Ashley, Addict

Recently , I’ve been invited to share on this blog by my mother.  The catalyst, perhaps, is that she doesn’t know the truth about a lot of what happened. Unfortunately, that is a huge part of this thing. The lies and the darkness and the loneliness and the deceit. So, we are going to collaborate and I’m going to tell my side of the story, as well.

I suppose what’s most fresh on my mind is a response to her last few posts . It’s so hard to know where to start; mom and I have gone back-and-forth on just that issue. Do we start with my childhood? Do we start with my first time in jail?  Where does it all begin?

I moved back to Virginia in April 2012. I packed all my things up into my SUV , rented a U-Haul , attached it to the back and had the plan to drive from California to Virginia in five days.  Tops. I had bought enough heroin to last me a full week and a half. I even color-coded my syringes. Yellow for morning, red for afternoon, blue for evening, black for night. By my third day into the trip, when arriving to Flagstaff, Arizona I was already completely out. At this point I had no veins left and I was covered in track marks. I started to get very sick. I had to stay in the same hotel room for three days,incapable of moving.  I was detoxing. Hard. I fainted every time I sat up. I was dry heaving constantly. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t move without puking. Detoxing also comes along with excruciating body aches and uncontrollable diarrhea. Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had and multiply it by probably fifteen.  You might have a vague idea of what it’s like. But, probably not. I decided to tell my family that I had swine flu. Yes, swine flu.


I was far too ashamed to tell the truth. The truth that I had been shooting heroin into my veins for well over nine months.  The truth that my 135 pounds was now a dismal 87.  I was quite literally dying physically. Spiritually, I had been dead for years.

The whole trip consisted of me googling places where people had been arrested or had overdosed to see if I could find some more heroin. I was never successful. That just goes to show though, how sick I was. How sick I am. It took me twelve days to get back to Virginia. Twelve days of stealing drugs along the way from family members , including my father. Twelve days of standing up and passing out and hitting my head every single day. Twelve days being on the edge of taking my own life to end the suffering. I was so  incredibly alone.  I like to call it the twelve days of death.


It is a miracle I didn’t die in a hotel room. Or kill someone while trying to drive. It’s a miracle I’m alive just based on that trip alone.


When I got back I was constantly in a state of detox. I would have things mailed to me (predominately heroin) but between packages I was super sick. I would drink or smoke pot in order to barely function.   I couldn’t hold down a job because I kept on getting sick . I was going to twelve step meetings every day with an underlying motive that somebody would hopefully relapse and get me high with them.


When my mom eventually found the bottle of wine the jig was up. Funny thing is , the stuff on the mirror was dust. The irony is, it will never be dust. Anytime anything pops up in my life from here on out-if I’m late, if I forget to call, if my room is too messy, if I’m acting funny or tired or get sick. It will always not be dust. I will always be a suspect. And I’ve earned that title. I’ve done that damage.  I’ve led my love ones to see dust and think drugs. How sick is that? The other funny part is, I really was licking the furniture. But it’s not funny. I was so desperate to not feel sick anymore. I would go to my storage unit with Q-tips and try and scrape off heroin to put into a shot. I scoured my car every day for FOUR MONTHS after I knew there was nothing left. I was licking my furniture! For God sake, how sick is that? But those are the things addicts do. Those are just some of the lengths I will go to in order to feel better.

The worst thing I’ve ever heard come out of anybody’s mouth was when she told me I had to leave and that I wasn’t her daughter anymore. And she didn’t mean it in a disowning sense. She meant it in the sense that she didn’t know who was standing in front of her anymore. The daughter she loved and cherished and raised had vanished. I was but a ghost. Swinging in and out of life, shifting from task to task, floating amongst the living but much closer to the dead.


When my mom asked me to leave I did go to my friends house. I stayed there for a night and then at another friends house for a night and then slept in my truck for a night. There was one night I knew my parents were out of town and I snuck into my backyard and crawled into the screened in porch of my childhood and slept there. I wept like a baby the entire night; asking myself, how is this my life?  So many beautiful memories in the backyard now tainted. Now stained by my addiction.




I, too, must stop now. It is not easy to recall those empty days. It will be even harder to tell you of even emptier days. I do this so you can see. I am you in your nightmares. I am an addict. I am also someone’s child.  We all are.

A Few Helpful Books

Thought I would share just a few of the books I have read in my search to educate myself on the life of an addict and what their families and friends endure.  These are just a few.  There are more out there!  Each book has a bibliography with multiple resources.  As I look over the list, there are a few I want to reread.  My favorites were Beautiful Boy and Leave the Light On although each has much from which to learn.

Beautiful Boy:A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction      David Sheff

Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery      Jennifer Storm

Comeback :a mother and daughter’s journey through hell and back   Claire Fontaine and  Mia Fontaine

Addicted: Notes From the Belly of the Beast     Edited by Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane

A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction           Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Fried

The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year      Michael Stein

Now What?  An Insider’s Guide to Addiction and Recovery      William Cope Moyers

In My Skin: A Memoir of Addiction           Kate Holden

Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption    William Cope Moyers

A Very Fine House  A Mother’s Story of Love, Faith, and Crystal Meth    Barbara Cofer           Stoefen

The Addict’s Mom Presents Unexpected Heroes: Stories of Love and Sacrifice in the Face of Addiction     Lynne  Gassel, Laura Chapman

Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy   David Sheff

Addict in the Family      Beverly Conyers

Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction    Libby Cataldi



Part 3 Watching Her Go

Last time, I wrote about how Ash said I saved her life by telling her she had to leave the house.  She says “kicked out”.  I prefer “leave”.  She told me that in the past, she knew I had to do some tough things.  Later she said if my telling her to leave was the hardest thing I ever had to do, she realized it was really bad.  The drugs had become her best friend and that used to be me.

Ashley was right in that there were other events in my life that were very difficult. Some that I rarely share.  I always was able to see that no matter what, I could get through it.  This was different.  What happened if she left and overdosed?  How could I ever exist without my daughter?  I cannot imagine a life without my kids.  Even though we came close to losing Ashley after the fire, I just could never let myself believe she might actually die.  This definitely was different.  I kept remembering what other addicts in recovery had told me.  Nothing was going to be more important than the drugs.  Someone not addicted cannot begin to imagine the cravings.  It totally takes over.  An addict will do whatever it takes to reach euphoria.  The drugs turned them into monsters. I felt this was my last opportunity to save her and yet there were so many doubts.

Ash left that night and was lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend she had known since middle school.  This friend has supported Ash through every step of her recovery.  She is also the friend who was living with a police officer.  I found it interesting that an addict would stay in the home of a police officer but then again, I knew she was in a safe place.  Except for whatever drugs she had.  No one could keep her safe from those.

I think it was a day or so later that Ash called and asked if it was okay to come by the house.  A package was coming to her from a friend in California with some things she had asked him to send. I was out of town, the house was locked and she had no keys so I gave her permission to come check the mail.  I believed her??!  I later found it was a package containing kratom ( I think).  Since I was not actively journaling at the time, some of the details are a bit fuzzy, but then, that really is nothing new for me.

Within a couple of days, I was back home and received another call from Ash. She wanted to come over to the house.  Ash had arranged to use her engagement ring as payment to enter the rehab in Lake Arrowhead again.  The center would pay for her ticket to California as they knew she was in bad shape.

I was proud of her for taking the step to get herself back in rehab but just sick to know she would be gone again.  It is heartbreaking to remember the day when I took her to the airport.

She got out of the car standing as straight as her 90 something pounds would allow, looking like a wounded warrior going back to battle. Her backpack was much larger than she was.  She looked determined.  Scared. She also looked like she might not live through the flight.  I don’t know how to even begin to describe this nightmare of letting her get on that plane without me.  I just knew it  had to be done.  The memory of her leaving haunts me even now and that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach returns as do the tears.  Would she make it?  Am I doing the best thing for her?  Why can’t I take this on for her?  Is this the life my daughter, my lovely daughter who I love with all my being, is this the life she is going to have?  Is she going to have a life?  At one time I thought getting her through the fire and her recovery were going to be our toughest battles.  I was so wrong. The automatic doors at Dulles swallowed my girl and she knew she was death walking.

The Betty Ford Family Program gave me the strength to set boundaries and follow through with them if I wanted to give my girl a chance.  I would recommend anyone with a loved one in recovery to attend one of these programs.  I used to not admit I thought she had a problem.  I felt I had done everything wrong and that all of it was my fault.  I made excuses.  I could not believe this was happening.  Except that it was.

Ash made it to rehab and went through the program a second time. For the time being, she was getting help, was safe, and, as always, I was hoping this would be it. It wasn’t.  There was still more to come.  Sometimes I still cannot believe all she has gone through.  More later.

I am so proud of my daughter. I love my recovering addict.



Part Two

Screenshot 2017-07-20 13.36.12I am ready to tell the rest of the story when I had to let Ashley go.  I did not realize how reaching back into those memories would affect me but I think it may be helping somewhere.  I heard from a friend that the blog is helping her understand a bit more of what a loved one of hers went through with addiction.  Sadly, he did not make it.  This is why I go back to those times.  If Ashley and I can reach people, if we can help make a difference in anyone’s life, then it is worth every single word.

When Ash arrived home, I told her what I had found.  Everything around me seemed fuzzy, like when a person gets the news that someone has died.  The whole world changes.  Everything looks different.  Smells different.  Nothing is as it was.  So it was that day.  I had to tell my daughter, who had already experienced more loss and pain than I could ever imagine, that she had to leave.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It is heartbreaking to think that the best thing to do for an addict may be to let them go.  But sometimes it is.  I knew it was what had to be done, but believe me, my heart was breaking.

She may have weighed no more than ninety pounds.  Have you ever seen a cancer patient near the end of life?  That is how she looked to me.  My daughter whom I love so dearly.  I did not know what else to do.  The truth is, there was nothing else I could do. My daughter loves me but yet in the depths of addiction, nothing means more to an addict than the drug.  Heroin.  Fentanyl.  Alcohol.  Whatever the demon is what the addict wants more than anything.  Sometimes more than life itself.  My love for her was not enough.  We had done everything that we could think of to do while trying not to enable.

I had to let her go.  I had to let her go and she had to know how much I love her no matter what.  I saw the little girl she was curling up in my pink bathrobe outside the shower so she would be there with me when I stepped out. I saw my child dancing with me in the kitchen.  And there she was mimicking me in the car and had me laughing so hard that I was crying and almost had to pull over.  Sometimes others just see an addict as a life not worth saving.  I see my daughter, I see other people’s children, spouses, cousins, friends.  I see human beings tortured by a disease unlike any other.

I see lovely people who did not choose to be addicts.  I see lives worth every bit as much as mine.

Ashley said she understood.  She did not blame me.  She was wondering where she would go.  I guess in the back of my mind I knew she would find somewhere as she still had many friends in our area.  She packed up some of her things and left the house.

She was gone.  I didn’t know what would happen next.  A close friend came over and just let me cry and behind all those tears emerged a strength and faith that she was not going to die.  That I did the best thing I could even though it literally was tearing me apart.  I pray.

Time to stop now.  I still have to take care of myself.  I do not live in the past and at times it creeps up when writing and comes dangerously close.  That is not my way.  I am grateful for today knowing Ashley is waking and going to her job in a rehab center to do what she can to help other addicts.

This post is not complete but will need to wait for another day.

Just so you know, Ashley says I saved her life that day.  I love my recovering addict.


Our First Experience with a Rehab Center

In my last entry, I mentioned how we did what research we could on rehabs in California and Virginia and finally settled on one in California.  We did not feel we had time to keep searching.

The rehab was Above it All located in Lake Arrowhead.  I mentioned some of the programs offered there and wanted to write about our week at Betty Ford for their Family Program.  The center is now merged with Hazelden and is known as Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.  This program was recommended to us by AIA (Above it All).

The goal of the program was specifically to give “tools” to the families of addicts.  My son and I flew to California and entered a world that I could not have foreseen myself ever being in.

I was a bit apprehensive the first day, but luckily I had Ry with me.  After registration processes and welcomes, we were guided into a large conference room and seated in a circle.  I was shocked.  I looked around at all the people gathered and tried to wrap my head around as to how many people were there. We introduced ourselves one by one telling what had brought us to this place.  There were parents of young adults and high school students, spouses and fiances of brain surgeons, plastic surgeons, white collar and blue collar workers.  Siblings who had been taking a backseat to their addicted brother or sister.  Addiction does not target any specific culture or socioeconomic group.  It is  out for all all of them.

First, we were going to learn about the disease of addiction, its causes, the treatment, and how chemical dependency is a family disease.  Every counselor and speaker involved were also recovering addicts.  Some had decades clean, some had years.  Each one understood what the addict was dealing with and were brutally honest about helping us deal with our loved one.

Too much information to share in one posting but I do want to write about boundaries.  Each time I think of boundaries, I recall a mother who was in a support group a few years later.  Other participants were talking about boundaries and tough love as this mother sat and listened until she could listen no more.  Sobbing, she told us how we could talk about how parents kicked their child out of their homes and seemed proud of it.  Then the bomb fell.  She had lost two children to overdoses and wondered if we would have let them go if we knew that would happen.

That is the ugly truth of all of this because I already knew my answer and it was yes,  I had already done it.  Boundaries were what saved my sanity and that of my son’s.  There has been nothing about this that was easy.  It has cost countless sleepless nights, nightmares of my daughter in a morgue, living on the streets pushing a shopping cart, sitting in a dilapidated building waiting for the next fix.

Over the years I had to set my boundaries and one of Ashley’s counselors from AIA was always ready to help me through some tough times even when she was no longer a client and when he had moved on.

This is the recap of one of the worst days of my life as the mother of a recovering addict.  Ash had moved back to Virginia about five years ago.  The boundaries were set.  No alcohol.  No drugs.  Honesty (don’t count on it.) Get a job.  Continue with meetings.  I would do drug testing at home with the kits.

The jobs she obtained did not work out.  I later found out the reasons she gave for not working were well thought out lies.  I remember a friend at the time who has been sober for about thirty years telling me he had seen a lot of addicts but she was the best at lying he had ever seen.  This from a close friend who leads meetings and is very active in helping those in recovery.  So, I knew this was pretty scary.  Her innocent looks had given her a pass in many situations.

Fast forward to the day when I received the results of a home drug test and it showed positive.  When confronted, she told me she was so in need of drugs that she went to her storage unit and licked the furniture where there was some residue.  That must have been what showed up.  By this point, I knew better to believe her even though I wanted to do so.  She left the house to visit a friend, who just happened to be living with a local policeman, and I searched her room.  I found black ashes on a mirror and an empty bottle of wine.  I called the counselor I had been in touch with off and on.  He told me the licking the furniture was bullshit, she was using, and that the time had come for her to leave.  Could I do that?

This was after years of always wondering if I was doing the best thing for her, questioning if I was enabling her use, and really, I was at the absolute end.  This had truly been a journey through hell ( and later I found this had not even been the darkest point but it was at the time).  I had already thought this through and knew it was my last chance.

I also knew that by telling her she had to leave I was sending her out to a world where she may or may not return to me.  I read this and think it sounds so cold.  When one loves an addict, and for those who are living through this, sometimes the best thing to do is the one that tears you apart the most.

I called her home.  I was alone as my husband was out of town.  My son offered to drive up from Richmond but I told him I was okay and would call him later.

And now, this is hard to write, so I am going to take a break right now.  To continue later.  After all, this is about the truth and how it affects those of us who love our addicts.  This is hard stuff. This is heartbreaking.  This is what we live through.  And I have not even touched on how nightmarish it really is.

Again, not writing for sympathy.  I am fine.  Ash is fine.  But I just had an acquaintance whose son died from drugs and another friend whose niece is addicted and her family is living through this nightmare.

And it never leaves the back of my mind, it could be my daughter.  12391234_10207544280140739_82289561647360736_n

I welcome questions or comments that may help clarify anything.


Scan 5

This is my little girl.  This is the person I see.  I look at old pictures trying to find something that should have given me a clue as to what her future would be.  I thought if I did the best I could, Ash would have a happy life, however that would look to her.  Even after her difficulties in high school, the fire, and the loss of another relationship, I still remained optimistic and had faith.


We had done the best we could after the fire.  My son created a blog about Ashley’s recovery.  I believe it to be the best blog I have ever read.  The love, concern, support, the heart his words conveyed…people looked forward to reading it daily.

I was fortunate enough to be able to move to Charlottesville into an apartment with Ash for a year and a half.  We would be close to her doctors as she needed pain management, skin grafts, physical therapy, and plastic surgeries. That experience is another whole story.  The point is, we muddled through with lots of tears but also a lot of laughter. Keeping the humor at 3AM while dressing wounds for hours was crucial.

Eventually, I was able to move back home.  It was over a year after the fire when we attended our first burn survivors conference in North Carolina.  Ash met a burn survivor there to whom she eventually became engaged.   She did move to California with him and the wedding plans were moving forward.  We had even gone dress shopping.  I recall how she was sick the day we were visiting the bridal salons and vomiting in the bathroom, trying not to soil the dresses.

She seemed better after lunch and blamed it on a flu.  Later, I found she was in need of drugs.  Did I see it or suspect it?  No.

Some time after, I had a call from her fiance that she had kratom delivered to their home.  She obviously did not want him to know. (More on kratom later.) I cannot remember all that transpired as I was a continent away but her abuse of pain killers led to their break up and she was in California without a job and needing to find a place to live.

It was so hard and I kept remembering how she woke up after a month long drug induced coma to find life as she knew it had disappeared.  Her dreams of marrying Brett and having babies, moving to Blacksburg, she was in nursing school, working part-time, and performing again.  Gone.  Of course she was depressed.  Still recovering physically but emotionally, I cannot to this day imagine what it was like. Self medicating.

Ash did not want to come back to Virginia as she said bad things happen here. Yes, bad things happened because of choices she made. After my son and another friend spent some time with Ash out in California, my son told me we needed to stage an intervention with her.

This was at Thanksgiving.  I was so happy that both my children would be with us at our log cabin in West Virginia playing games, laughing, hiking, and just being together.  The realization of what I heard hit hard.  This was not going to be the quintessential Thanksgiving holiday.

It is difficult to understand addiction until it smacks one in the face.  We look at events in our lives from our individual perspectives; what we have experienced.  I did not drink in high school but that changed with graduation, turning 18, and heading to college.  I never wanted the kids to know that I had smoked pot, thinking that they would think it was okay for them.  I could take it or leave it, never craved drugs or alcohol.  Even though there is alcoholism on Ashley’s paternal side (I did question to see if it was on my side too but found no evidence of it), my feelings were that we had discussed it and the sadness of this disease.   Denial?  Sure.  It was painful and unbelievable that my daughter (face it, we can always see the innocent child in them) had to suffer with this.  I remember her telling me at the time that she was proud she had never done heroin.  Hard to believe now, but I took comfort in that it had not gone that far.  That did not last long.

There are so many experiences but I wanted to get to our introduction to rehab facilities.  We had no idea where to begin so, of course, began the Google searches.  There are so many rehabs in California that it was overwhelming.  I was researching intervention specialists, the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Program, certifications, licensing, reviews, and specific rehab centers.  Most of the programs I found were anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 for one month. We made phone calls to further research the facilities, willing to pay anything to help her beat addiction.  Beat addiction?  Almost laughable if not so painfully tragic.

December 12, 2010.  Two days before her twenty-eighth birthday.  It feels like so long ago.  So much had happened between the fire and this point.  So much has happened in the last seven years. We finally decided on a treatment center in the Lake Arrowhead area of California.  It made me nauseous to think of my girl going there.  Her brother was taking her so that helped.

There would be an initial screening evaluation, individualized family treatment, group therapy, recovery planning groups, twelve step meetings, individual counseling, alcohol and drug education, treatment planning review, relapse prevention, psychodrama, and grief and loss counseling.  Breathalyzers, alcohol and drug screening, and a list of rules and expectations.  Rules, not Ashley’s favorite thing.

She went through detox and much of this I cannot really describe.  I wasn’t there.  Would not have wanted to see her go through detox after what I had seen her go through physically and emotionally from the fire.  I just have read in books and heard that it is absolute hell.  Vomiting.  Uncontrollable shaking.  Body needing to be plunged into a tub of ice water.  Still, I would have taken her place.

Shortly after arriving, Ash told me she had a concern about joints made of spices that were being sold at a gas station and, of course, the product was not allowed in the facility.  Ash was concerned about temptations and talked to the “boss” of the rehab.  I was told a house search was conducted and there was a client with a quantity of it.  I applauded Ash for taking care of herself.  What a great first step and I was encouraged.

My memory on some of this is fuzzy.  Ash may need to clarify some of it. Shortly after that incident, while visiting family for the holidays in Ohio, I got the phone call that she and another client were to go to a gym but ducked out and went to a bar instead.  There was also the time where she was allowed to go down to the docks on the lake and met up with someone who had alcohol.

Disappointed but still believed she could do this. Surprisingly, they kept her at rehab.  It would only be a couple of weeks and I would be going out to see her for the family program at Betty Ford. I had no idea what that was going to be like.

I wish I had written more down at this time.  It was so scary and so hard to believe it was my child.  But like I have said before, “Why not her?  Why not me?  We are no better or different from anyone else.  It happens.”  I had to keep picking myself up for her.  I thought this would be the worst we could go through, she would finish rehab and work here program.

This was no way the worst.


List of resources

I just thought I would share a list of resources with you from an online closed group I belong to called The Addict’s Mom, Sharing Without Shame which has over 70,000 members. I am including information about this group in case any of you are interested or know someone who is.

First, here is a link to professionals,  a place to get started.  We had no idea where to begin.  As always, please do more research and use this as a guide.  Another day will be devoted to my experiences with rehabs.


To fulfill our vision of “Sharing without Shame,” and our mission, The Addict’s Mom has put forth an ambitious program, achieving the following in the past year. 

  • The Addict’s Mom Lights of Hope —  An International awareness event held annually in conjunction SAMHSA’s National Recovery Month
    • Launched on August 20, 2013 in less than six weeks members and others were sharing all over the US and in 52 nations around the world (it is estimated, over 25,000 people took part in this event) 
    • SAMHSA endorsed Lights of Hope as an official National Recovery month event
    • And on September 30th, 2013 mothers everywhere lit three candles of hope. 
      • A red one for an addict in active addiction
      • A white candle for an addict in recovery
      • A black/silver candle for the tragic loss of a child due to overdose.
  • The Addict’s Mom Steps of Hope —  An International Awareness event held annually launched on May 17th 2012 addict’s moms rallied in 50 States across the nation.
  • CNN features the Addict’s Mom August 28th 2014
  • The Addict’s Mom Partners with In The Rooms Launching Weekly Live Online Video Meetings Thursdays 7:00pm EST to join us sign up 
  • The 2014 “Architect of Change Award” from the Maria Shriver Foundation
  • Proclamation from the Mayor of the town of Davie (which has over 100,000 residents), recognizes May 17 as “The Addict’s Mom Day”
  • Proclamations- again in conjunction with SAMHSA’s  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Recovery Month, members all over the US contacted their local politicians and civic leaders and had them proclaim September 2013 National Recovery Month.
    • In 2014 we expect our members partaking in this event to be 400% higher due to our new grassroots support groups

    National Drug Facts Week — The Addict’s Mom is collaborating with NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse)  to spread facts and shatter myths about drugs through social media and grassroots groups

  • The Addict’s Mom opened 50 support groups — around the US this year.  These support groups will be provided toolkits and resources to help support moms and their families.
  • Newspaper Columns — Ask The Addict’s Mom Is now appearing in about a dozen columns around the nation and is adding new papers monthly
  • Counselor Magazine — has The Addict’s Mom writing opinion pieces for their magazine which is read by thousands of addiction professionals yearly
  • TAM has members serving on state and local drug panels — becoming influencers in the passing of vital legislation, such as the Jennifer Act, to save lives through the administer of Narcan/Naloxone by first responders for opioid overdoses’.    
  • C.A.N. CAMPAIGN (Changing Awareness Now)
  1. Addiction is a Brain Disease campaign – A flyer made for this campaign has gone viral and has been distributed around the country.  It is distributed to organizations, groups, schools and individuals on request at no cost.
  2. We are in the beginning planning stages of a national suicide prevention campaign to educate and make parents aware how closely tied suicide is to addiction and to provide the needed resources.
  3. Campaign empower, is a future campaign to spread awareness to family members who are still enabling the addict even when faced with evidence this is harmful.
  4. TAM very excited to be planning a harm reduction campaign in conjunction with leading organizations around this nation

This is How I Started…thank you FB friends and family for your encouragement

The ongoing opiod epidemic has finally pushed me into beginning a blog about being the mother of a recovering addict. The crazy thing is, I don’t know where to start!

With the sadness I feel each time I read or hear someone say that addiction is a choice and the person just needs to stop? Or when I see a comment about giving a human being, who has overdosed on heroin, narcon and the statement is to let the addict die.

Do I start with the fire where Ash lost the wonderful man she hoped to marry to carbon monoxide poisoning, knowing he tried to save her? How she had third degree burns over 35% of her body, skin grafts took another 35%, and the pain is something none of us could imagine. The drugs she was given, including the highly addictive fentanyl, over the course of time were the only way to alleviate some of the pain. How her pain management team and doctors at UVA worked on managing her pain at the same time wanting to wean her off the powerful drugs?

Do I write about all she, and we as a family, have gone through? Would anyone who understood addiction and that every single person out there has a story, could you really not want to find a cure as we would for any other disease?

Would it be about our perspective on how she sees her life and how she hopes each day finds her healthier and able to help others through addiction counseling? Using her experiences to guide others in finding an addiction free life while at the same time knowing it can reappear at any time and throw one back into a dark, dark place?

How I could never stop loving and believing in my daughter no matter what? How the support and love from family and friends is what gives me strength each day.

The blog I am hoping to begin is not for any kind of sympathy as there is so much I am thankful for each day. It is more to put a face, one you all know, to what this disease is like and why it cannot be dismissed. It is to reach out to any of you who are coping with this, sometimes barely, and need a safe place to be heard. To share some of the resources I have found hoping that they may help others.

I love my recovering addict. She is joy, she is beautiful, she is smart, and she did not ever want to be an addict.

But where do I even start?

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Time to Get This Junk out of the Closet

This may be a long and rambling post.  It is time to get real.  Just got off the phone with my amazing daughter and told her that there have been times the last few days when I thought about not doing this.  Where do I draw the line?  How much to share and since she is 100% a part of all this, do I affect her future by laying it out there?  It has to be done honestly or it will do nothing in helping others navigate their way through the nightmare of addiction. And believe me, it is a nightmare.

The first thing I heard from Ashley about this blog was to do it.  Then she asked me to change the original picture I had put up of the two of us. Of the picture, she said, “I was really high and it makes me feel gross”.  I had no idea.  I was visiting her in California and thought she was doing okay.  That is the first thing to know if you have a loved one who is an addict.  Sometimes, we just don’t see it.  We think they are in recovery and we want to believe it and hope for it.  They know this.  They are so adept at hiding and lying and manipulating.  That is the reality.

I can write all I want about the fire, about how I was so in shock over what happened.  My head could not fathom that she would die yet I knew many did not expect her to make it.  I remember pacing and pacing and praying and begging God not to take Brett.  If she made it, how would she survive without him?  How could a mother’s love be enough to get her through it?  And then Brett was gone.  After all we have been through, that is the one pain I don’t ever want to know.  The loss of a child.  An only child.

So, I am sure the fire will come up here and there.  Yet, as Ashley so rightfully pointed out to me today, she had problems with addiction before that.  Maybe that would have been a better beginning.  Many of those events are an entire post unto themselves. For now, the fire was not the beginning, but from my perspective, it was what pushed her further into the dark abyss of addiction.

We have a bird house in our backyard and each year, it has occupants.  Each year, the squirrels and chipmunks try to enter through the hole and they chew and claw trying to get in. I watched a squirrel jump onto the top of the birdhouse recently.  The Mama Bird was there, body tight up against the hole protecting her babies.  Wings spread wide as she rocked her belly back and forth in a fluid dance to keep the intruder out. Mama kept him at bay for the moment, but I knew the squirrel would be back.  Or a chipmunk.  Could the Mama Bird forever protect her babies?

One would hope, but the squirrels and the chipmunks are like the heroin and the cocaine and the pot that keep chasing an addict.  I am the Mama Bird trying to protect and keep them away.  But I can’t.  Addiction is bigger than me.  Or the addict.  An addict will do anything, say anything, to get what they want.  The next high.  It takes over.  I cannot say it better than in Ashley’s own words.  Here is where I share from her in a response to a FB post.

     So, at this point I have met every flavor of addict. The ones who were abandoned or abused, the ones to raise themselves, the ones who had lovely childhoods and then were traumatized by perhaps rape or robbery or a mugging or even abusive relationships. The ones that have had divorce in their childhood that they’d never quite recovered from , the ones that have had perfectly beautiful lives. Throughout it all, every single one of us has been viewed to have chosen this. Even me. And to an extent, it has been a choice. The one thing we all have in common is that alcohol and drugs worked to quench that hole within our souls palette. Alcohol and drugs saved my life. Like they’ve done for every addict I’ve ever met. Then they took over my life. Once that happened… it was a beast I had fed for so long it was stronger than me. That’s the story with all of us. I’ve met thousands of addicts. We are all the same. One key point you said is that the taxpayers are paying for this and that people are choosing this. I think the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for this. I think we should pay for better education within our school systems. I never once learned about the devastating effects of detox. They always just told us you’d become “addicted.” But what does that mean? Nobody told us we’d be INCAPABLE of choosing to put it down at a certain point, regardless of what we are losing. Nobody understands that it’s a mental illness for which there is no known cure or medication for. It’s not about the drugs and the alcohol. Do you understand that? Does anybody reading this? Probably not, unless they’ve had an addict in their life or they are one. We need better Healthcare systems for everybody, including addicts. 76% of homeless people are humans with mental illness who have been turned away for lack of health insurance and then turn to drugs to try and settle their brains. That’s appalling. And you asked about percentages of people who chose addiction rather than were thrown into it, like me. Those percentages don’t exist. Because the people in this industry, the doctors, the scientists, all of the research studies, they’ve all concluded that it’s a illness beyond our mental control and many people believe we are born with it. Myself included. I was distributing addict behaviors long before the fire. Ask my mom about the shoelace story. These are the questions people need to start asking, the ones you’ve asked or points you bought up. After all that said and done I’m just the same as the person, whom have had nothing happened in their childhood or life to pick up. I ask you, have you ever tried a drink or drug? Because most of us, myself included, picked up once and were unable to put it back down again. It could happen to anyone. It’s not a matter of willpower because, trust me, I’ve got a lot of that.😁😂 I hope this makes sense. Lets keep talking!!!😍

I love this recovering daughter of mine.  There is more to say and I will keep posting but each time, I want to remind you that my daughter has been through more in her 34 years than I could ever imagine.  Months go by when I wish I could take her place. Each day I am grateful she is here and helping others.  Each day I wake knowing the story could change tomorrow.  One day at a time. The trick is not to let that take over my life.   It truly is like that.