Monday, August 22, 2011


The first time I heard a kid in treatment say that they were “Probing”, I had no idea what they meant.

My son, who is a comedian, said “Well, first they put on a glove..”

Nice to hear him make a joke.  Hadn’t heard that much lately.

To “Probe” means going in front of a panel with his therapist, and a few of his fellow rehab-ites who ask questions and decide if moving to Phase 2 status is going to be granted.  They try to make sure the candidate is serious and not still lying about anything.

They consider the following list as they “probe”.
1.  Open and willing to appropriately disclose.
2.  Listens to and uses feedback.
3.  Demonstrates commitment to treatment program, goals, accepting limits, etc.
4.  Accepts responsibility for behavior and treatment. 
5.  Level of honesty.
6.  Knowledge and understanding of diagnosis, treatment, medication, addiction.
7.  Insight/understanding of dynamics of relapse.
8.  Aware of and understands lifetime stressors/triggers.
9.  Aware of thinking errors and remedies to thinking errors.
10.  Identifies use of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) skills.
11.   Able to identify personal and family issues and progress/change.

Probe successful!

He was so proud of himself.

And now he gets to have more privileges like: 
1.  If approved by parents, teen may be left alone at home or may go somewhere without parents for 1 – 2 hours maximum.
2.  Teen may have contact with family, sponsor, and approved friends on Friend’s List only.
        *All names on Friends list must be at least 3 months sober.
        *Parents must meet all people on the Friends List (and their parents) prior to approving them.
        *Social media sites are not allowed while in treatment.  Email accounts are allowed only if parents have full access to them.
        *Parents must meet their teen’s sponsor and have their phone number.  The sponsor needs to be aware of program rules and parents must routinely verify teen’s contact with sponsor.

The first big thing he did as a Phase 2 was to go out to lunch with his sponsor to celebrate.  It was so strange to just let him go, even though his sponsor is a great guy and we trust him completely.

My son was so excited and couldn’t wait.  They went to Chili’s and now it is his favorite restaurant and steak is his new favorite food.  He had a great time and I was happy that it was a successful first outing for him.  I was grateful that his sponsor wanted to celebrate with him and make him feel like he had really accomplished something.

We were glad that he had accomplished something too.  He had been home from residential treatment for 3 months by the time he probed.  It took him so long to get to the point of probing that finally having these privileges was going to take some getting used to.  I felt like we had had been attached at the hip anytime he was not in Day Treatment. Now, I had to be willing to let him go out into the real world again, or leave him alone at home. 

It turned out that it wasn’t as nerve-wracking at first in my son’s situation.  He didn’t even try very often to do anything with friends.  He talked to them a few times, but neither he nor they really made any efforts to hang out.  I think that most of the friend’s he would have liked to have hung out with were scared off by the fact that we told them point blank that if they weren’t clean and sober, they couldn’t hang out with our son.  But, that’s the reality.  Trusting the friends is going to be just as hard as trusting our son.  Peer pressure is not good for a recovering addict. 

So, mostly, I had to get comfortable with leaving him at home alone for a few minutes while I ran errands, instead of making him go with me like I had been doing for so long.  I started running errands faster than I ever have before just because I was afraid to give him too much time alone.

Not because I thought he would do something.

But, I don’t think I will ever be sure.

And trust is going to take a long time to come back.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Our two adult children and their spouses are very supportive and understanding.  We couldn’t have asked for much more from them. 

Right before we admitted our son to rehab, I got this text message from my daughter-in-law: “You are being a GREAT mother by making a choice to help save your child’s life.  Sometimes the hardest choices in life are the best ones for your family.  He may say he hates you at first or be angry but I really feel in the end he will thank you.  Keep your chin up and keep reminding yourself why you are doing this and that you are being a good mom for caring so much.  And remember there is an end to it eventually.”

I appreciated that very much.

They were good about asking how everything was going and offered to listen if I needed to talk.

Our lives changed and our new schedule of group meetings, therapy sessions, AA meetings, and visits took a lot of time.  The mental and emotional impact on us was sometimes overwhelming.  

We didn’t mean to let that affect our relationships with our other children.  

I had read that sometimes siblings of addicts might feel "picked on" because they are not getting the time and attention that the addict is getting, but I didn’t expect that to happen in our family. 

It did.

My daughter thought that I wasn’t interested in her life, because I wasn’t calling her as much as I used to, and that when we did talk, all I did was talk about my son and what was going on with him.  Once, I asked her to talk to my son about something just to see if she could help him and I found out that she thought all I was ever doing anymore was “using” her and not being there for her in her life. 

After I told my husband what happened, he had a long conversation with her.  One of the things that he told her was that I was doing the best that I could and that this is very HARD!  He told her that when she was living at home, I did EVERYTHING for her that I could and that now it was time for me to do everything for our son that I could.  He told her that she might have to be there for me for awhile, just like I have been there for her.  He mentioned that neither she nor her brother had volunteered to spend some time with their little brother to give us a few hours of respite since we can’t leave him alone and he can’t go anywhere without us.

Shortly after that, my daughter and her husband volunteered to spend a few hours with him at their apartment.  That was very nice.

My husband and older son are in business together.  When the demands on my husband’s time increased it was necessary to sometimes start work later and get off work earlier.  Our older son was understanding, patient, and willing to take over a lot of the responsibilities of the business.  He was really great about it.

But, after a few months, he began to feel that things should be leveling out and that my husband needed to start acting like the head of the company again.  This created tension.  My husband felt that he was doing the best job he could and that he really wasn’t slacking off.  But, my son felt that he needed to step-up and get his head back into the business.  He said that contractors were noticing that my husband was pre-occupied and not readily available. 

My son would call me and try to talk to me about how this was causing problems with the business and with his relationship with his dad.  There were some bad feelings and resentments.  I never knew what to say and I felt upset that all of this turmoil with our youngest son was causing problems with the business, too.  Father/son personal relationships mixed with business relationships are hard enough without adding additional challenges.

The last thing that we needed was problems with our business.  It had been hard enough for the last 2 years since the economy crashed.  At this point we really needed things with the business to go as smoothly as possible.  My husband and son needed to get along, but I didn't know how to help them. 

We were going through one of the hardest things in our lives and we didn’t ever intend to make our adult children feel unloved and unvalued.  It made me sad that that they felt neglected in their own separate ways.

Every day we were trying to do the best that we could as we dealt with what our son was dishing out and going through.  There was always something causing emotional turmoil.  It took a lot of time and energy and it affected the whole family more than we thought it would.

Just as life is one day at a time for the recovering addict, it is one day at a time for the parents of one, too. 

Knowing how to live this life of parenting a recovering addict, being parents of adult children, being in-laws, and being grandparents too, is a discovery process. 

We make mistakes and hope that when we do, we learn from them.  We hope all of our family members know how much we would never want to hurt their feelings.

Everything that has happened makes us love and appreciate every one of them so much more.

I want them all to know that.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Argument Letter

We had an argument.  Surprise.

It just came out of the blue.

Everything had been going so well.

He wanted permission to download an X-box game.  We still haven’t given up on being strict about the X-box, especially about the content of games.  We were trying to trust him to get games that weren’t totally awful but, at this time, we were still trying to figure out how to maintain the standards of our home and our beliefs while letting him play some of the games that he wanted to on the X-box. 

This particular game was one that he had apparently heard about from my brother-in-law.  We wanted to ask my brother-in-law about the game and whether he thought it was appropriate for my son.  But that meant, that my son would not be able to get the game RIGHT THAT SECOND.  And that was what started the argument.  

I always feel like I have to get involved to try to keep things from getting out of control.  And then, they get out of control anyway.

It upset me that this argument was taking place because he knew that as far as I was concerned, he couldn’t get a game anytime soon. He had tried to get me to buy him a game just a few days before and I told him that he wouldn’t be able to get a new game for quite awhile.  Now, he was working on my husband.

After everything blew up, I still wanted to be able to say the things that I was thinking about.  When I feel like I can’t say it out loud for one reason or another, I write.  So, I wrote him this letter:

       I would like to tell you this.  After all the good times that we have had in the last couple of weeks, your dropping F bombs and basically saying that I was acting like a b!&@#, was just really STUPID!
       I have been trying so hard!  I have been bending over backward trying to keep things cool around here, helping you, and being there for you.
       And you have been trying hard, too--until just now.
       All of a sudden you just HAD to have a new game—3 days after I told you that there would be no games bought for you until after the next holiday, if then.  Or maybe after you commence from the program.  But, not now.
       I am sorry that you don’t understand that, usually, when people tell you something they really mean what they say.
       I am sorry that I didn’t run home to your Dad last Wednesday and tell him all about how you tried your hardest to get me to buy you a game.  I decided to just not even bring it up so that there would be no more contention in our house than necessary.  I thought that you had accepted the decision.
       Now it seems like he should have known about last Wednesday so that he would be aware of what I already told you.
       I can’t believe that you just didn’t take the information that was given and just let it go at that.  You just had to push and push and push.
       Dad said maybe you can get a game.
       Maybe you CAN get a game after you probe.
       If it is up to me, maybe you can get a game after you commence.
       Nobody said no--never.  Nobody said it depended on the foul language in the game.  The only thing that was stipulated was that we would like to find out more about the game.
       I think getting a game also DOES depend on attitude.  This kind of attitude doesn’t help your case at all.
       From my perspective, you wanted a game right now.  You didn’t get approval to get the game right now.  So you decided to try to throw 2 weeks of good behavior down the drain.
       I am sorry you don’t like it when I am talking quietly and trying to stay as calm as I can.
       You should be thrilled and jumping up and down that I am not YELLING!  I am trying as hard as I can.  If the tone is not what you want, then maybe you should consider what YOU are doing to get that tone of voice.  At least I am not swearing at YOU and calling YOU names.
       I think I have improved tons in the not-yelling department. 
       I am sorry that you don’t like my tone of voice after you drop f-bombs on me and say that I am acting like a b!%@# because of my tone of voice.
       I honestly cannot figure out what your deal was tonight.
       I feel really bad that it went where it went.
       Remember, that time out means time out, and when we say that we don’t want to talk about it anymore so that the situation doesn’t blow up, then maybe you should stop talking about it and making it blow up.
       I hope you can find it in yourself to accept that we did not even need to have an argument tonight and that you can figure out how to not have another one on the same topic tonight or anytime in the future.

Love, Mom

I wish these arguments would just stop.  X-box arguments are the worst.  I can’t fathom that the X-box is more important to him than anything else at times like this.  Relationships can go to heck as far as he is concerned when he wants an X-box game.

He has great tenacity.

When he wants something, he will fight to the death to get it, even when it is very likely that the outcome will not be in his favor.  The more we oppose something, the more he will fight for it.  That is why he was so non-compliant during his first couple of months in rehab.  He knew what we wanted.

I always say that I think his tenacity is one of the good things about him because this quality will be very beneficial for him when he learns to use it in a positive way in his life.

When it comes to his tenacity in fighting rules--I can’t stand it.  He uses it to try to get his own way--no matter whether what he wants will be good for him or not.

I think his tenacity will be GREAT when he uses it to fight to stay clean and sober in the face of temptation.

I would like to have NO MORE of these “fight to the death battles”.  I don’t know how many more I can take.

I don’t know how many more of these battles ALL of our relationships can take.

They tear us apart.

They break my heart.