A Special Blog to Children of Addicted Parents

My Dear Friends and Readers,

For the past two nights I have dreamt about one of my sons, who I shall not name because he has disowned me. In my dream he is five and he was as rambuctious in the dream as he was in real life. He had lots of energy and is as then a most lovable and beautiful child. He adored me and I ignored him. I simply was not present for him and I made him feel that he was a burden in my life. For this I am greviously sorry and I cannot make up for it.

My first dream was about me taking him to a therapist and all that I can remember from the dream was that he would not be still. In reality, I did take my children to therapy- my two sons- and the therapist told me that it was I who needed therapy. He was right.

I had learned from my own mother who had disowned me at 6 months old how to ignore my children. My mother personally told me when I was five that I had ruined her life. Like my son, I did everything I could think of (even becoming an attorney) in the hope that she would love me, She was  at best insipid about me. This only made me try harder.

I finally gave up trying to get her approval when I was fifty-five after I remembered that it was she who had brought me into bed to sleep with her and my father. The only thing that I can remember about sleeping in my parents’ bed was that I never  went to sleep and I made sure that I did not touch either of them.

Up until the night of December 6, 2011 five years ago, I had always believed that my mother never knew about my abuse. I told people that she had been abused as well and that if she had known she would have done something to save me. Then that night  I remembered in that one clear vision that she knew and that she had known for years about my abuse but had pretended all these years that she did not believe me and did not know. I wept that night as I never wept before- and believe me I have had plenty to weep about.

That night was a turning point for me and the years that followed was a stripping away of layers of doing what I thought that she wanted me to do so that she would love me. For years after I recalled that memory, I did not speak to her.  It took me about two years to process the fact that she had known about my abuse. I could not face her  for I had spent my life loving  a woman who had betrayed me.  I did not go to see her even when she was diagnosed with cancer. It took me years to understand and to tell myself a convincing story of why she did what she did. I had to remember that she was only 26 when I was five. I had to remember where she was and the circumstances under which she lived. I forgave her. I love her and yet- she has never told me that she was sorry. I don’t know if she ever will. It doesn’t matter. I love her.

I write all of this to say, that while I never physically abused my children not loving them or making them feel unlovable was all that I knew and I wonder how I might have damaged them. I wonder if they are acting out or leading lives that is related to losing their mother who was a drug addict and who they believe chose drugs over them. And yes, in the storm of my addiction I did chose crack cocaine instead of them.

I went to in-patient drug treatment and lost custody of my children when they were 6 and 8 years old. They then became the pawns in a legal custody battle between me and their father, who had remarried a woman who did not have children. The new wife and my ex-husband did everything in their power to keep me separate from my children. I hope they acted the way they did because they feared for the safety of the children.  The very worst thing that my ex-husband and his new wife did was to tell the children that I did not love them. They were wrong, I loved my children with all of my very damaged heart and soul and spirit.

Today, I went to lunch with a young man who was sexually traumatized as I had been. Unlike me, he had the courage to testify against his abuser who is now inprisoned and will probably die in prison. Sadly, this young man who is kind and sweet and smart,  like me lost the right to be with his children. He was given  4 hours a week of supervised visitation with his children. Like my husband, his ex- used his past childhood trauma to convince a court that he was not stable enough to care for his children- although when he was married he was the primary care giver.

There we sat  today, two well dressed educated people who because of what happened to us as children and because we did not know what to do with our pain except to bury it- in drugs and alcohol we lost the right to be with our children. Fortunately for my lucheon companion, his ex did not brain wash the children to be afraid of him and he has face time with them everyday over the phone. For this, he and I are both grateful.

I have a special place in my heart for this kind, smart and gentle young man who is marked by the fact that his father chose to abuse  him. I admire his courage. I admire his honesty. I hope he is re-united with his children. I believe he will be and that gives me hope that perhaps someday my children will reach out to find out who I am and to hear my side of the story.

For all of the spouses of the addicted, especially those with children, please do not turn your children against their addicted parents.  For all of you with family members who are addicted please seek counseling so that you will understand that addiction is not a choice. Nobody turns to substance abuse or addictive behaviors because they are happy and well. Instead understand that people who are emotionally hurt seek solace and an escape from their pain.

I am not suggesting that parents allow their childlren to be in the presence of parents who are currently abusing whatever they are abusing. That would not be wise or caring or loving to your children, but don’t teach them to judge or hate  thier addicted parents. Putting your children in the position to fear or hate their addicted parent becomes a horrible tug of war for children because children love their parents no matter what. As an abused child I can tell you that I love my parents no matter what they did to me.

Children of addicted parents must be taught to understand that their parent’s addictive behavior has nothing to do with them. Children because they are children believe that they are the cause of all that happens in their parent’s lives including all the bad things. Children end up believing that their addicted parents do not love them.

Twelve years ago, I became an advocate for children who had been abused. My clients ranged from the ages of infants to children who were in their late teens. My job as their lawyer was to  follow the wishes of  the children. My job was not to advocate what was in the best interest of the children, but to follow and carry out the wishes of  the children.  I can tell you that there was never a child- no matter how bad the abuse who did not want to go back to their parents.

It was my expereince of working with these children who had been removed from the homes of thier parents that made me realize that in the scope of things my abuse had not “been so bad.” In the eyes of those beautiful children,each begging me to tell the judge that they wanted to go back home, I saw my children. Each of those sets of eyes gave me hope that someday my children would want to find out who I was.

I close by saying, that as a society we now know that early childhood trauma and addiction are inextricably linked. We also know that addiction to a certain extent is inherited. We know that addiction is a medical illiness and is often times paired with mental illness.

I don’t have a solution or answer to addiction, but I do ask those of you  who deal with family members, friends, children or anyone who is addicted to understand that addiction is the symptom and it’s what’s underneath the addiction that is the core issue.

Go out and hug your children. Tell your children that you love them as often as you can.  Show your children that you love them, for there may come a day when they won’t be there to hear you.

 Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

The Fixer vs. Being of Service

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Today I sacrificed a personal opportunity to do a favor for a very good friend. A couple of my other friends asked me why I would do so, and I didn’t have an answer. This of course got me thinking why I had opted to do good for someone else. The answer is simple. It was not a sacrifice it was a service.

To begin with I am a natural caregiver. People feel comfortable around me and in minutes tell me their life stories or secrets. Added to this personality trait I am also a fixer. This is problematic for me as well as others, because in the past I created relationships where people were dependent upon me. This always turned out to be very taxing and unsustainable.

In order to be a fixer something has to be broken. Similarly if one is a rescuer someone needs to be rescued. I am at the age where I know on a fundamental level you cannot “fix” anyone. There are times when people need rescuing, but if they need to be rescued on a consistent basis you are not rescuing you are enabling. Most people are not interested in these kinds of relationships.

In my role as a lawyer people hire me to fix things that are broken- usually contracts or agreements. While there are legal tasks to perform, I find that a large part of what I do is counsel people to get out of their own way. The process of lawyering can take a number of forms but basically you are either the paternal lawyer telling the client what to do or you are the collaborative lawyer working with the client to help solve a problem where we work as a team. I find the latter form of lawyering to be easier on me because I don’t have to have all the answers and usually the client has information and experience that can support me in resolving a legal issue.

Here’s the bad news, in my personal life I fail to be the collaborative friend. I have been the fixer friend who becomes annoyed when my friends  or family don’t listen to my advice or suggestions, which are really less than cleverly disguised ultimatums. When my friends and family fail to take my advice, I secretly wish that they will fail in their endeavors, which then forces me to ask, why not wish them well?

Part of being a fixer means that you have the answer or put another way the fixer is “right” and often times my need to be right outweighs my desire to help or fix. As I review my list of lost friends and family members  with whom I know longer talk to, I realize that it is my need to be right and to be in a superior position that was the source of the broken relationships. With the start of the new year, I announced that I wanted to fully live my core values and I specifically chose the word service.

Helping people places the person who is helping in a superior position and it is a relationship of unequals. Being of service allows for a relationship of equals- perhaps with different skill sets- but nevertheless equals. My education as a lawyer- which is not, by the way,  memorizing rules- but instead using deductive reasoning to solve problems has often times made me less than an understanding friend or companion or spouse.  In deductive reasoning lawyers create a theory or hypothesis upon which we make a prediction. For deductive reasoning to be sound the hypothesis must be correct. So, after two decades of practicing law, I assume all my hypothesis (opinions) to be true and I can find facts to support any theory- especially the theories I am promoting. Therefore as a need to be right person who became a lawyer I unfortunately swim in a sea where I am always or usually right.  While deductive reasoning or thinking is necessary in order to be a good lawyer, it is not necessary to being a good friend or a good person.  There is no element of rightness in being of service. There is no expectation of reward in service and that is really what makes service feel so good.

As a recovering fixer I have compared how I feel when I am of service and I notice a sense of ease and contentment. When I fix people I feel triumphant and superior and bigger or better than the person whom I have fixed or helped. When people are served both people feel fulfilled and there is no sense of cloying gratefulness. What I mean by cloying- is an excess of sentiment-  which is not needed, required or expected when people are of service.

So why did I sacrifice what appeared to be an opportunity in order to help out a friend? First of all, the opportunity only related to money. The favor actually was a means to further cement a relationship of equals. Did I receive money or a tangible reward for this service? No. Will the lost income negatively impact my life? No. My service to my friend- which was something only I could do was like putting money in my friend bank which is today far more important to me than actual dollars. Will my friend compensate me at some point- probably- but that’s not the important part of the equation.

I intend to practice being of service especially to my family, most of whom I fail to see as my equals. Being of service to them rather than helping or advising or rescuing  them will go a long way in repairing my past failed efforts to fix them.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

“Get Over It” Is Not An Acceptable Solution.

My Dear Friends and Readers,

We are less than three weeks into the New Year.  My resolutions and the way I live life are centered around my core values which are beauty, giving, teaching and health. Although, it has been only 18 days in this new year, I have seen and heard and read creative works which  have affected the way I think and perceive and therefore write.

One of these educational moments occured during a partial watching of a television show called “American Crime”. The show, which I watched while getting dressed for dinner, was a story about a same sex rape which occurred within a high-school basketball team after a game. The story line was that the team (unsurprisingly) secures a large quantity of alcohol for an aftergame celebration. One of the team members drinks to the point of throwing up and blacking out and all of it is caught on a cell-phone. (It was not made clear whether the rape had also been captured by cell-phone.)

Through the television show, the audience witnesses the emotional and physical aftermath  of the rape from numerous perspectives, where each  person  has complex and often competing  desired outcomes. The audience witnesses  the continued (even if unintended) humilation  the young man who is raped endures.  The young rape victim must retell  and relive the rape as he tells  a female police officer what he remembers before he had blacked out.

We see the horror that this event has even occurred through the victim’s mother’s eyes. The mother is anguished for her son. She is angry and yet guilty because somehow she feels as a mother she should have prevented the rape from happening. The mother is also very angry at the perpertrators and she (rightfully) reports the rape with the hope  that the perpertrators are punished. She reports the rape despite the pleas of her son who simply wants to stuff the rape in a dark place, because he is has not been able to integrate the rape into his reality.

The  show’s viewers then witness  how the school officials respond. The school officials  want to distance themselves from the rape to prevent repercussions legal or otherwise.  The victim’s team mates also want the incident buried and we hear the victim’s best friend tell him to “forget it.”

Two additional plot twists provide an often unseen angle to a rape story. The community in which the rape occurs is wealthy and the victim is a white male member of the group. These  interesting plot devices  allow the audience to see the resources available to a rape victim when money is not an issue. This caused me ask, if the treatment of the rape victim portrayed by the television was reflective of  “under the best of circumstances”, what happens when the victims are poor and not white and not male? What happens then? Dos the crime get reported? Is the girl blamed and shamed? And will there be  consequences for the perpetrators?  These questions may not be answered in the upcoming episodes, but they were questions that I was forced to think about.

The other event which altered my perspective was an article about philantrophy. The article’s bottom line was that just because you are doing good does not mean that you are good. It seems simple when stated that way, but the article suggests that  often times the structures created to relieve the  wrong-doing is created from the source of the wrong doing. This would be like a  slave -owner who starts a school to teach slaves to read while still maintaining slaves. The teachers who teach the slaves are doing good, but they are also making a living from slavery.  As a result of reading the article  “Just Because You Do ‘Good’ Work Doesn’t Mean You are Good – Michael Lee Writes” I will no longer call myself a “philanthropist.”

Finally,  the third event that altered my perspective was a  jazz concert held at a former car dealership which had been re-purposed as a music and art venue. I used to say that I did not understand jazz because much of what I heard of jazz did not have lyrics. Saturday night, I gave up the need for words- and slipped into the flow of the music. I came to understand that there were musical and instrumental confines to jazz as the musicians got lost in music that only they could hear and shared it with the audience via their instruments.  The event was a creative opening to be able to be present to something I did not understand but could appreciate never the less.

I close wishing the wish for each of us to look for the humanity in each other as we commerate the birthday of Martin Luther King.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

On the Otherside of PTSD

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Today I wanted to write about the drug Molly because I saw it on the television show Mr. Robot, but the show is far more interesting that discussing a drug which you can find everything you ever wanted to know about it on the Internet. Mr. Robot, for those of you who have never seen it is a tale told from the perspective of a man who is a technology hacker genius and schizophrenic. The main character, Eliot is played by actor Rami Malek  who exhibits none of the symptoms of schizophrenia except for delusions.  In his delusion  the character Eliot creates an alter ego who is his father who had died. (This is not a spoiler.) Eliot is a high-level cyber security expert and the character appears to be neat and well groomed and regularly visits his psychiatrist whom he hacks and lies to. Oh,  I almost forgot, the character Eliot is also a heroin addict- he snorts heroin and then mellows himself out with suboxone which is a prescription drug that helps people detox from heroin.

Just so that you get an understanding of this character here are some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

  • Losing interest in everyday
    activities, like bathing, grooming, or getting dressed
  • Feeling out of touch with other
    people, family, or friends
  • Lack of feeling or emotion
    (apathy)
  • Having little emotion or
    inappropriate feelings in certain situations
  • Having less ability to
    experience pleasure
  • Believing that what other
    people are saying is not true (delusions)
  • Hearing, seeing, tasting,
    feeling, or smelling things that others do not experience (hallucinations)
  • Disorganized speech and
    behavior

 Part of my fascination with this dark television show is the exposition of the mental illness schizophrenia. I wanted to research whether the writers were realistically presenting a person who is schizophrenic.  The other reason that this show intrigues me is the “voices” that the character hears.  On the television show the “voice” is usually that of the main character’s dead father. This got me thinking- the voices we hear in our head’s whose voice’s are they? Often times, in the past, I have answered my mother or my father, but a week or so ago, I realize that while I might be hearing negative thoughts that my mother once said, that she nor my father were currently making those statements. Instead, I was re-creating these negative statements and attributing them to my parents and currently feeling the feelings that I had felt so many years ago.  
This practice as simple as it might appear took me a long time to figure out: I should stop playing those messages in my head. Yes, it was ME!  Throughout out these last five decades  I have been the one person that keeps  replaying those negative tapes. Now, in my  defense, I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and often times almost anything- especially when I failed- would trigger these negative comments. An central element of  PTSD  is the triggering of these tapes- seemingly on their own.  But guess who let those tapes run? Me!  I never even thought to stop them, I let them run and because I did  I would find myself in my often felt  mental position of feeling depressed and a failure. 
Turning the tapes off or more accurately re-directing them, did not come easily to me. First I had to come to understand my coping mechanisms which are isolation and alienation. (See my blog entitled, In a Box) Then I had to began to understand the elements of my PTSD which for the most part manifested itself in rage after a series of thoughts including pictures and words skittered rapidly across my brain, without me even registering or analyzing any of it. I would  be present but my emotions were  a reaction to those images and thoughts from the past- usually dealing with betrayal and deceit. I could never manage to stop the rapid onset of emotions which were a reaction to the past occurring in the present. My PTSD would occur within seconds and I felt that those emotions controlled me.
After my angry PTSD outbursts, I would feel ashamed and emotionally off kilter for days. I would feel “crazy” and out of control. I would slide into deep depression and usually had ruined a relationship. I could  not imagine just saying “Hey, I was having a moment of PTSD.”  Now, I can sense my PTSD stirring. It usually starts with me feeling irritable and then, anything could cause me to explode. Now when I start feeling this way, I slow myself down, physically and mentally. I ask myself what I need to do at that moment, and whenever possible I do that thing.  I often times, need to isolate myself in order to  analyze my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, there are things to address- remember an element of my disorder is being self-critical and submissive. 
I learned to identify and disrupt these tapes through weeks of  recent therapy- after years of therapy. This should not leave you  feeling hopeless.  Not everyone is invested in blaming their problems on others as I have been.  I have recently realized this and will make every effort to break the cycle of my PTSD. I know, it  has taken a long time to reach this understanding, but I am not lamenting this. I am happy to have gotten to this place in my life. 
Now, back to Mr. Robot.  I don’t know if the writer’s portrayal of schizophrenia is accurate. Let’s assume it is. It’s an interesting dark show where the weapons are computers.  This in itself is fascinating. The second season of the show will soon be released. Catch up on the first season. It’s entertaining and let yourself imagine what it would be like to have schizophrenia or maybe even worse, deal with a love one who is schizophrenic. I’ll leave you with those thoughts. For now, I am grateful.
Signed,
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

The Empty Rat Cage

My Dear Friends and Readers,

There is a new theory of addiction that goes like this: We as humans have an innate need to bond.
When we are isolated we will bond with whatever we can to be able to hold up under the current physical environment in which we find ourselves.

This theory is not my theory but that of Bruce K Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University in Van Couver British Columbia. Dr. Alexander is an experimental psychologist. From his observations of working with rats on the theory of addiction he observed that rat experiments were conducted where the rats were in isolation and could not see or touch each other. The only highlights in the day of each rat was when they were fed or their cages cleaned.

So what does this have to do with addiction? Well, the studies on addiction and what we thought we learned from rat studies on addiction may have been all wrong. Alexander observed that in any empty environment given a choice of plain water or cocaine or heroine laced water, of course the rats would choose the laced water.

Alexander wanted to know what would happen if he altered the design of the experiment by creating a “Rat Park.” In this rat park there were many other rats, colored balls and tunnels that actually led to cheese. Into this optimum rat environment Alexander placed plain water and cocaine laced water. The surprise was that the rats rarely ever chose to drink from the cocaine laced water. This led Alexander to hypothesize that maybe addiction was related to the human need to bond. When people have authentic social interaction and human bonding, then they are more  unlikely to choose drugs.

To digress for a moment. Yes, there are compounds in drugs that have chemical hooks. Alexander is not denying that.  What he is saying is that it is through  social interaction and human bonding we as humans are better equipped to handle life’s obstacles. When this social interaction is missing we as human beings will bond with anything that allow us to better handle our human condition- or as  Alexander might say it  “the empty rat cage.”

It is from those rat drug addiction experiments conducted in  the 1960’s  which lead to the way our society deals with addiction. Rather than teach addictions how to bond and socially interact we isolate them, shame them, inprison them and most unfortunately isolate them.

For those of you, shaking your heads and saying that Alexander’s experiments are on rats not people, there was an actual unintended experiment that used humans and drug addiction. That experiment was called the Viet Nam War.

Medical reports from the war indicated that approximately 20% of American soldiers fighting the war in Viet Nam were using large amounts of heroin.  Our health policy experts, believed we would have a heroin epidemic when these soldiers returned to the United States. That theory turned out to be incorrect. That’s because when those same soldiers were removed from the hourly stress of war and returned home to families and relationships and futures, they simply stopped using. Why? They were no longer in that horrific cage from which they had to numb themselves. (This is not to say that that all soldiers came home and chose not use drugs.)

From Alexander’s experiments on rats and social bonding and addiction this concept evolved:what if the opposite of addiction was not sobriety but society or socialization? If we as a culture began embracing this co-relationship between socialization and addiction, how would this effect the way we treat addicts and addiction?  I can only dream and keep spreading the message hugs not drugs.

So where does understanding and accepting this evolved concept leave me? It leaves me knowing that if  I have strong social bonds, friends and family members who accept and understand me, I am unlikely to act out on my addictive behaviors. My need to bond will not manifest itself in shopping or eating or any of the addictive behaviors that result when I feel lonely and alone. As a person who isolates, and one who is overly self-critical being around people who love you is the balm to life.  Therefore, I will make more friends. Love more intensely. Play more with my friends. Play more. Stay on the path of my dreams and find more people to join me on the journey.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

Just Listening is a Tremendous Gift

My Dear Friends and Readers,

I am a keeper of secrets. For some odd reason  strangers tell me secrets which they have not shared before. I don’t know what it is about me that would cause people to do this. A long time ago a television news director told me that I had a believable face- so maybe that’s what it is. No matter what the reason people tell me their secrets.

What made me want to tell this story is the man who sat next to me on a plane on Christmas Day as I flew home from Birmingham through Atlanta to Baltimore. I don’t recall his name if he ever told me, which I don’t think he did. I think he asked me if I was heading home and I said yes. He answered that he lived in Annapolis, but here is  his story:

Let’s call him Sam. Sam told me on the following Monday his divorce was going to be final. He said that he was visiting his older sister in Atlanta but was heading home to Annapolis and that his new friend would be taking him home. He told me that he had tried to kill himself twice this past year and he described his two suicide attempts both involving large quantities of alcohol.

He swallowed 15 pain-killers and washed them down with bourbon. He said he woke up and didn’t die and didn’t even have a hang over or headache. The second time, he was out drinking away his blues and somehow woke up on the side of the free-way with the engine of  his car still running. He had no idea how long he had been there, but it was his wake up call.

The reason that he had tried to kill himself: his wife had cheated on him with her co-worker and left him. Then she tried to come back and left again. The saddest part about his story was that I could tell that he had not gotten over his  soon to be ex-wife.

He thanked me for listening and I answered that the gift of listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give. I didn’t give this man any advice. He was already seeing a psychiatrist and is in group counseling and attends church regularly. I simply listened. Besides his wife, this man talked to me about his birth family. He told me about his sisters and his mother and his father who was in the military and often times away. I am glad I was the stranger who could understand.

As I thought of this man and his anguished tale, I recalled that ten years ago, a grandmother told me that she had been raped by her father when she was sixteen. She told me that she had never met him before that time. That later that night, he was in bed with her and raped her. She never told anybody but me.

I could go far back but it’s not necessary. What this story is about is the power of listening and what a rare gift it is.  As I begin this year, I hope to listen as carefully and profoundly to all the people who are significant in my life. I hope that they will find in me a safe place to share and know that I will listen. If I have any advice, it’s only to say the obvious- you should talk to somebody professional.
I never know if they do, but I am always glad to be of service when the situation calls for it.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes