Thursday, August 20, 2015

Happy birthday to my Molly girl

23 years ago today I was in the hospital giving birth to my beautiful free spirited girl. She was 2 weeks late and I had to persuade the dr. to not induce me, but just let nature take its course. Sure enough, she skidaddled out when she was ready....big and red faced and healthy. 

She has always been the bringer of joy and good laughs. Full of spunk and adventure, fearless and honest. Physically able to conquer anything. I am so grateful and proud that I got picked to be her momma! ❤️ 
I love you sweet girl, always and forever. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Speaking our Truth

I am reading an excellent book called "What Dying People Want; Practical Wisdom for the End of Life." by David Kuhl.....yes, very entertaining, light reading. Not. But it is very very good. Very worthwhile reading for anyone who will be caring either professionally or personally for someone who is dying.

The chapter I am on right now is called Speaking Our Truth. The focus is on the end of life, but of course...I see so much further than that. There is a story of a terminally ill man named Ron, who had led a rough life and never had really looked at the events that made up the whole of his life. He had been a gang member and had witnessed many acts of violence and done nothing to stop them. The guilt was crushing him. He had his own relationships to look at and work through, his own emotional wounds and pain...but he knew time was running out. So he thought it all through, and he made the painful decision to really look at all that he could remember, to put it all together in some sort of chronological order. In beginning these steps, he realized that he had been living a "duplicitous" life by not acknowledging who he was, what his life had been filled with, and the consequences of those actions or non-actions.

I think a huge factor is that Ron intuitively knew that just acknowledging the truth to himself, wasn't enough. He needed to share his story. He needed to speak these events out and for someone to hear him and respond. He decided who he would share his burdens with. For three decades Ron's secrets had held him hostage....and it had finally become an intolerable way for him to live. The recipient of his stories, just listened. No judgements. He just let him vomit it all out and cleanse his system. He was speaking his truth. His perception of those times... his listening friend didn't tell him what was right or wrong....he just listened. Ron felt lighter, more free afterward, he had shed light on the darkness, his story had been heard.

"Individuals, families, groups, and organizations keep secrets. In turn, secrets keep individuals, secrets keep families, secrets isolate and hold their keepers hostage. Essentially, people keep secrets and secrets keep people. If those secrets are linked to guilt and shame, they are all the more powerful in their ability to isolate and silence the secret keeper, to prevent him from speaking the truth." pg. 172

How does the above quote apply to those of us who may not be at the end of our lives yet, but are working at living authentic and honest lives?

I know in my childhood, I kept my parents alcoholism and violent fighting a secret. I didn't have kids over and I didn't go to their houses either. I just managed the chaos of my life quietly and in secret, dreading if anyone would ever find out. (which they did.)

As an adult I worked so hard at being perfect, and when I couldn't pull it off, I kept it a secret, I hid,  because I was ashamed. (everyone knew anyway.)

When my daughter began to show some troubling signs of mental health issues and substance abuse (the same issues my mom and my g-ma had shared....but I had kept that a secret too) I didn't let anyone know for a long time, because I was ashamed. I was afraid of the judgments. It only confirmed (in my thinking at that point) that I hadn't done the very job I wanted to do "perfectly," very well at all. I had failed. So I ran as fast as I could and I didn't tell anyone and I tried to fix it before anyone could find out. (but that didn't work and they knew anyway.)

When I went to my first Alanon meeting.....and that is where it happened for me. I believe it can happen anywhere when we are ready....when the student is ready, the teacher appears. When I went to my first Alanon meeting and I shared through my sobs, that my life was unmanageable in some really huge ways, that I was so terribly afraid for my daughter, that I felt like a failure, that I was behaving poorly trying to control the uncontrollable, and the most terrifying of all....that I didn't know what to do next, I felt the most tremendous relief.

There.

It was out.

I had spoken my truth. It had become intolerable to live the way I was living for even another minute. I had to turn the lights on and shine it on the darkness that was surrounding me. And when I did.....the secrets lost their power. The problems were still there, but now I wasn't alone. Now I could begin to look for solutions outside of my limited scope. Because I had shared my truth with other people who had similar truths, who were farther along in the journey to healing than I was, who could share what had worked for them... in finally letting someone else inside, I was given a new set of tools.

Later in the chapter Ron said, "I'm fanatical about the truth, being honest with people, and I want them to be honest with me too."

Once you have come out of living in your lie, your illusion, denial....whatever we want to call it, you don't want to ever go back to that dark cave that you were hiding in. I should put that in the first person....I didn't want to ever go back to that dark place. To the best of my ability I work at living in the light, no secrets.

The truth will set you free.

Confession is good for the soul.

Steps 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

And 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Speaking our truth gives us our power back. It is the gentlest, most gut wrenching, loving thing we can do for ourselves. Painful... yes. Sets us free.....most definitely yes. I believe we all get brought to our knees at one time or another, and we get to decide what our next step will be. Speak our truth, or turn away from our stories that keep us locked up in those dark places.

Bless us all
Annette

Saturday, August 15, 2015

An old friend

I read an old friends blog this morning.... she shared that after 8 years of sobriety, her son has a full time permanent job with benefits. Laura was one of the first blogs I started reading. I am so happy for she and her son, Cliff....they are moving forward, both autonomously, both creating the lives that work for themselves individually. Not just surviving.

Sadly, I am still in survival mode. Reading her words, as happy as I am for her, made me tired. 8 years. My girl isn't even sober yet... and yes Laura is so right in that stopping the drugs is JUST the beginning. The first step. Then there are all of the other underlying issues to be dealt with... the baggage and damage in all of its forms, from years of living an unhealthy and dysfunctional life.

I can't look ahead 8 years. I can barely look to tomorrow.

Just for today, I am here with my little woman who will leave this earth in the next few weeks. I get to focus my love and care on her and do something that feels worthwhile. For today.

Congratulations Cliff and Laura. I really am so happy for you. You are one of the success stories, one of the stories that shows me that recovery from deep all invasive addiction, really can happen, does happen.

Bless your hearts and much love....
Annette

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Even on our death bed

First my high school update because I know everyone has been wondering and thinking on this.... Little One is on day 4 of high school and its been awesome! She likes all of her teachers and when she talks about it, I can hear confidence and surety in her voice. Bless her brave heart. She told me yesterday about initiating a conversation with a person she didn't know in her science class....this is HUGE progress and she felt proud of herself and encouraged. Maybe all of these years she just needed to go to high school! To be a big girl. We have always said she's an old soul.

Ok that's crazy. But for today, all is well and she is feeling strong with a new found confidence. I will take it!

My little Hospice client does not have long.... and I am struck that even on her death bed her first thought is the safety of her "boys."  Her grown sons come to see her and these are professional, well established gentlemen in their 60's, who are self sufficient and capable in a myriad of ways. When they leave she still tells them in her little whisper voice which is all she can muster up, "be careful." One was leaving and going to a barbecue and she said, "Ok, but don't drink anything."

I wanted to kiss her on the cheek! I know the desperate NEED to speak those types of warnings and admonishments out. If we just say it, maybe we can ward off whatever danger lurks out there waiting to grab up our kids, or we can detour any dangerous decision they will make. It makes me wonder what the secret parts of her story are that she feels the need, even on her death bed, to still caution her boys, to protect them.

It makes me aware of how strong that mother's need to nurture and protect really is. That mother's instinct that I have spent the last 10 years trying to quell while I detach and let go. I've always said that it goes against nature to do this. Even in the animal kingdom they circle around their wounded and sick young ....not turn away from. (Ok, sometimes they eat them too!) However, I also know that all of my best efforts have not been enough to change one thing for my girl.

The place I have come to at this point is not turning away, but accepting her as she is. I read an article by Dr. Howard Wetsman a couple days ago and there was a sentence about loving our addicted loved ones, not in spite of their addiction, but including their addiction. (The actual article was about something totally different, but this one sentence really grabbed me)  That is a stretch. I don't love addiction. I hate it. It has marred my life since my conception....but I do love my girl. The girl she used to be, the memories that I have of her, and the woman that I hope and pray she will eventually be one day when she finds recovery. I haven't given up on her. She recently asked if she could come home for a few weeks and our answer had to be, "no." There were many reasons why we had to say no... trust me on this. However, it is still gut wrenching, heart rending to carry out....I cried and cried, because its so ugly and painful, but I have learned how to say no, in love, not anger. Its not a rejection of her....its just how it has to be for now. I can say no, but still be kind, still see her, still buy her lunch, still connect on whatever level is available to us on any given day.

Loving an addict reminds me of when Mother Teresa went into the leper colony and took care of the sick. Common sense was to run the other way, these sick and contagious were considered hopeless causes and not worthy of her efforts, but she had a higher calling. Do we, as mother's of addicts have a higher calling? A selfless love that we are called to carry out, even though its not comfortable or the way we wanted to love them? I think so.

I put each of our children into God's hands each day.
Let us all love one another.....
Annette

Saturday, August 8, 2015

High school and anxiety

Mine, not hers.

Little one is heading off to high school on Monday. School has always been an issue for her. Not the academics... the crowds. She went to the same school for K-8th...a small school of under 500 kids. Some years she was in a part time program because the large group thing was just too much. These last couple years she went every single day....some days she only lasted for a half day. After Christmas break though, we all nudged her to last all day because we knew high school was coming up.

A couple nights ago we went to freshman orientation. I sat through the athletic directors spiel about parent involvement. Did you know that according to him, parent involvement can solve all that ails our youth? He happily told us all about is own daughter who has been away at a beautiful college that overlooks the ocean, she even has a locker for her surf board. All because he and his wife were involved. "If you aren't involved, then you are part of the problem."

I sat there listening and wondered how many other hurting parents were sitting there hearing his simplistic view to curing our hurting children. Drug abuse, mental illness, family upsets, lack of employment, chronic health problems.... if involvement had been all it took, if love was enough....I wouldn't have needed to process the life that cold cocked me square in the face, in this blog for the past 8 years.

So I decided to take what I liked and leave the rest. There were some phone numbers, some kind faces who made themselves available as known "safe people" to come to if trouble arises, the bell schedule so I know what time to get her there....stuff like that. (I'm sending my daughter somewhere where they need designated "safe people" to seek out in the event of trouble? WTH? I'm grateful and afraid all at once. )

I have somewhat radical ideas on education anyway... which I don't voice very often because Little One really wants to try this and I don't want to influence her. I want it to be her own personal choice. I think it may feel like a fresh start to her. She did great at orientation and when I had to run to the bank for cash to pay for "stuff," rather than wanting to come with me, she said she would stay there with her friends.

Yes!!!

A dad of a boy she has shared the same class with every year since 1st grade is coaching the snowboarding team. He came over and escorted her to the sign up table by putting a pen in her hand and saying, "Sign it. I want you out there with us." I love this family and I am so grateful. We will see.... 

I just so want her to be happy and comfortable and find her niche.  She is such a sweet kid, and I am so very very exhausted from raising 4 kids with all of their various troubles. Do you hear me? I am so very tired.

Its been a rough week of letting go for the 7,980,896,000,000th time. (I don't even know what number that is....I just typed numbers and put commas after every third digit.....but you get my point.) Letting go is still my nemesis.  Occasionally, I still think I have the answers for my girl. That know-it-all voice has gotten much quieter through the years....its now just a nagging whisper, "Maybe if she tried this....." 

Of course I have 3 other children besides her. I have to let go of them too. Let them find their own way, not give suggestions...just listen and be present. Some days I feel like throwing a fit and stomping my foot.... "Just do it my way and lets get this over with!"

That has never worked in the past and you all know the definition of insanity.....

God love us all as we figure out this crazy journey.
Annette




Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Whats my motive.....

A long time Alanon friend taught me to ask myself what my motive is before I take action in my dealings with my addicted daughter, but it applies to everyone really.

Honestly.... I love to be in charge. Its old behavior that feels comfortable and safe to me. I have to work at letting go, every single day. My need for control is very fear driven. If I think about the responsibility being in charge requires, and the lack of faith and the arrogance it reveals... its a little disturbing that I have not totally forsaken my quest for control....but no. I have to catch myself and ask myself what are my motives for my actions?

My relationship with my girl has changed drastically over the past few years. I have come to a place of supernatural (and I am not kidding when I use that word) acceptance of she and her life, just as they are. That acceptance has set me free from trying to change anything about her. If anything will change for her, it will be due to her own choices and actions, and nothing I do.

We meet for lunch occasionally....my motive is to merely connect with her. Nothing else. I am not trying  to "make" her be sober. I am merely her human mother and I love her. Thats it. I am not her healer, her Higher Power, nor do I have the answers to her problems. This is true of all of my relationships.

My control issues are being brought to the forefront of my attention once again, another layer of my onion being peeled back by different circumstances this time, revealing a more in depth look at my inner workings. Its all still there, my craving for control and to fix things...so much so that I can still look like a crazy person. I thought I was past that, but scratch slightly beneath the surface and its all still there. I hold the potential to do harm by my efforts to "help." I rob people of their dignity and the chance for them to grow through their trials, because I can't stand to see them suffer. So I jump in and try to fix and I usually make a mess.

When I ask myself what my motive is.....if I'm really honest, its usually that *I* don't want to feel bad watching someone I love struggle. I don't want to have to wait for the outcome while they figure their stuff out. I want answers and solutions and I want them now, so my motive is to get my way. Its all about me and my own comfort....despite how noble I can make it look with all of my caring and love.

The greatest act of giving I can offer is to let go and step aside and quietly cheer from the sidelines of life. Settle into my own feelings of discomfort and walk through them, and pray like there is no tomorrow. Because ultimately my motive is to love and set free to be the brave strong individuals we each were created to be. I just get tripped up over my own feet sometimes.

Whats my motive..... thats my check point for today.

Love to us all....
Annette


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New and Different ideas......

I know! Two days in a row! You are going to get tired of hearing from me!

So what has been churning away in my head the past few weeks are the topics of medication assisted recovery and harm reduction. These are HOT topics in the recovery community. But I have come to fully believe that there is a definite physiological aspect to addiction. Not just being genetically predisposed....but truly a brain that is missing some crucial chemical make up which causes it to misfire and the person will do anything to relieve the discomfort (a mind that won't shut off, paralyzing anxiety and depression, irrational fears, feelings of misery and foreboding.)

I recently read an article by Dr. Howard Wetsman that seemed to confirm this.....if I injected heroin into my body or took a whopping dose of an opioid, it would make me go to sleep. Most of us would....but the way opiates affected my girl and many of our addicted children, was to invigorate them, to fill them with energy and wake them up. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the words, "they make me feel normal." The opiates fill a void for a brain that is depleted of dopamine.

With the above in mind, it makes sense then that a medication assisted recovery plan would be appropriate. Suboxone, Methadone, Vivitrol would fill the place of the illegal and dangerous self medicating that has been going on. Their brains are broken. Whether they started out broken or the drugs broke them....the bottom line is that they are now unable to perform their tasks effectively. They can repair themselves but that takes a very long time. My girl would give recovery a whirl, over and over again, but was not able to function. Her brain was starving. Recovery itself and working the 12 steps and knowing that for that one day she was living an honest life.....was not enough. She couldn't function.

Of course there are other factors involved too.....habitual behaviors, mental illness, what has become comfortable, how they see themselves and understanding that even with appropriate medications, recovery requires hard work. Its the mother of all times of learning how to operate outside of your comfort zone. At first. It gets better if they can hang in there.

My girl needs to enter back into treatment. There is only ONE facility (a little old Victorian house downtown so it can house about 12 girls total) in all of the giant county closest to ours that will accept someone who is in a methadone program. In my opinion, when there is an epidemic of heroin overdose deaths amongst our young people, that is wrong. The Big Book of AA (which I love) was written in 1939. For alcoholics. Someone with a long term heroin addiction, someone who is injecting themselves with needles numereous times every day, is a different breed. The roots may be similar, but the physical addiction and damage done to the body between those substances is very different.

I am thinking that it doesn't matter how we got here, but we are here now. What will be our solution? Will we continue to shame and emotionally flog and brow beat our addicted young people because they physically need a medication to be a bridge to eventual (hopefully) abstinence? Can we begin to acknowledge the physical changes they have either knowingly or unknowingly put their bodies through and allow them the dignity to pursue treatment that will address those changes without making them feel like their recovery isn't as "pure" or authentic as someone who is not being medicated.

Recently my girl and I were discussing this....her solution was, "If I ever go back to 12 step meetings, I will find a sponsor that I can be open and honest with but I won't let anyone else in the program know that I am using methadone to maintain my sobriety." Our judgements have made it not feel like a safe place, the one place where you will be understood and encouraged to keep on moving forward.

I think once again, its important to acknowledge that God is in charge. Even when things don't go the way we think they should.....He is still working. He is fully capable of working out all of the details of someones sobriety.

I will write more on harm reduction soon.....such as needle exchanges and supervised injections sites.

God bless us all......
Annette