I'm writing this post in a hotel room in Nashville, where I'm participating in a lead advocate summit for Heroes in Recovery. It's so exciting to be together with my fellow lead advocates for the weekend, and to see some familiar old faces along with some wonderful new faces. As a team, we will work hard in 2015 to help break the stigma associated with addiction and mental illness.
Before I turn in for the night, I wanted to share with you an email I received through my blog this morning. I can think of no better example of why I do what I do than this email, which is being published here with the permission of the sender. My passion in life is helping people who are struggling because of addiction; especially parents who are on a journey similar to the one I've been on.
This is why I do what I do:
It took me just two days to consume your incredible poignant blog, starting in the middle (landing spot from googling “Michael’s House Family Program”) and continuing to read beginning to end, smiling and crying from post to post as I identified with the cruel emotional roller coaster of addiction.
Today, my beautiful first born daughter begins her first full day at Michael's House, her first rehab experience, in hopes of finding treatment she needs to (someday) regain control of her life.
I think the thing I love the most about your writing is how openly you express hope and the crushing disappointment, as we try to keep these paradoxical emotions together in a heart, full of love for our child. A thing your blog has helped me develop is a little more peace with the path as I try, a day at a time (or even an hour at a time) to let go. I cry a lot … sometimes randomly, and thank you for sharing so often during his active addiction that you did too. Each time you confessed to crying I would cry again reading about you crying. It's this strange valve that seems to turn on or off of its own volition, when you love an addict.
My daughter just turned 21. Her path into drug use began (best I can mark) her freshman year in college initially as some experimentation, but then more so as she was trying to cope with the stress of fitting in, stress of being away from home (she did not like summer camp), and meeting the demands of her school work. When she came home that Christmas break, she saw a well regarded psychiatrist for depression and anxiety (not previously diagnosed). He gave her a cocktail of medications including Xanax, shockingly prescribed "nightly for sleep" and "as needed" for the past two years. At this exact moment, she’s going through benzo detox, along with alcohol and cocaine and I’m trying not to think about her suffering.
One of the more shocking aspects of my journey has been how little influence a parent (particularly a parent not paying her medical bills) has to either guide their child's medical path, or even obtain information about their "legal age" child's care. The situation, protected by privacy laws, tied my hands such that as I saw the danger in her situation unfolding, nothing I tried affected more responsible care for her. I sent letters a year ago October, and again this past November to her psychiatrist (and her father who was paying for the drugs and the psychiatrist) that went virtually ignored. I suppose it has been another intense lesson in letting go my attempt to control. I do not blame her father, like all of us he is on his own journey and wanted to believe the best. And the circumstance gave me a crash course in all I can do is try not to "enable" her use –even when those boundaries have nearly destroyed my relationship with her for the anger she has felt toward me at this . . . and, wait until enough happened in her life that she herself could ask for help.
But thank you so very much for sharing your journey so openly, the happy and the sad, the joy and the grief, tears, frustration and above all, perspective. . . . it inspires me and helps temper my expectations with even more patience, and love, as I realize each day she is alive presents hope and the very best thing I can do is keep working my own program.
Thank you again for the smiles and tears . . . so proud of your family and the hope you all represent. God bless you.
Yup. That's exactly why I do what I do. And why I will keep on doing it.
"Language allows us to reach out to people, to touch them with our innermost fears, hopes, disappointments, victories. To reach out to people we’ll never meet. It’s the greatest legacy you could ever leave your children or your loved ones: The history of how you felt." --Simon Van Booy