Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Clean by David Sheff

I am reading Clean right now. I have vowed too myself that once I finish it, I am going to take a break from recovery books and read something light and fun.

Clean is good....its a lot of factual information, statistics of recovery from various substances and recovery methods, looks at all types of treatment and their outcomes. Yada yada yada yada. It has confirmed lots of our experiences...things that I/we felt weren't entirely ok, but were told that its part of the process. For example, yelling at clients in recovery....we all (in our family) work hard to not yell when we are angry. We try to communicate respectfully with each other. Isn't raging anger a dysfunctional behavior? Why would it be considered ok when you are dealing with an addict? My girl was once in a residential program where the director was an older middled aged woman and she screamed at the clients like they were her teenaged kids. They were all often "in trouble" (being yelled at) for minor infractions.....like not getting the dishes emptied from the dishwasher fast enough. If her behavior got brought up, the answer was...."get the dishes put away on time and it won't be an issue." It is my opinion, that there is a lot wrong in that situation. I was told that the addict will make things up to get their way. Ok, yes, that is true. (sometimes) I have experienced many times where my opinion was disregarded because I was "just the codependent mother"  who wants to protect her child from discomfort. Ok, Guilty. (sometimes) However, I have also been a consumer, a paying customer, having just handed over several (many) thousand dollars to a treatment facility. I think that trumps my "co-dependent mother" status.

Anyway, that was a little rant....

David goes on to speak of addiction in the terms of disease. I often find myself trying to figure out the world between disease, thus compassion, and tough love. Because quite clearly, if my girl had a brain tumor and periodically acted like a lunatic and told me to F-myself, I would have compassion. I would adjust her meds, I would talk it over with her dr. we would together come up with a plan of compassionate treatment for her.

With addiction, that is not the case. If its a disease, why not? Is their horrible behavior a symptom of the disease or not? Take relapsing for example....a person relapses while in treatment and they are told not to come back. They are kicked out. David says, in his chapter on treatment, "Kicking an addict out of treatment for relapsing is like kicking a cancer patient out of treatment when a tumor metastasizes." He goes on to talk about "treatments" where addicts are viewed as morally bankrupt and undisciplined so they have to be "punished." Patrick Kennedy who has openly shared his own struggles with addiction and treatment, is quoted as saying, "Its all based upon treating your weakness instead of your strengths." David adds, 'I've never heard of any disease that responds to censure, blame, or denial of treatment.'

David shares that early sobriety is often traumatic. Our addicts are horrified to look at their past behaviors, face what they have put the people they love through, they are afraid of relapsing, and terrified by the future. "Its a sad fact of addiction: getting clean is traumatic, and the reward can be the very hell the addict was running away from in the first place." Of course its also an opportunity. Any clean time gives them a glimpse of life. It gives them a chance to get any underlying medical and emotional issues addressed minus the haze of drugs that hides them and real treatment can begin.

I am about half way through. I guess I have always felt that even though my daughter is a drug addict she deserves the basic respect and humane treatment that anyone of us would deserve. To be heard, to be acknowledged. To not receive those basic expectations of humane treatment only reinforces her feelings of  low self esteem and worthlessness, which are now, due to her addiction and all of the fall out from that, in full freaking bloom. Some of the most painful times in her care have been watching her be shrugged off, disregarded, and treated as *just* a junkie. Hopeless. Because, co-dependent, enabling, crazy as I may be.....she was born into a family who loved her and nurtured her. She has never been, nor ever will be, *just* a junkie to us. She matters in our world. And if she can ever get well, she will make a difference, somewhere, to someone.

I have struggled for a long time now with the compassion I feel for my very broken yet human daughter vs. tough love. I waffle those two worlds. I have immense compassion for her. Yet, I know that I can't fix anything for her.  No matter how much I would like to. An Alanon friend said to me, "the most beautiful gift you can give to her is a healthy you." That is true, so I keep my focus as much as I can on taking care of myself and loving her in the most healthy ways I can figure out. Its not an exact science though. With my other kids, I get to love them freely, the way I like to. None of us get hung up on if I am enabling them, or doing too much, or in their business. Those relationships flow much more naturally. If I get into territory that isn't mine, they will tell me to back off and I can receive that and take action to disengage. We just relate, we just are what we are with each other. I know though, that for my girl, me standing back enables her to become strong. To begin to feel some worth, to discover her own capabilities, to begin to see that she can manage life...both clean and without her parents hovering all around her. She is an adult and she is strong enough and smart enough to conduct herself as such. The few times I have watched her begin to make this transformation have been beautiful and I pray that we are on our way again.

Its been refreshing to read a compassionate viewpoint is my bottom line I guess. We love our addicts and thats ok. We don't have to be angry to set a healthy boundary or limit. We can be sad at the disease that has claimed our children and made them behave like crazy people that we don't know. We don't have to scrutinize their every move.....if trouble is brewing, it will show up in time. If not...it won't.  Hallelujah!

Those are my thoughts for today! Take what you like and leave the rest.

Love to all.....


Anna said...

These are great insights and I am so sorry that you have learned all of that through experience.

Tori said...

I just finished writing about my night and day. I was going to go buy this book tonight but I just can't. I am going to get it tomorrow hopefully they will have it in the one book store left around here if not I will get it from amazon. I read beautiful boy years ago, actually I think it was my first addiction book ever.

I was a bit shocked at the way this Officer spoke to B last night (in my post) but I was just too tired to say anything and I thought B was so high he probably won't remember much of it.

My son is still my child whom I love with all of my heart. There are times like right now that I need to break free to re-charge, re-group and get ready for the next round. We are Parents who love our children and appreciate the times they are sober so much because know it can change in a second.

Mrs D said...

What a fantastic post Annette, really interesting and thought provoking. Love that you have given us a real taste of this book.. and love your writing and sharing, it's very relatable. And love that you are also going along with Sherry's food revolution! I so need to start (in bed eating chocolate right now) xxx

mary christine said...

I vote for reading a happy book - soon.

Abbie said...

Dearest Annette;
I think you've stumbled upon a GREAT book. I have been the recovering daughter for coming up on 21 years (whew!) now. You are spot on in what you wrote here. I wanted to assure you that you ARE doing the right thing -straddling- abd that, in time, your daughter will learn how to "be", just like your other lovely children. YOu will learn the steps to the dance of caring-but-not-enabling-and-not-getting-crazy-when-she-misstteps. As your daughter gains her footing, she will begin to find who SHE is, and you, blessed Mom, will be there for the unveiling, whenever she's ready to share it with you.
I recently began work at a transitional home for psychiatric consumers, and it's amazing how the "system" has run for so long. I hope to be a voice for change when/if our residents relapse on their self-medicating tendencies.
I'm always bummed when I finally get to your blog after a loong hiatus. Your wisdom and optimism are a breath of fresh air.
:) Abbie

Signe said...

Amen, amen, amen and AMEN! I agree with ALL that you've written, here. If I commented anymore, I'd just be repeating what you've just written, though not as profoundly. Wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this amazing, thoughtful, positive post. As someone with a teenage "qualifier", I know that I can't protect her from the consequences of her actions, nor should I. But I am challenged to detach with love. If I react in anger, if I pile on and adopt some yelling, tough-love approach, then I recognize that I'm also suffering, also in need of recovery steps, also in need of compassion.

Your posts always resonate with me and stay with me for a long time. Thank you.