Friday, November 25, 2011

How I Spent My Summer

His therapist had suggested 2 things for summer.  Tutoring and working. 

She thought he needed help getting caught up in skills that he did not learn during his last few years of poor effort at school.  So, he went to 12 hours a week of summer tutoring.  Expensive summer tutoring. 

The second thing was finding a job because it would help keep him busy leaving less time to be bored, since boredom is a trigger for relapse.  It is not easy to find a job when you are 14 almost 15, so he worked as a laborer for my husband and older son’s business for a few days a week when they needed him.

I spent a lot of time driving him to and from tutoring and work. 

During the rare free times, I tried to find ways to make him happy and to have fun. That was not easy. 

One day, I took him to the Utah Arts Festival to look at the professional photography.  He was not impressed with the photography, but became interested in the wood carving.  So, we went to the hobby store and bought wood carving tools and blocks of wood for him.  He seriously spent almost 3 days carving wood and did not play the X-box once during that time.  It was amazing!

But, I thought I was going to fail at summer entertainment when we left the Arts Festival.  On the TRAX train ride home, he asked me, “What are we going to do now?” 

In my mind I was screaming, “Are you kidding me?  We just had our activity of the day!”  But, he was totally serious about wanting me to have another thing planned to do.  I thought, “Oh boy, this is going to be a LONG summer.”

Then, on the other hand, sometimes he didn’t want to do anything.  One day, I asked him if he wanted to go see the flooding river in one of the parks in our area.  He seriously got up and gave me a big hug.  He said, “I love you mom.  I love that you want me to go with you.  But, no.”  It seemed genuine and I was amazed.

We went bowling one day and found that on Tuesdays, the arcade at the bowling alley had “two-for-one games”.  So, we started going to the arcade every Tuesday following his After-Care group meeting at the rehab center (where they check in with a counselor just to let them know that they are still sober and doing fine—hopefully).  We had a lot of fun playing games at the Arcade every week.

I was also still babysitting my grandson three days a week and this turned out to be very good for my son.  He liked playing with his little nephew and my grandson soon learned that having his uncle around was awesome. 

He didn’t really do anything with friends.  He didn’t even act like he had a desire to.  There are the kids around here that he knows he should not hang around and then there is one friend that plays X-box more than my son does and they can do that in their own houses, talking to each other over their microphones.  I wondered if he was unsure about having to make choices and decisions that have been made for him in the last several months. 

Other times he would say that he had no freedom, but never took the initiative to have any either.

He told me that I was his best friend and that he would worry about other friends when he started school.

Even though I think he is kidding in a way about me being his best friend—Wow! 

Imagine going from hated parent to best friend.

He started going to AA meetings on Wednesday nights with his sponsor.  The meetings were quite far from our house, so I would drive my son to the meeting and then his sponsor would bring him back home.  It gave them time to talk during the drive and helped them develop a good relationship.  I will probably say this many times, but I am very thankful for this good, caring, giving person being in my son’s life.  He is an amazing influence on my son.

I definitely was chauffer/best friend/entertainment committee for the summer.  I put a lot of effort into making sure that he was having fun, active, and happy. 

I probably did too much and tried too hard.

I was on a crusade against boredom.

And it was hard.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Summer actually started out pretty great. 

My best friend was visiting from out of state.  She wanted to go to southern Utah to see Zion National Park.  My husband and son went with us.  This was probably going to be the closest thing that we were going to have to a summer vacation.

But, my son has never been a very cooperative traveler.  And, it was just about one week after he had commenced from rehab.  We were still unsure of how the summer was going to go with him and now we were going on a 4 day trip.  I was a little nervous about how he was going to act on the trip.

My older son had an idea.  He thought that we should try giving him a camera so that he could take his own pictures of the scenery.  We spent about as much as we thought we could afford at the time and bought him a Fuji Fine Pix camera.  We gave it to him when we arrived at the Bumbleberry Inn in Springdale, Utah just outside Zion National Park.  He actually seemed excited about it.  I was so glad.

The next morning, our first adventure was horseback riding inside the park.  My son called it horse sitting.  He said that next time we ride horses he wants to do more than just sit on a horse as it follows the horse in front of it.  Next time?  Wow.  He went from being adamant that this trail ride was going to be lame to talking about the next time he rides horses.

Then, we began touring the park.  This is when the real miracle happened.  He absolutely loved hiking and taking pictures.  Loved it.  Loved it.  Loved it. 

It was unbelievable.  We were having a good time and he was enjoying himself.  As my husband and I were walking behind him, toward the end of the day, I said, “This day with him has been like pure joy.  It makes me want to cry and it makes me want it to never end.  We haven’t had a day like this for a long time and I don’t know when we will have another one.” 

He was having such a good time, and was so agreeable and fun to be around that I felt like we had been given a great gift.  I wanted to cherish every second of it.

The next day was good, too.  We went to some incredible water-falls where my son hiked around taking pictures of the falls from all different angles.  He got even more into taking pictures than he did the day before.  He hiked and climbed all over the rocks and had a really great time. 

After the trip he showed his pictures to several people.  Everyone loved them and he realized that he had a natural photography talent. 

He became determined that he would become a professional photographer.  Every weekend, he asked us if we could go hiking somewhere else so that he could take more pictures. 

It was so awesome to see him with a goal and with a new outlook on the possibilities of life.

My son--the photographer.

My son—looking forward to the future.

My son—happy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Family Communication Part 3


I think my husband was more nervous than I was.  He cried a lot more than I did as he spoke because he gets more emotional than I do in front of people.

I resent you for using drugs.  I felt afraid, scared, and worried that you would harm yourself and others.

I resent you for running away.  I felt extremely worried, confused, and alarmed.

I resent you for our broken relationship.  I felt abandoned, angry, not loved, and lost.

I resent you for stealing from friends and neighbors.  I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and sad.

I resent you for using with your friends and felt embarrassed and ashamed to their parents for your helping to put them in harm’s way.

I resent you for swearing at me repeatedly.  I felt disrespected, truly depressed, mad, and angry.

I resent you for not remembering how you came into our lives and what you mean to us.  I felt very hated, scorned, unwanted, and unloved.

I resent you for not living by the morals you were taught and going away from your Father-in-Heaven.  I felt sad, troubled.  But I know this is something you have to find out for yourself.

I resent you for being up in my face--threatening, and argumentative.  I felt hated and unwanted.

I love and appreciate you for your renewed playful friendship with your mother.  I feel proud of you, happy for both of you, and a little jealous in a good way.

I love and appreciate you for finally deciding to listen and use the program and lessons you have learned here to better your life.  I feel happy and confident in your progress.

I love and appreciate you for being sober and for recognizing your potential.  I feel you can obtain what you want with this new attitude of determination.

I love and appreciate you for regaining your sparkle, spontaneity, and working your way back to the old son.  I feel happy, proud, and jubilant.

I love and appreciate you for starting to rebuild our relationship.  I feel happy and re-energized.

I love and appreciate you for learning new things, like guitar and drawing;  for knowing that you can be friends to others, and an example and that you can serve others; and that you take the time to talk to your sponsor and seem to have a desire to be a sponsor for others when you can.  I feel proud and thrilled with your progress.

I apologize for not knowing all your needs.  I hope you will confide with me in the future so I can feel helpful and understanding.

I apologize for not being there when you needed me.  I feel uncomfortable and lacking.

I apologize that I would have to put my son I rehab.  But, I felt it was necessary under the circumstances and feel because of that choice it has helped all of us to know what it was that you needed.  I would do it again if it meant keeping you alive.  I feel happy and sad it had to be done and I hope someday you’ll understand what I mean by that.

I commit to you in the future to work harder at understanding your side of issues, problems, and expectations.  I feel confident to move forward.

I commit to being the friend and father that you want by not repeating myself, still being strong, finding ways to work through problems with the things I have learned and your help with what you’ve learned.  I’ll work harder at being a good example and not as critical.  I feel happy, confident, excited, and encouraged to do this.

I commit to you that you will always know that you are my son.  I love you.  I never want to lose you.  I want our friendship to grow.  Thanks for you.  I’m proud of you.

The therapist talked a little bit about what she heard.  She asked my son some questions, commented on things we said, made some suggestions, and then it was over.

He was officially out of rehab.

And we went to Chili’s to celebrate and have dinner.

Family Communication Part 2


I felt like my turn was going to seem really long compared to my son’s and I was so nervous when it was my turn.  And, sometimes I get tongue-tied when I speak in front of people and I didn’t want that to happen. 

This is mine (I am showing what the topics and sections of the packet were in order to show why we each said the things that we did):

Part 1—Resentments (things that the other person has done that you are or have been hurt, angry, resentful, scared, or disappointed by).

A.  Dangerous and life threatening situations.   I resent you for….  I feel…….

I resent you for putting your health, your mental abilities, and your life at risk by using drugs and alcohol.  
I feel upset and worried.  
I resent you for taking so many different combinations of drugs together that could have hurt or killed you.
I feel helpless and scared.    
I resent you for smoking, drinking, and using all of the drugs that you have used.
I feel betrayed and heartbroken.

B.  Embarrassing and painful social situations.

I resent you for missing my birthday and Thanksgiving last November.  Even though it was our decision to put you in rehab when we did, and even though, part of the reason was your worsening depression, I still resent you for the fact that you started to use drugs in the first place, contributing to your depression.  Four days after we put you in rehab, it was my birthday.  One week after that, it was Thanksgiving where everyone kept asking me why you didn’t come to the big family dinner. 
I felt sad, lost, empty, and dejected.

C.  Verbal abuse, attacks on character, put-downs, sarcasm, swearing.

I resent you for not caring whether you swear or not in front of me.  I resent you for all of the verbal abuse that has been directed at me ever since last summer and more since you were in this program.
I feel offended and unvalued.

D.   Defending unhealthy behavior while using, such as rationalizing, minimizing, blaming, alibis, excuses, denial, justifying, etc.

I resent you for trying to make us seem like the bad guys when we put you in rehab for using marijuana and for your depression, when in reality, you had a bigger problem with drugs and smoking and drinking than we even thought was possible.
I feel annoyed and aggravated.
I resent you for all of the times that I thought you were sick and I was so worried because you kept getting sick and I couldn’t figure out why.  I took you to doctor after doctor and had them run tests to see what was wrong with you and you were using drugs the whole time either causing what was wrong with you or greatly contributing to it.
I feel used, exasperated and irritated.
I resent you for blaming your decision to start drinking and using drugs on the arguments that you used to have with me and dad. (Lots of kids, including myself, have argued with their parents and have never resorted to using drugs.  You know my parents and you know how I was so restricted that I felt like I had to defy them to even be able to wear makeup or shave my legs and I yet didn’t start using drugs).
I feel accused and frustrated.

E.  Broken promises, not doing chores, appointments not kept,  not showing up events, family activities, etc.

I resent you for withdrawing from the whole family more and more over the last couple of years.  I resent you for being so grouchy and argumentative about being part of our traditional family activities.
I felt rejected and let down.
I resent you for all of the times that you told me you were doing really good at school when you weren’t and for the times that you were supposed to be staying after school to try to get help from teachers and you didn’t.
I feel bitter.

F.  Changes in morals, such as lying, stealing, not going to church.  Violating the value system previously held by them/family. 

I resent you for all of the lying, deceiving, and sneaking around that you have done for the last 2 years.
I feel betrayed and hurt.
I resent you for dealing drugs, stealing from people, and doing other illegal things, including using drugs.
I feel angry.
I resent you because I would tell all of my friends and family how proud I was of you for sticking up for your values and standards when you were around friends who did not have the same kind of family upbringing that you had.   Then I found out that you weren’t sticking up for your standards at all—you were doing worse things than most of those kids were.
I felt ashamed and let down.

G.  Attitudes, actions, such as being belligerent, hostile, pitiful, spiteful, revengeful, threatening, argumentative, rebellious. 

I resent you for being increasingly reactive about every little thing over the last 2 1/2 years to the point that it made me afraid to open my mouth and say anything to you.
I resent you for making drugs the most important thing in your life and for allowing them to come between us when I was trying my hardest to work on the relationship. 
I felt disappointed and discouraged.

H.  Acting or being confused as to what was said or done, such as getting events, time, dates, and places mixed up.  Remembering something that was said or done differently from everyone else’s perceptions, then arguing about it.  Having to be right regardless of the facts presented, etc.

I resent you for how every time we had an argument, if we didn’t remember details like a person with a photographic memory, you would accuse us of lying or being totally wrong and then the argument would get even worse.
I resent you for thinking that you were right about everything and acting like I was stupid.
I felt defeated and offended.

Other:  Events or incidents that don’t really fit the other categories.

I resent you for not caring whether you lived or died by using the drugs that you did. 
I resent you for not caring that your choices would hurt me and others who love you.
I feel sad and anguished.

Part 2—Love and Appreciation

Think about the things that you like about each other and that you find admirable.
I love and appreciate you for/when…. I felt…..

I love and appreciate you because you are my son who I have fought so hard for from the first moment that I knew of your existence to now.  I will continue to fight for you for the rest of my life.
I feel joyful.

I love and appreciate you for wanting to be sober.
I feel relieved and grateful.

I love and appreciate you for the great efforts that you have been making in the last couple of months.
I feel proud.

I love and appreciate you for getting over the long-term “mad” that you had going on.
I feel happy.

I love and appreciate you for your caring attitude toward me and for how you try to find out how I am feeling and how my day went.
I feel appreciated.

I love and appreciate you for seeming to know when I need a shoulder massage and my back popped!
I feel better!

I love and appreciate you for trying so hard to communicate well with me.  I was thinking that you were going to get so mad on Thursday night last week when I would not give in on making you go to school on Friday, but you did something to turn it around and it was so nice to have you get over your disappointment so quickly.
I feel encouraged.

I love and appreciate you for noticing when I seem to be heading toward a bad mood and wanting to fix it.
I feel valued.

I love and appreciate you for how you are with Bridger and how you play with him and help him.
I feel grateful.

I love and appreciate you for wanting to spend time with me, even if it is making me watch the Simpsons with you or when you play a game that you know I want to play, or just hanging around in the kitchen with me.
I feel fortunate.

I love and appreciate you for your sense of humor and how you can make me laugh.
I feel happy.

I love and appreciate you for being a good listener.
I feel cared for.

I love and appreciate you for your tenacity.  When you decide you are going to do something or want something, you don’t give up until you reach your goal.  Sometimes it drives me insane when you use it against me, but I think if you use that ability well, it will help you go far in life.
I feel encouraged.

I love and appreciate you for your great, crazy, odd, fun, and imaginative ideas.
I feel amazed.

I love and appreciate you for the times that you try your best in whatever situation you are in.
I feel pleased.

Part 3 -- Apologies

All of us make mistakes, even parents.  What are some of the things that you wish you could do differently?  Learning to be humble is a key attribute of the attitude of recovery.  Admit mistakes and the related feelings.  Make amends and live better.

I apologize to you for arguing with you and not learning how to solve problems with you in a different way many years ago.  I apologize to you for all kinds of yelling that I wish I had figured out how to avoid.
I feel inept and disappointed.

I apologize to you for not being closer to you, for not hugging you enough, and for not noticing enough about you to see that you were doing harmful things to yourself.
I feel sad and agonized.

I apologize to you for not putting our relationship above all of the little things that I thought were important-- like grades at school.
I feel upset and remorseful.

I apologize to you for working when I could have been playing.  I apologize to you for sometimes making what I was doing seem more important than what you wanted to do.
I feel inadequate and heavy hearted.

I apologize to you for not trying my best to be a better mother and a better person.
I feel grieved and downhearted.

I apologize to you for sometimes seeing you as an object to control and not the valuable person that you are.
I feel regretful.

I apologize to you for making you feel like you couldn’t talk to me.
I feel sorry.

I apologize to you for the times I made you sad.
I feel so bad.

Part 4—Commitments

In this part, you show what you have learned and affirm your commitment to making healthier choices in your life.

I commit to you to try to problem solve without arguing and yelling.
I feel determined.

I commit to you to put our relationship above small, inconsequential things that won’t matter in the long run.
I feel confident.

I commit to you to hug you every day, pay attention to you, and you make you feel like you are loved.
I feel devoted.

I commit to you to spend time with you, having fun, doing things that we can do together.
I feel enthusiastic.

I commit to you to listen to you when you want me to without judging or trying to tell you what to do.
I feel hopeful.

I commit to you to be there for you when you are struggling, succeeding, or even maintaining your status quo.
I feel dedicated and compassionate.

I commit to you to make happiness a priority.
I feel inspired.

I commit to always love you.
I feel full of promise.

I love you.

I did it.  I cried a little bit and got all teary.  Everyone said that I did a really good job and the therapist said that it was one of the best Family communications that she has ever heard.  I worked really hard on it and spent a lot of hours going over every topic and deciding what to day and was very pleased with how it went and the feedback that I got.

The best feedback was when my son gave me a hug.  He didn’t seem to have gotten angry at me over anything I said or felt.

That was a relief.

Family Communication part 1

It was time for Family Communication at family group therapy.  

My son went first.

This is what he said:

I resent you for putting me in rehab.  It made me feel betrayed and hurt.

I resent you for yelling at me.  It made me feel scared and guilty.

I resent you for being so #*%* awesome.

I love and appreciate you for being so supportive.  It makes me feel loved.

I love and appreciate you for doing everything you do to help me in my recovery.  It makes me feel grateful and appreciative.

I love and appreciate you for always being there for me.  It makes me feel wanted.

I love and appreciate you for making sure I have everything I need.  I feel grateful.

I apologize for using drugs, swearing, having a negative attitude, and for all of the other dumb things I did while using.

I apologize for not doing what you ask me to do the first time.  I feel lazy and ungrateful.

Mom, I apologize for not accepting “no” for an answer and then bugging you.  I feel guilty.

I apologize for saying mean and rude things to both you when you are being good parents.  I feel ashamed.

I apologize for not having more to resent you for.

I can commit to staying clean and maintaining a positive attitude, helping out more, and start being the awesome son you deserve.  I feel confident and enthusiastic.

I commit to getting my education and asking for help.  I feel worthwhile and that
I care about my future.

I commit to reminding you of DBT skills when you need them.  I feel sassy.

That last part made me laugh through my tears.

He did a good job. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Just when we think everything is going smoothly, someone throws a monkey-wrench into the mix.

He came home the night before Commencement and said that he wasn’t going to commence because he couldn’t get his math assignment finished.  His tracking sheet said, “Poor quality on homework.  Dishonest about it.  Phase One until work is done.”

These were my thoughts:  Was the teacher serious?  Demoting him to Phase One, the night before he was supposed to graduate?  What was the motive?  She had obvious dislike for my son and now that she had the opportunity to have him leave her class for good, she black-balled him?  Did she just have to have a parting shot?  Crazy!

He told me that what she interpreted as dishonest was his telling her that he did all of the homework that he could, but did not do his math because he didn’t understand it.  I guess she decided that he was lying about it.

I knew what the math assignment was because I had tried to figure out how to teach him how to do it, too.  It was factoring trinomials, a time consuming, lengthy step by step assignment where you have to try all of the different factors of a problem until you find the right ones in the right order.  It was very frustrating.  He said that even after the teacher showed him how to do it and after I showed him how to do it, he just didn’t understand, so he stopped trying. 

He had no idea that she would jeopardize his commencement for it.  

He knew that if he could possibly do the assignment that night, everything would most likely be back on, but he was so disappointed that he refused to even try.

He went from being excited about commencing to spiraling into a very bad, bad mood.

Luckily, he talked to his sponsor who said that he should just do his best to get the assignment done and get it over with.

And then, he wanted to work on it.  It was only 10:00 p.m.  No big deal.  But I worked on it with him that night until we were both too tired and then again the next morning.  I think I did more of the work than he did, but at least most of it was done. 

He was still in a bad mood when he left that morning.  I’m sure he thought that the teacher would still find something wrong with the assignment.

I got a call from his therapist that afternoon.  She said that the Commencement and Family Communication were still on.  Apparently, the assignment was completed well enough for the teacher--Or maybe the therapist just over-rode whatever the teacher’s agenda was. I knew she was tired of the back and forth drama between my son and the teacher.

And then I had about 30 minutes to buy and deliver the ice cream Drum Sticks that he wanted to share with everyone at the end of his last group therapy.  The treats are always a big part of the Commencement. 

Of course I was happy to do it.

Then, when I dropped the treats off, they said that if I just waited a few minutes, he could leave early.

I panicked. 

I had 2 more hours of freedom and they wanted me to cut it short!

So, I said no.  I wanted him to stay for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what they thought about that.

I felt guilty.

But, I enjoyed those 2 hours.


190 days or 6 months sober.

A huge milestone.  Hopefully it is real.  In his mind it is, so I guess we go with that.  It has been a long 6 months.

Then, right after that at AA, the topic was “When the miracle happened for you 

He shared this:  “I didn’t think I needed to be sober, but just recently, I decided that I not only need to, I want to.”

You do not know how happy I was to hear that!

Now THAT’S a milestone!

Another good thing from that meeting was some awesome advice:  “You need to make a gratitude list and the first thing on it has to be sobriety.  If that isn’t number one, then all of the other things will start to slip off the list as you lose your sobriety.”

I think I need to make a gratitude list, too.

I know the first thing on mine is going to be sobriety.  My son’s sobriety.  And the sobriety of all of the others that I have come to know and care about.

I am so grateful for these milestones.

And coming up next, two big milestones that I knew would come eventually and now they were finally all set up to happen.

Family communication and Commencement.

203 days, or 6 months 22 days, after entering the program, he commences.  That night, at Family Group Therapy, we were scheduled to share our thoughts and feelings from the big Family Communication packet that we were each given.

We have seen a few Family Communication Nights.  Many thoughts and emotions are bared and everyone learns a lot about the other’s feelings.  There are lots of tears and barriers that come down. 

As I tried to go through the packet and figure out what I was going to say and what my thoughts and feelings actually were, I became terrified.

I knew we had to do it, and I knew it was an important event, but I didn’t know how I could get through it.

And, once that was over with, we were going to be on our own.  He would have Aftercare once a week where the kids can come back and check in with the others in the group and report that they are still sober and talk about anything they want to talk about. 

He would still have therapy, but with a new therapist.

I didn’t know if we were ready.  I knew that he was so “done” and thought he was more than ready. 

I didn’t think any of us really knew what to expect.  I was feeling just as scared about it as I was when he came home from residential treatment.

And summer was coming.

Complete with boredom, no one to hang out with, and nothing to do.

All triggers.

All things, I was going to have to try to combat on my own every day.

Oh boy.

Gotta love these milestones.