I haven’t posted for over a year now, but have intended to many times. I started a new job in February 2012 that requires a lot of writing – not a great excuse, but I guess I’ll try it. An even better one is that my almost 96 yo mother is at the end of her life and on Hospice. Whatever the reasons for my absence here, thanks to those of you who are still hang’in with me. I do still have a lot to learn, work out, and explore. If you’re new to this blog, I invite you to look back at where my drug addict daughter and our family were 4 years ago at this time – and how far we’ve come.
Initially, this blog was a place for me to vent and share my despair as the mother of a heroin addict. I felt “Helplessly hopeless” and overwhelmed. I was numb with disbelief, anxiety, and crazy worry over my brilliant, beautiful, well-educated 30 year-old daughter’s life choices. Don’t most parents breathe a sigh of relief when their child successfully graduates from college and begins her own adult life?
Hayley’s drug addiction was a slow erosion that occurred over a period of about 10 years after college. It happened so insidiously, it was almost imperceptible – like the constant flow of water smoothing stones over the course of time, or a river gradually changing course after a millennium of steadily wearing away the riverbank.
My daughter Hayley, a 34-year old former heroin/crack/everything addict, has been in recovery now for over 3 years. If there ever was evidence of a miracle, she is it. It’s not all smooth sailing – and she’s still fairly early in her recovery. However, I am so grateful to be able to share her story of experience, strength, and hope.
Today, Hayley works at a wonderful treatment center in southern California and recently referred one of her ‘clients’/patients and her mother to this blog for comfort and support.
“Mom”, she began. “Why haven’t you updated your blog for so long?” Of course, this fact has haunted me for over 14 months now, and has become one of those nagging, burdensome undone tasks over which I constantly beat myself up.
And then she continued, breaking in to a sob:
“Ya know, Mom – I’ve never really read your blog. But after suggesting to my client’s family that they might benefit from reading it, I thought I better check it out more carefully. After work yesterday, I stayed up almost all night reading through the nightmare of my addicted life. I had no idea that I was that screwed up and caused you and the family so much worry and pain. I knew it on a somewhat suppressed, in-the-past-foggy level; but to actually read your words detailing the particulars of my frightening, dangerous, and sordid life 4 years ago, made it all so visceral. I’m not sure I was ready to read about it and resurrect those horrible images until now. Can you ever forgive me? Will I ever be able to fully repair my relationship with Jake? (her older brother)”
Both Hayley and I are in recovery from her addiction. I’ve been at it longer than she. We both actively work a ‘program’ – she goes to AA, has a sponsor, and now even sponsors others who are new to recovery. I go to Al-Anon and limp along at a snail’s pace, learning how to take one day at a time, live in the present, let go, and maintain healthier relationships. We both have a lot of work to do – and will, for the rest of our lives. There is no end point to recovery, no diploma. It’s an ongoing commitment and winding path full of triggers that tempt relapse. You have to work every day to stay ‘sober’ – which in my case, means staying inside my own hula hoop, and getting ‘clean’ from my addiction to worry.
Yes, it’s very painful and almost surreal to read those early posts – particularly from September 2009, when I started this blog, to May 8, 2010, when Hayley ‘walked away’ from her life of addiction. The months, weeks, days, and even hours leading up to that event were harrowing. It’s a miracle she didn’t die. Writing about it helped me get through it – – – I couldn’t have written a more horrifying screenplay.
I heard this Pearl at Al-Anon today: For true healing to occur, we must abandon all hope of a better past. We’ll never forget the past, but we cannot change it. We acknowledge it, learn from it, and move on.
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Charlie Zero is dead – and yes, that was his real name. He was only 44 years old. His funeral was today at one of the local cemeteries and I briefly considered attending. I would have loved to have seen who was there – make eye contact with a few of them, some of the other heroin addicts who had been a part of my daughter’s world for awhile. And given the opportunity, maybe I would have let them know that Hayley would soon be celebrating her 2 year clean and sober “birthday”. My intent would not have been to flaunt Hayley’s recovery – but to let them know it was possible – that there was hope – maybe even for one or all of them.
I had noticed Charlie Zero’s obituary in the newspaper a couple of days ago. He looked about 13 in the picture – sweet, innocent smile, shaggy hair, a normal looking middle school-aged kid. I’m sure his mother treasured that photo.
When Hayley was actively using hard drugs in 2009-10, she lived with the Zero Brothers, Charlie and Brad, for about 9 months – in their ‘crack house’. At one time, the term “crack house” was used to describe an old, often abandoned or burnt-out building, often in an inner-city neighborhood where drug dealers and drug users would buy, sell, produce, and use illegal drugs, including, but not limited to, crack cocaine. However, during my daughter’s darkest months as a heroin addict, I learned that in my own community, although crack houses might look slightly run down, they could also easily blend in with the rest of the neighborhood – and look fairly ‘normal’. Over time, I’ve also learned that a subtle give-away for a drug house is that all the windows are always covered, with curtains tightly drawn day and night, summer, fall, winter, spring.
The Zero house was a decent looking prefab house on my route to Costco. Once I learned that Hayley was living there, I would periodically drive by it. It was where Hayley landed after walking out of detox back in August 2009. Her drug dealer boyfriend, Bill, and his entourage, wouldn’t take her back at their crack house, which was amazing to me – essentially, she was kicked out of a “crack house” – didn’t know that was possible.
I called Hayley to tell her the news of Charlie Zero’s death. She said that she prays for those brothers every day – that Charlie was a diabetic – and, well, since heroin is cut with sugar, Charlie was always in some kind of diabetic crisis. “It was only a matter of time”, she said, “before he either died, or ended up in jail.”
I drove slowly past their house yesterday, after reading Charlie’s obituary. I was familiar with the house. It was where my 94 yo mother sent Hayley a Christmas present, containing a warm winter coat. It was where I picked her up at 5:30 am on May 8th, 2010, to go to treatment. It was where she said goodbye to her drug dealer boyfriend, Bill, out on the front steps of the house.
There were a lot of cars parked in front. I couldn’t help but think about Charlie’s grieving family. No parent wants his/her child to grow up to be a drug addict/dealer. And no child, for that matter, aspires to be a drug dealer.
There was a time when, like most other people, I looked upon drug dealers with scorn and disgust. Now, however – I view them differently. Whereas I don’t condone their activities, I also know that most of them are doing what they feel they need to do to survive. Almost all of them are drug addicts themselves – and becoming a drug dealer is the next ‘logical’ step to support a habit. I have a great deal of empathy and pity for them. They’re stuck in and have no power over their addiction.
According to Hayley, the Zero Brothers were ‘ok’ guys. They didn’t physically abuse her – and Hayley enjoyed chatting with their elderly father when he came by for a visit.
It’s painful to re-read my early blog posts. I was so desperate and helpless then – and didn’t know very much about drug addiction. Here are a few short ones that give you an idea about where I was 2+ years ago, when Hayley was actively using.
An excerpt from: Choosing Happiness: 12/9/09
This morning before my Al-Anon meeting, I read in the paper that 80 people had been rounded up and arrested on drug charges by the police – for distribution, use, illegal activity. Now, when I read these front page headlines, I wonder if my daughter is one of those junkies arrested in a drug raid? My physical therapist was lamenting to me about those who use and abuse the health care system, with no insurance, no job or intent to work, drug addicts – parasites on our society. I agreed with him, but also wanted to shout: “And my daughter is one of these people. They are so desperate, and sick with addiction and other mental disorders. They can’t help it.” Or, can they? I have an entirely new take on health care reform. No, I don’t want to indulge drug addicts/my daughter in services that she should be paying for herself. But, damn it – how can she get the health care she needs – treatment for her abscesses, her irritable bowel syndrome, her root canals – when she’s a heroin addict and doesn’t work, can’t register with the DSHS system because she’s afraid she’ll be arrested, etc. It’s overwhelming, and I can’t think about it.
Sirens, and health reform debates, and newspaper headlines about drug busts – – – I have a whole new take on it all.
This post from October 5, 2009:
It’s getting cold. All of Hayley’s warm clothes and jackets are here, hanging in my closet. Al-Anon tells me to detach. A close personal friend, who is an addiction counselor, tells me that I’m working harder than my daughter is. He says that if I continue to text and communicate with her, I’m enabling her – allowing her to still straddle both worlds. Other resources tell me to “hang on”, and never give up on my daughter. Always let her know I love her and believe in her.
So, what do I do? I haven’t seen my daughter since Monday, August 24th, when I drove 31/2 hours to take her to medical detox. Four days later, she walked out of detox AMA (against medical advice), and talked a cab driver in to driving her the 170 miles back to her “home” town. The crack house where she had been living didn’t want her back. Can you believe that? So where she landed, I didn’t know – – – and didn’t care, at that point. $6,000 down the drain (4 days of medical detox), agonizing hours of making elaborate arrangements for her detox and subsequent treatment program, all vaporized.
I have since learned that Hayley is now living in town with two coke dealers – who are “decent” guys, believe it or not. Should I text her and try to meet her somewhere and deliver some warm clothes? Should I maintain my most recent “hands off” approach so she really feels the isolation and consequences of her decision to reject “help”?
There are as many “experts” and friends/colleagues who expound opposite points of view regarding contact or no contact with Hayley. But in the end – – – I am her mother. I miss her and worry about her. There is a huge hole in my heart when I think about her so far away, yet so close. Does she just sit in her “friends’” house all day, nodding off, watching mindless TV, smoking cigarettes, planning her next fix? Does she remember it’s my birthday tomorrow?
Perverse Relief: posted 10/16/09
There is a strange sort of perverse relief in knowing that my daughter is holed up somewhere, using heroin and keeping to herself. She’s living with two guys who, I assume, are drug dealers. I can make myself crazy speculating about how she supports her habit, her risk for infection and overdose, her desperate, guilt-ridden state of mind. But also, for the first time in many years, I don’t have to worry about her power being turned off, whether or not she has money for gas in her car, is she going to work every day, does she remember it’s my 92 yo mother’s birthday, will she finally get a load of laundry done?
If you, too, are struggling with the issue of detachment, here’s some help: Today’s Pearls From Al-Anon: Detachment With Love
WE, my daughter and I, have come a long way in the last two years. And no matter where she’s been, or where she’s going, I will always love her – perhaps even more now, as we walk down the winding road of our own recoveries, alone and together.
Today, as a mother, I mourn the death of Charles Andrew Zero, and who he was at age 13 – and who he might have become.
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A Merry Christmas Eve to all my readers. This is a difficult time of year. For inspiration and hopefully, comfort, I’ve included today’s post from one of my favorite authors/bloggers, Dr. Brene Brown. Her blog, Ordinary Courage, explores vulnerability, authenticity, and the journey towards leading, what she calls, a wholehearted life. We need to practice self care – you know, the concept of placing the oxygen mask on yourself first in an emergency so you can then help others? I encourage you to visit Dr. Brown’s blog. It reminds me to keep trying to live my own best life. Take care of yourselves.
Finding Magic in the Mess:
The holidays are a perfectionism minefield. My expectations always need radical reality-checking this time of year and that normally comes in the form of a total meltdown. The good news is that I often have a lot more fun on the backside of my breakdown when I start letting go and leaning into the crazy.
As I think about my own life and reflect upon what many of the people around me are going through this Christmas, it’s clear that struggle doesn’t take off for the holidays. The gremlins don’t go on vacation. Checks bounce, chemotherapy appointments are scheduled, relationships keep unravelling, being alone feels even lonelier, and the “never enoughs” are in full swing.
As I prepare to spend the next week with my big, wonderful, crazy family, I’ve decided to find my holiday magic in the mess; to practice love and gratitude with the special group of folks who keep showing up and loving me, not despite my vulnerabilities, but because of them.
Wishing you a blessed mess and a Wholehearted 2012! Dr. Brene Brown
And the seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came,
And go round and round and round in the circle game.
This Joanie Mitchell song, “The Circle Game” is a favorite of mine. I’ve listened to it since the early 70s. My daughter, Hayley, sang it for talent shows and various stage performances throughout high school. I wrote a poem about her beautiful, lilting voice and its eventual deafening silence called “Laryngitis”. You see – – – she lost her voice to drug addiction.
I live in a rich agricultural valley known as the “fruit bowl of the nation”. On both sides of my road are apple, pear, peach, and cherry orchards. From spring through fall, something is always in bloom, pollinating, growing, ripening, and/or being picked. Even winter’s hush and muffled silence are noticeable, as the bare trees rest and replenish themselves before warmer days invite them to begin again. The seasons come and go and shape my days. The cycle of life, so relentless and visible around me, continues on – with or without me.
I walk or run with my dog past this rich tapestry of change every day. It never fails to amaze and humble me – and today was no different. I was awestruck at how much the young green apples had grown and changed in color in just 24 hours. And, it occurred to me that this is the third crop of apples since my daughter became a heroin addict.
I quickly flashed back to August 2009, two years ago at this very time – on this same walk and route. Then, I was numb with the recent news that my beautiful, talented, well-educated thirty-year old daughter was injecting heroin in to her veins and living in a crack house. How was this possible? I felt desperate, and nauseous, and guilty. Why hadn’t I seen this coming? What could I have done to prevent such a horrific existence? What should I do? How could I rescue her? She was trapped, right – there against her will? She didn’t want to be a drug addict, did she? I could hardly feel my legs moving.
I started this blog in September of 2009, “helplessly hoping” to connect with other parents of heroin addicts. I needed some place/way to vent my deepest fears and anguish, share information, and get some emotional support – some experience, strength, and hope, in order to function – maybe even to survive this nightmare of my child’s addiction.
Those early posts are so raw and frightening, I have trouble reading them now.
Last year at this time, as I passed those very same apple trees, I felt a little lighter. I wasn’t holding myself so tightly. My breath came a little easier. The sky seemed bluer and the orchard scents slightly sweeter. My daughter was in recovery and had been drug free for a little over two months. The events leading up to May 9th, 2010 had been harrowing and had taken a huge toll on my family, my body, and my psyche. And yet, a year ago August, I allowed myself to feel a tiny shred of hope. I knew it was too soon to skip, and jump, and relax. But there was something to hang on to.
And now, just this morning, I ran past those very same trees. The apples look the same as in years past, but are different, of course. They aren’t the same apples as last year, or the year before. They will never be the same, and never will I. I have seen, and felt, and imagined things I never thought possible in the last two+ years.
Hayley was just home for 4 ½ days. She’s been clean and sober now for 15 months. We spent a long weekend at our summer lake cabin – a nostalgic gathering place for four generations of family members. My 94 year old mother was with us, as well as Hayley’s brother, Jake, and his family. Hayley hadn’t been there for many years. She was relaxed and engaged – and after three days, decided she needed a meeting. And on Sunday morning, she took herself to the closest AA meeting she could find. “You know how when you need a meeting”, she said, after returning home, “and you go and hear exactly what you needed to hear?” Well, yes, I do know about that. That has also been my experience with Al-Anon meetings.
I still hold my breath. I’ll never fully relax and feel confident about Hayley’s sobriety. But running past those orchards today, I felt some acceptance – and a healthier detachment from my daughter’s addiction and recovery.
And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round.
If you are a parent of a heroin addict, feeling helpless and hopeless, visit some of my earlier posts, particularly those leading up to my daughter walking away from the crack house and her desperate, dangerous drug addict lifestyle. As long as your ‘child’ is alive, there is hope:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
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 )
I apologize for having been gone so long. I’ve had other personal/writing projects in the works, as well as tending to my 93 year old mother’s increasing needs and care. And with Hayley now in recovery, there isn’t as much high drama to report on and vent about. The reality is, however, I need to focus on my own recovery from my daughter’s addiction, more than ever. And, I struggle with that process. More on that, later.
Hayley has now been clean and sober for nine months. During that time, she was in medical detox for 12 days, then completed a 120 day residential drug treatment program, then moved to a sober living house for 5 months, recently acquired a California driver’s license, bought a car, started working at the treatment center from which she ‘graduated’, and just moved in to an apartment with two other women in recovery. So far, so good. It’s a lot. These milestones in her recovery are all very encouraging, and I’m so proud of her hard work and commitment to sobriety. It’s almost difficult to comprehend – and fully embrace. I’m very aware of the enormous amount of financial support that was required to facilitate her recovery – and that NOW, with that financial tether mostly severed, the real work of genuine, lasting recovery begins. Hayley has just begun to deal with the reality of managing her own time, money, impulses, and recovery program. Unfortunately, getting sober didn’t automatically reverse or eliminate many personal issues/traits that eventually led to her descent in to drug addiction. So, I’m somewhat guarded – and trying to just take one day at a time.
To those of you new to my blog, Hayley was a heroin/crack cocaine addict (or anything else she could get her hands on) – and was living a high-risk, dangerous life of depravity and desperation in a series of crack houses. She became a serious drug addict at the age of 30, after years of ‘dabbling’ with a variety of substances, from alcohol, to pot, to prescription painkillers, et al. As a beautiful, well-educated young woman from a family of ‘privilege’ who had been given/earned a variety of enviable opportunities throughout her life, Hayley defied the stereotypical drug addict profile and predictor statistics. Yet, there she was, less than a year ago, with only two possible outcomes if she continued doing what she was doing: death or jail. She came close to both.
I want to offer hope to those of you in desperate need of good news, information, and help for your own situation. First, if you haven’t already, you can read about the harrowing events in the months and days leading up to Hayley’s dramatic turnaround and walking away, with our family’s help, from the world of addiction. My January through May 9th 2010 posts chronicle the timeline leading up to my daughter’s recovery. Timing, luck, synchronicity, opportunity, higher powers and who-knows-what-else, all converged to create the perfect storm for Hayley’s decision to change her life. I am grateful beyond words, humbled, and still mystified by this bloody miracle. There is no magic formula for such a positive outcome. However, there is support and help for you to get through what you thought you never could .
I understand that when trying to cope and deal with a child’s life-threatening illness, you gather as much information as you can, and don’t rule out anything. And, of course, addiction is an illness. I encourage you to reference and visit the sites I’ve listed to the right of this post. They can provide you with important resources, information, and the emotional support you need to soldier through the roller coaster of addiction:
•Addiction Recovery Blogs are written by those currently in recovery themselves. They have walked the talk and know more about addiction and recovery than any professional ‘expert’. Their perspective and insight is of particular help to me right now, and a credible source of experience, strength, and hope. Professional interventionist, author of The Lost Years, and recovering alcoholic/crack cocaine addict, Kristina Wandzilak, just came out with a new blog worth visiting: Sober and Shameless. And, I highly recommend Guinevere Gets Sober. “Guinevere” is recovering from a prescription painkiller addiction, is a mother, wife, and eloquent writer. Actually, I don’t mean to necessarily single out any one of these blogs. All those listed are worth visiting/reading. They offer hope and a realistic glimpse of the daily struggles a recovering addict faces. I find myself wanting to learn more about addiction, especially from the addict’s perspective. These blogs help.
•Addiction Resources will give you a variety of good, practical information about the signs and symptoms of addiction, definitions of terms and drug language, descriptions of drug paraphernalia, treatment options, and more. Become educated about what you’re dealing with.
•Favorite Blogs list some good blogs by other parents who are struggling with addiction in their family, where you can get a wide range of perspectives and scenarios, and, perhaps, not feel so alone. The ‘community’ of other desperate parents, dealing with their child’s addiction, is such an important resource. Even though my daughter is now in recovery, I still like to visit these sites and take the time to give any words of support that I can. I so appreciated viewers responding to my own posts that were usually written in despair and in the midst of a crisis. Their support would often keep me going through, what I thought, were impossibly painful and frightening circumstances. I also learned through these blog posts, that many situations were worse than my own. It helped keep things in perspective for me.
•Inspiration For Living your Best Life: blogs that don’t necessarily deal with addiction, but will lift you up and inspire you to live your best life. I make an effort to go to these sites regularly, to help keep the focus on myself rather than my recovering addict, and expand my knowledge on how to be my best self.
My Own Recovery
Trying to take one day at a time and keep my focus on changing the things I can, is a process and takes time – it is and will most likely be, a lifetime of work. I am trying to recover from my obsession with what my daughter is or is not doing. The daily vigilance and monitoring become a nasty habit. There is a fine line between enabling and truly helping. It is incredibly hard not to interfere with the natural consequences of my daughter’s choices. And, I will continue to seek out the help and support I need to stay within my own hula hoop. We cannot climb up a rope that is attached only to our own belt. William Ernest Hocking
Right now, I feel that I’m taking a break and stepping back from almost 10 years of constant worry and anxiety. I am slowly shifting my focus – and working on not letting my daughter’s life take over my own. It’s time to face my own demons and create the life I want for myself. Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop. Ovid
This from Al-Anon’s Courage to Change: . . . I was busy projecting a horrible outcome to my loved one’s crisis and dreading the ways in which the consequences might affect me. The slogan, “One Day at a Time” reminds me that, in spite of my fears, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Why am I leaping into the future? Perhaps I’ve given my feelings no room to exist. Part of me gambles that by worrying in advance, bad news will be easier to face if it comes. But worrying will not protect me from the future. It will just keep me from living here and now. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.” A.J. Cronin
Will I ever overcome the effects of my daughter’s addiction? Anger, resentment, and fear are my demons. Can I accept the reality of my life? When I try to control a situation by making suggestions, asking prodding questions, and feel the compulsion to comment, I am losing my focus and need to put my energy back where it belongs – on myself. We should have much peace if we would not busy ourselves with the sayings and doings of others. Thomas a Kempis
I still struggle with accepting that I am just as powerless over my daughter’s recovery, as I was over her drug addiction. Trying to” let go and let God” and break the cycle of my addiction to worry and fear, is difficult – it becomes a convenient distraction from focusing on my own life and what I need to be working on: my own actions, behavior, motives, and relationships. Am I afraid to live life for myself? We’ll see. In the meantime, I will try to stay in the present – it’s really all I have.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
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 )
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