Click Link above for video of our fist breakthrough!
Not Without My Daughter
I am a mother of an addict. Yes that’s right, she has been my inspiration both good and motivational since the day I gave birth to her. Our walk over the last 5 years consisted of: 5 detox stays and 2-28 day attempts and finally a 13 month residential rehabilitation. This is what brought us into this next amazing chapter of our lives- what is now Tiger Mountain Recovery, Inc. an Equine based Women’s only Residential Center for women battling addictions of alcohol and substance abuse.
A Little Look Into The Past
We had a normal dysfunctional family. Yes every family I have ever known had some dysfunction mixed in with the normal. I am a mother of two wonderful children; Jess a bright and beautiful daughter and Fletcher a loving and handsome son. There was divorce, family betrayal, and a lot of “moving with the job” as I was a geriatric nurse administrator. I worked in a rewarding career that included all the aspects of growing older with dignity and grace, specializing in Assisted Living/Alzheimer’s; and my husband is an ER Physician with experience dealing with drug seekers and in-hospital detox. But our story knows no social or economic bounds.
There was a tipping point in my daughter’s life that began her spiral of lack of self esteem, self worth, and feelings of being lost in a world she was just learning. Even though I had training in healthcare and was involved in community service in my various communities, her feelings and perceptions of accountability were well on their way to being warped and mis-shaped by things that were out of my control.
She was 13 when the change became apparent, and it had begun from a personal betrayal at age 11. Like most people suffering from addiction it began with an inability to cope through a “real or perceived” betrayal of trust. And I was not prepared, even with my experiences, to identify thoroughly what we were dealing with. There was limited family support, and the fractures continued with continuous denial of accountability of those around her. I realized that it would be my children, my parents and friends and I- that was it. A very lonely and scary place to be.
I remember trying to gain “control” with interventions such as stricter rules, monitoring, counseling, and some light anti-depressant medication at times. There were diagnosis thrown around of “borderline personality disorder, and bipolar, etc” . This made no sense as I remembered how she had been such a short time before. I understand there are those for whom these diagnoses are appropriate, but I also now realize that drug use presents many of the same symptomatic behaviors. I was not qualified to determine the difference.
I also remember her gaining ground in getting herself on the right track, only to gravitate to people that gave her what she thought she needed which only succeeded in providing her an “easy way out” and thus she began entering a world in which I knew nothing about.
I of course tried to educate myself but in the mid 90’s help was limited, at least help that I could identify with and looking back I realize that I too was blind to some portions of what would or could be from all of this. I was innocently trying to “control” it. Big mistake that would cost us years of happiness.
Wake Up To Disaster
There are two beautiful granddaughters that were born out of wedlock, definitely not under a cloud of shame. We have always believed and tried to live under the motto “It’s not the challenges in life, but how you handle them that counts!” And this scenario would be no different. Of course I knew that these “unplanned” pregnancies were not of the best timing, but again out of my control. I had begun teaching and talking to my children about preventative measures when they were younger-around 11 yrs. of age. So it was not like there was not a family topic of Christian belief structure in our home. However, when you are dealing with the type of situation we were in, this outcome is definitely not uncommon. So we again tried to pull together to get our lives reset with each new arrival, and I must say both girls are a complete joy and blessing in our lives.
With the birth of her second child Jess was prescribed Percocet by her obstetrician due to the nature of the birth. She was on this painkiller for 2 months-and already in addiction. Yes, she had been actively “experimenting” (without my approval or consent) in her teens but had never been constant in her use of illegal or prescription substance up to this point. That’s not acceptable either, but this is our truth. Jess decided to move to Florida to attempt to build a life with the father of her first daughter with the hope of finally building her family. What actually happened was far from that. Another betrayal and more drug use. After 4 months she and the girls moved back home with her feelings of failure ever looming in the forefront of her mind. We were so happy to have her home I refused to think of anything but being positive that we were looking toward a bright new future. Boy was I naive.
Within a week of her returning to the ranch Jess had met who would become the final push into disaster. Yes she married him within 4 weeks of their meeting, a man who would only serve to cement what was already there and increase the lack of belief she was worthy of anything good. During the next few years her life would continue to spiral out of control with many issues: domestic violence, theft, continuing drug and alcohol use, neglect of herself and those around her…..hopelessness and despair. A wedge was forged between her and everyone who cared about her that was ominous and I can tell you it was the darkest time in our lives.
I still wouldn’t give up! I tracked her until I had 17 counts of larceny. Yes she was stealing from me- jewelry, checkbooks, bank cards- and she was good at it. I kissed her as she got into the sheriff’s car and told her “ please come back to me….I don’t know who you are anymore, but I love you and remember you.” She stayed in jail 4 days that time, and I slept good for the first time in years because I knew I wouldn’t finally “get that call”. My marriage was basically non-existent during this time of chaos, most marriages dissolve but am happy to say mine remained through the flames. I don’t know how it survived really, as I remember just being numb and feeling dead inside like my daughter must have felt.
My next step was taking custody legally of the children. We entered counseling and were blessed with a counselor that was able to teach the girls and I to “Cope not Poke” through this nightmare and pray that God would bring her back to us as soon as His Will would allow. Children are so resilient and the love between a parent and child is truly a gift from above. The girls came to understand that bad choices were just that choices. As soon as good choices began to be seen then we could repair and be together. This was essential in the reparation phase we are in now
All of these steps, while extreme, were not enough to turn the tide in the hurricane of addiction. There were other forces working just as hard to “control” the path that we were on. My daughter was lost, people taking advantage of her at every turn, and I had lost influence due to resentments that were now a stronghold. Her public defender would also be tool of manipulation of her life, unaware and not having enough time to care (for what she was getting paid), my daughter was on her own to continue in her tactics of deceit and manipulation. I was made to look the villain, a monster of a mother who would bring felony charges against her own daughter. The DA that I had originally forged a mutual respect for was relocated so I too became just another parent trying to use the judicial system as a parenting tool to “control” her daughters life. In reality though I was just trying to bring accountability and sobriety to my diseased daughter. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I do not regret one step.
She is now 100% drug free after short term use of low dose anti-depressant, although it took almost a year for her sleep patterns to correct, and takes up to two years for the effects of the addictions to really subside. The key was finding the right approach to her treatment and firm guidelines that built a base of trust that she could rely on.
The Day the Tide Turned
It was in the late fall of 2010. There was a break in the influences surrounding my addicted manipulative daughter and she was attempting to reach out to her family. We had a colt that we had inherited that needed to be halter broken and I asked Jess if she would give it a try. Well in 15 minutes she was leading him around the round pen with the first sincere smile I had seen in years. It was obvious there was a glimmer of the girl I knew still in there somewhere, and I was thunderstruck. She felt confidence and pride! In her own right she had successfully accomplished what nobody else had done and in short time! More importantly we were able to share that moment of happiness together without thinking of the terrible things we had been entrenched in for so very long. Nothing mattered in that moment but Jess and that young beautiful colt. I will never forget that day.
It was still almost a year before Jess really, truly engaged in her recovery. But that day was, I believe, what began this next chapter of life for my daughter free from the clutches of active addiction.
Paying It Forward
I have always believed that if you have a challenge a lesson is hidden somewhere and it is up to us to find it. Hopefully you learn from that lesson, and if you do it is then a responsibility to pay it forward. That day in the round pen with my daughter and that colt was just the beginning for me. Through the next year and a half I would learn so much more that would lead me to the very spot in which I write this snippet of our story. You see although I was not the one in addiction, I too had a role to play that was both purposeful and not. I had to learn to understand what enablement truly was. I had to forgive myself for this occurrence to be “allowed” in my daughter’s life in the first place….I had to forgive my ignorance and inability to stop the behavior’s of others that had contributed to her life. I had to “Let go and let GOD”. For a control freak (pardon the expression) like me that was difficult. “God helps those who help themselves” was my motto!
You Can Love Them To Death
When I realized that one innocent thing that was holding my daughter back from really engaging in recovery was the fact that I was a “helicopter mom” -that’s when you hover and swoop in to fix any and everything wrong, then go back to hover. Once I really let go and held her accountable and smiled reassuringly from a distance real growth began. I had made sure that she had good counselors and gave them room. It took her 13 months to complete a 12 month program in a state facility. It was up to her. Family and friends can love the addict to death no matter how well intended. Firm love and kindness and healthy boundaries are key. Remembering it is their life is of utmost importance. The addict by nature can not be controlled-PERIOD.
I speak to families every day that are at the end of their rope; I understand, so was I. It is important for them to seek help as well. Al-anon meetings help families realize that they are not alone, and peer support is unparalleled. But I take it a step further with them I call it the CAP effect to release guilt and shame- “You didn’t C-contribute, A-approve, or P-participate” so let go of the guilt so you can place the boundaries where you need them to be.
If there is a family of addiction then of course there is more intensive therapy needed and probably for years to help them gain ground, but again it is up to each person the steps they choose to take.
Putting The Pieces Together
Jess got picked up for “failure to appear” for a court date in April 2011. I never ever bailed her out of jail because I felt it would be counter-productive to undermine the authority of the court. She stayed in jail for 37 days until we could locate an appropriate recovery program that was in compliance with the court. It was decided that a co-ed facility was unacceptable because of the vulnerability in that phase of rehabilitation. This was the first time I stepped in to help her find treatment.
What I experienced was disheartening to say the least. Facilities that had any type of programming for effective recovery had wait-lists of 20-50 would qualify. I found some work programs where the client would work at a chicken or vegetable factory for $7 an hour and be able to keep $2 for incidentals with the rest helping to pay for room and board; these offered groups in the evening-not nearly enough in my opinion for what would be effective in relapse prevention no matter how well intended. I found cultish groups that used the vulnerable state of the new client to form them into whatever future follower they wanted- not with my daughter they weren’t. I actually had one intake person say “I think we need to stop and pray” when I asked about integrating parenting into the recovery plan of care- to which I responded I pray constantly thank you and God Bless.
I couldn’t help but think that with our experience both personally and professionally we could contribute to this world of recovery that had more doors than windows. And so we began…
I started in April 2011 from the ground up, starting with prayer. I prayed and discussed with family for 3 weeks then sat down at my computer to begin purging what was being given. We had the perfect setting for our own Equine based Women’s only Recovery Center!
It seemed as if all of my experience in administration, life, and hurts were being merged into this plan; as if it was going to be my living testimony to what God can do if we allow him to work. Within the next 3 weeks I had the business frame-work, marketing, and business plan drafting complete with 3 year projections. Our daughter in law had just completed her master’s in mental health and consulted in the clinical framework (knowledge I lacked because after all I was first and foremost the mother of an addict-not a professional counselor). We were off! I reached out to everyone I could think of for input and suggestions to gather up information I had not thought of or missed. And by the end of the summer we had incorporated and were moving to get ready for operations to be complete and credentialing to begin. WOW! When the Lord moves it is advised to just hang on!
By the end of October my back had relapsed from an old injury (nurses back from picking up patients through the years) and my health began to decline. By Thanksgiving I was no longer able to get around without pain. We completed ODMHSAS initial survey on Jan 27,2012 with a certificate to open. I had back surgery Jan 30, 2012- we were delayed 3 months while I recuperated and regained the use of my right leg from angry nerves.
My Glimpse Of Addiction
God doesn’t tell us we won’t have challenges. How would I ever know that through my walk of opening our recovery center that I would also get a glimpse of addiction through pain management….
I was able to handle the pain of my failing back with the use of Aleve and a TENS unit all the way up to 3 days prior to surgery. The pain and inability to use my right leg became too much to bear with the pre-op duties required for surgery. After surgery I was so scared of using my medication (Percocet) as directed that I under-used it and my pain became worse than it should have. I am very susceptible to medication and I had to take a Benadryl 30 minutes prior to each pill to not vomit….at first. I began taking 1 pill every 4-6 hours (not the 2 that I was advised to do) beginning day 2 for the next week. It was too much, because one night the medication had built up in my system and I was so groggy by 3 am I aspirated after falling asleep in my recliner. It took me 3 days to clear and I was lucky not to have developed pneumonia. By week 2 I no longer had to take the Benadryl because my body now let me know when it was time to take the pills. When I went back for my next check up I received Lortab 10mg. Don’t get me wrong- the pain was real and understandable. The problem was my body was now getting addicted to the level of narcotic in my system, and I could feel it! I was irritable, couldn’t remember anything, and depressed. I feared things that were irrational, and I was scared. I began weaning myself off by taking just one pill in the morning and one in the evening, I took Aleve twice a day as well. As soon as my doctor said I could I began to exercise to gain some muscle back (sitting in front of my computer doing the plan all those months was evidently not smart without exercise).
I worked and got myself drug free before my 30 day post operative doctor visit and I was even more driven to get this mission to be a reality. Meanwhile Jess was coming to the end of her recovery. She became a leader in her recovery facility, and ultimately President of the resident body. The treatment team utilized her ability to articulate her story and she was allowed to help others with her story and new found outlook on her life. She was an inspiration and eager to get her life going. Her complete story of growth is hers to tell, and she does to anyone who will listen. As her mother and now friend I can only tell you that she now works at our recovery center and has the respect of those around her for her drive to a healthy life-style. Today we are GREAT!
Tiger Mountain Recovery Center, although new, is showing success with our program graduates! It is humbling seeing the vision come to reality and see that our program is working for other women. We believe that the equine component is a mainstay in the woman’s ability to gain insight to reality and self esteem building in a non confrontational way. Infusing the 12 step program with life skills of daily living, women gain the ability to manage and cope through daily life. Life is change and the most important aspect to gaining a life of sobriety is to be able to understand change and possess the confidence to be able to reach out for help when you feel triggers of life moving in.
People, Places, And Things Are Everywhere
Those who are not in addiction itself really have no clue until you learn from one who knows. Triggers can be: people, smells, sights, places, songs, feelings, and memories…
Once a thought enters your mind you have about 3 seconds to redirect that train of thought before you will act on it statistically. That’s where muscle memory comes in. The brain is also a muscle! So the very act of getting up and going through the program, joining in work detail, barn and garden, groups, meals, and fellowship help your body and mind retrain away from those triggers. However, since triggers are everywhere it’s the time of identifying and using your coping skills helps you ultimately win your battle. That’s why recovery is up to you! You identify your triggers, you decide when you will engage in your real recovery- you decide when you have had enough and we will help you achieve it.
During this walk to recovery I remember most the lack of help and interest to gain help for my daughter. I vowed to never let that be said of us. We will help direct those who need help how to voice what they need to voice to get attention. I will help as much as I can in this fight to help those who have become lost. It is true what I was once told “unfortunately Ms Glidden, nobody really cares if someone overdoses, it just makes room for someone who wants to live…” UGH! Obviously they never felt hopelessness, and desperation to escape from what they can’t cope through! I am not here to judge, but I am committed to help those see that there is hope and a life worth living if they have the courage to fight!
We understand that to maintain this momentum we must continue to grow and work the program of Faith, and Family, and the 12 steps. God gives us the tools but as the girls say “It works if you work it!”. Of course there is much more to our story and I will share it another time. For today we are better than I had ever hoped for and ready to face tomorrow….
May God Bless you and yours! Recovery can happen……Beyond Four Walls!
Contributed by: Sharon Glidden, Founding CEO
Tiger Mountain Recovery, Inc