her feel the full impact of her life choices, hoping that this approach would jolt her in to seeking recovery on her own.  She’s smart.  She’s resourceful, and I truly believed that she knew where to go to get help for herself.

And so, for the next 7 – 8 months, we had little to no contact with her – just an occasional text, since the failed treatment attempt.  During that time, I was desperate with fear and worry, and felt overwhelmed with helplessness. However, after about 5 months of not speaking to or seeing her, I had reached some kind of “tipping point”, and decided to try to contact her. It all started with a text, then a phone call, and then a few more, culminating in my determination to actually see my daughter on her birthday in April.  We had re-established enough of a connection to build the foundation of trust and desire necessary for our eventual birthday meeting.  I was convinced that Hayley’s life was at stake and time was running out –  that I needed to make one last valiant attempt to help her get the help she needed to change her life.  If I could appeal to her and tell her, face to face, how much I loved her – – – and that we, her family, would help her get the help she needed when she was ready, maybe it would make a difference. I had to try.

My reaching out to Hayley was influenced, in part, by Tom, a drug counselor at the  Recovery Helpdesk blog, who made a good case for challenging the notion of  Hitting Bottom– that ” . . . an opiate dependent person does not have full exercise of their free will.  Their free will is compromised.” And, ” Opiate dependence is powerful enough and the opiate dependent person’s free will is compromised enough, that waiting for the person to “hit bottom” can mean the person goes on to experience HIV infection, Hepatitis C infection, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, loss of child custody, loss of family relationships, risk of violence, or worse.”

It was uncomfortable to read this, because it challenged our family’s position that Hayley needed to feel enough pain before seeking help, which was what most professionals/groups/literature advocated.  Leaving Hayley alone for 7 months hadn’t really had the effect we had hoped for – she just seemed to spiral further down in to the deep dark hole of addiction and become more entrenched in her risky lifestyle.  And from what I could tell, she was getting more desperate – dope sick almost every day, no money for drugs, let alone food.  I was driving myself crazy contemplating how my daughter might be getting her drugs.

My post, Birthday Gifts, gives you the details of my preparation for this crucial meeting with my heroin addict daughter.  And Yes . . . She’s Still in There is the account of the actual meeting.

Thinking back to this time a year ago, is still very painful – and a frightening reminder of how close we came to losing our daughter completely.  But, it also is a powerful testament to hope – and miracles –  and how the most desperate circumstances can change.

There are so many variables that affect an addict’s recovery – timing being one of them. Apparently, for Hayley, the combination of our birthday meeting, followed by a crucial/random phone call from an acquaintance, subsequent phone calls and texts from family members, and other serendipity events –  all came together in to a powerful vortex that started to draw her in – and remind her of the ‘normal’ world and life she had left;  that there was a possibility of a different kind of life; and maybe she could accept help.  Escalating physical abuse at the crack house was the final straw – and when her dope dealer ‘boyfriend’, Bill, confiscated her “blankie” and threatened to burn it, the switch flipped.  Who knew, or could predict, that these somewhat arbitrary events could converge in to the powerful push my daughter needed to walk away from her life of addiction.

A phrase of drug counselor Tom’s, at Recovery Deskhelp, kept running through my head: that taking action to enable recovery is very different than enabling the addict’s drug use.  I was convinced that my daughter was incapable of getting the help she wanted or needed – that navigating the complicated labyrinth of getting herself into a detox/treatment center, was too overwhelming – and I was right.  I am grateful to Tom for articulating what I felt in my gut – and for his strong voice in advocating harm reduction and a wide range of recovery options for drug addicts.

Tom’s most recent post at Recoverydesk, Tough Love Delays Recovery For Heroin Addicts,  is especially relevant to this discussion and his view that “enabling” and “tough love” are the two “black and white” extremes – both of which can be harmful to the drug addict’s recovery.  There’s a lot of gray area in between that is sensible and reasonable and should be considered.   

I ended my post, Open For Business, a little over a year ago, with this:

Hayley’s birthday is a little over a week away.  She’ll be 31 years old.  What do I get her for her birthday?  What does one buy, wrap up, and deliver to their heroin-addicted child?  I know, I know – love, encouragement, hope – – – and recovery, are what she needs most.  At this point, I just don’t know how to give and get those gifts to her.

I guess my point in recounting all of this is, to never give upthat as long as ‘your’ drug addict is still alive, there is hope for recovery.  My daughter is living proof of this miracle.

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Recovery – Hers and Mine

Posted on February 21, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

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.

First, a Hayley Update:

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.

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. . . But A Molecule’s Difference

Posted on December 8, 2010. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, The Bottom, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

One of my favorite blog readers, Nora, who also has a blog of her own, Works Aside, recently left this message regarding her sister, Hannah, who is a heroin addict:

Last night, my family and I found out that Hannah is in a bad place. Despite telling us all she has been clean since she left rehab in April she actually been using heroin since then. Her ex-boyfriend Dave rang my mum to tell her she had just been to his house to ask for money. We are back where we started. The shock. The turmoil. The pain. The fear. Even though this isn’t the first time we’ve had news like this, it slaps you right between the eyes.

Your last post, Waiting For Bill was incredibly poignant to read because last night my parents asked me what they should do.  Everyone says “do nothing” –  but how can they? Is there anything you can suggest we do? We don’t know where she is what state she is in, etc. Should we at least try and find her?

That, of course, is always the $64,000 question and the family’s painful dilemma.  There’s a lot of debate around what to do and not do –  and, there doesn’t appear to be a ‘right’ or simple answer. So, in response to Nora’s burning questions and passionate plea for help, I can only recount my own daughter’s road to recovery and hope there will be some relevance to her/your own situation.  This is just one ‘case study’, one story of recovery.  Please take what you want and leave the rest.

A year ago at this time, I was as desperate as Nora.  My college-educated, 31 year old daughter, Hayley, had been living in a crack house for about seven months, using heroin, crack cocaine, and anything else she could get her hands on.  I knew where she was, but had little contact with her.  After she walked out of medical de-tox AMA (against medical advice) in August 2009 and returned to her abusive, sordid drug addict lifestyle, we, as a family, decided to take the “hands-off” approach.  We had gone to extreme lengths to get her to a medical detox facility a couple of hundred miles away (there are none where we live) in response to her call for help.  After de-toxing, the plan was for her to go to a reputable women’s treatment center near by.  But after 4 days in the de-tox facility, she ran, and talked a cab driver in to driving her 175 miles back to her old life.  

We were stunned.  It hadn’t occurred to us that after courageously extricating herself from the crack house and deciding to get clean, she would give up, part way through detox.  After that failed attempt to get Hayley in to recovery, we/I had virtually no contact with her for five long months.  I nearly drove myself nuts thinking about and envisioning how she was living, what she was doing to herself, and what she might be capable of in order to procure her drugs. I was a wreck, valiantly trying to just hang on to my own life and sanity.  Al-Anon meetings helped, I saw a therapist, and started writing this blog.  Still, I felt devastated and hopeless, and found myself thinking more about preparing myself for my daughter’s funeral, rather than her recovery.

I must say, that after a few months, it became easier to compartmentalize and detach.  This was mostly a coping mechanism, based on fear and complete despair.  The logistics of trying to do a formal intervention and ‘rescue’ seemed impossible.  Plus, most family members had been so badly ‘burned’ by Hayley walking away from de-tox, they were not especially interested in having any further contact with her.  “Let her find her own way to recovery”, was the unified front we all adopted.

Around January, after Brian, Hayley’s younger brother, had not been able to reach her by text, my ‘mother lion’ instinct kicked in.  I realized that I needed to do something. Was she even alive?  Although a professional drug counselor had advised me to cut off all contact with Hayley so she could feel the full consequences of her choices, I had reached my saturation point – my bottom. I needed to hear from and see my daughter.  The scale had tipped – one tiny atom had changed valence and upset the ‘balance’. 

In early March, the ‘perfect storm’ began to gather and gain force.  On March 4th, I was headed to Seattle to hear David Sheff, author of beautiful boy, and his recovering addict son,  Nic Sheff, speak. In re-reading my notes from beautiful boy, I was inspired to try to call my daughter and “break the ice” of her shame/guilt-driven isolation.  That, combined with a serendipitous series of events and Hayley’s pending 31st birthday in April, pushed me to action.  I was determined to be with my daughter on her birthday, to remind her of who she still was and how much we all loved her.  My daughter was going to die if I didn’t intervene in some way.  She had never been through drug rehab and I felt strongly that she deserved a chance to get sober.  I knew she couldn’t do it on her own – and that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try to help her.

Some of you may be familiar with blogger, Dawn (DHAM).  A while ago, Dawn sent me this excerpt from a recovering addict’s blog:

I was zombie like–running on automatic. Addicts don’t desire financial ruin, loss of self respect, ruining good relationships with family or friends, or spending time in jail/prison.  Those are all just consequences of being an addict. People w/o addictions generally make their decisions based on their conscious motivations.  An example, normal people get jobs so they can pay bills and support their families.  For me as an addict, my decisions were made based on an impulsive, physiological drive for drugs.  Every decision I made in life was centered around my drug addiction.  The only reason I got a job was so I could pay for my drugs.  If it was a choice between paying bills and copping a bag, the bag would always win.  If I had a choice between eating a meal and drugs—-drugs.

Self control was non existent for me.  My probation officer told me if I failed another piss test at one point I’d go to prison for five years.  So for two weeks I’d quit using 3 days before I saw my probation officer.  Then the lack of self-control took over me.  During my 3 days of not using, I’d continually obsess over the drug, and despite the potential consequences of 5 years in prison, the drug would win.

The drug came before everything in my life.  The high was more important than my family, my friends, money, food, water, my health, my future, my own life. Consequences never even crossed my mind like they do for ‘normal’ people.  I needed it.  I lived it.  I breathed it.  It became me…

And, my now recovering daughter, would add:  . . . it got to the point where I wasn’t using heroin to get high –  I needed it in order to not become violently ill . . . to “stay well’.

Back to the story.  I had an advantage at that point.  I had seen on the news that the crack house had been busted by federal agents and Hayley’s drug-dealer boyfriend was arrested.  As a consequence, her ‘easy’ drug supply had been seriously interrupted. I received a text from her after the crack house raid that she was ‘ok’, still at the crack house, (now boarded up with no power), and living with Paula, the tough, ‘professional’ junkie and crack house ‘operations manager’, whose fierce competition with Hayley for drug dealer Bill’s attention and favor, often led to violence.  Hayley had no money for food, let alone drugs.  I was afraid of what she might do in order to “stay well”.  I knew that Paula shoplifted at Wal-Mart regularly, and who knew what else, to generate cash flow. Hayley was most likely desperate enough to overcome her shame and guilt and agree to see me on her birthday to perhaps ‘score’ some merchandise that could be sold for drugs.  In fact, that is exactly what happened.  Soon after the crack house bust, I received a text from Hayley asking if I could meet her to deliver her quarterly stock dividend check (a couple of hundred dollars).  I jumped at the invitation and told her we’d meet on her birthday, a week later.  That would give me time to investigate some treatment centers, develop a plan,  and gather her Birthday Gifts.

After that first meeting with Hayley in months  (Yes, She’s Still in There . . .), I continued to stay in contact with her.  I took her grocery shopping and on a few other errands.  Each time we were together, it was easier and not so awkward. She began to talk more and revealed disturbing details of her life. We laughed about silly, mundane things.  I brought her some make-up samples, shampoo, and underwear – and was gradually able to introduce the possibility of treatment, the facilities I had researched,  how/when it could all happen.  She was interested yet, at the same time, terrified – especially of the de-toxing process.  On one of our visits together, I called “Lloyd”, the security guard and groundsman I had been in contact with at the small, all women’s 6 bed detox house we were considering.  Lloyd reassured Hayley – his voice was gentle, and confident, and full of hope for her.  He, too, had been where she was – and spoke her language.

But after each visit with her over the course of a few weeks, I would drop her back off at the abandoned crack house and just pray that we could get her to treatment before she OD’ed.  That month of contact (combined with  other serendipitous events and phone calls from other family members and a couple of random ‘normie’ friends) built a foundation that seemed to be the tipping point. 

These words, from Mr. SponsorPants, are particularly insightful:

Sometimes I think there is but a molecule’s difference between helping and enabling . . . between hope and expectation . . . between faith and fantasy . . . and further more, sometimes all the clever slogans in the world can’t help you discern when one slips into the other.

Hayley has now been clean and sober since last May 9th.  It’s a bloody miracle.  Our family’s journey through hell and out the other side is just one story – and it’s not the end of the story. We all know that Hayley’s sobriety is one day at a time. How/why  Hayley embraced recovery at that particular time, when the option was offered to her,  is still not completely clear.  Ultimately, it is the addict that needs to want to change his/her life – I know that.  Yet, it’s not always that simple.  The addict is often incapable of taking steps towards change on their own – even if they fiercely want to.  In my mind, the clock was ticking – it was a “dice-throw” as to whether or not Hayley could get herself out of her drug addict lifestyle before it killed her.  

There are some things, I think,  that seemed to help Hayley walk away from drug addiction and get on the long and winding road to sobriety.  More importantly, these things helped me stay sane and take charge of my own recovery – the only real control I have.   (Thanks to Guinevere Gets Sober for her words: “. . . be present and have low expectations . . .”)  I hope you can find something here that brings you a molecule of hope and possibility:

•Be Present: stay in contact with the addict – but not excessively. It will help narrow the gap between the ‘normal’/real world and the addict’s crazy, dangerous drug life.  Today, Hayley says that it was easier to compartmentalize and ‘forget’ about family and ‘normal’ life than it was to stay in contact and connected. In her case, the less contact we had with her, the further down she spiraled, in to the deep, dark abyss of addiction.  The shame, guilt, and fear of her situation were overwhelming to her – and paralyzing.  In order to cope, she isolated.  Her drug user ‘friends’ and ‘roommates’ became her family –  one that didn’t judge her and accepted her for who she was – right at that moment.  Even though they stole from one another and often couldn’t trust each other, they also shared what they had (food, drugs, fringe-y lifestyle)  and ‘covered’ for each other.  They all had a lot in common, and lived for the moment.

After Hayley walked out of medical detox in August 2009, our family essentially washed our hands of her.  This was her first experience in medical detox, and she was then scheduled to go to a woman’s treatment center in Seattle.  I just learned that after almost 5 days of de-toxing, with the worst behind her as far as physical withdrawal symptoms, she was ‘sober’ enough to actually feel her own anxiety and fear.  She just couldn’t face going to treatment.  That unknown seemed too overwhelming to her, whereas going back to using heroin and its accompanying life style, was something she knew, was familiar with, in a ‘community’, of sorts. She had earned a place there.  A sense of belonging is  a very seductive reason to re-join and/or become a part of any group, as evidenced by the abundance of gangs in our society.  The ‘disenfranchised’ are welcomed.

Kristina Wandzilak, in her blog, The Kristina Chronicles, had this to say regarding “Fear and the Addict”:

How much is fear responsible for a person’s descent into addiction and inability to retrieve him or herself from it? Addicts, in general, are fear-based individuals. I’m not sure that fear has a lot to do with the manifestation of the disease, per se, but once we’re in it, fear keeps us from getting better.

We’re afraid of what will happen to us. We’re afraid of success, of failure, of living and of dying. We’re afraid to try to get better. It can feel easier to be resigned to a life of addiction than to live a different, sober life. Sobriety changes everything.

Through some of Hayley’s ‘friends of friends’ and acquaintances, I became ‘educated’ about the underbelly of our ‘fair’ city.  I salvaged and saved every scrap of paper with a phone number or name on it that I found in her apartment when she was evicted. I spoke with drug counselors, our two community hospitals’ social workers and ER staffs, and found a ‘mole’ within the drug community who was willing to give me periodic reports on Hayley’s condition.  I found out where all the crack houses were and dropped off letters to her – and, a Christmas present from her grandmother.  I discovered that texting was  a more non-threatening and reliable way to reach Hayley and get a response.  (However, usually her own cell phone was out of minutes or not charged -so she was dependent on her ‘friends” phones, who often exercised their power over her by refusing to pass on messages, etc.)  When I did hear from Hayley, I noted the phone number and kept it on file.  The bottom line was that Hayley always knew how to reach me and other family members.  But, she seldom initiated the contact herself. When I increased contact with her in March and April (2010), it helped  break through that barrier of shame and guilt on Hayley’s part, and of helplessness on mine.  Being with her reminded her of some things – that she had choices, that she was loved, that it wasn’t too late to change her life.

One caveat: if you’ve tried to ‘help’ your addict multiple times and it just hasn’t worked, you may need to step back and let him/her come to you – in their own time and on their own terms.  You do need to protect yourself from the roller coaster of the addiction drama – it can suck you in and eventually use you up.

•Have a Plan (but not an outcome): Do some legwork and research in to possible treatment facilities and options. What type of treatment center would be best – short (28 days) or long term (90 days or longer)? all female or co-ed? 12 step based program? post treatment options? medical detoxing prior to treatment – and if so, how and where?, etc.  Hayley was very fearful of the detoxing process.  It was a huge barrier for her. During the last few months of her drug use, she was constantly dope sick.  She didn’t have the money/means to reliably maintain her habit. Being dope sick was so unpleasant and withdrawal so horrible, that she would have never agreed to detox without medical supervision and palliative drugs to get her through the worst of it.

And, I guess, consider an intervention.  The kind and degree of intervention can be tailored to your situation.  We used a professional interventionist, Kristina Wandzilak, as a consultant rather than as an actual interventionist.  She advised us regarding good long-term treatment centers of which she had personal knowledge.   She served as a non-biased facilitator/mediator during two conference calls involving our entire family, as we expressed our individual  concerns and fears. We all had our own diverse opinions about what we should do or not do and Kristina skillfully acknowledged and managed them all. And, there are so many treatment centers out there, it’s difficult to know which ones are truly effective.  They all look good on the internet and sound great on the phone.  The recovery industry has become huge, and is ‘big business’, with little regulation.  It helps to get professional expertise and experience in choosing a reputable program.  Getting Kristina involved was the best $450 we ever spent.

Go to this blog post to read about our family’s debate/discussion regarding an intervention with Hayley. Another post,  Al-Anon vs Intervention, also discusses this controversial topic.

Hayley said that knowing there was a treatment plan in place was an incentive and helped make it become a real possibility.  She would get immediately overwhelmed at the thought of needing to initiate the process herself.  Just filling out the necessary paperwork required to receive treatment through the state seemed impossible. She was so ashamed – and was such a prisoner of her addiction cycle and physiological dependence on the drugs, that she could really only think a couple of hours ahead – and that focus was always on how to get her next fix.

•Timing is Everything: and often something over which you have no control.  Hayley was a college graduate and started using heroin at age 30.  Addiction is a progressive disease – and Hayley began with seemingly innocuous pot smoking and some alcohol use in high school/college.  In 2002, having graduated the year before from a small liberal arts college, she was diagnosed with a serious eating disorder (bulimia).  As a result of her ED, she developed some chronic dental issues and irritable bowel syndrome that lead to legitimate prescription pain killer use and, of course, eventual abuse.  And, it all compounded to the point of moving through and using cocaine, methadone, smoking crack and ultimately, shooting heroin.  After almost a year of living in a crack house, going to the ER multiple times to treat abscesses and GI problems, having her unemployment checks discontinued resulting in no source of legitimate income, getting beat up and abused, being dope sick almost every day, there were few options left. However, she told me recently, that she had resigned herself to being a junkie for the rest of her life, and dying a junkie. She couldn’t see any way out.  And then, Bill, her drug dealer/boyfriend, started ‘messing with’ her blankie, which she has always had since she was a baby.  Bill started hiding it and threatening to burn it to sadistically tease and control Hayley.  That was the final straw, Hayley later recalled – but all of these factors collided with each other and accumulated into a critical mass that ultimately resulted in Hayley walking away from her life as a drug addict. And, at age 31, she was finally realizing that she didn’t have time to f*ck around. 

•Keep Expectations Low (but keep trying): one small step can shift the balance; one atom moving into a different orbit may make the difference for bigger changes down the road.  Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and failure.  We have no way of knowing when an addict is ready to recover – or what small things can have a significant impact in shifting an addict’s desire/ability to get and/or receive help.  Just don’t ever give up.

•Get Support and Work a Recovery Program For Yourself: I started going to the anonymous fellowship of Al-Anon over 8 years ago when Hayley’s eating disorder was first diagnosed.  I am still learning how to shift the focus from Hayley to myself and be happy in spite of what Hayley is doing or not doing.  To have such a safe place to find help – – – and hope, has been crucial in traveling down this road of drug addiction with my daughter that I didn’t choose, or know how to navigate.  I’ve learned that if I apply the Traditions and Principles of Al-Anon to my life and relationships, serenity is possible (I’ve gotten a glimpse of it) and there are no hopeless situations. I invite you to Take a Seat.

Seek out true friends who don’t judge and want to listen – who rarely offer advice, and only when asked.  I have discovered some  Unlikely Friends and Neighbors whose compassion and support have been so incredibly comforting – and often, a pleasant surprise.   Journaling, blogging, reading Al-Anon and addiction  literature and good recovery blogs, all add to your body of knowledge about addiction.  They can calm your mind, ease some frustration and guilt, and give you hope.  All these resources helped me feel not so alone, for which I am grateful.  See my BlogRoll and Recovery Blogs in the far right column, for reference.  And, a Gratitude Journal helps to regularly think about, remember, and write down the things and people in your life you are thankful for.  It’s a bit of a diversion tactic that helps to get your self out of your own misery for a while – and focus on what is good and positive in your life.

And finally, try to be of service to someone else who is in pain due to or struggling with addiction.  This may be as simple as setting up chairs at an Al-Anon meeting, reading and commenting on blog posts, calling a friend who needs support and encouragement, giving someone your full attention and truly listening to them.

•Luck, Serendipity, a Higher Power, God: they all play a part that is impossible to predict or control.  I don’t discount any of these and try to remain open to their presence.  I will say that as of May 9, 2010, I do believe in miracles. And, I’ve learned that it helps to let go and turn some of the burden of worry and despair, over to a higher power. I’m still working on this.

So, Nora – I know this has gone on far too long and that I’ve left some things out.  I don’t pretend to know what to tell you to do regarding Hannah.  But, I do know that there is always hope, that YOU can find serenity, and that miracles do happen.  One tiny molecule can make all the difference in the world.

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Waiting For Bill

Posted on November 8, 2010. Filed under: 12 Step Recovery Program, addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , |

Hayley was just home for a few days to take care of a probation violation charge, and we had the unexpected opportunity to spend quite a bit of time together. The Prosecutor ended up sentencing Hayley to one day in jail – and because she already had credit for one day served when she was arrested over a year ago, her case was dismissed. Instead of spending 2 – 3 days in jail, my daughter spent Friday through Monday with me.

GULP! This was Hayley’s first time home, sober. Last May 8th, we, her family, orchestrated an elaborate intervention/rescue plan that culminated in Hayley going to an all women’s long-term treatment center in southern California, Safe Harbor. After seeing Hayley on her birthday, April 6th, it became apparent that she wanted to change her life. But as an active heroin addict, she was incapable of doing anything about it on her own. The words of Tom, at Recovery Help Desk, still resonate:

Voices in the “tough love, anything-you-do-to-‘help’-is-enabling-addiction, let them hit rock bottom” crowd tend to shout the loudest. But parents should know that the scientific research is on the side of the experts who say that early intervention is better than waiting for someone to hit bottom, and that enabling recovery requires action.

I realized that I had hit rock bottom and could no longer stand on the sidelines as my daughter played Russian Roulette with her life. As of May 9, 2010, my daughter has been on the road to recovery and working hard to maintain her sobriety. It’s a bloody miracle. And yes, I do now believe in miracles. The actual “rescue” was on Saturday, May 8th , the day before Mother’s Day. That day, I was scheduled to pick Hayley up at the crack house at 8:30 am. We had to be ‘on the road’ by 9:00 am in order to get her to the airport on time in Seattle and off to the treatment center. She was cooperative – but there were so many variables. At 5:30 am that day, my phone rang. It was Hayley, sobbing hysterically. “Mom, please come get me, right now”. That scene was a nightmare, and it was a miracle I was able to extricate my daughter from the cloying grip of her drug dealer/’boyfriend’, Bill. That relationship was so incredibly complex and convoluted, it seemed impenetrable. But, on that day, Hayley did walk away.

I assumed that Hayley had used right up until I picked her up that morning.  (actually, I had naively considered that perhaps she had begun to ‘cut back’ on her heroin use, in anticipation of going to treatment) I had packed a new bag with all new clothes, a new backpack with toiletries, and a new purse, with a new wallet, personal essentials, etc. Everything was clean, and new, and fresh. I knew what was in each one of those bags.  When I picked Hayley up at 5:30 am, I took her to my house to shower and dress for the trip. I dumped everything she had with her directly in to the garbage, and handed her the beginnings of her new life.

Hayley just told me that that day, on our way to Seattle, she ‘used’ one last time, in a bathroom stop about 30 miles from the airport. How was that possible? How did I not know? Why would she risk everything when there was so much at stake? My vision of her shooting up in the Starbuck’s bathroom stall, with mothers and young children going in and out, makes me sick – and is another harsh reminder of the power of addiction. If you think that love, or personal physical risk, or guilt, or virtually anything can compete with a craving and syringe, you’re woefully mistaken.

Although my daughter made good decisions and worked her recovery program while she was ‘home’, it was still difficult.  As we drove past seemingly mundane locales – parking lots, motels, convenience/grocery stores, Hayley would comment and divulge creepy details of her drug life. It was both fascinating and repulsive. I won’t be able to look at/pass by those places in the same neutral way as before. They’ve now become contaminated.

If I was ever going to write a book, said Hayley, I’d call it, “Waiting For Bill”. The last few months I was always dope sick, changing locations frequently, and waiting for Bill to bring me something – to ‘get me well’. Bill was Hayley’s “boyfriend”/dope dealer. He was in his mid/late 40’s, fat, in poor health, and facing years in prison. According to Hayley, he did have a heart, of sorts – when he wasn’t verbally/physically abusing her and other vulnerable parasites in their circle. Apparently, he ‘supported’ quite a few addicts.

When Hayley talked about “. . . waiting for Bill . . . “, you know what immediately came to my mind? Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous – a very different Bill, although both Bills suffered from the disease of addiction. Since Hayley has so positively responded to AA’s 12 step recovery program, I’m thinking that Waiting For Bill is the perfect title for a book about Hayley’s recovery.  She was, in fact, waiting for Bill Wilson to lead her down the path of sobriety. 

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Baffled

Posted on October 28, 2010. Filed under: Drug Addiction/Legal Issues, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , |

Hayley arrives from California today – the second trip in a month that I’ve paid for.

She has a court hearing tomorrow at 1:30 pm to face probation violation charges stemming from a random arrest over a year ago when she was still a desperate heroin addict.

On October 2nd, I flew Hayley ‘home’ to Washington State to visit my mother on her 93rd birthday.  It’s getting more difficult for my mom to get around and her short-term memory is failing.  It had been over a year and a half since Mom had seen Hayley, and she was afraid she’d never see her again before she died. So, I took advantage of an airlines special and arranged for Hayley to see her grandmother.  I’m glad I did.  It was a good visit.  However, it all became quite complicated and I was a bit of a wreck when it was all over.  I love my daughter and am so grateful she’s in recovery.  However, after four days, both she and I were very ready for her to go back to California.

When I dropped Hayley off at the Seattle airport, I told her that I wouldn’t be ‘helping’ her fly home again until she got some current government-issued photo ID.  She assured me that she would – that she was planning on getting her California State driver’s license and that if she failed the test, she could at least get a photo ID.

Fast forward to today.  She still hasn’t done what she promised me she’d do.  On Tuesday, while flying from NY to the west coast, a woman ahead of me in the airport security line was denied clearance when she presented her expired driver’s license.  I couldn’t help but report this to Hayley who responded with, “I don’t want to have to stand in line for 8 hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a photo ID.  It’s fine – they’ve always accepted my expired ID before – they just put you through extra inspection.”  Huh? Why would she even take the chance?  If some security agent decided NOT to let her through, it could mean a Failure To Appear charge in court tomorrow, which would really mess things up.  I don’t understand this sense of entitlement or lack of accountability.  Somehow, I thought when Hayley got sober, certain things would change.  Guess I was wrong – about her, and also about me – here I am again, flying her home once more without current photo ID.

Hayley did tell me  yesterday afternoon that she had just spent 6 hours at the DMV  to apply for photo ID.  She’s not working, but does go to AA/NA meetings, the beach, and to the gym.  Glad she could fit this in to her busy schedule.  Too bad she didn’t do it 3 weeks ago, because all she came out with was a piece of paper.  It will take two weeks to process and mail her new photo ID.  This makes me crazy.

I was on the east coast for over a week and before I left, I strongly recommended that Hayley contact her probation officer, her court-appointed attorney, and write a letter to the prosecutor, making a ‘case’ for herself prior to her court appearance on Friday.  She only accomplished a portion of this.  I wrote a sample letter for her, which I know I shouldn’t have done.  I realize that I’m both  enabling her AND wanting to quell my own anxiety.  It’s a vicious cycle. But all this uncertainty and Hayley’s seemingly laissez-faire approach to what is now a criminal case,  triggers me in to action. I have vowed that this is the last time.  As soon as she finally appears in court and serves her few days in jail, the $3,000 bail bond for which I signed a promissory note will be exonerated and I can truly be hands-off.      

Hayley just called.  She’s on the plane.  She did speak to her attorney – – just this morning.  How she pulls things off at the last minute, I don’t know.  Maybe that’s why she was such a success as a drug addict.

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Word Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saving the Best For Last

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

Since learning of Hayley’s seemingly rough time in detox, I’ve felt discouraged.  As usual, I project ahead and go from 0 to 100 in an eye blink.  I’ve done it my whole life.  It’s called, “catastrophizing”, and I learned it from my parents.  My mother could, and still does, turn a hangnail into an amputation with little effort and convincing drama.

So, when I read this passage on May 17th from Al-Anon’s Courage to Change daily meditations, I slowed down a bit.  Maybe it will speak to you, as well:

“When we talk of tomorrow,” says a Chinese proverb, “the gods laugh.” They laugh, I believe, not because they find us ridiculous, but because they know the future is not predictable.  Thus, we have no choice but to live one day at a time – right now – this moment, this day.

I can make plans, but I cannot determine the results.  No amount of scheming about next week can control what will happen then.  Circumstances will be different, and I myself will be different as well.

I can further compress the focus of this slogan to address one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time. In such small increments, life begins to feel not only bearable, but precious. At any given moment, no matter what is going on, if I concentrate on being right here, right now, I know that I am fine.

Today’s Reminder:

My worst fears about tomorrow need not affect this day.  By letting them go, I am free to grow. What bad habit can I change today?  What fear can I face? What joy can I acknowledge? What good fortune, no matter how modest, can I celebrate?  All I have is today.  Let me make today the most fully alive day I have ever experienced.

Do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will look after itself.” The Bible

Last Wednesday, I decided to phone the detox facility and see how Hayley was doing.  Actually, I was dreading the call and was scared. Six days before, this was the report from her dad, Brad, and his wife, Jill:

We saw Hayley this morning because we were in the area and the staff at First House thought it would be a good idea.  When we arrived she was lying on the sofa with a heating pad and asked Brad to help her up.  She seemed to be in a lot of physical pain and was really drugged up – not completely nodding off, but fading in and out a bit.  She doesn’t look so good, her feet, hands, and face are extremely swollen, but she assured us that the physician said it was a normal reaction to the Suboxone.

Edie, at First House, answered the phone, and told me that Hayley was doing much better.  In fact, she was being weaned off her meds and would most likely be headed to Safe Harbor Treatment Center towards the end of the week.  I wept with relief and reminded myself, to take “one day at a time”.  How many times do I need to tell myself this?

Thursday, I packed a box of things for Hayley: books, photos, stationary, stamps, lotion, and other miscellaneous items, and sent it off to Safe Harbor.  And, I sent her a letter, although, I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  I wanted to be encouraging and loving, ‘newsy’ about home and family, but also remind her of a few important things.  Because Al-Anon’s “One Day At A Time” and “Just For Today” slogans have helped me get through my days, I included the May 17th passage (above) as well as this:

ONE DAY AT A TIME: from How Al-Anon Works

. . . a practical approach to our challenges and fears is to take them “One day at a time.” We can’t do anything about the future because the future is not within our grasp today.  Worrying about it, trying to manipulate it, anticipating it – all these activities simply remove us from the moment. We can’t change the future, but by making the most of this day, we prepare ourselves to be able to handle whatever comes tomorrow.  We can only choose how we will respond today.

We can respond to the changes we see before us, confronting new challenges and fears, and enjoying the gifts that sobriety can bring, or we can allow ourselves to become obsessed with the possibility of relapse or failure.  We cannot know what will happen, and we needn’t deny any possibility, desirable or undesirable.  But wasting today worrying about tomorrow will not make us any better prepared for difficulties that may present themselves.  If they do manifest, those painful problems will not hurt any less tomorrow, whether we have stewed about them or set them aside today.  All of our preparation will not have spared us a single ounce of pain.  In fact, it will have lengthened our suffering, since we’ll have added all that extra worrying time.  So, if there is no advantage to trying to live in the future, it only makes sense to stay here in the present and make the very best of every precious moment we are given.

Another advantage in living “One day at a time” is that we break huge, overwhelming tasks into smaller, more attainable goals.  We cannot do what we cannot do.  Worrying about going hungry tomorrow won’t put more food on the table, it will only make us forget to appreciate the food we have today.  This day is ripe with opportunities for joy, for sorrow, for experiencing the full range of human emotion and experience.  Isn’t it time we took advantage of it?

As I’ve mentioned before, I find comfort and support in Al-Anon – but, I’ve learned to “take what I like, and leave the rest”.  For example, if I had only taken “one day at a time” and had not spent weeks putting together an intricate plan to get Hayley to treatment, anticipating all the possible snags and barriers, she wouldn’t be at Safe Harbor right now.  And, I can’t help but note that for the past year, Hayley has been living her own version of one-day-at-a-time.  Oh, the irony of that slogan.

And yes, according to Al-Anon, doing an intervention with Hayley could be viewed as enabling behavior.  However, my mother’s intuition told me that Hayley needed a ‘hand up’ in getting out of her deep, dark hole – – – and that she deserved at least one chance at recovery – especially since the statistics show that most addicts/alcoholics go through multiple rehab programs before, if ever, reaching long lasting sobriety.  It was time to start.

And now – for the best news I’ve had in a very long time.  Friday evening, I received a phone call from my daughter.  She had just arrived at Safe Harbor from the detox facility.  Her voice sounded clear and strong.  She told me how grateful she was for this chance of a new life, and that she was ready to do the hard work required.  We both cried.  And then, in true Hayley fashion, she added that she ‘needed’ to get her hair highlighted and cut, and that her dad had agreed to pay for this – and, that she also ‘needed’ a massage to get more of the toxins out of her muscles.  Hmmmmm – entitlement at its best.  She’s very good at it.  I just spent $102 getting her a pair of glasses so she can read the daily material she’s supposed to read in treatment .  I told her to just take “One Day At A Time”, and we would see what priorities became obvious.  I still struggle with setting boundaries with my daughter and knowing what is reasonable, and what is not.  And so, it continues . . . “one day at a time”.

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