My daughter’s birthday is today. She is 33 years old. She’s living in southern California and working at a small, private women’s drug/alcohol treatment center. She has a wonderful ‘boyfriend’, a darling dog, and recently moved in to an apartment of her own. She’s healthy and happy and a consistent source of love and support to me. I just sent her five large boxes of household items that I had been storing – things I had salvaged from the nightmare of her apartment from which she had been evicted almost three years ago.
Soon, on May 9th, Hayley, will celebrate two years of sobriety.
This time of year prompts such a jumble of conflicting emotions for me. The trees and plants are budding with new life – so full of hope and promise. Spring is here as manifested by Mother Nature’s relentless cycle of new beginnings. With a symphony of birds chirping, the greening of lawns and surrounding hills, trees leafing out, buds and blossoms everywhere, it’s hard not to feel renewed and optimistic – even buoyant.
However, three years ago, all that changed – and this particular time of year took on a very different mood – a different kind of feeling – a sort of pallor. Despite the loveliness and allure of the season, it will forever be tempered by the grim reminder of what could have been.
In 2009, when my daughter turned 30, I threw her a birthday party in a desperate attempt to cheer her up and show her how much we, her family, loved her. There were mostly family members and a few close friends who had gathered for the weekend. Hayley had been unemployed for almost nine months – and seemed increasingly depressed, remote, and ‘unavailable’, punctuated with episodes of erratic/bizarre behavior. On the Saturday afternoon before her birthday dinner, we had planned a family hike. Hayley ‘begged off’, claiming she had some important errands to run. Huh? We had all come together, many from out of town/state, to be with her on this milestone birthday. However, over the years, we had become so accustomed to Hayley’s ‘flakiness’ and narcissism, that we shrugged off her ‘lame’ excuse, determined to spend quality time together on the hike, in spite of her absence.
The birthday dinner went well – it was so wonderful to have everyone together – including my 91 year old mother. The next morning, however, Hayley didn’t show up for the family brunch we had planned. She finally arrived ~ 1:00 pm – late, disheveled and spacey. I was very upset and suspicious – but focused my attention on smoothing things over for my elderly mother’s benefit, who is a professional worry-wort.
Many months later, I learned that Hayley had spent Saturday afternoon at a dentist’s office, getting prescription painkillers. And after the family birthday dinner, she had used a variety of drugs, crashed/overslept at a friend’s apartment, and couldn’t remember where her car was the next morning.
Two years ago at this exact same time, amidst the riot and rejuvenation of spring, I was almost paralyzed with despair, fear, and overwhelming gloom.
My daughter was now an active heroin addict, living a very abusive, risky, dangerous lifestyle in a crack house. Her likely life outcomes had boiled down to a few grim options: untimely death by overdose, violence, infection or, going to jail.
Here’s an excerpt from a post during that time to give you some context:
I’m 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 on her birthday, two years ago. And Yes . . . She’s Still in There is the account of the actual meeting.
Thinking back to that time 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 existence; and maybe she could accept help. 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 from 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 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. http://www.recoveryhelpdesk.com/
I ended my post, Open For Business, a little over two years 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 up – that as long as ‘your’ drug addict is still alive, there is hope for recovery. My daughter is living proof of this miracle. And today – this year – this April 6th, I am reveling in the hope, promise, and wonder of spring . . . and recovery.
Read Full Post
| Make a Comment ( 11 so far )
Next Sunday, on Mother’s Day, I will fly to southern California to be with my 32 year old daughter, Hayley, and celebrate her one year clean and sober ‘birthday/anniversary’. I can hardly believe this milestone. It is truly a miracle. A year ago at this time, my daughter was very close to death, in my opinion. She was an active heroin addict, living a very abusive, risky, dangerous lifestyle in a crack house. Her likely life outcomes had boiled down to an untimely death by overdose, violence, infection or, going to jail.
I’ve always reveled in the first week of May with all its warmth, new growth, beauty and fragrance. EVERYTHING is in bloom – from forsythia to tulips to lilacs to all the thousands of fruit trees in our valley – apple, pear, apricot, peach, cherry, plum. (After all, we are the “Fruit Bowl of the Nation”.) However, when I think back to this time a year ago, I can still viscerally feel the fear, panic, desperation, and helplessness that filled my days as we counted down to our ‘rescue’ attempt, on Saturday, May 8th, and getting my daughter out of the crack house and in to treatment. We didn’t know if it work, or if it would be in time. And so, this time of year has now taken on a different kind of feeling and pallor. Despite the loveliness and allure of the season, it will also forever be a grim reminder of what could have been.
Here are a few excerpts from my blog posts during that week a year ago, leading up to Hayley’s ‘escape’ from the crack house and her desperate/dangerous life of addiction. Click on the post name to read the full post:
May 2, 2010 “Getting Well”:
Over this past week, Hayley announced she was ready for treatment. She said she is tired of being ‘sick’ – as in ‘dope sick’, which translates to: “I can’t easily get my drugs any more and don’t want to go through withdrawal every day.”
Friday, Hayley called me and asked if I would take her to DSHS (state welfare office), to apply for food stamps and the state-funded drug treatment program. (I hadn’t seen or talked to her since her birthday, on April 6th. And, as you may recall, I hadn’t seen her, prior to that meeting, since last August.) I told her I would, fixed a peanut butter sandwich for her, and picked her up at the crack house. She looked terrible –thin and pale with over-sized men’s slippers on her swollen, abscessed feet, dirty clothes, and a hat pulled down over ½ her face. An overall gray pallor had washed over her – every part of her was faded. It was difficult to just look at her, let alone, be with her.
“I should be a phlebotemist”, she quipped, as we drove. “I’m really good at finding veins, especially on other people,” she proudly announced, and then showed me her red, throbbing foot where she had not had any luck that morning. And the irony here is, that professionally, I was well known for my phlebotomy skills. She added, “Yeah, I’ve often said that I wish my mom were here.” Some type of weird chortle/sound bubbled up and out of my throat.
(click here to read more)
May 6, 2010: Ready, Set, . . . Go!
My daughter says she is “ready” to go to treatment. And so, after a very intense and frenzied 10 days or so, we are “set”. Now, we just have to “go”.
Waiting for the “go” is the hard part. There’s way too much time from now until Saturday morning at 9:00 am when I’m scheduled to pick Hayley up at the crack house, drive 3 hours to the airport, and send her off. Will she truly be ready?
We have definitely reached a major milestone. A couple of weeks ago, after virtually no contact with Hayley for ~ eight months, I decided that she might never get herself to treatment, and needed a “hand up”. If the heroin and other drugs didn’t kill her, the dangerous lifestyle would. She has never been to a drug treatment program, and I felt she deserved a chance – – – to change her life, to get clean and sober. I know how her brain works – and understand her anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. Since seeing her on her birthday, April 6th, she has been saying to friends and some family members that she wants to go to treatment. In reality, I suspected that her shift in attitude was due to her drug supply being seriously interrupted. After the crack house was raided a couple of months ago, she no longer had easy access to her drugs. Whatever . . . in order to be able to live with myself and know that I had done everything possible to help my daughter, I decided to take this “ball” of opportunity, and run with it. (click here to read more)
May 8th finally arrived – and after weeks of planning, and with much drama and harrowing, unpredictable events leading up to our actual departure, Hayley did get on the plane to California, with her brother as chaperone, to detox and treatment. This next post could have been named, “Mission Accomplished“. There were so many factors outside of our control that could have derailed the intricate rescue plan . In fact, many things did go wrong – but many went right. Moments before getting in to the car to drive to the airport three hours away, Hayley was “arrested” by a bail bondsman’s scary-looking ‘strong man’ and marched across the street to jail. I considered all sorts of desperate measures in those few panicked minutes – – – you can read all about it in the full post. Here’s an excerpt:
May 10, 2010: AND . . . She’s Off And Running
The “rescue”/departure plan was intricate and tightly scheduled. We needed to be on the road by 9:00 am Saturday morning in order to connect with her brothers, Brian and Jake, and then make the plane flight at 2:30 pm. I was a nervous wreck. So much could go wrong.
There was just a bit too much time between Thursday and Saturday, in my opinion, to be able to successfully pull this mission off – too much time for Hayley to change her mind, to OD, to have the plan sabotaged in some way by her drug addict ‘family’. On Friday afternoon, I tried to call Hayley to just check in, and got a message from Paula’s phone that it could no longer receive messages. I went ballistic – – – my mind catapulted to the worst-case scenario in a millisecond.
Finally, after many phone calls, Paula did pick up – and handed her phone over to Hayley. “I’m fine, Mom”, Hayley chirped. I burst in to tears. “When I couldn’t reach you, Hayley, I thought the worst. I’ll pick you up at 8:45 am. Be ready. And if you need or want me to pick you up anytime earlier, just call.”
Friday afternoon and evening flew by, with all my packing and organizing for Hayley. There were lots of details – and, I was in my highest level of obsessive-compulsive mode. It was getting closer – – – a chance for Hayley.
I went to bed and was amazed to actually fall asleep. And then, at 5:30 am on Saturday morning, the phone rang. I bolted upright in a daze, my heart pounding out of my chest. “Can you come get me”, Hayley sobbed. I didn’t know what was wrong – or what I’d find when I arrived, but I quickly dressed and flew out the door. (read the rest of the scary details here)
For about an hour on Saturday, I was with my three children – all of us together at the same time, on the same team, to get Hayley help and out of the risky lifestyle she had been living in for over a year. It was a miracle – – – and the best Mother’s Day present imaginable. However, now comes the waiting. Will she stick it out? Can she schmooze her way through a team of professionals like she did in 2002 at the eating disorder treatment center? Who and what has she become? Can you “undo” ways of thinking and behaving?
P.S. I drove back home from delivering Hayley to my sons, yesterday, and this morning got back in my car and drove two hours to spend Mother’s Day with my 92 yo mother. At around 1:00 pm at brunch, my phone rang. It was the detox center, and my heart sank. “Hi – – – this is Megan at First House Detox”, she said. “Normally, phone calls aren’t allowed, but I have your daughter here and she wants to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.” I was thrilled to hear Hayley’s voice. She sounded good. Her message to me was sweet and sincere. She seemed pleased that she had slept so long that now, it was time for her first suboxone dose. Hmmmmmm. That phone call was testimony to Hayley’s incredible persuasion skills. I just hope that the treatment center staff is up to dealing with them.
Now, here I am, getting myself ready to visit Hayley and her new life in southern California. Almost a year ago, she spent 12 days in medical detox, 120 days in a small, all-women’s long term treatment center, has totally embraced and is working a 12 step recovery program, lived in a sober living house for 5 months, bought a used car, moved to an apartment with two other young women in recovery, and is working full time at the treatment center from which she ‘graduated’. Now she picks up clients at the airport and supervises/counsels addicts in recovery. Hayley has become a trusted staff member at the treatment center. Still, it’s “one day at a time”.
On Sunday evening, May 8th, Hayley, with a few good friends and myself, will participate in the “Watch”, a ritualized party, of sorts, held during the last couple of hours leading up to the recovering addict’s one year ‘birthday’. We will gather to celebrate and support Hayley’s sobriety as the clock ticks toward midnight and May 9th – her actual anniversary date. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day.
On Mother’s Day, one year ago, my daughter began her journey to recovery. It was the first day in probably 15 years that she didn’t chew, swallow, inhale, snort, drink, smoke, or inject a chemical substance that altered her consciousness in some way. What a gift – not only to ME, but to herself, as well.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ME . . . AND TO ALL OF YOU MOMS OUT THERE!
Read Full Post
| Make a Comment ( 11 so far )
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.
Read Full Post
| Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
I keep in touch with a writer friend of mine, Patti Digh, both through her blog (www.37days.com) and on her Facebook page. Patti is a gifted and inspirational writer, as well as speaker, and travels all over the country to spread her message of living your best life. She has a crazy schedule and lots of deadlines to meet – and yet, her posts over the last few days have been solely about her young daughter, Tess, whose high fever was of great concern. After several days of fretting and posting Tess’ current temperature, treatments, and subsequent recovery, it occurred to me that when a child of ours is sick, in pain, or suffering in some way, that becomes our focus – and can easily consume us. Whether it be the flu, or tonsillitis, or addiction – – – it’s all the same. Everything else goes out the window. We, as mothers, are concerned with only one thing – doing what we can to help our child get well. We feel helpless, and scared, and silently battle the big what If/worst-case scenario. It’s always there – lurking just under the surface, no matter how much others tell us not to worry – that everything will be fine. A six year old’s high fever that may last a few hours or days, or an adult child’s heroin addiction – – – it’s all the same to a mother – the worry, the fear, the helplessness, the hard rock in the pit of your stomach. I’ve heard it said that a mother can only be as happy as her least happy (vulnerable) child. This is often true, for me, although I battle against this adage in order to maintain some degree of personal happiness and joy. I’m constantly working on my own recovery from the effects of my daughter’s disease – but what I suspect, is that there is no full recovery from motherhood.
Read Full Post
| Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
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.
Read Full Post
| Make a Comment ( 13 so far )
I’m cruising a bit today. It’s summer, and I feel I haven’t played yet. The days just fly by, with me tending to ‘important’ details of my remodeling project, Hayley’s recovery, family demands, and – – – life! And so, instead of hacking out my own post, today I am featuring a ‘guest columnist’, professional interventionist Kristina Wandzilak. This is her most recent post, June 30th, from her blog: The Kristina Chronicles. Kristina’s fabulous memoir, The Lost Years, is a story of hope. I read this book last summer, when I was certain that I had lost my daughter to heroin and crack cocaine, forever. The book was informative, touching, raw, and honest. Kristina and her mother, Connie, wrote alternating chapters – from the addict’s and mother’s points of view. You may also read reviews of Kristina’s television series, Addicted, on my previous blog posts.
And so – if you are feeling despair, and hopelessness, and overwhelming grief and fear that your addict ‘child’ will never get clean/sober – or even survive, take a look at Kristina’s story and journey to recovery. It can happen. It does happen.
Rescued from the Sea
I drowned today.
In a sea of memory and emotions, I drowned.
Just like the ocean, the memory took me over slowly. The water covered my toes and feet first, the sand melting away beneath them; then my knees, thighs and stomach. My chest next, with a slight loss of breath as the shock of the cold memory swirled around me. Then my shoulders, and finally my face was the last to go under as it looked up at the sky. My mouth let out a small gasp — and then bittersweet submersion as the memory pushed and pulled all around me.
I was very naive when I first hit the street. I learned very difficult lessons, the hard way. I was taken in by a man who told me he had a bunch of crack and he wanted to share it. I know — looking back, I should have foreseen what was coming — but I was lost, hurting and hopelessly addicted. And when he held up the bag of rocks, I could not turn away.
We went into a muggy motel room and he put down the bag and a pile of cocaine for us all to enjoy. It was me and an older black woman who was very thin and looked hard and a little scary. She had a scar above her eye, and I remember wondering how she got it. Her eyes were a deep brown, like dark chocolate, her hair short with a bandana wrapped around her forehead. I could tell she was pretty at a time in her life, but the street wears hard on pretty faces and kind souls. She had on a torn lavender T-shirt and tight jeans, dark blue. She was wearing a pair of white K-Swiss, I remember because I had a pair of the same exact shoes, at some point. She did not say much but took hit after hit off the crack pipe. It was warm in that room — smoky and dirty — but warm. The drugs were endless. It was heaven.
After some time of getting high and simple talk, I went into the bathroom, which was through the bedroom. I left the front room, and when I came back the man was standing in the doorway, blocking me from walking into the main room where the older woman was partying and listening to music, ABC by Jackson Five. I’ll never forget it. It was such a happy song for such a shit place.
He said to me, “Pull up your shirt and pull down your pants so I can see how much you’re worth.” I was shocked, speechless, and fear shot through me, making my hands shake. He said, “You didn’t think this was free, did you? You’ll be paying before you leave.” He just stood there blocking the doorway with a sleazy smile and a creepy look. Panic flooded me. My head was dizzy. I felt weak and sick and terrified. There was a knock on the motel room door, which distracted him. He said, “I’ll be back,” and stepped away to see who was at the door.
The moment he was out of the doorway, I gasped “…I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this.” I slid down the wall and began to hyperventilate. “I don’t know how to get out of this…” The older woman stood at my feet. She took a hit off a crack pipe, knelt down in front of me, pulled my face to hers, placed her lips on mine, and blew into my mouth. I inhaled as deeply as I could. The crack smoke filled my lungs like a baby’s first breath. Then she lifted my chin and looked into my eyes and said, “You don’t belong here.” Just those words, nothing else. She pulled me up off the floor, led me into the bathroom and helped me escape through a small window. She told me not to return.
As my feet landed on the walkway outside and the fresh air filled me, I ran. I ran blocks away. I ran as fast as I could. Running when you have nowhere to go is like a nightmare. My feet were moving so quickly, my breath was fast but it was like I was stuck in a dream I could not awake from. There was no escape from what I had done to myself. So I ran until I simply could not run anymore. I slept on concrete that night, at the far end of an alley, pushed into a corner. I closed my eyes until dawn was upon the city.
I do not know her name; I will never forget her face or the mercy she showed me that day. I was not so lucky the next time.
I bring her words with me into each intervention; no one deserves to be caught in the wicked, lonely, despairing disease of addiction. I have intervened on homeless drug addicts and fortune 500 CEOs, and I can tell you the desperation is the same; the fear, the madness, the brutal cycle of shame and self-loathing is our common denominator, and no one belongs in it or deserves to die of it.
When I doubt — and trust me, at times I do — that there is a higher purpose for me and a reason I survived, I picture her face, I remember her words, and she gives me strength to carry on and to continue to wage this war against addiction.
Sober and Shameless, KW
Read Full Post
| Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
With permission, Hayley’s most recent letter from recovery:
I got the meditation book a couple of days ago. I read it every morning in our meditation group. People seem to like it – thank you! I’ve been wearing the bracelet and earrings you sent almost every day, too. You do such a great job finding little special “Hayley-isms”. It means a lot to me that you take the time to look for and find things that you think I would like, or remind you of me.
It’s been a tough week for me – no sugar coating or smiling my way through. It’s really hard for me to admit sometimes that I’m not OK, that I’m sad, that I’m f*cking terrified. A couple of my friends relapsed, and it scares the sh*t out of me how easy it was. It also makes me angry. “What makes them so special that they get to use again?” I am still working hard and grateful to be sober, but thoughts of the future overwhelm me sometimes. I am reminded by my addict fellows to stop thinking about tomorrow and just think about the moment, the minute, today. Becky told me today not to worry about other people or their consequences and/or lack there of, but instead focus on the fact that I am working a good program, that I am trusted to go places on my own, that I am honest and not partaking in other addictive behavior, etc. It’s strange to be the one doing things “right” for once. I’ve been the other for so long, it’s who I still identify with.
Anyways, love you and miss you and am still so grateful you’re my mom. Love, Hayley
Read Full Post
| Make a Comment ( 10 so far )