Thursday, January 31, 2013

Does Relapse Mean Failure?

He relapsed, does that mean he failed? HELL YES, over and over the same old crap!!! Won't he ever GET IT???!!! Expressed by a father of an addict, me.

No, no, no, this isn't a rant of today. Everything is still good. These are the words that still echo in the walls of our home.

This is the question posed by another person I regularly read. Here is Joe's link: Changing Lives Foundation

We all evolve and learn in the process of parenting an addict. When I first entered this world my way of thinking was cut and dried. You either did it or you didn't. If you didn't you failed. Learning is hard. Conceptually we see it every day. Especially for you parents that are teachers in school. It's all so easy if they would only listen, all of it is so easy. Learning is not simply screwing off the top of a head and pouring the knowledge inside. Especially if you happen to be an adult trying to learn.

When the learning first involves unlearning what you believe to be true it is especially difficult. I struggled a lot. Most of you can see that in my archived posts. It literally took me years to understand what so many of you knew and told me over and over, relapse is a part of recovery.

Most people reading me for a while know I am fairly simple minded, some of you may substitute simpleton, that's OK too. But I have to break things down as I learn. How do my life experiences enable me to accept what I am told when I have a hard time relating it to what I have experienced and believe in my life?

I can remember sending Alex off to his first inpatient rehab. So easy it was, why didn't we think of this sooner? Send him away, write a really big check and he comes home cured. Boy was I dumb!

It didn't take long for the anger to surface, 2 weeks in fact. What the hell, 2 weeks and it's the same old thing except my bank account is minus $6000.

Fast forward through a lot of anger, time and way too many more dollars than I want to think about. Relapse is a part of recovery. I don't know the statistics about how many "get it" the first time but they aren't really relevant.

What I have learned is that recovery is a process that involves many things and many variables of which relapse is one component. That's not to mean I accept relapse because it is part of the package.

Does relapse mean failure? Failure is the act of not trying. I had to break it down in simple terms for myself. When I was younger I water skied a lot. The first time I ran a slalom course I fell, if I remember right it was on the first ball. When I tried to trick ski I fell on my first 360. Failure wasn't me falling, failure would have been if I climbed into the boat and never skied again. Failure isn't the result of not succeeding. Failure is the result of not trying or giving up. No matter how many times it takes.

(proof Darlene and I were young once upon a time)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Missed Anniversary

Now before all you female readers jump straight from the title to the comment section to let me have it in a very unladylike fashion you must read, ask one simple question, what anniversary?

January 20, 2009. I created and posted my first entry to this blog.

It almost seems like ancient history now since I wrote that short anonymous introduction. Since that time Darlene and I have come out in the open to you all. We post our e-mail online and we speak openly to individuals and to groups about our life as parents to an addict.

In all seriousness I don't know what I would have done without you all. Writing this blog was not an effort to help others. I began writing this in order to save my life. I felt like I was going down for the third time. My eternal gratitude goes out to each and every one of you for taking my hand and pulling me ashore.

Those many years ago I dreamed and wished that life could be as it is today with Alex's recovery. But the truth is that none of the dreams and wishes those years ago were ever as great as today's reality. Goes to show you that none of us know what the future holds. So my advice today is that if you have a choice in living in dreams and wishes or living in today, choose today. Tomorrow may be more than you can imagine today.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Guest Post: Anonymous (requested)

My Mental Marathon

In all of my 19 years of living I don’t think I have ever spent time just me and my sister. That’s just not the kind of relationship we have ever had. But tonight I gathered up the little courage I had and went to spend the night with her. And to be honest I was scared shitless. As I made the 25 mile drive to her house all kinds of things went through my head. What kind of condition is she going to be in? Is she going to be using while I’m there? What will I do if a big fight breaks out between her and her boyfriend.

She had warned me before I got there that she had been “sick” the past few days and lost some weight but that she didn’t want me to think she was all strung out. When I pulled up there she was, my beautiful big sister out in front on her hands and knees planting, her jeans hung off her thin little frail body. I got out of my car and she greeted me with a “Hey Laura!” and as I got closer to her I could see those awful sunken in cheeks, her once beautiful blue eyes were glazed over, her pupils were almost nonexistent they were so small. I instantly wanted to freak out and say what bad shape she was is and tell her she needs help for God sake she needs help. But instead I smiled and said hello and asked what she was planting and from there the floor was all hers. She talked and talked. She told me all about her plants. You could tell she took pride in them something that made her feel needed and important. She told me about them for over an hour. What each plant was, how she got it, what her plants are for. Its hard to get a word in when she talks so I just smiled,nodded and added an occasional “oh wow” when I could.

There’s something about the way an addict moves, the way they talk.  Looking at my sister I saw nothing but pure emptiness. Someone who appears to be numb to life but is clearly in more pain than she can bare. She used to be so lively, not only that but she was funny, even now sometimes she will make a joke or say something and we see the old "D" come out for a split second and that split second alone keeps us all hopeful that she can still turn things around. We love her regardless and always will. But we miss her.

She wanted to make dinner so we headed to the store, even something as simple as grocery shopping was hard to do with her. I picked up my pace as she quickly walked through the store grabbing anything that caught her eye and filling up the cart within minutes. Just like her plants I think making dinner for us made her feel important. Making me fajitas at 11:00 o’clock at night was probably the biggest thing she had to do all week. And although at this point I had completely lost my appetite I grabbed myself a plate and filled it with food. The rice she made was still crunchy but I ate it anyway and said it was great.

"D" has been in bad shape for years, this visit though was a rude awakening that addiction has completely taken over her body. And as difficult and heartbreaking as that is it’s the truth. I can’t force her to get clean (but I would if I could) it has to be something she chooses to do. She said something though that will stick with me forever. She said how scared she was to go to hell, a life of forever torture. How terrifying that is. "D" will say she doesn’t know if she believes in God or not but I could see true fear in her face when talking about this, and I think believing in God and asking for his hand to lead her in the right direction may be the only thing she has left to do. Because this girl is hurting. And there is only so much we can do for her now. So I can only pray God wraps his arms around her and lets her feel the presence of him, because she needs it now more than ever.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

10 Years of Emotion

What's it like being the parent of an addict? I'm not talking about the day to day experience with a crisis and drama around every corner. I mean what is it like inside of a parent that has gone from discovery to recovery. When I inventory my emotional state at current it isn't fair to put aside all of those feelings over the last 10 years. Am I normal, a survivor, crazy as many believe, maybe just a composite of every experience in the last decade.

It's not hard for you to read back in the archives of this blog to see my emotional state at any one time, a range that is from despondent to overwhelmed with joy. I don't pay for a therapist to analyze me, there probably isn't enough money for that without adding another trillion dollars to the national debt and a therapist would probably run out the door with their hands in the air screaming. So I am left to myself to deliberate and draw my own conclusions and summaries.

After deliberation about the last 10 years this is my emotional inventory:

Hurt: Hurt is one of those emotions that never leaves me. I am able to put it aside and shield myself from it but at times it jumps out at me. I have never hurt like I did while suffering through my sons active addiction. It is a hurt that even overshadows the death of loved ones such as a parent. I spent a long time with this emotion. I took it personal. For many years I couldn't separate the disease in my son from him. It was a personal affront and I held it very deep. The pain from this emotion took me to places I wish I never would have seen. This was the most destructive emotion for me. It was the hardest for me to reconcile within myself. Hurt drove my life.

Anger: Anger was my defense mechanism against the hurt. Anger allowed me to do things I am not proud of as the parent of an addict. Scream and curse at my son. Scream and curse at my wonderful wife. Basically attack anyone that was within reach. Mostly, mine wasn't a physical anger, I sliced people to bits with words. My anger even drove me to my lowest point in life. I struck my son in anger. My son taught me a lesson, even high and addicted he did not strike back. His respect for me at that time was greater than my respect for him. I am ashamed. "You have a right to be angry", words that I have heard before but are empty, they accomplish nothing. Anger comes with the territory but our response to life with anger is something we must find a way to live with while not destroying ourselves.

Suspicion: I always thought of myself as a trusting person. My whole philosophy in life was that I am too lazy to not trust. Trusting is easy. To not trust requires a tremendous amount of work and energy. To become suspicious and distrustful is easy. It becomes easy to see the evil in a person. It is easy to forget that the symptoms of a disease can mask the reality of a situation. It is easy to allow suspicion to drive your life and behaviors. I'm not talking about the things the parent of an addict must do to protect themselves and the addict. I talking about learning to see evil in a person when evil is not the intent. That is a bad place to be as a person, the one that lives that way and the one on the receiving end of that suspicion.

Contempt: Contempt is the culmination of hurt, anger and suspicion. Contempt is a terrible thing for a parent to hold against their own child. Contempt can easily slide to a place their is no caring. I felt once that I was entering that place. I can't go there, that is a one way door. I did not go through that passage. It is a bad, bad place.

Joy: Joy is that emotion we all want. When I think of joy the picture of Snoopy dancing on top of his doghouse comes to mind. It is immediate and temporary. Joy comes from many places but it is an emotion same as a fart on a motorcycle, blown away very quickly. However joy is a fix I craved. I'd twist reality in order to experience that feeling. Too often my desire for joy allowed me to ignore realities to the detriment of myself and my son.

Hope: Hope was the most dangerous of positive emotions. Hope set me up for terrible lows. That's because I misunderstood hope for most of the time my son was using. Hope was an emotion that I transferred to others. My hope was based upon the actions or lack thereof by other people. I would pass out hope to others like business cards at a conference. I placed my hope in their hands, from my son to rehabs, meetings, counselors or anyone. I allowed others to build up my hope or dash it from underneath me. Hope is an emotion that must be internalized, it isn't a wish. Hope is an awareness of life and the tender nature of what impacted me. Where there is life there is hope; when I understood that simple phrase I understood what hope really is and not what I wanted it to be.

Happiness: Happiness is so much more than joy. Joy is fleeting, happiness is a state inside. Happiness can be found in all things. Happiness can be obvious, the birth of wonderful grandchildren, the sound of, "PaPa come here." But happiness can be born of heartache and pain as in the happiness I feel to have known my father for 27 years of my life. Happiness isn't the smile or grin you see on my face, it is the feeling inside. The smile is just a physical response.

Appreciation: Appreciation is the dominant feeling I have today. Appreciation isn't a "thank you" it is a recognition of what "is". Appreciation is taking in all, the good, bad and the ugly. The simple process of writing this post is a process of appreciation for me. The horrible emotions and actions I described above are just as valuable in shaping my well being as the wonderful feelings I experience today while my son is in recovery. Appreciation ALLOWS me to learn from what I have experienced over these past 10 years. If I choose not to learn then what has been the worth of a decade of my life? I wish that I had never experienced any of this and my son had never been an addict. I know inside me if there was a time machine I'd be on it right now to change it all, but that can't happen. Ignoring the bad and only recognizing the good discounts my life and make me less than. I want to be the best I can and learn from my terrible mistakes.

Love: Love is so much more than what we whisper at night before falling asleep. Love is a life preserver in a storm, it is a foundation that holds you up, it is something that makes you more than you can be alone. I learned more about love in the last 10 years than I had learned all my life before. Love comes not just from those close but from those people that have enough in their life that they wish to share. All you have to do is ACCEPT it.

In conclusion, as the parent of an addict we are not perfect. In fact we shouldn't even strive for perfection. Trying to be perfect causes terrible control issues. (speaking from experience here) It's a hard lesson but we all must do what we are capable of doing at any one time. Self assessment and learning isn't something we do, it is a process we work.

I wish that forward in my life I am able to live mostly or all in the positive emotions. But, I know that hurt, anger and suspicion will at some time again enter my life. That's the way life is but as I grow and learn I believe I will be much better from this experience.

I don't know if any of you that read this blog have experienced these same emotions but if you have, it is worth the reflection to examine what being the parent of an addict has done for you as much as it has done to you.

Maybe I'm normal, or maybe not. But no matter, quoting an old wise philosopher, Popeye the Sailor Man:

"I yam wot I yam. And that's all wot I yam......"

Guest Post: Chelsie

A Change of Fate

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a couple tears running down my cheeks as if trying to escape my mind. Running away from the awful feelings my dream had caused. The possibility of a change of faith and its consequences had me feeling uneasy. A lesson my mind sees fit to teach me even if hurts me. Tough Love, they call it. I was left with the certainty that what happens to us during our life happens to us and not someone else for a reason. I shouldn't dwell on what could of been if my life were different. I believe the universe has a way of balancing itself so if not me then to whom would my hardships and burdens be given too. And if they weren't meant to have those particular challenges in their life time then chances are this person wouldn't of been born with the specific abilities or skill to overcome them. Well I can definitely say that this dream certainly had me reflecting on a lot of life's deeper meanings. 

The dream is a bit blurry now but I remember the main part of the dream that had me touched me. So I was back in my late teens and this time I didn't know the life of addiction. I was a well rounded person with goals and lots of love for my family. I kind of took on the life my brother had (my oldest brother who is 3 years younger than me) and my brother had mine. Well definitely the part of my life that included addiction and a lot of sadness. In other words its like our lives had been switched. In this dream I was at my moms just like when we were teenagers and my brother looking like he was 13 again was drinking and doing harder drugs. Not trying to hide it, I could tell he was under the influence. He had that jaded look in his eyes the one I remember having. He seemed to have this air of sadness surrounding him but it was like he was hiding it. I think I only knew because although in that life I didn't know addiction and that kind of sadness, somewhere in my mind I still remembered. Its like I felt his struggle, knowing it all to well. Something told me that my brother wasn't going to beat it (it really wasn't his to beat), he really wasn't going to get better. My heart broke so hard, I couldn't stand seeing him hurting and sad. And that's when I knew. I'd do it over again a million times over if it would keep him from having that life. In my dream, my mind was telling me that if I hadn't been an addict, if my brother hadn't seen what it did to me, how destructive it was, or if my dad hadn't had me to turn to, he might of turned to my brother (my dad thought me about drugs and eventually offered me some), my brother would of been an addict. It was like all of this hit me at once and all I could do was walk up to my brother and wrap my arms around him really tight. That's when I felt the tears running down my cheeks and opened my eyes.

Most of people are probably thinking it was just a dream, nothing to it, nothing to worry about. Except maybe my unconscious mind at work trying to make sense of  why it happened to me. I believe its much, much more than that. To start, if its my unconsciousness then its definitely wanting me to remember just how much my brother means to me. More than that though, if it really was my unconsciousness giving me an explanation to why it happened to me, than it had to of chosen my brother being spared because my love for my brother was probably the only explanation that would put my heart and mind at ease, as to why me. Also this dream made me realize that no matter how bad it was, I'd willingly do it again for my brother. I don't believe I've had a dream as meaningful as this one before. I can most definitely say that this dream contained a lot of important things I needed to learn. As sad as it was it developed into this kind of inner peace once its meaning was reflected upon.

To Dream,  A Dream, 
Our Inner Most Secrets Our Revealed
The Secrets We Keep From Ourselves

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What About Brothers and Sisters?

This blog has been written from the perspective of parents of an addict. As we all know parents aren't the only loved ones affected by an addict.

I know from comments and e-mails that brothers, sisters, grandparents, addicts and so many others read my blog. I would imagine that much of the pain may be very much like what we feel as parents but I also imagine there are unique issues for them dealing with an addicted loved one.

In the past I have posted many links to other bloggers, many of the them other parents. I also want to try  to recognize other loved ones of addicts that write as a way of dealing with their pain.

If you are a loved one of an addict and write your own blog I'd love to list you. Here is a link and if you comment or e-mail me I'll list you too.

Just the Addicts Sister

Another mother needing help:

Never Let Them Go

Child of an addict writing a blog:

The Addicts Child

Friday, January 11, 2013

Guest Post: Suzie

Below is a post from Clint's mother. She is a long time friend and her son died last Sunday from a heroin overdose.

Good Friday morning to everyone here. I am Clint's Mom and Darlene's childhood friend who not only lived in the same neighborhood, but worshiped at the same church. We both got married after high school and then had children. We both tried to raise our children to be smart and successful members of society. 

As Ron pointed out, I suffered and endured this pain alone for many years and lost touch with many friends in trying desperately to hide the dance with the monster. A few years ago, we had dinner with Darlene and Ron and they shared their story with my husband and I. I finally admitted to them for the first time that Clint was in trouble. 

It is a deep dark secret that you don't want to share with casual friends and acquaintances. You don't want anyone to know that you are struggling. You want to appear normal, happy and be proud of you children. It begins to eat away at your emotional and physical health. Each trip to the emergency room, each trip to rehab, each trip to prison for visitation. You hold on to hope by your fingernails while locking you emotions away from the public. 

I lost contact with my son just before Christmas. I called him on Christmas Day to invite him to the family gathering. He told me he didn't feel very Christmassy. I assumed he didn't have money to buy gifts and decided to sit out the celebration. I let it go and forgave him. The following weekend I called to ask him if he wanted to get together, but he declined and said he was tired. I knew he was working two jobs so I forgave him and let it go. Last weekend I was in front of his apartment and called to ask if he wanted company, but he said no he wasn't feeling well. I let it go and forgave him. 

The very next day two detectives came to my door, asked to come in, and asked me to sit down and told me my son passed away. 

I am so used to locking my emotions away I didn't even cry because I knew I had to contact family and arrange a funeral. I knew things had to get done. It was only when I heard my own voice telling people I love that my son passed away that it really hit me. I couldn't speak. I was hanging on to sanity with my fingernails while being swallowed in a deep pain in my heart and soul that almost took away any hope I had left. 

I put that aside and began to contact the funeral home, apartment manager, cleaned out the apartment, stayed busy until the funeral was over. And now all I feel is silence, numbness, and the pain in my heart and soul for my only son that I can never hug and kiss again and his birthday is tomorrow. 

I am fortunate to have a job and people who love me. I am thankful that I can go back to work on Monday and once again lock away the emotions that are tormenting me. Staying busy is the only way I know how to survive. Stay busy and don't think about it. 

I want to thank God for Darlene and Ron, for being there for me. I want to wish anyone who reads this to know that you are not alone. You don't have to be alone. We can get through this together. Inch by inch anything is a cinch. Mile by mile it takes awhile. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Guest Post: Valerie Paulson

I stumbled across your blog and wanted to say THANK YOU for having this as a sounding board for parents, and loved ones of addicts.
It certainly feels like a long, dark and lonely road to travel at times. I have never kept my son's addiction a secret as I have been fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of friends and family who support me. This support can only go so far when it comes to the heartache and worry.
My son is a 27 year old addict who is now in prison. You see.. he steals from our family to support his habit. He has done this numerous times whether it is cash or jewelry to pawn, essentially whatever it takes to get his fix.
I have dealt with this pain for years. Believe me.. I have tried it all to help him overcome his demons. We have had counseling, we have done several rehab treatments  and I am sorry to say.. it has been to no avail.
He brought 2 beautiful baby girls into the world ; one of which I am a legal guardian for. I am 50 years old and my daughter just graduated high school last year. My granddaugher started kindegarten this year. So, as you can see, I am starting over with raising a child. The second baby girl is legally adopted by her foster parents as I felt I could not handle raising a 2nd child. I am forever grateful as these foster parents are truly like a gift from God for me and her. They allow me to see and spend time with my granddaugher as a Grandmother should. Mind you.. both of the mothers are addicts as well.
The addict does not realize how much hurt they inflict on their family and loved ones by their actions. At this point my son will never be allowed to step foot in my house again. As a mother this is truly heartwrenching. You never lose the love and concern you have for your child however, you do at some point come to the realization there is nothing more you can do to help your child. And when you hit that point you refuse to continue to ALLOW him to hurt your family. It took me years to hit this wall and it hurts terribly.
I went to see a counselor when my son took blank checks from my checkbook and started writing them out to support his habit. By the time I noticed the 6 missing checks he had already written out 2 of them to the total of $700.00. I am so thankful we caught on before more damage could be done to our account. At this counseling session I gave a brief rundown of my life situation with my son and inquired " is it ok for a mother to turn her back on her child?" He advised me .. not only was it vital that I do just that immediately but, I should have done it years ago.
With that being said I have come to the realization and awareness that you "Cannot save somebody who does not want to be saved."
I will always love my son and have concern for him but, I have also told him that I am prepared for a phone call that he was found dead of an overdose. It is not a call I want to get but, as a parent of an addict this is a situation I have to be prepared for.
I do write my son in prison as I do love him as I stated earlier. I pray every single day for his safety and well being. I pray everyday that HE comes to the conclusion that he wants something better for his life. As a parent you want your children to be happy and whole. I hope that this comes true for my son but, have decided to step back and hope for the best. And continue to pray.
With regards and hopes of your sons continued health
Val Paulson

Guest Post Time Again

In the past I have opened my blog to guest posts. If you are a parent, brother, sister, child or loved one of an addict and want to write about your story or simply ask a question I would love to have your post. Here is an example of another parent that did this. "How Did We Get Here? Guest Blogger: Lisa"

You don't have to be good at writing. I found there was nothing that helped me more than writing and reading the comments from other readers.

Please, share your wisdom and experience. E-mail your contribution to

A few rules:

  • Guest bloggers can remain anonymous or be public, your choice.
  • Links will be available to your blog or e-mail address if your choose.
  • No commercial advertisements or posts thinly disguised as advertisements for rehabs.
  • Good taste must be used.
  • Appropriate language and content for our community.
  • You will NOT be graded on grammar, but be sure to use spell check.
  • One paragraph or one page, it doesn't matter on length even just a simple question works.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sadness, The Monster Claims Another

Today at 1:58pm we received a call from a long time dear friend. She told us her son had been found dead this morning from a heroin overdose.

These are friends that Darlene grew up with, their back yards butted up to each other.  When Darlene and I began dating we hung out and run around together.

We could talk with them about Alex and they could talk to us, we spoke the same language. We were open about Alex but they could not find a way to be so public about Clint. No matter, neither of us cared we both had a son that danced with the monster, we needed each other.

Clint was just a little younger than Erica, our oldest. As a baby he slept in a small pine cradle I made for him and gave his mom and dad just before he was born. It is hard to think of what to say when someone so close is hurting so bad.