One Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. . . 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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Cleaning Up Her Messes

Posted on May 14, 2010. Filed under: Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Even though Hayley left for treatment on Saturday, things haven’t slowed down.  I returned from Seattle  around 5:30 pm on Saturday and proceeded to dispose of everything Hayley had brought with her at 5:30 am Saturday morning to my house, from her life at the crack house.  I dumped all of her clothes, which I had never seen before, in to my garbage can, stacked the mystery paperback books into the Goodwill bag, and knocked on my neighbor’s door, a retired surgeon and long time friend, to deliver the pouch of dirty needles for proper disposal.  There – one major mess taken care of. 

On Sunday morning, I got back in my car to drive two hours to visit my 92 yo mother for Mother’s Day.  We had a nice family brunch with my brother, his wife, and  a couple of close family friends, I planted my mom’s planters on her deck, then jumped back in the car to head back home.  WHEW!  At this point, I was still operating on an adrenalin high.

At home, now, I’m beginning to dare to contemplate my life without visualizing my daughter’s bare, perverse, life-threatening existence at the crack house, whose metal roof I can see from my kitchen window.  I’m forcing myself to not react to the sirens I hear at night – – – and think the worst. For right now – just for today – I don’t need to agonize over whether or not my daughter will be headed to jail, the ER, or, the morgue.

However – because we took Hayley out of state, and she had a scheduled court date for violating probation on Friday, May 14th, I’m in ‘deep shit’.  Or, in reality, Hayley is in deep shit.  Last Saturday, when I was trying to get Hayley to SeaTac airport to fly to the treatment center in California, I signed a $3,000 Promissory Note in order to prevent Hayley from being taken to jail.  Un-beknownst to me, Hayley had a bail bond posted from a previous arrest last fall for violating probation.

Monday,  I typed up a letter explaining why we, our family, conducted an “emergency intervention” with Hayley – that we were afraid for her personal safety and decided to quickly remove her from our small city and get her to a treatment center that could address her multiple issues of:  poly-substance abuse, a serious eating disorder, ‘trauma’ issues, and a possible underlying mental illness diagnosis.  I also requested and received a letter from the treatment center documenting that Hayley was an enrolled patient there, and that they would not recommend Hayley traveling for up to a year.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I delivered these letters to Hayley’s court-appointed defense attorney (who is overworked, back-logged, and could care less), her probation officer, and the prosecuting attorney.  I also visited Hayley’s bail bondsmen, Javier, who told me that he knew and liked Hayley, that she was a unique case,  and . . . he would go to court with me on Friday to advocate for her.  Holy Cow. This bail bondsman does not fit my stereo type and has turned out to be a good resource for me.

I received this recent mini-report from a staff member at the treatment center, on Hayley’s progress at the detox facility:

I went to see Hayley today in detox.  She is doing pretty well – sick, obviously, as you know from the detox. But her spirits are quite high – grateful to be here and can’t wait to get to the treatment center house.  I told her I would bring her some healthier snacks later this week.  Apparently, they only have things to nibble on that are unhealthy and she is afraid of her eating disorder getting the best of her.  Beautiful daughter you have.  I very much look forward to working with you all.

I called the detox facility today, to check on Hayley’s progress.  It’s day # 5 for her.  Last August, while in a medical detox facility in an inner-urban hospital in the Seattle area, Hayley walked out after 41/2 days, AMA (against medical advice).  So – – – I’m nervous. Hayley could walk out of the detox facility where she is, right now, at any time.  Today, Edie, a staff member at the detox facility, reported to me that Hayley was doing ‘ok’, that she was currently outside, in the sun, braiding another patient’s hair.  She said that Hayley was experiencing a lot of deep muscle and bone pain, typical of heroin withdrawal – and that she was scheduled for release to the Safe Harbor treatment center on May 20th or 21st.

My daughter has a low pain threshold.  She’s always whining that something hurts.  A drug counselor recently told me that heroin addicts are known for their whining about their physical ailments.  Who knows how much physical  pain Hayley is truly experiencing – or how much is being ‘used’ to manipulate the situation.

I heard this on NPR today: ‘Stupid’ has a gravitational force that will pull you right in. This comment was in reference to the Greek economy, and the lack of discipline required for long-term change.  It prompted me to think about Hayley, and my hope that she not take the path of least resistance; however, I also realize that she will most likely take the easiest path.  This is scary, because the ’easiest’ path, is not necessarily the ‘best’ path.

When my older son, Jake, remarked that Hayley’s basic personality was difficult and annoying, prior to her heroin addiction, I agreed – and immediately felt so overwhelmed.  A long time friend of Hayley’s sent me this message:

Peggy, Your strength is amazing!  Having grown up knowing Hayley and your family, and being her friend, closer at times than others, these stories seems surreal to me.  I did send her a text prior to her going and she replied as well, sounding positive and admitting that she missed her family so much and “couldn’t live this way anymore…”  All good signs of getting on her way.

One thing stood out to me about your conversation with Jake, and how she had those behaviors even before she was on heroin…something to think about – – – before she was on heroin she was still an addict and chemically dependent to some sort of drug.  (Alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, prescription meds, etc. etc.)  I’m not sure that she has not lived a lengthy period of time as an adult without being influenced by some sort of drug.  She has yet to develop the personality and coping skills that “typically” take place as an adult, whatever’ typical’ means, right?  She is probably stuck in her adolescent/addict mind frame…

As Jake said, your work is done.  The rest is up to her.  All we can do is love her.  You’ve given her the roots, Peggy, and have dried her wings, now she has to be the one to allow herself to soar.  I hope you find peace.  I hope and pray that Hayley does too.

Thanks, dear sweet Anna, who courageously reached out to both me, and my heroin addict daughter. Anna texted Hayley right before she left for treatment – and I know it helped nudge Hayley forward.

I  also want to acknowledge a friend of Hayley’s, whom I really don’t know, personally.  Apparently, Todd has known Hayley over the last 8 years, through a variety of friends/connections. Recently, Todd discovered my blog, and was shocked to learn of Hayley’s heroin/serious drug addiction.  Two weeks ago, Todd decided to call Hayley and talk to her.  For some miraculous reason, Hayley’s phone was “on”, and she picked up Todd’s phone call.  Hayley told me on our drive to SeaTac Airport last Saturday, that Todd’s phone call to her a couple of weeks ago, meant a great deal – and contributed to her shift towards getting help for herself. Thanks, Todd – for your determination to reach out to Hayley.  Your words to her, that she had traveled down the road as far as she could go, had an impact.

Tomorrow, on Friday, I will go to court, on behalf of my daughter.  The judge could decide to show no mercy, and require me to pay the $3,000 bond, extradite my daughter from California, and put her in jail. Surely, the intent of the court is to get this client the help that she needs – – – and deserves?  Hayley is in treatment right now;  however, I am not assuming that the court, whose job seems to be punitively based, will show us any compassion or give us a break.

Just for today, when I hear sirens at night, I don’t immediately go in to  cold sweats and nightmarish images. I know that my daughter is currently safe and scheduled to enter treatment where she will have the opportunity to re-invent herself.

Cleaning up our children’s messes – isn’t that what mothers do?

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Birthday Gifts

Posted on April 5, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I received this text from my daughter at 1:00 am on Easter Sunday morning, from an unfamiliar phone #:

Hey mom, it’s Hayley. Hope u are ok. Was hoping to get my **** stock money.  Could really use for food, bills and bday. U still have?  Please let me know.  Love u.  H

Hmmm – and there you have it – it all eventually boils down to money, doesn’t it?  My desperate heroin addict daughter makes contact after not hearing from her for weeks, to ask for money.  Granted, it is legally her money.  However, I now have Power of Attorney (POA) for her, and feel entitled to apply my discretion in her financial affairs.

I’m grateful she’s alive.  I learned a few days ago that she was in the ER on March 5th.  I received a bill from the hospital addressed to her, at my home address.  She owes $350 to one of our two community hospitals for this most recent ER visit (her last ER visit in July was to the other hospital).  From a quick assessment of the hospital statement, I’m assuming she went to the ER for injection site abscesses.  I can’t help but think about how long she must have  waited and how bad it must have been, before she finally got herself to the ER. Her father was a very successful radiologist and practicing physician in this small city for almost 35 years.  Her surname is unique enough, that any ER doc/staff would recognize the name and know who she is.  I shudder at what it must have taken for Hayley to overcome the name recognition, shame and humiliation to finally go to the ER.

My newly acquired consciousness regarding the inhumane treatment of drug addicts in hospital and emergency room settings, is heightened.  I refer you to this post, Puss-y Stuff for details and a new perspective on compassion for and more humane treatment of drug addicts.

I was raised in a very religious family, went to church every Sunday, and sang in the youth choir for the first 17 years of my life. I eventually married a Jewish man and ultimately acquired a more diverse world view and perspective on “god” and different spirituality practices.  For this, I am eternally grateful.

Today, I attended the First Presbyterian Church Easter service with my 92 year old mother, my brother and sister-in-law.  And even though I couldn’t bring myself to take Communion and pledge myself to Jesus Christ as my “Saviour”, I sang all the familiar hymns and doxologies with sincerity and gratitude.

Here are some phrases and song lyrics that resonated: From this day forward . . . and,  . . . all that I’ve done before won’t matter anymore . . .

At this service, I filled out a prayer card to ask for my daughter’s desire . . . and courage and strength, to change her life.

And in that spirit of hope on this Easter Day – and with my daughter’s 31st birthday approaching, I’ve found peace in the decision to make an extraordinary effort to meet with her on Tuesday, her birthday.  I will deliver a bag of small, modest gifts:  2 packages of new underpants, tampons and panty liners, an aqua hooded sweatshirt and pants and fleece (from Costco), fresh fruits and veggies – – – – and, $130 in cash – which is ½ of her annual stock dividends.  I know this money will be going directly up her veins.  That’s ok.  The other ½ of the stock dividend money I will be delivering to our community hospital as partial payment of her most recent ER bill. And, I will ask to speak to a social worker and have Hayley’s chart flagged, in hope that the next time Hayley visits the ER, a social worker will be called to speak to her and offer her some options for treatment and recovery.

My message to Hayley on her birthday will be one of love – – – and to offer the possibility of “Harm Reduction” versus detox and a “cold turkey” rehab treatment center.  Thanks to Tom at RecoveryHelpDesk, my perspective on realistic approaches to moving opiate addicts away from their risk of acquiring Hepatitis C, HIV, a variety of infections, pregnancy, physical/sexual abuse, and criminal acts, takes precedence over getting them in to some 12 step program that won’t allow diversion alternatives such as suboxone and methadone.  I’m hoping that Hayley will consider this option, and feel she could maybe take this step.  Personally, I feel that Hayley wants to stop the addiction cycle, but doesn’t want to or cannot do the work required to completely abstain from all substances.  Perhaps she needs a transition – a phased move in to recovery.  Wouldn’t suboxone be better than using heroin?

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Posted on February 8, 2010. Filed under: Parent of an Addict, poems | Tags: , , , , , |

I spoke with Hayley last night.  I had decided to try to contact her, and was going to just text her.  However, I really wanted to hear her voice.  As I mentioned in my previous post, my intent was to “break the ice” by actually speaking to Hayley so that she might feel more inclined to communicate periodically.  So, through a series of contacts and relayed phone calls, I finally reached her – or, I should say, she called me.  News travels fast in the drug world.  I had called the most recent phone # from which she texted Jill a couple of weeks ago, which I knew belonged to “Bill”, Hayley’s drug dealer/provider.  I was very nervous – and had gone to my dear friend’s house, Cathy, to make the phone call.  When Bill answered the phone, I said I was Hayley’s mother and asked to speak to her.  He was very cordial and said Hayley wasn’t there, but he’d give me a land line phone # where I could reach her.  Apparently, Bill feels some sense of obligation and/or compassion towards Hayley since he’s the one that strung her out and got her hooked on heroin.  Yes, even drug dealers are human and try to be decent, I guess.

When I tried the land line phone #, it was busy.  As soon as I hung up, my cell phone rang, and it was Hayley.  Bill had apparently called her immediately after my call to him.  Hayley had panicked, thinking there was a family emergency or death (both her grandmothers are in their 90s), so she called my cell phone.

The moment I said “Hello”, she started sobbing.  I broke down a bit, too, but rallied and carried on with the conversation. I told Hayley I loved her and just wanted to hear her voice.  She was emotional and tearful – but sounded grateful and relieved to talk to me.  I think that hearing my voice reminded her of us – her family – and that there might be a reason to re-enter the ‘real’ world.  She said she feels like she’s in a foreign country.  I told her that she was – and a little bit about the poem I had written a few months ago entitled, Traveling Abroad.

My intent is not to have a phone relationship with my heroin addicted daughter.  I told her that I needed to hear from her periodically to know she was alive and safe.  She said that her current living situation is very safe and quiet, better than where she was before.  (Eric recently told me that the 2 houses where Hayley had lived were feeling the ‘heat’ from the police – that most everyone had scattered after police began arresting buyers as they left. ) Now, she lives with an older man (65 – 70 yo) and said that the jacuzzi bath tub there is better than any drug she’s ever taken. (:-!  This comment landed with a thud – it sounded so awkward and inappropriate.  And then, she went on about her new puppy.  After several minutes, I cut that portion of the conversation off.  I’ve heard that story before.  Hayley has had three dogs and lost them all due to negligence and not being able to afford their medical care.  She referred to these dogs as her “rescue” dogs in that they saved her life, which is true, I think.  In her isolation from friends and family over the last 7 – 8 years, her dogs gave her unconditional love, acceptance, a reason to finally get up at ~ 2:00 pm.  She treated them as if they were her children. However, in the end, she was irresponsible with their care and safety.  After a while, I just couldn’t listen to her gush about her new puppy, Kali.  It sounded so childish – and somewhat of a diversion.  When Hayley said she wanted to see me, I told her that I wasn’t sure I was up to it, which is true.  I really don’t want to see her.  It would just be too painful – and, for me, what’s the point?  We left it at that – – – and that future phone communication was possible, but not expected.  Again, I’m not interested in “chatting” on the phone with my heroin addict daughter – but, I do need to know that she’s relatively “ok”, and alive.  I also told her that all of us in the family were in communication with each other – that we let each other know when one of us heard from her – that we were suffering with concern and fear for her health and well-being, and were always comforted when there was some kind of contact with her.

My friend, Cathy, listened to my conversation with Hayley.  I wanted and needed the support – as well as someone to objectively witness my tone and content.  I wanted to make sure I set some boundaries with Hayley, in a loving and compassionate way, and Cathy said I did.  So – I feel very good about how things went.

I feel stronger right now, and very relieved to have talked to Hayley.  For me, it feels like a step towards something, I’m not sure what.  

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Beautiful Child

Posted on February 6, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

David Sheff and his son, Nic, will be speaking in Seattle on March 4th at Town Hall.  I’ve got a ticket to attend this talk – and am excited to see David and Nic in person.  I have been a fan of David Sheff and his book, beautiful boy, since reading it last summer.

beautiful boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction, by David Sheff

David Sheff is a writer whose books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune and elsewhere.  His piece for the New York Times Magazine, “”My Addicted Son,” won many awards and led to the writing of this book.

This book is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional roller-coaster of loving a child who seems beyond help. It contains a lot of good information about meth addiction and brain chemistry, treatment programs, and the parent/addicted child relationship.  The personal story of David Sheff and his son, Nic, is touching and heartbreaking.  Nic has ultimately written a book of his own, Tweak.  I also heard that he has relapsed multiple times, even after the success of his book.  This, the sad reality of drug addiction’s powerful pull.  However,  Nic’s story is also one of hope, in that I’ve come to realize that relapse is actually a part of recovery, and does not have to be considered a failure in the addict’s journey towards long term sobriety.

Here are some excerpts from that book regarding addiction:

•”There’s evidence that people who become addicted, once they begin using, have a type of compulsion that cannot be easily stopped or controlled.  They cannot just stop on their own or they would.  No one wants to be an addict.  The drug takes a person over.  The drug, not a person’s rational mind, is in control”.  p. 150

•”with practice, addicts become flawlessly gifted liars, and this coincides with parents’ increasing susceptibility to their lies”.

•”A using addict cannot trust his own brain – it lies, it says, ‘You can have one drink, a joint, a single line, just one.’” p.261

•”Only Satan himself could have deigned a disease that has self-deception as a symptom, so that its victims deny they are afflicted, and will not seek treatment, and will vilify those on the outside who see what’s happening.” p.263

•” . . . thankful that of all the fatal disease my (son) might have gotten, he got one for which there is this little sliver of hope that if he surrenders, he’ll survive.”  Thomas Lynch  p.272

•” . . . in mortal combat with addiction, a parent wishes for a catastrophe to befall his (child).  I wish for a catastrophe, but one that is contained.  It must be harsh enough to bring him to his knees, to humble him, but mild enough so that he can, with heroic effort and the good that I know is inside him, recover, because anything short of that will not be enough for him to save himself.”  P.274

•(Nic):”I had to hit bottom when there was no one and nothing and I had lost everything and everyone.  That’s what it takes.  You have to be alone, broke, desolate, and desperate.” P.279

•” . . . recovery, like addiction itself, is a long and complex process. Families should never give up hope for recovery – for recovery can and does happen every day.  Nor should they stop living their own lives while they wait for that miracle of recovery to occur.”

Here are 8 pages of pearls from that book that spoke to me in some way.  They are categorized under:  Parents of Addicts, Addiction, Recovery, Treatment Programs/info.   There’s a good list of  addiction resources referenced in this book and detailed by David Sheff on his website.

In re-reading my notes from beautiful boy, I was inspired to try to call my daughter and “break the ice” of her shame/guilt-driven “ice-olation”.  I haven’t seen or spoken to her since last August.  We’ve texted just twice since then.  And, even though a professional drug counselor advised me to cut off all contact with Hayley, so she could feel the full consequences of her choices, I’ve reached my saturation point.  I need to hear my daughter’s voice.  My “ex-druggie” contact, Eric, advised that I call her from a phone # she won’t recognize, and maybe she would answer. She seems to just have access to a certain cell phone # once in a while. If I speak to her, I’m merely going to tell her I love her and  . . . and, what?  That’s the big question.  I need a script to keep my boundaries in tact. I know I can’t slip in any kind of directive or ultimatum in to the conversation.  Essentially, I want to connect with Hayley, in a non-judgmental way, to remind her of us – her family – and that we are missing her and waiting for her to once again be part of our lives.  She needs to have a reason to even want to try to re-enter society, our lives, the real world.

I’m internally hounded by the fact that shame is a huge barrier that can keep addicts using and isolated in their own world.  So, I want to try to diffuse that impediment, as best I can.  I know that by calling Hayley,  I’m opening the door for communication that I may not even want. I’m trying to sort out what I want to do vs what I feel I should do.  It’s not all that simple.  Yes, I want to hear from my daughter periodically, that she’s alive.  No, I don’t want her in my life until she takes some steps, on her own, towards help and recovery.  Is that conditional love, or just taking care of myself and protecting myself from Hayley’s manipulation and “I’m gonna” talk?  In the end, however, Hayley will  always be my beautiful child.  And so, I will never give up.

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The Family Intervention Debate

Posted on January 26, 2010. Filed under: Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , |

Here’s some feedback from family members on the option of an intervention with Hayley.  (see my previous post, “Intervention vs AlAnon”)  My thoughts regarding an intervention were that the goal would be to come together as a family, express our love and concern for Hayley, and ‘break the ice’ in terms of diffusing her shame and reticence in communicating with us.  We just want to hear from her once in a while to know she’s alive and relatively ‘OK’.  And, if we can somehow give Hayley a reason to want to point herself towards recovery, then great.  At this stage in our family’s story, we would most likely not present Hayley with an ultimatum for treatment.  The general consensus is that she needs to initiate this step herself.

The logistics and reality of planning an intervention still seem impossible.  Two key family members would be flying in from California, and one from Seattle.  Scheduling this in terms of work and family is a major commitment.  Yet, Hayley doesn’t have a phone, and any communication with her is dependent on messages being transmitted via third party.  And then, if we actually do make contact with her, there is no guarantee that she would reliably show up for any kind of meeting.  In fact, past history has shown that she is paranoid and frequently changes meeting times/places at the last minute.  It’s all dependent on her ‘drug’ schedule and transportation arrangements, which are often ‘iffy’.

This from Brian, Hayley’s younger brother:

I don’t think any of us really know exactly what it will take for Hayley to seek treatment.  But I believe strongly that we must be willing to do all that we can to support her.

I think we should move forward with an intervention.  There are only a handful of things we haven’t tried which I feel may have some chance (however slight) of success, and I want to make sure we try them all.

The final decision needs to be Hayley’s, but there’s no chance for her success without all of our continued love and support.  In my mind, an intervention is the strongest articulation of this support.

I don’t think that Hayley can tolerate phone contact because of the shame associated with her addiction.  The less contact she has with us, the more her addiction / current state festers as this sort of shameful secret that she’s uncomfortable sharing.  My sense is that an intervention may help open the lines of communication by putting everything on the table.

We would all need to make sacrifices to make this happen (making phone calls, getting time off, plane tickets, the discomfort of the actual intervention) but what if it did make a difference for Hayley?  What if she did decide to go into treatment immediately, or a year later, or five due in part to the exchange?

Ultimately, I don’t think we have a lot to lose.

So, in my mind, the only real question is timing, as Jaclyn mentioned.  I don’t think there will be a “good” time.  So my general preference is the sooner the better.

It seems like next steps would be:
1) Dad to decide whether he would participate in the intervention and send out possible dates that work with his schedule
2) Mom to continue investigating what it would mean to actually execute the intervention and identify what preparations would be necessary

I love you all very much and feel blessed you have you in my life.  Talk soon.

This from Brad, Hayley’s dad:

Peggy, I think that the logistics of doing an intervention, whether it is to tell her how much we care about her or to try to coerce her into treatment, are daunting. If you add the possibility that she wouldn’t show up or that she would feel threatened by the whole thing causes me to reject this idea. I think that part of what we would try to accomplish by the intervention could be done by letters and pictures from each of us that could be delivered by Jill (Brad’s wife). If Hayely doesn’t show up for the meeting we could figure out another way to get her the letters. The letters would remind her how much we care about her and how this is affecting us all, and I don’t think that it would be too difficult to do. Having had Hayley leave the detox. program one day before she was to go into rehab on our last try at this makes me unwilling to support anything that is not initiated by Hayley on her own accord.

This from Judy, Brad’s sister, Hayley’s aunt, and a professional family therapist in California:
Hello all, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to imagining what it would look like and feel like for Hayley to be forced into a meeting with her family to hear how much we love her and care about her when she can hardly tolerate the most minimal phone contact periodically. My image might be completely wrong but what I picture is her bolting almost immediately and running out of the room. I think it would be extremely overwhelming for her. If the intention of the intervention is not to get her into treatment but to share our ,concern then I fear that this large group setting, even if it is her family would not sit well with her. There may or may not be a desire for the family to share feelings together but I think it would increase H’s defensiveness…..fight or flight! Although I understand the feelings behind trying to ” give her some ideas of how/where to start” unfortunately, I don’t see any alternative to detoxing and then directly into treatment. So I don’t see the point of the intervention if it is not to have all that set for her to proceed. Having said that, I realize that she has given no indication of interest in treatment at this time, in fact, she is feeling particularly stable ….”new puppy, people she lives with care about her, using less heroin, clean house:, etc She also seems to have access to her drugs. I don’t think the timing is right. From things she has said at different times on the phone it seems she knows the family cares about her but she can’t imagine getting through her eating disorder and addiction and all the other problems she would have to face…a kind of lack of courage and faith that she has the strength to face all those obstacles. I guess the simple response is that I don’t think an intervention is indicated at this time. I am interested to see whether Hayley sees Jill when she is in Y***** as she had mentioned on the phone……. That would be a very good sign that she is wanting more contact and see where that takes us in thinking.
I’m reminded once again of how painful it is to accept that we have so little leverage (as Peggy said) to motivate Hayely right now.
Take care all. With much love,  Judy

To blog viewers, thanks for slogging through all of this.  I welcome your input regarding a potential intervention with Hayley and urge you to read the great comments from readers in response to my post, “Intervention vs AlAnon”.

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Things I Would Like to Say to My Heroin Addict Daughter

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , |

Things I Would Like to Say to My Heroin Addict Daughter:

  1. Who have you become?
  2. You are a stranger to me.
  3. You have used me up.
  4. What is your life about?
  5. You are a parasite on society.
  6. What do you do all day?
  7. You are careless with life – your own, others’, relationships, possessions, living spaces, your precious dogs – – – and on, and on, and on . . .
  8. You are poor white trash.
  9. When/how did things go so wrong?
  10. You have been lying and stealing for most of your adult life.
  11. I am not interested in your talk – only what you do.
  12. No one is going to rescue you.
  13. I’m planning your funeral and need your input.  How do you want to be remembered?
  14. What are you so afraid of?
  15. You’re killing your 92 yo grandmother – and have devastated our entire family.
  16. What do you know for sure?
  17. Face the truth.
  18. Grow up.
  19. You are my teacher.
  20. You used to be beautiful.
  21. What is your purpose in life?
  22. Other than not wanting to get “dopesick”, why are you using drugs?
  23. Do you have any self-respect?
  24. Why?
  25. I’m afraid of you.
  26. You have been a drug addict your entire adult life.
  27. Is there any beauty or joy in your life?
  28. What have you become?
  29. Help me understand.
  30. You do have power over your own life.
  31. Why can’t you just admit that you need help and you don’t know what’s best for yourself?
  32. Why are you so angry?
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She is so alone . . .

Posted on September 22, 2009. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , |

My daughter must be so lonely.  She feels she can’t call any family members and has few, if any, friends left.  She definitely suffers from the shame and stigma of her drug addiction.  She won’t tell us where she is living – is afraid we’ll call the police and have her arrested.  (A warrant for her arrest has been issued due to her violating her probation.)  She’s a prisoner – can’t go out in public, for fear she’ll run in to someone she knows.  What does she do all day?  What does she think about?  Is there any joy at all in her life?

She has lost everything – her apartment, dogs, furniture, car, job, relationships, friends, and family.  The looming question, of course, is:  How does she pay for her drugs and support herself?  I can barely fathom the logical answer – it’s a knife in my heart.

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