Six Days, Seven Nights – This is Not Vacation!

A blog update from Midwestern Mama, who is ready for a vacation of her own!

The headline of this blog post reads like a vacation promo – imagine six days, seven nights, somewhere in paradise. Sounds good to me, and it sounds good to our son, too, who has been using our home somewhat like a luxury hotel these days.

Our “hotel” features a comfy queen-size bed with clean sheets and a variety of pillow types; a private bathroom and a large-gallon hot water heater that provides long showers; a refrigerator, freezer and pantry full of food and beverages; on-site laundry; and entertainment – free wi-fi, use of an ipad, video games, a library of books, and even a dog to play with. It’s within walking distance of tennis courts and an extensive network of bike trails and parks. You could say it’s one of those all-inclusive resorts.

It’s all this and more, even if it’s just a typical middle-class, suburban house. However, did I mention that staying here comes with non-enabling rules? Three rules: 1) Don’t bring drugs or paraphernalia into the house. 2) Keep family hours – after all, there are other guests here who have jobs, school and sports schedules. 3) If you’re not going to be coming home, let the proprietors (aka Mom and Dad) know before 10 p.m.

Sure there are a few other things like put your dishes in the dishwasher, don’t leave clothes and towels on the bathroom floor, etc. but that’s ordinary, easy stuff. And, there are a few harder hitting things like don’t steal and you can’t be home alone, which is why only “approved” members of the establishment have house keys, garage door openers and key-pad codes.

Since relapsing and becoming homeless, jobless, penniless – again – we have opened the family home again as a way of giving our son respite from his drug-using lifestyle and all the stresses, dangers and sadness that it brings. We’ve wanted to demonstrate kindness and understanding because we are good and loving people, but also because our son is so broken that we hope it conveys and prompts positive possibilities.  Goodness knows the other parenting options didn’t do much either.  (Might be because we have influence but not power – the AlAnon in me speaking forth.)

We want to build not break his already compromised self esteem, self worth and self confidence. What we don’t want is to be spies watching his every move or cops who catch him breaking the rules (let alone the laws). And we definitely don’t want to be enforcers who evict him – we know it might be the right thing to do and, unfortunately, we know it might be the inevitable thing – at least for this leg of the journey.

As mentioned, over the past few months, we’ve re-opened the house to our son and as noted in the post “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t,” his stays are intermittent. A few days, then gone. A few days, then back.

Most recently, he returned on a Thursday evening. By Tuesday, we could tell the stay was coming to an end. It was one of the longer, positive stays, and seemingly one that was sober. We even had some potentially positive conversations about “next steps.”

Then he spent the night out, but came back the next morning and stayed the night – even went to dinner with us, but was clearly high. He went to bed at 9 p.m. Then Thursday around 11 a.m., he said he was going one place, but clearly didn’t and never called/texted or returned and he didn’t respond to our outreach.

Clearly, the stay had come to an end. Until today, now he’s back, sound asleep – likely for 12 -16 hours.  Beyond that, who knows.

This coming and going at the “guest’s” will must stop. It’s driving us nuts, even if we do understand the impact of drugs on why this is happening. This coming and going is not serving our son well let alone the rest of the family.

When he’s awake, lucid and somewhat receptive, we must insist that his stay includes some meaningful actions on his part. He must have something semi-productive to do each day (work, volunteer, therapy or treatment – or a combination). He must have accountability and commitment.

It’s no longer vacation, it’s everyday life. The “six days, seven nights” is coming to an end. We hope he’ll come back, even give us positive reviews on Yelp! (I say that with tongue in cheek, of course) We hope he’ll choose the extended-stay option. We’ll never give up, but we’ll never compromise the other guests who stay here, too.

 Midwestern Mama

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

It never ceases to amaze me how easily my son slips away. He’ll be home, in regular contact for a few hours, even days. Then, he’ll just be gone for days at a time. We’ve come to accept this as the user’s way of life.

He won’t answer his phone or respond to texts – sometimes because his phone is dead and sometimes because he views our outreach as intrusion. And more and more often we wonder if he might be dead. That’s what family and friends are left to wonder.

When we drop him off somewhere, he’s barely out of the car and is immediately lost in the crowd or turns the corner and we can’t see him anywhere. No matter how hard we try to watch where he goes, in one split second he’s disappeared.

Same thing when he walks out the front door. Instead of staying in view, he darts to the side of the driveway and by the time I can get to the window, he’s nowhere in sight.

Even though he doesn’t have a car anymore, that doesn’t stop him from getting around. In in given day he may cover 75 to 100 miles. He’s adept at using public transportation and bumming rides from others.

Back in high school when he had a car, I started tracking his mileage because he was never where he said he was going to be; the mileage gave me insight into how much he was lying. After a while, all that tracking accomplished nothing beyond continued validation that he was on the run, all the time.

The more I’ve learned about addiction and the more I’ve observed our son’s behavior, it’s all about patterns and routines. I’ve come to call it an ongoing pattern of “now you see me, now you don’t.”

Midwestern Mama

Meterology – Can You Ever Really Predict the Weather?

Parenting our young addict is a bit like being a meteorologist. We can predict the weather with some measure of science, expertise and experience, but in the end, the weather is beyond our control. When we think it’s going to be sunny, it turns out to be stormy and vice versa.

In the span of days let along hours and minutes, everything can change.

It always seems like after a period of niceness, our young addict’s itchiness returns and he heads out the door. Back to the familiar, the comfort of the drug world. Sobriety and recovery – be gone.

There’s always a glimmer of hope – of sunshine and clear skies. It is followed by an easily recognizable shadow of devastation – of stormy weather.

This has been another one of those predictable weeks. It’s gone like this:

A week ago Sunday – He wakes after 16 hours of deep sleep on the floor of our great room. Although he asked to come over for dinner, he slept through it. Although his little brother had a friend sleep over, he didn’t wake up. That morning, he showers and eats a bagel. I’m outside watering the plants as he walks out the door. “Where are you headed?” I ask. “To Dan’s,” he says. (Dan is his drug buddy, who lives at home with his parents.) “Not going to Grandma’s?” I ask. (It’s been a Sunday-afternoon ritual for the six grandchildren for years.) “No, I guess not,” he says.

We didn’t see or hear from him again in spite of sending nice texts asking if he wanted to sleep here or needed any help with anything. Chances are, his phone was dead as the charger was here at our house. Even still, his friends often have a charger for him to use.

Finally on Wednesday, I texted him that the family was planning to have dinner at a local restaurant – would he like to join us? He responded that he’d already eaten, but would stop by later. Then, later, he said he had plans.

Early the next morning, Thursday, as I was heading to work, he calls. “Can I stop home to shower and change clothes?” Years back, earlier in this weathered story of addiction, we would have been reticent to say yes. Today, as fragile as he is, and as hopeful as we are that he will return to treatment and recovery, we say yes.

“I have to leave in 30 minutes,” I say. He shows up, showers and toasts a bagel. Once at my office, he grabs some chair cushions and falls asleep under a desk in an colleague’s office who is out of town.

A few hours later, before heading to a client meeting, I nudge him. He grabs a soda from the office fridge and heads downtown with me. He sits in the car for my first meeting. For the second meeting, I point out the library across the street and he says he will hang there until I’m done.

When I come out of my client meeting, I check my phone to find a text from him. “Took the bus to meet a friend.”

The next day, Friday, around 5 p.m., my husband and I enjoy being home early on a warm and muggy evening. Sitting on the deck, we see our son walking down the street. My husband hops in the car catching up to our son. He’s headed to the local convenience store where a “friend” is picking him up. He accepts a ride.

More than an hour later, we stop at the same convenience store with his younger brother to pick up some sodas and snack for the family. Guess who’s still there? Our young addict. He’s standing with another young man, whom we recognize and a young woman. He won’t look at us or acknowledge us. His eyes are baggy. He is unsteady on his feet.

I buy our picnic and he angrily replies, “Stop stalking me.” Wow. I do not engage with this cold, angry, bitter conversation. We go on about our family evening. Without a doubt, he is stalking his next high.

Well, I would have expected no additional contact for quite a few days, but get a surprise text the next evening. “You home? I’m going to stop by.”

He does. Eats a bagel. (No there’s no balance to his diet, but at least I have what he seems to want.) He falls asleep. The dog manages to wake him up with sniffing and kissing. He takes a shower. Resumes his nap, but is awoken by a phone call. Within minutes, he’s out the door – headed to Dan’s. “See you tomorrow for Grandma’s. What time are we going?”

Just like that, he’s gone again. However, right on time, he reappears today to go to Grandma’s.

After a nice Sunday visit at Grandma’s, he takes off again, but there’s what I never predicted. He – all on his own, before walking out the door – confirms that he has an assessment appointment on Tuesday at the out-patient program we looked at a few weeks ago.

Will he show up for dinner tomorrow night and spend the night? Will he go to the assessment? Will he answer somewhat truthfully? Will he be accepted for the out-patient program? Will they recommend he return for in-patient treatment? Will he accept their recommendations? Will he enroll and engage in either of their programs? I cannot predict.

Why do I share this? Because, I suspect you’re in a similar spot – as a parent, an adult who cares, or a recovering addict. Together, we can recognize the weather patterns and better weather the weather.

Midwestern Mama