Friday, September 5, 2014

Beside You All the Way.

Two years ago I started this blog as a way to explore and grieve chronic health problems I was experiencing. I made a lot of progress and it soon veered into a blog about family addiction and the pain of watching a child lose their way. I googled "parent's of addicts blogs" and was astounded to find there were quite a number of other parents who were experiencing many of the same things I was. As most of you know, I moved my first year blog to another site and made it private because I felt very disloyal writing about my daughter, but once she began relapsing all over the place I once again turned to writing and music, two of my favorite things.

I rarely feel like writing my blog anymore, even though there are probably things I could discuss. I still have a lot of symptoms of PTSD, I am experiencing an empty nest for the first time in twenty-five years, and I still have some waxing and waning of health symptoms. So, what is the change? I'm not sure, but I think it is that I am much more open and honest in my real life about my troubles so I don't need my blog as an outlet as much anymore.

In my opinion, being a parent of an addict is incredibly isolating. It is hard to talk about, it can be embarrassing, it is painful, there is so much uncertainty and fear surrounding it, and at the end of the day, you are so busy trying to survive, it is difficult to connect with anyone.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone dealing with someone with addiction issues, it is to contact your local AL ANON chapters and go to a meeting. You can search online and find many meetings that are in your area. GO! If you don't click with one group, try another one. I started going to meetings over a year ago and the first group was not a great match for me, but the second one was a better fit in that there were many more parents in it. Week after week I dragged myself to these meetings, and honestly, I cried so hard it was sickening. I was in crisis and I was fearful and I was grieving. I didn't like going, I felt like an idiot, but I kept going back, week after week, month after month, because I had no other plan. I was at the end of my rope.

Many of these people in my group have become my friends. This past weekend we had an outing at one of the member's summer home. We had a meeting and then we had a picnic and it was lovely. I was side by side with all these people who knew much of the pain in my life, who had listened to me cry, cry, cry for weeks on end and then were surprised later on when they saw the silly, laughing side of me as well. In turn, these people have shared their pain with me, the sadness and uncertainty of dealing with addiction, their hopes, and the tentative celebrations of sobriety. One member lost her son to addiction this year and omg, the heartache. I can't imagine.

There is not much I know as a parent of an addict. There is no easy answer. What worked for me may not work for you. What works for me today may not even work for me tomorrow. The stakes are high, loving an addict and trying to keep them safe. What I've learned is that you are truly powerless over an addict's choices. It took me a long time to learn it and I learned it by sitting through meeting after meeting, sharing my story and listening to the stories of others.

In the rooms of Al Anon, I am starting to heal. You can, too. You don't have to be alone.

Find a meeting.

Bread. If.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ordinary Days.

Summer seems to be winding down. The air is cool here tonight and I know the days of lounging in the pool are coming to an end. My youngest son left for college a few days ago and I am officially an empty nester. The week before he left was hard. I have been a parent for twenty-five years and this is going to be a big change for me. When I drove him up to school and said goodbye I realized that I just had no tears left. I am officially all cried out. I am ready to put the sadness and the uncertainty of these last five years behind me. I want to be happy.

I haven't written this past month because I have nothing to say. My days are incredibly ordinary. What a blessing.

What's next?

I have no idea.

For the first time in years, I find that uncertainty exciting rather than frightening.

Wishing you all the beauty of ordinary days.

Helen Jane Long. Through the Dark.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Scatter Everywhere.

My daughter flew back to her little apartment near a far away ocean early this morning. I am worn out beyond description. I have huge cold sores and a very sore throat. I am so tired I am having trouble keeping my eyes open but at the same time my heart is pounding so loudly I swear I can hear it. A nap eludes me. The dishes from yesterday are piled high in the sink. The fridge and the pantry need to be replenished, but I am too tired to go shopping. I am restless and anxious; my thoughts are going a million miles a minute and I am replaying every hospital visit, every binge, every endless night and every minute of worry over the last five years.

This is the face of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It isn't pretty. It is painful and it is unexpected and I would give half my my kingdom for it to just go away. I don't want to do the work to face it and deal with it. I have done enough. I just want peace.

We actually had a fairly good visit. My daughter's boyfriend is lovely; a recovering addict himself, he is smart and quietly charming and has embraced a sober life for the last year and a half. She stayed on a few days longer than he did. She spent a lot of time with family and friends. Old friends came by to visit daily. There were no relapses, she looked healthy, and I saw that she has made some progress. She still struggles with moodiness, she is still in a bit of denial, and she still carries some bitterness that she is no longer welcome to live here, but they were fleeting moments throughout the week.

The triggers for me were endless and I struggled mightily though the week to tame them.  I am astounded to be dealing with so much residual pain.

Her boyfriend enjoyed our fair city so much they are discussing moving back here next Spring and renting a house. I am hoping this is just a passing fancy because I am just not ready yet. I need to feel stronger, to heal more, to calm this rapidly-beating heart.

The fall out of addiction is severe and wide reaching and much healing needs to occur. I am tired but I am resolute. I will do what it takes to turn the tide, to release the past, and embrace the future. But, not tonight. Tonight I rest and pray for serenity; for courage; for wisdom; for peace.

I pray for happiness. For all of us. For you, for me, for addicts everywhere. 

Lana Del Ray. The Other Woman.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Holding On, Letting Go.

Nearly sixteen months ago I hired an Interventionist and sent my daughter to a rehab a million miles away from all she knew. She agreed to go, although she minimized her drug and alcohol addiction completely. She was in a private rehab facility for three months, a halfway house for three months and a sober living house for three months. She relapsed within one hour of leaving the sober living house last December. I did not allow her to come home for Christmas, but we all flew there and spent the holidays with her. The winter months were brutal. She was relapsing all over the place and once I realized that they weren't really "relapses", but just her old way of life resurfacing, I completely shut off all financial assistance, told her I loved her and wished her luck.

She moved out of a very unsafe environment into a much better place. She is working and recently was promoted from hostess to server at the restaurant where she works. She is in a stable relationship with a young man she has known for a year, who is very committed to sobriety and now works in the addiction field. Is she sober? I really don't know. I don't ask. I am letting it be her issue. I think she is because she is a binger of the highest order and she wouldn't be able to work if she was really out there.

She is flying home tomorrow with her boyfriend to stay for a week. The house is cleaned, the yardwork is done, the fridge is stocked and I am very excited to see her. There is an underlying anxiety, of course, but I am hopeful for a good visit.

A year and a half ago I was completely convinced that my daughter would not live through the year. I was certain if I took my eyes off of her for a second she'd be dead. My life was completely unmanageable and so was hers.

What a difference a year makes. I finally learned to Let Go and Let God. If you have been reading here a long time you know that I have very shaky faith; I am a walking doubting Thomas. I still struggle trying to define my Higher Power but I know this: It's not me. I know this because I am powerless over her drug and alcohol use.

And that my friends is my completetion of Step One in Al Anon. (Holla!) Eleven steps to go!

God bless us all.

John Denver. Perhaps Love.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

#TBT The One in the Mirror

(Throwing it back to March 05, 2013. It seems like a lifetime ago.)
Awhile ago, my son and I went for a walk. He knew I had been feeling a bit down in the dumps and he knows a walk does me a world of good. I have been dealing with my own health issues and dealing with my daughter’s issues. It is hard to live with someone who is hell bent on self-destruction and unfortunately my two sons and I know exactly how hard it is. As we walked I talked about some of the things I could do to make my life better and to feel better. “I know! I was thinking about going on the Paleo Diet. Maybe I will join the swim club at the new YMCA. I think I will try to find an extra counselor who can give me even more tips on how to deal with someone else’s issues.”
We walked quietly and my son said something like this: “It’s not your change to make. If you were in control of the change, it would have been changed.”
I have made many changes in my life, difficult changes. I have proven time and time again that I can do what it takes to make things better for myself and for my family. If I see the need, I will do it. If I can’t do it alone, I will get help. If I can’t do it the first time, I will do it the second, or the fifth, or the hundreth time; but, I will do it.
I have tried everything I know. I have consulted with many professionals. I have been rigid; I have been hands off. I have been a Presbyterian; I have been a Buddhist. I have tried a smudge stick; I have tried a sticker chart (surprisingly successful for a bit).  I have tried honesty; deceit.  Rewards (bribery); punishment. Being silent; being loud. Cajoling; pleading. Ignoring; attending. Praying; cursing. Since January we did two interventions. Both were failures. When I last met with a Dr. and a counselor and my daughter and my son in a counseling room in an inpatient hospital, the Dr. ended up looking lost and said to me, “Well, I don’t know. What do you do think we should do?” A dual diagnosis program was recommended, my daughter refused. I said she couldn’t come home. She stayed another two days and the counselor called me and said, “There is no safe place for her to go. It is our recommendation that she come home.” So, home she came.
See, in spite of all the craziness I write about with my health problems and medication issues, I have a very safe and structured home. One that two of my three children have done well in. So how did my girl, my beautiful, lovely, lively girl, lose her way? I don’t know exactly, but if you are a parent, the person you blame, is the one in the mirror.
I have nowhere else to turn. I have run out of ideas. I can’t make myself go for a walk. I am paralyzed with grief and indecision.
Here’s the thing: Most counselors in the addiction field recommend tough love; Kick ‘em out of the house so they can hit rock bottom and want to change. Here’s the other thing: All of the counselors we have worked with have each independently stated that her personal rock bottom is probably death, so kicking her out would be a dangerous roll of the dice.
How lucky would you feel if you were me?
Would you roll the dice, knowing that the odds were against you?
Would you be willing to make your kid who has mental health issues, and substance abuse issues, leave a safe and loving home, knowing that there is a chance that the next time you see her, it could be in a morgue?
Would you?
If you say you would, I will call you a liar. Because I don’t think you really could.
And here’s the thing, I can’t either. For now, I sit in fear. I am trying to find the courage to pick up the dice, close my eyes, and roll ‘em.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Life, My Love.

Two years ago my daughter went to the ER for an accidental overdose and was admitted into the hospital for two weeks. She was assigned a caseworker and I spent days pleading with the staff at this hospital to refer my daughter to a comprehensive inpatient rehab facility. Their recommendation was that my daughter go to outpatient program, although I told them repeatedly she would not attend. She was home for approximately 36 hours when she overdosed again and was rushed to the ER again. She was admitted to a different hospital for another week, was released to the outpatient clinic, went twice and never went again. That summer was a complete disaster.

I recently downloaded TIMEHOP which is an app that will give you a recap of what you posted on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on this date for the last five years. I am looking at these recaps in disbelief as you would never guess from my cheerful updates what was going on behind the scenes. I am in awe that I even functioned much less had friends over for our annual 4th of July pool party while my daughter was in the hospital. How did this happen? I have no idea. I know that my sons and I were so beaten down and so overwhelmed and so depressed and we just kept trying to put one foot in front of the other. What other choice do you have? The 4th of July picnic was with our closest friends who knew what we were going through. It started late, it ended before the fireworks and I have no recollection of the day at all. I just know that it sucked.

I have a major case of PTSD going on. I can be doing well for weeks on end and something will trigger me and it goes downhill intensely and quickly and omg, I wouldn't wish those feelings on my worst enemy. It feels like I am drowning. It can last for days but it can go away as quickly as it comes on. I control for many of my triggers; I leave the sound off my phone because the sound of a text can be alarming to me, my sons have to be home at a certain time every night and God forbid they don't answer a text in a timely manner! The triggers are unpredictable though and I have to just try and endure them. I have a therapist who is usually available for a phone consult to help me get through them. It has been very hard for me to spend time at my pool this summer because it all reminds me of that god awful summer and the fact that it is beckoning my attention two years later is just as big a surprise to me as it is to you.

Other than that, life is good. I am feeling physically well most of the time. I am exercising at least every other day up to six times a week. I attend Al Anon meetings weekly. My oldest son graduated college with highest honors and has a six month contract with an Equity Theatre many, many miles away. My other son finished up his first year of college on a strong note and is home for the summer.

And my girl? She still lives near a far away ocean. She is coming home this summer for a week long visit, her first in well over a year. Is she sober? I have no idea. I have handed her the responsibility for her recovery and I am trying to live a happy, healthy life. Some days are easier than others but I keep on trying. I hope she is trying, too, because I fear living in this world without her.

May God bless us all.

For You. John Denver.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The First Step.

I was reading my last blog post where I seemed to be patting myself on the back for my quick assimilation into the Al Anon program. It sounds like I breezed into a few meetings, got the message, implemented it, and happily moved on. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was a mess when I went to my first Al Anon meeting. I was a mess when I went to my second meeting, my third, my fifth, and my tenth. There was nothing sudden about any of this. I didn't breeze into a meeting, I was hand delivered. I was shaking. I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. I looked dreadful. I couldn't look people in the eye.  I couldn't participate in the larger group for weeks, instead I was afforded one to one meetings. I cried so hard one of my eyes swelled shut. I was the picture of grief. I would look around the room and see these people chatting and laughing and I would literally think, "What the hell is so funny?"

We would have meetings based on the twelve steps on Al Anon and I remained on Step One for forever. I could not admit I was powerless over someone else's alcohol use. If I had only tried harder! If I had read one more story when she was little, if I had listened a little more closely, prayed a little harder. I  believed it was my fault. I was told about the three C's -- You didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it. I honestly thought they were misguided. I remember sitting in this quiet room in an unknown church basement and whispering to this woman, "I did cause it, I should have been able to control it, and I should have been able to cure it." I thought myself an utter failure.


It makes me sad to think of the woman who used to be me.

I used to dread the hell out of those meetings. I didn't want to go but I did because I am stubborn and I didn't want to tell the counselor at my daughter's rehab place that I wasn't following through. So I dragged myself week after week and eventually I was able to open my swollen eyes and realize that I was surrounded by a bunch of people who had my back, who understood my journey and my pain, and would offer me the gift of acceptance.

So many people at those meetings have told me that I hardly seem like the same person, that I have to believe it is true. According to my friends there, I have transformed before their eyes. I feel it. I can feel the difference in myself and it is a good place to be. I can chat and laugh at the meetings now. I am able to offer comfort instead of only seeking comfort, and I recently fulfilled my first service role so I am beginning to give back.

It's a long journey and I am still very much on the road to recovery.

I am no longer stumbling though. I am clear eyed, my heart is open, and I am ever hopeful for better days ahead.

Johnny Cash. You Are My Sunshine.