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We often hear ourselves telling our addicted loved ones that they are worthy of a second chance, but there are those things in life that you cannot ever get back. Second chance theory implies that it is possible to obtain what is lost and we all know that isn’t always the case.  In the mind of an addict, they see this as defeat before they even begin. I changed how I phrased things with my oldest son because he would begin to make an attempt, but when he realized that it would be impossible to turn back time and replay the moments he had missed, it would lower his self-esteem and before you knew it he was back in the old pattern again.

He was 24 when his oldest daughter was born. I saw that as many people do; an even that would surely change him. It’s not that he didn’t love his daughter, or that he loved his Drug of Choice more than parenting, it simply was not the event that would change his course at that particular time. His drug of choice had such a hold on him he could not see how damaging it was to his relationship with his daughter.

He spent time in jail a few times her first three years of life, and maintained a distant relationship with her through his support team.  Was I right or wrong to gap that bridge for him?  Keep reading and you be the judge…

Guilt is a powerful emotion in the mind of an addict. It can keep them using, or it can finally give them the courage to break free. He would admit to me from time to time that he was feeling guilt over missing events in her life that would never return. I kept telling him that there are plenty of “First Times”. It was up to him if he would take the leap of faith and give himself a second chance to participate in the “First Times” that were still available to him.

A few weeks ago my phone rang on a Sunday afternoon, my son was out of breath with excitement; he had just taught Kaley how to ride her bike without training wheels!!  Fast forward to this past weekend and enjoy the view from my mind’s eye as he walked into my home with his daughter holding a bag in her little hands.  Inside the bag were her first pair of “high-heeled” shoes!!  I wish you could have seen the pride in my son as his daughter shared her experience with me as she was buckling her new black patent leather shoes,embellished with rhinestones to model them for us.

These events may seem insignificant to some, and yet to my granddaughter and my son they are memories that project so much more than simple moments.  They are “First Times” that symbolize his recovery from the inside out. These are memories that my granddaughter will carry with her throughout her life. They are memories that restore my son’s soul…and I had the pleasure of witnessing it.

Hold onto hope, never let go, never give up and never give in. Don’t discount the small pleasures in this journey or the obstacles that seem to get in the way of our addicted loved ones journey; they are all part of a plan that we may not always understand, but will bring us together if we continue to encourage even when we feel discouraged.

Toys in the Yard

I like to reminisce, not to dwell in the past, but to honor the past, whether good or bad, it certainly has made me who I am today.  So on my way home I drove by the house that we raised our kids in.  I remember the first time I laid eyes on that house, I knew I wanted to live there.  It wasn’t anything special or grand like some houses, but it was a brick ranch in a family neighborhood in a district known for its schools and had all the amenities I had on my wish list. Three bedrooms, spacious kitchen, wood burning stove for those cold evenings, a detached two car garage, basement for storage,  it sat on a quarter acre, and had a swimming pool in the backyard. It was my version of a dream home.  I couldn’t wait to move in and make it my own.

We spent many happy years there, some bad memories are attached to that home also, but all in all, it was a great time in my life. Almost every picture of my kids while they were growing up have some part of that home as the back-drop. Pool parties, perennial gardens, manicured landscape, Christmas pictures taken in the family room, dogs, cats, fish tanks and various other creatures lived there along with us. New cars being washed in the driveway, kids playing in the snow. Yes, many happy memories.

We had to move from that home after my husband engaged in a bad business deal with his brother. They opened a machine shop at a time when economy was declining and despite my best efforts to hang onto the home by working two jobs, I had to consent to defeat and allow tha bank to take over. Broke my heart, we had lived there for nearly 15 years…had the same phone number, address and neighbors.  Took a long time to accept that loss…today I realized I never really did.

When you love someone with an addiction you become very resilient, very flexible.  We began again to rebuild a life, but that house, the house I still think of as “home” was the beginning of my realization that I had to step up to an even higher standard to meet my own needs.

As I drove away, I had a thought…everytime I build, I have watched my efforts collapse by the decisions of another who I depended on.  Everything I had done to build a stable life, my husband has undone with his addiction.

The house was bought by a young man my oldest son went to high-school with, ironic isn’t it?  He has been there for nearly 10 years now, since married his high-school sweetheart and they have children…the most beautiful thing I saw today were toys in the yard of that house again…I wish them many happy years and fond memories that last a lifetime.

Today I will be attending an awards luncheon to receive an honor for maintaining my 4.0 GPA.  In the midst of one of my most horrific nightmares, I enrolled in College to work on me.  There is a finish line folks, I am living proof of that.

During a time in the lives of my addicted loved ones, I created a new existence among them.  I turned my obsession and focus from them and turned it on to me.  I was not greeted with enthusiasm from many extended family members when I made that decision, most of them have barely asked me how I am doing as I struggle through my College experience. But then again, this is about me, not the addiction, nor the ones in my life who continue to be directed by their own demons. My demons have been slayed and laid to rest.  I am far from the person I once was and I owe that to me…and my desire to step away from the madness, realize I only have power over myself and take that desire and power and turn a tragedy into a positive.

This is not a “bragging session” but a lesson that I want to share with all of you.  Love your addict, but work on YOU.

Come to terms with the only fact that is accurate…only you have the power to change you…

You may be asking yourself how it is possible for a Mother and Wife of Addict’s to seem so selfish, well self-care is not selfish, and it is admirable and noticed mostly by the ones you are trying to impress in this…your addicted loved ones.

So today as I sit among the other honorees awaiting my award, I will savor each delectable bite of my chicken dinner…becuase I did the work to deserve this honor and I plan to relish in it.

“Nothing worthwhile is easy, and nothing easy is worthwhile”

Losing Traction

Wynona Judd says “We all have three different realities to the same car ride to the nightmares we were in”~~

I heard her say that in an interview and I immediately got a visual in my mind of my own family traveling in a car together, each looking out a window facing opposite directions as the car was taking us to the same destination.  I understood that my version of the car ride and what I saw through my window was going to be very different from that of my loved ones.

I also took this analogy a step further in analyzing my family issues.  There were times when I thought that I had lost my traction to keep moving forward. Try to picture in your mind’s eye a car with a tire blow-out. The car can keep moving but it will pull you in one direction or another and it becomes harder and harder to control the wheel.

You continue to travel down the road hoping to make it to your destination without losing another tire to a blow-out. Miraculously you are able to maintain some control until the inevitable happens and the second tire blows out. Again, you veer to the right and left, you almost lose control and wind up in a ditch, but you are able to swing the car back onto the road and maintain your tracking.  Still you continue, adrenalin coursing through your veins, you feel a bit triumphant. You have done the impossible and you feel like a hero.  You’re so close to your destination, you are feeling exhilarated. You see a light and you know it is just a few more miles until you can stop the car and feel safe.  Then the impossible, the third tire blows out and the wheels of the other two blow-outs are sparking against the pavement, the car cannot continue on your travesl and you come to a stop. Just before the finish line…you have run out of options…you have no choice but to acknowledge defeat. The car is no longer able to be driven and you have to get out and make a choice to either walk, or try to fix each blown out tire. Problem is, you only have one spare, not three. It’s time to accept the fact that no matter how hard you have tried to keep things going, there are times you must concede.

Cars are just made up of a series of mechanical parts that work together to get you where you need to go; families are similar in that we are supposed to work together so each individual reaches the heights of their desires through our support.

When one person in the family experiences a blow out, it puts additional pressure on the others to help them reach their goals…each family member plays a significant role in the survival of the other. If there is only one who is willing to do the work and carry the whole load, soon everyone will begin to break down.

Know when it is okay to stop the car and begin to walk. The others will follow when they figure out that the car isn’t going to get them anywhere either.

Trust

Just as your gut sends you messages that something is wrong, it will tell you when something is right.  Many of us struggle with the issue of “Trust”, we often ask when is it okay to trust my addict again…and how do I learn to trust them?

Trust is often lost when our addicted loved ones lie, steal and cheat.  They cover up their maladaptive behaviors by doing these things in order to buy time or to deceive us temporarily to get what they want.

We soon catch on when they are caught in a lie, or when things come up missing.  Still we love them and want to believe them, so we do…until it becomes undeniable that we have been tricked again.  Trust dies eventually and we all want to rush in and restore trust much too soon.

Understanding that trust must be proven in order to be given is one of the hardest things for an addict in recovery.  We play a pivotal role in how much trust they expect.  If we are too relaxed when they show us signs of trust, they become relaxed in working for it.  If we are too harsh in giving it to them, they give up. Trust is an emotion that we feel we must give back in order to maintain order.

When your addicted loved one is truly in recovery, there is no specific timeline as to when it is appropriate to give your trust to them.  It will become quite clear, undeniable and you will just know in the depths of your core that there is no reason not to trust.  When change truly does occur, it erases all doubt.

That is when it becomes something you are able to give again without being asked for it.

Tough Love

Tough Love is just that; it is tough.  It is tough on me as well as my addicted loved ones.  When all else has failed and my addicted loved one will not adhere to the arrangements we have agreed upon, I am left with this last tool in my tool-chest that I reluctantly pull out and use.

For me, tough love is my last resort, my last line of defense; the only thing I have left to use after I have exhausted all my other tools that have become ineffective in this war against drug use and the behaviors that go along with it.

I understand all too well the consequences that go along with using this tool.  They are consequences that I have had to weigh against the existing situation I am in if I don’t use this tool.  Administering this tool is a personal choice.  It is not for everyone.  It is as hard on the mind and soul as living amid the chaos with my addicted loved one is.  There are still sleepless nights, and thoughts of where my addicted loved one is race through my mind throughout the day.  My thoughts go from what are they doing now, to where they may be staying.  Tough love is harder on me than it is on my addicted loved one.  They have the luxury to be angry with me and focus on how unreasonable I am acting.  I am left with only worry and heartache once again.

My addicted loved one is so angry with me they are punishing me with no contact and going about their day and addiction just as they always have been.  The only emotional response I receive is my own.  I am caught between knowing in my heart this was the right choice for me and wondering why it had to come to this point at all.

I am left with even more questions than when my addict was close to me.  So why did I make this choice?  Because it works, it has worked before and I have faith it will work again.  My addicted loved one has proven they cannot survive this lifestyle when there is a disconnect with family.  Not because the family feeds the addiction either, but because the love of family feeds their soul and they needed this time away to figure that out.

I want the phone to ring, I do not want the phone to ring.  I want them to show up at the door and then again I don’t.  Tough love is a risk, too big a gamble for some.  I have no doubt that tough love was necessary for my situation with my addicted loved one.

Knowing that and living with it daily does not make this decision easy.  In fact tough love is just plain hard on me.  Tough love removed the chaos, it took away the irrational way my addicted loved one was behaving towards me, and it settled down the house for everyone who resides within these walls, but it has not calmed my heart, or relieved my mind.  It is tough, tougher than I could express in mere words.

So I wait as I have done so many times in the past.  I wait and I wait, and in the meantime I go about my day hoping that on this day my addicted loved one will reach into their heart and see that this way of living is not worth the heartache nor the pain either of us must endure.

I take one day at a time, one moment at a time.

Heart On, Hands Off

It is sometimes very difficult to manage our emotions when we are dealing with an active addict.  We sometimes feel we must demonstrate our love for them in ways that are foreign to us.

Humans have a biological need for touch. We thrive from the moment we are born from a simple gesture of touch.  Infants in our arms snuggle closely to us when we speak softly to them.  They smile when we use a voice that is gentle.

Fast forward to the chaos that is brought on by an active addict in you life.  We preach “Tough Love” and practice detachment.  We often find ourselves pulling away both emotionally and physically from our addicted loved one.  We misinterpret “Tough Love” and detachment and become distant.  Tough Love is not meant for us to be mean; detachment is not meant for us to ignore.

Compassion for the addict is as hard for some of us as it would be for any mortal enemy.  We get confused with self-preservation and emotional balance.  Self preservation is when you understand there is a need for both you and your addicted loved one to have a time out, and emotional balance is when you take the time to check in with your emotions before they get out of control.

I found that sometimes I would go into self-protection mode rather than self preservation mode with my addict. I would close off my true emotional needs rather than take the risk of demonstrating them.

I had mistaken “Tough Love” with being closed off.  Tough love is supposed to mean that you adhere to the boundaries that you have created both for yourself and your addicted loved one, that you will not shift those boundaries out of your own emotional desires.

I gave myself a “Tough Love” assignment one day.  I did something for me that I had not thought I could do because I had enforced the rules of “Tough Love”.  I hugged my son.  I walked across the room when he came in the door, and I said nothing, but I hugged him like I hadn’t in a very long time.

That hug felt so comforting and was accepted so warmly that I knew as hard as it was for me to take that leap, it was as important for my son to receive it as it was for me to give it.

I must admit I was scared at first. I had no idea how it would be received. There had been so many harsh words exchanged for so long that I felt as if I may be hugging a person who would not, could not hug me back.

That simple hug that I feared so much, was the best hug I had ever given and recived in my entire life. It lasted for awhile and I could feel the hand of my son rubbing my back, the same way he used to when he was younger and in a much better state of mind.

In that moment I realized that the love I felt for him and he for me was the same. Addiction had changed many things between us, but it did not affect our embrace.

If you find yourself at odds with your addicted loved one and your emotions, do yourself a favor, reach for them when it seems like you must pull away and give them and you the gift of a hug. It will not cure the addiction, nor will it completely stop all the chaos you are going through, only the addict has the ability to do that….but it will feed you both in an enlightening and emotional way.

For me it proved that I can demonstrate my love for my son while preserving the sanctity in my home and life.  “Tough Love” does not mean to close off.  It means you can love with your heart, but keep your hands off by allowing your addicted loved one to find their own solutions.

It’s All Just Noise

So many times we find ourselves caught up in the nightmare of proving to our addicts that we can get just as loud, if not louder than they can.  How many times have you said something that you wish you could take back? Or better yet, how many times have you given in just to keep the peace?  I can honestly admit I am guilty of both.

I am also guilty of providing an environment that feeds this negative state by participating in it.  I have had holes punched in my walls and doors slammed so hard that they swung off the hinges.  I have been called nasty names and have had to listen to many an insult from my addicted loved ones.  I have watched as they have flipped on a simple thought that enters their minds and become as hostile as a crazed maniac.

I have had this occur in the middle of the day, or in the middle of the night.  An addict does not care about time, or who needs to get up to go to work.  They don’t care if they are in front of another person, or alone.  They don’t care if they are in the home or out in the driveway.  They simply don’t care and that has made me just as angry and just as loud.  I used to think the way to preserve the  sanctity at my home was to show I was in control by becoming even louder than they.

I used to think the way to get them to seek treatment was to get down in the mud with them and act out the same way they were.  Like I was suddenly going to make some profound statement that they would hear during all the chaos we were both contributing to.

Trust me when I tell you that the NOISE that we are all hearing is just that…NOISE…until you become SILENT and do nothing but LISTEN.  All the addict is saying to you is simply NOISE, until you hear what it is you want them to say…that they are ready for treatment.  They hear nothing from you when you are making NOISE.  They hear you when you say NOTHING at all and stick to your bottom line.

The battle lines have been drawn and the allies have been aligned and are now in place.  On one side of the battlefield we have the addict and his allies and on the other side of the battlefield we have the truth; and the truth stands alone.

Among the spectators we have some of our extended family members who have been watching out of curiosity and now have found a voice.  That voice has not been armed with the truth as the only person who could speak the truth isn’t.

Addiction HATES the truth and addict’s don’t know how to tell the truth.

Most families that have addiction within their home live by a secret code…”Don’t talk…Don’t trust…Don’t feel”.  Because of feelings brought on by guilt and shame these families suffer unnecessarily.  Much of the time extended family members may have some kind of an idea, but have no idea how bad things really are until the WHOLE truth is revealed. It becomes evident when the addict suffers from, legal, financial, or physical issues brought on by  their addiction, but sometimes it is brought to light by the boundaries you have set.  The addict has stepped across the line and decides to reach out to a relative to prove just how “unfair’ you are to them.

Suddenly everyone is an expert; the drama can be as devastating as the addiction itself.

Well meaning extended family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins bring into the already fragile nuclear family structure a crumbling effect that brings out the worst in everyone.  They usually have an opinion that is based only on parts of the real story…the part that they have been told by the addict themselves who is trying to hold onto their addiction out of desperation.  They are believable and convincing to all that will lend an ear…and the poor grandparent or other well-meaning relative only hopes to make sense out of a nonsense situation.

Next thing you know, the family is at odds and the addict is using their love, actually relying on the love from the relative to continue their facade.  Out of their desire to “help” they are actually making matters much worse by prolonging the belief from the addict that they are not as sick as you know them to be.  When there is an addict in the family the WHOLE family is affected and in need of guidance.  Anyone who is willing to allow this to continue out of love is loving the addict to death.  That is a harsh concept for most extended family members to accept.  Most see themselves as a “Hero”…not an enabler.

The dramatic advances by the addict to discredit you will actually discredit them if you practice patience and diligence.  In anger they lash out and weave stories that are at first quite convincing to someone who hasn’t the experience to decipher fact from fiction; but sooner or later the addict will reveal themselves because as the adage goes, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”.  There may be a honeymoon period at first when the relative allows the addict to depend on them, but in time, the addict will reveal what their true needs are through the maladaptive behaviors they have obtained through their addiction.

As difficult as this time period is, that is exactly what it is; another time period (or time out), that the addict has enforced in order to prolong the game.  The addict is looking for extended play time…overtime in a sense.  They are not ready to commit or surrender so they bring in outside players.  Addict’s are very manipulative, they are believable and crafty.  They take on the weakest of players to “help” them in their time of need because you have “cast them aside”.

The attacks can get brutal.  You may hear things, even witness things that are so hurtful and alarming that you feel compelled to “set the record straight”, but it isn’t as necessary as you may think.

Pulling yourself out and over to the sidelines is the best way to handle what is occurring.  Remembering that in time truth reveals everything, and all you have to do is remain true to yourself and not budge from your belief’s.  The more you engage in the drama, the longer it lasts.  The longer it lasts, the longer it takes for you to get the ultimate prize of victory.  The victory being your addicted loved one to willingly commit themselves into treatment.

“A lie has speed, but truth has endurance”.

 

And the Debate Continues…

I don’t normally discuss things that could raise an eyebrow, but the recent approval in my state to accept Marijuana as Medical has gotten me to make this exception.  I don’t like to be the center of debate, and I am sure this topic can/will become heated.  There are many misconceptions as to whether Marijuana is a “Gateway” to stronger drugs.  Some people believe it to be so, actually the majority of people believe that way.  I can only speak to what I know and have been exposed to in my personal life with my addicted loved ones.  Marijuana is quite often the first drug a person experiments with.  It is plentiful, it is in the homes of many Americans across the Nation and it is considered to NOT be addictive.  Now, in many states it is legal if you have a prescription from a licensed Dr.

As humans, we all are born with an innate desire to alter our consciousness.  You see it in toddler’s who love to have their parent spin them around and then try to walk, only to go back and ask to do it again and again.  Chemicals are released from the brain giving them a feeling of euphoria.  We never, ever grow out of that feeling to seek euphoria.  We challenge ourselves throughout our lives, some in healthy ways through sports and activities, and some through the chemical changes our brains desire from drugs and alcohol.  When an adolescent/teenager seeks this feeling before their brains are fully developed, they block the natural progression of development by attaching these chemicals to their neurotransmitters, in essence become addicted to the natural feeling they are innately born to seek through unnatural sources, such as drugs/alcohol.

Can a person become addicted to Marijuana?  Another big debate across the board.  I say again from my personal experience with my addicted loved ones, a PROFOUND YES!!!!  Marijuana is an intoxicant. When used daily, several times throughout the day they bypass medication and are now clearly in intoxication.  Does it lead to the use/abuse of harsher drugs?  Yep, it sure does, in the same sense that if you run out of your drug of choice, you will reach for the first available thing to reward/relieve yourself of the agony of trying to cope without.  Some will drink, some will do other drugs provided by friends, like pills, cocaine, crack, meth, heroin, etc…All in an effort to escape and seek the same innate desire to alter consciousness.  They now MUST rely on something to help with the anxiety they experience when their mind is NOT altered.

The long-term effects of Marijuana use are at the center of the current medical debate on this drug.  Strong psychological dependence does develop in many regular users, as evidenced for the need for marijuana every day to perform certain tasks, and unwind or to sleep. The individual’s life begins to revolve around the use of marijuana as a primary activity.

Withdrawal symptoms after steady use may include irritability, decreased appetite, restlessness, sleep disturbances, sweating, nausea, diarrhea.  Hangovers are not uncommon.  However, unlike the alcohol hangover, which causes headaches and sensitive optic nerves, the marijuana hangover is more likely to be light-headedness,characterized by the inability to gather thoughts.

Despite the lack of classical withdrawal symptoms, some patients of marijuana use fit the behavioral definition of addiction. Treatment for marijuana addiction requires the support of an outpatient treatment counselor knowledgable about alcohol/drug recovery. Anxiety and panic reactions are common with chronic marijuana use.  Many individuals who have used marijuana to self-medicate affective disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, can experience severe anxiety and panic reactions.

So, to legalize marijuana and have the ability to grow, manufacture and distribute from their homes if licensed, seems too big a gamble for me.  I have been open to this new conception as it was implied when the laws first changed and it became legal in my state for the ill to seek alternatives rather than rely only on chemical prescriptions.  It has been widely misunderstood by many who see this as an enterprise rather than an honor to truly help those who are chronically ill.

I watched a new show on Discovery Channel called “Weed Wars” so I could gain another perspective.  I watched 4 episodes. In each episode the proprietor of this legalized dispensary had my attention UNTIL I saw the episode that aired regarding 4/20…the marijuana smokers holiday.  This gentlemen couldn’t even choose a tie to wear with his suit without taking a break to “medicate”several times I might add…one of his employees ate too much of the baked goods they were giving out in promotion for this so-called “holiday” and had lost his ability to focus on customers who he was waiting on. There were only a few legitimate clients during the entire 4 episodes that I could clearly identify as in medical need.  Now I ask you…if you wanted to depict something as beneficial, would you show such nonsense???

In my humble opinion, marijuana is as it has always been…the beginning of a life long habit that will create future interference with your ability to become all that you can be.