Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm Just Trying to Understand.

I still watch Intervention. You know, the television show. You would think I've had enough of it, since I'm living it in the real world, but I don't watch it for the drama. I watch it to help me understand. Why would anybody choose the path of addiction? Why does my daughter?

The show always hones in on the negative things that happened in the addict's life as part of the reasons why they're an addict. Their parents divorced, their mom neglected them for drugs or alcohol, their father didn't tell them he loved them. I think they do this because viewers want to see a concrete reason why. We want to be able to say, "Well I didn't do that to my kids, and I taught them drugs are bad, so they're gonna be fine. They'll never do that."

I wanted to say that. I did say that, when my kids were younger. And I'm not saying I was the perfect parent and so there is no reason why my daughter should be an addict. I'm not a perfect parent. Not at all. I was naive and trusted my kids too much. I wasn't always consistent. I did some things right. I set a good example. I practiced what I preached. I set rules and consequences. But I made mistakes too. I just loved them and did the best I could, like most parents do.

I saw an episode this week about a girl addicted to meth. She lived on the streets because she would rather be homeless and have her drug than be clean and sleep in her bed at home. She shared the same name as my daughter. She was creative and artistic, just like my daughter. She shared some personal issues similar to my daughter's. It was eerie.

She didn't want help in the beginning either, but eventually accepted it and went to rehab.  After her treatment, they interviewed her. She said no matter what happened to her in her past, what she does now is on her, and nobody else. She looked like a different person. She was content. She was hopeful. It gave me hope and made me cry.

I've been reading some books on addiction that have helped me cope with it. The first one was "Don't Let Your Kids Kill You," written by Charles Rubin. An excellent book and for any parent of an addict, it's the first book about addiction they should read, in my opinion. It immediately addresses the big question every parent of an addict asks - What did I do wrong?

The reality is, in most cases, nothing. Most normal parents, who aren't addicts themselves, and didn't abuse their kids, did nothing specific wrong. They didn't do everything right - who does? But they didn't screw up their kid either.  Sure, parenting and environment greatly affect our kid's decisions, but they're hard-coded too. This quote from the book helped me to understand that:
"What many parents fail to realize is that children come out of the womb with a complete data base that's exclusively their own and which is fully operational by the time the child is in his or her teens. It is this, not the parent, which drives the child. It's true that parents have more influence on their children than any other people on earth-and may even be able to keep a kid off drugs. But that's only if the influence is in keeping with the child's own pre-programmed agenda, and only if that influence is strong enough to withstand the temptations presented to the child by other sources such a peers, TV, and society."
This makes sense to me. How else do you explain how some kids who come from the worst of homes, turn out to be wonderful, caring human beings who contribute to society, and others who come from the best of homes, grow to be anti-social, uncaring criminals?
"Each person fulfills his or her own destiny-whether it be good or bad-in his or her own time and unique way. As in anything else, when it comes to substance abuse, children are going to do what they're going to do. If they don't do it today, they'll do it tomorrow. Whatever the situation, it's the child who says yes or no to drugs-it's a choice. And that choice is ultimately, answerable by the child and by no one else. So are the consequences."
I don't think the author is saying a person is destined to be an addict or not be an addict, and I don't believe that. What he's saying is that when a teen is at a cross-roads, that crucial point when he has the opportunity to say yes or no to drugs, there are many factors that affect his decision at that moment. His parents, his genetics, his experiences, his peers, his self-worth - they will all play into his choice. But the choice is still his to make. Not his parent's, but his. Just like it was hers.

I recommend any parent of an addict to get this book. It's about 8 bucks for the kindle. You might even be able to find it at the library.

As much as this book helped me and as much as I want to feel absolved from blame for my daughter's problem, I realize I'm not absolved. I'm too much of an introspectionist (is that a word? I'm not sure), to think that. Maybe if I had worked harder at building my daughter's self-esteem, she would have had one less factor going against her when she had to make her decision to say yes or no to drugs. Maybe I should have pushed her to stay in soccer when she hated it, or to take a dance class, or art classes. Something else that would have given her a feeling of pride and accomplishment. But I didn't and it's too late to change that.

Right now I'm reading "Addiction: Why Can't They Just Stop?" This book discusses the physical reasons for addiction, like a lack of dopamine in the body. It says addiction is a disease that needs medication and behavioral therapy to be treated successfully. There are so many why's and so many varied answers. The only power I have right now is to educate myself about what they are and try to understand which of them apply to my daughter and if any of them can help her.

But I know, none of it matters if she doesn't want help. While I was writing this, she called. Her car, which her and her boyfriend were living in, got towed. She wants money. I told her if she goes to some kind of rehab-any kind-we could help her. She said no.

It's her choice, but I don't understand it.


Katherine Jenkins said...

Sending lots of both you and your daughter!

Anonymous said...

I also watch the intervention shows. I think I like knowing that I (we) am/are not alone in this. Addicts and alcoholics come from all types of families and all areas of the country. Addiction knows no boundaries. When I was young, heroin users were called "junkies" and were only found in inner city alleyways... I'm embarrassed to admit that until about 2 years ago I still believed this. Now my eyes are open and I know -- that stereotype is simply not true!

Prayers for you and your daughter.

Lori said...

Thanks Katherine. I need to stop by your blog- you always have such inspirational and grounding posts.

Lori said...

Thanks Dee. Yes, that's a big part of why I watch it too. Every episode makes me cry these days, but I can't stop watching them and just feeling for the families. And yes, praying too.

Suburban Correspondent said...

My friend is going through this with her son right now. Actually, the past 2 years. It's been hell. I'll pass the book recommendation on to her. And, having been through other teen issues (and watched some friends also suffer with their adolescents), I come down firmly on the side of there is NOTHING you could have done. If you had pushed her to take soccer or whatever, she or you would have blamed the addiction on your pressuring her to do things that didn't suit her. Believe me, I've heard enough silliness in therapists' offices to last a lifetime.

And, please, if you have any other recommendations for my friend, pass them along.