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)
Insomnia.

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

 

 

Healing 1.1

http://www.imagesbyblair.com/Landscapes/DesertSouthwest-2/Utah/Arches-National-Park/i-v4Kqgrg/5/S/desert%20sunrise%202-S.jpg

She would be so mad if she knew I were telling you my version of our story.  More mad than she was when I sent her away.  Because when I sent her away, I saved her life. It didn’t feel that way at the time.  At the time it was terrifying, the hardest decision I have ever had to make, putting us into David’s sling-shot and letting ‘er rip and not knowing if we were going to slay the giant or if the rock would land with an impotent thump on the hot, dry sand of the Utah desert.  When you make decisions like this, life changing, altering the course of all you have known for five years decisions, there is the risk it could backfire. And then there’s the grief.

Disclaimer: The day I made the decision to send my daughter away I was in the middle of tapering off of depression medication that I had been on for over 10 years.  On the meds I was detached, had night sweats I attributed to Peri-menopause, little enthusiasm or passion for what I was doing, I had no energy behind setting goals and completing them and every time I missed a dose I was propelled into detox which made me think that getting off the medication was a good idea. When I told my sponsor that I was sending my daughter to a wilderness therapy program and then to long term treatment, she said, “Are you on medication?” “Yes,” I said, “for depression.” “You might want to increase the dosage,” she said. Not only is she 25 years sober but she’s a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in grief and loss.

I’m telling you all of this because I’m an alcoholic, sober almost 15 years, and I’m bodily and mentally different than my brothers and sisters in more than my alcoholism and drug addiction  because I have major depression.  I’m telling you this because everyday I say this prayer:

and perhaps in the telling of my story I can let go of my daughter and surrender more fully both her and I into God’s hands.  And maybe, as I surrender my difficulties to God, I can experience some small victory over them, so that I can bear witness to others the unending mercy, grace, compassion and love of God.

Disclaimer 2:  After 13 weeks off medication, spiraling down into major depression which consists of daily thoughts of guilt, worthlessness, self-hatred,  loss of appetite, and making life incredibly difficult for the ones I love and adore, I am taking medication again.

Healing 1.0

Feasting-On-the-Bread-of-Life

 

For five weeks this summer we are reading variations John 6:35 and Jesus as the bread of life. It’s perfect timing really because I need some bread. I have all that sustains me physically but spiritually things have been rough. For the last 12 weeks my 17 year-old-daughter has been gone. The first 10 weeks she was in a wilderness therapy program and now she’s in a long-term residential treatment center.

I can relate to the people coming after Jesus for more. Just give me more, more food, more tricks, more miracles, make me ok. Let me fill this hole of pain, despair, grief, and loss with something, but please don’t tell me some story about how you are the bread of life and whoever comes to me will never be hungry or thirsty, because the pain is too great and the despair to debilitating and loss to deep and I might not be able to crawl through it to get to you in time. So, if you could just let me win the lottery, or maybe I’ll just go shopping, or exercise some more, or spend more time on Facebook that would be awesome.

But I’ve come too far, I’ve been sober too long, I’ve been down the road of grief before and every time, I’ve survived. But not only have I survived, in the traveling to God, crawling back to Jesus, when standing on my own two legs was impossible, I did find healing in the heavenly bread and water. Because only love can heal these wounds and for me that love is the love of God as expressed in the love, mercy, healing and life-giving ministry of Jesus from Nazareth. Hope is not in Starbucks, or the gym, or H & M, although the part of me that wants a quick fix sure as hell wishes it was. Hope, healing, forgiveness, grace is in the moment I get quiet and settle into place where God is, and Jesus meets me with opens arms and hugs me tight.

Talitha Cum!

She walked out of the desert with a ring of grime around her ankles
where her crocs ended and her long, lean legs began.
She stepped with power between sage and rabbitbrush
as if she owned the land beneath her feet.

Beams of light shot from her finger tips and eyesIMG_3904
and haloed her body

Talitha cum!
Little girl, get up!

Like the woman with the perpetual flow of blood
I had hemorrhaged love that almost killed the little girl
She starved herself to skin and bones.
What I fed her could no longer nourish her skeleton frame.
She ate potent poison, drank lethal liquid
that slowly killed her from the inside out.

Death was unrecognizable in the slow, methodical, bit by bit
consumption of the little girl.
Denial dictated that if I loved her more,
everything would be fine.
In desperation I reached out to touch the hem of His garment.

Grace is in the waking up.
Grace is in disavowing denial.
Grace generates yes to life.

Talitha Cum!
Little girl, get up!

She was swept up by strangers
like an animal restrained scratching violently at the walls of it’s cage,
last gasps of no mommy, please mommy, one more chance, mommy,
she was carried out into the desert
to die and be reborn.

She walked out of the desert with a ring of grime around her ankles
where her crocs ended and her long, lean legs began.
She stepped with power between sage and rabbitbrush
as if she owned the land beneath her feet.

Beams of light shot from her finger tips and eyes
and haloed her body

Talitha cum!
Little girl, get up!

Ages

poetryyI’m 5

With a cardboard cutout witch’s hat,

A crepe paper cape and a wooden toy broom

Standing on the stoop, all baby belly

And poised to fly off into the Indian summer dusk

To ring the first doorbell and

Sing “Trick-or-Treat!”

 

15

New Year’s Eve, Orange Grove Blvd.

After midnight

Monolithic shadows, when the sun comes up,

Will be all colors, flowers, seeds and sunlight

On top of one will be the Queen

17, sparkling with accomplishment

and glowing with optimism

that’s so not me

because I’m drunk and I can’t remember how I got home

 

25

I turn around

The shards of glass still falling

And there’s blood on the floor

On the inside of my thighs

Dripping on my toes

I probably shouldn’t have drank so much

Or walked through that plate glass door

Or gotten married that morning.

 

35

I’m a Sumo wrestler

Rocking back and forth,

Swaying to the pain

And then

There’s blood and water

I am an animal squatting and pushing

She’s there – out of me and on top of me

Rooting for my breast

We both cry

Blood, water, breath, life

Before you know it,

She’s five.