Monday, August 24, 2009

Why Meetings Don't Work for Me

Before I dive into my topic for today, I want to say that my heart is deeply touched by the many comments I have received over the last two postings. I've heard from addicts and parents of addicts.

To the addicts who write to me-- your honesty and graphic description of your addiction brings a sense of sadness and yet a true reality to what addiction does to people. You are helping me to understand, just a little bit more, what my son might be feeling/thinking. I pray that you will find sobriety and peace in your life.

To the parents who have found my blog for the first time-- no, you are not alone. I never dreamed that a year ago, April, I would find out that my son is a drug addict. Until April 2008, I had never heard of Oxycontin. I didn't know that heroin could be smoked.

Please stick with my blog, and others that I have on my blog roll. As I find more, I will add them to my site. We need one another!

I received a wonderful email from my best friend of 32 years. She is a wonderful friend and sister to me, and someone who has known me before my son was even conceived. She and her soulmate "C" took my son into their home, when B was discharged from his 30 day rehab in April of 2008. They were so good to my son! My son thinks highly of them, though I suspect B is ashamed of his fall from grace/sobriety. I wish B would understand that P and C don't feel that way at all about him.

I want to post a clip of what she said to me, today:

"A long term program is a must for his future and I hope you can start going to Alanon again. I know in your blog today you said. "THIS is the best support I could ask for. I've tried meetings, but for many reasons, it didn' t help." I think that is the way B feels. My Sista you need to stick to the program because I think it WILL help you. It will also show B that you are taking that step in a program to overcome co-dependency. "

Let me explain why I have not found a support group that could really help me. First, I live in a small city. Unlike big places like San Francisco or Oakland, there are very few meetings for parents/loved ones of addicts.

While my son was in rehab, my husband and I went to each Al-Anon meeting we could find, in our area. I didn't feel awkward about going in at all-- so that wasn't the problem. The first meeting showed a movie dated circa 1960 about alcoholism and how it affects the brain. I had already watched several excellent movies at my son's treatment center about how DRUGS affect the brain. After the movie ended, people drank coffee and there wasn't much of a meeting. We signed our names and phone numbers to be contacted when the next group session would start-- never heard from them again.

Still, we found another Al-Anon meeting in a nearby church, and the hours worked out well for my work schedule. We went four times. We found the meetings to get to a very slow start. People read from "The Blue Book" and talked about conferences and rules and regulations were read. Literally, this took about an hour. The first time it was time to talk, I thought "cool". I can share what I'm going through, and listen to others.

I have a hard time listening to people who drone on and hog the conversation. I'd listen to long stories from people who shared stories about alcohol. I couldn't relate, try as I could.

When it was my turn to talk, folks listened. I'd get to the point (I'm far less chatty in person, and write more lengthy thoughts instead). Of course, nobody can say anything. That's the rule-- no "uh-huh's", no feedback. You are there to listen to others, and they listen to you.

By the fourth time, I realized it was the same folks talking with the same stories. Many would drone on and on and my patience (which can be testy, I admit) was running very thin.

I also attended a local Celebrate Recovery at my own church, a few weeks later. I liked the worship music, the prayer, and sometimes we'd have a great speaker. We'd split off into groups-- women and men separated. I went half a dozen times.

The rules were read. Listen, don't interrupt (wise rule), and if someone is crying do not offer them a tissue or a hug. Crying is part of the healing process, yadda, yadda, yadda.

OK, I can handle that. I don't cry often, because of my childhood. My mother turned on the faucet of tears for guilt and manipulation. Consequently, if someone sees me cry, it's been a long time coming. I don't like for people to see me cry. It's not right or wrong. That's just who I am.

Here's the problem. The group could be anywhere from six to 12 women. The issues are varied-- overeating, sex addiction, alcoholism, sexual molestation, anger and drugs. Each woman is given as much time as she needs to talk. An hour later, I'd hear all about overeating (something I can relate to, but I'm there for my son) or someone's sexual molestation stories from childhood (which broke my heart). I'm still waiting to share. I finally get to share, but again... people can only listen. When I'm finished, all the others can say is "thank you".

You see, I'm not a whiner! I was, once, because I was raised by the Queen of Whiners. Try as I did, I began to feel apathetic towards the same weekly complaining of the same problem by the same person. What was I getting from this? A headache, mostly.I'd go home, from the meetings, feeling the burden of the world on my shoulders. I'd pray for every person at the meeting and yet I'd feel that I had not met one single person who could relate to my situation!

The ONE most blessed experience I had at a CR meeting was when I got up and shared something to the entire group (this is before breaking off into small gender separated groups). I talked about my son. After the groups began to split, a young man walked up to me. He said that he was once like my son, and he regrets all the bad things he did to his own mother. He said to me "I can tell you love your son, and be patient... he'll come around". I wanted to hug that young man!

If I could be at meetings with drug addicts, I think I'd benefit most from that. I want to hear their stories and I want to know their world more-- in an effort to try and understand my son better. Does that make any sense?

If I could find a meeting that had parents just like me-- I'd do it. Long story short, I'm so tired after work that I need to find meetings that are close by and allow me enough time to unwind before falling asleep. I get up a O'Dark Thirty and if I'm sleep deprived, it's a very long day and tiring commute home. Wah, wah, wah!

So, "P", my wonderful and dear friend-- I hear you and I don't disagree with your idea. I just haven't found an Al-Anon meeting where there has been ONE person I can relate to! My son doesn't drink! He smokes heroin.

Co-dependency. I had that whole thing drilled into me at my son's treatment center. I bought books on it. I have read about the 12-steps. I'm not adverse to doing a 12-step program for myself, if I can find a group that is doing one. You have to find a sponsor. I've talked to people who've done the 12-step program on co-dependency and they say sponsors are hard to find.

However, I am not saying "no". I'm saying, IF, I could find the resources in my area I would definitely pursue attending a meeting about drug addicts-- not necessarily alcoholism. They're both addictions, but they're very different. At least, that's what I think and I'm no expert. I'm just the mom of a drug addict.

In the meantime-- my blog has evolved into a venue where I can vent when I am upset or my mind is racing on the topic of addiction. I feel as though I am sitting in a circle with people who understand EXACTLY what I am going through. I have regular folks to email me, privately, and who share their deepest pain with me. They lift my spirits, or ask me for advice. They send cyber hugs to me.

When an addict leaves a comment on my blog, you can bet that I am listening to them. I pray for them, whether they asked me to or not. I think of them, and I feel as though we are in this mess together.

When I look back at my postings between December and now-- I see how much I believed my son. There are some truths in things he's done or he's told me have happened to him. Likewise, there are plenty of lies. My son stretches the truth, thinking it's not quite a lie. My son is full of excuses and empty promises.

I think I had so hoped that my son was on his way to sobriety. I was so wrong.

I do know this, without a shadow of a doubt. My son loves me. I absolutely 100% believe that my son does NOT want to lie to me. My son knows that I'm not stupid and I think he is burdened with guilt-- and I don't have to cry or whine to induce that feeling.

I believe that my son is a person who has the Lord living in his shadow. My son is in bondage to a very evil thing called drug addiction. It's so vile and so strong, that my son is being held captive by a strong need to feed his brain with a chemical that lies to him. I believe that my son has days of sobriety and then he loses it and he uses. He's in a vicious cycle of thinking he can find true sobriety on his own.

My son is leaving our home at the end of the month. He knows this. At least my son is not being thrown out and I forgive my son. I really do. I am not angry at my son and I don't hold any kind of with for him to "get what's coming". I think that my son needs to struggle and to truly see what he has thrown away. He has to make a conscious decision to choose the path in life he wants to talk. He is fighting for his life, by all the life preservers I've sent him haven't reached him. I finally know that.

My husband and I will support my son-- not financially, but in a spiritual and loving way.

My husband is going away this Thursday through Sunday on a camping trip, by himself. He does this every year, and it's a male spiritual rejuvenation for himself. While he is gone, it will give alone time for my son and I to really talk.

Since I found his last batch of foils, we have not talked about the 5000 pound gorilla that's been in our living room. We are cordial, but he can't totally look me in the eyes. He's riddled with guilt, I think.

Me? I'm sad and I'm loving him all at the same time.

My son must move out and find his own way. I am mentally preparing myself for this.

Enough for now.


Anonymous said...

I've been to my fair share of support groups, though for other reasons. it really seemed to help in the beginning but then it started to have the opposite effect on me. I would listen to all the other people's stories and I'd take their greif home with me. It got to the point that I had to stop going because I needed to greive on my own.

Writing on my blog helped quite a bit because I was able to relate to others who had been on a similar path, but my story is much different thatn yours. You are not the addict, your son is. So it's hard to go to meetings and support groups when you're there for your son. You have to do it for you and you have to find the right one.

I do understand where your friend is coming from though. She's a wise one.


Mom of Opiate Addict said...

I have had a similar situation in my small town, very few meetings, sometimes no one even shows up and I find the support online very comforting. We are all different with similar issues. Each of our paths to recovery will be different and we will each have different methods and tools of getting there. I started to look into online meetings along with the blogging, and I see a counselor once a week who specializes in addiction and co-dependency. We all get there however God guides us. I know how you feel and I will be praying for you as always. Gin commented on my blog to trust in my program, whatever that may be, and to do it in my own time. I liked that and it helped me, maybe it will help you?

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could find a NA meeting in your area. They have meetings that work on steps and they big book meetings and they have open discussion and they have meetings where someone (in recovery) shares their story....Maybe you and your son could go together. You might get something out of a addict's meeting other than alanon meeting.

I personally became very spiritual during my recovery and I meet with God now..but I did alot of meetings in the beginning actually a meeting a day if not more...

Also I am sure that the guilt your son is going through is eating him alive, probably pushing him to use. Guilt is a horrible thing to deal with on a daily basis, I know! With recovery he will learn to "let it go" for his own sobriety.

The move out is the hardest thing for you to do I am sure of that (tough love), but it is the only action that will make him realize what he has done, lost and what he must do to get well...(I will pray that this will be his rock bottom)Maybe being homeless will force him into a free rehab!

When I first went into rehab I can tell you that it was NOT for me, it was to get my children back, but during my stay I realized that this was about me and what I wanted....the seed had been planted!

My heart breaks for you and what you are going through and also for your son...he isn't on a pleasant journey at all either...

God Bless.....

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Once again I am reading thinking "did I write this?". I've had the same experiences with Al-anon and Celebrate Recovery. Although I live near Saddleback Church and out CR program is HUGE and all the groups are split up according to addiction/issues. But its still the same women talking every week about the same things leaving me feeling even more discouraged than before.

There is only ONE parent of addict meeting within 25 miles of my home. Its so crowded they can't fit everyone in the same room.

I find much more support here on blogs than anywhere else. People get a chance to listen AND share their thoughts which I find so helpful. I WANT to hear what other parents/addicts think. Just listening has a benefit, but having a response to what I've said means even more.

I was going to start going to NA meetings because I think they will be the most helpful to me. I wish I lived closer to you, we could go together :)

I pray for your son every day. I have a list of all the sons, daughters and men and women that are among the little group I've found on-line and am grateful for every single word shared here by ALL of them.

Our son's are so much very much.

Mom of Opiate Addict said...

I agree with Barbara, did I write this? My town does not have a Celebrate Recovery program and only 5 total Al-Anon meetings, which many times nobody shows up for, and when they do, it is the same as you both describe. I have found this blog to be a lifeline to me. The responses are SO important to me. I am thinking about attending NA also and maybe an online Al-Anon meeting to see how that goes. I also pray for all our children and my son is so much like yours also. Thank you dear Lord for this blog community.

Anonymous said...

I wish that you could come to my home group Al-anon meetings. Today alone, 3 moms with sons addicted to heroin shared at the meeting.

Both meetings and the online bloggers like yourself have been a great help to me. I am so glad that you're finding support through the online community.

Anonymous said...

I had some of the same experiences in AlAnon, but there is much of value in the ideals, if not the execution of those ideals by some attendees. I work my own brand of recovery program and have a pretty strong self-understanding of how I have contributed to our home situation - the drama especially.

Though my daughter is currently clean, there are no guarantees, and I have to be vigilant about my own recovery from my addiction to her problems. When I hear someone say they are "there for (fill in the blank)" and the name is not their own, I wonder if they are still trying to fix the addict instead of working on their own stuff...and we all have our own stuff.

I have found better recovery at my addiction forum and feel more comfortable there than at AlAnon, but I may need to take a refresher trip.

Ask your local hospital about groups geared specifically to parents of opiate addicts - we are fortunate to have one nearby that appreciates the difficulty inherent in "detaching" or "letting go" of one's child. Opiate addiction is different (but not)from alcoholism and more specific help for our particular subgroup would be a blessing.

Her Big Sad said...

Your idea of going to open NA meetings is a good one. I have gained more from that, than going to Alanon or Naranon meetings. When they go around the room and "introduce" I just say "Hi my name is X and I'm here as a supportive friend"....if my daughter is there, I say that I'm here in support of her. Most of them know me anyway...

It helps tremendously. I gained so much insight and learned how "normal" my daughter is... I made some real friends, and I never fail to hear something from someone's share, that I can apply to my own life!

Hope this made sense!

SuboxoneMom said...

I read all your reasons for not attending meetings. What stood out the most was that you were at those meetings for your son.

"Each woman is given as much time as she needs to talk. An hour later, I'd hear all about overeating (something I can relate to, but I'm there for my son) or someone's sexual molestation stories from childhood (which broke my heart)."

But the point of the meetings is for YOU to heal. We are supposed to work a program so that "WE" get better. We are not there to understand the addict, nor are we there to hear their stories. We are there to learn how to live our lives in spite of the addict......

Try going for you, not him. He has his own program, his own higher power. Your going to meetings will not get him better. It will heal you...eventually.