Addiction In Families: Hitting My Al-Anon Bottom
The expression, “hitting bottom” means getting to a point when the the pain (whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual) gets so great that you are forced into a state of surrender. For me this was the realization that my way of dealing with my daughter was not working. I has reached the depths of despair through trying to manage and control her addiction. My compulsive need to fix her was starting to destroy not only her but our whole family.I didn’t think things could get much worse at home. Living with my addictive eldest daughter was like being in a war zone. The shouting, chaos and drama were unbearable for my husband, two other children and myself. I eventually managed to persuade my daughter to attend an evening outpatient program to deal with her addiction to alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. She agreed but mainly to get us off her back.
One evening I got a call from her counselor saying she had run off from group having refused to do a UA test and was last seen wandering the streets . After she had been missing for 5 hours I started to get seriously worried as she also had a history of severe depression. She had twice been detained in mental institutions on 72 hour suicide watch. I called the police who alarmingly asked for her dental records for identification purposes. They said due to her history of addiction and depression they were willing to start the search immediately rather than wait the customary 24 hours.
The following 30 hours were torturous. I kept going to the worst possible scenario my head could drum up, envisaging her lying by a roadside in some desolate location. My imagination went haywire with negative images. In reality, she was probably getting high in some LA park with her friends. One of the worst things was the strain of having to put on a front for my younger children so as not to alarm them. Of course they could sense the tension in the air.
I eventually managed to track her down via Facebook and persuade her to come home. I felt drunk with relief. When she finally returned, I didn’t yell, lecture or guilt-trip her; I had learnt from Al-Anon that doing this only makes the addict more defensive and the situation worse.
One thing I knew for sure was that I was through. I felt overcome with desperation and anxiety and had reached my own personal rock bottom as I realized I was no longer able to function in the world. I could not focus on any job as it would always be interrupted by a crisis generated by my daughter. My husband and I were constantly arguing about how to deal with her. All this emotional poison filtered down to our two younger children, who had become frightened and withdrawn and were doing poorly at school. This was too much for me and my family. We could not cope. My daughter needed containment in a 24 hour residential treatment center run by professions who deal with dual diagnosis and we ourselves needed help to get our lives back on track. I realized that be me seeking help through Al- Anon and really putting the principles into action that change was possible.
One thing was certain: My way of dealing with her addiction did not work.
In my next post, I’ll discuss my experiences looking for a dual diagnosis treatment center. Stay tuned…
Addiction in Families…
Despite being around 12-Step programs for years, nothing could have prepared me for the horror of realizing that my daughter was addicted to drugs and alcohol. The signs had been there for years: sudden and violent moods swings, lies, empty bottles, missing medication, and truancy, but I put it down to depression. Even after three trips to psychiatric hospitals I’d simply hoped against hope she would get better, but she did not. Ultimately, it took police arrests and a suicide attempt to slice through my denial (or as I call it, “Mother Nature’s mechanism for protecting us from the painful truth”). I finally had to admit to myself that she had a drug problem.
As things kept getting worse, so did I, because somewhere deep inside, I thought I was at fault. If I had been a kinder, more loving parent this would not have happened. Most of my life had become consumed by clearing up the trail of destruction left behind her or trying to “fix” her to the point where I had neglected the needs of my other two children. The whole family had become affected by my daughter’s alcoholism and we were living in a constant state of drama and crisis.
The plain and simple fact is that addiction is a family disease, and I had to face it. I needed to stop blaming myself and my husband for our daughter’s addiction. I also needed a clearer understanding of alcoholism and drug addiction in order to understand what she was dealing with. This led to acceptance that nothing and nobody can prevent someone from becoming an addict/alcoholic. Once I had accepted this, I needed to be reminded that I can neither control nor can I cure my daughter. Once she was in treatment I needed a safe place to process the years of intense distress our family had suffered. I needed to be introduced to resources for myself and my children in order to heal such as Al-Anon and Al-Ateen. Through it all, I came to realize there was much I could do to help both my daughter and myself. Accepting the things I could not change, and having the courage to change the things I can has enabled us all to maintain a healthy, peaceful dynamic.