A Heartwarming Phone Call on a Cold November Evening

11-17-14

Midwestern Mama gets an unexpected phone call that warms her heart on a cold November evening; her son is making amends, recovery is in progress!

It may only be November, but winter is already upon us in Minnesota. The snow and freezing cold temps started about a week ago, an earlier and more frigid start than usual even for this part of the country. We’re craving comfort food to warm our souls. We’ve donned down jackets and mittens, and yes, we’ve already had to shovel the driveway – several times. And, yes, we know that this is only the beginning.

At a time when the seasons are in transition and one year begins to wrap up, it seems my son’s addiction and recovery are also in transition. This time, it feels like a new beginning even though it means trudging through snow and navigating slippery roads.

The hard work underway is welcome. The challenging conditions are welcome. This is indeed the time to express gratitude, to celebrate the season upon us. An unexpected phone call last night reinforced that the hard work and challenging conditions are just the right events at the right time.

Usually when the parent of a young addict mentions a phone call, it conjures up scary and unpleasant things. Even for the parent of a son in recovery, a phone call can trigger all kinds of emotions. This phone call, however, was the best kind of surprise – unexpected and heartwarming.

My son had spent the day with one of his childhood, sober friends. This friend has stuck by him all these years and was part of a family intervention about six months ago. They hung out, played video games, had lunch together, talked about their jobs, you know, just regular stuff that’s popular with 22 year olds.

The phone call I received that evening, however, was from the friend’s mother. (She’s been privy to my son’s addiction and has been a supportive family friend. ) That afternoon on her kitchen counter, she found three twenty-dollar bills and a handwritten note of apology from my son. He said he was sorry for stealing from her and was grateful for how wonderful their family had always been to him.   The mom told me the incident had happened a few years ago and she never knew until now that it had been my son, although she’d had her suspicions. In tears, she said she was so proud of him. By this time, I was teary-eyed, too.

My heart was warm. It remains warm. This was such a big step forward. This was such a sign that recovery is taking hold.

Midwestern Mama

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

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

Never Say Never

Midwestern Mama and her family have been modeling for us what it means to be the loving support system for a family member with a substance use disorder. They keep him close and include him in family activities without enabling or condoning his use. They treat him with dignity and respect, while encouraging him to get the help he needs. This is a very difficult line to walk and it’s easy to step outside the path, but I believe it’s better to make mistakes and keep our loved ones close.

I have always said to both my sons that I am glad God gave them to me. Someday I believe Midwestern Mama’s son will tell his family that he is glad God gave him to them.

Recently Midwestern Mama tweeted “I keep praying that a guardian angel will show up and that my son will trust and have faith in the help this angel offers.” It looks to me that that angel has shown up and it’s guiding this family.

“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill

Mid Atlantic Mom

Every time I buy more bagels …

Breakfast food is among my favorite. I like bacon and eggs, in particular, just about any time of day. My young addict likes eggs, but not bacon. He doesn’t care much for cereal. He’s usually not hungry until an hour or so after he wakes up. When he was still in high school, his go-to meal was a bagel and cream cheese. We kept these in bulk so he always had quick, easy and nutritious meal available.

Our remaining at-home kiddo is more of a frozen waffle person. He toasts these and eat waffles for breakfast just about every day. So, of course, we keep these in good supply. He likes bagels all right, but with his braces, a bagel is a bit more difficult to bite and chew, so waffles are a better bet.

As a mom, I think about breakfast a lot. That’s what you do as a parent. You make sure there is always a breakfast option so everyone can start the day off with that all-important fortification.

Although our young addict has intermittently lived at home – or spent some nights here — these past several years, his not a regular resident and my grocery-shopping reflects this; I hardly, if ever, load the cart with bagels and cream cheese. And, then he shows up and the refrigerator might as well be bare because there are no bagels, no cream cheese.

Right before he started drug treatment in December, our young addict was staying with us for a few nights. We bought some bagels and cream cheese. The very next day, he got a call from the treatment center that a bed had opened up two weeks earlier than anticipated. That morning, he smeared some cream cheese on a bagel and we made the 40-mile trek to treatment. For the next 50-odd days, the remaining five bagels and opened package of cream cheese sat in my refrigerator … until I decided the freshness date had expired and tossed these out.

Since completing treatment and then starting and then quitting his half-way program against staff recommendation, our young addict was immediately homeless again, back using, and sofa surfing at the homes of his former drug buddies.

Ever concerned, we’ve reached out to him to encourage returning to a treatment and recovery program. As always, he’s denying that he’s using and resisting any help. Even though we know otherwise on the using. Even though we know that staying at home may be a form of enabling.

All the same, we know he needs a safe place and some good food so he can possibly think more clearly. Last Tuesday, we said he could stay the night and that we’d get him to work the next day. We brought up out-patient counseling. He said, “Maybe.”

After a few days, he was better rested, better fed (including bagels and cream cheese) and had a better attitude. We were working together as a team. He said he had a plan. We said we were proud, that we would support that, that he could stay in the interim as he was pursuing a recovery program.

Yet, we knew better, and when his work week wrapped up and he had three days off before his next shift, and headed out the door to hang with his heroin and pot-smoking “friends” that it wasn’t likely that he’d be with us for breakfast the next morning. (My only hope, and this is admittedly grim, is that I hope he will be back because every time he uses, I know that it’s possibly, even increasingly, a fatal outcome. Yes, I am bracing myself for that even as I remain ever hopeful, ever optimistic, ever realistic, ever, ever, ever … believing that one day he will be sober and healthy, instead of intoxicated and dying.)

In fact, we knew he wouldn’t be home that night. We knew he wouldn’t call or text letting us know that he wasn’t coming back. We knew he wouldn’t respond when we reached out. We knew he wasn’t having a phone interview the next day with a sober house; just one of the well-intentioned promises he appeases us with that becomes a well-worn, well rehearsed and routine lie. We knew that he couldn’t meet the sober-house requirements of a minimum of 30 days sober and with a letter of recommendation from his halfway house, another well-intentioned action that he couldn’t act upon.

So, here we are. I’ve got a half-full bag of bagels in the refrigerator and a couple more bags in the freezer; the cream cheese is half gone with a couple more packs in the deli drawer. We are ready for his homecoming. Every time I buy more bagels, anticipating that we’re turning in a positive direction, the cycle begins again.

My prediction is he will call tomorrow because his work clothes are here and he will want to come shower and change. Will we offer him a bed to sleep in when his shift is done? Will he want to stay here that night? I don’t know, but he’ll probably have a bagel and cream cheese if he does show up.

Inspired by my cohort, Mid Atlantic Mom, I’ll wrap up this blog post with a quotation: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”

Midwestern Mama

Sibling Sleepover

This weekend, we had all three kids at home on Friday night – a real rarity.  Our adult daughter was taking the dog on a charity walk early the next morning, so it made sense for her to stay the night.  Our 14-year-old son, of course, lives at home with us.  And our young addict son has been staying with us the past few nights as he’s once again run out of options and we’re once again encouraging him to go back to treatment.  (If you’ve followed our journey, he’s been homeless due to his drug use and our anti-enabling for much of the past four years … so this letting him back in is a newer strategy that might just be working.)

In the few days our young addict has been home, he’s gone from being a hungover zombie to getting regular sleep, keeping a regular schedule and having regular meals.  We’ve had a reminder of who he is at the core and who he has become at the stronghold of addiction.

For the siblings, every time we can gather them together, it’s healing as well as eye-opening.  Learn more about the impact of drug use on siblings in a recent article that I wrote for Your Teen Magazine: http://yourteenmag.com/  This publication in print and online holds a wealth of resources, perspectives and tips for raising a teen.  Our Young Addicts is pleased to contribute this story.

After a short, but sweet sleepover, Saturday morning came bright and early.  Daughter and puppy dog left for their walk.  Dad and our 14-year-old left for a sports match.  And I repeatedly tried waking our young addict so he could go watch his younger brother play.  Eventually, he did get up yawning for much of the time.

It was a happy day.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

 

Where’s the reset button? It’s time to reboot.

Techie or not, most of us know that when something electronic is not working that hitting the reset button – rebooting – is often the best thing to do.  Amateurs and professionals alike suggest it as a first course of action.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It got me thinking that we have hit the reset button and attempted to reboot many times since addiction started messing with our son’s wiring.  Research on drugs and alcohol continues to show substantial, detrimental impact on the brain – a complex network of wiring and chemicals – even when used recreationally.  So, it seems like the computer analogy applies when a loved one is affected by chronic substance use and its various repercussions.

Within a few days of leaving his recovery program – early, against their recommendations and without a solid plan in place — my son reverted to his previous coping mechanisms and behavior patterns.  It’s now been about five weeks and what I’m observing is not very encouraging.  It’s downright sad.

When a loved one has gone haywire, it feels like it’s time to  is an attempt to do just that: to push the reset button, to reboot. However, the only buttons to which we have access are our own.  Hard as it is, the only reboot button that I can push is my own.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

Absolutely, please share!

Last week I was talking with one of the professionals who has been with us from midway in our son’s journey.  As I was sharing updates, including pride in the progress Mid Atlantic Mom and I are creating with Our Young Addicts on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, the professional asked if he could share these resources with another client.

Absolutely! (By the way – BTW – I never knew an online experience could prove so valuable until I gave it a try. So,we encourage others to see if it can help them.)

I was once just like this client – a parent looking for resources and trying to do the right things for my son and for myself not to mention for my husband and our other children.  Some days, I truly felt like my roles and responsibilities were colliding. I was acting part on gut and part on advice from others. In time, I was acting on a more spiritual, Higher Power  I desperately wanted someone to give me a simple three-step solution to stop my son from abusing drugs, to get him into treatment and recovery, and to get him back on track with a happy, healthy life.  It felt like there should be something like 1) have a direct, caring and honest conversation with him about our concerns, 2) take him to a doctor or counselor who will enroll him in treatment, and 3) go back to college … and BTW, tell your parents you are sorry for all the concern you caused and thank us for all the time, money and emotions they spent trying to help you.

That plan is far from simple and even farther from realistic. No matter what we said or did, these steps didn’t go as hoped or planned.  Every effort was met with resistance, hurdles, and more.

What I’ve learned is by acting on our gut as well as taking professional advice (conventional and alternative), we continue to do “all the right things” even if the outcomes haven’t always been “right.”  I’m grateful that none of those more experienced than I have said something like,  “OMG what were you thinking Midwestern Mama – that’s the worst thing you could do.” I’d have been mortified that I was not doing the best by our son and family.  Yet, sometimes, I wish someone would have spoken up and said otherwise.  Instead, we have a report card of As for effort but results TBD and I so much want an A (or at the very least a passing grade) for results – not for ours but for our son’s.

Neither Mid Atlantic Mom nor I have the answers, but we’ve each hit on a trifecta that works – one part gut (mom radar), one part advice (a mixture of professional, parental and alternative) and one part faithful spirit (Al-anon or similar).  Please share our resource so that it becomes richer with your contributions – be these experience, professional, alternative, parental, spiritual or whatever works.

We will keep sharing.  Please keep letting us know what’s working – or not working – for you.

Here for you,

Midwestern Mama

The Journey Continues – Treatment Day 2

Yesterday morning my son entered a 28-day residential treatment program for dual diagnosis – MICD (mental illness & chemical dependency). He was deemed “highly appropriate ” for the program. We hope he will embrace this gift of time to commit to understanding his challenges, feelings, actions and addiction. We pray he is ready and willing for recovery.

Although he is not happy about going to treatment, he realized he no longer has any other options.  He did not put up nearly as much fight as he has previously.  Perhaps his resign will rally as relief once he begins the hard, but insightful work ahead.

Midwestern Mama

 

Another Chapter

We got a call earlier this evening that our almost-21-year-old son was picked up with a blood alcohol level of .12. The officer said he could put him in detox, in jail or release him to us. Our son said he and his friends got drunk and then got in a fight. He said they left him at a gas station and took his phone and wallet, and that he must have fallen asleep. That’s when the police showed up. He’s supposed to be at work and will probably lose his job for not calling in. He’ll have to go to court. We are letting him experience the consequences of his choices.

This real time post is part of why Mid Atlantic Mama and I started the Our Young Addicts blog and Twitter feed. More tomorrow.

Midwestern Mama