In my last entry, I mentioned how we did what research we could on rehabs in California and Virginia and finally settled on one in California. We did not feel we had time to keep searching.
The rehab was Above it All located in Lake Arrowhead. I mentioned some of the programs offered there and wanted to write about our week at Betty Ford for their Family Program. The center is now merged with Hazelden and is known as Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. This program was recommended to us by AIA (Above it All).
The goal of the program was specifically to give “tools” to the families of addicts. My son and I flew to California and entered a world that I could not have foreseen myself ever being in.
I was a bit apprehensive the first day, but luckily I had Ry with me. After registration processes and welcomes, we were guided into a large conference room and seated in a circle. I was shocked. I looked around at all the people gathered and tried to wrap my head around as to how many people were there. We introduced ourselves one by one telling what had brought us to this place. There were parents of young adults and high school students, spouses and fiances of brain surgeons, plastic surgeons, white collar and blue collar workers. Siblings who had been taking a backseat to their addicted brother or sister. Addiction does not target any specific culture or socioeconomic group. It is out for all all of them.
First, we were going to learn about the disease of addiction, its causes, the treatment, and how chemical dependency is a family disease. Every counselor and speaker involved were also recovering addicts. Some had decades clean, some had years. Each one understood what the addict was dealing with and were brutally honest about helping us deal with our loved one.
Too much information to share in one posting but I do want to write about boundaries. Each time I think of boundaries, I recall a mother who was in a support group a few years later. Other participants were talking about boundaries and tough love as this mother sat and listened until she could listen no more. Sobbing, she told us how we could talk about how parents kicked their child out of their homes and seemed proud of it. Then the bomb fell. She had lost two children to overdoses and wondered if we would have let them go if we knew that would happen.
That is the ugly truth of all of this because I already knew my answer and it was yes, I had already done it. Boundaries were what saved my sanity and that of my son’s. There has been nothing about this that was easy. It has cost countless sleepless nights, nightmares of my daughter in a morgue, living on the streets pushing a shopping cart, sitting in a dilapidated building waiting for the next fix.
Over the years I had to set my boundaries and one of Ashley’s counselors from AIA was always ready to help me through some tough times even when she was no longer a client and when he had moved on.
This is the recap of one of the worst days of my life as the mother of a recovering addict. Ash had moved back to Virginia about five years ago. The boundaries were set. No alcohol. No drugs. Honesty (don’t count on it.) Get a job. Continue with meetings. I would do drug testing at home with the kits.
The jobs she obtained did not work out. I later found out the reasons she gave for not working were well thought out lies. I remember a friend at the time who has been sober for about thirty years telling me he had seen a lot of addicts but she was the best at lying he had ever seen. This from a close friend who leads meetings and is very active in helping those in recovery. So, I knew this was pretty scary. Her innocent looks had given her a pass in many situations.
Fast forward to the day when I received the results of a home drug test and it showed positive. When confronted, she told me she was so in need of drugs that she went to her storage unit and licked the furniture where there was some residue. That must have been what showed up. By this point, I knew better to believe her even though I wanted to do so. She left the house to visit a friend, who just happened to be living with a local policeman, and I searched her room. I found black ashes on a mirror and an empty bottle of wine. I called the counselor I had been in touch with off and on. He told me the licking the furniture was bullshit, she was using, and that the time had come for her to leave. Could I do that?
This was after years of always wondering if I was doing the best thing for her, questioning if I was enabling her use, and really, I was at the absolute end. This had truly been a journey through hell ( and later I found this had not even been the darkest point but it was at the time). I had already thought this through and knew it was my last chance.
I also knew that by telling her she had to leave I was sending her out to a world where she may or may not return to me. I read this and think it sounds so cold. When one loves an addict, and for those who are living through this, sometimes the best thing to do is the one that tears you apart the most.
I called her home. I was alone as my husband was out of town. My son offered to drive up from Richmond but I told him I was okay and would call him later.
And now, this is hard to write, so I am going to take a break right now. To continue later. After all, this is about the truth and how it affects those of us who love our addicts. This is hard stuff. This is heartbreaking. This is what we live through. And I have not even touched on how nightmarish it really is.
Again, not writing for sympathy. I am fine. Ash is fine. But I just had an acquaintance whose son died from drugs and another friend whose niece is addicted and her family is living through this nightmare.
And it never leaves the back of my mind, it could be my daughter.
I welcome questions or comments that may help clarify anything.