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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The dichotomy of living with someone elses addiction....the tragedy and the beauty.

I have been doing this whole loving an addicted child thing for a lot of years now. I have worked my own recovery program for right around 10 years, by applying the principles of Alanon in my life. I think, for the most part, I am past all of the high drama and the being in the middle of every single ugly circumstance that was going to happen. Thank all that is holy, because it took an inordinate amount of energy and if I had kept going at the crazy-making pace I was, I am certain I would be dead.

There are still aspects of this life that make me cry, that make me gasp, that scare me.....but they all aren't bad. I see the efforts of the addicts I know, who are still so stuck, but they muster up what they need, to spend an afternoon doing the right thing. Their families have worked hard and learned to accept their efforts as "enough." Broken people, all of us. Trying to do what is right.

I have been given many gifts through my years of watching my daughter's addiction escalate. I have often seen mercy and compassion and grace at work in very real ways. Living this life is a spiritual experience. I had no other choice but to turn to all of my spiritual resources or else again, I would not have survived this. I have gotten to see the good in people that could have easily been missed, if I had only judged by an outward appearance, or by the majority of their behavior and the outcomes they live with. I have been taught how to let go of resentments toward people and circumstances, how to accept all that is and live my life true to my own desires.....which first and foremost, I want to be free and not weighted down by the anger and resentments that I used to hold on to, feeling so justified because nothing was as I had expected it to be. As I had worked so hard to make it be.

I have met a patient and kind God who see's farther and deeper than I can comprehend and He understands more than I can hope for. I can turn to Him and be accepted and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not alone.

Having an addicted child is awful. Its painful and terrifying and often chaotic.....but there is also beauty in the process. A blight to the life I tried to create has given me more richness than I could have ever created on my own.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
                                                             Ephesians 3:20-21

Bless us all and help us to live in that sweet spot of acceptance so that we don't miss out on the blessings that are.

Annette

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The legacy continues.....

A couple weeks ago I posted this post: 

I have been on a Hospice job with a wonderful, large, generational family in our area, who are losing their mom. I am happy to be able to walk this last journey with their momma, who is strong and funny and just wants to get going. Being here has made me think so much of my own mom and those last weeks I shared with her. That time was one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given, for many reasons.

Lately, as I have had conversations with each of my girls, and my mom is fresh in my mind, and I think of her mom, I think of the similar generational struggles that we all have faced at various levels. How very different we all were/are, but also how alike. Out of this group of six women, all have battled debilitating depression and anxiety on various levels at different times through out our history.

When I was younger I viewed my mother's issues and her mother's before her, as character defects. Then my own depressions began to hit and still I thought that if we could only try harder, *will* ourselves to do better, to feel better....even though it was truly a Herculean feat that felt impossible, we would be ok. My mom and her mom both coped with their issues with substance use and abuse, among other things, through the years. I just kept trying harder. None of us were able to conquer them....but on various levels we all learned how to live with our stuff. Some more successfully than others.

Eventually I gave birth to one son and 3 daughters. All have had various bouts of depression and anxiety. Just like their mom, and their grandma, and their great grandma. My girls especially have struggled. My son I think just plows on ahead until he hits on something that helps him to feel better....snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, working and focusing on problem solving.

As I have been thinking about this I feel an overwhelming love for all of us. All of us crazy women! With all of our mistakes and character defects and our efforts and our realness and authenticity, all of us who could be so quick to hurt feelings, to anger, who would cut each other no slack.....but then we would realize that none of us are all that different from the other so we would hurry back to make things right. Because first and foremost we love each other. My family has been my greatest classroom in lessons of how to let go, how to forgive, how to accept, how to speak my truth *even when it might not be understood or received well,* and ultimately, how to see the beauty in imperfection.

I must be having a peri-menopausal mood swing lol .....because today, I feel so grateful to be a part of this tribe of beautiful women. I see the skills my girls have learned and use to cope with their own personal issues and I think they are so brave and so beautiful.

Recently, Little One and I met some friends on a camping trip. I knew it would be a stretch for her with her propensity for quiet and solitude. She socialized some, but when she had had enough she climbed up into a big tall tree and just watched everyone. I didn't like that solution. It was different, not particularly socially acceptable, it set her apart, while the other kids were off laughing and having fun together mine was sitting alone in a tree....but I stayed quiet. Later when we met with her counselor and told her about the trip, her response choked me up. "I am so proud of you for knowing what you needed and doing what you needed to do make it happen. Way to take good care of yourself." She then looked at me and said, "Little One knows herself very very well. Better than most 14 year olds. She is very self aware....she knows what she needs and how to take care of herself." In other words....listen to her. Allow her the space to do what she needs to do...even if it doesn't make sense to you. It changed my whole perspective on the tree incident. It made me admire her quiet little self so much.

Anyway, apparently I am just having a minute of appreciating the messiness of my life. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is how I planned, but even though I am not living the outcomes I expected.....my life is filled with beautiful imperfect people. Young women (and older ones too) who struggle at times but are real people, compassionate, honest, and authentic and I have to think that some of that has been passed down from the older generation of women who struggled. Who suffered tremendous loss and heartache and abuse through their lives....but who always knew how to love. I will never forget my mom's compassion as she would see morbidly obese people..."they had to pass my weight to get to where they are," she would say. She would see a homeless person drinking out a brown bag and say, "There but for the grace of God go I." When I was little we would drive past a street corner that had "girl's of the night" standing out displaying their wares, she would say...."those poor young lost souls."

She taught us how to live and how to love... and how to not live by her example.

Bless her heart.

Feeling grateful.....
Annette


And then.....within minutes of hitting "publish," I received a text saying, "I just wish I was dead. I'm so tired of living like this." 

Thus began a couple weeks of turmoil and upset and misery, and me feeling like the above post was a crock of shit and embracing our mental infirmities wasn't true at all, wasn't even possible. So I took it down, because if I am anything, I am honest and I am not going to spout out about embracing the process when I am scared and sick of the process myself.

Eventually the kid who sent me the above text saw her dr. and received a dx of bipolar 2 and was given a medication to add to her mix to help stabilize everything. I asked her yesterday how everything was going and she said she has good days and bad, but is much better than a week ago. The dx is a relief if the truth be told. Now we know, now we have a specific direction to head off into to find tools and solutions and I am working my way back to embracing our brokenness once again. Because this girl of mine has a beautiful spirit and this bit inside of her, this dark place, will help her to see the world a little more gently, to love others in their imperfection, and to hopefully, most of all, accept the grace and love that God has for her, no matter what, and to be able to embrace who she is, to love herself and be true to her own person at a whole new level.

Without knowing what was going on a dear friend (nudged by God I would say) sent me a blog post which summed it all up. None of us are immune from suffering and if we can embrace our struggles, our infirmities, they can produce beauty from the ashes. 

God bless us all.....
Annette

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I lost a dear friend

My dear friend, one of the first people I met in Alanon, passed away on June 14. She was 81 years old. That first night that I walked into my very first meeting, I was so devastated, so heartbroken... and there she was, smiling and welcoming me in. She hugged me as I cried and told me to keep coming back. She is who asked me at that first meeting, "Just for tonight, can you put your girl into God's hands and let Him take care of her? Give yourself a rest for tonight. Tomorrow you can start fresh and do it again if it was helpful tonight." There was no pressure, no telling me what to do.....just loving suggestions of things that had worked for her as she came to a place of having to let go of her own son.

This kind gentle woman taught me to "wait for the question," to not assume I knew best and jump in to rescue and fix.  To not slip a mattress under our kids to soften the landing, that loving is not condoning, that some things we do for ourselves.....like pay for cell phones or an occasional hotel room....and that is ok. She taught me to say, "Let me think about that. I will call you back in 20 minutes," before making a decision when called by my girl during a crisis. She was a living picture of detaching with love and kindness and preserving our kids dignity....just because it was the right thing to do. She taught me to let things play out, to see how things unfold, to wait, to be patient, to not force solutions. She taught me to dig in and find some courage I didn't know I had...because as a mom, when it looks like your child is heading over a cliff, it is very frightening to "wait" and to "let things unfold." However, in time, I experienced for myself the peace of the program that emanated from her.  
This sweet woman changed my life. I, along with many many others, feel that God gave her to us each personally, as a gift, as someone who would share His love and acceptance with each of us on a personal level.

As I was leaving the memorial service today, I ran into an old friend who I haven't seen in several years. She has always had a tremendous faith and particular ideas on how things should be or not be. Today she told me that God had been speaking to her heart about not viewing her kids with her own eyes...."but instead you sit up here on my lap and look at them from my perspective, see what I see."

Its no accident that I would hear those words at this particular friends memorial service. It made me think of how God see's things in all of us that we aren't able to see in each other. He see's hearts and motivations, the broken places, and He loves us all right there. Just the thought of being a fly on the wall and watching my kids from afar, without having any agenda or identity associated to what I am watching, what would I see if I could drop all of my fears of "what will others think?" or "is this somehow my fault?" or "why won't they listen to me?"

What does God see when He looks at us?

I love you and will miss you beyond words my sweet well loved friend. Thank you for teaching me how to do this journey.

Annette

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Addiction and Fear....Such Close Friends

I remember living in those awful places of fear for my addicted daughter. I would walk around constantly with my phone in my hand. If I texted or called and she didn't answer right away, I would do it again and again and again and again, with each message becoming more and more frantic. Overnight I had become one of those lunatic phone stalkers! 30 messages saying things like, "Where are you?! Call me! If you don't call soon I'm sending the police over to do a welfare check (it had been 20 minutes after all!) I am so mad at you right now!!"

Recently "my girl" told me of a friend who does this to her. This is a peer, someone she met during one of her times in treatment. I asked if she mentioned that her mom goes to a program that helped her to not live in that crazy place anymore? She laughed. Fear and addiction seem to walk together hand in hand. For many of us. If a call isn't returned we immediately jump to, "They're dead! They're in jail, they're passed out and need emergency help, they're mad at us, they're ignoring us....on and on the imagined scenarios can go."

The truth of the matter is that MY fear issues began long before "my girl" was even a thought. As a little girl I learned very early on that when the liquor was flowing, when the voices were getting louder, trouble was usually right around the corner. I learned how to gauge moods, the feel of a room, an expression on an adult's face... and depending on what I saw or felt, the fear would rise up and choke me. And I would act accordingly. Even as a little girl I instinctively reacted to my fear by trying to control my environment. I was very good at it actually and for many years felt that my abilities to handle a crisis or a high emotion situation by controlling my environment and the people it was filled with, was something to be proud of!

Little did I know that eventually the very skills I had used to cope and navigate my whole life, would be stripped from me and I would be asked to let go and to trust and hope for an unknown future that would unfold before me in bits and pieces and that when I could stand aside and let it happen, the pieces would fit together as they were meant to, like the pieces of a puzzle and I would be ok. I would be more than ok. I would be at peace. I would feel safe, knowing that whatever the future held, or holds, for "my girl," or anyone else that I love and care for, including myself, it's out of my control. There is something very liberating in the idea of something being out of my control and *accepting* that as factual. Its settled. I can't change other people. I can't change future outcomes.

Once I came to a place, through years of fighting the process I might add, of accepting what is, I found calm, peace, and most of all I am not afraid anymore. I am not angry anymore. It is nothing short of a miracle, because I didn't see my life ever being rid of the turmoil of those emotions. Ever. No matter how hard I tried.

Don't let me mislead you.....I still have "fear triggers," but they are fewer and farther between than at any other time in my life. I have learned to *live* in a place of acceptance and gentleness with myself and others that helps me to live in the moment. These changes are gifts. They are not due to anything good in me. I didn't work my program good enough or hard enough. God just walked with me until I felt safe enough and strong enough to turn my cares over to Him and let Him handle them.

I was with *my girl* today driving around down in the city....we stopped at the methadone clinic for her dose, we got lunch, she was directing me from the map app on her phone and we were discussing how the directions made no sense but then we figured it out, and it occurred to me that this was just a normal mother/daughter day. (Ok, all except the methadone clinic visit! LOL) Her sobriety isn't perfect. Neither is mine from eating carbs and sugar. We take each other as we come and we keep moving forward.

Letting go of her gave her back to me in some very real and authentic ways. She isn't who I thought she would be. In some ways she is so much more. In other ways it is very painful to watch her fight her battles. But its what we have together for today. It all is a beautiful work of art that is being created and perfected with each day that we continue to walk it out, trusting that something bigger than us is in charge.

I'm always praying for us all......I know that some of my parent readers here have situations that are very volatile and letting go means no contact for a time. I have been there too. All I can tell you is that when I got out of the way of my daughter's process, things got better for me.

Love and prayers....
Annette

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pet peeve....

When a physician prescribes opiates or benzodiazepines to a patient with a history of addiction to said substances. How can they think this ethical or ok on any level? 

Just saying.....

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Life

There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for me with my crazy work schedule. I didn't even realize the huge affect it was having on me and how I was feeling until I had a definite plan for it to come to an end. I will be working 1 full day a week and 3 half days. I am working on consolidating some of the half days to make one more whole day a week that is free.

I felt so *happy* and *hopeful* and free and motivated to do so much! I want to paint the main floor and the bottom floor of our house, I want to clear out and paint our weight room and make it conducive to actually exercising, we are re-doing our dog kennel area and I am looking forward to looking out the back sliding door and not seeing what looks like a homeless lean-to shelter, I
 want to exercise and HIKE again. I want to actually cook dinner for all of us. I want to be here. Present and in the moment with my family.

School is out....can you hear the angels singing?! I LOVE school breaks! The not having to be anywhere, the freedom... with just little one being my last one at home, we have a lovely peaceful existence. There is no drama here, she is a sweet kid, not sassy, an old soul, and we both just putter around doing our thing.

She graduated from the 8th grade last week and it was so nice. Her big sisters came to watch, bearing gifts and notes of congratulations. I cooked her favorite dinner and we had a big thick rich chocolate cake for dessert. Her small little graduating class of 17 included 3 of the kids from the developmentally delayed kids program. She had volunteered all year, 3 days a week with those kids, so she was assigned a little girl to sit with during the ceremony and accompany down the aisle to receive her certificate too. The big group of families and audience was too much and the girl was upset and crying and clung to little one. My little one was so wonderful.....patient, calm, soothing, steady as a rock. I was so proud of her. I think they helped each other. The little disabled girl was a good buffer for little one who is still so shy and little one helped her get through this rite of passage and stand for pictures and receive her certificate.

(As a side-note: I watched as the mom of the little girl just watched and let her work through it all with my little one. She didn't jump in to fix or comfort or accommodate. I thought she was so brave and it made me think of  all of the times I did exactly the opposite in the name of nurturing and loving. I know now that my reaction was more about my own discomfort seeing one of my kids hurting, then what was truly best in the big picture. Watching that mom let her girl be independent.....that was a beautiful, selfless act, that I think all momma's are called to in one way or another.)

Later my girl texted me and said she was so glad she came. "I think my favorite part was watching Little One help that girl." It was a good evening. I had a few really good and comforting moments of thinking about what good people my kids are. Flawed, imperfect human beings, but all have good hearts. They have been my greatest teachers.

My days of parenting are pretty much over. They all live their lives in ways that they see fit. Even My Girl....she gets to make her own choices. I don't have a say anymore, unless I am asked. When I can let go of "my responsibility to direct and guide" it really does free me up to live my own life and to enjoy them and mind my own business on the stuff I don't like. Who knew?!

Bless us all......
Annette