Monday, June 28, 2010

When moms get involved?

Edited to add: Just calling attention to the fact that I received a comment from Partnership for a Drug Free America in the comment section, that you guys might wish to read. Thanks!

I was catching up on blogs this morning when I came across Anna's post concerning a recent ad she saw in an issue of Everyday Easy Recipies from Better Homes and Gardens. This ad made the statement "When moms get involved kids don't." (implying parental involvement will prevent kids becoming drug users/addicts). This ad was apparently placed by The Partnership for a Drug Free America.

After I took a number of deeeep, cleansing breaths (yeah, that earthquake you felt was me hyperventilating and falling out of my chair!), I remembered a post I had written about three months ago, I think, for a guest posting on another blog. This other blogger asked me to write something for her to post in a specific portion of her blog and I wrote the piece you will find below. For whatever reason, this was never posted on the intended site (just verified, it is not there), so I am going to post it here.

We never know when a heartbroken parent is going to be googling and searching, a "newbie" so to speak, on this particular road we trudge as parents of addicts. Perhaps someone will come across these thoughts, and find them helpful.

And I hope and pray that The Partnership for a Drug Free America gets a better idea for their next campaign.

My Thoughts on Being the Parent of an Addict

I get sick to my stomach every time I drive by a grade school with the red cups stuck in the chain link fence or the ribbons tied to it, spelling out giant letters "say no to drugs". My personal opinion: What a pathetic waste of our tax dollars to take kids out there for several hours to put those up. My daughter participated in that stuff every year (except the two years we home-schooled, which she requested). And it may have only fueled her curiosity.

I think a more in-your-face approach in junior high school with exposure to the abused and scarred bodies of dead addicts and mandatory attendance at a dozen AA/NA meetings, and perhaps a stay in the hallway of a jail corridor, watching an addict “kick it” for about 36 hours would have more impact.

My daughter was told early on, and often, about her genetic predisposition to alcoholism, and the risks and effects of alcohol/drugs. She endured a close family member’s occasional drunken behavior.

But, it is just so basic, really. You tell a child not to touch the oven door because they will burn their hand. They don't believe you until they do it.

You tell them that if they pick up the snake (drugs) they may get bitten (addicted). But the same immortality complex that makes them think they can take other chances enters into the picture. They don't think THEY will get hooked. They don't think THEY will end up in the jail cell. And once they make that single bad choice to raise a little hell, experiment, etc, it is over for some of them. My daughter said the first time she tried heroin, she said to her friend, "I'm in trouble." She knew in that instant that she would crave/pursue that feeling for the rest of her life.

My beautiful, spunky, spirited, compassionate, smart, hard-working, butterfly girl….. is a bipolar alcoholic/addict. Her drug of choice is heroin.

Do not think that because you homeschool, work your butt off for private Christian school, are room mom, team mom, snack mom, brownie troop mom, girl scout cookie mom, church youth group mom, the mom who works at home and can hand out cookies and juice to the entire neighborhood at 3:20pm, the mom who drives for any and all activities, the mom who never let her kids sleep over without confirming with the other moms just what was going on and who was going to be on site, the mom who had skating parties, pool parties, teeshirt-painting parties, monthly sleep-overs, the mom who considered raising her children to be her God-given privilege and responsibility…..

Don’t think that those things will make any difference at all. By her own admission, my daughter has never been abused in any fashion, was privileged, was given every possible opportunity in life.

And she picked up the snake(s) as an experimenting, risk-taking teenager. By 18, she was an addict.

This disease of addiction is a non-discriminating killer.

We’ve been at this for ten years now. And now she is in prison 250 miles from here.

And if you’ve read this far, let me say that if for no other reason than your sanity, if you face this issue in your family, go to Alanon or Naranon. I know Alanon is supposed to be for family/friends of alcoholics. However, Alanon meetings are far more prevalent in my area than Naranon meetings. And most of the alcoholics that are represented by the attendees at my two favorite meetings are also drug addicts. Indeed, at any Narcotics Anonymous meeting, when they read their literature at the beginning of the meeting, a very pronounced distinction is made that they consider alcohol to be a drug.

So get to whatever meeting you can, and soak up the ESH (experience, strength and hope) of those other members. And keep going back! “It works, if you work it.”

You will learn important concepts like setting healthy boundaries for yourself. An example: It’s not that she can no longer live with us. It’s that we will no longer live with drugs in any fashion, and we will not live with the risk that she will again relapse and steal from us. This puts the focus on US. Not our addict.

You will learn the difference between enabling addiction and assisting with recovery. For everyone, this is just a little bit different. You will learn how to determine what is right for you.

And if at some point (I’m talking after several months!) you decide that Alanon or Naranon is not for you, or you do not wish to participate in a 12-step program of your own, you will have acquired a better foundation of education for dealing with this, in whatever fashion you deem appropriate for you.

For example, along the way you will pick up sayings like the three C’s:

“I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it.”

And, “don’t stuff your feelings”, “expectations are premature resentments”, “put the focus back on myself”, etc.

You will hear many of these slogans, and something will click on another day, in another place, when you are in the midst of a situation with your addict and you recognize exactly what a particular slogan referred to… because it’s right in your face at that time. Recognition enables you to choose to step back and appropriately take care of yourself, in a healthy manner.

You’ll take a great deal of comfort in being with others who know your pain up close and personal, themselves. It will help, seeing those who are further along in their journey, living lives of relative serenity and contentment, and you will realize there is HOPE, both for your addict, and also for you.
I’ll close with two little sayings I have found especially helpful. The first, I read on the blog of An Addict In Our Son’s Bedroom (

“I must learn to live in the world of what is, and not in the world of what ought to be.”

And I don’t recall where I happened across this next one, but oh how true:

"There is more to us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less." Kurt Hahn

Never give up Hope!

By Her Big Sad

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another one for Barbara!

Recently I read Barbara's post about her new little sweetheart, Sugar, being a Chiweenie. I had never heard of Chiweenies and I googled to learn more about them.

We've always figured our little Tuff Boy was a mix of chihuahua and dachshund. I had no idea there was a bunch of them and that they were actually deliberately being bred.

(Tuff Boy and Kimi)

I looked at several sites with pictures that were dead ringers for our Tuff Boy (a.k.a. Jerry)!! Even the coloring and the stance is identical.

And so is the jumping!

Here's Tuff Boy and his "wife" Kimi, trying to convince me that they are all done chasing each other around and are ready to come in. (They are inseparable. When one is taken on a walk, the other cries until they're together again!)

Disclaimer: Yes, Kimi needs to go on a diet. Yes, my windows need to be cleaned. Yes, I was trying not to laugh at points in this (which resulted in very rough filming). Yes, my backyard is a disaster.... but it's the puppy's playground. So be it! :) And yes, this is my first time trying to post a video in Blogger, so we'll see if it works.


Anyway, I've been busy trying to frantically make some decisions on kitchen appliances and YAY! After several years of opening my microwave with a self-made duct tape handle, we're fixing the place up a bit. It's time! We've really managed to kill this kitchen in 17 years! Plus, I'm looking forward to replacing the 4 inch white tile countertops with a smooth, more sanitary surface. There isn't a grout cleaner out there that really does the job. You can imagine how I know this.

Sorry to be posting so irregularly. I had a thought as I cleaned up my kitchen tonight - reminded me of making a pie, and that reminded me of a particular therapy session where I learned something important. More about that later this week!

Love, prayers and hugs!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I’m working on staying OUT of the referee seat!

Several of us recently have commented on our blogs about how we feel like we are constantly being the peacemakers in our families, or being pulled by differing factions and persons. I identify with this feeling. A lot!

There was a technique we participated in during family therapy nights, years ago. I can’t recall the name of the technique, and for lack of a better term, I will call it family mapping.

When we did family mapping, that is how my daughters "mapped" us.

My youngest daughter (our addict) “mapped” the family first. As a family, we stood in the center of the circle of folks seated at the therapy session. She had my oldest daughter and my husband hold onto my right hand and arm, and tug gently. She then grabbed my left hand and turned from us, and tugged as she "walked" away from us. That was how she condensed our family dynamics into one quick snapshot!

Next it was my oldest daughter’s turn to “map” us. She pictured us a little differently, but in strikingly similar ways. She placed my husband and I facing each other, him with his arms straight down by his side. She stepped between us and then she had me reach my left arm around her to reach him, in a half embrace. With her between us, then she had me turn towards our “open” side and she and I (only) extended our arms on that side, towards my other daughter, the addict, who she had placed several feet away. She had the addict sitting down facing away from us, burying her face in her hands.

Seeing it like that was life-changing for me.

Both daughters could see it more clearly than I could!!

I am pulled at all sides. I am trying to hold this family together while she is sick/addicted and while the other family members distance themselves from her, reach for her, fight amongst themselves, etc.

I am the buffer, the peacekeeper, if I don't force myself to step out of that role. The therapist told me to drop all their hands and step out of the circle. To take care of me. And to let them find their way back to each other. Or not. It isn't my job to shield them from each other or to pull the family together.

This is the direct opposite of what my mother-in-law had been telling me for years. For years before she died, she had told me I was the center of the wheel. The family revolved around me. If I didn’t “keep it together”, the wheel would collapse. That was my purpose in life, to keep the wheel turning smoothly.

I will state emphatically that I loved my mother-in-law. She was such a sweetheart, a treasure to all her knew her. There was not a birthday, or celebration of any sort that came around that she did not remember with a card or a small gift. She was all about Christmas, and to this day, I think that is a lot of what is behind my husband’s drive to make many cookies and deliver them to clients/coworkers each year. It brings his mom’s memory closer to him.

She held her family together as best she could. She covered for her husband when his alcoholic behavior surfaced. She worried about the two sons, wondering if they would remain close. As they drifted apart for many different reasons, she tried to pull everyone back together. When my father-in-law was dying, I was told by someone that she grabbed both adult sons (in their 40s) by the hands and took them in the ICU together to see their dad and announced something to the effect of “look who’s here, and together!”

She stood with tears streaming down her face one night twenty-some years ago, when I had to leave the house with my oldest little girl because Grandpa had a few too many and wasn’t just a little drunk - he was getting mean. He was grilling my daughter on counting in Spanish and he slammed his fist down and frightened her, and I told him we needed to run out to the store and we’d be back. We left and didn’t return until my husband, his mom and our youngest returned from their errands. She was mortified, embarrassed, and stood crying silently in the kitchen as he fell into the Christmas tree in the den. He caught himself just in time and continued “decorating” it for us and then went off to bed. I had to redo the tree with her after everyone else went to bed.

I never understood why she let him act towards her the way he did sometimes. For the most part, he was a truly wonderful man. But when he had been drinking, he was not a happy drunk. I did understand why she continued to work well into her seventies! She enjoyed being out of the house and she loved interacting with her customers at the dress shop, and having a bit of spending money that she earned herself.

I learned many wonderful things from her. But I think that I learned one thing that wasn’t true.

I’m NOT the center of this family. It’s NOT up to me to keep them civil, close, loving, or communicative. When my husband is cranky and morose (his personal emotions he identified himself with, in family therapy), and he takes it out on me, or especially my oldest daughter, as he has done more frequently lately, it’s NOT up to me to soothe her, or attempt to point out to him that his behavior sucks.

All I really AM responsible for is making sure I’m not incarcerated for bonking him over the head with the frying pan. To make sure that doesn’t happen, my proactive behavior now, is going to have to be to politely and respectfully leave the conversation and let him sputter to a halt all by himself.

He is a master of walking away from a conversation when he decides it needs to be over. I think that is rude. But I guess I will take a lesson from him. I’ll start holding up my hand and announcing I have to run to the bathroom, or let out a dog, or the ultimate “I’m just not going to deal with you any more on this.” Only I’ll say that last one a bit less hurtfully.

I’m in this (marriage) for the long haul. But I’m so tired of trying to smooth things over when he says things that are hurtful or unnecessary to myself, or either daughter. And it’s really NOT my job. Like his father, most of the time, he is a wonderful man. And he never drinks a drop of anything (partly, I’m sure, because of the memories he has of verbal and occasionally physical abuse by his inebriated dad). But he still has behaviors that remind me of his father while under the influence. That confuses me a bit.

I guess if he alienates the girls, or if an argument between he and my oldest escalates (without my interfering to prevent it) to the flying “f**k you” levels, they will have to deal with it, and any damage to the doors! And they will have to find their way back to each other, or not. His loss if they don’t, not mine. All I need to be responsible for is my relationship with him, and my relationship with my daughters. I can maintain my relationships in a healthy manner! When he gets cranky and morose with me, I can simply politely excuse myself and offer to talk more later when he is feeling more like a gentleman.

As the years pass, I have no doubt that I’m getting more cranky and morose too. So, I’ll work on me. ME! That's my business!

And I’ll work on making sure that those I am in relationship with, do not get my permission to treat me disrespectfully or in a mean fashion. Kids, husband, coworkers, friends, etc!!

I asked our family therapist one time years ago, why my addict treated me in a certain fashion. Her answer? “Because you gave her permission to do so.” (Her meaning: I let it go, uncontested, the first time it happened!)

By not holding OURSELVES in high regard, and ALWAYS insisting on fair and polite and respectful interactions, we give permission to others to commence and to continue to treat us in an inappropriate manner. I’m going to work on insisting on fairness and respectful interactions.

Easier said than done. Progress, not perfection!

Friday, June 4, 2010

For Barbara, Ten Random Things...

Ten random thoughts:

1. I survived another hike in the hills around my house. Go me. I mapped out a two mile route through the neighborhood and this is the second time I’ve done it at 6 AM. Through early morning mist, past about 500 houses with varying landscaping ideas presented to me as I huff and puff, and oddly, a few coyotes, a school bus, and a fire truck… I made it! The first time I did it, I swear, it was uphill all the way around. Had to have been. My legs were screaming! Today, I had the presence of mind to notice there were a few downhill portions and the “all uphill” thing was just a hallucination.

2. Coyotes are magnificent, sleek, scary, and cute. All at once.

3. I need to finish the billing for my clients today – another month has passed and if I don’t bill, they don’t pay, and we don’t eat. Funny how that all works.

4. If I focus on my typing and my billing, I have a good shot at being upstairs in my sewing room by 4 – and that means a possible five hours of sewing before I keel over at 9 PM like the old lady I am!

5. I have plans….. too many plans. Plans for quilts, plans for valences sewn for my windows, plans for patches of flower gardens planted outside my office window, plans for fairy houses amongst those flowers… plans for another area of planting outside my dining room window – to cover the fence that’s a mere six or eight feet away… and a fairy door on that fence, peeking out from the jasmine that I plan to cover the fence with…. Plans, plans, plans!

6. I need to bake some bread today.

7. I am trying to perfect my own veggie burger recipe too.

8. Despite #7, a steak sounds good right now. So does barbecued chicken. Chicken wins. Will thaw some for dinner!

9. I love my blogging community!

10. The weekend looms!! Yay! I have a dog sit to bring in some extra $$$ and perhaps some time for #5!!

Happy weekend all!!