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 Change: As 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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
The First Step prepares us for a new life, which we can achieve only by letting go of what we cannot control and by undertaking, one day at a time, the monumental task of setting our world in order through a change in our own thinking. One Day at a Time in Al-Anon
It’s been a week now since I returned home from visiting Hayley in California. I’m still a bit numb – almost in denial, that she has so completely embraced her sobriety and the 12-step recovery program. I’m still wrestling a bit with my daughter’s history of manipulation and mastery of ‘talking the talk’. In realty, Hayley has ‘walked the talk’ for over 90 days now. The recovery statistics for heroin addiction are abysmal – around 13 %, I think. So – I’m a bit hesitant to jump in with both feet. This skepticism is evidence of the work I still need to do for my own recovery. Although Hayley’s recovery seems almost too good to be true, her response seems genuine and, in her own words, Mom – I don’t have time to f*ck around.
Hayley has not only surrendered to her powerlessness over alcohol and drugs – she seems to have also undergone a spiritual transformation. This is not necessarily a “come-to-jesus” religious experience, but rather, believing that her personal journey led her to Safe Harbor, to the women that are there right now, and to a fuller, richer, and yes, sober life. Allowing herself to consider the possibility of a higher power and turning over some of her fear and anxiety to that higher power, has been one of the biggest changes I’ve witnessed, besides the obvious of getting sober. This concept of surrender is something I’ve never seen in my daughter before. For her to acknowledge that she might not know what’s best and to be able to draw upon some entity outside of herself for strength and guidance, is a totally new approach to life for Hayley. (OK – the truth is that Hayley did go outside of herself for help in coping with life – in the form of alcohol, pot, pills, crack, and ultimately, heroin. Now, however, ‘using’ the concept of a Higher Power to cope with her anxiety and surrounding herself with sober people who’ve had success in recovery, provide her with a healthy, more sustainable framework for living.) AA’s Step Three suggests to try to be receptive, to open yourself to help from your Higher Power. Hayley appears to have done this.
For 31 years, my daughter has maintained a certain “know-it-all” persona. I am not only completely amazed by her current humility and willingness to defer to recovery professionals, recovering addicts/alcoholics who have significant sober time under their belts, and a Higher Power, but I’m also blown away by her new-found – – – well – – – serenity. I have to attribute Hayley’s personal transformation to the program and staff at Safe Harbor, to the ‘cosmic convergence’ of timing, opportunity, and to the benevolence of some kind of Higher Power. My god – this must seem like a ranting testimonial for Alcoholics Anonymous, and the 12-step program. I guess it is, and I couldn’t be more surprised, myself. I never thought this particular recovery program would work for my daughter. I thought she was too far gone and her ego would prevent her from the concept of surrender. Guess I was wrong.
I saw my daughter on Friday, July 30th, for the first time since May 8th. She was tanned, and toned, and beautiful. She exuded a “joie d’ vivre” I’ve never seen in her before. But more importantly, she seemed calm and serene. The most outwardly visible evidence were her hands and nails. For the last 20 years, Hayley has bitten her nails to the quick and picked her cuticles until they bled. They were always red, puffy, and swollen – very difficult to look at. I felt that the condition of her nails and cuticles were an external barometer for her internal level of angst. Here’s a picture of her hands now, after I treated her to a manicure and pedicure – – a visual metaphor for her personal transformation, in my opinion.
Last May, Hayley’s appearance was startling. I took some pictures of her right before she boarded the plane to the treatment center in California. (the harrowing tale of extricating Hayley from the crack house is one that has been indelibly seared in to my memory bank) The color “gray” sums it up. Her skin and hair had a deathly pallor that was both frightening and heart breaking. She looked years older than her age – – – and was, essentially. The woman that walked towards me a week ago Friday, was not the person I have known for the last too many years.
Hayley greeted me around 10:00 am on Friday at Safe Harbor. She showed me her room in one of the cottages behind the main house, and toured me around the facility’s grounds. I was impressed with the home-like/residential setting of Safe Harbor, the caring staff, and the well-appointed, orderly, immaculate living conditions. “Velvet runs a tight ship”, commented Hayley. This tidy, organized living situation for Hayley was significant since, for most of her adult life, she has lived in filth and chaos.
Once again, I pinched myself.
At 11:00 am, I met with Hayley and her therapist. The session went very well, although, it was too short. Instead of asking a lot of questions about Hayley and her “issues”, I ended up tearfully sharing my own revelations and regrets as a mother. I felt that a door had been opened, and that I could have shared some of my deepest, most intimate fears, hopes, disappointments with Hayley, in the presence and with the guidance of a professional. I did a little of that, but there just wasn’t time to say all I wanted to say. However, the important point was, the stage was set and the spigot opened, and for the rest of the weekend, Hayley openly answered every question I asked, as well as offering information that gave me insight in to her road to addiction.
Marissa, Hayley’s therapist, is a big proponent of psycho-drama, and explained this technique’s process and why she thought it could uniquely access buried emotions and new perspectives/insight. I was impressed with her commitment to Hayley’s therapy and, more importantly, felt that she was able to deal with and cut through Hayley’s “bullshit” quotient.
At noon, we attended an AA meeting a block away. And at 1:30 pm, I met with Hayley’s case manager. All of these meetings were emotional and therapeutic – both for myself, as well as for Hayley. Our casual conversations throughout the weekend were honest, and revealing, and satisfying.
Later in the afternoon on Friday, I checked in to my hotel. Hayley spent Friday and Saturday nights with me in my room. I can’t tell you the joy I felt in seeing her peacefully asleep in the bed next to me – with her blankie, of course. I haven’t witnessed that image since December 1996.
On Saturday, we did some shopping (bedding for the Sober Living house and other supplies ), and went to a beach in Laguna. There, as my daughter and I basked in the sun, I saw the black track marks on her thighs and breasts. Yes, they are fading. Nevertheless, there they are – – – visual reminders of her desperate, sordid past.
Sunday morning, at 7:00 am, Hayley and I attended an AA meeting where I met her sponsor, Brooke. Brooke got clean and sober at 31, like Hayley, and now is married with two darling children. She pushes Hayley and requires a lot of in-depth writing that takes a full year to work through all 12 steps of AA. She sees Hayley twice a week – at a Thursday evening potluck dinner women’s meeting, and at this early Sunday morning meeting where an older, more professional crowd attends. These meetings, connections, and support are instrumental in keeping Hayley sober. She will tell you that. She believes it. She is living it.
Attending the two AA meetings with Hayley was emotional. I’ve gone to Al-Anon for 8 years, but had never been to an AA meeting. The meeting process, language, and principles were very similar to Al-Anon’s, and I felt at home. Sharing personal stories of experience, strength, and hope is courageous, as well as therapeutic. There is no judgment in the room – just focused attention, active listening, and support.
AA is one way to heal a person’s brokenness. I’m sure there are other ways that work. All I know is that the 12 step program appears to be working for my daughter – and that, is a frigg’in miracle. I feel guilty giving such a glowing report of my daughter’s recovery. I’m sorry that so many of you are still experiencing the pain of addiction in your family. All I can say is, don’t lose hope. And to quote Tom at Recovery Help Desk: “ . . . enabling recovery requires action.” All for now.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 24 so far )
Even though Hayley left for treatment on Saturday, things haven’t slowed down. I returned from Seattle around 5:30 pm on Saturday and proceeded to dispose of everything Hayley had brought with her at 5:30 am Saturday morning to my house, from her life at the crack house. I dumped all of her clothes, which I had never seen before, in to my garbage can, stacked the mystery paperback books into the Goodwill bag, and knocked on my neighbor’s door, a retired surgeon and long time friend, to deliver the pouch of dirty needles for proper disposal. There – one major mess taken care of.
On Sunday morning, I got back in my car to drive two hours to visit my 92 yo mother for Mother’s Day. We had a nice family brunch with my brother, his wife, and a couple of close family friends, I planted my mom’s planters on her deck, then jumped back in the car to head back home. WHEW! At this point, I was still operating on an adrenalin high.
At home, now, I’m beginning to dare to contemplate my life without visualizing my daughter’s bare, perverse, life-threatening existence at the crack house, whose metal roof I can see from my kitchen window. I’m forcing myself to not react to the sirens I hear at night – – – and think the worst. For right now – just for today – I don’t need to agonize over whether or not my daughter will be headed to jail, the ER, or, the morgue.
However – because we took Hayley out of state, and she had a scheduled court date for violating probation on Friday, May 14th, I’m in ‘deep shit’. Or, in reality, Hayley is in deep shit. Last Saturday, when I was trying to get Hayley to SeaTac airport to fly to the treatment center in California, I signed a $3,000 Promissory Note in order to prevent Hayley from being taken to jail. Un-beknownst to me, Hayley had a bail bond posted from a previous arrest last fall for violating probation.
Monday, I typed up a letter explaining why we, our family, conducted an “emergency intervention” with Hayley – that we were afraid for her personal safety and decided to quickly remove her from our small city and get her to a treatment center that could address her multiple issues of: poly-substance abuse, a serious eating disorder, ‘trauma’ issues, and a possible underlying mental illness diagnosis. I also requested and received a letter from the treatment center documenting that Hayley was an enrolled patient there, and that they would not recommend Hayley traveling for up to a year.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I delivered these letters to Hayley’s court-appointed defense attorney (who is overworked, back-logged, and could care less), her probation officer, and the prosecuting attorney. I also visited Hayley’s bail bondsmen, Javier, who told me that he knew and liked Hayley, that she was a unique case, and . . . he would go to court with me on Friday to advocate for her. Holy Cow. This bail bondsman does not fit my stereo type and has turned out to be a good resource for me.
I received this recent mini-report from a staff member at the treatment center, on Hayley’s progress at the detox facility:
I went to see Hayley today in detox. She is doing pretty well – sick, obviously, as you know from the detox. But her spirits are quite high – grateful to be here and can’t wait to get to the treatment center house. I told her I would bring her some healthier snacks later this week. Apparently, they only have things to nibble on that are unhealthy and she is afraid of her eating disorder getting the best of her. Beautiful daughter you have. I very much look forward to working with you all.
I called the detox facility today, to check on Hayley’s progress. It’s day # 5 for her. Last August, while in a medical detox facility in an inner-urban hospital in the Seattle area, Hayley walked out after 41/2 days, AMA (against medical advice). So – – – I’m nervous. Hayley could walk out of the detox facility where she is, right now, at any time. Today, Edie, a staff member at the detox facility, reported to me that Hayley was doing ‘ok’, that she was currently outside, in the sun, braiding another patient’s hair. She said that Hayley was experiencing a lot of deep muscle and bone pain, typical of heroin withdrawal – and that she was scheduled for release to the Safe Harbor treatment center on May 20th or 21st.
My daughter has a low pain threshold. She’s always whining that something hurts. A drug counselor recently told me that heroin addicts are known for their whining about their physical ailments. Who knows how much physical pain Hayley is truly experiencing – or how much is being ‘used’ to manipulate the situation.
I heard this on NPR today: ‘Stupid’ has a gravitational force that will pull you right in. This comment was in reference to the Greek economy, and the lack of discipline required for long-term change. It prompted me to think about Hayley, and my hope that she not take the path of least resistance; however, I also realize that she will most likely take the easiest path. This is scary, because the ’easiest’ path, is not necessarily the ‘best’ path.
When my older son, Jake, remarked that Hayley’s basic personality was difficult and annoying, prior to her heroin addiction, I agreed – and immediately felt so overwhelmed. A long time friend of Hayley’s sent me this message:
Peggy, Your strength is amazing! Having grown up knowing Hayley and your family, and being her friend, closer at times than others, these stories seems surreal to me. I did send her a text prior to her going and she replied as well, sounding positive and admitting that she missed her family so much and “couldn’t live this way anymore…” All good signs of getting on her way.
One thing stood out to me about your conversation with Jake, and how she had those behaviors even before she was on heroin…something to think about – – – before she was on heroin she was still an addict and chemically dependent to some sort of drug. (Alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, prescription meds, etc. etc.) I’m not sure that she has not lived a lengthy period of time as an adult without being influenced by some sort of drug. She has yet to develop the personality and coping skills that “typically” take place as an adult, whatever’ typical’ means, right? She is probably stuck in her adolescent/addict mind frame…
As Jake said, your work is done. The rest is up to her. All we can do is love her. You’ve given her the roots, Peggy, and have dried her wings, now she has to be the one to allow herself to soar. I hope you find peace. I hope and pray that Hayley does too.
Thanks, dear sweet Anna, who courageously reached out to both me, and my heroin addict daughter. Anna texted Hayley right before she left for treatment – and I know it helped nudge Hayley forward.
I also want to acknowledge a friend of Hayley’s, whom I really don’t know, personally. Apparently, Todd has known Hayley over the last 8 years, through a variety of friends/connections. Recently, Todd discovered my blog, and was shocked to learn of Hayley’s heroin/serious drug addiction. Two weeks ago, Todd decided to call Hayley and talk to her. For some miraculous reason, Hayley’s phone was “on”, and she picked up Todd’s phone call. Hayley told me on our drive to SeaTac Airport last Saturday, that Todd’s phone call to her a couple of weeks ago, meant a great deal – and contributed to her shift towards getting help for herself. Thanks, Todd – for your determination to reach out to Hayley. Your words to her, that she had traveled down the road as far as she could go, had an impact.
Tomorrow, on Friday, I will go to court, on behalf of my daughter. The judge could decide to show no mercy, and require me to pay the $3,000 bond, extradite my daughter from California, and put her in jail. Surely, the intent of the court is to get this client the help that she needs – – – and deserves? Hayley is in treatment right now; however, I am not assuming that the court, whose job seems to be punitively based, will show us any compassion or give us a break.
Just for today, when I hear sirens at night, I don’t immediately go in to cold sweats and nightmarish images. I know that my daughter is currently safe and scheduled to enter treatment where she will have the opportunity to re-invent herself.
Cleaning up our children’s messes – isn’t that what mothers do?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 12 so far )
Two weeks ago, when I met with my daughter on her 31st b-day, I guardedly allowed myself to feel a glimmer of hope. We hadn’t seen each other in over seven months, yet talked in a relaxed, uncensored way with humor and compassion. I was able to tell her some things I thought were important, and she shared some details of her life that were honest and informative. All in all, I felt good about our meeting – and reconnected. I think Hayley also felt that love and connection which, I had hoped, were reminders of the possibility of a more ‘normal’ life.
Last night, however, I heard from my ex-husband’s wife, Jill, who was in town for a few days to visit her family. She told me that she and Hayley had been texting for a week or so prior to her visit, and that they were planning on getting together so Jill could deliver a belated birthday present. Jill went on to say that late Sunday afternoon, Hayley called her asking where she was. When Jill answered that she was at Safeway, Hayley responded with, “I’ll be there in 2 minutes.” Jill was immediately caught off guard, not anticipating this spontaneous get together, and not knowing quite what to do. And then, Hayley appeared. She looked terrible – big bruise on her forehead, scabs on her head, dirty/torn clothing. Two guys had driven her to Safeway and were waiting for her in their car. Hayley was obviously in bad shape. She asked Jill for money – was dope sick – desperate.
Jill did not give Hayley any money, but gave her the birthday gift bag from her and Brad – a dress, sandals, earrings, books, a Walmart gift card. The entire encounter lasted about 10 minutes. Jill did ask Hayley, “Why did you leave medical detox last August?” And Hayley replied, “I just wasn’t ready.” And when Jill asked Hayley about the bruise on her forehead, Hayley said that she and Paula, the other woman living in the crack house, had gotten in to a fight. “What about?” asked Jill. “We have the same boyfriend”, answered Hayley.
This boyfriend is Bill, the drug dealer, owner of the crack house, older (45-47 yo), a fat, disgusting guy in failing health who wears only his boxer shorts all day. I saw him on our local TV news about a month ago when the crack house was raided by federal agents and he was being led out of the house, in hand cuffs. Bill was the one who got my daughter hooked on heroin and has porno running 24/7 on the crack house TV. Get the picture? Depravity at its best (or worst, depending on which direction your scale runs). This is what my daughter’s life has become. I can hardly fathom or process this reality. Is there anything Hayley would not do for a fix? I am both repulsed and devastated by the entire scenario.
Today, Hayley texted Jill to thank her for all the great birthday gifts (“. . . the dress is adorable, and I was down to my last pair of earrings . . . “). Is she fucking serious? I’m sure that every thing in that birthday bag was sold for some kind of drug to get herself through the night. It’s just so pathetic. And after this birthday thank you text, Hayley proceeded to harass Jill throughout the day, asking to get together again. She also asked Jill for a $100 loan – “ . . . just until I get my unemployment check tomorrow – and by the way, could you give me a ride to get my check cashed? I promise I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”
This evening, Jill texted me that Hayley had called her 11 times within 30 minutes. Jill didn’t respond. Her grandmother just happened to die while she’s been here in town, and Jill has her hands full with family matters. However, Jill is very susceptible to Hayley’s manipulations . . . and Hayley knows it.
Jill has said that her heart is breaking – and that she (Jill) feels so guilty about Hayley’s current situation. Yeah – I know about that. I feel it, too. I definitely feel that I failed my daughter in some way as a mother – and Jill’s ‘place’ in our family was the result of an affair with my ex-husband. Her role in my daughter’s life during some crucial developmental years, was – – – well, damaging, in my opinion – unintentional, yet still, inappropriate and confusing for Hayley.
For the first few years, beginning when Hayley was a senior in high school, Jill tried to be best friends with her (after all, she’s only 13 or 14 years older), subtly undermining my role as parent/mother. Whenever Hayley came home during college, if I tried to set some boundaries – or even asked Hayley to pick up after herself, she (Hayley) would storm out the door saying, “Fine – I’ll just move over to Dad’s.” Hayley was masterful at manipulating the three of us and triangulating all the adult/child relationships. We never quite knew the truth about anything since we, the adults, rarely spoke to each other to compare notes or corroborate stories.
Brad was essentially intimidated by Hayley, and also was adept at practicing his lifelong habit of avoiding conflict at all costs. Once again, guilt oozed in to and filled the space that should have been reserved for some critical, coordinated parenting. Brad and Jill both felt very guilty about breaking up two entire families which then bled in to their relaxed parenting style. Hayley, at age 17, was caught in the middle – not yet an adult, yet beyond the reach of any consistent parental guidance.. In fact, the major area of conflict in Brad’s and my marriage was always our opposite parenting styles – he was excessively passive and could never say “no”, and consequently, I was probably too controlling.
So – I was feeling very blue all day – but had previously planned on going to our community hospital this afternoon, where Hayley has used the ER multiple times, and speak to their ER social worker – which I did. I asked the hospital social worker if there was a way to “flag” my daughter’s chart – so that the next time she went to the ER, a social worker would be called to counsel her?. Yes, there is such a system, the social worker advised me. I gave him some background info on Hayley, which he entered in to her chart. And, he is developing a social work plan for Hayley, to be initiated the next time she makes an ER visit. Finally, I felt as if I was doing something.
Next, I visited the hospital’s business office, where I asked for a private meeting.. I told “Melissa”, the hospital’s account representative, that my daughter was a heroin addict, essentially homeless, and not willing to get help for herself for fear of being arrested and sent to prison. We then proceeded to discuss the barriers to getting help and some strategies for overcoming them.
I had intended on paying Hayley’s $320 ER bill from funds that I was holding for her from the sale of her beater car last summer. As I summarized Hayley’s situation in “Melissa’s” office, I burst in to tears. Melissa tenderly grabbed both my hands and said, “I understand”, she said. “Not that long ago, I was where your daughter is today. There’s hope. I’m a living example of that.”
Melissa went on to say, “I think your daughter qualifies for the hospital’s charity program. I’m going to forgive all her bills from the last few years”. I was shocked at this sudden, unexpected elimination of my daughter’s hospital bills – and yet, there it was – a gift to “start over”.
I know that Hayley will most likely be nudged towards recovery by some random stranger versus a family member. “Melissa”, at our community hospital’s business office, offered to speak to Hayley and could be “the one”. Or, could it be the social worker that will be called the next time Hayley goes to the ER? I don’t know – but right now, and maybe forever, Hayley’s “not ready”.
ADDENDUM: Although Jill’s and my relationship started out very rocky due to the circumstances of my ex-husband’s affair with her, over the years I became less threatened by her and began to realize that she was actually an ally in regards to my daughter. She never intentionally tried to come between Hayley and me – and often, in fact, could get through to Hayley in a way that neither Brad or I could. And, last June, I experienced a complete transformation in how I felt about Jill. When we first learned that Hayley was living in the crack house and had been evicted from her apartment, Brad and I “bought” some time (one month’s rent) so I could clear out and salvage what I could. (Brad and Jill live in California.) It was so traumatizing for me to sort through the chaos and filth of my daughter’s apartment, that after a few days, I just couldn’t deal with it any more. I took out mostly personal things: sentimental family artifacts, art work, five years of unopened mail, photos, school mementos, hand knit sweaters (from me and my mom), etc – Hayley’s personal history and anything that I thought she could use to start her life over. There was still a ton of junk left and Jill, who happened to be in town visiting family that weekend, offered to finish it up- and she did. She and her oldest daughter emptied the entire apartment, sending truckloads to the dump and Goodwill. No one else in the family showed up to help with this, except for Jill and for that, I am eternally grateful. (see Unlikely Friends and Neighbors)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 18 so far )
Tuesday afternoon I was shocked to receive a phone call from Hayley. I was driving at the time, and couldn’t see from what number she was calling. It was ~ 1:30 pm, and she sounded a bit groggy. She said that she had just read the newspaper, and saw that there was a home intrusion and assault incident right next door to me. She was concerned, and wanted to ‘check in’.
I was initially confused when I heard Hayley’s voice. The last I had heard, she had been kicked out of her most recent living situation by the older man she was living with, and was back at the crack house. (see post “Back to Square One”. ) When Eric and I tried to deliver a Valentine’s bag to her a couple of weeks ago, the ‘old guy’ Hayley had been living with said she wasn’t there, that he had kicked her out, and that she had ‘trashed’ his house. He said she was back at the crack house (Bill’s, her drug dealer) We then went to the crack house and Eric gave Hayley the Valentine’s bag. At that point, I felt very foolish – jeez – – – delivering a Valentine’s bag to my heroin addict daughter at the crack house? How pitiful. Plus, it occurred to me, after the fact, that she could get beat up for such a gesture.
When Hayley called me on Tuesday, I asked her if she had her cell phone back. She said no, that she was calling from the land line. Oh, I said – you mean you’re back at Washington and 16th? She said yes. I responded with, “The old guy said he had kicked you out because you had ‘trashed’ his place.” Her response was somewhat vague – but the essence was that she had just been over at Bill’s ‘visiting’ when Eric and I had stopped at the ‘old guy’s’ house with the Valentine’s bag.
So – one millimeter forward in that she’s not living at the crack house.
However – – – on Monday, when my neighbor was assaulted by some Hispanic guy that had kicked in her door and then assaulted her when she confronted him – – – I was questioned by the police as to whether or not I had noticed/heard anything. There were 5 cop cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck at my neighbor’s house – at 10:15 in the morning. I must admit, it did occur to me that perhaps, one of Hayley’s druggie ‘friends’ had kicked in the wrong door.
I recognized one of the policemen, who had been the kids’ high school campus police officer for several years. “Joe” recognized me, as well. When I mentioned that my daughter was a drug addict, he asked what her name was. I was hesitant to tell him – but he said, “I know your daughter.” Because Hayley and I look so much alike, he had put it all together. I asked him about Hayley’s arrest last fall, and he told me that she had been arrested on an assault charge. I was shocked at this news – I had assumed that she had been arrested in some type of minor traffic stop while she was riding with someone. (since there’s a warrant out for her arrest for violating probation, the police would have run a search on their computer and discovered this info) I didn’t quite follow the entire story, but the essence is that last fall, someone had filed an assault charge against Hayley, and she was arrested. Then, Bill, her drug dealer (and paramour?) had gotten pissed at the person who filed the charge, and had threatened that person for filing the charge against Hayley, with loaded guns in tow. The police were called and they ultimately raided Bill’s house and removed all the guns. SHIT – this is big time stuff. Hayley was quickly bailed out of jail by someone – most likely Bill.
“Joe”, the police officer, knew all about the crack house and the Zero brothers, whom Hayley lived with prior to moving to the ‘old guy’s’ house (yes, the 2 guys Hayley lived with prior to the ‘old guy’ were cocaine dealers name, “Zero”. How appropro.) Joe said that the crack house is a filthy, miserable scene, with porno on the TV 24/7, lots of drug traffic in and out, etc. When I reported the news to Eric, my ‘mole’ in the drug world, that Hayley was not, in fact, living at the crack house, he said that most likely Bill is ‘paying’ for Hayley to live at the ‘old guy’s’ house – and, of course, it’s not in dollars.
Great – – – she’s not living at the crack house – is living at the ‘old guys’ house – but, at what ‘cost’? It’s a knife in my heart.
At least Hayley is reading the newspaper – that’s something, isn’t it? This is tough stuff, and Hayley’s situation feels so hopeless. How could she possibly ever care enough about herself to change her life? I just can’t imagine it. However – I do believe in some kind of random ‘cosmic convergence’, which I have personally experienced, and can only hope and pray and believe that the same sort of miracle is possible for Hayley.
She read the newspaper, was concerned about me, is living at a better, safer place than the crack house – – – I’ll hold on to those things for now.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 21 so far )
I spoke with Hayley last night. I had decided to try to contact her, and was going to just text her. However, I really wanted to hear her voice. As I mentioned in my previous post, my intent was to “break the ice” by actually speaking to Hayley so that she might feel more inclined to communicate periodically. So, through a series of contacts and relayed phone calls, I finally reached her – or, I should say, she called me. News travels fast in the drug world. I had called the most recent phone # from which she texted Jill a couple of weeks ago, which I knew belonged to “Bill”, Hayley’s drug dealer/provider. I was very nervous – and had gone to my dear friend’s house, Cathy, to make the phone call. When Bill answered the phone, I said I was Hayley’s mother and asked to speak to her. He was very cordial and said Hayley wasn’t there, but he’d give me a land line phone # where I could reach her. Apparently, Bill feels some sense of obligation and/or compassion towards Hayley since he’s the one that strung her out and got her hooked on heroin. Yes, even drug dealers are human and try to be decent, I guess.
When I tried the land line phone #, it was busy. As soon as I hung up, my cell phone rang, and it was Hayley. Bill had apparently called her immediately after my call to him. Hayley had panicked, thinking there was a family emergency or death (both her grandmothers are in their 90s), so she called my cell phone.
The moment I said “Hello”, she started sobbing. I broke down a bit, too, but rallied and carried on with the conversation. I told Hayley I loved her and just wanted to hear her voice. She was emotional and tearful – but sounded grateful and relieved to talk to me. I think that hearing my voice reminded her of us – her family – and that there might be a reason to re-enter the ‘real’ world. She said she feels like she’s in a foreign country. I told her that she was – and a little bit about the poem I had written a few months ago entitled, Traveling Abroad.
My intent is not to have a phone relationship with my heroin addicted daughter. I told her that I needed to hear from her periodically to know she was alive and safe. She said that her current living situation is very safe and quiet, better than where she was before. (Eric recently told me that the 2 houses where Hayley had lived were feeling the ‘heat’ from the police – that most everyone had scattered after police began arresting buyers as they left. ) Now, she lives with an older man (65 – 70 yo) and said that the jacuzzi bath tub there is better than any drug she’s ever taken. (:-! This comment landed with a thud – it sounded so awkward and inappropriate. And then, she went on about her new puppy. After several minutes, I cut that portion of the conversation off. I’ve heard that story before. Hayley has had three dogs and lost them all due to negligence and not being able to afford their medical care. She referred to these dogs as her “rescue” dogs in that they saved her life, which is true, I think. In her isolation from friends and family over the last 7 – 8 years, her dogs gave her unconditional love, acceptance, a reason to finally get up at ~ 2:00 pm. She treated them as if they were her children. However, in the end, she was irresponsible with their care and safety. After a while, I just couldn’t listen to her gush about her new puppy, Kali. It sounded so childish – and somewhat of a diversion. When Hayley said she wanted to see me, I told her that I wasn’t sure I was up to it, which is true. I really don’t want to see her. It would just be too painful – and, for me, what’s the point? We left it at that – – – and that future phone communication was possible, but not expected. Again, I’m not interested in “chatting” on the phone with my heroin addict daughter – but, I do need to know that she’s relatively “ok”, and alive. I also told her that all of us in the family were in communication with each other – that we let each other know when one of us heard from her – that we were suffering with concern and fear for her health and well-being, and were always comforted when there was some kind of contact with her.
My friend, Cathy, listened to my conversation with Hayley. I wanted and needed the support – as well as someone to objectively witness my tone and content. I wanted to make sure I set some boundaries with Hayley, in a loving and compassionate way, and Cathy said I did. So – I feel very good about how things went.
I feel stronger right now, and very relieved to have talked to Hayley. For me, it feels like a step towards something, I’m not sure what.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 13 so far )
David Sheff and his son, Nic, will be speaking in Seattle on March 4th at Town Hall. I’ve got a ticket to attend this talk – and am excited to see David and Nic in person. I have been a fan of David Sheff and his book, beautiful boy, since reading it last summer.
David Sheff is a writer whose books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune and elsewhere. His piece for the New York Times Magazine, “”My Addicted Son,” won many awards and led to the writing of this book.
This book is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional roller-coaster of loving a child who seems beyond help. It contains a lot of good information about meth addiction and brain chemistry, treatment programs, and the parent/addicted child relationship. The personal story of David Sheff and his son, Nic, is touching and heartbreaking. Nic has ultimately written a book of his own, Tweak. I also heard that he has relapsed multiple times, even after the success of his book. This, the sad reality of drug addiction’s powerful pull. However, Nic’s story is also one of hope, in that I’ve come to realize that relapse is actually a part of recovery, and does not have to be considered a failure in the addict’s journey towards long term sobriety.
Here are some excerpts from that book regarding addiction:
•”There’s evidence that people who become addicted, once they begin using, have a type of compulsion that cannot be easily stopped or controlled. They cannot just stop on their own or they would. No one wants to be an addict. The drug takes a person over. The drug, not a person’s rational mind, is in control”. p. 150
•”with practice, addicts become flawlessly gifted liars, and this coincides with parents’ increasing susceptibility to their lies”.
•”A using addict cannot trust his own brain – it lies, it says, ‘You can have one drink, a joint, a single line, just one.’” p.261
•”Only Satan himself could have deigned a disease that has self-deception as a symptom, so that its victims deny they are afflicted, and will not seek treatment, and will vilify those on the outside who see what’s happening.” p.263
•” . . . thankful that of all the fatal disease my (son) might have gotten, he got one for which there is this little sliver of hope that if he surrenders, he’ll survive.” Thomas Lynch p.272
•” . . . in mortal combat with addiction, a parent wishes for a catastrophe to befall his (child). I wish for a catastrophe, but one that is contained. It must be harsh enough to bring him to his knees, to humble him, but mild enough so that he can, with heroic effort and the good that I know is inside him, recover, because anything short of that will not be enough for him to save himself.” P.274
•(Nic):”I had to hit bottom when there was no one and nothing and I had lost everything and everyone. That’s what it takes. You have to be alone, broke, desolate, and desperate.” P.279
•” . . . recovery, like addiction itself, is a long and complex process. Families should never give up hope for recovery – for recovery can and does happen every day. Nor should they stop living their own lives while they wait for that miracle of recovery to occur.”
Here are 8 pages of pearls from that book that spoke to me in some way. They are categorized under: Parents of Addicts, Addiction, Recovery, Treatment Programs/info. There’s a good list of addiction resources referenced in this book and detailed by David Sheff on his website.
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 “ice-olation”. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since last August. We’ve texted just twice since then. And, even though a professional drug counselor advised me to cut off all contact with Hayley, so she could feel the full consequences of her choices, I’ve reached my saturation point. I need to hear my daughter’s voice. My “ex-druggie” contact, Eric, advised that I call her from a phone # she won’t recognize, and maybe she would answer. She seems to just have access to a certain cell phone # once in a while. If I speak to her, I’m merely going to tell her I love her and . . . and, what? That’s the big question. I need a script to keep my boundaries in tact. I know I can’t slip in any kind of directive or ultimatum in to the conversation. Essentially, I want to connect with Hayley, in a non-judgmental way, to remind her of us – her family – and that we are missing her and waiting for her to once again be part of our lives. She needs to have a reason to even want to try to re-enter society, our lives, the real world.
I’m internally hounded by the fact that shame is a huge barrier that can keep addicts using and isolated in their own world. So, I want to try to diffuse that impediment, as best I can. I know that by calling Hayley, I’m opening the door for communication that I may not even want. I’m trying to sort out what I want to do vs what I feel I should do. It’s not all that simple. Yes, I want to hear from my daughter periodically, that she’s alive. No, I don’t want her in my life until she takes some steps, on her own, towards help and recovery. Is that conditional love, or just taking care of myself and protecting myself from Hayley’s manipulation and “I’m gonna” talk? In the end, however, Hayley will always be my beautiful child. And so, I will never give up.
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Hayley had abandoned her battered car at her friend’s, Erik, parent’s house after leaving medical de-tox AMA (against medical advice) in August. It had a flat tire, a dead battery, and the electrical system was screwed up after the radio and CD player had been ripped out/stolen five months previously. The car was full of Hayley’s clothes, unopened mail, and miscellaneous paraphernalia. Hayley had essentially been living out of her car for months, using it as a closet and storage unit.
I went to Erik’s parents’ house to clean out the car and make arrangements for it to be towed. I threw a lot of things into the garbage and the rest into a black plastic trash bag to take home, clean, and store. I thought I had finished salvaging her belongings when I cleaned out her apartment from which she had been evicted, in June. But no – – – here was more evidence of her damaged life to sort through and make decisions about.
When I opened the car trunk, I saw a dented, ragged, frayed cardboard moving box labeled, “Impt Stuff”. Its contents were heart-breakingly sentimental and surprising: her 4th grade planet report on Saturn; a typed pesonal letter from my dad, her grandfather, dated 1994; a framed photo of the 1987 Nutcracker cast in which she was one of the “party children”, a coveted role for little girls in our community; high school and middle school year books; a Certificate of Commendation for Outstanding Academic Accomplishment from the 6th grade; a ski racing bib; her high school varsity tennis team captain plaque; her high school athletic letter; a framed needlepoint teddy bear from my mom, her grandmother; a small musical jewelry box with her ballerina necklace in it; the polar bear sweater I knit for her in high school; and more.
Hayley is the most sentimental of my three children – she saves everything and, I think, cherishes family keepsakes. She’s the one that wanted my grandmother’s china; she wore vintage gowns from an elderly friend’s closet to Homecoming and Prom. She has always been interested in and appreciated the family history, stories, artifacts, heirlooms. The irony is, that she will most likely never have a physical place for these things in her life.
This trait of keeping everything is very much entrenched in my own family. My parents and grandparents kept everything to the point of obsession, without a lot of priority – from a receipt in 1952 for a 25 cent flashlight battery to my great grandfather’s discharge papers from the Civil War. The chore of going through and sorting endless drawers and files of junk, has been offset by discovering old letters, photos, documents and personal notes which are a priceless paper trail of my ancestors’ lives. I’m a member of this club, also. I seem to need a 3200 square foot house to store all my ‘stuff’. Hayley had kept almost five years of unopened mail, thrown in to bureau drawers – all of it bad news – which I brought home and opened when I chose to retrieve some of her things from her abandoned apartment. These envelopes contained a different kind of paper trail that still haunts me. Opening each one was a stab to my heart and tangible evidence of my daughter’s out-of-control life.
Hayley still has her blankie from when she was a baby – and sleeps with it every night. However, last April, she was not allowed to take it with her when she spent four days in jail for a shoplifting offense. She had privately lived with and carried around this impending jail sentence for nine months, and I believe the shame and anxiety of it all contributed to her ‘flip’ into hard drug use. After I picked her up from serving her four days in jail, I wrote this:
I know she’s thirty . . . but
she needs her blankie.
Can she have it . . .
in the Wapato City Jail?
She’s never slept
Oh, the comfort of
that tattered, yellow rag . . .
A silky, thin veil
of relief from
The secrets and lies,
shame and worry.
She needs her blankie.
Can she have it . . . please?