Healing 2.0

oncoming-trainThere’s no manual that guides you when your kid goes off the rails, when the decision you’re up against comes down to calling the goon squad or let her ride into the on coming train and hope for the best. There is only the experience of other parents who’ve sent their adolescent kid to treatment or wilderness therapy and we are a hidden, underground tribe. Shame, guilt and fear drives us into isolated bunkers, unable to reach across the divide to another buried parent who’s hunkered down also.  Unless we see in the eyes of another, “me too,” we live in fear that we are the only ones. We aren’t posting on Facebook the pictures we take at parent weekend, the moment when she steps out of the sagebrush, into the open, strong, tan, grimy, and smiling.

She ran into my arms and buried her face in my neck. Tears clinging to the dust and grime on her face, streaking her cheeks, smiling, laughing, crying, grateful. She stood before me, smelling like someone who hadn’t taken a proper shower in 3 weeks. Someone who only got one roll of toilet paper a month, had to cook her own food, hike 5 miles a day, carry her used tampons in a ziplock bag until that hike brought her to a trash can to dump her trash and rub sticks together to make fire. “Thank you, mommy,” she said, over and over, her tears pooling with mine in the hollow of my clavicle. “You saved my life, mommy. Thank you.”

We cried, and talked, and she told stories of her life in the Utah desert with 7 other girls, some she liked, some she didn’t. We talked about the ex-boyfriend, the staff, life at home, what she missed, how many books she read, all while she munched on a big bag of granola and drank water from 32oz refillable bottle.  I gave her pens, a highlighter and a box of tissue and she was so grateful. I hugged her, and kissed her, and listened and sent up quips of gratitude to God. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you for the strength to make the decision to send her away, thank you for a second chance. Thank you for the opportunity to see this young woman before me, the smart, funny, girl that had been dormant for so long. Thank you.

Raised from the dead: sermon on Luke 7:11-17

6a00d8341c3e3953ef01b8d08552b5970c-320wiWe are a third of the way into Luke’s gospel by this point and Jesus has just given Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, referred to as the Sermon on the Plains.

Jesus isn’t teaching in the synagogue, there are no scrolls, no animals to be sacrificed, incense to be lit. There’s no Sunday dress code and designated places for men and woman to sit.  There is him, his disciples and whole bunch of people sitting around on the grass.  A whole bunch of people who thought the best thing they could do that day was go hear what Jesus had to say. They’d heard he’s saying and doing a lot, but let’s go see for ourselves they said.  And they heard some things, and they heard them said in a way they may never have heard before. Things like:

  • Count your blessings
  • You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all then God’s kingdom is there for the finding
  • You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry, then you’re ready for the holy meal
  • You’re blessed when the tears flow freely, joy comes in the morning
  • But if you rest on your laurels, think you’ve made it, what you have is all you’ll ever get
  • And its trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long.
  • And its trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games. There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
  • Love your enemies
  • When someone gives you a hard time, pray for them
  • No more tit for tat
  • Live generously
  • Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously even when we’re at our worst.
  • Be kind, God is kind.
  • Don’t criticize people or jump on their failures, don’t condemn those who are down. That hardness can boomerang.
  • Be easy on people, you’ll find life a lot easier.
  • Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing.
  • Giving not getting is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

This is from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible called The Message.

And after this summary of essential doctrine given to the people who crowded around Jesus on the plains outside of Capernaum that day, Jesus headed down the hill to town and but before he could get there some Jewish elders who were asked by a Roman soldier, a centurion, to meet Jesus and tell him about the centurion’s slave who was gravely ill and to ask Jesus to come and see him. Perhaps he could help the sick slave. Jesus didn’t even get to the slave, the centurion meets him and says, Lord, don’t trouble yourself. Just say the word and my slave will be healed. And his slave was healed. This was a Roman military officer, the oppressor, part of the ruling class, a gentile, who had only heard about Jesus, heard about the miracles of healing that Jesus was performing and Jesus tells the crowd following him, not even in Israel, among my own people, have I found such faith.

Luke follows up the account of the healing of the centurion’s slave with our story from Luke’s gospel today.  Soon after, the next day Jesus is approaching the city gates of Nain. A small town about 25 miles south east from Capernaum. Walking. They walked. 25 miles. He’s approaching with his disciples and a crowd. The ones who followed Jesus after the sermon on the plains. The ones who were like, yeah, that all sounds good, and what have we got anyway, a whole lot of nothing compared to what this guy is offering.  And Jesus, the disciples, the crowd are hot, dirty, tired, and hungry. I would be if I’d just walked 25 miles on a dirt road.  And as they approached the gate to the city a funeral procession is coming through the same gate.  The pall bearers are carrying the body of a man wrapped in linen, ready for burial on something like a stretcher called a bier, and the man’s mother, a widow, is following and a crowd from the town is part of the procession. In the ancient world, funerals were public events, and it was customary for the burial to take place within a day of the death.  So it’s fresh. The death of this man, the widow’s only son, we’re told. The grief is fresh and very public. There would have been crying, wailing, moans. Snot and tears, and broken spirits and broken hearts. It wasn’t a polite thing, death and burial. It wasn’t sanitized, and crisp, like the satin lining of modern coffins. It was messy, and dirty, loud and emotional. And this is what Jesus sees when he approaches the gates of Nain.

All these stories of raising the dead to life, that isn’t the point of the story, as Father Jaime talked about on Easter Sunday.  The focus of our story this morning is the widow. The one left behind, who, as a first century Jewish widow who’s only son died, would, for the rest of her life have to rely on friends and strangers for her livelihood. She would have been financially destitute, no way to take care of herself, no land, no money, no children, and if she had daughters they were part of their husbands’ families now. It was the job of the sons to take care of the widowed mothers.

And the story says: When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

The Greek word that we translate as compassion: almost unpronounceable: Splagchnizomai  I feel compassion, have pity on, am moved.  splagxnízomai – “from splanxna, ‘the inward parts,’ especially the nobler entrails – the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. These gradually came to denote the seat of the affections

Jesus was moved by compassion, he felt it in his guts, his heart, his lungs, liver and kidneys. He was so moved by this woman’s loss, her grief, the precariousness of her economic status, that he touched the bier, an act of defiance and solidarity, because, in the ancient world,  it would have made him ceremonially unclean.

God meets us where we are, offers restoration no matter what needs to be restored. God doesn’t play favorites. Jesus was as moved by the Roman centurion, part of the ruling class, a powerful gentile’s faith, as he was by his own compassion for the destitute, grieving, Jewish widow who’d lost her only son.

No matter how emotionally dead, how spiritually sick, how mentally vulnerable, how full of grief, how much loss we have suffered, God offers restoration. It’s not easy. Sometimes we have to ask for it, like the Centurion, and just believe that it will happen.  Sometimes we have to cry, and process, and feel a lot. We might have to pay a therapist, or go to 12 step meetings, or find a spiritual director, or cry on our friend’s shoulder, and eat a pint of ben and jerry’s or smoke a cigarette with the homeless guy at the 7-11 on the corner of Hollywood and Gower before God speaks and we hear what we need hear, and experience what we need to experience for some kind of healing to take place. For our hearts to be haphazardly stitched back together after being broken in a million pieces. Before we experience some kind of healing or raising from the dead. We are never the same afterward.  The slave was healed, the son raised. But it was the centurion and the widow who were restored to life, and faith, and community.  They were the ones whose hearts were healed and lives truly restored. Because the lives they lived before their encounters with Jesus would never be the same. They were healed, and could enter back into their communities and say to their neighbors, their friends, their families, strangers on the street, and enemies not spoken to in a very long time: let me tell you what happened to me. I experienced this amazing thing, a love and compassion and welcoming and recognition that I had never experienced before. And it’s happening right now. I was restored to life after being afraid and broken. I was a recipient of this miracle and that miracle can be transmitted from me to you. Come in, sit down, tell me your story, and I’ll show you how it’s done.


Healing 1.9

Sidney-Poitier-Layout_smThat was almost a year ago.

The first picture they took of her when she got there looked like a mug shot. She was tired, and puffy from crying. It was one of those pictures that you could look at a year from now and a well of gratitude would rush in at how far she’d come, how much she’d changed, relief that the gift of life had been saved. The first few pictures in the field were of a girl I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Wild, curly hair, no make up, face up and open to the staff person taking the picture, to the sun, to the wild, to the desert. She was smiling.  She was filling out, meat on the bones of a starved by drugs body. Waiting for the pictures and her letters to post to our family page was the highlight of most weeks from late May to late July. Giant painted desert colors of Bryce Canyon shadowed by thunderstorms or embraced by a cornflower blue sky were the backdrop of these pictures. She looked happy and free in a way she hadn’t in a long time.

Parents’ weekend came up three weeks into her stay. I drove from LA to Kanab, UT, the last 3 hours finding my way in the dark. Dark like midnight, so dark that my headlights could only illuminate 15 feet of the road ahead of me, the rest I couldn’t see. The next morning the sky was that cornflower blue and I found myself in “Little Hollywood,” so named because movies and tv shows like Stagecoach, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone, Planet of the Apes and The Outlaw Josey Wales had been filmed there. We met in a office trailer type building, all of us parents. From all over the country, we converged on “Little Hollywood” with our grief, fear, exhaustion and  hope.  For 8 hours we sat in the trailer office and a nice Mormon guy with an MFT talked to us about communication and other stuff I don’t remember now. I do remember sitting next to the only other two recovering alcoholic parents in the room whose son was in the program. You know when your kid is an addict and as a parent in recovery who was a teenage alcoholic yourself you know when your kid is acting out in the exact same way you did when you were her age, what that feels like, what the long term consequences might be, the chances of recovery and sobriety, that they are more likely to end in jail, institutionalized or dead. So the other parent couple in recovery and I got along great. We had lunch and shared stories of the crazy shit our kids did and how they didn’t die and what the chances were that these kids would actually begin to recovery from a hopeless state of mind and body. How grateful we were that we had a program, and Alanon, and knew what we knew about the disease and how to detach and how we didn’t have much time because next year our kids would be 18 and then all bets were off and how this, sending them away to a very expensive wilderness program run by Mormons was our last grasp of giving these kids a life they could live, in hope, in recovery, in healing.

Healing 1.8



She wasn’t never coming back gone. She was just away. And what I felt was an excruciating pain, grief, loss, shame, despair, a kind of pain I had not yet experienced in my years on this planet or my years as a mom. Running errands around our town was no longer a thing I did without thought. Every stop was weighted with gloom and sorrow, remembrance and reminders. I went to AA meetings and shared about sending my daughter away and I cried. The women held me in their prayers and in their arms.  Some had gone through it with their own children and recognized the pain and just held the empty space for grief. There were those who thought that with the problem removed from the house I should be restored to my normal resting state. But it doesn’t work like that because it was my daughter, and she was in the Utah desert, with a bunch of strangers, and whatever was ailing her I couldn’t fix and the fear that I may have something to do with her pain, suffering, addiction, if that’s what it was, fed a shame that couldn’t be satiated.

I play the same tape over and over in my head, “bad mother, disappointing, worthless,” ad infinitum, and frankly, the incessant chatter in my brain becomes boring, exhausting, and I’m sick to death of myself.  I wake up exhausted, I go to bed exhausted. The nonstop self-flagellation makes doing the day to day stuff of life impossible, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pretty soon I can’t get anything done, I am disconnected from those whom I love, unable to follow through on the smallest chore or commitment. By the grace of God, I’m so cracked and broken, worn out and tired, that somehow, some way at exactly the right moment the light of God shines in and floods the deepest, darkest recess of my mind, and I get a glimmer of hope. At the same time, I’m like, “fuck this shit. Life is short.  Just stop. Everything’s gonna be ok.”  And somehow with those two things, my snapping myself out of it, and the boundless of love of God that gets in despite myself, I have a shift in perception that can only be spoken of as a miracle.

Recovery started. Recovery from conditions mysterious and acute.  I went to Alanon, not often enough and I would regret later that I hadn’t gone more often, but I went. By the end of the second week she was gone, I’d had enough. Enough of blaming myself, enough of the shame that ate me up from the inside out. Enough. I had done my best. I had done my best as a mother. I hadn’t done it perfectly, but my imperfect mothering was enough because what I did have has was an abundance of love, acceptance, commitment and gratitude for both my children.


Healing 1.7

img-thing I have come to the very obvious conclusion that if you are an alcoholic, albeit sober, from a crazy dysfunctional family with daddy issues and you procreate with a messed up alcoholic (not sober) from a crazy dysfunctional family with daddy issues the chance of you having alcoholic kids from a crazy dysfunctional family with daddy issues and mommy issues for that matter is, oh I would say, 100%.  So to find myself with three strangers and a therapy Chihuahua named Chiquita in my house getting ready to wake up my sleeping 17 year old daughter, corral her into the SUV and drive her to Utah all before 7:30 in the morning, was not out of the realm of possibilities.  However, when she was an adorable, funny, bright, energetic toddler not once did I think to myself, I really hope that you are a totally out of control teenager with a crazy boyfriend, useless friends, with a taste for booze and drugs so that someday you will get clean and sober and we will skip down the road of happy destiny hand in hand. I can say with confidence that thought never crossed my mind.

But here we were.  I opened the door to her bedroom, she was snuggled down under the comforter, only her dark brown curls visible. I sat down next to her on the bed and put my hand on her shoulder.  It was a can of all hell’s going to break loose in a second that I was really opening up and my heart was pounding out of my chest.  I shook her awake and behind me Taneesha was standing in the doorway. She was a large woman, not fat, but tall and big and sturdy and she took up the space in the doorway so no light from the hall could get in.  My daughter began to open her eyes, stretch and rub them the same way she did when she was 3.

My prevailing thought over the last few days while planning the transport was that when she surrendered into the backseat of the car she would breath out, finally. She would feel this great sense of relief, as if, like a mama cat securing one of her stray kittens between her teeth and delivering her back to the center of the litter, this is what God had done for her.  And when I saw her three weeks later that was indeed her prevailing feeling.  But that last 45 minutes in our house my heart shattered all over her bedroom floor into such teeny tiny pieces there was no way I thought, my heart would ever be whole again.

The final pleas, apologies, negotiations and bargaining were torturous to hear.  At one point she held my face between her hands and said, “Please mommy, please don’t send me away. I’m afraid you’ll leave me in Utah, and won’t come get me. Please, mommy. I’ll be good. I promise, mommy. I promise!” Our tears mixed on the bathroom floor and I kissed her all over her face and said, “I love you, baby girl. I love you to the moon and back. I will never leave you.”

She did get in the car. She walked by herself which I thought was a good sign, with her pink back pack and her fleece blanket. Teneesha got in beside her assuring her that everything was going to be ok, and no one is going to leave you anywhere, and we’ll stop and get some food in awhile, and you’re gonna be alright.

I didn’t kiss her goodbye in the car because I was afraid she would hold on to my neck and not let me go. And that I would do the same thing with her.  Instead I waved from the driveway as they backed out and headed down the street and walked back into the house to collect the fractured fragments of my broken heart and begin the long arduous process of gluing them back together.

Healing 1.6

La Verkin Outlook La Verkin, UT
La Verkin Outlook
La Verkin, UT

I think, I don’t know, but I think, parents who are fortunate enough to deliver their kids to the college of their choice, driving or flying them there, going to Target and buying them all the stuff they need for their dorm room, touring the town the kid is going to be living in, seeing the room, the hallway, the bathroom, the dorm, the campus buildings, all that stuff, I think the parents have that butterflies in your tummy feeling of expectation, fear, and excitement.  I know they grieve, feel that sense of loss, but they also get to call, Skype, FaceTime, IMessage, or private message with their kid whenever they want.


When your kid is picked up at 6:30 in the morning, the sun straining against the clouds of May gray to shed some light on the situation, by three strangers and a therapy Chihuahua named Chiquita, the butterflies in your tummy are vultures ripping at your insides. The fear is wrapped in, around and through, “What the fuck am I doing?” “Is this going to work?” “What if this doesn’t work?” “How am I ever going to function normally again?” There is no excitement, only tears, and grief, and remorse, and regret. You don’t get to call, or Skype, or FaceTime or IMessage, or private message your kid whenever you want.  You get a phone call 10 hours later from a staff person from the wilderness therapy program which was referred to you by the long term residential treatment center because there were no beds open, and frankly, girls who go to wilderness do much better in treatment than the girls who go directly from home to treatment, and this place is amazing, they do great work, she’s going to be in very good hands, you’re saving your daughter’s life. And the very nice, very supportive, very compassionate staff person on the other side of the line three states away says, “She made it!  She’s had her physical and drug test, we out fitted her with her gear and 30lb pack and she’s in the field with her group and staff.”  13 hours from pick up to drop off.

I’ve talked to other mothers of girls sent off to wilderness or long term residential treatment centers, girls who have attempted suicide multiple times, whose cuts are so deep into their thighs and arms that recovery from that kind of self-harm is unimaginable, drug addicted, alcoholic, sexually out of control girls, bulimic, anorexic girls, our babies, our little pig-tailed, happy go lucky, life of the party little girls. And though the outward signs of addiction, dysfunction, mental illness, and emotional disturbance may be different, we mothers agree on this: the sense of loss and grief is so pervasive that our recovery from that seems impossible. Getting out of bed is a Herculean effort, putting on a face of ok-ness to get through the day, taking care of the other kids, bringing some sense of order to a family who has lived in crisis, chaos, and confusion for years, seems beyond what we are capable of.  We walk on this tightrope in the liminal space precariously perched between what was and what will be. If you’re lucky you have a God, a loving, gracious, healing, creative God, that holds you to Her breast, comforts and consoles, with every breath. A God you can walk hand and hand with who illuminates each step with an abundance of grace you need more than anything, because what will be is untenable, and hope is a foreign word.

Healing 1.5

May 22, 2015 6:30am.

If someone drove by my house that gray, May morning, and saw this little group of very different people huddled in a tiny circle, heads bowed, they would probably have thought we were passing a joint.  That’s what we would have been doing 15 or 20 years earlier, but not this day. This day we were all sober, we were new friends, and we were praying.

I met Chuck the night before at a hotel in Burbank. My daughter was home, having friends over, smoking weed, eating pizza, unknowingly spending the last night with her friends before being relocated to the Utah desert. I couldn’t save them all as much as I wanted to. Every fucked up teenager was me, 35 years ago, lost, afraid, damaged in ways I would barely begin to scrape the surface of in my recovery program and therapy many years later. I’d had enough Alanon to know that I couldn’t save my daughter, but I could give her a fighting chance. I was nervous as hell. I don’t think about drinking anymore, but that night, in that hotel lobby, sitting across from this complete stranger who I was paying to legally kidnap my 17 year old daughter and deliver her into the hands of therapists and staff people I had spoken with over the phone who I was entrusting to keep her alive and well in the dry, hot expanse of Bryce Canyon, a shot of tequila to take the edge off crossed my mind in a flash.  I focused on Chuck, the words coming out of his mouth: 6:30am, Taneesha and Scott will be with me. Scott’s cool, a gentle giant with a Chihuahua therapy dog that the kids bond with, Taneesha, sweet, quiet, don’t worry, done this for 20 years, your daughter is going to be safe, we’ll send you receipts for expenses incurred, if I motion for you to leave the room, do it, everything is going to be ok, you’re saving your daughter’s life.

They showed up, right on time. I was prepared, followed directions, the back pack was ready, Starbucks for everybody, waters, package of muffins and some fruit for the drive out of town. My heart beat in my chest, tears fighting their way to the surface, what the hell was I doing? “Can we pray,” I asked.  “Sure. Absolutely,” they said.  We do this, those of us in recovery.  If you have a sponsor worth their salt, and you come to them with a problem, they won’t hesitate before they say, “Have you prayed about it?” Which is the 12 Step way of saying, take a deep breath, keep your mouth shut, and ask for help.  We held hands, and I prayed, “Gracious and loving God. Thank you for sending these angels in disguise to me.” Snot and tears mixed together in a holy mess, ran down my face, past my lips, over my chin, and dribbled to the ground. “God, I’m really scared. Help me. Be with these people as they take my daughter and deliver her into your hands in the desert.” The irony of it all was not lost on me.  “And as we all have our own desert journey, may your love, your grace, your mercy, be with my daughter and these people. Guide them, God, and keep them close. We pray this in the name of your son, who showed us how to be in the desert, how to love, how to forgive and how to heal. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.”

I looked at these people, Scott, Taneesha, and Chuck. My new friends, angels, saviors, deliverers, and smiled. Thank you, I said. Quietly, carefully, we walked into the house.

Healing 1.4

Addiction and Alcoholism is a family disease. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. says this about addiction and the family: “Alcoholism and drug addiction affects the whole family – young, teenage, or grown-up children; wives or husbands; brothers or sisters; parents or other relatives and friends.  One family member addicted to alcohol and drugs means the whole family suffers.  Addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family’s unity, mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics.”

Denial is a strange bedfellow. It comes in with the best intentions, to help you get through this little rough patch. It says, “It’s going to be ok. It’s just a phase. She’s going to grow out of. Get her a good therapist, sign her up for an after school activity, and believe me, in a couple months, everything will be just fine.” But denial is unscrupulous, deceitful, and dishonest. It comes up with better, more convincing excuses and lies as time goes on and things get worse. It’s hormones, her friends are bad influence, she just needs a math tutor to help her get through algebra.

I believed every lie, every excuse, every justification. But I had lots of practice. Denial has been my sibling since before I took my first drink at 15. When you grow up in dysfunction, in my case a drug addicted, womanizing, gambler, liar, cheat and thief for a father, an abusive alcoholic stepfather, and mother who did every thing she could to survive and hold it all together, you get cozy with denial because it becomes an intimate part of the family. Alcoholism and addiction aided me in my survival of growing up in my family. But it turned on me and began to slowly, deliberately destroy my life. And then I got sober.

Then this beautiful little girl came along, who I loved and adored and parented the best way I knew how. I made a lot of mistakes and denial didn’t make it any easier. I have been besieged with regret, remorse and self-recrimination these last few months over those mistakes. Then I got grateful. Grateful that by God’s grace the veil of denial that blinded me to my daughter’s illness gave way to seeing clearly. Throughout the Gospels Jesus often says to those who want healing, “What do you want me to do for you?” Throughout these past 5 years I have prayed, mostly foxhole prayers, “Please God, what do I do with this child?” And perhaps somewhere along the line I made the plea, “God, help me see more clearly.”

And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. Mk. 10:52

Healing 1.3

I knew we were in trouble October of the 8th grade. My daughter had gone to our town’s Oktoberfest and the next morning she woke up feeling really sick. Well, what happened last night, I asked. I drank 8 Monsters, she said, because they were free.

There’s nothing an addict likes better than free shit. Free anything. If you’re giving it away we are taking it. We’ll try not to take it all but you better hold on to some portion for yourself because the addict trigger switch gets flipped with free shit and we are out of control. Because who drinks 8 Monsters because they’re free?! She’s not a big kid, so she probably drank that first Monster and liked the affect produced by the caffeine and sugar and then thought, well, one more won’t hurt. But she couldn’t stop after just one and before you know it she’s chugging 8 and now is waking up feeling like crap with a caffeine and sugar hangover to beat the band. (Read here about deaths associated with consumption of energy drinks.)

Side affects from consuming energy drinks: Palpitations, tachycardia, tremor,shaking, agitation, restlessness, gastrointestinal upset, chest pain, ischaemia.     Dizziness / syncope.     Paraesthesia (tingling or numbing of the skin)     Insomnia.
Side affects from consuming energy drinks: Palpitations, tachycardia,
tremor,shaking, agitation, restlessness, gastrointestinal upset,
chest pain, ischaemia.
Dizziness / syncope.
Paraesthesia (tingling or numbing of the skin)

Dr. William D. Silkworth wrote, in The Doctor’s Opinion, in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1935, “The action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinkers. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol (or other drugs, insert mine), in any form at all…” Clearly, she was never going to be able to drink Monsters safely and in moderation.

You would think this information, this experience would have set in motion the need for me to be extra vigilant, not let her go out with those kids again, sign her up for more after-school activities, watch her like a hawk, fearful, protective, observant of tell tale signs of the addictive tendencies manifesting in new and mysterious ways in my adolescent daughter.

I wish I could say that’s what happened. What happened instead? Denial moved in, rearranged the furniture, picked the best bedroom in the house, snuggled down deep under the fluffiest comforter and made herself at home for the next 4 years of chaos, confusion, and crisis.

Healing 1.2

A   9×9 box came in mail the other day. Wingate. What could they possibly be sending me?

17627-campfire-flames-pv When I had visited my daughter on the parent’s weekend in June, on my way out of town I had stopped by the main office to pick up her stuff. The stuff that I had put together for her the night before the transport team would pick her up.   She didn’t need anything, they said, a backpack with things for the 8-hour car ride, some leggings, a sweatshirt, a book, a letter.   When the young woman brought out the big blue plastic tub of stuff there was so much more than I had sent along. In the time she’d had alone in her room with the female transport chaperone my daughter had packed things, things a 17 year-old girl would need for a weekend getaway. A couple of pairs of thongs, push-up bras, a cute little jumper with the tags still on that I had bought for her the weekend before in a last ditch attempt to connect, to pull her back from the brink of destruction, to show her I loved her more than anything. Mascara, an eyelash curler, that expensive face serum I had been looking for the last 4 weeks wondering what the hell I could have done with it. As she muttered to herself through sobs how scared she was, that she was afraid she would never come home, that I would leave her in Utah forever, she knew that if she was going to be chucked out into the desert at least she would have a couple of thongs and some mascara. Her phone, glass cracked, pot leaf sticker on the back and an In-N-Out T-shirt she had coerced the transport team lead into buying her, that she never got to wear, were at the bottom of the tub.

In the box was an oversized large red nylon sack you take camping with you and put the extra stuff in that you need for the trip. I shook the contents out onto my bed. Her clothes were in there. The clothes she had worn for 10 weeks in the Utah desert. Cotton panties, she called granny panties, some shorts and a couple of polyester shirts, socks, sensible athletic bras. I picked up one of the shirts, put it up to my face, inhaled. It held the smoke from the last campfires she had sat around with the 10 girls who had become her sisters and the staff that had become her mentors. The smoke from hard earned fires that she had learned to start with a primitive fire starter kit. The smoke that became the source of light, sustenance, and life for her and her new family. I buried my face in the shirt, the grief that gurgles below my epidermis seeped out of my eyes. I held the shirt and cried.

Hand carved primitive fire starter kit
Hand carved primitive fire starter kit