A Daughter\’s Journey…

Real-life reflections regarding a crack-addicted father

Birthday Feelings February 3, 2007

Filed under: Addiction,addiction help,Blogroll,drug abuse,Inspiration,Self-Help — leapoffaith @ 12:55 am

Today is my 28th birthday.  The amount of emotional growth I’ve experienced this past year never ceases to amaze me.  I keep telling myself I’m better for all that I’ve gone through…and most of the time, I believe that. 

Today has been a day just like any other for the most part; business as usual.  Everywhere, reminders of my dad, even in the strangest of places and even when I’m not really looking. 

I took my boys to the barbershop this morning for haircuts.  There was a little boy in line who was probably around one and a half, getting ready for his first haircut ever.  The little boy’s family made it a “family affair” and everyone was there, including this little boy’s grandfather.  As soon as the grandpa walked in the door, the little boy shreiked with delight and ran right into his arms.  They laughed and played together.  The look of joy and happiness on both of their faces was awe-inspiring and crushing to me all at the same time.  After a few seconds of trying to regain my own composure and hoping that my boys didn’t see my emotional reaction, I hurried to make sure they weren’t paying attention as I dreaded having to explain why they don’t have a relationship with my dad that way.  I made it through that one outwardly unscathed, but inside, my heart was a little bruised; not for me, but for my babies who will never know a loving relationship like that one with their own maternal grandfather.  I hurt for them.  I hurt for my father.  Although I know that it’s of his own volition, he’s missing out on so much with my children; so much that he’ll never, ever be able to regain.  It’s so not fair to my boys and that makes me angry at times.

The phone has rang many, many times today with lots of friends and relatives on the other end wishing me a happy birthday.  I’m so thankful for all of them and know that I am incredibly blessed to have them all in my life.  Funny, each time the phone rings, my heart thinks that maybe it could be my dad calling to say he’s sorry and wish me a happy birthday.  How jaded is that?  My mind knows better than to think that.  As childish as it sounds, the birthday present I wanted most this year was to have my father back in my life.  So silly of me to even pretend that could be possible.  These internal struggles seem to be never-ending.  A song I heard today seemed SO fitting for how I’m feeling.  The lyrics seem to describe my struggles almost prefectly.

 “Fall to Pieces” by Velvet Revolver

It’s been a long year
Since you’ve been gone
I’ve been alone here
I’ve grown old
I fall to pieces, I’m falling
Fell to pieces and I’m still falling

Every time I’m falling down
All alone I fall to pieces

I keep a journal of memories
I’m feeling lonely, I can’t breathe
I fall to pieces, I’m falling
Fell to pieces and I’m still falling

All the years I’ve tried
With more to go
Will the memories die
I’m waiting
Will I find you
Can I find you
We’re falling down
I’m falling

Every time I’m falling down
All alone I fall to pieces
Every time I’m falling down
All alone I fall to pieces
Every time I’m falling down
All alone I fall to pieces
Every time I’m falling down
All alone I fall to pieces

 Even though I temporarily “fall to pieces,” I always manage to find some inner strength to pick myself up, dust myself off, and move on.  Today is no different, I guess.  I have received a lot of emails this week from readers of my blog.  To all of you who are struggling with finding your own way with your addicted loved ones, may you find your own inner strength.


10 Ways Family Members Can Help a Loved One with a Drug or Alcohol Problem January 29, 2007

Filed under: Addiction,addiction help,Blogroll,drug abuse,Inspiration,Self-Help — leapoffaith @ 7:46 pm

By Ed Hughes, MPS

The pain and suffering of addiction is not limited to the alcoholic or drug addict. Family members share a tremendous burden as well.  Shame, guilt, fear, worry, anger, and frustration are common. Everyday feelings for family members concerened about a loved one’s drinking or drug use.  In most cases, the family has endured the brunt of the consequences for the loved ones addiction, including the stress of worry, financial costs, and life adjustments made to accommodate the addicted person’s lifestyle.  Addiction leads the addict away from positive influences of the family.  The disease twists love, concern, and a willingness to be helpful into a host of enabling behaviors that only help to perpetuate the illness.

Family and friends are usually very busy attempting to help the alcoholic or addict, but the help is of the wrong kind.  If directed toward effective strategies and interventions, however, these people become powerful influences in helping the loved one “hit bottom” and seek professional help.  At the very least, families can detach themselves from the painful consequences of there loved one’s disease and cease their enabling behavior.  Here are 10 ways family members can help there loved one and themselves:

1) Do learn the facts about alcoholism and drug addiction.

Obtain information through counseling, open AA/NA meetings, and Alanon/Naranon.  Addiction thrives in an environment of ignorance and denial.  Only when we understand the characteristics and dynamics of addiction can we begin to respond to its symptoms more effectively.  Realizing that addiction is a progressive disease will assist the family members to accept there loved as a “sick person” rather than a “bad person.” This comprehension goes a long way toward helping overcome the associated shame and guilt.  No one is to blame.  The problem is not caused by bad parenting or any other family shortcoming.  Attendance at open AA/NA meetings is important: families need to see that not only are they not alone in there experience, but also that there are many other families just like theirs involved in this struggle.  Families will find a reason to be hopeful when they hear the riveting stories of recovery shared at these meetings.

2) Don’t rescue the alcoholic or addict. Let them experience the full consequence of their disease

Unfortunately, it is extremely rare for anyone to be “loved” into recovery. Recovering people experience a “hitting bottom.” This implies an accumulation of negative consequences related to drinking or drug use which provides the necessary motivation and inspiration to initiate a recovery effort.  It has been said that “truth” and “consequences” are the foundations of insight and this holds true for addiction. Rescuing addicted persons from there consequences only ensures that more consequences must occur before the need for recovery is realized.

3) Don’t support the addiction by financially supporting the alcoholic or addict.

Money is the lifeblood of addiction.  Financial support can be provided in many ways and they all serve to prolong the arrival of consequences. Buying groceries, paying for a car repair, loaning money, paying rent, and paying court fines are all examples of contributing to the continuation of alcohol or drug use.  Money is almost always given by family members with the best of intentions, but it always serves to enable the alcoholic or addict to avoid the natural and necessary consequences of addiction. Many addicts recover simply because they could not get money to buy their drug. Consequently they experience withdrawal symptoms and often seek help.

4) Don’t analyze the loved one’s drinking or drug use. Don’t try to figure it out or look for underlying causes.

There are no underlying causes. Looking for underlying causes is a waste of time and energy and usually ends up with some type of blame focused on the family or others.  This “paralysis by analysis” is a common manipulation by the disease of addiction which distracts everyone from the important issue of the illness itself.

5) Don’t make idle threats. Say what mean and mean what you say.

Words only marginally impact the alcoholic or addict. Rather “actions speak louder than words” applies to addiction. Threats are as meaningless as the promises made by the addicted person.

6) Don’t extract promises

A person with an addiction cannot keep promises. This is not because they don’t intend to, but rather because they are powerless to consistently act upon their commitments.  Extracting a promise is a waste of time and only serves to increase the anger toward the loved one.

7) Don’t preach or lecture

Preaching and lecturing are easily discounted by the addicted person.  A sick person is not motivated to take positive action through guilt or intimidation.  If an alcoholic or addict could be “talked into” getting sober, many more people would get sober.

8.) Do avoid the reactions of pity and anger

These emotions create a painful roller coaster for the loved one.  For a given amount of anger that is felt by a family member in any given situation, that amount-or more-of pity will be felt for the alcoholic or addict once the anger subsides.  This teeter-totter is a common experience for family members—they get angry over a situation, make threats or initiate consequences, and then backtrack from those decisions once the anger has left and has been replaced by pity. The family then does not follow through on their decision to not enable.

9) Don’t accommodate the disease

Addiction is a subtle foe.  It will infiltrate a family’s home, lifestyle, and attitudes in a way that can go unnoticed by the family.  As the disease progresses within the family system, the family will unknowingly accommodate its presence. Examples of accommodation include locking up ones and other valuables, not inviting guests for fear that the alcoholic or addict might embarrass them, adjusting one’s work schedule to be home with the addict or alcoholic, and planning one’s day around events involving the alcoholic or addict.

10) Do focus upon your life and responsibilities

Family members must identify areas of there lives that have been neglected due to their focus on, or even obsession with, the alcoholic or addict.  Other family members, hobbies, job, and health, for example, often take a back seat to the needs of the alcoholic or addict and the inevitable crisis of addiction. Turning attention away from the addict and focusing on other personal areas of one’s life is empowering and helpful to all concerned.  Each of these suggestions should be approached separately as individual goals.  No one can make an abrupt change or adjustment from the behaviors that formed while the disease of addiction progressed.  I can not over-emphasize the need for support of family members as they attempt to make changes. Counseling agencies must provide family education and programs to share this information.  They must offer opportunities for families to change their attitudes and behaviors.  The most powerful influence in helping families make these changes is Al-Anon/Naranon.  By facing their fears and weathering the emotional storms that will follow, they can commit to ending their enabling entanglements.

The disease of addiction will fervently resist a family’s effort to say “no” and stop enabling. Every possible emotional manipulation will be exhibited in an effort to get the family to resume “business as usual.”  There will always be certain family members or friends who will resist the notion of not enabling, join forces with the sick person, and accuse the family of lacking love.  This resistance is a difficult but necessary hurdle for the family to overcome.  Yet, it is necessary if they are to be truly helpful to the alcoholic or addict. Being truly helpful is what these suggestions are really about.  Only when the full weight of the natural consequences of addiction is experienced by the addict – rather than by the family- can there be reason for hope of recovery.


Small Triumph January 28, 2007

I started the next-to-last semester of my undergraduate education four weeks ago today.  In one of my classes, I had to give a presentation on a drug-related topic.  I chose one that I felt the most comfortable (yet uncomfortable) with…How Addiction Affects Families.

I was so scared going into class last Tuesday prepared to give my presentation.  I had worked so hard on my PowerPoint and narrowing down the bare essentials of information to share with my 35 classmates.  I wondered how I would make it through the presentation without breaking down and prayed from strength before I was called on to begin.  The presentation went remarkably well and I only teared-up a few times.  I was able to find some inner strength and continue at the times when I felt as though I was going to lose it.  I think my classmates received the presentation well for the most part, and many of them sent me emails telling me that they appreciated my story.  My professor commented about how “brave” I was for sharing.

Aside from the gigantic sense of relief I felt when I was finally finished (after 45 minutes), I felt really proud of myself.  It was the first time I had shared my journey with anyone outside of my best friend or close family and it was liberating.  I wasn’t ashamed at who my father has become like I thought I might be.  Sharing was incredibly empowering and I am stronger because of this experience.

In other news about my dad…He has begun his almost ritualistic calling of friends and family again.  First, he started with my Uncle Clyde, and urged him to tell “his family” what a good man he was before crack.  He also called my brother Mike and left him several voicemails, each worse than the one prior as he came to the realization that he wasn’t getting a call back.  He made sure to share that he was living in “the gutter” and eating out of trash cans.  Those phone calls were followed up by a call from my dad’s enabling sister to my mom in which she whined because none of us kids sent my dad a birthday card this year, nor did we invite him to “holiday functions.”  Cry me a freakin’ river.  The calls have since stopped though, for which I am grateful, and life goes on…


2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back… December 22, 2006

My family and I were finishing up our Christmas shopping last night and just enjoying being together, when all of a sudden I realized that there was one person I didn’t buy for – my dad.  At first, it was actually the type of thought that one would normally act on as if life had never changed.  After a couple seconds, it finally ‘clicked’ that I don’t have a dad to buy for, which naturally was followed by sights of all sorts of fathers and daughters walking around the mall happily shopping for last minute gifts.  I felt instantly envious.  There was a time (my teenage years) in which I didn’t value my relationship with my dad.  Now, I find myself feeling so lost without him. 

On the drive home from shopping, I spoke with my mom who had an update on my dad.  We hadn’t heard one in quite a while and I’ll admit that natural curiosity got the better of me.  A family friend who used to work with my dad couldn’t believe the news he had heard from another co-worker who my dad apparently keeps in touch with.  Why people think that it’s ok to call a hurting family about their crack-addicted loved one (especially around the holidays) is beyond me.  At any rate, I braced myself for the news that my dad was with another family.

Perhaps worse than thinking my dad was living happily with another family is the thought that he is homeless and living on the streets.  Last night, that horrific thought became a reality.  As it turns out, my father is living under a via-dock in Saginaw.  He spends his days going between meals at the local soup kitchen and hanging out at the local library.  I ask myself the rhetorical question, “how can this be?,” and have this insatiable urge to want to do something to help my dad.  I know I can’t.  If he’s living under a via-dock instead of sleeping at a homeless shelter, that’s a pretty good indication to me that he’s still smoking crack.

It’s entirely possible that my dad contacted his former co-worker knowing full-well that all of this would get back to us.  In my sensible mind, I feel like this is probably just another of his manipulative tactics to get one of us to crumble and come to his rescue; however, in my heart, I feel like the most hardened, cold-hearted daughter on the face of this planet for turning my back on my dad like this.  This is a constant internal struggle for me. 

I still have those moments (like this one) when I feel like maybe there is something I could say or something I could do that would make my dad snap out of this.  (If only it were that easy…)  Maybe if I tried to reach him and just told him that I still love him and haven’t forgotten him; maybe if I did send him a Christmas gift; maybe somehow I could make this all better for my dad, for me, for the rest of my family. 

Then I get angry at myself for thinking for a split second that could even be possible.

I will try to keep focused on the words that a wise friend recently shared with me (thanks, TM) that I think apply to all those who are in similar situations:

“It seems so common that these MIA addicts make their holiday appearances dosen’t it? …I am amazed every year by the feeble attempts made to convince us that the events of the year were nothing more than our own misconceptions of reality. For all of you who are bracing for this contact, please know my thoughts and prayers are with you. Stand fast with knowledge that the boundaries you’ve set throughout the year truly ARE healthy ones and that just because it’s Christmas time it does NOT give someone the right to waltz right in as if nothing has happened. It’s not some kind of God given right to be a part of special times when they have done nothing to earn a place in these times. Try to keep in mind that it’s the nature of this beast to try and make us second guess our selves and that giving in only gives strength to this demon that is making it’s home in our worlds. Think of your childhood memories of Christmas time and know that your decisions now will affect the memories your children and grandchildren carry with them for the rest of their lives…..”

Such wise words which make it easier for me to be reassured in my decisions.  It’s a reminder that the decisions I’m making regarding my dad not only affects me but my children as well, and I will do everything in my power to protect them from the hurt and heartache their grandfather has brought into my life.  I grieve for my children because they will never have memories of the great man their grandfather once was.  All either of them will have is a picture of their grandfather holding them at the hospital on their birthday. 

For all those out there struggling like I am, my thoughts and prayers are with you this holiday season and always.


A Reminder for Enablers September 22, 2006

Get this…My father calls my dear old auntie and says, “Please send me some duct tape.”  Auntie says, “Why do you need duct tape?”  Dad replies, “My shoes have holes in them and I need to tape them up,” knowing full-well that his sister is going to buy into this bogus sob-story.  Auntie replies, “Oh, don’t worry brother, I’ll take care of you.  I’ll send you $100 so you can buy yourself some new shoes.”

When my mom told me this two days ago, I thought, “You cannot be fucking serious!?!?”  A grown, educated woman, stuck so far in denial it’s rediculous, thinking she’s “helping” my dad.  HERE’S A WAKE UP CALL, AUNTIE!  You are an ENABLER of the worst kind!  The only thing you are helping my father do is KILL HIMSELF!  If you think your $100 went to buy a new pair of shoes, you are a complete and total idiot.  Ironic that just two days after you sent him the money, he called one of my uncles and one of my brothers higher than a kite.  Congratulations, auntie, you helped finance his crack habit!  Good job.  Way to go.  What a martyr you are!  You should be so proud of yourself for “helping” my dad. 

This little, enfuriating personal story of mine tells me that it is a good time to share some more intellectual thoughts on enabling.  There are clearly some people out there (not naming any names – auntie) who NEED these reminders:

What is enabling?

Enabling is doing for others what they are capable of doing for themselves. When we enable addicts, we prevent them from experiencing the consequences of their own actions. When we do this, we discourage them from learning from their own mistakes which, in turn, prevents them from realizing they have a problem. The addict has made drugs their whole life. The normal, natural things every person needs to learn have been put aside. When we continue to reach in and do even the simple things for people we love, how will they learn to do for themselves?

How do we enable?

We enable addicts by doing things such as:

* Paying their bills, making car payments, covering bounced checks, paying bail, paying traffic tickets;

* Making excuses for their behavior, changing appointments, calling employers on absenteeism, writing late or absentee excuses to schools, covering up for missed family functions;

* Providing the addict with money, clothing, housing and food;

* Caring for the addict’s family by allowing them to live with us, taking their children to school, babysitting, etc.

What does enabling do for us?

Enabling gives us a false sense of control. We do what society tells us a “good” father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter or friend should do, but we are not getting the results we desire. We feel frustrated and resentful. Because the addict’s behavior does not change, we think we
have failed.

Our actions, done with the best of intentions, have back-fired.

Can you enable an addict (or anyone) who is not using?

We can enable anyone, using or not. Our enabling behavior patterns are not directed solely toward the addict and/or the addict’s sobriety. Enabling deprives anyone of experiencing the consequences of their own behavior.

Remember, when taking responsibility for our own behavior each one of us must find our own path. Experience teaches us that it is useless to lay out a path for someone else to follow. We must each make our own way to our goal.

When we enable, we put other people’s needs before our own.


What Don’t You Get About ‘Leave Us Alone’?!?!?! September 19, 2006

My dad has continued to email one of my younger brothers since the end of August.  My brother will not even acknowledge that he even received them.  My dad repeatedly says, “If I don’t hear from you, I’ll know that you don’t want to talk to me and I’ll leave you alone,” yet he continues to email.  My dad says that my mom has lied to all of us kids (like we can’t see and feel for ourselves) about his addiction, and assured my brother that the “only” thing he’s lied to us about is promising some time ago that he would never smoke crack again.

To complicate matters further, my dad has a sister (who we’ve never really been close to) who all of a sudden feels like she needs to take responsibility for my father.  She has and continues to enable him in ways that even I cannot fathom anymore.  I’m thankful that my siblings and I are no longer in the state of denial she is in.  Despite trying to educate her, she simply cannot grasp the concept that by doing the things she has for my dad, she is basically enabling him to continue to smoke crack and thereby kill himself.  She thinks she’s doing the right thing by my dad.

Dear old auntie will periodically call my mom with an update on my dad.  Recently, the updates are all about how she cannot believe how my brothers and I have just abondoned my father.  If I have to hear one more time about how awful we are for not sending my dad a father’s day card (if anyone knows where I can find a Hallmark card for crackhead fathers, please let me know…), I’m going to scream.  Auntie asks “what will it take for the kids to allow their dad back into their lives?  How about rehab?”  Seriously!?!?  How naive do they think we are?

The point is that I’m SO sick of her placing blame for this situation on US.  How is that even possible?  Um, hello…in case you haven’t a clue, auntie, which by the way you don’t, my dad has NO reason to change because you’re right there trying to help him get a job, giving him money, and buying him clothing.  She honestly thinks my dad isn’t smoking crack.  She always says, “well, when I talk to him, he doesn’t sound high and he said he hasn’t smoked crack in a very long time…”  Idiot.

Then, to put the icing on the cake, Auntie decides to drive 3 hours north of where she lives to stop in the town where my brother (who keeps receiving the emails) and I live.  She drove all the way to my brother’s work this past Saturday (thank GOD he wasn’t there) to “give him some spending money.”  This makes me so FURIOUS that I literally see red when I think about this.  We haven’t seen Auntie in FOREVER; she’s NEVER sent any of us “spending money” in our entire lives.  I couldn’t tell you the last time any of us (besides my mom) have even talked to this woman, and here she shows up at my brother’s work looking to give him money? 

Not only does this set off a huge red flag in my mind regarding what she and my dad are concocting, or in what way the are wanting to use my brother (which he will not tolerate), it completely infuriates me.  Why can’t Auntie and my dad just leave us alone?  They have absolutely NO regard for our feelings and our lives, and just think they have the right to come in and out whenever they want, creating chaos and leaving heartache.  They just don’t get it.  Why can’t they just stop to think for just one minute about how the emails, phone calls, and visits make us feel?  They have such blatant disregard for us and for our emotions.  All of us try hard to put this nightmare out of our heads, even just so we can get through a day, and then we’re forced to deal with shit like this which makes all the emotions of the past year and a half come flooding back full-force.  It just pisses me off that after everything we’ve been put through, that they can’t just have the common decency to leave us the hell alone.

…and that’s my rant for the day.