Mixed Blessings

One of my favorite songs is “Blessed”, by Martina McBride.  The lyrics are a mantra to me and I have been known to belt them out in front of the bathroom mirror.       (I love to sing, although some might say I need lessons.)

During the holidays, a lot of emphasis is placed on counting our blessings and I consider my son to be one of my greatest…  

On the other hand, holidays with an addict can suck.  Plain and simple.
Stress is high enough under normal circumstances.  Add a heaping helping of unpredictability and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Four years ago, his arm was broken in a drug-related altercation with a friend.
I never heard the whole truth, but it sounded like they were both to blame. 
Whatever.  By the time the story got to me, it was full of holes.  He spent
half a day in the ER having his arm set and the rest of the holiday in and out of a percocet haze.  We did make it to the 5:00 Christmas Eve service at church; 
he looked like a million dollars in his coat and tie and slept through most of it.

He spent Thanksgiving and Christmas 2011 in jail, was out for a while and will be in jail again this year.  Some consistency.  
At least I know where he is and that he’s safe.

Last week, the Denver facility prepared a special Thanksgiving meal.  On the phone that afternoon, he said “Mom, it wasn’t exactly your spread, but it was OK”. Knowing that his South Carolina grandparents would be in Virginia for the weekend, he wrote to them individually and mailed the letters to our house.
My mother’s birthday was Thanksgiving Day and he wished her Happy Birthday and told her that he was sorry that they couldn’t be together to celebrate.
My father’s letter had the same thoughtful tone.

The third letter was to me:
I just wanted to tell you that I love you.  Thanks so much for being there for me through this difficult time.  I promise that I am working hard to better myself so that the next 50 years for me are worth living.  I have reached the end of the road for this disease.  I miss you and love you more than you know !  Love, your son.”    
I ordered his Christmas presents online thru a Holiday Package Program.  
A $75 maximum order for canteen items from Louisiana sardines to moisturizing soap. These are luxury items that cost extra and can be purchased if the inmate has money on his books or through this program.  I’ll also order a few more books through the internet to arrive by December 25.

I have learned not to look too far into the future.  
I am thankful for the gift of perspective.  

For today, all is calm ……

Dr. Oz and ADHD

I LOVE The Dr. Oz Show !
(I have also met Dr. Oz, although he wouldn’t remember ….)

On today’s show, (Nov.21)  Drs. Ned Hallowell and Sue Varma, leading experts in ADHD, discussed adult ADHD.  
Although we associate ADHD with children, millions of adults have this medical condition and it is often undiagnosed, especially in women. 

Red Flag for Me ….

Worth going to the Dr. Oz website to read (or watch) what they have to say. 


Over lunch recently, my friend, Kathleen, offered some good advice: 
“Write about the happy times, too.”  

She has been following my blog and I asked her for some much needed feedback… for two reasons.  We have parented children together and she knows a lot of the struggles our family has been through over the years.  
And, Kathleen teaches dyslexic and language learning disabled students at 
The New Community School in Richmond, VA.
She went on to remind me that a sense of humor is essential.

Happy times.  Humor.  Mothering addiction.  They don’t exactly dovetail.
But she’s got a point and I’m working on it.

As I mentioned in Change in Temperament  (Oct), my son repeated Kindergarten. During that second year, he was diagnosed with ADHD, which means that in addition to the attentional challenges, he exhibited hyperactivity and impulsivity.  

No surprise there. 
This extensive testing also showed learning style differences, also referred to as learning disabilities.  
This was a little harder to wrap my arms around.  

These diagnoses don’t come with a personal handbook.  And what I wish they’d told me was that the low self-esteem slowly growing in a child with ADHD and learning disabilities, after years of ongoing disappointments and failures, can 

lead to self-medicating.

The seeds of addiction, I realized, are sown early.  
As I recreate those years, I’ll keep an eye open for the good moments, too.
I’m sure they’re in there.  


2 Book Recommendations

I’ve been searching bookstores for addiction resources.

Many books, written by experts, tackle this complex subject from an academic
standpoint.  I’ve found a number of books, written by the addicts themselves, chronicling their personal journeys through hell and back.

Books written by the parents of substance abusers are notably scarce, 
probably because reliving the experience is excruciating.

Two that I highly recommend:
A Beautiful Boy: A father’s journey through his son’s addictionby David Sheff 
Stay Close: A mother’s story of her son’s addictionby Libby Cataldi.

The emotional wild ride of parenting addiction is distinct from the addict’s
For parents, staying connected to those feelings and attempting to
understand them is a necessary ingredient in their own healing process.

According to an article written by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm
“writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events has been found to 
result in improvement in both physical and psychological health”.

After the fact, it’s easy to let the painful parts blur, just like we forget the 
pain of childbirth.  
But what if the confusion, fear and doubt of one parent can guide, reassure 
or ignite other parents to take action?

I’m writing it down to bring it out of the shadows.

In the past few months, I have been to several of the big-box bookstores as well as explored online to see what addiction resources are on the shelves.  There is comprehensive material written by the experts, who have spent many years studying this complex subject.  There are a number of books written by the addicts themselves, chronicling their personal journeys.  

There are but a few books written by parents of the addict, probably because reliving the experience is excruciating.  
Beautiful boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction, by David Sheff and Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of her Son’s Addiction, by Libby Cataldi,  are two that I highly recommend.

My overriding objective in writing this blog is to expose the emotional side and the harsh reality of my own experience with parenting addiction.  It’s difficult to quantify emotions, but staying connected and attempting to understand them is such an important ingredient in the personal healing process.

According to an article written by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm, 
“writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health”….