Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Must Read

I was recently reading a wonderful book called This is Not the Story You Think It Is....A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson.  Although she is describing a crisis in her marriage, not a daughter struggling with addiction, her transformation is remarkably similar to mine. Her book inspires me in many ways and I will discuss that in a future post, for now I want to replicate one component, a bedside table book list.

 First, I must warn you that it’s rare for me to read the entire book in chronological order, as a matter of fact, I rarely read a book in it's entirety.  My typical ADD way of "reading" a book is to start in the middle and scan the book for thoughts that interest me. I have found there are a number of benefits to using this method, the obvious one being that I can read more books. The other occurrence is the god winks.  If I am struggling with an issue I go to my bookshelf or the bookstore and pick up the book that I am impulsively drawn to. Nine times out of ten I open the book to a page that is relevant to the situation at hand.  I am hoping that they will help you too.  

The first and most useful book is: 

The New Codependency by Melody Beattie
This is an amazing book. A must read for anyone who has lived with a parent(s), sibling, spouse, and/or child suffering from alcoholism, anorexia, OCD, ADD, serious medical condition (mental or physical) etc. It outlines the maladaptive (co-dependent) behaviors that many of us utilize to adapt to living with them and a step-by-step guide on how to combat them. The following are some of my favorite quotes from the book.
“We can't control our children's destinies, but we can teach them when they're young about problems they might face, based on their genetics. We can tell them what the signs of addiction are: loss of control, blackouts, and continued use despite negative consequences. "The problem isn't that drugs don't work:' a counselor said, "The problem is they work too well. The truth is for a while, children have fun getting high.”
“It's heartbreaking to see our child in trouble. We feel like we should protect our children. We think about every mistake we've made as a parent, and wonder if that's why our child became addicted or got into trouble. The guilt can be unbearable even when we know intellectually it's not our fault. We didn't cause it. Feeling guilty is part of grief and it goes with the territory of having an addicted or troubled child. When we let go of the guilt, we'll be better equipped and able to help ourselves and our child.”
“It may feel like we’ve failed as a parent or that we should be the one to help our child. But when our child needs dental work, we take him or her to a dentist to do the job. If we stop reacting insanely, it'll be better for us and our children. If they're not busy reacting to us, there's a better chance they'll see themselves. If we're not taking their consequences for them, they can learn what life or their addiction is trying to teach them. If we're taking care of ourselves, we'll know what to do and when. If we're not obsessed, we'll hear the guidance we get.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


My daughter remained sober for almost 9 months following a 30 day inpatient stay at Caron. We were so proud of her. We fell into the belief that it was smooth sailing from here on out. Then, we received a call from the Vice Principal at her high school, my daughter was caught in the restroom with a friend acting suspicious. (Drug snorting sounds coming from a stall.) I of course defended my daughter saying that there was no way she would be using drugs again.

Two weeks later she came home totally drunk.

That night I wrote the following journal entry:

All of a mother's love and strength will not be enough if your child won't accept that there is a problem and want to change.How do I feel? Frustrated, sad, guilty, angry. Once again, I put myself on the line, standing up for my daughter and she was lying. I was clinging to the hope that she was "cured." I forgot that recovery is a process. I am finally ready to be here. I can accept my co-dependency, my enabling. My daughter has to do this on her own or she won't survive. I get it. I must "withhold everything but the love."

The lyrics to the song below bring me back to the moment when I wrote this journal entry. Every time I listen to it I am reminded to let go. (To listen click on the link below.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Healing Power of Music 2

Here is the rest of the Sample Playlist I posted last week:

The next few songs describe family dynamic, parenting and codependency in general.

Underneath- Alanis Morissette  You Tube UnderneathThis song is pretty self explanatory. It's not the picture perfect mirage of life we show but what happens underneath that shapes who we and our children are. Amazing.

Sooner or Later Michael Tolcher You Tube Sooner or Later This song deals with all the messages we give our kids. It identifies one of the major  problems facing our society as a result of always being connected by texting, computers, etc., our kids don't know how  to  "build a privacy fence." 

In addition, many parents don't let kids "learn the hard way." Many are hyper vigilant making it very difficult for their child to make mistakes or they cover the mistakes up, thinking that helps their child(and us). This  increases the stress on our kids to try to be perfect. If kids are not allowed to make mistakes on their own, they won't learn the consequences of their actions. 

Fix It Ryan Adams  You Tube Fix It  Many parents feel they can " fix" their child. They are used to having control.  There is no magic medicine or surgery to fix my daughter's addiction, it is an incurable disease.

Running Up That Hill Kate Bush You Tube Running Up That Hill - I must say I love,love, love this song. It epitomizes Motherhood.  When your child has an addiction problem you will try anything to make her/him better. Watching the pain and self destruction of your child is so painful. I often prayed "let it be me." 

This song also describes the yin and yang of the mother daughter relationship, "tell me we both matter don't we." It's very easy to lose yourself in the fight to help your child. 

Another amazing line is "come on baby let me steal this moment from you now." By not letting our kids learn from their mistakes we are stealing valuable lessons from them.

The last 6 songs: represent a few of the valuable lessons and yes, "blessings" I have received during and because of these struggles.

Quiet Hearts, Amy Stroup You Tube, Quiet Hearts There is a moment in my journey I think about when I hear this song. I had just been told at a parent meeting that I should consider inpatient rehab for our daughter. At the time, I was just  getting used to the idea that she had a problem, let alone she was an addict.  I was still  in complete denial.  Many thoughts started spinning through my head: "we can't afford it"' "my husband is going to freak", "it's almost christmas, I'll deal with it later," " what about school," " what would we tell everyone"...yadayadayada. 

A few weeks later a group of parents with now adult children struggling with addiction attended the meeting. As usual, we started out by introducing ourselves and telling our stories. One family in particular caught my attention, they started to talk about the impact of their older son"s addiction on his 10 year old sister. All I could think about was our 10 year old. It was too much, I freaked, started to cry and ran out of the room. After a few minutes of total breakdown, I suddenly stopped and became completely calm. In that moment I finally let go and sat with all my fear. 

A few months later I read this paragraph in Eckart Tolle's A New Earth - 

"What happened to her was not yet a permanent shift, but a glimpse of what is possible, a glimpse of what was already within her. In Zen, such a glimpse is called satori. Satori is a moment of Presence, a brief stepping out of the voice in your head, the thought processes, and their reflection in the body as emotion. It is the arising of inner spaciousness where before there was the clutter of thought and the turmoil of emotion."
Quiet Hearts describes that moment for me, that moment of letting go, that moment of grace.

Keep Breathing Ingrid Michaelson You Tube Breathing  Sometimes this was all I  could do. Sometimes this is all we should do. Let it happen.  

Calling All Angels KD Lang You Tube Calling All Angels This song describes how I felt in the bottom of my pain, before I reached out for help. It also teaches  a valuable lesson in:

"but if you you think you would
 trade in all the pain and suffering?
 Ah, but then you'd miss the beauty of the light upon this earth
 and the sweetness of the leaving" 

Fearless Cindy Lauper You Tube Fearless Often when parents first enter the parent group they are afraid that addiction is contagious. "My child doesn't have an addiction problem." They worry that if their child hangs with all these addicts and alcoholics that they will become one. I then ask " Who do you think your kids are  hanging with at school?" 

 I admire the parents that bring their children to programs like "Rehab after Work" or reach out to counselors when they don't believe their child has a problem. If the teen doesn't have a serious problem it will become apparent to the "professionals" very quickly. In the meantime your child will learn a  valuable lesson.  However, if they do have mental health issues the benefits are many. Just like any other chronic disease the sooner addiction is discovered the better the odds of recovery.  The other benefit is to the parents, by reaching out they can connect with other parents to support them who have that have been exactly where they have been. 

One other thought, if it wasn't for those recovering "druggies"  my daughter would not be alive today. When my daughter called 2 of her friends (from the program) at 2:00am in a panic because she had a life threatening problem, they stayed on the line. They insisted on talking to me to ensure that she would wake me. They are also the ones that comforted us when we sent her into Caron. They connected with my daughter when no one else could and guided us every step of the way, that's why I call them Angels. I think of the following quote when I think about them:

"If there is a crisis, you don’t freeze, you move forward, you get the rest of us to move forward.  Because you have seen worse, you have survived worse and you knew we will survive too.
Grey's Anatomy 5th season Episode 21 "No Good at Saying Sorry."

The Wind, Cat Stevens You Tube The Wind Learn to listen to and trust that inner voice that is telling you something is wrong, even when everyone is telling you you're crazy!

God is in the Roses, Rosanne Cash You Tube God is in the Roses Rosanne Cash wrote this wonderful song when her Dad died. This experience has taught me God is in the roses and the thorns.

Be True Jonatha Brooke You Tube Be True The Lyrics say it all!

"What a world, just look close
At the poetry and magic that is part of who we are
It's been there all along, you can find it in
The beauty of the song inside our hearts
And it's been here, forever
In the glow of each day's sunshine
As it warms our every heart
Be true, true to yourself and you'll be magic
Be kind, believe in others
help and you'll make magic."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Healing Power of Music

When my daughter was admitted to Caron for inpatient treatment, the only electronic device she was allowed to bring was a cd player.  For a teen used to having the constant distraction of texting, Facebook, the iPOD, etc. this caused quite an anxiety attic. Further, the music she was allowed to listen to was prescreened for "appropriate content." As we said goodbye she begged us to write and send cds. 

The first playlist I sent to her was called, "What's a Mom to do." It contained lullabies (no not Rock a Bye Baby, more like In My Arms by Plumb!) and other songs that related to the circumstances.

I also began to make playlists for myself and listening to them became an obsession. These playlists became a way to turn off the guilt and inner critic that was constantly assaulting me.  As I began to study yoga, meditation, and addiction I realized that listening to my playlists became a way to practice moving meditation and mindfulness.

Now, when I am in crisis, feeling down, or I can't turn off that evil voice in my head I take a deep breadth, grab my IPOD and go for a walk to escape the madness.

Part of my reason for starting this blog was to share some of the wonderful music that has helped me heal. I have many different playlists that relate to different parts of my journey including: The Lessons of Addiction, Codependency, The Teenage Brain etc.  

To start off I have put together a  sample playlist. In the next couple of posts I am going to list the songs and explain what they mean to me. If you want to look ahead I've posted the playlist on Itunes.   Sample Playlist Imperfect Mom Willing to Share

I encourage you to listen to each song by clicking on the song title to listen to a snippet on, or click the youtube link to hear the entire song. You will be glad you did! Enjoy! 

This song explains why I started this blog, "coming out of the closet" if you will. 

Hey friend why do we always hide? 
It's no wonder that we're sinking down.
Why should we stand in lonely shadows, 
when there’s so much light around?

We are all interconnected. If sharing my story can help one family not feel the pain and isolation that comes with their child's struggle, then it is all worth it.  If I can help them find the "angels" sooner, limiting the trauma, pain, suffering and isolation that addiction/codependency brings, then it's worth it.

A friend once told me, "you do not know fear until you have a child." She was right. What she didn't know at the time was that this fear morphs into terror when that child becomes a teenager. This song describes a mothers fears for her child as a newborn. I discovered this song when my daughter first went to Caron for inpatient treatment. Needless to say, I cry my eyes out every time I play it.

The next two songs describe why many teenagers start drugs, anorexia, cutting etc.

Often when people would find out about my daughter's struggles they couldn't understand why she had such self loathing, all they could see was a talented, beautiful girl with everything going for her.  The answer is in this song. It doesn't matter what others think of you, if you feel that you are a "creep" inside. (Please note: does not carry this song. Follow the itunes link above to hear a snippet and/or purchase the mp3)

What an amazing song.  Most teenage girls (and mothers too)  think we are never good enough…if only I could be just a little bit... fill in the blank……. the illusive goal of perfection.

What a beautiful song. It reminds me of the time my daughter relapsed after 10 months sober. She kept mumbling and/or yelling "you don't understand, I just want to be a normal teenager. (Of course I immediately thought normal teens do not do drugs at school. Or do they?)

This song describes the teenage addicts longing to be a part of the crowd and the isolation they feel.  My daughter often says "I'm 16 years old every else is doing it." It also speaks to a comment that I often hear in my parent group, "my son/daughter just wants to belong." As Dave S. the therapist that runs this group says, "the "druggie" group is the easiest group to join , you don't have to be smart, beautiful, athletic, etc. the only condition of acceptance is to do drugs."

 Tori is the queen of writing songs about co-dependency.  This song perfectly describes my inner critic. That voice that tells me how inadequate I am, or remembers and magnifies every mistake I've made in my life.  One of the keys to recovery is to learn to turn off this voice. Favorite line: "I've got enough guilt to start my own religion." be continued.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Self Care and Healing Must Come First!

"Humility is taking child's pose, the resting pose, in the practice of yoga. It isn't an indignity. It's a necessity if you really want to grow. If you don't take small, organic steps, you can hurt yourself and set yourself back a thousand years. Taking a pose that isn't flashy, doesn't mean you're weak. It means you're patient and resolved. It means you respect the journey and yourself, and you trust you will arrive when it's your time to arrive."  
An excerpt from an article by Tama Kieves called:
 Floundering Towards Grace - Making Big Moves With Small Steps

A few years ago my life was so stressful that I developed heart palpitations. The Cardiologist told me that I must give up caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol.  I remember thinking,"oh great now what am I going to do to relax!”  (He didn’t mention shopping therapy but since my husband’s small business was going under, that was out too, yikes!)

Friends suggested yoga.  It just so happened that a new yoga studio opened nearby featuring a 4 week beginner class. The only concern I had when I signed up was the classes were in the evenings.  As any Mom knows, evenings are crazy, but I was desperate so I took the plunge. 

Things were going smoothly, my husband was supportive and I really enjoyed the classes. I especially loved the philosophy of self forgiveness and acceptance. Then a crisis struck, my husband had a severe leg injury which required surgery, rehab and someone to be his personal chauffeur for a few months. Normally, I would have dropped everything, become a martyr and savior. I always sacrificed my well being thinking that I was helping everyone else. Wrong!!! 
 Something had begun to shift in my subconscious. Instead, I said to my husband, "I will do anything for you but I cannot miss my yoga classes." Now that may seem insignificant to most of you, but for a me it was a revelation. I put my needs ahead of my families.

During this time I called a friend after class and said, “I think that my husband's injury was the best thing that’s happened to me!" How sad and wonderful that statement is. My entire adult life was about self sacrifice, not because anyone asked me to do it but because I thought that is what was required of me.
Aha moment: If I put my well-being as a priority everyone benefits.
Further down the road when bigger, life altering crises occurred and my life really seemed to be falling apart, the lessons of yoga have helped carry me through. 

Aha moment :I can survive and actually flourish in crisis. Be the anchor for those around me, if I take the time to take care of myself.

Song of the Day

"I am walking on the bridge
I am over the water
And I'm scared as hell
But I know there's something better
Yes I know there's something." 

Monday, March 14, 2011


I want to share a powerful quote about self care and healing. It's from the book Mindful Recovery by Thomas Bein Ph.D and Beverly Bein, M. Ed.

"The first step in being able to be a healing presence for others is to be a healing presence for ourselves.
Many of us complain about the failures of our parents, who were  not sufficiently attuned to our needs in some way.  But of course we cannot change that now.  What we can do is learn to be good parents, beginning with ourselves.  And that means parenting the most difficult parts of ourselves; the thoughts and feelings we least want.  This is also the greatest gift to our children, and to all the people in our lives.
So when the people in your life are being their worst, their most difficult, their most demanding, it is time to remember  that this is when they need you the most.  This is when they need your love and acceptance and patience -- not when it is easy because they are being pleasant.  But you can only do this if you also practice parenting the difficult parts of yourself.  When you know that you are tired, irritable, and difficult, this is the time you most need to give yourself understanding.
This is nothing abstract.  The next time you get irritated, afraid, or feel sad -- the next time you see a selfish or aggressive aspect of your personality surface -- this is the very moment of healing.  This is the time to breathe deeply, pause, and welcome these feelings.  Embrace them.  They are angels of mercy, opportunities for healing grace.  By making a space in your life for these aspects of self, you kiss the frog and turn it into the handsome prince, you transform the base metals into gold.  And the more you do this with yourself, the more you will be able to do this with the people in your life."

 Song of the Day

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

"I want to change the world instead I sleep. I want to believe there's more than you and me. All I can do is keep breathing now..."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Guilt Trap

"It's heartbreaking to see your child in trouble. We feel like we should protect our children.  We think about every mistake we've made as a parent, and wonder if that's why our child became addicted or got into trouble. The guilt can be unbearable even when we know intellectually it's not our fault. We didn't cause it feeling guilty is part of grief and it goes with the territory of having an addicted or troubled child. When we let go of the guilt will be better equipped and able to help ourselves and our child."
Melody Beattie,  The The New Codependency

What a powerful quote. When in crisis, guilt only clouds your mind with shame and fear preventing you from seeing the problem at hand. Teaching your mind to be present is a powerful tool you can utilize to prevent the mind from falling into the guilt trap! When I feel myself feeling guilty, I use breathing to bring me back to the present. Sometimes I simply start counting my breadths. If that doesn't work, I will take a deep breadth hold it for a count of 5 and then breathe out and hold again. The more you practice the easier it is. I taught my parent group a simple exercise that seems to work.  It's called " square breadth." It can be found on page 57 in O Magazine's Live Your Best Life.

"Picture a square, choose a corner. Count to four as you slowly inhale. Count to four as you exhale. Reach the next corner on the inhale, leave it on the exhale. Four corners, four deep breaths." Valerie Monroe

Note: This works particularly well when you are in the midst of a panic attack.  

Of course sometimes we can't help entering the guilt trap, it goes with being a parent. I promise the more you practice the easier it becomes.


"I've got enough guilt to start my own religion.."

Crucify by Tori Amos