Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We're holding on to our boundaries, just barely....

This is one of those days that just stretches me to the breaking point. DD2 has hit a rough patch. She says she’s clean. She did not go to work yesterday or today. She started the day by calling me around 9 AM and telling me that her probation meeting did not go well.

Background: She has tested clean every time she’s been asked to. She has gotten her court cards signed and been to the appropriate number of meetings. She has held a job (six hours a day, minimum wage, answering inbound calls). It is a time-share company and she tries to get callers to sign up for a 90-minute presentation about a time share. If enough of those who sign up, actually show up for the time share presentation (to score their reward which is a two-night mini-vacation to the time share vacation location), she gets a $5 commission on each one. So there is the outside chance of bringing in a bit of a bonus every so often, sometimes around $100. She is paying her rent. She has been meeting the boyfriend at probation-approved circumstances: AA/NA meetings, or at church, and occasionally they have shared a meal immediately before or after the meeting or church service in the company of other meeting folks. All of those are probation-approved.

And yes, they have occasionally flung caution to the wind and seen each other on a weekend, in the company of family. This past weekend, his mom and dad picked her up and they all met at a lake for a short day of boating, three generations together, no drinking, and she was delivered by them back to her sober home afterwards.

Probation knows about all but that last part. Obviously if they knew she had done that, they would have arrested both of them. Probation told her a month ago they would lift that ban at the next probation appointment. They did not. Her pee was too clear and probation thought she was trying to dilute it. They sent the pee to the lab and it came back clean. They said they’d lift it this time.

Anyway, knowing all that probation does know, which is 100% of what probation has asked for, probation saw fit to:

a. extend the no-contact order with the boyfriend. Same rules in effect.

b. demand she start paying $100 a month towards her $9000 of probation costs or they will “violate” her.

This was with yet another clean pee test.

She went early to see probation because her officer likes to get in early and see those who work, before those who don’t. She called me from her hour-long bus ride back home, at 9 AM, and was inconsolable.

It didn’t take me long to realize she was in a world of bipolar hurt. She is in a downward cycle, and she called me repeatedly throughout the rest of the day, begging to move back home, for 60 days, so she could start paying probation, and get through the rest of the “no contact” time, or until the boyfriend is off probation (in 60 days), at which time she is under the impression probation can’t tell her not to see him, and she can move in with him and they can start sharing expenses, drive to meetings together, etc. (I'm not sure that probation couldn't still maintain the no-contact order, even after boyfriend is off probation. His probation officer wants them to be together. Her officer does not.)

I spent the day trying to get a word in edgewise. Her father came home from his shift and joined the effort, trying to tell her we don’t think we are a healthy place for her, we love her, but it never works out too well, and she has been doing so well and what the heck brought this sudden despair on, etc, etc.

At one point, I even told her, I can’t afford to pay your rent, and you’re doing an excellent job of it. But, how about if for a few months, I help you with partial probation payments. They historically will take partial payments and if you are giving them SOMETHING, they will probably back off (voice of experience from a dozen other people who are in the same situation, who told me that).

That wasn’t good enough. She was focused on wanting to come home, be with her family, get a job nearby, go to more meetings, etc. She has this idealistic dream of what it would be like…. She quickly forgets that she always ends up hating it, that she and her dad butt heads constantly, that I tend to try to stand in the middle keeping peace (which is about as effective as a rubber crutch).

She forgets that the last couple times we tried that, she ended up leaving (loaded on heroin) in disgust (helping herself to a few items on the way out the door, i.e. Ipod, camera, money, tools, and leaving behind a trail of burned spoons, cotton balls, and wads of duct-taped water bottles….not to mention the occasional carelessly discarded syringes).

I kept trying to speak calmly. She's doing a damn good job. I continued to try to complement her efforts and offer assistance we were comfortable with, but when she is like this, nothing suits. At one point, the boyfriend finished his shift and since she was not answering his calls any more, drove over to try to locate her. He was risking everything by trying to find her. I cautioned him against that, and he said “But I love her, I have to try to help her see reason.” Romantic, but unwise.

By that time she had told me that I did not love her, etc… The tone had gotten nastier and nastier and the edge in her voice was so god-awfully familiar. In my mind, she sounded like she had either used, or was on the way to doing so. She may have only been manic or severely depressed, but the voice was bothering me.

Then I didn’t hear anything for a while. Then I got a text from his phone stating “I’m not going to get high mom”. So I knew he had located her.

At one point, I completed some of my work and laid down. I fell asleep despite the jackhammer going in the yard for some yard work we’re having done to get the homeowners’ association off our backs for a less than lovely turf. I got up a half hour later to find out she had called and DH had spoken to her some more. She was still saying we did not love her. She wanted me to call her.

I poured a cup of tea and tried to collect my thoughts. When I called, she said they were grabbing some food and that she just wanted to call and apologize for being a brat. She still wanted to come home. I went over the same stuff again, stating that we love her and want to be of assistance, but that is just the one thing we do not feel we should do. She kept saying “ok, I just have to do it alone.” She told me she loved me. She said she wasn’t going to work tomorrow. She was sounding a bit final. I’m always afraid she’s cleaning up loose ends and going to try to hurt herself when she sounds like that. (Past h
istory supports this fear.)

She really hates that job. I tried to reason that she could do almost anything for six hours, and that would give her 8-10 hours to look for a better job, we could get bus passes to help with the search, we could help with partial probation costs to take some pressure off, we could continue to share food we got in bulk that she liked, etc. She stated she doesn’t want us to spend money on her; she just wants to be with her family.

Again, sort of, her way or the highway…..

I tried to point out that I’m working a lot, dad’s working a lot and doing a lot of stuff around here to let me work more, and sister is in school AMs, babysitting friend’s kindergardeners afternoons, and in school library studying at night. It’s not the panacea she thinks it is around here. Some days I don’t see her sister for more than two sentences as she heads out in the morning and then I’m asleep before she’s home from study sessions.

She tells us constantly that she resents that her older sister has “two rooms here and she can’t even get one for a brief time”. We cleaned out DD2’s old room and her sister put an old TV in it. She occasionally watches TV there, but her main reason for cleaning out DD2’s old room was so that DD2 had a nice place to come and spend the night sometimes. Not to move into, but to occasionally visit. DD2’s done that twice so far and seemed to enjoy it. Sister had visions of DD2 spending the night before Christmas, and the occasional Friday night movie marathon with her, and such….

The conversation this afternoon ended with her telling me she just wanted to apologize again, and that she loved me, and she had to do this for herself. I had the presence of mind to tell her I loved her, and to please know that we would like to help her in other ways, and that I hoped she would keep in touch. The end.

I have no idea how she really is. If she doesn’t go to work, she eventually can’t pay the rent. She was fine a few days ago. Way too far “up”, which is a normal and recognizable part of her bipolar illness…. She’s testing clean, so she’s not back on the meth.

But about once a month when I’ve suggested that she go to Mental Health, she has told me she likes it “up there” and doesn’t want to go….. She has on occasion laughingly told me when the bottom drops out, she’ll probably be more willing to get back on medications.

It’s not so laughable now.

Now she wants to move home and start medications.

(If she moves home and stays with us, the police told us we have no way to throw her out, without getting a court order. They don’t tell the addicts that, but they said she may find that out one day, and we should really be careful about letting her stay with us…. Hence the occasional sleep-over, but no long stays.)

We countered with suggesting that we get her to the Mental Health office and she get the medications and start them on a Friday, which will give her two days to get used to the effects (it always flattens her), and that if she was too doped up to go to work Monday, surely after three days, she’d be able to function six hours at work, and we’d help just that one week, with any rent she was short. No dice.

She is really in a bad way and there is nothing I can do. I told DH at one point today, if this was me reading about or hearing about this situation from another mom on the blogs, my brain would be able to drop back and say “uh oh….maybe the kid’s not done yet….maybe she’s going to use again out of frustration, maybe it’s going to take one more experiment to get it across….to help her realize that using is just not a good option, etc, etc.”

My brain was able to say that today. But my heart is scared shitless and worried she is going to use, or worse. It would not be her first try at ending everything. At one point early in the day, she talked about going to the hospital to be 5150’d. She hasn’t mentioned that again.

We stood our ground about her not moving back home. My brain thinks it’s the right thing to do for an addict who has stolen from us and failed at that particular scenario, a number of times. My brain and my heart are not sure that it’s the right thing to do for a mentally ill person.

And there is no way her mentally ill self is ever going to understand why her sister gets to live her, and she doesn’t. I’ve felt for a number of years that her sister should get a place of her own. DH keeps telling me that one can’t really afford to live on one’s own very well in the O.C. He backs this up with tales of all the young people he works with, who move home.

So conversely, how can I expect DD2 to manage it…. On minimum wage, part time. Or even full time, if she finds a full-time felony-friendly job. I know it can be done, but not easily, and when you factor in probation debts, IRS debt, hospital debt, bank debt, it begins to look horribly unlikely.

Yes, those debts are her consequences. I get that.

But at the same time, she’s sick.

My brain hurts. My heart aches. I think we took the right stand today, but I’m just not sure….

I hate this. I am so grateful for the time she has had clean, the additional memories we’ve made. I’m so prayerful that she will get through this. But I’m so tired of the pain. And I’m just chicken shit scared right now.

Enough whining! Sorry to ramble on so long. I haven’t had a chance to check blogs today, but will check in with you guys later tonight. May God grant all of us and especially our troubled addicts, a peaceful evening…. And may they realize just how much they are loved and treasured


  1. My heart hurts reading all this. I would feel exactly the same way (so many of us would). Its such a difficult situation and the whole family suffers. I need to learn about bi-polar my son was just diagnosed. You're doing the right things but that isn't much comfort, it still hurts so much. I am hoping the best for DD2.

  2. It is not unloving to stop her illness from destroying your life. I like what you wrote, 'there is nothing I can do.' Don't feel about that. Is it too harsh to suggest that she should be working a minimum of full time, following the court order to not see the boyfriend and paying back the courts for the costs of her behavior? It's a bumpy road from living completely out of control to following a path to peace. It sounds like you're on that path. Maybe your daughter is also. In these situations, a crystal ball would be so nice. Painful post.

  3. You said it perfectly when you said that your brain was able to say the right thing but your heart is scared shitless. I am married to an alcoholic who is struggling with sobriety so I can relate. Just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. This is very difficult...what you're going through. Necessary for her, oh the growing pains! My mind kept going to these children of ours...when they have a mental illness (bipolar, depression...whatever) AND an addicition. The system does a really good job punishing them for the addiction related results..but, as mothers we have that love and compassion for their true illness. Prayers for you. Tell me when you find that magic bullet. You are doing SO well...regardless.

  5. The complexities of dealing with an addict at times seems overwhelming. There never seems to be just one thing that you or the addict is allowed to work on or focus on. The problems always seem to be like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose.

    I too get overwhelmed and even at times try to put myself into my son's position and sometimes feel like I'd just throw my hands up too. What's the use!

    There are a lot of cliches for these situations like these, "I can do anything and everything you need what do you need first". "How do you eat and elephant? One bite at a time." I have to remind myself these are actually a method to solving problems. Taken as a group it is overwhelming. Each issue needs to be prioritized and tackled.

    Mom, sit down alone and calmly and work each of these issues for yourself. Identify what you can do and can't do based on the boundaries you have set for yourself. Develop a plan for yourself. Then it is time to involve your daughter. You have to be the one to try and bring reason into it. But we know with addicts that is not possible at times. We just have to make an effort and demonstrate the support we want to give and can give without enabling.

    I have come to believe addiction is not very often a solitary issue. As I have dug deeper and deeper into this with my son I can see other underlying problems that feed from the addiction. This is where the complexity begins. With society, we have become experts at dealing with the symptoms, go to jail for stealing. That is an easy solution. Tackling "why" the stealing, to feed the addiction is complex and not so easily solved. What society covers up is left for loved ones to uncover. There are no easy answers.

    Madison made some good points. Whether it can all be addressed is up to your addict and how much help she allows you to give. I have come to ask myself a question when I plan to or offer to help my son, "Is this I am doing helping him or making me feel better?" Sometimes this is a very tough question to answer honestly.

  6. I so feel for you right now and my heart goes out to you. I have some understanding of the dual diagnosis stuff with my brother. As you know, my son also has an addiction problem with opiates (anything in front of him). But I tend to feel more "sympathy or pity" for my brother than my son due to his mental illness. I have tried over the years along with my husband to help my brother get on the right meds and get on his feet. It has never worked out. My counselor told me some time back when I was struggling with him being homeless and seeing him on the street everyday that there was nothing I could do but give him the resource information. My response was that he didn't know what to do with the resources. She pointed out to me that he has had minor sucesses in the past and that if things were bad enough for him, he would reach out to those resources. It is hard and you are not alone. You are strong and there is just no way to get around the pain other than to walk through it. I wish there was too. God Bless you and I will pray for her and you.