Monthly Archives: December 2012

How can I possibly make it…when he’s out there on his own?

When in Maui we were kayaking with a guide. We were following the whales, a few had surfaced. A person called out, “what if we get too close?” The guide responded, “The whale is going to do what whales do, with or without us.” There’s a bit of vulnerability I feel when kayaking and I have had similar feelings under the hypnotic power of addiction!

I recalled a time during the early phases of my eldest where we made a decision to detach both emotionally and financially.  We were no longer going to pay for his apartment, car insurance, school tuition for classes he was failing and books he’d purchase and re-sell for money.   We knew he was coming into our house while we were away at work. We knew he was doing business at the pawn shop, and we knew there was a whole lot more we didn’t know.  We told him we believed he had a drug problem having no idea that addiction is a disease.

The fear of how he would possibly make it on his own was overwhelming for me. I just believed he could not do it without me.  I was having trouble letting go.  Turns out, he was going to do what he was going to do, with or without my input!  I just needed to stay on my boat.

Having to tell him he no longer was welcome to come to our house without our invitation, that he must call us first, was the hardest thing to do. It was painful but sometimes the right thing to do is not the easiest or best feeling, when doing it. The angst and vision of what would happen never materialized to the dramatic end I dreamed up. That drama was my own. I’d say “how can he make it out there on his own” but the truth was I did not know how I’d cope without him in my life and that was a risk I was facing.

 

Happy, Healthy and Responsible – My Hopes for my Kids in the Coming Year

It is interesting how my perspective on what I hope for my children has changed. When they were young I hoped they were happy and healthy and that they were growing into respectful kids. Then in their teens I wanted them to be happy and stay safe and go to college to gain some skills for their coming adulthood. I know these are normal things that most parents want for their kids. After having difficulties with addiction in our family and a kid who wanted to forge his own path to adulthood I realized that my hopes for my kids may not be the same hopes they have for themselves.

 
I have a different perspective now on what I hope for my kids as they grow into their adult years. I hope that they are happy, healthy and responsible as defined by them. What makes me happy is not the same thing that makes them happy. They are individuals with hopes and dreams and they may choose very different paths than I would have for them. I realized that I needed to let go of my expectations of them and let them find their way on their terms. I have tried my best to transition from parenting them to coaching and supporting them. This is not always easy. I find myself jumping in every now and then with a statement like, ‘Why would you do that?’ or ‘Wouldn’t you rather do…’ but I try to catch myself. I did this today and when I realized I was infringing my desires I stopped and admitted, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not my business.’ And then kept my mouth shut. Then remembered what a very dear friend used to say, ‘I have the right to remain silent, but I don’t always have the ability.’ I know I need to try to remain silent to be a good coach and supporter even when it’s challenging.

Today is a Gift

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Sunday Inspiration

Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be.  Don’t think you’ve lost time.  There is no short-cutting to life.  It took each and every situation  you have encountered to bring you to the now.  And now is right on time.”

-Asha Tyson

When a Doctor’s Prescription Triggers a Child’s Addiction

My Christmas posting every year is dedicated to Tiffany Noel Chapman, a Christmas baby born in December, 1976.  She became addicted to the pain pills that were prescribed when she broke her neck in a high school car accident.  She died when she was 27, her liver destroyed by the pain pills that her body and brain demanded.

Many people believe that teens “choose” to become drug addicts or alcoholics when they party with drugs or alcohol, but addiction often develops under less voluntary circumstances.   Tiffany’s genetic predisposition for addiction was triggered by the pain meds that she needed to take for intractable pain.  Her story, while not uncommon, is an eye-opener to those (including me) who had no clue that even doctor-prescribed and doctor-monitored medications can become addictive.

Tiffany’s parents took her home from various ERs after repeated overdoses.  Not once did they receive discharge instructions that shed any light on the brain disease they were fighting.  Not once did they receive counsel about rehab or information about resources.  They didn’t understand the phantom they were fighting in the dark, without tools or weapons.    And they aren’t alone in their not-knowingness:  teen addiction and alcoholism aren’t commonly discussed in today’s parenting books.  In fact, most physicians have little or no training about addiction or alcoholism, especially as a teen issue, and little information to share with struggling parents.

Tiffany’s mother Linda opens her heart when she shares their story in the Collision Course-Teen Addiction Epidemic, reminding all of us to be aware and vigilant because  anyone—even the most golden child—can be vulnerable to this deadly disease.

Mental Illness and Addiction

I’ve often wondered how drug addiction and mental health tie together. Which comes first? Is the person self-medicating to alleviate a mental – social issue or does the young person experiment, get addicted and then have mental issues as a result? Regardless, my experience and observations are that mental health issues are key factors in my family where addiction surfaces. It’s not like there’s special consideration for mental illness. Take my son for example, when he is spinning: his cycle of relapse, incarceration, parole, and relapse is just what happens. He must be absent from the “rehabilitation and corrections” part of his imprisonment.

I recently read Lisa Long’s Blog Post, “Thinking the Unthinkable” prompted by the recent Connecticut school tragedy. She gives the reader a mother’s perspective raising a special needs child. Her snap shot of the day-in-the-life-of leaves me pondering why I relate so well to her story. Maybe it’s because I’m more open minded as a result of my own struggles with my children. Though very different from hers, my experience has a common denominator.  It’s possible that her story gave me something tangible in the face of such horror and tragedy.  Then again, she was able to bring to light many key points so eloquently: Prisons, mental illness, living in fear, needing help, needing to talk about mental health.  I appreciate her candor.  And when she boldly says “I am Adam Lanzas Mother” I am somehow compelled to affirm, “I am too.”

What do you do with unthinkable loss?

Today, I am thinking of the families who lost their children in yesterday’s tragic and senseless school shooting.  I cannot imagine their grief.  I cannot imagine their loss.

I am also remembering a vibrant young man who overdosed and died six weeks ago.  For eons, sages have pondered the meaning of life and death.  None of their wisdom could ever take away the pain of losing a child.

At the memorial service for the young man, little slips of paper were passed out , and people were asked to write down how he had touched their lives.  I later told his mom that his vibrant life and senseless death reminds me to love my beloved ones every day in word and deed.  I need to work to “make that lesson stick” without another tragic reminder of how fleeting and fickle life can be.

A Time to Celebrate – Taking the time to be grateful

Photo of three women with smiles.Sometimes we have to just sit and soak in the things we are grateful for. It is easy to let the tasks of the day occupy us and not recognize the little joys along the way. Today I will pause for a moment and relish in the fact that my daughter has over 3 years clean and sober. To understand where my daughter has been and to see where she is now is nothing short of a miracle. A couple weeks ago I was talking to my daughter and I just realized her sobriety date had come and gone and I had not remembered. I mentioned it to her and told her how proud I was of her and how much she had taken control of her life. What a cause for celebration and reflection.

 
To think three years ago she was still struggling to overcome her drug addiction and to remember the wreckage that was her constant companion. Now she is living a life of recovery. I have watched the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, and now the months turning into years – I think I can stop holding my breath! She is responsible and self-sufficient. She is my pride and joy just as she has always been. I love talking to her and hearing about her day – it is the simple pleasures that make her happy. I am so grateful and know that if she can do life in recovery that many other young people can as well.

Sunday Inspiration

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of  life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -

Melody Beattie

Why is Recovery THE Answer for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics?

This guest post by Sandy Fifield sheds light on what recovery means to you, whether you are in recovery from your own addiction or the chemical dependency of a child. Sandy and her husband Bill are co-authors of Dig Deep in One Place, a Couple’s Journey to a Spiritual Place.

 

“Despite my experience with recovery and the 12 Steps, when difficulties arise I still occasionally catch myself falling into old thought patterns.  Some of those thoughts are a gut level emotional response to the situation.  Some are my attempt to find a quick solution to a problem.  Neither is particularly productive nor useful.  Fortunately, my experience with recovery helps me find my way through those uncomfortable moments back into the light.

Three things disrupted my lovely, tranquil world early in 2012, each devastating in its own way.

While a friend and I discussed her fifteen-year-old daughter’s addiction problem, my immediate temptation was to think that this was unique and different, a special problem that needed to be dealt with in an extraordinary manner.  I thought—there must be some kind of therapy, magic medication or miracle action which could fix the problem once and for all.  Rescue and fix—that’s the answer.  These thoughts raced through my head and I’m sure through her parents’ minds as well.  How can we make the problem just go away?

My husband, Bill, was complaining about a floater in his eye that had been there for nearly a month affecting his vision as he was trying to finish a large wood carving.  His balance and driving skills were rapidly deteriorating along with his peripheral vision.  Off to the emergency room where we discovered a brain tumor and possible lung cancer.   This all started on Monday and by Friday he was in surgery to remove an egg-sized tumor from his optic nerve.  Life was looking rather bleak—these are not things I would ask for.   These are gifts wrapped in barbed wire.  Surely, this is unique and special?  What can I do to fix it?

In late March my dear friends lost their beautiful mountain home – one of twenty-seven homes lost – in a sudden and devastating wildfire.   The fire started after a controlled burn got whipped into reactivation during one of the windiest days I’ve ever experienced in Colorado.  Wind is relentless; it worms its way into the tiniest flaps and cracks to rip apart a seemingly solid structure.  Add fire to the mix and there is real trouble.   The controlled burn had been considered safe and contained since it had been conducted nearly two weeks prior, in winter––albeit an unusually dry winter.  Tragically, a few deep pockets of embers flared during the windstorm that blew through that day.  What is to be done when everything is gone—all the material stuff? Isn’t this the worst thing ever? How do we make this better?

My friends said, “The fear of losing everything is worse than the actuality.”  When I asked if we could trade gifts (fire for cancer) they said, “No, we don’t want yours.”  And rightly so.  Each of us receives the “gifts” we are meant to have –– the experiences our souls crave in this life.  So how do we cope? In truth, there is no magic to keep “bad” things from happening or to “fix it” when they do, but there is something that helps in every difficult situation.  I look to the teachings of Recovery.

Why is recovery THE answer?

Recovery tells me that my attitude is the only thing I can change and therefore is the only thing I am responsible for.  The 12 Steps give me a way to change my attitude, although seeing what my real habitual attitudes are can be painful and humiliating.  Step Nine is to take responsibility for my past actions by admitting that they have harmed and disturbed others in my life.  Ironically, these are often things that hurt me more than they have anyone else, and revisiting them is equally painful.  They are the things I don’t want you to know about me.

I don’t want to tell you that as my friend struggled with her daughter’s addiction, I thought, She at least got to have kids; if that were my daughter, I would have handled it differently – in other words, perfectly!

I don’t want you to know that when Bill was diagnosed with a brain tumor and lung cancer, my first thought was, He’s losing weight and I’m not! 

I don’t want to admit that when my friends’ house burned my thought was, They get a new house, what about me?

I share my innermost thoughts and feelings many times in 12 Step fellowship meetings.  It is an incredible and freeing experience and while I wouldn’t wish the way I have felt, thought, and behaved in these instances on anyone, it sure is comforting to know that others in the room have at times thought, felt, and behaved just like I have.

Yes, the old, habitual ways of thinking are still there – the petty focus on myself, the desire for a quick fix.  Perhaps it’s the human condition that allows the shitty little kid inside of me to whine and complain, or that allows me to think I can solve everything.  But, I no longer simply have to live with the most unattractive parts of myself.  The 12 Steps give me a way to recognize and accept those parts because without acceptance there can be no change.   When I attempt to hide those parts of myself they grow and grow, in the darkness that is my belief in the lie, and I can certainly gather the evidence that the lie is true.  But once I accept them, I can change my attitude and, ultimately, my thinking and my behavior.

Like the old Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” the Steps teach me a way to deal with the uncertainties of the universe, my human condition, the shitty little kid and the lie that constantly tries to invade my life.  They teach me how to fish.

The beginnings of the change in my thinking are detailed in our book Dig Deep in One Place  but the change  continues today as I journey on this great adventure finding out who I can be if I just stop believing the lies of  the habits of a lifetime –– that whining, unattractive part of myself.”