Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The last of 2014 - I'm still around, and checking in

Gosh, it's been seven months since I've posted on this blog! I had comments to moderate and post, from months ago-- my apologies.   (I leave comment moderation turned on, because the spammers love to attack blogs with the keywords "drugs" or "oxycontin" or "heroin" in them. )

I was just thinking about how 2014 has been for me, my husband, marriage, job-- and not least of all, my son.  I am filled with so much gratitude for so many things.  This blog is really all about my son, and his drug addiction, so that's what I'll update about.  I have no idea if anyone is still following my blog, because I've been so scarce. But, here goes:

"B" is almost three years completely clean, and over one year of no methadone and no suboxone. He is organically clean, and I'm ecstatic about that.  Ironically, it's Obama Care that made my son make the decision to get off suboxone.  His Obama Care insurance wouldn't pay for it, and he couldn't afford it-- and we weren't going to pay for it.

B went through the detox, under the care of a physician-- who specializes in addiction. Obama Care did pay for that, amen.    It's been a while, and my son isn't around to ask-- but, as I recall, it took a couple of weeks and a LOT of cigarettes (and I am not a smoker at all).  B was amazed at how good he began to feel, and he says he was 100% ready to not rely on prescriptions to help control his cravings. He made it!

Fast forward to right here and now.  I have my son back.  He has matured into a 26 year old adult male, who is very respectful to me and his step dad.  He is still living at home, but he is paying us rent. He never complains, and never misses rent.  He is cheerful, helpful and he makes me laugh.  He is my world, and I love him so very much.

I am so thankful to have my son back.  Our relationship has been completely restored.  B talks less and less about drugs... not even joking about it as much as he used to.  In other words, he has stopped glorifying his drug dealing/drug using "hey day" stories that I got tired of hearing.

B also has an entirely different group of friends. His new best friend doesn't smoke or drink.  He's a nice guy, and very responsible. B is still into online gaming, but that's toned down quite a bit. I'm happy to see him going out, at night, to hang out and watch football with his friends, or going to the movie theater.  At last, he has a normal social life.

He's pretty much quite smoking cigarettes. He's got one of those e-Cigarette "vape" gadgets.  He's down to almost no nicotine. I'm still not thrilled, but it beats finding a coffee can of overflowing cigarette butts in our backyard.  I continue to pray that he will completely quit smoking. 

My son has been offered an opportunity to move to Texas to apprentice as an electrician.  He doesn't have a wife or girlfriend. He's been at the same job for 3 years, that doesn't offer any kind of benefits. So, I said "go for it"!  Learning a trade like that would be wonderful for him.  He has never been outside of California (save for a 5 day trip where we flew to Phoenix for a golf camp...when he was 12).  If he doesn't like Texas, he can always come home.  So, he is talking about leaving in February.  Already, I'm feeling a sense of panic of letting my son go.  I have grown to love his company, and he's a perfect roommate.  But, I know it's time to let my bird fly away.

What give gives me added comfort is that he can move without trying to find out where the closest methadone clinic is. He doesn't have to find a doctor to keep prescribing suboxone....  my son is free!

Emails still trickle in to me, from heart-broken parents and families of addicts. They ask me what they can do-- and it makes me sad to respond "you can't do anything to make them change their addict behavior".  I continue to tell them to educate themselves about addiction. Find a good support group.  Learn about manipulation, because that's what addicts are so good at.

My son made the decision to get clean, when he hit HIS rock bottom. He had sold everything he owned (including hsi good clothes) to support his heroin habit.  He said he was sick to his stomach trying to keep up with his lies-- and knowing I was growing less and less able to be manipulated.

In keeping things real, I remind myself that my son will always be an addict.  There always remains that possibility that months, years or decades from now, that he might succumb into using again.  But, I remain hopeful that my son remembers the misery that his addiction put him through.  He admits, now, how his addiction robbed him of any kind of joy or peace in his life.  He swears he has no desire to use, nor has any cravings at all. Amen to that!

My heart goes out to those who are still struggling with addiction.  I especially think about, and pray for, those families who are feeling that sense of helplessness and worry.  Just recently, my son made me aware that our neighbors (across the street) had a son who was using.  B said he could hear horrible family fights, late at night.  He said that "sketchy" cars were arriving late at night (his bedroom window faces the street), and he told me that he was 100% positive drug deals were going on.  The parents are still in total denial. It's such a long story, but one day, one of our neighbors called the sheriff because she got tired of all the strange comings and goings from people who didn't live in the house.  The sheriff found a young man with heroin on him, INSIDE the house. (NOTE: why in the world would the parents allow their drug addict son to have his friend staying at their home?) The son was on probation, and also had drugs on him. They were arrested, and I have no idea what's happened.  Peace has once again, descended on our block (and we live in a quiet, gated community).

I was very tempted to go over and talk to the parents, who are so obviously co-dependent and in denial. Then, I thought better of it.  I don't think they wanted to hear my story. Maybe. One day.

So, that brings me back to why I keep this blog online-- though I don't post every often, anymore.

If my story can help just ONE person to have an epiphany-- by reading my own journey, from scared and ignorant mom of a drug addict... to woeful and frightened educated mom... to "Tough Love" mom... and to know that it is possible for an addict to become clean... if I can lift just ONE person's hope, then this is all worth it.

It is my sincerest prayer that 2015 will be a year for renewed hope in each and every one of your lives. While Christianity is under attack now, more than ever, I still remain a firm and sincere believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.   I believe that my faith and trust in God held me up through those very painful chapters in my life.  I give God 100% of all the glory that my son is clean and sober, and doesn't have a criminal record. That, in and of itself, is a miracle.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Reflections on my son-- the drug addict and a wonderful and hopeful update on him!

Today, I wrote a tribute to my own mother, who passed on to heaven in 2002, and shared it on my personal facebook. Our relationship wasn't quite as loving as I wish it could have been. There are times when I read magazines articles, that features a shot of a mother and daughter posing cheek-to-cheeck. They are each other's best friends.

I didn't quite have that, growing up. My mother was a good mother, mind you.  I have no doubt that she loved me, and my two brothers. In some ways, she was a victim of her own childhood. It took many years for me to fully appreciate how a beautiful young teenager's life was affected by growing up in a Bavarian town that was bombed by the Americans during World War II. I cannot imagine the horrors of war that my mother witnessed. She didn't have a good relationship with her own mother, and was raised by her grandmother-- whom she loved. My mother ended up marrying an American soldier, who promised her the moon and the stars, as she followed him to the United States. My father didn't quite deliver those promises. He also surprised her with plenty of punches, slaps and both verbal and physical abuse.  I began to realize that this explained why my mother was such an angry women and why she would take it out on her kids, whom she truly loved. She had no problem hitting me with cooking spoons, rug beaters or her fists. Consequently, I developed an inner rage and (misguided) hatred towards my mother.

All of these things left scars in my life. Fortunately, today, I have found healing and forgiveness-- and even redemption, by the faith that I found in Jesus Christ in 1996.  Today, I can fully appreciate the sacrifices that my mother made to make sure that her three children were well educated, fed, and clothed when she finally divorced my father when we were young teenagers. 'Nuff said on my own childhood, because I want this post to speak to the mothers (and fathers) of drug addicts.

While my postings have become fewer and farther in between, I still receive occasional emails from parents of all walks of life-- police officers, teachers, lawyers, secretaries... you name it, I've read their tragic and desperate stories. I feel powerless to give them the hope and solutions that they so desperately need. I can only empathize and I try to share my journey through this blog.

When I first discovered that my son had a drug addiction problem, in 2008, I had absolutely no idea! I missed every single warning, every single red flag and I felt like a failure as a mother. Can you identify with that?

In retrospect, I missed a lot of the obvious signs that there was trouble brewing.  His school grades had plummeted. His attendance was becoming sporadic.  Following in my mother's footsteps, my 17 year marriage to B's father collapsed.  B's father and I had totally different parenting styles. My son learned to take advantage of this. His father would excuse his absences, blame the teachers for his failing grades. I, on the other hand, found myself overwhelmed with trying to keep my business alive, eeking by a living and barely able to pay my bills. The bill collectors were beginning to circle above my head, and my son was giving me a hard time.  I can remember my anger and resentment towards my son's teenage behavior. I felt like I had lost control and at times, I was just too tired to battle with him. At times, I think I just wasn't there for him. Self-blame, I know.

My mother was a very opinionated and judgmental woman.  As a result, I inherited a lot of her traits. I used to judge other parents whose kids had gone down the road of perdition. When a very close friend's son was charged with murder, by shooting a teenager at party that had gotten out of control-- and worse, "gang charges" were added to the mix-- my first thought was "Well, it's her fault. She was too busy working and wasn't keeping a close enough eye on the boy."

I was so wrong. I was too quick to judge that mom.  I take it all back, and I'm sorry. She did everything she could, as best as she could.  Her son, simply got caught up with the wrong friends. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He had never been in trouble before. He had a 4.0GPA.  He says things "just happened".  Only God knows the total truth, but I have relinquished my judgement attitude towards his mom. Her heart is broken, and he won't get out of prison for at least 25 years.

I know a Christian family where the parent have been blissfully married for 35 years. They have three children, who have all grown up to be strong in their faith in God. One even married a preacher! They are all college graduates, and truly very beautiful and handsome young adults, now. This mother posts a lot of photos of her kids, on Facebook. I see photos of her walking, hand-in-hand, with her financially successful husband. They're in Italy, or some exotic island.  I see the videos of her beautiful young grand children, and her pride in them sometimes makes me feel envy.  Then, I remind myself, that's very wrong. I should be very happy for them.

I work with a woman who has three children. They are agnostics.  But, their kids are very similar to the Christian family. They're wonderful young adults and the family is very close. I call them her "stepford children".

Why do some children turn out to be so "perfect", yet, I know families with similar dynamics, and their children take a completely different path? One of my pastors experienced this himself.  My son kept telling me that his daughter is an alcoholic and drug addict. He went to school with her, and said they crossed into the same circles of addiction.  A few years later, this pastor stood before all of us and shared that they just found out the depths of their daughter's addiction. He shared, with tears in his eyes, how they received an emergency call and found their daughter completely strung out-- with pills and empty bottles of alcohol in her bedroom. Praise God, she is also clean and sober for one year.

So, you see? Drug addiction hits all walks of life. Addiction takes no prisoners.

Six years later, I have learned to stop blaming myself.  Sometimes, my memory dredges up some incidents where I wish I had handled things differently. Why didn't I search my son's closet and backpack? My son says I would have found his stash. He says he had thousands of dollars hidden, from his drug dealing days. (Did he? Is he exaggerating? I don't know...)  But, what then? How would I have handled it? Would I have gotten angry and grounded him? Would I have had the courage to call the cops on him?

Was my divorce part of the reason my son "self-medicated"? Did I destroy my son's self-esteem when I'd lose my temper and yell at him? Yes, the behavior I experienced from my parents did affect the way I parented my son.  I wince, when I look back at those moments.

For me, the changing point in my life, was the day that I realized I believed that God is real. I began to read the bible, from A-Z and to study the word. I began to, earnestly, seek the truth and I discovered that there is plenty of evidence that validates the truth of scripture.  It's been a difficult battle, because once someone proclaims their faith in Jesus, I had to learn to defend those who considered me to be -- well, let's see... on this blog I've been named "a fool... misguided...stupid..f$$$ed up".  Fortunately, I've grown a thick skin, and so I just let them throw that stuff at me, and it slides right off.

I regret that neither one of my parents learned the healing that comes with forgiveness. My father's rage came from being sexually abused as a child, plus the horrors of war he experienced fighting the Japanese in World War II. It really messed him up.   If only my mother had learned to forgive her parents of their own parental failures, and my father for how he treated her-- her rage might've been diffused. I believe that her anger robbed her of truly enjoying life as it was meant to be.

As for me, God taught me the power and healing that comes with forgiveness.  I learned to forgive both of my parents, and I did not use the physical violence on my own son that I endured.  That cycle is now broken. Amen.

I'm so thankful that I was "saved" in 2006.  Otherwise, when my son's drug addiction came into our lives-- like a Category 5 hurricane-- I doubt that my life would not have changed for the better because of it.

Yes, that's right. My son's drug addiction made me a better person, friend, wife and mother. My son's addiction tested my marriage to B's stepfather. We survived, by the Grace of God.  C has been a supportive stepparent, and I love him all the more for it.

I have learned that my judgment on other parents was very, very wrong. I have grown far more compassionate towards trouble teens, which works out perfect for the career path that God put me in. Since 2006, I now work in the counseling office at a public high school!

The way that I talk to my son has changed, dramatically. That "willful" and bossy tone that I learned from my mother, has been leashed.  I no longer resort to raising my voice to my son, when I'm angry. That doesn't mean I don't try to share my advice, from my own experience. Of course, he's now 25 years old, and that wouldn't work anyway!

Am I a perfect mom now? No, not at all.  Sometimes, my own self-doubt creeps into my thoughts, where I question where I went wrong in raising my son.  Despite these times of self-doubt, my son does know this... he knows that I love him.   I still think I share some blame, but he reminds me that it was his choice to use drugs. He reminds me that I didn't force him to take those first pills, or to buy the heroin. 

Other than seeing our own drug addicted child (no matter what their age) in the throes of withdrawal, or know they are incarcerated (thank you, God, this never happened to my son)  -- or, the worst of all-- losing your own child's life to drugs or alcohol addiction--

Well, the worst part of this ordeal, for me was having to kick my son to the curb in the hopes that he would hit rock bottom.  For me, that was the most painful part of all.  As a loving mother, how can the "rehab experts" advise me that I needed to cut my son off and let the consequences fall onto him?

This goes against the  nature for any mother!  It is in my DNA to protect and nurture my son.  When I think back to the day that I had to tell my son to pack his things and leave, the pain resurfaces. I couldn't even look at his room. My wonderful husband (B's stepfather) packed up his things, so I wouldn't see them.

I digress.

Today, my son is truly clean and sober!  Six weeks ago, he quit taking suboxone, under the guidance of a physician.  Obamacare was the catalyst for this. My son switched over to Obamacare and they will not cover the cost of suboxone. His boss agreed to give him 2 weeks off work (without pay). He packed up all of his prescriptions for anxiety, sleeplessness and the suboxone and asked us to get rid of it. He asked us to, no matter how much he begged, not give it to him.

He went through about two weeks of hell (which took a total of 3 weeks off work), but with the help of Dr. Junig and his website "Suboxone Forum", B was able to get the support that he needed.  B weighed 129 pounds, at 6'4.  He says the suboxone made him feel listless and he didn't really eat much. I was really worried for him, as his cheeks looked sunken in and his long legs looked so bony.

Today, he is up to 147 pounds, lifting weights, and eating like a horse.  His skin looks healthy, and he's beginning to have a social life. He's doing far less online "gaming" and spending more time voraciously reading books.

I got an early Mother's Day present, last Thursday. B showed up at my office (for the first time in 3 years) and I couldn't help but "show him off" by re-introducing him to my co-workers.  The last time they saw B, he was strung out and covering his face with a hoodie. This time, he was dressed in his work clothes, and he was personable and I was so proud of him.

B and I both know that my son isn't cured of his addiction. He says that he has absolutely no cravings for drugs. On occasion, he suffers from "PAWS" and has hot flashes and then cold shivers. He has lost touch with all the "friend" connections that he used with.

Best of all, I am slowly seeing my son developing an awareness of responsibility. He's beginning to understand the importance of being financially responsible, and he's sharing his hopes and dreams for the future.   When he is ready, I hope that one day, a women would love my son for the person that he is-- and that she will become like a daughter to me. But, that can wait. My son's recovery is what's most important to me.

This is the best Mother's Day that I could ask for. That you, God, for setting my son free of the bondage of addiction by ridding him of all the prescription drug "bandaids".  I am thankful that I have learned to be a better mother, by learning how to lift my son up instead of tearing him down.  I have learned to recognize when I'm lured into being codependent or enablling.  I am learning to let my son live his life on his own terms. When he makes mistakes, I cannot fix them. He needs to learn from them. That is not easy for me, because my nature is to teach and lecture.

I pray for you parents, who are at the end of your rope.  Maybe your child is not at that point, of wanting to help themselves.  Maybe you are at that point, where you have to kick your child to the curb.  I do know that anxiety all too well.

May you find the spiritual strength you will need.  I'm so sorry. I truly am.

I keep saying this, because I've lived this--  there is hope. Never, ever give up. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Visiting my Blog Home Away From Home - Random thoughts

Another eight months has passed, and I haven't written a post in all that time. I just now cleaned out my SPAM comments (and there were hundreds) and published those comments that were "legit".

I'm sorry.

I've written, more than once, that the reason I quit posting here is because the crisis of my son's addiction has subsided. 

Of course, there are many people who feel that I'm a fool for thinking that my son being on suboxone is sobriety. They say it is NOT.

So be it.

This is how I view my son's current sobriety (or un-sobriety for you suboxone naysayers).

Of course, I wish my son had an "organic" sobriety.  I would love it if he didn't use any kind of medication to keep my son from using. That is simply common sense.

However, let's look at things from my son's perspective.  True that, he had a severe addiction. He was strung out and had sold everything he owned to avoid the misery of withdrawal.  This was my son's "bottom" he says.  He realized that, in his last relapse, that he had sold everything of value that he had.  Fortunately, my son didn't have it in him to resort to theft or robbery (for that I am truly grateful) and he finally came to the realization that he absolutely had to conquer his body's craving for drugs.

Methadone didn't work for him.  So, he turned to suboxone.  Lest you naysayers judge him and/or me, it is working for him.  He is going on four years of working at the same job.  He doesn't make a ton of money, but he has money.  He bought a brand new X-Box, a new HDTV and he can afford to buy things he wants-- here and there.  He doesn't ask us for money, either.

All of the friends he was using with, are out of his life. He has a very small, but new circle of friends. They don't use, but they do drink--- no differently that I do. That is, we are social drinkers. The glass of wine with dinner, or  a beer while watching a football game.  Nothing to worry about.

My son's brain has healed. He is no longer forgetful, or spaced out.  He can focus his thoughts, and that brilliant mind of his is back.

B has lived with us, ever since he detoxed with the help of suboxone.  He pays us rent, faithfully, and never EVER complains about it.  We are charging him the going rate it would cost him to rent a room-- or share a cheap apartment.  We use the majority of that money to subsidize his medical expenses (health and car insurance, diabetes supplies, suboxone), groceries and cost of living-- and a small portion goes into a rent savings. 

Best of all, my son and I have the kind of relationship that any loving mom longs for.  He is kind, respectful, thoughtful and willing to help me when I ask for it.  The relationship between my son and his stepfather makes me smile with such gratitude and joy.  I have watched the two of them interact as two men-- "dudes", "guys".  I've watched my husband help my son to learn things that guys should know how to do-- like how to fix things in his own car.  My son asks for advice from his stepdad.

Best of all, my husband tells me that my son is a "good kid" and a "good room mate". 

So, if my son is doing so well-- is it such a bad thing that he uses suboxone?  He's cut his dose down by 75%, and has to see a doctor once a month.  He has to take a drug test, and always comes out clean.  If he didn't, this doctor would no prescribe suboxone.

Again, I keep praying for the day that my son gets off suboxone completely.  B says, it's just around the corner. He was waiting for the slow season to come to his job (now).  He needs to take a couple of weeks off work to detox from the suboxone.

Of course,  B and I talk about this, candidly. I've asked him what his plan is, once he is off the suboxone. That is, what will steps will he take to prevent him from relapsing? You would think he'd have some grandiose answer. He simply says, "that last relapse made me realize that I don't want to go back to that again." He says the withdrawals were horrific, and he never wants to experience that again.

Just like religion, this is a question that has a myriad of answers.  I've written, countless times, why I don't believe that NA meetings is the answer for everyone.  I went to Nar-Anon meetings, and they did not work for me at all.  I couldn't deal with the whining from the same group of people.  I didn't find the meetings helpful. In our small town, my son says that NA meetings didn't work for him, because that's where he was most likely to reconnect with people he used with. He says that anytime he went to an NA meeting, someone would ask if they could hook him up with drugs.

Before anyone gets upset by this, and writes a harsh comment, because you believe that NA is the only way-- please don't.  Otherwise, I might have to say that "Jesus is the Only Way" (written tongue in cheek, okay?) 

So, what prompted me to write today-- after such a long absence?  Partly it's guilt.  I still get an occasional email from someone who is asking me how I am doing... or someone who wants to thank me for sharing my story.  Collectively, to "you", I want to say that I am doing just fine, thank you. To those of you who ask me for advice, it takes my breathe away.  I wish I had some dazzling advice to give. What I've learned, during this painful chapter of my life, I have shared on this blog.  I'm not an expert and never professed to be.

I have become a much better mom, a much better listener  and a whole lot less judgmental about other parents. I no longer assume that bad parenting is why kids use drugs. 

I have become much more compassionate to parents and drug addicts. My faith in God grew by leaps and bounds, during these painful chapters in my life. Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for sparing my son from death, incarceration or physical harm.

The tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman really affected me. That a man, who had so much talent-- and certainly financial security-- relapsed AFTER 23 YEARS of sobriety-- really shook me hard.  It was a reality check, that my son has no personal guarantee that he will never use again. He knows it and I know it.  My deepest sympathies go to his family and loved ones, including his small children.  What a tragic death.  Will we ever know why he relapsed? Will we ever know what it was that woke the demon of addiction in him? 

Once more, I am reminded that my son will have to fight the disease of addiction for the rest of his life.  For today, I see a 25 year old young man, who tells me that his last relapse wasn't worth all that it cost him. He tells me that he didn't even enjoy it, and didn't really get that "buzz" from using Oxy Contin that he used to get.  I pray, with all of my heart and soul, that he will continue to hold on to that memory.

As B's mom, I choose to forgive and forget what's happened in the past. Today, I can hand my son my credit card to pick some things up for me while he's in town. I don't have to hide my wallet, choosing to leave it in plain sight with money in it. The money is always right there, where I left it. My son no longer sneaks out, in the middle of the night. He is always home, playing on his X-Box, with his invisible online friends.

In a perfect world, I would love to see him get a better paying job-- with benefits. I'd love to see him buy another set of golf clubs, and get outside for exercise and to play a sport that he is really good at. I continue to invite him to join us at church (the very church he urged us to come to with him, years ago). We continue to counsel him on the importance of financial wisdom-- like saving money (which, for now, falls on deaf ears).

So, I guess my son has gone from a "using" drug addict to being a typical young man.  He has so much wisdom to learn in life.  My husband and I are doing the best that we can to be positive role models for him.

I think some of our wisdom is beginning to stick.

We will never give up hope.  I feel comfort, gratitude and joy that my son loves me. I know he feels the same way about my love for him.

For those of you who are suffering with addiction-- be it YOU who is the struggling addict, or for the loved ones who are dealing with a struggling addict-- I pray for you, collectively, all the time. I know there are plenty of people who think prayer is useless. Or that there is no God. I've had plenty of comments left, calling me a fool to believe in a God that doesn't exist.  Well, that's one more prayer I add to my list... for non-believers.

No matter what, my heart truly feels your pain and agony.  I have lived it. I have cried. I have whined. I have been angry. I have failed. I have enabled.

I have learned.

If any of my blog posts gives hope to anyone who reads them, then this blog is accomplishing it's purpose. 

I will try to post more often.  I'm here, and I read every single comment. I truly do. If I don't respond back, please forgive me.  Sometimes, I just can't deal with the emotions that they stir in me.

May God bless you and give you comfort, whether you or not you do or don't believe in Him. He believes in you, and loves you.