Saturday, February 4, 2012


It's not always how they show it on T.V.

T.V. shows have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Usually, a happy end. In life...real-life addiction...there's a beginning, but you can't see it. You have no idea where the beginning started for the addict you love. I look at pictures of her when she was young and try to see a sign of it, but I don't see it.

I look at her pictures often. Baby pictures, elementary school pictures, junior high pictures - was there something there I didn't see? She looks happy in most of them. But that sad smile in that one 6th grade school picture - did that mean something or was it just a bad day? I drive myself crazy trying to figure it out. Trying to find the beginning.

Her father and I divorced when she was 7. That was hard on her - it was hard on all three of my kids. Is that where it started?

There were things that happened in her early teens that were tell tale signs that she didn't like herself. We put her in counseling. She would be counseled for 3 years. Almost every week for 3 years. Sometimes there was progress, sometimes not.

I  tried to keep this from happening. This. This addiction and this lifestyle. But it turns out my efforts were just hurdles for her on the path she was determined to take.

In June she turned 18. She started hanging around the kinds of people I tried for 3 years to keep her from. By Christmas she had lost weight, quit two jobs, dropped out of her community college class, and was living with a guy who looked as bad as she did.

We knew something was wrong. We knew she had to be addicted to something. She wouldn't admit to using anything besides pot. It's a helpless feeling to see your child, who is not a child, spiraling down.  It's a helpless, guilt-ridden, sad and lonely feeling.

I thought a person has to want help before they can change. They have to "hit bottom". But the interventionists say no, you can't wait until a person hits bottom to get them help. An intervention raises the bottom. You gather all the people that love and care for them and together you all show the person that they are at bottom. You show them how their addiction is hurting the people they love, and themselves.

On T.V., you get to read them a letter. Paragraph 1: You tell them all the things you love about them. Paragraph 2: You tell them how their addiction has changed them. Paragraph 3: You tell them how you can't watch them do that to themselves anymore, and you ask them to go to treatment today. You must end with, "Will you go to treatment today?" Today. It's urgent. You can't watch them kill themselves anymore. It has to end today.

We didn't get to read our letters. Maybe had she seen all 13 of us in that room, and heard our letters, maybe she would have gone to treatment. I like to think that. But part of me still believes she has to want to change. She has to be tired of the life she's living and want something more. She has to at least admit she's using.

We tried to trick her into coming over. We told her I was sick and needed help. I had a recent trip to the emergency room, so it was plausible. She wouldn't come. So, the men in the group got in the car and went to her. Her boyfriend owns a gun which he carries around with him, and we weren't sure how he would take to the idea of her family taking her to an intervention she didn't want to go to. So the men went to get her and the women stayed behind. It sounds very cave-man like, but that's how it happened.

The atmosphere at our house, while we waited for the men to come back with her, reminded me of how it is at a funeral. Not the funeral, really, but after the funeral, when everyone gathers at someone's house and they eat, and talk, and reminisce, and cry, and laugh together. It's very bittersweet.

It was like that, only minus the death. (for now at least. And only in the literal sense, for I believe some intangible parts of my daughter have died.)

It was a bit odd for me to sit chatting with my ex-husband's girlfriend of 11 years, and my former mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and one of his cousins. But there were no hard feelings or resentments that day. Just shared pain for a lost child and shared hope that she'll come back to us. I've had inklings over the years that my ex-husband's girlfriend and I could have been friends had circumstances been different. I actually think we really could now. On my side, I had my sister, my sister-in-law, my cousin, and my other daughter there. Other than my daughter, my family had never really spent time with my ex-husband's family, not even when we were married. But that day, we were all there to support one another.

Despite the efforts of the interventionist, my ex-husband, my ex-father-in-law, my brother, and my son - my daughter would not come back to the house to talk to us. As a matter of fact, she drove away and would only speak to the interventionist and her father over the phone. Had he had the opportunity, I know her dad would have picked her up and put her in the car and drove her to us. But he didn't have the chance.

What could we do? She didn't want help. The men came back to the house and all that was left to do was hug, cry, and say goodbye.

She didn't want help. She still doesn't want help. The intervention, or wanna-be intervention, happened a week ago and I haven't heard from her since. This is the longest time she's gone without talking to me. It's painful and it's difficult.

When we were planning this, the interventionist told us our daughter would go through 4 stages at the intervention. 1. Anger. 2. Denial. 3. Deflection 4. Bargaining.

It occurred to me that parents of addicts go through these same stages, although we go through them over a much longer period of time. Years, actually.

When my daughter was almost 15, and showing signs of a problem, I was angry at her for the choices she was making. I taught her better than that. The anger stage was on and off for 3 years.

After the anger started, then denial kicked in. She experimented with pot, and various pills, and cocaine, but we had her in counseling, and we were drug testing her and she was passing, so she must be fine. She must have kicked it.

Then deflection. This is the worst one. When addicts deflect, they point out the shortcomings of those around them to take the pressure off themselves and their using. Sister smokes pot. Mom drinks.

When parents deflect, it's the opposite. We turn the finger on ourselves. What did I do wrong? Why is there a hole inside my child's soul that only a fatal substance can fill? What kind of parent am I? The questions leave you awake and wide-eyed in the middle of the night and bring you sobbing to your knees when you're alone in the shower.

Then bargaining. We offer to pay for treatment if they will just go. We offer to help them get their own place after treatment, if they stay clean. We tell them we'll pay for school if they stay clean. We'll get them a car if they stay clean. We'll help them with anything they need. Just don't use.

These 4 stages drag out over years, and overlap. And right now, for me, they are my life.

On T.V. the addict agrees to get help. But it doesn't always happen like it does on T.V.


Fred J said...

That's why I only watch The Big Bang Theory - it always ends the way I want them to.

Anonymous said...

Lori, I'm so sorry for what you and your family are going through. I have watched Intervention on tv and it helps shed some light on what the users and their families feel like but like you said, sometimes it just isn't like it is on tv and the intervention doesn't happen. Don't give up. I'm sure the counselors and intervention folks have good advice from their experiences so hang in there. My nephew just got out of a rehab program (lost his license, doesn't have a job, can't drive to AA meetings, needs a sponsor, and so on) He faces an uphill battle but the first step was rehab and I'm hoping he can get the support he needs to be successful now. I'm praying for you and your daughter.

Lori said...

Thank you for that - I really appreciate it.

Tracie said...

I hate this for you and your family. I hope your daughter gets the help she needs.