Time to Claim Victory over addiction? I think Not!

It is such an interesting time when certain recovery milestones begin to occur. In the early days of my daughters recovery I would put on such a celebration at the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 90 day chip, then the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 30 day chip, the…you get the picture. I would put such fanfare on these early recovery milestones because I wanted all the hope that came with it.  You would have thought I was the one getting the chip! It’s easy to look back on this and while I think it’s great to celebrate the milestones of recovery, we also need to keep it in perspective. Nevertheless, my daughter is a few months away from 6 years clean and sober – and honestly, I’m not sure I would be any less proud if she’d just gotten her college diploma! It’s been a long journey and it did not come easily.
So is it time to claim victory over addiction? I hardly think so, but it is time to celebrate and sit back and relish the healing and recovery. She has become responsible, performing well in her job, going to college, paying her bills, making good choices. These are all wonderful things to celebrate. Yet I know how illusive addiction can be – it’s like cancer, it’s in remission, healing has taken place and a clean bill of health is declared. Yet, it can reoccur when unmanaged and turn life upside down in a moment. I do not dwell on this possibility, for today I will rejoice in my daughter’s recovery and the healing that has taken place in our family.

My obsession with (fill in the blanks) affects all my children

There was a time I used the siblings to debrief my anguish and worry about the other “one” – the child whose absence or drama was taking center stage and getting my full attention. Unaware of how damaging this would be to the remaining family members, I did this for a long time.   The realization that my actions might have contributed to a form of suffering on them was a hard nut to swallow.  I had to learn it the hard way; it seems to be a recurring theme for me. I first pondered the notion when listening to Alateens share their hurt, abandonment and other issues they kept to themselves while watching mom or dad get progressively worse in their futile attempts to straighten up the “affected” one’s life. I’d hear how some would become overly protective and sometimes take the role of caretaker, worried about the troubled sibling. Some would get resentful about all the attention given to the other.  The entanglement of the family disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. To the “normal” sibling, the desire for mom and dad to get happy again would become their focus.  So, in a sense, young co-dependents were forming as the family disease reached epidemic proportions.  I wondered which role my children fell into.

Becoming aware didn’t actually help me with how to do better…the Al-Anon Family Group and 12 step recovery program was my road map for change. I had to start over with training wheels, in a sense, beginning with me and my contributions to the family disease.   It began with accepting I had problems of my own to work on. The hope for me was that I could mend broken relations with all those who mattered in my life.

Today, with guarded mouth and awareness of the family disease, I try to keep the focus and be present with those who stand before me. I no longer ask prying questions about the “other” one whose lifestyle is concerning. I consciously choose to seize those opportunities with gratitude to be allowed the accompaniment of their presence. Most critically, I get to be PRESENT with no conditions and that is my GIFT to them.

Which way is not in the way of my child’s struggle with addiction?

bigstock-Right-Decision-Wrong-Decision-11944676 (2)When my son was released from incarceration the 2nd time, I was better equipped to not come rescuing like the first time. The first time I arranged to meet him, buy him clothes, toiletries and a hotel room until he found a sober living situation.  I paid for his lodging and soon followed with food shopping extravaganzas.  Though I believed I was cautiously treading and not helping to the extreme, he was indirectly relying on my assistance and I was relying on his success.

I was reminded that each time I helped in matters he was capable of doing himself; he did not have to focus on the necessities of life.  Since those were being “handled” by me, he could focus on other things which may or may not result in favorable outcomes.  I carried a hidden expectation that he would find a job and become self sufficient.  It ultimately became clear addiction and all the consequences that go with it trumped us all.

It’s a fine line to walk as a mother.  Naturally, there are choices one takes, but, if my actions, no matter how innocent or caring, interferes with my son doing for himself, then it’s the wrong thing to do. And here’s a mind bender – I’m still fooling myself if I try to control someone by withholding help if I attach an expectation to it!  The “I won’t buy you food, so you will be forced to work!” control mentality.  And helping because it makes me feel better doesn’t fly with me anymore.  Such disrespect SHOUTS “I’m helping because you are not capable and it kills me to see it” – that is not the message I really want to convey!

Getting out of the way is that way!  It’s the way I can give with no hidden, read-the-fine-print mommy babble because it keeps a healthy boundary between us both. There are no strings attached.  He may go right or left and it’s not my business.  Such was my lesson.  I was once again reminded that I’m powerless over this disease.  I was once again reminded that if I could not or would not accept the powerlessness part, then I would always be in conflict with him and play a critical role in contributing to the cunning, baffling nature of the disease.  I had to get out of the cage and stop dancing with the gorilla.  My sons’ 2nd chance has thus far had drastic favorable results and he gets all the credit.  All I did was get out of the way with a strong belief he is capable of figuring it out, whatever “it” is. (And I pray for the stranger).

Should we expect Relapse when our loved ones get Rehabilitation for chemical dependency?

When my son entered a 12-Step rehabilitation program after 19 months of using, I was naively thinking 30 days and he’d be back to normal. There was just no way he would use again, it was such a waste of his young years, and surely he saw this. Well, not only did he relapse WHILE in rehab, he subsequently relapsed many times over. I heard others say that with recovery comes relapse. This helped me accept unfavorable outcomes and not be so disappointed, angry or resentful. Later someone shared that relapse expectations can be dangerous and that perhaps I should not expect it or justify it. Think about the addict who may rationalize as do I: “Craig has relapsed a bunch of times before he made it, so what if I have a drink or two.”

What is minimized is that the last time Sabrina relapsed, she went into a coma and never came back; the last time James relapsed, his drug induced high for 3 days left a trail of armed robbery and arrest. The last time Joe relapsed, he hit a pedestrian while driving under the influence, and Sally? She nearly died from insulin shock, no longer in touch with her blood sugar monitoring.

Having this brought to my attention changed my behavior and attitude towards expecting relapse.  Addiction is a deadly serious disease and any attempts to smooth things over, allow or assist the addict to justify relapse while in my sphere of influence cannot be tolerated.  I will not expect it, but I can learn to accept it.  And with love and prayer, a program of recovery from co-dependency, I have faith that a Power, greater than me, will guide us all toward a program of recovery.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

What makes you truly happy?

Time to claim victory over addiction? Not so fast…

It is such an interesting time when certain recovery milestones begin to occur.  In the early days of my daughter’s recovery, I would put on such a celebration at the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 90 day chip, the.…Well, you get the picture.  I would put such fanfare on these early recoveries because I wanted all the hope that came with it – you would have thought I was the one getting the chip.  It is easy to look back on this and, while I think it’s great to celebrate the milestones of recovery, we also need to keep it in perspective.  Nevertheless, as the years accumulate in her recovery I’m not sure I would be any less proud if she’d just gotten her college diploma!  It’s been a long journey, and it did not come easily.

Is it time to claim victory over addiction?  I hardly think so, but it is time to celebrate and sit back and relish the healing and recovery.  She has become responsible: performing well in her job, paying her bills, making good choices.  These are all wonderful things to celebrate.  Yet I know how illusive addiction can be – it’s like cancer, it’s in remission, healing has taken place and a clean bill of health is declared.  Yet, it can reoccur when unmanaged, turning life upside down in a moment.  I do not dwell on this possibility, for today I will rejoice in my daughter’s recovery and the healing that has taken place in our family.

Where is the Hope for your addicted child in the face of despair?

When I follow the years of progression of the disease of addiction with my son, I sometimes see 10+ years having gone down the drain. Now, for a 50 odd year old, one year flies by at the speed of light and a whole lot can be accomplished! For a 20 year old, 10 years seems a lifetime. It’s a matter of perspective. However it feels, it’s still 10 years and sometimes I’m overtaken with despair.

I now realize that the 10+ years past is what it’s supposed to be; I don’t have any right to judge the usefulness of it. I sometimes question, when will he choose recovery? Will he ever? How can there be hope when over and over the same thing happens and it’s never good. This is the time I find myself going to a 12-Step Recovery Program, open to the public: AA or NA , where I can listen to others in recovery.  It’s a good way to get re-energized. I’ve even found recordings on the internet to download of recovered persons who share their story. There is so much hope in their stories. By listening to them, I learn about the disease and it gives me another perspective to understand that recovery happens for each person differently, and on different time lines. Rarely do I hear someone speak on the help they got from their mom or dad. Sometimes there is an honorable mention to Al-Anon, where friends and family learned to stop enabling. The true source of help is inevitably something bigger than me or someone else – the unknown source, a Power, Greater than I – something I’ve come to welcome. I observe that some find recovery early, some get it years and years later.  Sadly, some never get it. For the latter possibility, I’m reminded to be thankful each moment that I’m afforded an opportunity to see, hear or be in some sort of communication with my adult children. Years can fly by or the opposite. Sometimes days, and even hours can drag out for an eternity. Either way, if I stay in the presence of a Power, greater than myself, I can find serenity in the knowledge that when and if they ever decide, someone will be there to offer a new way to do life, with their own hope for the future. I can let go of my need to be overly involved and learn how to be a loving parent, unconditionally, when opportunities present themselves.

Jane’s Journal: Angels and Devils Along the Way

Baby boy socksThis is the fourth blogpost from Jane as she chronicles her own learnings and growth alongside her son in early recovery.

In the 12 chaotic weeks since we learned of our 25-year-old son’s heroin addiction, it feels like we’ve traveled to another country–a war-ravaged place where only the lucky and strong survive. We tried an at-home recovery and failed. We believed he was staying clean and were wrong. We believed we could be part of his recovery and learned that we could, but only as far as he let us.

So at the end of February, after attending one of his many NA meetings, where he’d been leading everyone there to believe (like us) that he was clean, our son called us at 10:00 pm to say he was still using and was tired of lying to everyone. His NA leader was with him and had convinced him it was time to go to detox and rehab, and our son said he was ready to go. This amazing NA leader not only talked him into detox and rehab, he also let him spend the night and drove him there the next morning. I’d asked this favor because if he’d come home that night to his irate father, things would not have gone well.

Next morning, my haggard, sleepless husband went to work and I made phone calls to our son to see what would happen next. He said his NA leader would help him purchase the things he’d need right away and get him to the facility, 45 minutes away. We could bring more of his belongings later. Then, an hour before he was to surrender his cellphone and wallet at rehab, he called to inform me there was a credit card I needed to pay and cancel. He quickly gave me all the passwords and security answers and I began the process, going online to find a $1500 balance. (So THIS was how he was getting cash.) Rushing, I paid the balance, changed the passwords and the mailing address, then– sobbing into the phone to a complete stranger—I explained that I’d paid the card off and wanted to cancel it because my son was an addict. SURPRISE! They refused to do so without his vocal approval, even after I told them I had all the passwords and security answers and he was in the process of checking himself into rehab! This major credit card company was insisting on vocal commands from an addict (read: MALE VOICE, sight unseen) even though I had all the pertinent information. In the last frantic moments before he handed over his phone at rehab, I conferenced him in so they could hear his voice.

The next day my husband and I drove to our son’s new home and hospital. It wasn’t fancy, but clean, caring and professional. We didn’t get to see him but met his counselor–his wonderful, incredible counselor– who although incredibly busy, was committed to our son’s care and willing to work with us on all issues affecting treatment. He listened to us, to our son, and wisely navigated the de-tangling of our emotions and experience. He allowed us to communicate through emails, wherein we gave details about our son, our family, the unique interpersonal dynamics, our son’s personality and experiences as we knew them. Most of these emails were relayed when our son was strong enough to read them, and they covered the gamut: there were encouraging emails, angry emails, sad emails and daily-life emails. It was our own therapy and a way of keeping in touch with him, using his counselor as conduit. Meanwhile we were also slowly revealing his addiction to trusted family members and friends, and many of these people also sent emails via his counselor.

Although we learned later there were drugs offered to him while in rehab, our son detoxed, stayed in treatment, and with one minor episode of trying to snort his sleep medication (which he said was just for the feeling of snorting it, NOT to get high), he emerged 25 days later, clean and sober. What we also learned from his counselor was that he’d been depressed for years and had considered suicide occasionally. A diagnostic session with a psychiatrist was scheduled, and in that session he confessed that although he gave the world the impression of constant optimism, he was indeed depressed. Isolation was his worst fear and enemy.

Depression runs in my family, and I’d had my own experiences, both with serious depression and the miracle of medication at the proper time. But soon we saw the effect on our son, who in less than a week on Prozac emerged from an addict’s chrysalis of anger and confusion. He was calmer, stronger, less reactive and thinking more clearly. Whereas he once balked at anything he couldn’t manage on his own, he now seemed ready to listen and think about needed life changes.

As I write I know there are those who will say such medication is not the answer, but in our son’s case the results were–and still are, 21 days later— a true miracle. He is clean 43 days and now living in a structured, safe halfway house in Florida, where he is tested regularly, required to work or go to school, and uphold the many rules of the house. The house was recommended by his angel counselor in rehab.

Our son is getting up every morning at 8:30, riding a bicycle, applying for jobs and shucking his former nocturnal self for a daytime occupant. He says he is taking life slowly and carefully, going to sometimes two NA meetings per day. He is measured and calm, thoughtful and communicative, texting daily. We make no plans past his 100-day minimum stay there. Meanwhile he and we are “cautiously optimistic.” We all know there will quite likely be more devils in wait for us, and him, as we go forward. But for now we’re all enjoying a break from the madness. For now at least, the angels are winning.

Sunday Inspiration for Parent of Addicts and Alcoholics

Do you hope for something to happen?

Finding Hope When Your Child’s Addiction Feels Hopeless

I found my first glimmer of hope when I finally mustered the strength to tell my son, “Choose rehab, or choose a life without your family. “ My hope did NOT arise from his response (which was three days in coming) but in the fact that I finally knew in my heart of hearts that things wouldn’t change unless we changed…and I garnered the strength and conviction to draw that line in the sand.

That strength and conviction had eluded me for so long because I was so afraid for my son. I was afraid that if I kicked him out, he would get hurt.   I was afraid he would get into even more trouble if he didn’t have somewhere to live.  I was afraid he would fall in with a bad crowd, which was such an unfounded fear because he was bad enough on his own.  And on some level, I rationalized that confronting his addiction—drawing a line in the sand—somehow made it more real.  I know that sounds strange, but a little voice in my head whispered that  if I didn’t need to kick him out, then his problem really wasn’t that bad, was it??  That’s denial at its best.

Once I mustered the strength to offer one or the other– drugs or family– then our family had a chance to get better, collectively and individually.  My son could choose to seek recovery and I could choose to deny entry to his substance abuse in my life.  When I claimed that power, I found a hope that sustains me, one day at a time, no matter what my son does or doesn’t do.