Down The Yellow Brick Road

As Angie deteriorates I need some kind of program more than ever to help me cope, and it’s at this point in the memoir that I introduce my 12-Step recovery program. Throughout the book I point to how this program and its teachings have helped me to meet the challenges in my life and grow spiritually. But recovery has not been a straight or easy path for me.

From “Life Had Become Unmanageable:”

“Years later in one of my support groups in New Mexico, a friend shared how she had to lock everything up in her house. She’d lock the jewelry here, the silver there. She had a different key for every place, and one time she was so flummoxed by her son that she lost all the keys! We laughed together at that one, grateful that we still could laugh. This is what it comes to for many of us parents. We erect walls to protect ourselves, keeping the addicts out. And then, of course, we feel guilty about doing that.

They will work us, manipulate us, and use every tool in their arsenal to get what they want if they’re still using. Parents are so vulnerable, and they’re walking a fine line between helping their child recover, and enabling them to continue using. We learn eventually to sit frozen in inaction, to do nothing.  We learn to let our addicts be accountable for their own actions, and hopefully learn from the consequences (eviction, jail, death). But it’s that last consequence that holds us hostage, keeps us doing for our addict all that he should be doing for himself. We say to ourselves, “As long as he’s alive, he can recover.”  True, but when will we ever get rid of our God-like parental power, thinking that his recovery is all up to us?”



Life Is For The Living: Live It Well!

From Courage to Change, March 23:

“They say that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. If I learn to accept that pain is part of life, I will be better able to endure the difficult times and then move on, leaving the pain behind me.”

‘When we long for life without…difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.’             Peter Marshall

Let your brilliance shine like diamonds in 2015. Happy Holidays to my friends and family. God Bless Us, Every One!

Feeling Grateful

“What Gorgeous Thing” by Mary Oliver

I do not know what gorgeous thing

the bluebird keeps saying,

his voice easing out of his throat,

beak, body into the pink air

of the early morning. I like it

whatever it is. Sometimes

it seems the only thing in the world

that is without dark thoughts.

Sometimes it seems the only thing

in the world that is without

questions that can’t and probably

never will be answered, the

only thing that is entirely content

with the pink, then clear white

morning and, gratefully, says so.

The Gifts of the Season

Memoir Excerpt:

“When Angie came out of that first rehab, she made me the most beautiful gift.

“Mom, I’m not quite finished with it. I just have a few more flowers to cut. You’ll need to find a 17-by-22-inch frame to mount it on. Sorry it’s such an odd size. Guess I wasn’t thinking. I copied it from one of my Chinese art books. I hope you like it!”

Right now it’s hanging in my room for me to see. Over the years I’ve taken it on and off the wall, hidden it in a closet, too painful for me to look at. Maybe it’s a sign of my recovery. Now I can leave it on the wall, look at it, and appreciate all the work she put into it. This was her way, I believe, of telling me she loved me and she was sorry, not for getting sick, but for what that sickness drove her to do to me. She never, ever, was able to express her feelings easily with words.  So she showed me, in countless ways, as she did once in December 1993:

“Where the hell is that $300 I put away for safekeeping? If you kids want any Christmas presents, you’d better help me find it now,” I shouted, panicking at the thought of losing my hard-earned cash. I was so scattered sometimes. I was perfectly capable of misplacing it.

“Found it, Mom! Don’t you remember when you hid it in this book? Well, here it is. Aren’t you glad I’m as honest as I am?”

“Yes, Angie, my darlin girl, I am. And thank you!”

Years are passing by, and sometimes it’s hard to remember her as she was. But when I look at the tapestry she made, I remember:

Angie had a fascination for all things Asian—Chinese, Japanese, it didn’t matter. She loved the grace and flow of much of the artwork. She copied a simple series of flowers. But she did it not with paint or pencil or pen; she cut out every pistil, not completely detailed, a few sepals in place, the rest scattered, all the ovaries in different colors for contrast, every leaf, in varying sizes and colors, every stem, and glued it all together on a piece of gold cloth. It looked just like the picture in her book.

I treasure this gift she made. The tapestry is twelve years old, and sometimes a petal comes unglued and I have to put it back on. I should put it under glass to preserve it. I wish we could put our children under glass—to keep them safe.

I would soon discover, though, that no matter what I did for Angie it would never be enough to protect her from the illness that was consuming her.”



From Courage to Change, May 8:

“While I am responsible for changing what I can, I have to let go of the rest if I want peace of mind. Just for today I will love myself enough to give up a struggle over something that is out of my hands.”

‘By yielding you may obtain victory.’ Ovid

The Bumpy Ride Begins

Early in Angie’s illness, I flailed around in denial, sometimes strong, as when I handed her logical consequences for being abusive. I felt like a moth turned into a butterfly then, but I later added, “Oh how this butterfly would flutter and die in the years that followed, as I backtracked over and over again, trading in my courage for equal does of martyrdom.”

Memoir Excerpt:

“Rehab was an old converted motel out in the middle of nowhere. Good thinking; patients could leave but there was nowhere to go. What a desolate place it looked like, with grass that hadn’t been mowed outside, crumbling asphalt walkways, peeling paint, and a screen door that was falling off its hinges. This is what I got for looking in the phone book and making a hurried decision.”

“The ride was quiet. Xavier played a lot of tapes so we wouldn’t be able to talk much. And what could we say? All I could think was that Angie would snap out of this. She would get it right away; I was sure of it. How could this be happening anyway? I was certain I had been dreaming and would wake up from this nightmare. This sort of thing happens to other people’s children, I assured myself…”

“Angie was a Foreign Service brat.  She was born in South America and moved easily from country to country, or so it seemed.  When we lived in Greece, she competed in England with the gymnastics team. When we lived in Rome, a scout picked her to be in a movie. She was a shining star, and her outward accomplishments duped me into thinking she had a bright future. Oh boy, was I ready to take the credit! Ten years later, when she was twenty-one, I was completely unprepared when she started tumbling into the hell of drug addiction. I should have, but I didn’t see it coming. Oh boy, was I ready to take the blame.”


Buried Alive

Is the holiday season sometimes overwhelming to you?

From Courage to Change, December 8

“The image of an avalanche helps me to give the drinking alcoholic (or addict) in my life the dignity to make her own decisions. It is as though her actions are forming a mountain of alcohol-related troubles. A mound of snow cannot indefinitely grow taller without tumbling down; neither can the alcoholic’s mountain of problems.

Al-Anon has helped me to refrain from throwing myself in front of the alcoholic to protect her, or from working feverishly to add to the mountain in order to speed its downward slide. I am powerless over her drinking and her pain. The most helpful course of action is for me to stay out of the way!

If the avalanche hits the alcoholic, it must be the result of her own actions. I’ll do my best to allow God to care for her, even when painful consequences of her choices hit full force. That way I won’t get in the way of her chance to want a better life.

Today’s reminder: I will take care to avoid building an avalanche of my own. Am I heaping up resentments, excuses, and regrets that have the potential to destroy me? I don’t have to be buried under them before I address my own problems. I can begin today.”

‘The suffering you are trying to ease…may be the very thing needed to bring the alcoholic to a realization of the seriousness of the situation—literally a blessing in disguise.’ (From “So You Love An Alcoholic”)

Split Personality

Memoir Excerpt:

“In the fall of 2001, “There were a number of red flags screaming for my attention. One was the dropped Milton course.  It was totally unlike her to be that irresponsible and give up on something she had started. And then, a far clearer statement, there was the homemade concoction left in the basement for me to find.  On my way downstairs to the laundry room I couldn’t believe my eyes. One of my mixing bowls was full of some off-white substance I didn’t recognize. She wasn’t home when I found it, but I moved it up to the kitchen near the garbage disposal, ready to toss in the morning, so she’d see it when she came home.

At 4:30 a.m., Angie exploded into my bedroom while Gene and I were asleep:

“Mom, whatthefuck! How dare you mess with my stuff downstairs!

Don’t you ever touch my stuff again, youfuckingbitch!”

She looked raw, animal-like, with blood-shot, wild eyes.  I was half-asleep; I hoped I’d been dreaming. Angie slammed the door and my hand mirror, tempting fate on the edge of my dresser, fell to the floor and cracked.  Uh-oh, I thought to myself, seven years bad luck. OK, I guess I’m still asleep. This can’t be happening!  What planet am I on? ‘Scotty, get me outta here!’ Who is this horrible bitch?

Gene went downstairs to check on her, as if there was anything he could do to stabilize this toxic, nightmarish situation. He came right back upstairs, trying to comfort me, the only person he might be able to influence. I remember like it was yesterday how I pushed my face into my pillow, praying to God to put an end to this horror. Little did I know then in the fall of 2001 that this was just the beginning of facing down my daughter’s—and many of my own—demons.

         Oh, well, no more sleep for me. I freaked out—she freaked out—and thankfully moved out, temporarily, to live with her pusher. A half-hour later, I went downstairs to make coffee. Loudly stomping upstairs from her basement hideaway so I’d take note of how mad she was, she brushed by me without a word or a look, stony-faced and resolute. Carrying a garbage bag of clothes and shoes, she slammed the front door as she left. I went to the window to see if she was parked in the fire lane she had always parked in, and for once I was glad because I could watch her for a little longer as she drove away. Two feelings I would spend the next decade learning to reconcile: complete and utter hatred for this stranger who was living in my daughter’s body; and total and complete surrender to love for my child.”