Sweet Hugs

Yesterday, I came within feet of my boy yet couldn’t hug him.


Yesterday I missed a call from my boy where I could have heard his voice for the first time in months.


How many moms would give anything to be able to do that?

When you are the mom of a substance user, these things are important because of the risk of premature or unwarranted death.


Yesterday, I still thought my boy could be gone, until I saw him alive and breathing in an almost interactive picture.


But I had to leave him again in the hands of faith and God.


Because of the way addiction weaves its tentacles into the crevices of people's minds, some things just can't be done the way you would if your loved one had cancer

With Cancer, you would enjoy every last minute and second with your loved one because hope is pretty much gone.

Addiction is more like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s together but with a cure out there leading you around like a dangling carrot.

The mind is under some sort of control, with moments of clarity. The body seems to be unable to stop certain behavior and actions. The mind then over- justifies the behaviors and downplays them. It might even lie about them.


Pride and shame work hand in hand when it comes to feeling like a failure. Pride says: “I can handle it, I don’t need any help, NO MATTER what evidence is presented.”


Shame says: “I’ve lost my hero/dad/husband/son/ uncle/entrepreneur status and the pain cuts so deep that I want to isolate and hurt myself worse.


People/society verify that feeling by treating me as a second class citizen, which then propels me to act worse and take riskier behavior just to survive”.


I used to think Cancer was the worst thing that could happen to a body and mind.


But I now know that cancer is usually temporary- sad & painful- but has a verifiable ending.


Addiction has brought me things that I may never have discovered.


I have crept into places and feelings that may not have existed. Because, you see, as long as my kids were doing well, and what society respected and expected; I could be proud.


But the minute the stigma of addiction hit my family, I had to hide my pain and shame. After all, how do you post the small success of improvement next to the graduations and promotions of others kids?


But addiction also has made me grateful.


Grateful for Hope. For Faith. For the possibilities of recovery and connection.


Grateful for my other kids, that despite all that’s happened, they have proven they can rise above the pain and thrive, possibly in the example and footsteps and honor of their brother, to make a life of joy for their families. After all, what speaks hope and healing better than by example.


I may not have been able hug my boy yesterday but he lies in my heart constantly, whether a few feet away or 400 miles away.

The Journey Of A Thousand Miles

As a Mom, going through this tumultuous journey of loving someone with substance use disorder; I often find myself in a quandary of confusion.


It’s as if I’m in some suspended cloud of anger and sadness, relieved when a ray of hope trickles through the misty light only to be followed by dark thunderstorms of disappointment again.

The steps seemed pretty straight forward at first. After the initial gut-wrenching shock of discovering the drug use of my son; the comfort (and naivety) that he’s an adult and can handle it, left me with a slightly aloof neutrality that it wasn’t my deal.

I mean how serious could a few extra pills be? He worked hard! He was always having back pain. He needed relief, in order to work.

Wow! Was I ever naive.


When the facts of how serious it was becoming- despite continued denial on his part- I found the strange foreboding “routineness” of being the Mom of a struggling substance user, set in.

And THAT was scary!


I couldn’t ignore the signs of impending doom, swirling around like a storm just waiting to hit.


I couldn’t just “wash my hands of it” like Pontius Pilate professed to in ordering the death of Jesus.


As the perpetual shoes kept dropping -a job contract lost; another of his businesses failed; then the marriage crumbles; I watched in sometimes shell-shocked horror at the devastation such a thing could cause.


The rehab failures, mixed with moments of clarity and hope, leave me exhausted.

“Walk away and you’ll feel better”.


“Go to a meeting, do self-care, live your life “.

Right.

It doesn’t seem to matter what mode of recovery my personal journey is at; I seem to be suspended in this cloud of perpetual uncertainty.


Will I be professing the “cure” as my son happily recovers?
Or will I be in the mourning Mothers club of pain & heartache?


It takes me back to elementary school when we played tug-of-war.
Will I be the cheering group with scuffed hands but happy smiles?
Or dragging myself out of the mud in the middle trying to wash the heartache away?

Which team was I on anyway?
Am I with the tough love crowd? Especially on those days when I’m being pressured for money from my son?

Or am I in the loving well- connection- above- all- group?
In the middle, are the harm reduction lobbyists who are adamant about users’ rights & safety.


I’m running back and forth, I want to be on the winning team!
And by winning, I mean I want my child to survive!

Above all, isn’t that goal?

My heart sinks every time I read ‘that post”. A mom who got “the call”.

I want to scream! No! I don’t want to be in this club! I want to show the gut-wrenching pain to all those people on Narcan posts who despise giving addicts more than one chance or ANY chance. I want to advocate for more help, for understanding. I want to break the stigma. I want to gracefully educate and come out feeling proud that we are making progress. One life might be saved.

I want to be that ONE. The one who finally found “the key” & pulled everyone together. I want results or at least palpable progress.

Just when I think I’ve gained some sort of empathy for my son’s and all substance users’ struggles, I’m hit with the accusations. Sometimes a stranger on Instagram, sometimes family and friends. That I’m the reason he still uses. That every time I use “defensive language” regarding him then I’m enabling. Every time I arrange rehab instead of jail, I’m enabling. (Which happened twice in 4 years).


I’m told that I’m wasting my time because he will never change & that I should spend my energy elsewhere. More than once I was cut off from family for how I handled the addiction.

This hits hard.

Rejected-not due to effort but to the direction of my effort.

As if addiction wasn’t painful or complicated enough, it gets to perpetuate its lies and havoc not only onto the addict but onto loved ones and how they “should” react or fulfill their roles.


I felt like my role was to give him one support person like everyone needs. I needed to be able to give him hope in the midst of all the darkness.

As my friend Johanna Richards states so eloquently:


I enable my love and truth. I enable my love. I enable a safe place for him to have a better chance of feeling loved and being treated like a human being with worth and dignity.”


This is my goal.

Everyone gets to choose their response and I choose to love without regrets.

Even “tough love” when done with anger and spite stalls any progress. I read it all the time in the Mom’s groups. Unhealed pain manifests as bitterness and sometimes when they share screenshots of texts with their person, I can’t tell who the addict is!


Addiction loves to do that. Get its slimy hands between families, friends, bosses, even organizations. Divide and conquer is how it survives.

The underlying theme in all these interactions is:

If only he would quit using.

But I have come to realize that quitting is actually a tiny step in achieving actual recovery.

A necessary step, but only part of the process.


Treatment is the gold standard, but it’s a personal responsibility to recover. We have an idea that if we get them there-then the magic will happen.

All is well right?


But in true recovery form, as usually happens- a reoccurrence of use is imminent. Recovery is not linear and usually takes several tries.

The day after his 2nd rehab stay, he moved into an old clapboard & brick sober-living house in the worst area of downtown.


We were standing in line at the grocery store. He was so thrilled at all the new cereal flavors that had come out in the year or two of him being basically homeless or in jail.

He quietly said, with that far away, introspective look he gets in his eyes, “I wish Dad would fight for me. He acts like I shouldn’t have a job”.

My mother- heart sank.

As I watched this 36-year-old man trying to make sense of this un-make-sensible disease; I was sad. How could I explain to this newly detoxed brain, with raw emotion scourging back to life into places that he wasn’t ready to handle – that no one trusted him? That people hate putting their reputation on the line when statistically, responsible behavior in recovery, is a non-linear maze of disappointment.

He went on to say, “He wouldn’t even have that job if it wasn’t for me”. In his mind, he had done so much for others, for many years and felt abandoned, in a sense.

I felt for him. To have so much hope and the momentum of getting back to center but then constantly be told you might fail, like a certain recovery model preaches; must be daunting. To have people who don’t initiate their own recovery and work on responses and healthy boundaries; lay all the pressure on him to fix everything- must be devastating.

Rehab is a huge deal to him. He’s NOT a revolving rehab-ber, so this was a giant accomplishment to his independent, resourceful lifestyle.

But he had done the thing…


Get off the drugs, ✔go to jail,✔ go to rehab. ✔


“You’re still not good enough” or even “You are 100% useless” as one text on his phone said.

I sigh. This was his journey.

I can’t hold his pain or drive his recovery.


I can’t dwell in the negative, I just can’t. We’ve come so far.

I have to take care of me.

I need relief. I need feedback.

I go back to the support groups for comfort. When I hear the echoes of those same attitudes from hurt wives and mothers who can’t contain their pain and disdain for what they’ve been through; I quickly exit out of that group.


I need a more moderate group who understands the Mom side with compassion and hope.


All is well until someone mentions:
“All drug dealers should get life without parole or death”.


I freeze.


Please God no……


If my son is only worthy of help when he’s ‘clean’ or not crossing a certain line in the jagged destructive course of addiction; then the other 50% of the time, it’s a toss-up as to his worth?

Is he surviving the best he can, day by day- or asking family for money?
It seems, either way, he’s the villain.


According to some, if I’m not doing a thing for him then he has a chance -( to hit rock bottom) – even though – unrecovered, he has zero chance of keeping a regular job or getting money legally.

What happens in that gap?

If he can’t support himself, he certainly can’t support his kids. But that must be my fault too. I must have given him too many hamburgers when he was starving.

Ughh. The uncertainty and mixed messages that Mommas feel!

My goal was ALWAYS to get him back to his kids. In whatever way he could get healed and treated in order for that to happen. I never ever justified or supported him staying in his lifestyle. To do that I had to maintain a connection.


If I even so much as hint that connection works better than shame and punishment, then someone tells me I’m supporting his lifestyle.

What is a life worth?

Every single life in this convoluted mess of evil entanglement is of value. Each person is caught in their own version of the hell that it causes.


OTHER people in PAIN are not the enemy!

I want to have that blasted on every Billboard right next to:


NARCAN to overdoses is like AED paddles to a heart attack!" 
 It's not a "get out of jail free card!".

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how to help my son anymore.

What I do know is that my son never ever wanted it to be like this. The man who used to send his little girl flowers every time he worked out of town is now considered a dead-beat dad and it tears my heart out. Years of substance use and conflict has isolated him further. In the short window when he is detoxed and willing, he can’t seem to conform fast enough to recovery expectations with a complete rebuilding of his life.


He has nothing-unhoused, unemployed and yet expected to manage and fix ALL his relationships AND fulfil the court obligations.


When I hear from some that “he hasn’t called me, or done this or that”, I have to step back and accept the limit of recovery expectations.


If the determining factor for a relationship of an unhealed, skewed-thinking brain versus a healthy brain is for the unhealed brain to lead the way to healthy interactions, there’s going to be problems.

There’s a dynamic at work in ALL relationships that was there before the drugs, and now those issues need more attention than even before.


But the pressure seems to be placed on them, to fulfil our hopes and dreams for their lives as it relates to ours.

That’s a lot for one person.

The progressive nature of unhealed addiction mixed with the correctional system almost always leads to more crime.

A draw towards people and places who fill that empty hole that substances, or any addictive behavior fill.

For me, the justification for spending more money on a much-needed intervention at this point, is a hard sell. He’s facing charges that could be years in prison. Prison is expensive too, but so are funerals.

I think he feels like he’s stuck in a system that never lets them breathe freely without looking over their shoulder.


I see what that psyche has done to him. It changes a person. He’s hardened. Day by day, little by little and that saddens my aching heart.

Pain & trauma damage a soul. It causes cognitive dissonance to maintain a core belief such as “I can’t function without drugs”.


So in his limited mind of engrained negative and survival pathways, he can’t win.


Sometimes, I understand why people stay in deep dark places. Although to us, it looks and feels scary, to them, it’s safety. It’s home. It’s acceptance.



No, I’m not justifying drug use. I’m justifying human beings in severe turmoil and trauma. If they didn’t have trauma before the addiction, they certainly do after it.

So, this journey of a thousand miles is truly just one step at a time.

There are days I have to literally force myself to breathe and count each step to get through the day. Some days each step is filled with angst, trepidation, & fear. But other days, I project hope into every deliberate movement and breath.

I envision the day when my hopes and dreams mesh perfectly with my sons.

When all things good and right come together in some kind of radical entanglement with the universe and God’s plan for him. To see little kids happy smiles beaming joy into faces of love is my ultimate wish. To have the love and understanding of family with everyone’s pain in the journey acknowledged, seen & heard with hope, moving forward in love.

Death

Death is so final


Some say it’s just a transition
Nothing to mourn really:

If you could see the whole picture you be would be sooo at peace with the journey & what’s needed to achieve that experience

But we can’t see the whole picture
We only know our own hearts & our own pain

And that pain carries through the years.
Affecting our thoughts and actions down the line.

Those who haven’t experienced deep loss (or gave themselves permission to feel it) don’t understand.

Or they’ve hardened themselves.

Or covered up the pain with other things.

But it will eventually seep thru
In an old song
Or a fragrance
Revisiting a place
& It all comes back

Among the chaos of life
You can’t help but remember The kind words spoken, or a gift they gave you

Or the pain in their eyes.

That you would give anything now to go back to & stop

But you can’t. So you make peace the best you know how…

By honoring their name & memory
& Remembering the good they’ve done
The many lives they’ve touched

That’s how our loved ones live on…💙💔⛅

Why Don’t They Just Quit?

Aww yes, the million dollar question.

Many many studies and opinions around this question of course.

One of the most long standing resources with the same name is from Joe Herzanek of The changing lives foundation.

Here’s some other Interesting facts that help us to understand why they don’t want to quit.

I didn’t write this but I actually have my son on audio saying this exact same premise.

It’s one of many audio recordings I have of him, that I put in my upcoming book 1000 Last Goodbyes.

“If you can think of the happiest days of your life, i.e. wedding day, birth of your firstborn, landing your dream job, etc. your dopamine level rises to about 200 units.
Methamphetamine’s powerful effects come from its impact on the brain’s reward, or pleasure, center. Meth does not directly release dopamine. It attaches itself to dopamine receptor sites and fools neurons into releasing large quantities of dopamine. This accounts for the intense rush a user experiences from meth.

“In addition, meth prevents dopamine from being recycled. Instead, dopamine is active in the body for much longer, explaining the extra long duration of the meth high. The drug does this by blocking (inhibiting) the dopamine transporter involved in its reabsorption (reuptake) into the original neuron that sent it. Transporters are places on neurons that reabsorb the dopamine after it has completed its job. As a result, more dopamine becomes available to the brain. This extra dopamine, in turn, activates an even greater number of dopamine receptors. This increased release of dopamine is primarily responsible for the intensity and duration of meth-amphetamine’s effects.

“In lab animal experiments conducted by UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Program, sex caused dopamine levels to increase to 200 units and cocaine caused levels to rise to 350 units. With meth-amphetamine, dopamine levels jumped to about 1,250 units. Overall, this study showed that meth causes about 12 times as much feelings of pleasure as sex, food, and other activities, including the use of other illegal stimulant drugs. All illegal drugs of abuse release dopamine, but that methamphetamine “produces the mother of all dopamine releases.” So, when an addict stops using nothing seems right, life seems dull and gray. Meth is a beast but I do know addicts who fought hard and got free of it”.

I wrote about Dopamine in This post last year and The tempest explains it well in this article.

Until they are ready to get help, we also have to be open to new thoughts of saving their life, such a harm reduction.Believe me, I never thought I would be saying those words until the last 6 months when I was met with the immensely stubborn, deeply hijacked version of my brilliant, driven entrepreneur son.

This is a great video on Harm reduction with Dee Dee Stout who wrote a book Coming to Harm Reduction Kicking and Screaming- which I can relate! She also writes a blog for Families for Sensible Drug Policies an organization with tons of resources.

Harm reduction is an entire blog in itself so I’ll save that for later but the important thing is it BUYS TIME until they can decide to seek recovery. My bottom line that helped me see harm reduction as a necessity is when I witnessed my son in full withdrawals thrashing around in the back seat of my car. He was begging me to take him to get drugs just to stop him from this torture. I said ( yelled) to him “Good hell xxxx, is this not enough to get you to stop? How can you be this sick & not want to ever experience it again?”. He told me, “Mom, this is nothing- try lying in a drug house so sick you can’t move or walk and begging people there to help you- either with drugs or take you to the hospital while they laugh saying -no way dude, we’re not getting arrested”……

I realized in that moment that if he had a needle covered in swamp water or ‘anything’ it would NOT HAVE STOPPED him from plunging it into his arm for relief.

An addict is NOT going to suddenly stop using because they don’t have clean needles. Clean needles WILL however prevent further pain & suffering by avoiding the added disease of hepatitis and Aids.

We have to keep pointing them to recovery! A whole new life is right there waiting for them”.

I have a large collection of recovery quotes (over 200) on my Facebook profile under photos- We Do Recover album . I love to share.

The Scream

The scream.

Johann Hari nailed it.

Except my scream is buried inside me.

I go through my day in auto mode. The little problems, the endless chitter-chatter.
Someone needs a bandaid or an Electrocardiogram.

A mom of one of my patients wants to talk about vitamins.

Vitamins!!!!!

What about oxycodone? Or Heroin? Let’s talk about that evil monster that ruined my life the last few years.
But I can’t. I have to pretend I care.
I have to BE NICE.
Professional.
I can’t think of my son sitting in a jail cell with a bullet hole in his leg.

Continue reading The Scream

Quiet Suffering

I heard the squeak and the roar of the Monday morning trash pickup as it crept through the neighborhood. It was always a loud wake up call- on the dot-at 6:30 am. The brakes, the lifting of the cans, the dumping. Then the steady, beeping horn, signaling the truck’s reverse gear.

The air was thick with a cold January breeze- always threatening a new winter storm. This day, like so many others lately, was not a typical Monday morning grind day. This day was going to be a “mental health day” for me. Sounds wimpy, I know. But the reality is, over the last 2 years, I’ve had at least 2 a month sometimes up to 5. Yes, it hits hard on the budget, but I can’t seem to help it.

Emotional overload is a thing.

Some days, the emotional energy required to function outside of my ‘safe’ house is astronomical. The mental anguish that is like a not-so-silent black and white film- always running in the back of my head- is exhausting.

People who delight in telling me what a horrible son I have, think that they are giving me some new information that I’ve never thought of. Not that I think he’s horrible, nor will I ever entertain the “lets bash the black sheep drug addict” crowd by talking shizz about my 36 year old very lost, very in trouble, son.

What they don’t know is that the rolling script of everything that he’s done and continues to do, plays over and over in my mind constantly. The brief glimpses of sobriety and in- person interactions that I get with him always seem to be criticized that I do too much, or that I hang onto his every word, or that I have too much hope that he has really turned the corner.

They’re not wrong

I DO do those things. I DO have too much faith sometimes. I do hang on his every word. Trying to figure out the chaotic mind of the person I birthed who still eludes all rational thought and reason. 

I do those things because I know the time is limited. This moment shall pass. He is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Sometimes, in those brief moments I have physical eyes on him; I catch him staring off into the distance even as he rushing to get somewhere. I see his torment. His struggle. So many people want so many things from him that his {usually} unhealed brain can’t promise.

Yet he still does what he has always done:

Spin a great tale about this or that; starting another business, building tiny homes, or taking on the world of cement again.


He wants to. I know he does. He wants to be known for his success again. He wants to be respected. He wants to be worthy of people’s ( family) time and attention. He was looking so forward to being able to see his kids again until the goal post was moved so far that he lost hope.

What I see that no one else sees, is his pain. His actions depict an uncaring drug addict who can’t get off the spinning wheel and who can’t seem to follow the legal requirements to break out of it’s grasp. But I see that all those things are an attempt to fix an internal problem. He hates when I say that. He won’t admit anything.

I’m not the textbook addict who has had trauma”

I can hear him saying it now.

But I hear it- maybe not trauma, but pain- in those moments of frustration, when he makes the call to me to vent. It’s not very often. It’s like a pattern of when he takes 2 steps forward, that are not good enough, because it was supposed to be 3, so he falls back 5.

His anguish and fear and disappoint come through in those moments of realization that he will never be good enough or reach high enough for some- especially the legal system who now have brought up charges from 9 months ago.

To him, the goal is completely out of reach.

Why bother? Says the defeated unhealed brain.

Despite his pre-drug life of reaching every goal he worked day and night for; now his damaged brain and reward system can’t think that far ahead. He’s still in survival mode. When he was searching for jobs to re-enter the workforce, I caught a glimpse of the man afraid to fail. He casually mentioned that some of the jobs would be too much responsibility, too stressful for what he could manage in early recovery. I couldn’t believe it- after all his experience. But it was honesty. A brief glimpse into his vulnerability of failure.

He knew one thing he was good at. Hustling. And within a week of being told the conditions of seeing his kids, he was back doing what he does. Hustling and bustling. At first he was trying to get enough money to help. Then he realized it would never be enough and he was back into the life of isolating and who knows what. Like a snap of the finger, he was gone.

So now, he’s a liar. Projection- that he never intended to do anything. Fulfilling the stigma of the drug addict who’s incapable of keeping his word.

He cajoled us in that ever present aura of having everything under control that makes people spill all of THEIR hopes and dreams onto him, thinking all was well and back to “normal”. But 2 months is NOT normal. The brain is still churning to process every little thing.

The circle continues- shame- blame- hope- disappointment – failure.

We were all guilty………again. Of placing so much responsibility and expectations so soon onto a brain that was slowly trying to figure out life without the safe covering of substances to dull it. But we won’t be called out, because the addict is always the scapegoat now. For anything that goes wrong.

Steven Covey used to say:

“People are very tender, very sensitive inside. I don’t believe age or experience makes much difference. Inside, even within the most toughened and calloused exteriors, are the tender feelings and emotions of the heart.”


So yes. I’m aware of my sons failings and flailings. I was told that I should stop listening to what a drug addict tells me and that I should put my time and energy elsewhere.

Ok.

Let me turn off my mind and my heart.

But first I need a “sick day”.

A Monday morning mental health day.



Tomorrow hasn’t even begun and your chest is already tight and your heart is racing just thinking about this week.

I get it. It can be so easy feel trapped in a downward spiral when we begin to think about everything we have on our plates. All the things that could happen or go wrong. All the emotions that come with the unknowns.

But may I remind you, dear one, God has already been through this week. He knows what’s going to happen, it doesn’t surprise him. He knows when you will be anxious this week, and he’s already preparing you to fight that anxiety. He understands you are having a hard time trusting his goodness over life right now, and he is strengthening you by his Spirit.

Take a deep breath in.

Remind yourself of his perfect sovereignty.

Lift your eyes up to the heavens.

Speak his name as you let your breath out.

Allow yourself to be still.

It’s more of him and less of everything else you need to hear right now.

Feel your heart beating in your chest.

It’s already slowing down and your chest doesn’t feel quite so tight.

Do you feel that?

That’s the peace of the Holy Spirit that passes any kind of human understanding or reasoning. And it’s that same peace that will be ready for you every moment of this hard week ahead.

Grasp it tight, knowing it’s your saving grace.

Trust its strength, believing in its perfect power made strong in your weakness.

Believe fully, knowing just how loved you are and how freely this gift is given to you as a woman hidden in Christ.- From Blacktop to Dirt Road

Holding Space

I don’t think I had even heard these words until a few years ago. Even then it took me a while to figure out what it meant. Is it like holding someone’s place in a long line to achieve a certain goal at the end (or is it the beginning?) of the line? Is it telling them “I want you to achieve the same reward as me, I want you here by my side?”

Or is just learning to shut out your inner desire to respond even when what they are saying or doing goes against everything you believe?

Is it standing in that gap where on one side evil is slinging its fiery darts in the darkness hoping to hit its vulnerable targets, and on the other side is the pure love of God who sees your loved one as a struggling soul capable of so much more?

We stand in this chasm, this gap of space; with tears running down our face, lost in our own tug of war. Being told to get out of the way of God’s work or on the other hand- to stop helping, stop doing, stop trying so hard. To us that means to stop caring, stop responding. Let them sink further until surely they come up begging and willing to do anything.

Except most times they don’t. You see, to have the characteristics and prime breeding ground for an addict to develop; you have to have the strength of steel.

To form steel, it gets reheated for whatever purpose it’s intended for then just before the final product, it is run under cold water so it can be polished and shiny for its debut.

The person who’s headed toward addiction is not a weak person. They have an iron grit so strong & beaming that it can’t help be noticed by the enemy due to the ability to stand out. They have talents and an incredible mind. They have a certain desire and need to be different. They might be seen as rebels or just compassionately committed to being “all in” on any project.

So, you see, society’s idea that addiction is a moral failure or a sign of weakness couldn’t be further from the truth.

So here we are. Standing in that space. Fighting not only the demons who now hold such power over our loved one; but fighting all of society that this effort is worth it. It’s worth more than the attention given to other projects, most seemingly far away. In that gap of darkened light, we want to scream. We do sometimes. We just want to be heard, seen. We want desperately for someone, everyone, to hold that space for us!

For us. So we can give up one of the fights that tear our soul. The fight to defend our position.

That same space that our addicts loved ones ask for.

The space of non-judgment. The space of not arguing for their choices. The space of just being there. In all of the addictions’ grimey mess. In its sadness. Its pain.

What would it take to get to that space?

Patience.

Grace.

Silent confirmation of their worth.

Willingness to give up control.

Willingness to not be vested in the outcome.

Willingness to love,

EVEN IF. 

Relapse

From Alta Mira treatment center which I have no affiliation or guarantee of services.

The relapse rates for addiction are very similar to those of other chronic illnesses. For example, relapse rates for diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma are 30 to 50 percent, 50 to 70 percent, and 50 to 70 percent, respectively. Relapse rates for drug addiction are 40 to 60 percent. Even when treated, chronic illnesses of all types cause relapses. The idea that addiction is a chronic illness has been proven time and again, and it was in 2016 that the U.S. Surgeon General announced it as fact. He called for drug addiction to be treated as a chronic illness.

Making positive changes, such as eating better, getting regular exercise, and socializing with sober friends can make a big difference in preventing relapses.

Chronic relapse is frustrating, painful, and can be dangerous. It occurs when someone is treated for drug or alcohol addiction but uses again after being sober for a period of time. Because addiction is considered a chronic illness, relapse is common. However, it can be treated and prevented with long-term, individualized treatment that combines therapy, support groups, support from family, and treatment for other conditions. Managing chronic relapse also requires lifestyle changes and avoiding triggers.

Relapse for people in recovery from addiction is very common. About half of all people treated for addiction will relapse, often more than once. Relapses can be useful, in that they help a person realize that sticking with ongoing treatment is important or help identify triggers to be avoided. But chronic relapse disease is very serious and can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. It can last for years or even decades, causing a cycle of chronic relapse, addiction, treatment, recovery, and back to the beginning again.

The best way to prevent, treat, and manage chronic relapse is to start with a solid foundation of consistent and individualized long-term treatment for addiction. The first 90 days of recovery are when most people relapse, so staying in a residential treatment center for that period is a good way to manage and prevent relapse. Ongoing care and lifestyle changes, including avoiding triggers, is important after a residential stay to remain in recovery and avoid relapse.

Addiction Is a Chronic Illness
Having a relapse is frustrating, and it can be dangerous too. Relapsing multiple times is even more frustrating, but it is important to understand that relapse is not a moral failure on the part of the person struggling with addiction. Through research, experts now largely agree that addiction is a chronic illness. Relapses can be managed and prevented, but they are also very common and expected.



The Cycle of Chronic Relapse
Addiction causes changes in the brain that ultimately make it very difficult to stop using drugs and alcohol and that cause relapses after treatment. Addiction begins when the drug used causes the brain to be flooded with chemicals that make the user feel good. This is like a reward that may lead the person to use again in order to get that pleasure sensation. Over time, this overstimulation in the brain leads to serious changes in the brain that impact the ability to feel pleasure, impulse control, memory, and other functions.

A relapse is typically caused by a trigger—some cue in the environment—that acts in the brain of a recovering addict to begin cravings. The brain learned at some point in time that these triggers were like rewards. A trigger could be a person that the user got high with often, a place where they used drugs, or a favorite bar. The triggers remind the brain that these things in the past led to that pleasure sensation. Changes in the brain caused by drugs or alcohol have essentially rewired it to associate these triggers with substance use. Triggers cause a cycle of chronic relapse that can be difficult to combat.


Chronic Relapse Treatment
A relapse may be treated in different ways depending on the needs of the individual. For some people, a relapse may be minor and short-lived and may come after long-term, intensive residential treatment. This type of addiction patient may only need to go to extra support group meetings or additional sessions with a counselor to overcome the relapse and get back on track.

For other people in recovery, a relapse may be more severe, causing more damage and requiring greater intervention to overcome. In some cases, a patient may benefit from going back to the beginning of treatment, getting readmitted to a treatment facility, and going through detox and treatment a second or third time. As with a first time in treatment, this relapse treatment will likely involve one-on-one therapy, group support, and alternative therapies. It will also include taking lessons from the relapse, working with therapists to understand what happened, and learning what the patient can do differently in the future to avoid a similar situation.

Chronic Relapse Prevention
The best prevention for relapse is to get good, long-term treatment for addiction and any underlying or co-occurring disorders that contribute to the addiction. Simply stopping use of a drug and detoxing is not adequate and will lead to relapse in nearly 100 percent of cases. Reducing and preventing relapse must begin with thorough and consistent treatment that is proven effective.

Research into addiction treatment has found that there are several factors needed for it to be effective, and effective is defined as having minimal relapses. These include making treatment plans individualized, addressing multiple needs of a patient, like underlying mental illnesses, and staying in treatment for at least three months, or 90 days.

This last factor is proven to be crucial for avoiding relapses. Staying in treatment for a minimum of three months has been proven to give patients the best outcomes, including avoiding relapses. Many patients end up leaving treatment early, but sticking with the program gives them the best possible chances at recovery.

A very important part of treatment that helps to prevent relapse is learning about triggers and how to avoid or manage them. Therapy sessions help patients identify their triggers, learn strategies for avoiding them, and also learn mechanisms for coping with triggers that cannot always be avoided. For instance, stress may be a trigger but can’t be eliminated, so treatment can include learning strategies for healthy stress management to reduce the urge to relapse. This kind of relapse prevention therapy is an important part of cognitive behavioral therapy that is often used to treat addiction.

Medications to Prevent Relapse
Depending on the substance of abuse, there may be medications that can help prevent relapse. For instance, there are drugs that can reduce cravings for opioids and even block the effects of opioids like heroin. Alcohol cravings can also be managed with certain drugs. While older philosophies of treatment avoided using any kind of drugs for treating addiction, experts today know from research that medications can actually help. With fewer cravings or with the effects of a drug blocked, relapsing becomes less likely.

Self-Care and Ongoing Treatment to Prevent Relapse
A chronic relapse disorder or cycle can be tough to break and using all tools at one’s disposal is important. This means adding ongoing treatment, lifestyle changes, and self-care. If a patient goes back to his or her lifestyle as it was before treatment, there may be many triggers that lead to relapse.

In addition to making these changes and making self-care a priority, most patients in recovery can also benefit from ongoing treatment to avoid relapse. This may include regular attendance at support group meetings, but it also may mean keeping up with regular therapy sessions. Maintaining that link with a therapist can be an important way to manage stress, learn and continue practicing healthy coping mechanisms, and make the kinds of behavioral changes that are important for staying sober.

Relapse is Not Failure
When it comes to chronic relapse, alcoholism and drug addiction need to be treated as chronic illnesses. It is easy to view relapse as a failure, but it is not. It is simply a recurrence of a very serious illness. This does not mean that individuals should not work hard to avoid relapses, but viewing them as failures is damaging and counterproductive. Ongoing treatment, trigger avoidance, positive lifestyle changes, and support from loved ones all help, but the most important piece of the puzzle is long-term and comprehensive residential treatment that gives an individual a solid foundation for recovery.

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-2/151-160.pdf

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2756688/

https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/brain-health/science-says-addiction-a-chronic-disease-not-a-moral-failing

For Information About Admissions
Contact Us Today


Admissions 888-292-7802

Happy Thanksgiving

I walked up to the counter at the convenience store with my drink to purchase. “Good morning! anything fun planned for today?” The cheery clerk said to me, his smile evident even under his big black mask. “He would have to ask today”. I thought.

I stammered and stalled a bit.

“No, not really”. I lied.

My stomach dropped in sadness. Sadness that I couldn’t actually say what I was doing.

Sadness that I couldn’t leap for joy and tell everyone what this day represented. Sadness that I couldn’t be happy and have everyone accept that happiness.

“Oh well, it’s probably for the best”. I thought as I walked out of the store. I need to conserve my energy for the day. I don’t need to waste it on explaining and justifying my happiness.

You see, I was on my way to rehab to pick up my son. The last few months had been a much-needed break from his addiction journey. This wasn’t a usual occurrence. Exactly 2 years ago to the day, he was headed to the airport to go to his first rehab in Kentucky. Two years ago this morning, we had a family intervention in the middle of a raging snowstorm. 2 years ago today, my son chose to not run away and go back to his life of drugs. He flew across the country with people he didn’t know and tried his best to battle his disease. His experience at that time lasted about 76 days. It was a miracle. And today is too.

Five weeks in jail, 2 months in rehab, all culminated to today. He was being released to sober living. With all the nervousness of the event, and the need to keep my excitement reined in; it was hard to feel relaxed and give thanks for it all. But I needed to. I just could not be attached to the outcome. I had done everything possible to help my son succeed. But the real work was on him. He’s the one that has to fight the demons. He’s the one that has to make responsible choices. He’s the one that can save himself. Not the store clerk. Not my family. Not me. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not his sober coach, probation officer, or judge.

How to explain all this to the casual person? Impossible. Yet if I said “My son is graduating from the University”, it would need no explanation. It would just be wonderful. Congratulations would be thrown around like confetti. For a rehab graduation, I can just hear the tongue in cheek

“Well…. alrighty then- congratulations”. As if it’s an afterthought.

It’s ok though. Those other people don’t have to live in my head or love my family or pay my bills. In reality, I will probably never see that clerk again. What matters is that my people feel loved. That my God calms my fears.

It’s as-if he was gone away to the university anyway. I didn’t see him for 9 months then for 16 months. Four years of struggle and strife. Not being at family events. In and out of jail. Worry after worry. He received the degree. The degree of grit. Persistence – even if it was in the wrong arena, he still survived incredible odds. He deserves an award of:

‘Most Likely to Get in Over His head and Come out with Valuable Lessons to Share’-

From the college of real life addiction in every city, America.

The day turned out great, despite the condition of the old sober living we took him to. After trying to change it- but lacking the funds; and going shopping to get him some supplies, I dropped him off at the door. At the end of this momentous day- he said, “Mom, it’s ok, it’s better than running and hiding like I have been”. I made sure to compliment and encourage him. I was so proud. I sent him this text later:

I just want to tell you how amazing you are. 
You're my hero. For how resilient you are, yet so kind and caring

None of this can be easy. Being tossed around & told what to do, but you are a champion. A warrior.
I'm so grateful I get to be your mom and I'm grateful that I get to see you grow in this journey. ... I mean you are still the same old boy but I love that I have that back.
🖤💯🖤

Thankful By Choice

Every single day I have a choice. I can choose to see what I want to see.

Every day for over a year this truck parked directly in front of the door that goes into the elevators at my work. It was blocking the door for 💯’s of other people even when there are 💯’s of other parking spaces. Every day I would get irritated at why they couldn’t they see how far forward they were. None of the other 4 parking garage floors had a car in front of the door.

I even took pictures of it and would post them on my Facebook page to show how irritated I was. Now, 4 years later; it’s completely insignificant. In fact, it seems ridiculous that I wasted the energy on it.

I mean, It helps that I don’t have to walk by it everyday too. But I also have had much larger problems to deal with. When you start having to worry about life or death matters, things like trucks and material items don’t even compare.

These days, I have learned I can choose to notice how self-serving people are.

When an elevator door opens, the people waiting to get on immediately head in with no regard to those getting out- paying no attention to this “societal “rule. Then there’s traffic. Everyone just trying to meet their needs. In a fast and dangerous way- I might add.

The choice to be irritated all day long is ours. Or we can choose to give people the benefit of the doubt EVEN under “suspicion LOOKING circumstances”. Matt Kahn proposes that even if the things that bother you weren’t there you would still feel the same. Unless you resolve the internal discontent. It’s hard to imagine that getting what we want wouldn’t make us happy, but we see it over and over again. Celebrities, politicians. Even people we know.

"If your life were any different, you'd feel exactly the same. This is the irony of life's eternal perfection. Once you no longer rely on outside circumstances, in order to feel good, or even require feeling good, in order to be relaxed and open, something far greater than the tracking of ups, downs, gains and losses awakens within you. This is the heart of awakening.-
Matt Kahn , Whatever Arises, Love That: A Love Revolution That Begins with You

We only have control of our own mind and reactions.

Things that are OUT of our control change can so quickly. We have a choice in these matters too but it should be easier in the other mundane, albeit irritating things.

It seems reasonable that the things that aren’t so much of a choice, such as a sick baby, or a job loss, or unexpected expensive car problems- are going to happen regardless.

This Thanksgiving week I’m going try to notice blessings. At least that person driving the truck and parking it to inconvenience others- doesn’t have car problems that day. At least they have a nice truck.

Or that those people walking into the elevator without letting others off- can walk that day. They are not stuck in a hospital learning how to walk again for whatever reason.

This week is HUGE for me anyway. 2 years of pleading, cajoling, begging, praying & hoping for is actually happening today. It should be a huge party. A celebration of life living and surviving. A pat on the back of beating one giant lap of this journey.

My son graduates rehab today. Its a huge feat. It’s not something that he has repeatedly done in his addiction experience, like some. This is only the second time. So it’s doubly, triply worth celebrating. Yet it feels on the outside like I can’t be happy.

The worry and stress out about what could go wrong. The living conditions he’s going into are worry some. The need to control his experience and do it my way. Or insisting that I know what’s best for another human. I get mad when someone else appears to know what I should do, yet I still want to control others thoughts and actions in order to make me feel better about the process.

I could continue these thoughts. I could join everyone else in not believing he can do it. I can participate in being nervous every second and judging every moment. Or, I can honor my son’s journey and give it to God. I can relish in the fact that I have had my son back for the last 3 months. In addiction, you can never get too comfortable. You have to just embrace every moment of positive interaction you can. I have even relished the negative moments because at least my son dares tell me his fears and struggles. He feels intense pressure to perform a perfect recovery. He feels financial pressure to pick up where he left off exactly 3 yrs ago. He has to show he can follow life’s rules again almost perfectly. This is with an insidious cunning disease that is never linear on his back always waiting to pounce.

Just for today, I’m going to enjoy and embrace my blessings. Just for today, I’m going to try to be an example of love. Just for today, I’m going to honor my fears along with everyone else’s.