April Showers Bring May Flowers

Posted on April 5, 2012. Filed under: addiction, Intervention, Parent of an Addict, Recovery, The Bottom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

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.

 

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One Year Ago . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Like a Fever

Posted on January 10, 2011. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

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.

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. . . But A Molecule’s Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Al-Anon vs Intervention

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Here’s an interesting article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis in today’s The Daily Beast:  “How Alcoholics Anonymous Gets It Wrong” Most experts say you can’t change the people you love who are addicts, but Brad Lamm’s controversial book, How to Change Someone You Love: Four Steps to Help You Help Them, says intervention is the key. Denizet-Lewis takes a close look at the book and talks with the author.

You’re going to piss off a lot of people in 12-step circles with this book, says Lewis in an interview with the author.

“I know”, says Lamm.  “(But) if someone we care about is self-destructing, we are not acting with love if we don’t intervene. And I realize that the title of my book will be controversial. But if you boil down the work that I do with families, I help them change their loved ones.”

I encourage you to read this article, and then the comments that follow. The comments from readers are powerful and very convincing.  However, they made me very uncomfortable.

This article was very conflicting for me.  Ever since we learned that Hayley was smoking crack last June, living in a crack house, then ‘graduating’ to heroin, her younger brother, Brian, has been adamant about doing a family intervention.  However, the logistics of an intervention seemed impossible to me and overwhelming when she was living in the crack house.  How would we contact her, get her to reliably show up somewhere for an intervention, then get her to treatment?  She was suspicious of us – ashamed, and didn’t really want to be rescued. We barely had contact with her.  On top of all that, I was diligently following Al-Anon and my therapist’s advice, that Hayley had to be in charge of and initiate her own recovery if it were to be authentic.

I have learned that it can take up to two weeks to actually get an addict in to treatment, due to a variety of barriers.  It’s not necessarily a smooth, linear process, as shown on TV.  Once the intervention occurs, there are prerequisites before going to treatment:  the required TB testing/reading period (3 days), likely antibiotic treatment for abscesses, getting the addict in to a detox facility (3 – 7 days), then finding an available bed at a treatment center, transportation, admission interviews, etc.  And, the addict needs to be somewhere during this waiting period, out of their ‘using’ environment. All of these factors work against an addict’s desire or intention for recovery.  They chip away at their tenuous decision to seek treatment and capability to follow through with all that’s required.

Basically, I don’t know if I could have my daughter here with me, at home, while she was waiting to get in to treatment.  We tried it twice last summer, and it didn’t work.  Hayley just could not make it through the 3 – 5 days it took to get in to treatment.  She needed/wanted to use and left my house two times.  As she was leaving the second time, I told her that if she left, she couldn’t come back.  I had no control and felt totally powerless over her disease.  Since I’m the only family member in town, Hayley would have to come to my house after an intervention. What it boils down to is, I’m terrified of and intimidated by my own daughter.  If she were here with me, I’d feel I couldn’t leave her alone, couldn’t trust her, would be worried that I was saying/doing something that would trigger her – in essence, ruin the whole intervention attempt.   I’m just not sure I could do it – be strong enough to adequately monitor my addict daughter for a few days in order to get her in to treatment.  Yes, she should be a willing participant and want treatment badly enough to follow the “rules” – but, I’m not sure she could – or would.  She never has – not prior to being a heroin addict, let alone now, as an active addict.

And, it’s not as if Hayley is in denial about her addiction.  However, Brian’s point was that she needed to see us all come together and profess our love for her, and tell her what she means to us – so she would have a reason to want to get clean/sober.  And, we, as a broken family, may need to come together to unify, express our love and concern for not only Hayley, but for one another.

It is true – – – I don’t think Hayley thinks or feels she has anything or anybody to recover for.  So, the looming question is – – – should we try an intervention?  I’m not sure her father would participate, though if we insisted, he probably would.  It’s just so difficult to get everybody together.  Brad and Brian would have to get time off from work and fly several thousand miles from California.  Jake isn’t as far away, but is out of the country a lot on business, and has a young family.  All the planning would be up to me – – – and, then, what if we couldn’t actually get Hayley to show up for the intervention?  As you can tell, I get overwhelmed with the logistics and details of an intervention.  I’m a bit of a wreck just thinking about it.

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Today’s Pearls from AlAnon: Detachment With Love

Posted on October 18, 2009. Filed under: Parent of an Addict | Tags: |

I finally made it to my home AlAnon meeting this morning – hadn’t been since August 1st.  So much has happened since then – most notably, Hayley entering medical detox on August 24th at a hospital 170 miles away, then leaving AMA (against medical advice) 4 days later and talking a cab driver in to driving her back here, to our home town.  I’ve had no contact with her since then, except for this text on my birthday, October 6th:

Mom, happy birthday. I thought tom was the sixth. I know it could be better with all the stress and worry I am causing.  I am   ok.  I love  you so so    much and miss u.

In my AlAnon group, we read, study, and discuss AlAnon literature.  The book we’re currently reading from is Discovering Choices, and today’s chapter was entitled Detachment With Love. I really struggle with this concept – – – don’t feel I have good judgment, practice, or balance in achieving this slogan.  I tend to either do too much for my addict, or completely shut her off, in a punishing and self-protective way.  How does one detach with love?

In the Serenity Prayer, we ask the god of our understanding to . “. . grant us the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”  Here are some excerpts from  chapter nine that help me better understand and practice detachment with love:

Alcoholism (addiction) is an illness we cannot change. Detachment with love is an application of this basic lesson.  With it, we can let go of trying to change what is beyond our control without blaming ourselves or the person suffering from the illness.  It is possible to love the alcoholic (addict) without loving the disease.

. . . detachment with love doesn’t mean that we cease to care about another person.  It simply means that we let go of our attempts to change what is beyond our power to change.  There is great love in accepting the alcoholic (addict) as a person trapped in an overpowering illness.

Detachment with love means letting go of unreasonable expectations for ourselves.  We can continue to love people and care about them.  Hurting ourselves by persisting in negative and stressful speculation, however, is not proof that we’re helping ourselves or anyone else.

It’s not wrong to hope for a positive outcome, but we also have to accept the limits of what we can possibly know.  We don’t know for sure if the outcome we desperately pray for will prove to be the most beneficial result for ourselves or the alcoholic (addict).  We do know from experience that failure and frustration often turn out to be the first steps in a process that ultimately brings more positive results.  While there’s no guarantee that every negative will turn into a positive, there’s also no guarantee that things will turn out to be as bas as we fear.  We just don’t know what the long-term results will be. They are out of our control. It doesn’t make sense to focus all of our attention worrying about something that may never happen – or if it happens, to worry about the consequences will be. Detaching with love also means detaching from the outcome that we – from our limited perspective – think will be the best.

We know that we can’t predict or control the future.  Why are we so convinced that we know what will be best for everyone?  What basis do we have for being so certain about what the future will bring?  When we focus on a future we can’t know, we prevent ourselves from knowing the satisfactions that the present day could offer.

. . . we don’t have to have the answer to everything.  There is wisdom in doing nothing if we don’t know what to do.  We can find serenity by accepting what we can’t change.

Detachment doesn’t mean giving up on love.  It means opening the door to the joy, hope, love, and kindness that are available to us every day.  We can detach from old ways of thinking that make our day’s challenges appear to be unmanageable.

More pearls from the recovering addicts/alcoholics in my AlAnon group today:

•what someone says or doesn’t say to the addict is not going to change the outcome;  the addict, themselves, is the only one that can initiate true recovery.

•”victims” willingly participate

•If you can’t help someone you love, then help someone else.

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