Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year end recap

2015 has been such an interesting year, a powerful year, and at the end looking back, a year of tremendous growth. Last year at this time, I had a strong inner message, which is challenging to explain. Suffice it to say I listened, and the message I received was this:  
"wait. be calm. be open. release control. trust the process. just trust"
So I chose the word Trust for my guide word for 2015. And Trust was my mantra for the entire year. When I didn't know what to do, I just waited and I trusted. When things were powerfully tough, I prayed for guidance. And because control is hard for me to release, I prayed a lot. I began praying very specific prayers. I mean I told my Higher Power exactly what I needed, laid out like a text book. Lol, well, a short text book. Really, one can only take so much, right? Even Higher Powers.

When things fall apart, it is normal and natural to grab on and hold as tight as possible to what was.... "What was normal? Give me that back! What used to feel right? I am gonna need that now like my life depends on it. This new reality? Oh man, it sucks BIG TIME. Can I do this? Nope. No, really, I can't."

But, guess what? We can. We can look this new reality in the face. Even though it's the shits... it's real, it's life, and we are living it. Today, we may need to lay low, and even tomorrow too. But eventually, I am gonna need to pick myself up, and look at myself in the mirror. I am gonna have to acknowledge those new lines around my eyes, and the fact that I have cried myself a hundred tears. I am gonna have to take things slow, and give myself grace, treat myself with the sort of kindness I'd use to treat a tiny baby bird. Because when our soul goes through a thrashing, and we find we are in a million shattered pieces, we are the only ones who can pull ourselves back together again. And the first step in doing this is to look at what the heck is really going on - with wide open eyes.

Trust took me in and took me deep. Deep to myself, to my core. And I soon realized that I could do this. I could trust myself to know what to do in the darkness. I could guide myself and family towards a better way, towards a brighter path. But I could never have began properly without establishing an inner relationship with Trust... in my HP, trust in myself, and learn to release the need to control. Whew. It's been a big lesson for me.

And about those specific prayers.... They have been answered in very big, very evident ways. Ways that have blown my mind, and ways that show me my HP is listening to me carefully and closely. So, yeah. Me and my HP, we have reconnected on the basis of Trust. It is so, so very good!

Happy New Year to you and yours. I will be back to let you know what my word and intention is for 2016. It is formulating, I can feel it. And I know it's going to be another awesome year! For me, my husband and both my sons. I can feel it in my bones :o)

PS. And that last post I wrote six months ago? I look at things differently now. I think my husband and I are pretty dang great parents. And we are doing the best we can raising our two boys. The main thing is learning to take care of yourself first. Then, things do actually magically fall into place. Funny how that works.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

No Drama Allowed

My husband and I suck at raising teenagers.

There. I said it. 

It's dang true, and I somehow knew this way back when I was a teen, and even though I don't think I was THAT BAD, I did think my brother and sister were. Bad. They were bad on a badness scale. Especially my brother. He was a 9.5... He caused my parents real grief. I know it wasn't his fault, or any of our fault, but my parents split up when my brother and sister and I were teens. 17, 15 and 14 to be exact. And then here was my little brother. He was only 4. It was sad, so sad.

And, I made the decision then that I wanted no part of it. No teen drama in my life. Ever.

Well, that didn't stop my baby making hormones... Though it sure made me think about it. A Lot.

And, now, here we are. With a 19 year old and a 17 year old. Two boys. And the drama? Oh, it's big, it's fat, it's huge. Truly fine drama. Stuff you can write a book on. Good, juicy stuff here. Seriously, any writer stumped on a topic? Get with me. I will give you more than you bargained for. Really. 

I'm trying hard to keep the drama down to one event a day. I can't take much more than that. I used to think that one event a week was too much. That was a few weeks ago. Now, I just start my day with a full on bargain with God. 'Please PLEASE let today be calm. Serene. I need serenity.' And those roommate ads that say "No drama"? (Cause I've been looking at them and dreaming of my son moving out. Yep, I admit it)  I get that. I'm gonna make a sign for my front and back doors, and extras to post all over the house. NO DRAMA ALLOWED. I wonder if that will make a difference? God, I hope so. Please, anything... 

Last week, I met a woman at an out of town class I took. She wore a shirt that her kids had made for her. It said, "Honey Badger Whisperer" I got it. I am an Epic Honey Badger, and I don't give a sh*t, and she and I knew instantly the similar ropes we pull as parents who don't take teen BS. She told me we will get through this, and we will survive. Somehow, doubtfully, I pray for it to be so.

And today's drama? Let's just call it, How my husband chewed out the pot delivery guy for even thinking to come to our house to deliver pot. And how I took photos of him AND his license plate. Medical marihuana, legal smeagle, my ass. Don't you ever come 'round here no more.

So, thanks for listening. I had to get it off my chest.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In community, part 2

Watercolor by Val Hebert, Quote from Cinderella

In my last post, I made a great deal of progress in my attempt to reconcile the discord in my own head between the NAMI approach and the AL-Anon approach towards living with someone with a co-occurring disorder, often referred to as a dual diagnosis. In fact, I wrote at length about supporting the notion of living in community with a loved one who may be mentally imbalanced and using drugs, and helping them find a way back to healthier living and integrating into society. 

Well, as things panned out- and oh yes, how they pan out when dealing with a co-occurring disorder - I might have to change up my thinking on this. Or, at least, I have to add one caveat:
When making the choice to live in community with those who suffer from a co-occurring diagnosis, it is very wise to make sure the person or people involved are stable*.  
I am not ready to talk about the whole story, but suffice it to say it involves an previously unknown mentally deranged person wielding a golf club, a stabbing, jail, lawyers and courts, charges dropped, community mobilizations, teens staying in my house and being kicked out of my house, angry nasty parents of one teen, the disillusion of the aforementioned "Community", three house moves within a six week period, and more. The drama was unbelievable. Basically, another new chapter in a book that I am somehow supposed to write. I think the book's title will be: "XXXXXXX- xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx". (I decided to hide the name because I like it, and might really need to use it one day).

Yeah... that "in community" thing? it can take down the whole damn family. And fast...

But, there is a good outcome to things that went down too. I think I will save that for the next post.

Thanks for listening,

*stable, meaning they are taking their meds, seeing their doctors, and on a positive path.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In community

Ugh... those dang 'shoulds'...

The honest truth is that when you are walking the path of being a parent to a teen struggling with a co-occurring disorder (read more here) - in our case, addiction and a history of severe depression and possibly bipolar, you pretty much want to know anything and everything about how you can help them deal with this situation. The other side of the coin is that you yourself need help dealing with situation, as well as any family member living under the same roof. It is a very tough situation. It has been my experience that helpful information is at best inconsistent, not readily available, and often contradictory.

I am particularly interested in how we can help people return to us once they've opened the Pandora's Box of addiction. Pretty much all of the past research I have done has either been along the Al-Anon approach, which states you need to be harsh in order to be kind, and should tell them that if they are unable to follow your rules, they will need to leave, in hopes they may "reach their bottom" and make the choice to turn themselves around. Or, the NAMI approach, which states the addict is dealing with a co-occurring mental illness, and sending them away to "reach their bottom" will likely mean drug use will undoubtably increase, and you may lose them altogether.
Both of these approaches contradict each other. It is incredibly frustrating and difficult to determine the best course of action to take when you are standing at this particular crossroad. I, for one, can tell you I lay awake nights pondering these two scenarios, and fretting about which scenario is the right one to enforce.
So it was with great interest that I came upon this article on understanding addiction, based on the book, Chasing The Scream, by Johann Hari. For once, a solution has been presented to me that makes sense whether you are dealing with straight addiction, or the situation of a person with a co-occurring disorder.

What Mr. Hari endorses in his writings is about taking a more compassionate approach towards the addicts in your life. Instead of turning them out of the family, and shunning the whole of them as a society, the way to evoke true and lasting change is by bringing them back into the communal fold, offer them jobs and life purpose, in short, help them to feel a part of a happy community, and they will have reason enough to stop using drugs, and become involved within their community.

Hari discusses a study by Professor Bruce Alexander, which challenges the idea that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In face, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. "It's not you. It 's your cage." Do you remember the study from the 1970s where they put a rat in a cage and offered it plain water verses cocaine laced water? Invariably, the rat would choose the cocaine water, and use it until it died. The main failing in this study is that the rats were alone in the cage. The rats who used cocaine until they died were isolated and alone.
"The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did."
If you, like me, are still struggling to find your way through this addiction maze, and you still believe that addiction is caused by chemical hooks in the brain, this new theory throws a monkey wrench into that way of thinking. But, looking at Bruce Alexander's theory puts a different spin on things. Prof. Alexander talks about medical patients who are hospitalized and taking massive quantities of drugs to control pain. Even though the drugs they are taking are the purest form of addictive drugs, these patients can successfully wean themselves off the drugs, and then return home to the environment where they are supported. They do not become addicts.

If you still believe -- as I do (used to?) -- that addiction is caused by chemical hooks, this makes no sense. But if you believe Bruce Alexander's theory, the picture falls into place. 
The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.
How do we interpret this? 
It seems the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
Wow. Just wow. 

This makes sense to me. Shunning someone who is struggling, and turning them out often leads them towards hopelessness and, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster. I understand that people are sometimes faced with no choice BUT to turn them out. When stealing, lying and manipulative behaviors are the norm combined with excessive drug/alcohol use, well, who can live with that? This is the time where boundaries can be used. Telling your loved one that you want to help them, but certain behaviors will not be tolerated in your home is key. 

Please stay tuned.... more on human connection and community, and how I am handling things in my own household coming up in my next post... (You can read the unexpected update here)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

19 years... 1 day at a time

The post title sounds like someone has 19 years sober, but that isn't what I'm talking about. 19 years refers to the age of my oldest son. He will be 19 years old on April 24. Frankly, I am amazed and so glad that he is still here with us.... walking, talking, smiling, simply here - among the living.

19 years with my son... 1 day at a time... 

Please don't get me wrong. I am not trying to be morbid. It's just that things have always been so precarious with him. From the day I went into preterm labor with him (week 21 of my pregnancy- only 1/2 way through a normal pregnancy), to getting him established at birth (born at week 36 - a true miracle after that crazy hospitalized medicated pregnancy to stop contractions), to learning about living with a little guy who calls the shots.... Man, he started this at birth, and it's just gone on since then.... Then to his teen years. These years felt defined by school failures - more on the part of the school system than my son, but he was the one who took the brunt of it all, self medicating began, then the lying and contradictions due to his drug usage, learning about a brain disorder due to the meds I was on during his pregnancy, his severe depression, and the kicker: suicidal ideation... Then, the necessity of sending him away for 3 years because his actions were more than what we could deal with as a family. Hard, hard stuff.

Three weeks ago, I drove up to San Francisco with my younger son and we pulled him out of a druggie apartment. He was strung out on God-knows-what... he'd dropped 30 pounds in the 6 weeks since we'd seen him last. He just looked so, so bad. He had a 42 year old woman who told me she was "in love with him." Okay. Time to get him away. Far, far away.

So, we loaded him into the car, and brought him home. And I guess things are going ok.... First week was the "at home detox", the second week was formulating a plan because using drugs at home isn't gonna happen. The third week (this week) finds him with a job (hooray!) and beginning an adjustment to his medications due to Genomind testing. I can't say that things are all rosy. But I can say that I am setting boundaries, and he is trying hard to work with me. It's definitely not easy, and things are one day at a time. The biggest change, I believe, is within me. Making the choice to work with him in finding a way towards a solution. He is working with us. He is trying to move forward. He will be 19 tomorrow.

Happy birthday, Drew. I love you so much....
xx, Mom

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dream big

Do you dream big? I hope you do! I do dream really big, or at least I try to dream big within reason. Though I wish otherwise, my dreams don't often come true. Take this car, for instance. I've been dreaming BIG about this specific car since I was 16 years old. Shoot! I still don't have it! 

When it comes to a family member's addiction, the dreams can get vivid and downright demanding. At times, I've felt like I would happily deal with the devil just to make this problem of addiction for my son go away. Thank goodness the devil part of this dream hasn't come true. That's one someone I would NOT want to be indebted to! For the record, I am still waiting on the addiction relief part of this dream to come true...

One thing I have learned is that it's okay to dream, and it's okay to ask for what you want to happen. At least in the asking, you are essentially putting your wishes "out there", and if you believe in a higher power, then certainly your wishes will be heard. Here's what the "letting go" portion of the equation looks like for me. 

I ask, and then I get quiet. 
I dream, and then I wait.
I speak my intentions, and then I sit still. 

Ok, I am still sitting still. Still waiting, Still quiet. And in these moments, I am trying to care care of myself. Trying to do what makes my heart happy. Trying to get going in the Studio, and get something done... Trying not to let my thoughts wander over to roller coaster land... (sigh).

Some days it's downright hard. Some days I fail miserably. Usually those days find me reaching out to friends for supportive help. I step out of my regular life with no notice, and hightail it to the nearest Al-Anon meeting. I can be found with my nose glued to my Al-Anon literature, I lose myself in prayer and meditation. These are the things that help me get through the tough days. 

What else helps? I regularly lead meetings at my local Al-Anon meetings. This past weekend, I completed a three day training workshop to become a Family To Family instructor with NAMI. (Learn more here) Reaching out to others who are struggling is also extremely helpful. It grounds me and takes the focus off myself as I reach out to others who are dealing with a similar situation. The other benefit is those people are there for me when I am struggling. 

Today, my son is ok... He left his recent treatment program two weeks ago, and is living with some people he met at the program. He is experiencing the first freedom he's been allowed to have over the last 3 years (with the exception of the 2 months he came home in 2013). He is navigating "life", he says he is taking his medications, he is looking for a job... he met with his new psychiatrist successfully. He says he is staying off drugs, proclaiming he wants to get his life on track, and doing drugs will not take him to where he wants to go. So, that all sounds positive and good. It seems like he is telling the truth... I hope he is....

Really, I just want him to be healthy and safe...

Ok, please excuse me while I get quiet over here.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year, New You

Happy New Year!  

Wow, 2015. Time sure flies when you're having fun. And even when you're not, it manages to pass by, day into day, night into sleepless night...

My nights have been pretty sleepless lately, but I've been using the wee hours to try to bring focus and goodness into my head and heart, and not allow myself to be consumed by grief, worry, and thoughts built of obstacles. It's a process, and I find it takes focus and lots of practice. 

Which leads me to an important intention: my word for the new year.
My word for 2015 is going to be Trust
I have already been practicing Trust a lot. So, at least I don't feel like this is a new ball game. But I am going to intentionalize Trust. (Is that even a word??!) I'm going to take Trust even deeper into my heart, I am going to wear Trust like a cold winter coat, and wrap it around me extra tight. I'm going to bundle up with Trust the first minute I wake in the morning, and I'm going to pull it over me when I get into bed at night.  And in the middle of the night, when all seems dark and cold, Trust is going to make it all ok. I just know it will. I'm going to Trust the process... Trust that my goals, projects, and directional paths will be shown, that I recognize them when they show their faces to me, and TRUST that I will know intuitively how to navigate the pathways that I find myself on. 

And, as I continue to Trust, goodness pours forth... just like the wings of a bird...

More of my needle felted goodness can be found over in the Studio

Happy New Year, Happy new you, Happy new me. I'm Trusting it!