Untangling the Knots of Addiction – Two Steps Forward, One Back

All-important reminders about how delicate the recovery process can be. Wishing this mom, her son and family all the best on this journey, which always is a continual one step forward and two steps back route through recovery. Thanks for sharing your experience and observations. MM

A Walk on the Wild Side

Knots of addiction Naga182 public domainYou’d think once someone decided, “I’m done with addiction! I’m turning my life around,” it would be all uphill from there. Because that’s the biggie. All of us mothers and lovers of addicts are waiting for that golden moment, when the sun breaks through the darkness, scatters the clouds, and shines down upon us.

But it’s usually not like that. For every two steps forward on the road to recovery, there’s one (or more!) step backward, as our loved one begins to untangle himself from all the knots caused by a life of addiction. It’s not just a matter of giving up his substance of choice and staying clean and sober. It’s that, which is hard enough, and so much more.

It’s about trying to create a new life out of the rubble of the old. A life spent in and out of jails and rehab and living on the…

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From the Waiting Room to the Parking Lot

Midwestern Mama continues observing the comings and goings of Methadone and Suboxone treatment participants.

Other than the first day my son started the HIOP (high-intensity, out -patient) treatment program, I haven’t returned to the waiting room – at nearly 22 years old, he’s a big boy and doesn’t need Mom to come in with him nor does he want me to. Now, I wait in the parking lot and let me say it’s no less insightful.

Each morning, we arrive between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. There are taxi cabs, medical transportation vans and cars of all models – from luxury vehicles to ready-for-the-junkyard clunkers held together with duct tape (yes, I have actually seen this). Some people walk from the nearby bus stop while others ride bikes.

Of the people arriving in cars and vans, it seems more often than not they are passengers not drivers My mind wonders if the participants have cars of their own or perhaps they have lost driving privileges.

That’s my son’s case. We had provided him a car from age 16 to 18 and then let him drive our car for work purposes until last year when we continued to find drugs and paraphernalia. We put our foot down, that we couldn’t support drugged driving. Subsequently, his driver’s license was suspended for unpaid tickets related to underage drinking and driving and underage public consumption. Right now, he’s doing odd jobs for us and family friends to build a tab that we will apply to his tickets, but we don’t have a sense of when we might let him drive one of the family cars.

I also wonder about the relationship of the drivers and program participants. Some appear to be parents, but mostly it seems like boyfriends and girlfriends or maybe a roommate or else a professional driver in the case of the taxi cabs and transport vans.

The other day, my son and arrived a few minutes early so we sat together in the car. A middle-aged man was sitting on the curb and after a few minutes began gesturing to us. Not sure what he was indicating, my son rolled down the window. English was not his native language, but he explained that he thought my car had a leak of some kind – turns out it was just condensation from the air conditioner, but I appreciated his concern and initiative to tell us.

Yesterday, I parked next to a man in a newer Toyota. He noticed our dog’s nose sticking out the cracked-open window. He approached the car and asked me if it was a people friendly dog. Oh yes, our dog is friend to all. As he patted the dog, he commented that the wait time was taking longer than usual. We exchanged a little more chit chat when a young woman came out and he introduced his daughter to our dog, who kissed her face and barked a happy bark. “See you tomorrow,” we said as they got in their car to drive off.

Speaking of dogs, there are quite a few who come and wait for their people friends. A Golden Retriever played fetch with a teenage girl on the small patch of grass near the parking lot. A Black Lab poked his nose out of a car sniffing the air with great gusto.

And there are young children – preschoolers, toddlers and infants. One adult is holding the child while the other goes into the clinic. Again, I wonder about the home situation and hope that the parent is truly on a path of recovery and a healthy lifestyle.
My perspective from the parking lot is positive. This is a busy place where people arrive at all times of the morning to make a healthy start to their days. Regardless of where they have been, this is where they are now. Interestingly, I haven’t noticed any true loners – everyone seems to have someone with them, at least in terms of someone who gets them to the clinic for treatment.

Although my son could easily enough take the bus here, I am glad his dad and I are his transportation. It gives us peace of mind that he’s going and demonstrates our commitment to support his recovery. It also gives us some dedicated talk time during the 15-minute commute each way – just long enough without being too long.

As for the parking lot, there really is something encouraging about the comings and goings, and given the road we’ve been on, I’m pleased to be here for the time being.

Midwestern Mama

Sixty Days Clean: Perseverance on a Long & Winding Road

We are so inspired and encouraged by the stories our community shares with each other. Meet another parent who blogs about her son’s experiences (the ups and downs) with addiction. Together, we get smarter and stronger. Thanks for being part of this community, and congrats to your son on 60 days sober!

A Walk on the Wild Side

Big Sur winding trailMy son and I were texting each other yesterday and his ended with this:

PS – I got 60 days clean today. xxoo

Sixty days clean. A postscript.

So many emotions swirling around in my mind: joy, pride, tenderness, hope, fear.

We’ve been here before so many times. Two months, Three months. Four months. Each time I think: This is the beginning of forever. The dragon is finally slain.

Only it wasn’t.

So. Sixty days. Not very long when we consider all that is past and all that is to come.

Still, I feel hopeful, thankful, blessed. There’s much to celebrate, regardless of the outcome. Sixty-five days ago I had thought I had lost him forever.

So in that spirit I am celebrating what feels, emotionally, like a huge milestone. Even though rationally, I know this is only the tiniest beginning of what I hope will be a lifelong journey.

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Not That Far From Home.

Midwestern Mama discovers a community of opiate users in recovery — just miles from her suburban home – as her son begins Suboxone treatment and counseling for Heroin addiction.

Less than five miles from my suburban home is an outpatient treatment center that offers Methodone and Suboxone dosing in addition to individual counseling, group sessions and training. Although it’s close to where I live, it’s not on a road I ordinarily take and even though I’ve driven that road many times over the 20 plus-years that I’ve lived here, it’s not a structure that I ever noticed.

The past two days, however, changed that. I have taken notice and I have spent several hours there. It has been eye opening and I actually look forward to seeing and experiencing more in the days ahead. As part of my son’s journey with addiction, I have yearned for an insider’s perspective to better understand the complexities of substance use disorder – if not his, that of others.

Sitting in the waiting room for several hours yesterday as he met with a physician, had a lab test and met with the intake coordinator, I busied myself with a proposal, client emails and some trade publications. All the while, I engaged in people watching and caught snippets of their conversations with each other.

It was clear that most of the men and women were regulars, although there were definitely some other first-timers and perhaps a few other supportive parents. The regulars were animated in their talk, joking and catching up with each other. Their faces and bodies evidenced difficult times, but their conversation indicated hope and commitment to better times. Many of them carried backpacks stuffed to the gills and I wondered if they were transient. Quite a few had large beverage containers from the convenience store across the street – sodas, chocolate milk, juice. Several of them had small lock-boxes.

One 50-something man, in particular, had an Irish accent, immediately introduced himself as Chillin’ McDillon, and complemented me on my smile telling me that it may him very happy to see. Without prompt or hesitation, he began telling me his life story. My son was signing in at the reception desk or he probably would have had a fit that I was interacting with Chillin’ McDillon

A younger woman used the clinic phone (sign posted above stating a 3-minute limit for calls). She was trying to get a school transcript to enroll in community college and it sounded like she’d been through a number of hoops already. Yet another woman was quite angry and punctuated her account of the last night’s activities with four-letter words to describe her boyfriend’s shortcoming.

In dress pants and a button-down shirt, another man filled out paperwork and checked his mobile device. He kept looking up hoping his was his turn to get called back to the lab.

Meanwhile, staff with lanyard nametags and jangling sets of keys came and went calling names and taking clients back for various appointments. In addition, someone was job shadowing and someone else was there for a site visit. Clinic staff were giving a tour and explaining the programs they offer.

A few years ago, let alone a days ago, I would not have imagined being here. Although we had suspected opiate use, this drug of choice was quite foreign to us. It’s only been recently that I began learning more and more about it and the challenges of overcoming this highly addictive substance. I had heard about Methadone and Suboxone, and more recently about Naltrexone (a medication our son took while inpatient earlier this year). Now, we were in the midst of it and it was not far from home.

After another round of “now you see me, now you don’t,” our son arrived home last Tuesday evening unannounced and coming down from a high. Our family was united in our expectations and the conditions under which he could stay in our home. We were not feeling very tolerant of another breech and initiated a straightforward conversation – with loving intention but resulting in a somewhat ugly verbal exchange.

My husband’s direct and strong voice expressed the message. We were clear, come morning he had to honor our agreement to do something positive and productive every day toward sobriety and it would begin with a call to some treatment places and start a program or he could not stay with us. His choice.

Midway through this ultimatum, and I hate that it was an ultimatum, he zoned out. I don’t think we realized he was coming down from a high or perhaps we would not have started this conversation, but as cognizant as we are of his use we simply didn’t see this.

For the next 30 minutes, he was half asleep but not at all engaged with the rest of us. We just watched. Finally, we said, it’s late and time to go to bed. My son went upstairs and climbed in bed. We tucked in our younger son and my husband and I proceeded to toss and turn the rest of the night.

True to our word, the next morning, I woke my son and handed him a list of places to call before the day was up. Groggy, crabby and feeling dope sick, he begrudgingly got up and spent the day with me. By late afternoon, he’d talked to one place but didn’t think it was the right place for him (a common theme) and left a message for the other. He didn’t want to talk about any of it and seemed resentful. There was lots of silence.

The next morning, I woke him up and he went with me again. I encouraged him to call back the place he’d left the message because sometimes getting through means being persistent. I’ll be darned, but he reached them and they had an opening with the physician for the next morning. Without hesitation, I changed a meeting to be able to take him.

Again, I had to wake him up. He ate a bagel and cream cheese. Without showering or changing out of his baggy PJ bottoms and sweaty t-shirt, we drove to the clinic. Throughout the morning of him meeting one-on-one with their staff, he would return to the waiting room and gradually began filling me in, being more conversational.

That afternoon, my husband and I took him for a haircut and we ate a late lunch together. He was energetic and pleasant. When we got home, he showered and trimmed his beard. He was feeling better and looking better, too.

Then, of course, he made a last-minute departure to hang with friends instead of attending a family birthday dinner. We know for certain he lied about which friends and we were 50-50 on whether he’d let us know his plans let alone whether he’d come home that night. We were unsettled, but decided to let go and accept that we had done all we could to include him in the family. Shortly after 10 p.m., he texted to see if we were home yet as he was on his way back. Didn’t really expect that.

This morning he woke up on his own and ready to get his Suboxone dose at the clinic. He came out with a list of dates for seeing the physician and counseling appointments. He talked about the upcoming group sessions that he’d be attending. He even gave me the sheet of paper to read, which he’s previously stuffed these things in his pocket and resisted letting us see them.

We had a short conversation about honesty and being a support system, but didn’t belabor it. It remains wait-and-see, but I am ever grateful for some positive motion and the possibilities that this could yield for him to get back on the recovery track. As much as he has fled from home in the past, it’s interesting that he’s sticking so close to home these days and that this current endeavor is not that far from home.

Midwestern Mama

20 questions, 0 answers.

Midwestern Mama ponders the many questions she’s asked over the years about addiction and the many more she’d like to ask. The biggest question remains: When will her son embrace sobriety and recovery?

One of the first questions we asked was, “What is going on?” We were observing behaviors and attitudes that were different, out of character for our son. It prompted us to pause and ask him, to ask the doctor, his teachers, coaches, friends and family members.

The more we watched, wondered and asked, the more we started to ask the next couple of questions: “Could it be related to mental health?” and “Could he be using drugs?” Again, we didn’t get a lot of answers – from him or from others who cared and were concerned.

From my perspective, if you’re concerned about your child, don’t hesitate to ask questions and to seek answers. Just like the president of the United States of America or the CEO of a company, parents need to ask their “cabinet” of advisers for input and insight. We can’t possibly know everything there is to know, especially when it comes to things we’re often unfamiliar with such as mental health and substance use.

Finally, our answers began to cam from observations – not only the behaviors but from bits and pieces of evidence, of drugs and paraphernalia. Often these weren’t outright pieces of evidence but by Googling images and scouring the internet, we would learn that paperclips, hollow pens, tin foil, baggies and other seemingly common items had drug connections.

That would lead us to ask our son questions: “What is this?” and “Are you using drugs?” Of course, his answers, if he’d answer at all, were explanations and excuses. Again, we’d have to piece together little bits of information to get a small sense of what was going on.

The questions continued, but the answers didn’t to any great extent. From there, we started asking questions of ourselves: “How can we help him?” and “What can we do?” Through family counseling, therapy sessions, Al-anon, and lots of reading, we learned some answers – ones that were clinical, ones that were evidence-based and many that were centered on the classic mantra of “You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it.” These helped us better understand our role, but the answers still don’t fully satisfy even if we understand these rationally and emotionally.

For a while, we stopped asking questions. We accepted. We let go. We detached. Except that we still witnessed, experienced and observed the devastation happening in our son’s life. While we had greater understanding and knowledge, we realized we still had questions.

When my son contacts us or comes home, my natural tendency is to start asking him questions. I don’t mean to interrogate him per se, but sometimes the power of my curiosity and concern is overwhelming and my need to know feels so urgent. I’m working hard to know when and what to ask.

There’s a psychology technique called Motivational Interviewing. It’s quite brilliant because it leads a person through a process of questions and answers in a way that allows the person to come to positive conclusions. Admittedly, I’m much better at using this technique in a role-playing scenario instead of in real life with my son.

After several weeks of asking him when he was going to reschedule a dental appointment to get three cavities filled, I changed the question to what’s holding him back from doing so and what if anything I could do to help him. That question wasn’t met with much appreciation either. In fact, he snapped at me quite nastily.

At first, I reeled from his irritable response, and then it came to me that when mental health and addiction own the minds of our loved ones, there are no good questions … and that is why there are no good answers.

Regardless of what question I ask or how I ask it, I realize that what I’m really asking is when is he going to embrace sobriety and recovery. He doesn’t know the answer and my asking him isn’t going to yield an answer that either of us likes nor one that is the least bit helpful. Never the less, it’s still the question that is on my mind, the one that I cling to with hope and one that is rooted in love.

Midwestern Mama