Sunday, February 14, 2010

A reminder from Lou and some hindsight- Updated*

As I was reading Lou's post here, it brought back a lot of memories. Actually, they are fond memories.

Ahhh, the familiarity of that long hard road back into living in sobriety from living in addiction.

Some of my fondest memories and most serene moments were when I was facing a hardship that was at one time unimaginable.

For example, the second time I had to go back to jail because of a court error, only this time I was sober. I was not withdrawing. The concrete of the cell did not make my body ache and writhe from simple contact. I was not afraid of how long I would be in there. The charges against me were not pending, while I cowered in a bunk bed, itching and shaking from the lack of meth amphetamines in my system, soaked in sweat and regret. I never thought I could survive a night in jail. Then I thought I could never survive a night in jail without drugs of some sort, but there I was, soaking in only my sobriety and I survived.

Or the time I sat waiting for the bus to get to work, in 3 feet of snow and temperatures in the single digits, unaware that the weather was so bad that the city was nearly shut down. (I had never set foot on a city bus OR went without a car from the time I was 16, up until I went to jail and came out with no home and an impounded car that I could not afford to get out). It was 7 am and I had to wait for 2 extra hours because the buses were behind and I had to get creative to stay warm. I had only  my bus pass- no money for lunch and no cell phone (couldn't afford it), and no one to call even if I would have had the change.

I grew numb from the cold. I made it to work by 10:30, just to learn it had been closed due to the snow (I didn't have a phone for them to call me and tell me), and even though I already thought I couldn't take a moments more cold, I went back to the bus stop and did it all over again. I arrived at my scary apartment in the city, just about 5 in the evening, barely able to move because I had to walk from the main street, (about a mile) in my wet clothes that had defrosted on the bus and were now frozen to my leg hairs. Yet I was thankful to have a shower and ramen noodles to warm me. Despite all of the commotion from the murder in the building next door, I was just thankful that today, my door was locked, and no murderer or drug dealer would be knocking on my door.

Another, distinct experience (there were many), was when I unexpectedly got my period on the way to a supervised visit with my children. I had already stopped at the dollar store to spend my last $10 on some cheap games to play with the kids and some snacks, that I agonized over whether they were healthy enough. I ran from the bus, afraid blood was going to soak through my clothes, ran in and out of the bathroom to take care of it, and got to the door of the Human Services room just in time to see my case worker's disappointed glare, her finger tapping her watch, and the clock on the wall informing me I was 2 minutes late before she got the chance.

I saw my kids on the other side of the room and she told me my visit was cancelled  because I was late. She told them to go ahead and leave and we would "try again next week." She did not let me say good bye. As I sat and wept, and tried to explain to her what had happened, she proceeded to inform me what a worthless and unreliable parent I was. She also added that no woman does not know when she is going to get her cycle and that it was a pathetic excuse. All I could think of was how wrong this situation was. I wanted to go get high to ease the pain, SO BAD.

(You might be wondering where the serenity comes by now... read on)

The next bus wouldn't be there for an hour, so I had nothing to do but sit and wait and try to stop crying. About 10 minutes after the whole ordeal transpired, another mother walked in (10 minutes late for her appointment with her children). I had watched her children sitting and waiting for her, while the case worker, (a different one than mine) explained to the kids that their mom might not make it again. I knew this mother. She was in my drug and alcohol class. She had tested positive earlier in the week (something that would have ceased my visits immediately if it were me and my case worker).

She explained how her boyfriend had gotten in trouble with his PO, and he was her ride, so that is why she was late. I couldn't help but to look at the graham crackers and apple juice in my bag, and the games for my kids, and then notice the grease soaking through the Mc Donald's bag she had brought. She was allowed to proceed with her visit.

I sat there for the next 30 minutes. I was filled with sadness and rage, initially. I would get up, intending to go ask to speak to (confront)  my case worker, then rethink it for fear of being documented as an unruly client. More tears than I wanted, came. When my caseworker would walk through the lobby, I would work hard to conceal them, for fear of being documented as an unstable client.

So many things went through my mind. I had so many questions and no one to ask them of. Suddenly, I started asking them of myself and answering them.

Do you deserve to be seeing your kids today?

Why does this woman get to have so much control over my life?

Why did that other mother get to see her kids and I didn't?

Am I a good mother?

What did I do to deserve this?

I KNEW I was a good mother damnit! I was not going to let her defeat me. As the tears dried on their own, I got up to walk to catch my bus, and I realized many things. Whatever the consequences, or how unfair the situation appeared, I would not be there if had not chosen to use drugs and commit crimes. I really was the more advantaged mother in the situation, because that mother would likely never truly recover and might lose her kids indefinitely because I was aware of how many times she had already tested positive.

I still had my sobriety, I still had the opportunity to see my children again. Instead of leaving in anger, I left with intention. Intention to prove to myself what I was capable of... to show my case worker who I really was, and to always be at least an hour early for visits.

Six months later, as I sat down to my final interview with my caseworker, someone who I had actually developed a kinship with and who ultimately stood up for me in court and asked for what was supposed to be a one year treatment plan to be expedited and my children returned immediately, I told her THANK YOU for holding me accountable and creating an environment where I had to prove to myself that the mother I always should of known was there, really existed.

She said THANK you for being the mother that she always knew existed.

The incredible, unbelievable irony, is that she was late for our last meeting because she had started HER period unexpectedly.
I didn't cancel the appointment.

The point for me became that I could not control every situation and that because of my (criminal and negligent) actions, I was going to have to go through some things that I had once thought too horrible for even the worst person to experience. The unbearable became bearable.

I had no choice but to ask and answer my own questions. I had fucked up so bad, that no one asked questions anymore, because they didn't believe my answers. I had to prove I was worth a question or a concern, and even then, no one was anxiously waiting to hear my answer or ease my pain.

I remember a time when every lie I told, was believed. I remember when every guilt trip and exaggerated emotion was met with an eagerness to accommodate and a desire to fix me. My grandpa called it love. I recognize it now as enabling EDIT* my self destructive behaviors and addiction.

(I read something by Ken posted on his blog, The Interventionist, that brought more clarity to my use of the word enabling. Please check out his post, What We Talk About When We Talk About Codependency.

As quoted from his post:

 "Enabling: Shocker: enabling is not intrinsically bad. If  I enable my kid to go to college, or my wife to open a studio, or my dog to go to a groomer, or my DVR to catch LOST, have I done something wrong. No, and neither have you. Enabling is recovery shorthand for behaviors that either facilitate an active addiction by financially subsidizing it, or by interfering with the logical consequences of addiction. That is about the extent to which you can generalize about enabling. Anything beyond that isn't much more than a name to call someone. Instead of helping someone to empower themselves, it gives them something to feel a little guilty and ashamed about."

Letting go and letting our children suffer their own life consequences is hard. Choosing not to let go and to fix and micromanage their choices, is often interpreted as reflection of our own belief that they are not capable of doing it on their own. Children come to expect that their mistakes will always be erased and that their consequences will be cushioned. Drugs and alcohol come along to provide the relief from the disappointment of being labeled incompetent or underachieving. These behaviors, if continued into adulthood can create insecure people with low self esteem and that is dangerous, especially when the consequences become too big for Mom or Dad to erase or cushion.

I cannot express enough that no one could have fixed it for me. The opportunity to fix one's self is ALWAYS present, even in isolation. It isn't a button, it isn't a word, or a billion hugs that has the capability to "fix" an addict. It must come from a desire within that individual, and the followed through intention of finding the opportunities to gain happiness and contentment without an illegal substance.

Recovery, bless the lonely road that led me to you.


  1. Appreciation is not nearly great if it wasn't for the pain.

  2. "The opportunity to fix one's self is ALWAYS present..."

    That line really jumped out at me. This whole piece did really. Thank you for sharing. You always seem to remind me that there's hope when I get low.

  3. What an amazing story...definitely filled with hope and recovery. You touched my heart with your words. I love to see someone really walk-the-walk. Thanks for your honesty.

  4. Wow. I'm printing this to share with my DH. Your last three paragraphs especially spoke to me. Thank you!

  5. As loved ones, we often think we know how the addict feels. But we don't...that is why I need to hear your side of the story.

    I'm linking to this from my blog, I think it's important for parents to read. Thank you for telling it like it is.

  6. Thank you all for all of your comments. It feels really good to know that speaking about my experience matters :)

    I am adding some additional content to this post from another very informational blog in regards to the term "enabling"

  7. I relate to this story on so many levels. As a former social worker. As a parent. As an alcoholic. As a person in recovery. This piece was brilliantly written.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I needed to read this.

  8. What an excellent post!
    Thank you for writing this and helping me to remember when as well.

  9. The manner in which your writing has expanded is phenomenal.

  10. I loved your post. I found you through Lou, so it's nice to meet you!


  11. I am always looking for blogs that are written from the heart. Your determination to stand on your own and work toward recovery makes you someone I want to know.

  12. Thank goodness you are blogging and that somehow we found each other. Reading your words is so inspiring for me as a PERSON and a mother, and a mother of an addict. You are one of my heroes.

  13. This is my first time visiting here. Thanks for your honest and powerful post. I'm glad that you had the determination to work towards recovery.

  14. fist time here as well. thanks for being so honest...really a powerful piece...

  15. Wow. What an amazing story. It humbles me. Thank you for sharing it, and the link to Ken's blog.

  16. Such a powerful post, it touched me so much. I don't really have words right now, except thank you from the bottom of my heart. Renee

  17. Hello...found you through Lou..I, too, am an ex-convict, who had to go through many similar experiences that you have. I am so proud of you. Your story is very inspirational..I will be back to read the "whole story"..You are so very blessed. It is a pleasure to know you are out there. Peace...

  18. Wow-brought me to tears! I got sober before having a child - what a journey for you! C

  19. I'm here via Lou and so glad I found you! My son is still using, I go to Alanon and try to keep my focus on me. That keeps me busy enough. Your sharing helped me today.

    Thank you.


  20. You've developed a generous and sharing heart, midnitefyrfly, and thank you for sharing it here. May your feet always stay on that road to Recovery!

  21. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog. It gave me a huge extra helping of clarity and even acceptance. You are an AMAZING young woman. God bless you and yours. (((Hugs!)))

  22. Hi again. I have an award over at my blog for you.

  23. Oh, thank you for telling so much about what it was like. I hope someone who is in that situation reads this and is helped by it. It is so sad, I am sobbing.