Saturday, November 12, 2011

An update....

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” ― Henry Cloud on Boundaries

I saw this on the Facebook wall for LifeLines, a part of The Crossing Church that I love to attend, and that my daughter and LeBoyfriend attend regularly.  LifeLines has meetings for any and every addiction, and the family/friends of those with the addictions. 

Anyway, I digress.  I just thought this was a nice way to express what we've been saying around this house for the last decade.  Our first therapist commented to someone in our group (after making suggestions week after week about how she could extract herself from her current misery) that

"You are happy in your shit.  When you are unhappy enough, you'll try something new.  Right now, it’s a shit pile you are sitting in, but it's warm, cozy and familiar, although it certainly stinks.  When it stinks (pains you) enough….. when you are ready to do the hard work of extracting yourself from the shit pile, you will.  Til then, I have no more suggestions for you because you evidently don't need them - you're happy right where you are."

We've used that phrase many times since then.  "Happy in your shit."  I miss Jerry, our outspoken, but gentle family counselor.  I learned so much from our time in family group.  And I have mentally reminded myself many times that when someone is pained enough by their current situation, they will change it.  It goes for me; it goes for anyone in my family!

Warning!  Long post ahead.....

As for an update….  I am extraordinarily blessed these days.  I am aware that so many right now are not in a good place with their sons and daughters…. I almost hesitate to post.  But, for today, my daughter is doing well, and I hope this will give hope and encouragement to those who read it, whether your family member is doing well, or struggling.  So here's my update.

My daughter is blowing us away with her progress.  She waited tables faithfully for several months, and then was offered a job in an office for a construction company, with benefits!  She started that over two weeks ago.

She is off all psychiatric medications.  Her decision.  So far, so good overall.  Since she will have benefits with the new job, when I start to worry about the lack of medications, I remind myself that she can see a doctor as soon as the benefits kick in, and get a prescription if she isn't able to handle her bipolar mania episodes.

She's struggling with a history class at night.  I believe she has a C right now, and you know what?  A C is good enough!  Getting the credits is what counts.  Passing this class will put her within two easy classes of her associate degree.  She's plodding onward.  Last week she was the only person in class with the outline the teacher wanted done correctly and her outline ended up being a class example.  Plus she got an extra point of credit for having it done right.  In her usual impulsive fashion, she blurted out that she needed all the points she could get, and "can't you give me a few more!?"  Good for a giggle, but no more points were forthcoming! 

She qualified for financial aid based on her A and B from her two courses last semester.  That money will help pay for her books, classes, gas to class, etc.  She's bought a laptop on her Dad's charge card and paid for it successfully.  Before the financial aid came through, she bought a fancier cell phone and paid it off.  She is planning to bank any left over financial aid money for the day that her $900 beater car absolutely must have the clutch it kinda needs now.  She has about a significant amount saved toward the place she and Le Boyfriend plan to get around the first of the year.  He's saving for that too.

She put together a weekend birthday surprise for Le Boyfriend that just rocked his world.  He got off work the Friday of Halloween weekend and drove to the address she gave him (which turned out to be a hotel!), and then she gave him the room number (!) over the phone and he came up to the room.  Once in the door, he noticed the decorations and streamers and the extra beds….  It was definitely a family type of room.  We've all known about this for about two months, but he had been uninformed and anticipating a surprise.  He was pretty much nearing the end of his ability to handle being in the dark and began begging for more information.  She finally broke down and told him that later in the evening, they were picking up his 16-year-old daughter and the daughter's boyfriend, who had travelled by train, and were at that moment, traveling the last portion by bus to reach them. 

It was the first time in his daughter's 16 years that she had celebrated her daddy's birthday with him….. THAT HE WAS SOBER!

Once he got over his surprise and disbelief, they went to meet the kids' bus, and took the kids back to the hotel and stayed up late like teenagers, talking and laughing together.  The next day they did family activities with Le Boyfriend's family, his nephew's morning sports game, lunch at a favorite restaurant with the entire family, etc.  Normal family life!

That evening, my daughter surprised him one more time with tickets to KnottsScaryFarms Halloween, for all four of them, and LeBoyfriend's good friend G. 

(G is fresh out of prison, working hard at a construction job, staying sober, and has been friends with Le Boyfriend for several years.  When he got out, my daughter and Le Boyfriend paid for his first couple weeks of sober home charges until he was on his feet with a job and they are trying to encourage him and themselves, in their ongoing recovery.  He's doing great so far.)

The entire weekend was a huge success and I'm still amazed at how she did it.  She brought me some of her tips from waitressing every couple of days, and as she accumulated money for each portion of this birthday weekend, I'd make the online purchase she had given me money for (room reservations, Amtrak tix, bus tix, KnottsScaryFarm tix).  She's never planned ahead like this before.  It is so fun to watch her doing this sort of thing!

She even got her homework done in advance that week, so that if she was tired from the weekend after it was over, she could just crash….and rest before her night school class.  That is SO not her normal way of dealing with things.  Amazing!

Paying her contribution to us for staying with us, paying her cell phone bill and car insurance each month on time or early, making good grades, bringing the favorite pie home from her waitressing job for her dad….  This is the daughter we knew was in there somewhere.  And we are relishing every single moment with her. 

Life is not perfect, and she and her dad still clash from time to time over stupid stuff - his latest trick is to lock the front door when she goes out to smoke….  And then tell her she needs to start taking her keys with her when she goes up the street to smoke. 

(I still marvel at the fact that she has proven herself so trustworthy that she has a KEY!) 

She just blows him off and goes back to her room.  We all just try to ignore it when he acts like a buffoon.  Sometimes I fail at the ignoring and I engage with him but usually a couple paragraphs into the argument I just remind myself to step back and leave the skirmish.  It's not worth it!! 

On the flip side, the same dad who gives her shit over stuff like that, is the one who whipped out his Best Buy charge card and happily went with her to pick out her new laptop and let her benefit from the six months' interest free financing.  She has it to use for paper writing for this history class, and she paid him off in bigger chunks than necessary in case she runs into financial difficulties with her car, etc.

Then there are the days where it all goes wrong - like yesterday when she was very sick and unbelievably irritable (spewing the kind of crap that always signaled relapse in the past).  She had coughed herself silly all night and kept her sister awake for the third night in a row.  She and Sister clashed over medicine suggestions from Sister and the F-bomb was flying.  She handed Le Boyfriend and myself our heads back on a platter when we suggested a doctor visit.  She and her Dad got into it over her refusal to take some savings and go to the doctor (even after she was sent home sick from work).  His comment about how she better not keep her sister awake again that night or she'd be told to sleep in her car, was met with her comment that if she heard that from him he better know she was packing her shit and not coming back…. They each repeated it to each other at least four times.  (That's an arguing technique I have hated for years and I was almost dumbfounded to see her using it back at the one she learned it from - it was textbook classic.)  This morning, she got up and all was well.  Everyone had slept.  She was actually feeling better and coughing less.  I was literally tearfully relieved.  I had nightmares last night and I think my unease was penetrating my sleep.

The new job she got is promising.  Full time and benefits very soon.  Wow.  I've tried to suggest to her that she needs to stay a year if at all possible.  She's been bouncing from job to job for years…. Time to put down roots and get a good stint of time to put on a resume.  But that's up to her too!

Le Boyfriend is working hard for his parents' company, driving tanker trucks filled with acid….  The acid is used to clean tanks at the oil refineries, I think.  That's the best explanation I can understand.  He's in and out of oil refineries and works long hours, for great money, and he's really putting in great amounts of time and effort since his parents have given him this opportunity to work with them again.  Someday, this company could belong to him, or to he and his brother.  If he chooses to start his own construction/handyman business, or his own cement truck business, his parents are hinting at major help with the upstart.  His brother is continuing to heal from the swimming hole accident that broke his back. 

We are blessed.  Beyond measure, beyond words.  I am so grateful.  She will have been living with us for one year, on December 4.  In our wildest dreams, not one of us thought this would go this well.  I'm planning to take everyone to dinner that weekend, if I can just come up with a place for two meat/potatoes guys, one vegetarian, one vegan, and one low carber to eat…. Under one roof!

Le Boyfriend has been an addict for 16 years.  He just turned 35.  My daughter has been an addict for over 11 years, with brief periods of sobriety (once almost two years).  She is 29.  As of last Monday, they have been clean for 17 months.  They don't really look at the time, but sometimes I do.  Briefly, I let myself revel in it.

Everything could change tomorrow, but other than reminding myself of that, just to keep myself from getting too relaxed….  I don't dwell on it.  If it happens, I know what to do.

But for now, it really seems as though they are tremendously serious at this time about sobriety.  (I also think they just might have gotten really, really tired of the lifestyle they are putting behind them.  The last run was not fun.  It was miserable.  And then it got worse: prison.) 

My daughter told her sister that sometimes she tells herself, "I can do that tomorrow."  (meaning, she can use)  "but for today, nah, I'm not going to do it today."  Not sure that's the best method, but it's HER method (combined with a few meetings and a lot of faith/church/prayer/family activities/work/school/gym/goals). 

This is why I personally will never give up hope.  Not for my daughter, not for Le Boyfriend, not for any of our beloved children.  It can be done.  Even she throws it away tomorrow and relapses,  it can be done.  It's up to my daughter if she does.

I pray that my daughter and her boyfriend will continue to do the things necessary to remain sober.  And my gratitude these days is just enormous.  I can be reduced to tears when she struts in with a good grade on a paper, or a compliment from a boss….  Hearing about these things is such a blessing to me!

My prayers for all our children continue. 

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.