The Skydiving BelleSo, this happened.  The Skydiving Belle and the Butterfly.

https://www.apmpodcasts.org/ttfa/2018/10/51856/?fbclid=IwAR3YZKrFjd0A84dJUE-wyyj_vKP6scYmwVUMNZytalxQaddEJjrXNaSGYjU

Ashley had been listening to the podcast, “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” with Nora McInerny.  She said how the episodes helped her through some rough times and one day, she sent an email to Nora about some of her life, past and present.  Ashley was contacted and the result is the podcast which you can link to above.

I thought the podcast was very well done and, of course, that Ashley did such a fabulous job of answering questions and describing some of what she has been through.  The sad thing is that there is so much more to her story that simply could not fit into 45 minutes.

I did mention to Ash that at one point in the podcast, she mentioned that she felt her family did not want her.  I told her that was never true yet I could understand why she felt that.  The truth is, we desperately wanted our Ashley.  We just did not want the Addicted Ashley.  While we would never give up on her, there were points where we knew there was nothing more that we could do.  There is nothing scarier than the feeling that I may wake up one morning and my daughter would no longer be in this world.

So, if you have some time, listen to the podcast and pass it on.  We hope it can help.

Love my recovering addict and going to see her in 36 hours!!!!!!!!

Been Awhile

For those of you who are continuing to follow our blog and support us, we are deploy grateful.

We know it has been months since either of us posted.  A big part of it is…it is very difficult, especially for Ash, to open up and share some of her history.  It is also heart wrenching to hear and know what she has been through.  So, while we want to help, it has to be on Ashley’s timeline.

She is in a very good place right now.  Ash continues to help others in recovery, attends meetings, has a social life, and is thrilled with her skydiving adventures.  I truly have never seen such joy in her as when she is jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 plus feet!

While there has been much trauma in her life, and that of my family, I can assure you there is life for all of us as Ash continues with her recovery.  The fact that a relapse can occur at any time does not drive our lives.  We choose to concentrate on all that is right with our world F2EC02D3-8D90-4D49-BD72-A29DFD9787F1and the blessings we have each day.

So, until we figure out our next steps, thank you for hanging in there with us.

We are still here to answer questions and share our experiences and have been glad to do so with those who have contacted us privately.  If you have an addict in your life, no matter what the addiction, there is hope.

One day at a time.

Ashley will be sharing her story on Facebook tomorrow at 3PM West Coast time. Thought you all might want to know.  It will continue to be up after the live feed.  It should be interesting as I never know what new things I might learn or what she might say as she does possess a great wit.

 

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Ash and I have talked often about what to include in the next blog.  Not an easy decision, but we at least made one.  Just so you know, we do our best to be open and honest, yet when it comes to our invading someone else’s privacy or revealing intimate details which have no bearing on the story, we are more guarded.  We hope you can understand.

It was early evening when I got the call from “Rob” telling me Ashley had relapsed.  I was shocked.  Not so much from knowing she relapsed because as an addict’s mom, I can always have hope and belief it won’t happen again but there always has to be that little voice of reality somewhere saying it could.  I guess in some ways, that is protecting me. She just had been doing so well.  I knew she was stressed from the work load and attending classes but she seemed to be managing.

“Rob” said she had been acting strangely, uncharacteristically combative.  I know I was trying to think and write down all he was saying but I really was pacing around the house, phone in hand, shaking my head and more than a little nauseous.

What goes through my head when I hear of a relapse is, “Oh my God! Is this it? Is my girl going to make it?  What can I do?  What should I do?  I don’t understand.  She seemed fine.”  “Rob” assured me she would be okay and I asked that if anything changed for him to call me.

The call from him never came.

Instead, at around 11:00 PM, I had a call from a hospital in Riverside, California.  Ashley had been brought in and they were notifying me.  Right now, I still cannot tell you what they asked of me.  All I remember saying was I wanted to talk with her and what the heck!  She was taken away from the recovery center where she was a manager and “Rob” NEVER CALLED to tell me.  That was a “WTF” moment.  I was told I could not talk to her until the next morning and that someone from the hospital would call.  I knew it was going to be a long, long night.  I called “Rob” and kept leaving messages but no answer.

I googled the hospital.  It was a mental hospital.  My daughter had been taken out of her center and placed in a mental hospital. How could I sleep?  Thoughts running through my head about do I grab a flight out there?  Experience had taught me that even if I did, I would not be able to see her.

No one called.  I began calling and calling the hospital, only hearing music on the other end.  It took hours for me to get an answer and for someone to come to the phone.  When a nurse answered,  I asked to talk to Ash.   I was told I could not.  I am not normally a very pushy person but in this case, I was very adamant that I was her mother and needed to talk to her to make sure she was okay.  The response was they were very busy and short staffed. We went around about this for awhile and I am almost surprised she did not hang up on me. (I would have called right back.)  So, I was begging at one point. Crying. Desperate to hear my daughter’s voice.  Finally, she relented and told me it might take awhile to get her to the phone.  I didn’t care. I just needed to hear Ashley’s voice.

But the voice that I eventually heard on the line was not my Ash.  There was nothing about her voice that sounded like my girl.  It was monotone, slurry, out of it.  It was very, very scary to hear.  What I could make out was that they put her somewhere and people were screaming.  Spreading feces on the wall.  When I heard that, I became numb.  What had happened??

I think this is the spot where I leave off and Ashley can catch up on this part when she is ready.  Oh yes, there is more to this story.

Right now I would like to update you on the present.

Ashley received a promotion at her recovery center and is saving money to make a move back to Virginia.  She is will be researching jobs back here as well as a place to live.  No one could be happier than me, except for her,  as to how well she is doing right now.  Today.

I love my girl.

 

 

For the Parents

mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpegWhen Ashley was home, we talked about the number of clients and recovering addicts she knows who feel abandoned by their families. Family members who know their child is gripped by the tentacles of addiction and choose to ignore it and turn their backs as if by doing so will make it go away.  Or force their loved one to stop using.  I am telling you, “THAT WILL NOT WORK!”

What it will do is reinforce the addict’s feelings of worthlessness. It will not stop the desperate search for drugs, a time when they will go anywhere or do anything to get that next fix.  Lying, stealing, loving a drug more than anything else will not dissipate because they feel abandoned.  The tentacles will wrap themselves tighter and tighter around your child’s body until they feel there is no other way out but to shoot up in hopes of feeling some release.  The drug will make them feel like they have never felt before and each time that euphoria releases and the feelers start capturing their prey again.  That prey is your child.

Truest me, the very last thing I wanted to believe was that my child was an addict.  Images of homeless young women searching for drugs on the street, selling their bodies and soul for drugs played like a horror movie in my head. I only knew that the person Ash was on drugs was not really her.  It was almost as if she were possessed.  And she was.  When you know how much your child loves you and can still tell you that a drug can gain control so that their love is the drug, that is possession.

If you are thinking that by ignoring this, or telling your child, “If you loved me, you would not do this”, you are wrong.  They do love you. They will continue using it until they find help.

You can help.  Let your addict know that you love them no matter what.  You may not like the behaviors exhibited, you will cringe when you see their body wasting away until they look like death walking, and you willhate the fact that your thoughts go to planning their funeral.  But you will still love the person who is your child.  The child who you once could solve all problems for, the one who cuddled in your lap as you read stories, whose first day of school tore your heart out, and the bullies you wanted to throttle when they went after your child.

Love them.  Educate yourself.  Whether you do this online, in meetings, through books, talking to addicts, please educate yourself.  You are doing nothing to help your child by thinking this is a phase or it is not really a disease, it is a choice. Many will want to argue that it is a choice every time a needle is drawn and plunged.  I am telling you, that is not a choice made by your child but by the disease of addiction.

I have found that by visiting with recovering addicts and talking with Ashley have been the catalyst for me to research further.  Documentaries on the opioid crisis have convinced me we need to do something as a society to bite into the brain of this  octopus likeintruder much as we have with other diseases.

Parents, please.  Love them.  Support them in efforts for recovery.  Educate yourself.  Do not be ashamed of them.  Let your voices be heard.  It is difficult if you are a private person who does not want others to know or judge you or your child.  The empowerment I felt when I began stating that my child is an addict was the scariest.  It became so much easier from there to share and I have found nothing but support for my daughter, me, and my family.

Just had to get this off my mind.

Love you Ash.  Miss you.

 

 

A Little Catch Up

I needed a break. From the memories.  From having the past work its way back into my body and begin wreaking havoc.  That is what happens sometimes when blogging about such personal events.  Those hurdles we have gone through, dealt with, and moved on from, can come back with such force that it is challenging to let it go.

For me, it was remembering how tough it was on us when we moved to Virginia, but mostly how difficult it was for the kids.  I had no idea how hard it was going to be.  Some say that is because I live in a fantasy world but I think I just never could have foreseen some of what Ashley mentioned in her last blog.  It took years to get my family on an even footing and I always felt in the middle.  Much has changed since then but not the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about it.

Ashley brought up her stay in a mental hospital between her sophomore and junior years of high school.  She had been living in Colorado for a year and within weeks had wanted to come back to Virginia.  The hardest decision I had to make then was to tell her she had to stick out the school year.  My feeling was, if she came back home, things may go back exactly the way they had been.  I will never know if that was the right decision but it was my best one at the time.  Would things have been different?  Who knows?

Suicide notes?  I didn’t notice chunks of hair missing or signs of cutting.  Trying to strangle yourself with plastic bags? This was my daughter!  Those behaviors were so foreign to me that I never had a clue.  Plus, she hid it all so well. Ash tells me I would have had no way of knowing.  And I think, but I am her mom.  I should have known. Still working on that one but have come a long way.

Shortly after she was back from Colorado, her brother graduated.  She seemed fine.  Then I took her to our family doctor and he spent some time talking with her.  When I was ushered back into the room and told that Ash needed help right away, I was shocked.  There were so many things living inside her which she kept so well hidden.  But she had a plan.  Within the hour we were checking her in to the hospital.  A place where she would be watched and kept safe.  Where she could not hurt herself.

It is a blur.  I to return to the house to pick up her things.  Later that night, my husband and I dropped them off.  We were allowed to visit in the evening and she would be there for a week.  One of the things I do remember is she wanted us to bring her food.  So we did.  The staff felt she was anorexic but they would not let her have the food we brought.  She was not anorexic but she was tiny.

“My daughter is in a mental hospital.  She wanted to kill herself.  How can this happen to her?  What did I do wrong?  Was it because I moved them to Virginia? Why won’t they let her have the food? ” It was a week of little sleep, constant questioning, nauseous most of the time, and trying to put on as there was nothing amiss in my life.  Maybe one or two people knew.

The guilt, not knowing why, and the struggle to find peace within myself so I could help her haunted me every single minute.  I did not share this with many people.  Feeling it was my fault prompted me to think the judgements would be harsh.  I had no friends or family that I knew of who had this type of situation.   Even though I felt alone, I knew I had the strength to work through it and come out on the other side.  I had to do it.

She came home after the week and I felt that everything was so fragile.  I didn’t want to helicopter but I didn’t want to miss any signs that she could be heading down a dark dark place again.  That beast inside her head is not the person I birthed, raised and loved with all my heart.  We always said “I love you” to each other.  I blew good dreams into her head at night after we read The BFG. We sang and made up songs together.  Danced crazy dances whenever we felt like it.  We had fun.  We talked.  She was not the “perfect” child and had experiences I never had, but I saw no beast.

I would like to tell you that this was the only time she was in a psych hospital.  But I can’t.

So, I am just going to post this without going back and rereading and correcting and making better word and phrase choices because it has been so long.  Stream of consciousness is what we have here.  The next will definitely be about her next trip to a psych hospital.  Nobody wants their daughter to be in the place mine was.

On a happier note, Ashley was just here in Virginia for a ten day visit.  She said she had a magical time and so did we.  My daughter looks great physically and kept us laughing She was able to attend the wedding of a very dear friend of hers from high school and see many of her friends at the event.  There was more time for family this trip and I was a content and happy mom.

I love love love my recovering addict.

 

 

addicts humansAshley is thinking about writing of having a predisposition to addiction.  This is something I have thought quite a bit about over the years.  I think like many parents of addicts I spent many nights and days consumed with wondering if I could have prevented any of this.  I questioned my parenting, decisions I made, and what signs did I miss.  It is not unusual for a parent to begin blaming themselves for a child’s addiction.

My first thoughts were going back to when I remarried and moved my children to Virginia from Colorado.  Their dad was in Colorado and at the time was having his own struggles.  While I knew the move away from friends who had become family, their dad, and the life we had created there, I had never expected it to be as difficult as it was.  I will just say it was a very rough ride.  Through those years I wondered if I had made the right decision and if the difficulty of those years contributed in any way to her addiction. Ashley acted out in ways I had never seen before and did things I could not believe, some of which I found out much later.

Ash will write more about how she feels she has a predisposition to addiction and it has taken me some time to come to understand it.  My time at Family Week at the Betty Ford Clinic (now  Hazelden Betty Ford) was where my education really began. Before that, I was experiencing a lot of guilt, shame, and felt lost. My son and I were there about three weeks into Ashley’s first stint at rehab.  The message was that we did not cause this and we could not control it.  We had to learn the difference between enabling and disabling.  Out of that whole week, there is one moment I remember the best.  I wish I had written the exact exchange down but I was so stunned and shocked by what had happened, I don’t think I remembered it that well at the time.  But I do know the main gist of it.

A little background is necessary.  When Ashley was in the ICU after the fire, it was a few days before we knew she would live.  We were never asked if she should be taken off any of the life support she was on.  After months in the hospital and rehabilitation, there were so many issues with which we had to deal.  There was not only the pain management and physical rehab, there was the loss of Brett.

I had moved to Charlottesville for over a year to help Ash get back on her feet, literally.  There was one night in particular when she had been out with friends and had too much to drink on top of her medication.  She was still in a wheelchair at this point.  During the evening there had been a very unpleasant encounter with a guy she had known in Northern Virginia which set her off.  I was woken by her friend, who had brought her home, and rushed outside to find her splayed on the ground crying and screaming to let her go…she wanted to be with Brett.  It was awful.  I never would have thought to see my child in so much pain and to this day, it is so distressing to remember the horror and pain in her screams and on her face.  Somehow we got her into the apartment, her friends left, and she ranted and screamed throughout the apartment for three hours starting at around 1:00AM.  I followed her around as she threw things, including herself,   on the floor. Repeatedly.  This was especially scary because she still could barely walk and I cannot even find the words to describe the vision of her throwing herself down, or into a wall, and the attempts to get back on her feet.   All she wanted was to be with Brett.  Finally, I told her she had to stop or I would have to call 911.  After all that time and all that pain just spilling out of her, she stopped, looked at me, and said, “Can we do wound care now?”

Fast forward to being in a one on one meeting with our addict at Betty Ford.  There was a small group of us sitting in a circle comprised of family member and addict.  Each of us was to sit in the middle of the circle facing our addict and express our feelings.  No one outside the circle was to talk.  Ashley proceeded to tell me how angry she was with me for allowing her to live.  She was so angry that I felt as though she hated me.  Why didn’t I allow them to let her die?  My daughter did not want to be here.

This was not the daughter I knew.  Ashley had rarely ever raised her voice to me.  The night before she, her brother, and I had been out to dinner and had a fun evening.  I never expected to see and hear the things she was saying.  Absolutely shocked.  I was sobbing.  I heard someone in the group say, “Poor Kathy.”

All I remember after that is my crying, telling Ashley how much I loved her and that letting her go had never even come up as an option.  I was so sick.  When everyone left the room, the counselor asked me to stay.  He knew how difficult (that is actually an understatement) that had been. He also reminded me that every day she was here, there was hope.  I have clung to his statement since that day.

I know I have gone off track here but that’s how it is when trying to write from the heart and just let the thoughts come.

I would encourage any parent of an addict to attend a Family Week if your loved one is in rehab.  This is just one of the events that week that changed my life, led me to taking better care of myself physically and mentally, which made me better able to support Ashley.  Yes, there were times when I enabled.  Yes, there were instances where I made excuses for her because of my ignorance. And yes, I became depressed and at a loss as to where to find answers.

I am learning so much and have a long way to go.  Two nights ago, I attended a talk by Sam Quinones who authored the book, Dreamland, about the beginnings of the opiate epidemic in America.  It was quite interesting how pharmaceutical companies marketed opiate painkillers as nonaddictive and how a Nayarit, a small town in Mexico, developed a system of retailing heroin like a pizza delivery service.

There is a class I am taking about the science of addiction and what happens in the addict’s brains as well as an article in National Geographic on the science of addiction.  These are such a small portion of the materials out there available to us to become more educated and I have read many others.  Memoirs.  Biographies.  Autobiographies.  Studies.  News reports.

This all makes for some interesting discussions with Ash.  She just sent me an article from the LA Times on over the counter painkillers treating painful injuries just as well as opioids.  I am sure there will be those who disagree but the more we discover, the more we educate ourselves, the better we can help our loved ones.

I apologize for going off track.  Hopefully, I have written something that helps someone.

This mom loves her recovering addict.

An Open Letter to My Daughter

Visit with Ashley

Love this picture! So her.

Dear Ashley,

When I read your posts, I am always struck by your honesty and willingness to put out in the world what your struggles, and that of many suffering addiction, have been through.  Your last posting on “Heroin” was particularly poignant and you know this because I texted you immediately upon reading it.

It was your opening sentence.  “The first time I ever did heroin I was nineteen years old.”  I was at rehearsal for the radio show and wandered away so I could be alone and read what you had written.  All I could hear in my head was, “She was nineteen.  Nineteen.  How did I not know??”

No matter how many times we talk, no matter how many times we discuss how much you were able to hide from me, and no matter how grounded I can feel most of the time, the question never completely stops haunting me.  I texted you immediately.

ME:  “19 huh?  I remember you telling me not long before I learned you did heroin, (which was in your late 20’s to my knowledge), how proud you were you had never done it. And you had.  Ha!  Next blog by momma.  Love you.”

  ASH: “I think I was referring to never having shot heroin.  Honestly, I don’t think it was an intentional lie.”

  ME: “May not have been.  Interestingly, I took it as you had never done it and felt relief.  Oh, the things we learn!”

I felt relief because at that point, was it four or five years now, I thought if she had not done heroin there was hope in a way I had not yet felt.  For some reason, if you had not done heroin, maybe things were bad but not so bad there was no chance of a full recovery.  You see, I was, and still am, learning about addiction.

Often we talk before posting.  Not to change the substance of our posts but to make sure we have grammar and thoughts completed.  We had not had the opportunity to do that on this one so my reactions were raw and I don’t think that was a bad thing.  It was just a bit different.

It made me think again about recovery centers and sober living homes… how I thought you were safe when there but I suppose you were only as safe as you allowed yourself to be.  I also thought you were safe when you went to meetings.  I thought you were safe in high school when I took you to mandated drug counseling and was part of those sessions.  My naivete is so glaring now.  Those have turned out to be some of the “best” places for people to find the drugs they crave.

The time at the beach when you found your boyfriend unresponsive still can haunt me.  I liked him.  Still do and am extremely happy for him and his family as to how well he is doing in recovery now.  Yet when I think of how you were screaming for help and people were standing by watching, not helping, it still turns my stomach.  Your being met at the hospital with hostility and cruelty is not one I fault anyone for but it makes me wonder about the manner in which the ER dealt with this particular crisis.  I know addicts are people who break our hearts over and over and I also know the addict is not the child I raised.  My child is a very different creature when on drugs.

I have known for awhile about your stealing from work.  That phone conversation was another heart stopper.  We were talking about your making amends and about the meeting you were having with your former employers.  I was stunned at how much money you had stolen.  Absolutely stunned.  I am the person who remembers, at about 4 or 5 years of age,  taking a piece of bubblegum from a store.  The guilt was so awful, even at that age, that I remember sneaking it back into the store.  I could not fathom stealing so much for any reason.  You see, I was still learning about the difference between you, my daughter, and you, the addict.

Terrifying to know that when you told them about the theft, you could have been arrested and sent to jail.  Terrified but also proud you were doing what was necessary for your recovery and being ready to take responsibility for your actions.  But still terrified at the thought of you in jail.  Or should I be saying prison?  That was a boatload of money.  To this day, I am aware of how fortunate you were that your act was met with forgiveness.

Over the years, I have learned that to be a supportive parent to you, I have to take care of myself. I still have a husband, son, daughter-in-law, family, friends and interests which I need in my life.  If I don’t work at remaining whole, I can’t be here for you.

Now with the attention on the opioid crisis, I feel we are a team.  Our goal is to tell our story as honestly as we can.  To help others in their struggles as individuals with an addiction and those of us who love those people. We are trying to find our place, to make our voices heard somewhere so that the stigma of addiction can be eradicated.  We are together in wanting our loved ones to walk out into the light of day not ashamed that this is happening in our families and to our friends. It is nothing of which to be ashamed.

I am so very proud of you.  You have an inner strength that I always knew you possessed but you never seemed aware of it.  You are now.  You are always willing to share your personal struggles with others who may be detoxing, recovering, and relapsing as well as people I have asked you to contact.  You have been willing to write or talk to parents who need to see through the eyes of a recovering addict what their sons and daughters may be experiencing.

We may be just a very tiny piece of this but at least we are present.  As Glennon Melton Doyle always says, we are showing up.

I love you.

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Eyes of a Recovering Addict to a Mom on a Roller Coaster

Recently, Ash and I were asked for guidance from a mom whose son had her on an emotional roller coaster.  Since the mom reached out to us privately, I responded privately.

The other half of it is Ashley’s response as this whole blog is a team effort to help from both perspectives.  I thought Ashley’s words would be particularly helpful to any of you struggling with enabling and supporting.

 I have been gone and out-of-state, also two thousand miles away, for nearly my whole addiction. I will try and keep this very simple. If you want to help him you will leave him alone. If he reaches out to you be loving but be firm with him. Once I knew my parents would no longer catch me when I was falling I was forced to try and catch myself. Once that failed I was forced to ask for real help. Make sense? Things might get worse before they get better. They may never get better. But, like my mom said, that is a hard reality of this. It is so possible I could get loaded and never come back. And I mean that in a mental capacity or physical capacity, any capacity. I do know for a fact I have not seen one addict recover that hasn’t been desperate. I can also pretty much guarantee you that anytime you call him a name he’s already call himself that and much worse. So, as infuriating as addicts may be, try to quell your anger with him. It is definitely not helping. There has been one time in my addiction where I thought my mom thought as little of me is I did and it…well…it was not good. If you are giving him money, cut it off. Most likely it is not going for what he says it is for. If he calls you when drunk, says mean or inappropriate things, tell him how much you love him and hang up. I can’t imagine how hard that would be. I don’t know how my mother did it. But it saved our family. And it saved me. And I’ve seen it save a bunch of other addicts. Let him know you’re not giving up on him. Mom likes to say, “I’ll do anything to support you and your recovery, nothing for your addiction but, I’ll always be here for you.” Going to jail or prison might be the best thing for him. Unfortunately, it tends to be sometimes the only thing that will wake people up. Sometimes it makes them worse. EVERYTHING DEPENDS OM HIM AND HIS DESIRE AND WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE. He needs to handle his consequences on his own. If you are always there to help him, he will never learn how to help himself.