Friday, November 20, 2015

Anthony's Act and a personal story......

A dear friend who travels this journey with me as a mom of a precious son who also has substance abuse disorder received an awful blow to their son's recovery this past week and its gotten me so riled up. She gave me permission to write about this today.

After being out on the streets for almost a year, living in deep addiction, through a series of events this young man was mandated by the courts into treatment for 6 months. After 60 days, her boy was doing so well. Had gained 50lbs, was HAPPY to be in treatment, grateful....still you could see the marks left from long term addiction on his body and in his thinking, but it was tremendous progress and for the first time in a very long time, the family felt hopeful. We have all shared in their joy. It has been a beautiful transformation.


The insurance company decided that treatment was no longer "medically necessary" and is now refusing to pay. The family is desperate to keep their son in treatment, and in good treatment....counseling, therapies, learning life skills, so they are frantically piecing together the $10,000 to cover the next 5 weeks until they can get him covered by a private pay insurance policy that will go into effect Jan. 1. This of course will be an incredible financial hardship as it would be for the majority of us.

Getting help for our sick kids should not be this hard.

To me, the only analogy I can think of to describe this situation is...

someone enters into treatment with a physician for deep debilitating depression. They are prescribed an anti-depressant. The treatment begins to work and they begin to feel better...and now the insurance company decides since they feel better, their treatment is no longer medically necessary, and they stop paying for the medication. The patient is JUST GETTING THEIR FEET BACK UNDER THEM. They are not in any financial position to be able to afford to cash pay for their treatment... so once again, they determine to try really hard and hang onto what they have just received. However, the damage done to their brain chemistry has only just begun the very slow process to stabilization. Not surprisingly, it is only a matter of time before they just can't hold it all together anymore and they drift away back into their disease, feeling hopeless and ashamed. It is an infuriating catch-22 that seems to be constructed to keep our kids sick. They begin to heal and do the work and feel some hope and their treatment becomes unattainable for them, unreachable. Penalized for getting well.

It is a broken system and it is so infuriating and sad and heartbreaking that our most loved kids are sick and dying due to a treatable, preventable, disease... because they are being refused long term treatment. There are research studies done that strongly support the idea that long term substance abusers NEED LONG TERM treatment to heal. It can take 3 years for a opioid addicted brain to heal and regenerate. In all actuality, it would save our nation thousands and thousands of dollars to help them heal and be free rather than chronic relapsers.

I would ask that you would please sign the Anthony Act petition which is proposing that an amendment be made to the Affordable Care Act that would require insurance companies to cover a MINIMUM of 90 days of treatment. Heroin addiction affects the whole person physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally and it needs to be treated wholistically and not as a character weakness which only perpetuates the stigma, the shame, and the hopelessness. If you are so inclined you could also write letters sharing your story and asking for this amendment to be made, to each of your state senators and representatives.

God bless us all as we walk together.....

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Alanon and CRAFT....can the two work together?

I had someone recently comment about the differences between CRAFT and Alanon and wonder if I could talk more about that. I can and would love to.

First let me say, and I shared this in our training too....Alanon saved my life 10 years ago. What I learned there got me through and taught me how to keep living despite the saddest and most unexpected chain of events that had ever transpired in my life. I think its so important to remember that my Alanon program is about me. Its for my recovery and healing and a place for me to learn how to do life in a more healthy, peaceful manner.

Fast forward several years... at the recommendation of Ron over at An Addict In Our Son's Bedroom 
I bought Beyond Addiction by Jeffrey Foote and started reading. It almost immediately got under my skin. It rattled me and infuriated me. It brought up questions as to how I had been doing my girl's addiction. I was almost insulted by how simplistic some of the examples were.  It certainly was not indicative of the trauma we had experienced in our lives. I think I kept using the word "ridiculous" as I read. lol

Fast forward another year....when I was asked to be a parent coach, in preparation for the training, I had to read the book and The 20 minute Guide. I actively chose to dive in with an open heart this time and just see where it led me.

I had also been going through some personal changes in my approach with my girl during the past few months. I have told this story so forgive me if you have heard it, but it has been a huge life changer for me during this journey. I could think back, early on in our journey, to a time that I was very broken, was so ashamed, felt like a total failure and during that time God met me and accepted me and loved me right where I was at. I was very conscious of the fact that He was starting with me right where I was at and we would work our way forward from there, together. That unconditional love and acceptance is what began to heal and strengthen me and I began to know that I was being commissioned to share what I had received with my girl. To model God's love to her. As I began to walk that out, our relationship began to change. For the better. Communication was open and honest. It was safe for us to both be exactly where we were at.

I still have my boundaries and things that I can't and won't do.....but our relationship today is based on acceptance. Two broken women accepting each other where we are at. Because if I am going to be honest, I had plenty of my own issues before my girl was ever a thought. It is always a work in progress...but its open and fluid. Not locked down in a stalemate.

So what I learned and this is purely for opinion, my understanding, is that the 12 steps can support the CRAFT model beautifully. I LOVE the 12 steps and they have given me tools to live life at peace and without a constant underlying (seething...yes, this used to be my reality) anger. When I apply the principles of CRAFT along with my 12 step work, I feel like I get a kind and gentle outcome that leaves the door open for both of us to be true to ourselves, whatever that may look like. CRAFT is about staying engaged with our kids, the thought being that if we detach we close the door on communication and the possibility of helping our children get the help they need to get healthy.

Another thought is that CRAFT's focus is on people who are in relatively early substance use...although the tools can be used and effective with anyone, the idea is to re-route these people before they get in too deep, before the deep damage is done and they are very stuck. A prevention model using problem solving and communication tools.

It is important to understand too, that Alanon was created by Lois W. for the WIVES of alcoholics.....not the parents. The parent/child relationship is a very different dynamic than a husband/wife relationship. There really is no comparison. The principles of Alanon can work for anyone, for all of us, but I think it is important to acknowledge the differences between the different types of relationships we are working within. In my early years of Alanon, I used to think that detaching from my sick child was just inhumane. It went against all of my instincts. Even in the animal kingdom...animals circled around their sick, not left them in the wilderness to find their own way or worse yet, to die alone. CRAFT encourages you to pay attention to your very normal parental instincts. They focus on natural consequences while staying engaged. Taking care of yourself, while staying engaged. Setting boundaries while staying engaged. Communicating effectively while staying engaged.

Kids dying from heroin or prescription drug overdoses is an epidemic. Letting a young person go, detaching from a young person, whose brain isn't even fully developed, to hit their bottom is becoming horrifyingly more and more deadly. Someone dies from a heroin overdose every 13 minutes. What if we stay in contact and communicate in ways that can build bridges with our children vs. alienate them, blame them, and shame them? What if we step back but stay in close proximity emotionally, letting the child know we are there to help them to feel better. Not to control and micromanage out of our own fears, but to help them because we love them. We are for them. No matter what.

We used scaffolding as an analogy....we build up the scaffolding all around this young person who is struggling to stay upright and we support them until they are strong enough to stand on their own. Its a picture of grace and mercy to me.

Lastly, we all of course have to carry out the decisions that we can live with. I have been doing this for many years now and my girl's disease has progressed. I don't know what the future holds for us. I do know that I want it to be filled with love and kindness though. Loving is not condoning. Nor is it enabling. I have a relationship with my girl....that is all.

Bless us all as we find our way and what works for us.

PS: I am sharing the below video with you because despite how you may feel about Chris Christie's politics, this video shows beautifully, a kind heart for those afflicted with addiction.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The least expected.....

Molly has a new boyfriend. That is not the least expected thing in my life.

What took me by surprise, was this young man went to middle school with my girl and they were friends. He hasn't seen my girl in a long long time, but Molly said, "Oh Mom, it was so nice to hear him talk about the girl he remembered before she went down this path."

The feelings that came up totally took me by surprise. He knew her, he remembered her and he saw her back when she was just a young girl, freckles and red hair and braces, and today he is filled with compassion for her. It was really surreal to hear someone else's perspective of that time. Validating. He remembers watching her change during those years and he said if he had it to do over again, if he knew what the future was going to hold for her, he would have pressed in harder, hung on to her, pulled her back if he could. Very sweet thoughts. Very sad much loss and feelings of helplessness and regret even for some kid she hasn't seen in years.

As sweet it is to hear these stories, it is also incredibly sad too.

There were good years though! It hasn't always been this way. It was bittersweet to be reminded of that.
She was so adorable and so so kind and sweet and sensitive and caring. She still is so many of those things...

Speaking of which...we had lunch together yesterday. It was a good day. She is open to returning to treatment, to counseling.....we just have to figure out where and how. 

Keep praying please....

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chicago, Parent Coaching, and Me....

Finally, I have a minute to talk about my trip. I got home at midnight Sunday and was thrown back into my full time life by Monday at 8am. lol

Going to the parent training was amazing. I realized that my recovery journey had taught me how to do this. I just took care of each step as it appeared in front of me and before I knew it, I was there, sitting in a class being taught by three brilliant young professional counselors and surrounded by a group of parents who knew exactly what my life these past 13 years have been filled with. I loved everyone I met....the thing with addiction is that it is a leveler. It didn't matter what any of us did for a living, or who we were outside of those rooms, the one thing that connected us all was addiction and the love we have for our kids. It was beautiful. It was beautiful to be understood and to understand anothers journey, to get it on the deepest level, the pain and fear and the joys.

I felt that all along the way God let me know He was with me. My taxi driver was a sweet young man who told me all about Illinois and the big city and the rural areas, and he spoke in passing of  waiting to hear from God, what his next step should be in forging his path into adulthood.

"I am here."

A few days before the class all of the participants had sent out introductions and one sweet woman emailed me and we started talking. We met in the lobby of the hotel that first night and talked for over an hour. It was as if we had known each other our entire lives. Her husband was there with her and he drove us to and from our class both days. Such a wonderful couple. Such similar mom's hearts that we shared.

 "I am here."

The class material (Beyond Addiction by Jeffrey Foote and The 20 minute Guide) was awesome....all about staying engaged in a kind and healthy manner with our addicted children vs. the tough love model. The communication skills I learned about were meant to create dialogue, open the door for connecting and providing hope and solutions. They will take PRACTICE! During our role playing exercises I would be speechless (I know.....shocking!) because I didn't know how to proceed using what we were being taught. I am told that eventually it will begin to come naturally.  However, I have been using the tools and was able to share some with a long time mom friend who is in a bad situation with one of her kids and we could discuss and talk about how to connect with the child. The mom felt hopeful, had a plan and was ready to patiently implement it over time.

The icing on the cake of this trip was that another blogger here who has read me for several years contacted me and let me know that she lived about 45 minutes away from where I would be. I got to meet Lolly! We had the sweetest visit and I so appreciated her efforts to come and see me. What a kind and loving woman she is and what an absolute blessing it was to meet her in person. We talked about Syd and how he was one of the first blogs that the both of us found and then we both found each other. I just loved that through the most unexpected avenues we had found each other and then there we were, sitting in Illinois sharing dinner and talking about our lives!

Again, "I am here."

So many blessings and so many moments that were arranged and orchestrated in ways I never could have put together by myself. I am so grateful to have been a part of all of it! It feels like such an incredible honor that I will get to be available to other parents and let them know that they are not alone. So not alone. I am so grateful for the opportunity.

Bless us all as we comfort and encourage one another on this journey.....

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Permission to grieve

When ever we talk about grief we think of death, but really, there are many many reasons that we find ourselves walking through the grieving process.

The loss of a relationship that we cherished, the loss of our dreams and expectations of how we thought it would be, the loss of a job promotion, the loss of trust in someone, feeling betrayed, having our needs not be met by an absentee parent or spouse or child.....the bottom line is that we all experience loss in many ways and for many different reasons. Grieving is the natural response to loss. Any loss.

I think that often, for any reason short of death, we minimize our loss and don't allow ourselves to acknowledge and walk through the stages of our grieving process.

As parents of adult kids who struggle with living we experience a lot of loss. Loss of hope, loss of our dreams, loss of feeling successful, loss of feeling on top of what we are doing, loss loss loss. Its sad and its often scary.

I spent several years of our journey wallowing in my loss and feeling ashamed on so many levels. Ashamed that I was so grief stricken and so not capable of fixing it all. It took a lot of time (years) for me to muck around in all of the sadness and all of my self pity and wondering how on earth this ever could have happened to us...I had to walk through it all though.

When I look at the above diagram on the stages of grief I think it is so much more accurate than when we read about the 5 stages of grief. There are so many feelings and dynamics that those 5 stages contain that we need to know are ok to feel. Its all part of the painful process of letting go and accepting.

I am so grateful to be on the upswing of this chart including new friendships, hope, and helping others. I had a lot of time that I didn't think I would ever feel better or not be so afraid. It all has played out very differently than I ever expected, but its alright. I am alright today. I love and accept my girl right where she is at today. I love and accept myself right where I am at today. I don't know what the future holds for any of us in our family, but I have hope that we will all be ok, no matter the outcome.

God is good and He is in charge. I get to put one foot in front of the other and walk it all out. Thats my part.

Much love....

And to reiterate on the concept of simplifying.....

The gentle expert of living simply, eliminating the unnecessary swirling and bustling around that we get so lost hero, Fred Rogers! This is well worth the 12 minutes it takes to watch it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Living simply, mindfully, contentedly

Yesterday I was with a client and as I worked I observed his surroundings, his home. Everything was in its place. No clutter. His book was neatly sitting on the end table near the chair he likes to read in with the good strong light. In his bedroom he has a CD of Mozart sitting on the nightstand next to the single CD player that he turns on with the push of a button. He puts it on every night as he lays to go to sleep. His clothes are neat and functional, warm, comfortable, just what he needs. He is content with a simple life. He sat calmly writing out checks to pay his bills, welcomed me when I came in, helped me to accomplish some simple chores....but hes a gentleman and he never treats me like the hired help. We are a team getting done what needs doing.

I know that some would call it boring....but I soak in the simple and calm. Order. Routine. Contentment.

I am working at filling more of my time with those qualities vs the spinning, rushing, busy chaos that I often allow to take over my days. The more time I have off, the more I love the calm. Being mindful of each action. I went for a walk on Sunday and it was just a walk. It wasn't a power walk, I didn't try to beat any times or get so fast per mile, I didn't listen to any books on my phone.....I just walked and thought and looked at what was all around me. I saw squirrels, big blue mountain jays, golden trees that are changing color, I listened as I passed the grange hall to what seemed to be a church service inside. I watched a family walk in carrying a guitar to contribute to the time of worship I would assume, I noticed a yard that I have walked past for many years now and the new fencing and the dog run and the landscaping and was so happy for them! It was beautiful.

Right now, living in the moment feels like the sweetest way to take care of myself. The dad and I had a recent conversation about this.....he has ADD (like for real) and his mind is always miles ahead of where we are at in the current moment. It overwhelms me and frustrates me and usually I snap and act like he's an idiot.... because I can be nasty like that. And really nothing could be further from the truth. In this particular conversation, I had a realization. I need to live in the moment. I need to focus on finishing what I am doing, and then I can move on. I was able to explain that to him.

 "My brain doesn't work like yours and it overwhelms me when you move on to the future steps before I have finished the step I am on. Then I get snippy and nasty, and then you take my ugly attitude personally, and it creates tension between us, but all it really is, is that our brains work differently from each others.  I need to finish up what I am working on before I can move on."

What a difference. I felt a thousand pounds lift off of my shoulders. How long have we been pushing each other around (figuratively) trying to get our way, not understanding what the real need was.

I just need to go slower these days. I need to take in my surroundings and muddle through each step along the way, see, taste, experience, feel. Every moment doesn't need to be filled with multi-tasking and trying to accomplish the absolute most out of each moment.

Maybe this is what it is like when we get older. lol Maybe the past years have taken their toll and this is just how I have to do it for now. Regardless of why... I know so deeply in my insides that its exactly what I need, that I can't force myself to go backward and cram more in than I can reasonably manage.

It feels so good, to live a slower, more orderly life. Its like a nap in the middle of the afternoon when you are really really just so tired.

Always praying for us all.....