Friday, April 29, 2016

Grief

The Weight of Grief
On Monday Molly and I went to the city to gather my brother's things and meet with the medical examiner. While this was not totally unexpected, the deep sadness, the feelings of guilt for not doing enough (which is my usual place I go to...I should have done more) the memories of our troubled childhood that this has triggered...has touched something so deep inside of me, at my core, and totally taken me by surprise.

When we arrived at the building that he had lived in, a fellow resident met us on the street at the locked door and asked if we were Mark's family.

 "Yes."

"Oh Mannnnn! I was in _____ House with Mark! I have a picture of us back then. I wanted to get a copy made for you, but I didn't know you would be here today!" Just the gesture, the thought, meant so much to me.

He shook our hands and showed us the picture and I took a picture of it with my phone. He went on to tell me some stories and how they were friends and he was sorry that he was gone. "I tried to watch out for him, but I couldn't be with him 24/7." I thanked him for being his friend.

I realized that Mark had a community here. This was his world.

When we went into his room... there was evidence everywhere that he WANTED to be healthy. That he was trying. Positive affirmations written out in his handwriting hung, taped with medical tape, above his bed, "10 things I like about myself" with a list of 10 things that all were true. A devotional I had sent to him sat, well-read on his coffee table. The big book of AA, Living Sober, a bible, all sat next to it.

Molly found a notebook and said, "Mom, I think you will want this."

It had his goals, lists of pros and cons for certain behaviors, rewording things from negative self-talk to positive, contracts that he and his social worker both signed, promising to not use substances, to seek help immediately if he had any ideas of harming himself. He talked about the people he connected with, who were helpful to him. There were dark thoughts too, paranoid, afraid. Which was very common for him. He spent YEARS trying. Trying to be ok, trying to not mess up, trying to not be alone, trying to find his spot.....and he finally just became too tired to keep trying.

I took all of his tools that he was implementing, his big book, his bible, his notebook, his positive affirmations, his prayers and a picture of Jesus that he had hanging on his wall and I brought them home with me.

Sadly, there was some question if we should just let him be cremated as an indigent person and be thrown into the bay with no family present.

 I couldn't do it. It felt like that was the last act of tossing him aside. Thankfully, gratefully, a couple family members were willing to pitch in to help with that expense....the rest were silent. I mentioned that its only the grace of God that it wasn't us who was as sick as he was. Bless the dad's heart.....when I told him my plan of cremating him, his response, without hesitation, was "Of course, whatever you need to do." My sweet kind generous husband, always backing me up and supporting me to do what is important to me. "We will figure it out" has become his mantra.

Our girl has brought us so in touch with our own brokenness and enabled us to embrace what makes us imperfect. My goal for so long was to be perfect. To present a picture of perfection. That has been stripped away from me. From our family... and we are better people because of it. I am thankful for the lessons we have learned and who we have become. Brokenness, messy life, imperfection, being just "good enough," doesn't scare us anymore.

I am so sad. It just has to run its course and I will come out on the other side eventually.  I am so glad I went to see where he was living and met his friends and the staff. I regret so much not making more time to have done that sooner. I spoke with my girl's therapist today. I asked him if he would see me just once so I could talk about all of this. When I told him how guilty I felt, he said, "You did the best you could for your brother and that was good enough." It was the perfect thing to say. Its exactly what I would tell someone in this position. "You did the best you could for the circumstances, and that is enough."

Today my dear friend, a momma of a little 7 year old "wild girl" thanked me for "getting" her baby. I thought of how we all need to be gotten. We all need to have that experience of being totally understood, heard, accepted and gotten. Hopefully we get to live in that place. I don't think my brother ever did and that is part of my sadness. I pray that today he is there....resting in the knowledge that he is just fine now. Perfectly loved and accepted.

Annette

Friday, April 22, 2016

My brother....





I have written about my younger brother here a few times. He was my mom's "my girl." I spent years being mad, and jealous, and telling my mom she had to stop "enabling" him, that she was only contributing to his dysfunction, that she had to let him go to figure out how to be an adult.

Then I began my own journey and I so regretted all of those words. I had been like someone who doesn't have kids, telling a new mom how to parent. I began to understand on the deepest and most painful level how difficult, and how searing that letting go could be.

My brother lived in San Francisco for many years. I have to say, if one is mentally ill, addicted, and unable to care for one's self, San Francisco is the place to be. He was well taken care of there despite his many many physical, behavioral, and mental issues. His support team liked him. Each person that I have talked to has said something to the effect of....."yeahhhh, he had his issues, but he sure was a nice guy." And every time they say that I cry.

Early Wednesday morning I got "the call." The medical examiner had found my number in his things. I was always his emergency contact after our parents died... He was gone. Had taken his own life the day before. I wasn't shocked, but I was. He had made multiple attempts through the years but then would put the brakes on. "Nahhh, not today."

I am shocked at how deeply sad I am at his passing. I have thought over the last few days so much of our childhood. Our troubled parents and their fighting and how my brother would get so nervous. His little blue eyes would twitch and blink hard, he would nervously lick his lips until they were raw, and he would bounce off the walls and spin and be hard to get to settle down. I remember when we were little and shared a room and he would have bad dreams. He would get up and run to the wall, grab a stuffed toy or his blanket and scrub the wall and you couldn't convince him that nothing was there. I remember my mom trying to get him to give up his pacifier. I remember in kindergarten him being labeled hyperactive and then put on Ritalin. If they only knew the stress we both lived with.

My mom, bless her heart never gave up on him. She would say, "He's sick." She understood on a deep intrinsic level some of the struggles he faced. She had everyone and anyone praying for him. She loved him unconditionally and eventually she learned how to do that without compromising her own well being.

My favorite story and memory of my brother is when my mom was dying. We were getting so close to the end and all of my mom's kids had contacted her and said their good-byes. All the loose ends were tied up, forgiveness granted and received, it was a beautiful peaceful time....except that my brother had gone MIA and I had no way of finding him. Finally, my mom had been laying in a coma like state for the past 10 days. No food intake, and only small drops of water from a sponge that I would swab her mouth with. The nurse asked me what I thought she was hanging on for....I told her that I couldn't find my youngest brother.

And then he called. I told him I would put him on speaker phone and hold the phone up for her to hear his voice. I asked him to tell her he was ok....whether it was true or not didn't matter at this point.  What happened next will forever be how I choose to remember him. In a bold strong voice he said, "Mom, I'm ok! I'm doing just fine! You don't have to worry about me anymore. You can go on now and be in peace. I'm alright and I love so much."

She died 6 hours later. She had waited to hear from her youngest child. Her lost sheep. She had to know that he was ok before she could let go.

Later when I called to tell him that she had gone, I said, "She waited for you. You mattered and you were the one who could set her free and you did, in the most beautiful, selfless way. You mattered!"

Rest in peace Mark. I pray that mom and Jesus were standing waiting to welcome you in, bathing you in the grace and compassion that you so desperately needed.

Mark Taber
Sept. 15. 1966 - April 19, 2016






Saturday, April 16, 2016

Our walls protecting us from our worst fears.

A couple of days ago my girl and I went to an orientation meeting to be placed on a waiting list for a bed in a treatment facility. This post isn't about that though....it's about a fellow momma that I met there in the waiting room.

We arrived at the same time, parked next to each other, all got out of the car at the same time, walked in together...her girl was in such bad shape. An adorable girl, obviously very addicted to meth. The mom marched on, stoically, not speaking, not smiling. I felt so bad for them. I tried to make eye contact with the mom, but she avoided looking in my direction. 

Finally our girls went into their meeting and both of us mom's were left to wait in the waiting room.  There was a man with a service dog and I talked to him for awhile about his dog and the training he went through with her. There was a little curly haired brunette girl waiting with her parents so we talked about curly hair and where did it come from....they didn't know. I told about our two red haired girls and how crazy it is that we get these unexpected surprises when giving birth. 

The mom focused on her book, never looking up, or entering into our small talk. I just had to connect with her. We obviously had so much in common and she was so sad. Or mad. Afraid....all of the above. I walked over and sat down next to her and asked her how old her daughter was. I figured if she didn't want to talk I would leave her be, but I had to try. I told her that her girl was so beautiful....she was. I could see it beyond the addiction. The mom looked at me skeptically. I said, "we parked next to each other and then walked in together. My girl is in the room with your daughter. It seems you and I are in the same boat." And I smiled. She warmed up, told me she is in Nar-anon for the past 2 years. "I am good." But she wouldn't let her eyes meet mine.

The office offered our girls bus passes to make it to their appointment....but here both of us mom's were, giving them rides. This mom explained that she felt she could offer this one thing....a ride. That ride showed me that despite her distance, she hadn't given up yet. She was still hoping, even though it hurt her heart to do so.

Finally, it was time to go....probably much to her relief! I rubbed her arm and told her that her girl would be in my prayers. And she is. I put her name right at the top of the list. This broken young woman who is seeking help, calling Salvation Armies, doing what she can in some very difficult circumstances, and whose momma is so afraid to feel or hope once again.

Praying for us all...
Annette


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Detaching with love

I used to think that to detach with love meant to nicely cut off contact. "I'm not angry with you, and I love you very much, but I can't watch you kill yourself anymore."

First of all, I was to angry. I was mad as holy hell. So my nicely cutting off contact was me forcing a calm, loving voice through gritted teeth while seething inside. How could *she have done this* to us?!

When we detached, she didn't hit bottom as we had been taught she would. We waited and waited, for several years, and she only got worse, until eventually we were concerned for her life. We were walking this fine line between not wanting to "enable" but also being terrified that we were going to get "the call" any minute. 

Eventually my heart began to change in regards to this detachment process. I began to look at who I try to model my life after....the teachings of Jesus and I saw a compassionate man who accepted broken people in their brokenness. He met them and He protected them from the judgements of their peers. He stood with them and when they were ready and willing to surrender their wills to Him, He was there and He walked with them and showed them how to be the person that they had been created to be. 

I knew I didn't want to go back to my days of obsession, my fear driven actions, my endless tears....but I couldn't totally let my girl go either. If she was diagnosed with any other disease, I would have been encouraged to support her and stay by her side....if addiction truly is a disease as we all say it is, why was I encouraged to let her flounder by herself and resort to all sorts of awfulness just in order to survive? In the hopes that her suffering would make her miserable enough that she would seek change. 

I began to think in terms of "unconditional acceptance" of her as my child. Not of her choices, not of anything, other than the fact that she was, she is, still my child. Acceptance, kindness, didn't mean condoning. Contact, any act of friendship, was not enabling. It was relationship with a person I care about. I realized that anything I gave (emotionally or tangibly) had to be given with no strings attached. No expectations...no manipulative attempts at "making her get better." Whatever I gave was a free gift with nothing tied to the other end. 

As I began to put these new thoughts into action, I began to realize that I felt better. I could detach emotionally, I had grown enough through the years of working my Alanon program and changing my own poor fear driven behaviors, that my own happiness and well being was no longer tied to how well she was doing or not doing. I could accept her as she came to me, and she accepted me as I was, with my limits in place, with my boundaries, and today, though it is far from perfect, we are able to share in each other's lives. It is a beautifully broken imperfect piece of art work in the making. Two broken women who share what they can with each other. 

I have come to believe that connection vs. estrangement, in my situation, is what is right for us. It's how we have to do this part of our journey. This is just my story, what is working for us and in no way am I saying that anyone else needs to do it this way. For my circumstances, this works and dare I say, it is what I feel "called" to carry out. 

Bless us all today.....
Annette

PS: Someone, an old blogger friend, had shared this article with me....which is what prompted this post, although I seem to talk about this a lot! Lol 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Restructuring our Anxiety



Thanks for sharing how addiction has changed your lives. In so many ways we all are altered forever more. In some good ways and in some tragic ways. Holly shared that she has learned to have more confidence in her own thinking. I think that is so key to the whole journey. 

Step one is about our powerlessness over..... Everything! Because I am a recovering co-dependent I  always say I am powerless over other people. If you are an alcoholic, it would be alcohol, a heroin addict, it would be heroin and so forth. Accepting our powerlessness is a huge rite of passage. Accepting and settling back in the knowledge of my lack of ability to fix any of this has quieted my fear and anxiety quiet a bit. I no longer have the fear of losing control of everything, churning around in my insides. Which also means that I don't have the thoughts about how to fix everything churning around in my insides either. Just those changes have brought some element of peace to my soul. 

My girl and I are in a long process right now to try to get her some help. She has agreed to try again. Each time that she walks away from sobriety, she sinks farther down into a hole and it is harder to come back. The obstacles feel larger, more looming over her head, more insurmountable....so we take it one step at a time. We do today. We go to this office and fill out that paperwork, we hand it in. We wait to hear back. We go through each door that opens before us. She is afraid. I tell her that she won't be alone, that we will go through each door together and we don't look any further ahead than what sits right in front of us to conquer at this moment. She is very active in her disease and will be up until the moment she walks through that rehab door I am thinking. I am letting that go. If she  could curtail, or stop her use on her own, there would be no need for treatment....she is just surviving until she can get there. 

As for me, I have no expectations. I too am walking through what is right in front of me, just like she is. This might work, and it might not. I have come to believe that I may be able to detach from my girl in that *my own wellbeing* is not tied to hers......but as far as our mother-daughter relationship, it is not negotiable. Especially now at this point. I don't know the future, I can't tell what tomorrow will hold. When I try to look too far ahead, I get afraid, filled with anxiety. So I stay in what I can handle....today. 

Today we drove to the methadone clinic. It's an hour one way so a lot of time together. Some days she  sleeps all of the way down and back. Today we drank coffee, we listened to music, we talked and we laughed.  She explained how to propagate succulents for the 150 wedding favors I need to put together. I savor her intelligence and her dry humor, I savor a good day....and I refuse to ponder over ideas of enabling, being in her business, or "loving her to death."  We share a relationship. That's it. She is stuck, sick in a terrible ugly disease and has been for many years now. If I insist on waiting for her to get well to be in my life, and it doesn't ever happen, then I will have missed out on the precious moments that we do manage to share together. I will miss out on my good memories with her...the good days. So I accept what is, that I can't control the future, that I only have this moment with her and I let that be enough for now. We are just doing the next right thing. 

Praying for all of us. 
Annette




Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How has addiction changed us?

Addiction changes us at the core of who we are. It changes everything.....with or without our permission. It barges its way through and in and its tentacles wrap around anything it can reach.

I was thinking of the things that addiction have changed for me. Some are negatives and some are beautiful positives. 

1. I now have "triggers." Seemingly innocuous things that other people may even find joyful or fun, that send me into a spiral of deep sadness and pain. (Like weddings!) 
2. There are certain movies and TV shows that I can't watch because they are too darn sad and take me back to some very dark scary places. 
3. I am numb when dealing with what others would view as unthinkable. 
4. I am tired. Bone tired much of the time. 
5. I cry often. (Molly's boyfriend told me that if we feel deeply, have a belly laugh each day, and have a cry every day....we are living life fully. Yayyy me! I've got it covered!)
6. If the phone rings in the middle of the night, my heart races and I shake and have to go to the bathroom. 
7.  I am more compassionate.
8.  I am less likely to judge another person.
9.  I am a champion at looking at the big picture.
10. Not much rattles me because in comparison to having active addiction in one's life, nothing really is that big of a deal anymore.
11.  I am not easily offended anymore.
12.  I am far stronger than I ever knew.
13.  I have learned how to live in forgiveness, how to let go, and how to love unconditionally.....gifts that have changed me forever for the better and made me into a better person.
14.  I have learned patience.
15. I am compelled to live an honest, raw, life. Dishonesty, manipulation, and justification, rub me way way the wrong way.
16. I have been given a life sustaining faith and have met a kind and compassionate and long suffering God.

I'm sure more will come to me as I go through the next few weeks and months, but I want to hear from each of you though! How has addiction changed you? The good and bad. Send me your lists in the comments, or through email (lv4gves@comcast.net) and let's see what we share. Because more than anything else, I needed to know that I am not alone in this. As I have made my way through the years....that is the one huge commonality that all of us parents share. We want to know we aren't alone or that we aren't "weird." We all share so many similar things....and we learn from our differences. So please do share.

My prayers go out for all of us and my love and admiration is so deep for each of the courageous momma's who read here and share this journey with me.

Annette

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Stupid Ugly Holidays...

Today is a major Christian holiday....it is almost as hard of a day for me as Christmas or Thanksgiving. Holidays are a challenge. I had to work this morning.....the disabled still need to get up and out of bed and cleaned up EVEN on a holiday. While I drove down my mountain to reach my destination, I thought of how much I "hate" holidays. I am ashamed to admit it.....but yes, that is the exact word that played through my mind. We have no extended family close by, I have no family that "joins in" and helps put on the holiday production, so it's all on my shoulders. Add in the unpredictability of active addiction, the isolation I feel because we aren't surrounded by family and "everyone" else is, the shame I feel if we are going to be honest here....holidays as a child were ugly drunken events filled with fighting so there is not even any happy history to fall back on. Holidays are depressing.

So I wallowed around in that for a bit. I let myself muck it up in my self pity and how ugly and hateful holidays feel to me, I ate some chocolate malted robins eggs...and bought some Monterey Jack cheese on the way home from work so I could whip up something for everyone to eat.... I made that delicious chili/egg/cheese casserole. 

And while focusing on my family for a minute instead of what a rip off Easter is, it occurred to me that the reason, the origin of this holiday, is not about family get togethers. Its about Jesus miraculously rising from the dead on the third day. Its to celebrate His resurrection, that he is still alive and powerful and here with us. That not a one of us is here walking this journey alone. Not my girl, not me, not you, not your kids, not the dad....none of us. He see's each of us, He loves each of us personally, and He came to set us free from what has us imprisoned. He is filled with grace and compassion and love and acceptance for each of us. 

Just that sudden awareness was such a comfort. I decided to change my focus and to seek Him today and stop looking all around me at all that I think I don't have. Just for today I can focus on God and His Son who came to give us life. Who holds each of our broken selves in their hands and loves us perfectly right where we are at. Who is long suffering and doesn't give up on His children. 

So Happy Resurrection Day! I am so grateful for all that I have been given, even when there are hard days....I don't have to look far to see my blessings and feel my security and safety in my relationship with God. 

Much Love,
Annette