REPOST! Recovering Meth Addict Answers the Burning Questions © by Barbara Cofer Stoefen | Website by Author Media

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Recovering Meth Addict Answers the Burning Questions

I sat down with my daughter recently, and asked her some of the burning questions about addiction that we all want answers to. Annie is now thirty-one and eight years clean and sober. In view of the obvious risks involved, people are curious why anyone initiates drug use, and why one continues to use drugs in spite of extreme negative consequences. We also want to know what we can do as moms, if anything, to try and get our addicted loved one to stop using.

A few women from The Addict’s Mom group here in Oregon and Washington helped provide some of these questions:

Q: Why did you start using in the first place?

Annie: Alcohol was my first drug of choice. I was nearly 18 when I first drank and wondered where it had been all my life! I found it helped me feel more socially comfortable… more comfortable in my own skin. It diminished my anxiety. I always felt kind of “less than” and drinking numbed that feeling. I continued to experiment with other drugs over time. The first time I used meth I was told it was cocaine. Surprise! I loved it for about a minute… until it completely took over my life. I was homeless within two months. Eventually, alcohol, meth, and other drug use wasn’t about getting high… I used so I didn’t have to feel at all.

Q: Do you think addicts become addicted to the street life?

Annie: Oh sure. There’s no accountability out there. There’s perceived acceptance from being around people just like you. But it’s an illusion. It’s not safe. Women are used and abused. It’s all about what one person can get from another.

Q: What finally convinced you to get clean?

Annie: I initially agreed to go to treatment as a bargaining tool… because I didn’t want to go to prison. The idea terrified me. I’d been to jail about six times, and was pretty sure prison was next. I kept relapsing in treatment though. I was about 100 days cleans and then relapsed again. It freaked me out to realize that a beer at a bowling alley could progress, literally within hours, to a weekend of meth use… and then going home with a drug dealer. I couldn’t believe it took mere hours to advance to a level of using that had previously taken me a year to get to.

Q: What was your bottom?

Annie: There were many. But the one that really got me to the place of “no more,” was the incident I mention above. I’d just finished 4 months of rehab and a month in a sober house, yet then went on this meth spree. Things went downhill instantaneously. I found myself sitting on the curb in front of a Borders in So Cal, with no where to go… except to some guy’s house. I was miserable, embarrassed, and broken. It was extremely painful. I knew I could either go get more drugs… or stop. My powerlessness was apparent. I walked into a bar, ordered a beer, and then walked out with the beer half empty. That was my last drink/drug… and ironically the only time I’ve EVER had just one.

Q: What is a bottom anyway?

Annie: I think it’s when the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change (note: a parent’s enabling can keep the user from experiencing this.) For most addicts, the “fun” of using disappears pretty quickly. We continue to use because it’s just too hard, or too painful to stop. But then it ultimately becomes too painful to continue… if we’re lucky.

Q: How have you stayed clean?

Annie: As cliché as it sounds, it really is one day at a time. Don’t pick up no matter what. Life is hard, but addicts tend to perceive life as being harder than it actually is. Asking for help from other people who have successfully achieved long-term recovery is very important for most of us.

Q: Does it get easier with time?

Annie: Yes! When you stop using drugs, the idea is to find a better way to live. It’s not all about the drugs. It’s about you (i.e. me). It’s about learning better life skills rather than throwing a substance at it. Drugs aren’t the problem. I’m the problem. Drugs are a symptom. Take the drugs away, and I’m still here. To achieve recovery one needs to change absolutely everything. Most people, that is “regular” people, are rarely ever given this kind of fork in the road.

I think addiction is on a spectrum like a lot of other diseases. Some of us are sicker than others. Some of us recover more easily than others. Some of us don’t recover. Some of us die.

Q: Are you still going to meetings?

Annie: Occasionally. I’m in a women’s group and I attend that meeting once or twice a month. My husband rarely goes to meetings anymore, but the most important people in his life are in recovery. He knows where to go when he needs help. Most of our mutual friends are in recovery, so we don’t hang around people who drink or use other drugs.

Q: Do you ever have “flashbacks” or any lasting physical effects from having used?

Annie: Initially I had lots of using dreams, but those eventually fade. Now, eight years into recovery, I rarely do. But I’ve had moments where there’s a vivid memory of a traumatic episode. The guy who first gave me meth, and who once held me hostage for a day and a night, showed up at one of my 12-step meetings a couple of years ago. I was running that meeting and couldn’t bolt like I wanted to. It was one big anxiety attack. I had a hard time wanting good things for him, or to welcome him into the recovery community. He didn’t last though. He went back out within a week. I hate to admit it, but I was glad.

I can also get fixated on things, like when I pluck my eyebrows or clean the house. Meth gets you hyper-focused and there’s some residual from that. I also have some weird anxieties and OCD stuff that I didn’t have before. Like I’m always picking at my fingers and silently counting them.

Q: How long does it take to feel normal again?

Annie: Normal? What’s that? I’m resigned to the fact that normal doesn’t exist. I don’t want to “feel like myself” again because that’s what got me into trouble in the first place. I’m still figuring out who I am. One thing families can do to help their addicted loved one recover, is to have no expectations about who or what they’re supposed to be. Love and accept them for who they are.

Q: Do you have any advice for moms who have a child in active addiction?

Annie: Know that it’s not about you, or something being done to you. There’s nothing you’ve done to make this happen. There is nothing you can do to fix it. It’s an inside job. We (addicts) can only help ourselves.

Meddling can push your child further away. Always crying and begging and pleading doesn’t help at all. Telling us how awful we are doesn’t help either. We know this already. We won’t react to your emotions or pleas because we don’t want to feel your emotions… or our own for that matter. You probably think you know your child, but chances are you have no idea who he or she is. And you need to accept that you have no idea what it’s like to be in their skin. We don’t want to hurt you, so we pull back.

That hard exterior you see is our defense mechanism. On the street, other addicts will eat you alive if you don’t toughen up. There is no trust. All people do is take from you. And you have to remember, some of the people we’re hanging around with haven’t felt anything for years and years. The street is drama magnified. Meth addicts hang with meth addicts and heroin addicts hang with heroin addicts. Everybody has sex with everybody else. It’s perpetual Jerry Springer. It is not classy. But it’s what we know.

When you’re wondering why the addict keeps using, in spite of tremendous negative consequences, know that we will ride this thing until the wheels fall off. It’s the nature of the beast.

Q: What do you think about interventions?

Annie: Interrupting the cycle can be a good thing. Introducing another option. And even if it doesn’t take right away, seeds can be planted. Exposing the person to something better can be a good kick-start to recovery.

Handcuffs proved to be a good interruption for me.

Q: There’s lot of talk these days about use of the word “addict” and how some consider it a demeaning label. How do you feel about it?

Annie: It’s ridiculous that people get all hung up on words. For me, the word “addict” is the noun for someone who suffers from the disease of “addiction.” It’s just like “diabetic” is the term for someone who has “diabetes.” I don’t think it’s demeaning at all. An addict is what I am. I’m not crazy about the word “junkie.” I do think that has a negative connotation that tends to marginalize… but not the word addict. At least not for me.

If you have more questions for Annie, please leave a comment, or send me an email at Barbara@BarbaraCoferStoefen.com. I’ll provide her answers in a later blog post.

Posted on September 30, 2014

© by Barbara Cofer Stoefen | Website by Author Media

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Knitting Love

As my son told his story yet again (this time to a group of mommas), I found myself feeling that old guilt of, “Where was I when he did that? – Why didn’t I see what was going on?” Every time he speaks I glean something new from his talk, but I thought I was over all those guilt feelings.

Driving alone in the car later that day my heart felt down-right heavy. God reminded me of all the love my husband and I had poured into our son from the day he was born. Then He gave me the image of a big loom weaving threads back and forth. In my heart He said the threads were love shown day after day. They knit a strong web of trust underneath our child; something for him to fall on in life. This was really cool. I immediately felt better.

Then my face clouded as I thought of our oldest child, Keith who we took in at 18yrs old. His mom had been unstable and dropped the ball when his father passed away. I knew from his story there had been love in his home early-on and continued throughout his extended family, but so many of those core threads were cut at a critical time in his youth. “What then, Lord?” I asked. God again gave me the thought of that giant loom again weaving threads of love day by day, building trust. Wow… He had used our family to repair and build up the net Keith had so desperately needed.

I began to see in a new light other relationships our family had entered. The many addict kids coming through our house to sleep and eat. Having burned bridges with their own families, they stayed with us and got lots of hugs and “I love you”s because it’s always easier to love-on people who haven’t hurt you personally. Then there’s my new friend; single mom, two kids, no family. A fighter through and through. I can’t find much evidence of anything having been knit on her loom by parent-figures. Is there hope for her, Lord? Oh yes! She has already done some knitting of her own, tapping into Jesus’ love. Added to that are all the folks that have reached out to her children, building her trust in God as she is provided for day by day.

My take-away was that God is not limited by bad human decisions. His is the loom, and His is the thread because He is love. Parents may fail, friends may fail, “the system” we look to may fail, but God’s love never fails!

Get ready to be used. The thread of God’s love in your hands will make a difference in someone’s life today.

ForGlorySake! -Anna

loom

1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]…

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Why Pray?

“It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him.”                                         Hebrews 11:6 (The Message)

Prayer makes a difference, off the cuff, planned out, alone, with a group, in your head or out loud, God IS listening! You’re absolutely right, it’s a total faith-thing that I say all this. For me, prayer is my life-line. It connects me to my Creator. It releases all the nagging worry and frustration into the hands of the only One I believe can do anything about it. But even more than this… it’s a tool God has given me to use on behalf of others.

I used to get so frustrated sitting in the weekly parent support meetings for our recovering addict-child listening to people say,” there’s really nothing any of us can do to help our kids.” Hogwash!!! I understand “it’s their life” and, I get that it’s their ultimate decision to grab hold of sobriety or not, but we don’t have to be helpless by-standers. We have been given an incredible resource, Prayer!

Why do I believe this so strongly? Because I’ve seen it play out time after time. I’m not talking about ordering God around (-as if I’d know what’s best for myself or anyone else), or like God is some kind of genie in a bottle I can rub for wishes. The requests I’ve made in the past, “please, make this thing stop” or “Can this just go away” were too simplistic. God sees a bigger picture, after-all. He’s wanting lasting heart-change in all parties. So the question came to me, “What do I pray?”

The Bible is full of beautiful prayers asking God to direct, cover and teach. I’ve found these work great for those foolishly determined to run head-long into trouble. God’s Word is also full of promises such as, He hears the cries of the broken hearted and as a parent of a teen addict, my heart has certainly been broken! I knew for sure He was listening. I knew He was the God Who can make something out of nothing, even when everything looks hopeless, yet His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts. I searched it out and began to pray differently.

I stood in the gap for my child, asking for what he wouldn’t; for God to use this journey for all it’s worth. For not a moment or a lesson to be wasted – even if it hurt, and to use everything along the way to bring him wisdom, a future and a lasting hope. I prayed for mercy. I prayed for grace. I prayed for him to receive the mind of Christ; for God to put in him, Jesus-thinking (self-less, caring, giving, serving, God-honoring, purposeful…). I prayed in his room. Sometimes I walked around, sometimes I knelt by the bed. Sometimes I just laid on the floor and cried out (not when he was home of course!). It’s not a formula, but I’m sure God was listening.

Today, I look at a man that God has done wonders in! He is serving others and doing his thing for God. I still pray for him and all my children daily. Who else is going to care about their outcome more than me (and their dad)? Leaving the details to God, There is something you can actively do instead of silently suffering that anxious knot in your stomach (I’ve felt way too often). There is always hope, because there is ALWAYS prayer!

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (‭Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭12‬ NIV)

washing cars with Papa

washing cars with Papa

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Not just another Graduation

In 72 hours our son, Ben will graduate. This will not be your average celebration. This is huge! He’s successfully come through 2 and 1/2 years of invaluable counseling from an incredible program with some of the most caring, loving, giving mentors I’ve ever come across. These folks saved our child’s life by “offering tools to live by” -if he so chose. The counselors at Insight have been consistent and focused examples on a daily basis. They truly understand the kids they work with because, they too went through recovery as teens. As nuts as I thought some of the program’s antics were, each event has had a purpose. Crazy hours (!), wacky group hang-outs and addict-to-addict “sharing” have all been part of Insight’s format. Counselor’s also share and empathetically listen … constantly encouraging, yet never enabling (something I’ve really had to work on). All this showed our son, over time, a better way to do life. Believe it or not, I thank God daily for this uncomfortable journey He’s taken us on. It’s opened my eyes to so, so much and it’s made an incredible person of our son! I like to think it has changed me too. I am especially grateful for all those God put in our path to help. From my friend Jeanine- in our moment of crisis, who told me who to call for help, to Marcos Sanchez- who met with us & with Ben, directing us to Insight. For ever-patient Director, Matt Myers- who met us at Insight’s door and took 2 more shaking parents into his office to calm their fears, to the talented Talbot- who brought Ben through outpatient (No easy job!!!) opening his eyes to “something better.” For wise Mike- who challenged Ben to be a leader -true to his own heart, to all the countless families in the program who have had our child sleep over, eat at their table, and/or ride in their car! We have been happy to do the same for yours. Lastly to the ones who gained sobriety first and told Ben, “You can do this, there’s life after drugs.” Thank you! Together you all are part of moving mind-altering substances out of the way, so our son can hear God for himself and grow into the man he was created to be! …This is what I celebrate. This is what I long for for each Person faced with addiction. “You should be (by all the stories I’ve heard) dead and yet, you are alive today -for a reason. How I pray that you’ll come to know, YOU ARE A MIRACLE and YOU are WORTH saving! -May God direct your path. ForGlorySake!-Anna “THERE IS NO PIT SO DEEP THAT GOD’S LOVE IS NOT DEEPER STILL” -Corrie ten Boom

Enthusiastic Sobriety for Teens

Enthusiastic Sobriety for Teens

                                              LOVE YOUR ADDICT, GET INSIGHT!

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Always an Addict?

I have an amazing friend who’s battled stage 4 cancer for 6 years!  Even when all her tumors shrunk in size and most disappeared, she was still called “Stage 4.” One time I got my nerve up and asked her, “Don’t they ever down-grade you?” She looked at me in this very wise-from-all-she’s-been-through look, and said, “Now, Anna, do we really need some doctor to tell me I’m being healed? God does not need man’s labels.” Wow, what faith and what an attitude! I saw something that day that I wanted. It was a sort of living beyond this world.

As I’ve mentioned before our son has an addiction. As parents of a young teen, (2 & 1/2 years ago) David and I only knew our child needed help beyond our ability and so we desperately sought professional intervention. In so doing, came labels and diagnosis and terms like “forever” and “always.” Those are hard words to hear about your child. Our believed our job was to love, carefully nurture and watch our 5 little ones grow… then everything would work out. They would graduate highschool, seek independence, and become self-sustaining. Where had we gone wrong? We even homeschooled for heaven’s sake!

Although we couldn’t bring ourselves to call our child an addict, after long introspective evaluation, he did. I decided I didn’t like labels. Then I remembered, “I’m a sinner saved by grace.” I like that one. I’m called, chosen, accepted, loved-dearly, blessed… and I really like all those too. I think my problem came from words that sounded hopeless to me. But wasn’t that what my enduring friend taught me? That there’s a difference between man’s labels and God’s labels? The labels God gives us are always full of hope.

When my son calls himself an addict he doesn’t look at it in a hope-less sense. He has learned which actions and behaviors cause him trouble; and which decisions bring him life. He uses “addict” as a guide for his own good. Yes, God has healed him in so many ways. Will he forever be cautiously aware of some potential weakness inside him and take measures to stay accountable against it? Yes. And so should we all against our own weaknesses. Does it mean doom and gloom and an ugly name tag on his chest- NO WAY!

I am so proud of all our young man’s hard work and his 910 days of sobriety! I praise God daily for all that He is doing in our family. I will not worry over the future. I have learned It’s what I do with today that matters the most. Today, I will be thankful and celebrate my son’s sobriety. I choose God’s label: “work in progress.”

ForGlorySake! -Anna

“But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16

Freedom

Freedom

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Ouch, That’s My Heart!

Love is a big gamble. When you open your heart and allow yourself to feel for someone else there’s an inevitability you’re going to get hurt. Not necessarily because they will hurt you, but definitely -as you draw closer- you will hurt WITH them.

I’ve slowly come to realize (and to appreciate) that the heart-ache and hurt I feel for someone else’s “pain and suffering” brings with it an incredible by-product, (a gift even) of my heart stretching bigger! Have you seen the cute little holiday video, “The Grinch That Stole Christmas”? I love the scene toward the end of the cartoon where The Grinch finally allows his situation to change him, and then as he grabs his chest in pain, his heart grows several sizes. It actually breaks the tiny box that contains it.

I’m rarely short on words (especially to God) and so when someone I love is suffering, I tell Him all about how I feel, how I think this or that stinks and how it’s really hurting their heart and mine too. When I don’t see immediate change happening and the whatever remains… on-going, big and ugly it’s so easy for me to become angry, hurt, frustrated. That’s when it’s time to stop (!) the swirling thoughts, the sometimes-frantic prayers and just feel the hurt knowing it’s ok. Father God feels their pain with me.

I can trust He is doing something in their situation. It’s my inability to figure out His plan  that’s frustrating me! He just won’t be figured out or pinned down and that’s what makes Him so… Creator. Sometimes His work is quietly behind the scenes, sometimes straight out in front -if we could only recognize His movings. Either way, God in His great timing and wisdom, knows how to grow beauty! He is all out to reap the biggest harvest of results… the greatest of rewards. Even within the messiest pains of life. Isn’t Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection the perfect example?! And I have the silly cartoon as a mental picture that growth is also happening inside of me. S T R E T C H!

To love another- my family, my friend, my neighbor, a stranger (until they aren’t one anymore) …is so worth the cost and the risk to my heart. “Dear Father, hold my friend close to You. I’m ok with feeling their pain because You are just sharing a little of Your heart with me. Teach me how to love like You do. In Jesus’ Name.”

IMG_7863GROW BIG! ForGlorySake! – Anna

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Interim

When my husband and I began to seriously consider the idea of moving my parents in with us things began to happen fast. We say now that we never felt so “pushed” forward. It was all rush rush and not of our own doing.

I am of that infamous “sandwich generation” – the ones caring for parents while still caring for and raising their own kids. The longer our family does this the more folks we seem to run into that are doing the same thing! Is it something I would’ve chosen? I look at it- this new life- as just having fallen into it. It’s right up there with the cancer my husband fought through 4 years ago… and the addiction crisis that revealed itself in our precious son 2 & 1/2 years ago.
My mother’s hydrocephalus and my dad’s dementia are just other bends in the road.

I’ve saId it before, but the strangest thing to me is that God was never surprised by any of it. Why did He not stop it then? Why not change it up? But who’s to say He didn’t? Either way-He knew. Definitely the most amazing thing is that He’s had a plan and a point for all of it. Whether I can see it or not, He promised that these “things” would be used for my good. I marvel to think that we still haven’t seen all those ways.

There has been a really great series that Andy Stanley has been doing at church recently called “In the Meantime” (Meantimeseries.org). I had to laugh at the title because when we moved to this new house with parents in tow, I privately named the property “Interim.” This set up, like many of the situations we’ve found ourselves in the past, is temporary. In the grand scheme of things, it can not last forever. Yet when I’m tired and feeling cranky (like this week!) and doing a task for the 1,000,000th time… It’s not that easy to remember .

And so as my ever-loving Father always seems to do, He sent a message to remind me today that it’s ok to wonder why, and how, and say again I need help. And it’s also ok to know I can’t do it alone in my strength and my wisdom because I am so humanly limited! I was encouraged today to pray for myself and ask continually for His wisdom and strength for me… during this interim :)

Good timing! ForGlorySake -Anna

IMG_8187.JPG

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