Family Intervention Fails Are A Heartbreaking Reality…

Yesterday I received a request to attend a family Intervention with a previous bride who was having issues again regarding her cousin and custody of the cousins children. For years this cousin has had a drug problem and for years my previous client has opened her home to her cousins four children while their mother went into treatment again.  The options for these children if a family member didn’t take them in was foster care.  In order to keep the children together, my client and her wife took the children in.  Their story is similar to many other families who have a family member with a drug or alcohol problem, they had to save the children because saving an addict is a thankless task.  The truth is that Family Interventions aren’t always effective and most of them time, a rage filled argument among the loved ones trying to force the addict to seek treatment.  Asking a family member to “go get some help” isn’t like asking them to go shopping with you.  Many drunks and drug addicts lie and deny they are using anything and often accuse their friends and family of being crazy.

Last summer my twin sister and I traveled to visit our previous clients home (I’m not going to use her real name for obvious reasons) to discuss marital problems that were based entirely on adding four children to their household that they literally couldn’t afford financially or physically care for since they were not adopting the children and only caring for them while their mother was in treatment, you can imagine the burden for this couple who had only one child that was accustomed to being the center of attention.  

They received no financial aid from the state and were forced to fight to even have insurance from the state.  It was a very real problem for a young family who were happily sailing through life when a phone call disrupted their world.

My sister and I bought groceries and delivered them to our previous clients to try and help ease the financial burden they faced caring for the other 4 children.  Since the couple were a single income family with one person staying home to care for their toddler, the “toll” of feeding and clothing the additional 4 children was literally “breaking them emotionally” while added stress from their child who wanted attention too left them both feeling guilty.  

When you don’t have the time or energy to pay attention to your spouse at the end of the day, it’s a problem for any marriage.  “Talking a couple through” marriage issues and giving them tips for surviving a sudden impact of four additional children, I would speak with this couple on a regular basis during the window they cared for the children and continue to bring food to help ease the burden of feeding them with my sister.

Caring for four more children is stressful to anyone whether you are a paycheck to paycheck family or rich.  Why? Because households operate on a schedule of sorts and four children from a broken home need attention themselves. They’ve been displaced by parents who chose drugs over them.  A few of them were old enough to understand that being homeless due to the arrest of their mother put them in an awkward position.  

Your entire dynamic and schedule change to accommodate the unexpected gift of someone else’s children who are often emotional and needy.  These clients put those four children first and our entire community pooled the resources needed to get them four more beds, clothing, food or whatever else they needed to create a home for those children.  Ironically, the state required that each child had their own bed and room but put the burden on the couple to provide these items.

Many of my dedicated readers know that my family often get crisis requests for help whether it’s a family who lost their home to a fire needing clothes or furniture or a family who needs food or direction finding help if we cannot help them. We are the people we have never met and have helped hundreds of families over the years and, it wasn’t because we were rich.  

Quite frankly, we have had a few years of hard times and hard knocks ourselves.  Both of our husbands have been unemployed at the same time when my husband lost everything to the real estate crash in 2007 and Cindy’s Husband was laid off after 23 years from Albertsons.  Those were hard times for my sister raising the twins at the time Steve was laid off and my husband trying to find a job when his only work experience was in real estate.  We literally tied every bundle to save our homes and provide for our children and grandchildren.  We didn’t have anyone to help us- we had to figure it out.  It wasn’t unusual to find our homes without furniture during that window because we sold everything we had to survive and save our homes from foreclosure.  By 2009, I had learned to refurbish furniture in order to replace my expensive furniture that was sold to get by.  My jewelry and furs went first.  My couture clothing from years of modeling went second.  Taking care of our children and grandchildren while keeping a roof over their heads with two unemployed husbands wasn’t easy but we made it through and learned how to get by on incomes that were literally cut in half.  We are survivors!

Perhaps we care more because we understand the situations of others or their hardships?  Nonetheless and anyhow, we help people and have never turned anyone away.  We know how it feels to be hopeless but have never felt sorry for ourselves because we didn’t have the luxury of crying over spilled milk.  Eventually, both of our husbands found work and we all look back on the meals of beans and rice or cornbread as our “we can do this” years.  

Throughout our lives, my sister and I have had to figure it out because there were many years that we were both single parents and while juggling numerous jobs, juggled caring for my sisters two daughters and my son.  We have been a TwinTeam our entire lives. 

Taking on someone else’s children isn’t an “easy choice” for anyone.  My twin sister has been raising her twin grandddaughters for 13 years since they were born.  Why?  Their mother was only 15 when she became pregnant with twins!  As a parent, my sister chose to save those children and give them the life we had never had.  My husband and I help with their needs financially and do whatever we can to help my sister who has never received child support from either parent of the twins.  Their mother spent a number of years hanging with the wrong crowd and making bad decisions.  My sister gave them a stable home and our husbands joined us in creating a tight knit circle of love and stability for them.

Raising a child is a struggle when you’re young but a larger struggle when you’re a grandparent.  Worldwide, grandparents are raising their grandchildren because of drugs.  

Apparently, our mother wasn’t the only parent making bad decisions because for years, my niece was making the same choices because she didn’t have the responsibility of buying clothes, paying for braces or buying food for her children.  That’s right- my sister who became a homemaker and gave up her job to raise the twins was operating on the income of her husband, a truck driver and help from my husband and I to care for the twins.  

My sister KNOWS SACRIFICE.  Many of my readers love her hilarious #Cindyism Quotes used on Pawning Planners Apparel. Cindy is funny because she has had to be.  You see she has had her fair share of hardships and setbacks.  Life has never been easy for her and she laughs to keep from crying.  Laughter literally is her best medicine.

Parents who have no responsibility apparently continue to make bad choices and accuse the people taking on the task of raising their children for them of “stealing their children.”  The only difference between our own mother and others is that our mother sold us to a relative for $50.  Other parents with drug issues don’t sell their children because they lose them to Child Protective Services and blame everyone except themselves.  

These parents had a choice of choosing drugs or their children. They made the choice and the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces.  I don’t feel sorry for drug addicts or alcoholics because they made their own bed and blame everyone else when their life goes to Hell.  Drug addicts are the most selfish narcissistic people in the world.  

My mother put her own mother through Hell for most of her life because she was a heroin addict. I feel certain my grandmother died of a broken heart.  She couldn’t save my mother and although she tried and tried, she had to go to work everyday and pretend to be “normal.”  Having a drug addict for a relative is shameful to the rest of their family who try to hide it and pretend “everything is okay.”  My grandmother was never able to retire because she nearly went broke trying to get our mother into treatment.  

Families who “try to help” drug addicts often lose everything by paying for treatment or attorneys and even bail bonds.  They don’t give up easily trying to save their loved ones and many of these families blame themselves for their inability to “fix” drug or alcohol abuse and “clean up” their loved one.  Sadly, they are fighting a losing battle.

I can give you advice but, I’m not a magician.  If you can’t make a family member “want to change” then I cannot either.  The problem with a drug addict is that they make everything about them.  Sadly, they never accept or acknowledge that their behavior is slowly killing what used to be their family.  Drug addicts and drunks suck the life and the health out of everyone around them.

Holidays become Horrors of what the drunk or drug addict will do to destroy a family event with their awful behavior.  The truth is that the family members victimized by an abusers behavior wish they could have a normal holiday but may never enjoy it while the drunk or drug addict is still hanging around to screw everything up.  For some reason that I may never understand, holidays always bring out the worst in a drunk or drug addicts behavior.

Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles all reach a breaking point before turning to Tough Love.  If an addict won’t willingly accept the choice of treatment, you will never force them to change.  Trust me on this, I’ve tried, we’ve tried and we continued to try over and over again for years.  Not months or weeks—YEARS.  My sister and I know from experience that trying to save an addict is the most dissapointing and disturbing thing we have ever had to drag ourselves through.  We refused to give up and because of it, often cried ourselves to sleep worrying what would happen next.

The only reason my mother got off heroin was a car accident that left her permanently disabled.  How disabled? She lost 60% of her cognitive ability, one of her eyes and half of her hearing.  Yes, she was high on heroin and LSD at the time of her accident.  Did I have an opportunity to tell her what a rotten person she was? No.  Even if I tried to tell her today how much I hated her for ruining my life, she wouldn’t understand what I was saying or worse, she would pretend she didn’t.  Who knows what she understands or doesn’t because she has a “convenient memory.”  

My mother destroyed not only me and my twin sisters childhoods but also that of our brother and step sister.  The $50 became $200 when she sold all of us as a group to a relative.  Being old enough to understand what she was doing and why (to go get high) because the “barter” was held in our presence is something that I must live with but it’s also something I will always hate her for too.  Many of you may be thinking that we should forgive our mother and “move on” but unless you have experienced what we have, it’s best to save your advice.  Forty three years after selling us, we still have nightmares about being helpless children put in horrific situations and have our mother to thank for it.

As an adult, no one had any idea my mother was a drug addict.  In fact, I was so ashamed of her and her jail record, I lied to anyone asking me about her.  My sisters and I got through life by staying away from the Mother’s Day card lane and looking at the sappy cards people were buying for a mother who loved them.  It was incredible that people buying these cards had an amazing mother for all of us and you can rest assured that our mom never received a Mothers Day card from her four children. 

We all became the mothers we didn’t have to break the chain.  Reading a story to our children every night?  You bet!  Cooking dinner or watching a movie?  Absolutely.  Fun parks, the carnival and McDonald’s?  All of the time.  

We created a happy life for our children complete with the photos of happy smiling children that we had never had.  We took everything we didn’t know as children and raised our children completely differently.  No drunks at Christmas.  No drug addict rage directed at the person trying to create a sense of harmony.  None of it because it didn’t belong in our homes and we wanted no part of the childhood memories with our mother.  Many parents of drug addicts are forced to kick their children out due to drug use.  It isn’t an easy choice but at some point, these parents were literally forced to save themselves.  Never judge a parent for kicking out their children because you have no idea what living with a drug addict can be like unless you are or have been the parent of a drug addict yourself.

My mother will die one day and it won’t affect our lives one bit.  My mother made choices that put my sisters and brother and I in that left us hungry and scared all of the time.  She also locked us in a closet for days because “we were making too much noise.”  My mother could actually compete for the Minnie Dearest Award because she preferred to spend her child support mone on drugs and fancy clothes while never considering to buy us food.  Forgiving her at this stage in my life is something I’m incapable of which may surprise you because I can forgive anyone else in my life (yes, even you ex husband because I know you subscribe to my blogs).  I’m usually a very forgiving person because I realize that people make mistakes all the time.  They do or say something they didn’t really mean but starving your children or locking them up because they are too noisy or asking you for something to eat is something I cannot “get over.”

I believe that my twin and I were obese teens because feeling hungry scared the life out of us and I have my mother to thank for that.  We can live with being cold or tired but if we are hungry, anxiety sets in.  Feeling hungry reminds us of where we have been and what we have been through.  Going on a yearling diet to lose weight involved moments of hunger but we got through it.

Perhaps if I hadn’t gone to meet my mother while living in California in 1988, I would be a little more forgiving but, I had arranged the meeting to give her an opportunity to apologize for what she had done by giving her a window to explain herself and she chose to instead tell me how having four bratty kids in the 60’s was never her plan.  After ten minutes with my mother, I realized that she knew exactly what she was doing when she decided to get $200 and “go party” rather than take care of us.  Surprisingly, my mother had 10 days to take a shower, wash her hair or do something to prepare to meet the daughter she hadn’t seen since selling me twenty years later.  My sisters and brother refused to go with me to that meeting and while leaving the meeting, I silently thanked God they hadn’t come.  Hearing what our mother thought about her decisions would have crushed them.  It crushed me as I cried driving all the way from Solvang to San Clemente.  By the time I arrived back in San Clemente, my phone was ringing with a call from my mothers mother aka Grandma Tinney asking me to drive to Santa Maria because “your mother has been in an accident and was not expected to live.”  After hours of driving and crying- you can imagine my apprehension regarding seeing her again.  After all, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I would never see or speak to her again after that meeting.  My twin sister agreed to jump in my car and drive to Santa Maria to go see our “mother.”  During the drive, I told Cindy what had happened and admitted that I had expected her to lie and say she loved us or she regretted what she had done to our family.  I had set myself up to be dissapointed without even realizing it but back then I still believed that everyone had to have at least one redeeming quality and, I was wrong.  Drug addicts and alcoholics have very few redeeming qualities when they are “out of it.” 

The accident happened because I had paid her to meet me and she used the money to buy drugs.  Half out of her mind, she plowed into a transit bus.

Living with a drug addict is a constant whirl of emotions as you try to keep a positive attitude. You attempt to smile and behave normally while you dread the next phone call or visit from the addict.  You become weary of what will happen next and you try to survive while creating a sense of unity in your household and love for the children who are often pawns to the drug addict who “wants to see their kids!”  If you are raising an addicts children, this constant interference is familiar to you and similar to a natural disaster because one minute everything is fine and the next, you have a crazy person wanting “to see their children.”

Raising someone else’s children opens a window for the person with a drug or alcohol problem to consistently screw up your home life by demanding to see their children.  Often, the child or children would prefer not to see their parents which causes an even bigger issue.  

Counseling for children of an addict is CRITICAL to their well being.  I’m serious about this because my sisters and brother never had family counseling.  We never had a way of dealing with our crazy mother.  I dealt with it by compartmentalizing the crazy things my mother put us through.  The imaginary drawer in my head was permanently closed until I had to see her again.  Every visit to California involves the “obligatory visit” to our mother.

Everything she put us through went into that drawer and I quickly closed it in order to move on and away from the craziness of my mother who often left all four of us for days because she had forgot about us again.  She was a real peach and the only good thing about her was her mother who saved us over and over again when she saw our mother around town or at the bar and asked where we were. 

It’s sad and awkward for the caregivers AND the children.  No one is actually “comfortable” because normality flew out the window a long time ago.  Often, the addict will pretend that “none of this is their fault.  If it were up to them, they would all be together.”  Children deserve normality and consistency.  Children deserve stability and whether the children are yours or not, raising them (to the best of your ability) is a heavy burden.

I advised my previous clients that their relationship must be a priority.  That they were a partnership first and the children must come second.  Your spouse must be a priority and while caring for the four additional children would be chaotic, if they could put each other first–they could get through anything as a team and they did.

The mother finally was reunited with the four children but, raising children for several months and overcoming every obstacle to “act like a family” left a sense of loss for the cousin and her wife that took the children in when they had nowhere to go and did their best to take care of the children and create a stable home and environment.  This family felt the loss of these children who had become a part of their lives after so many months.  Giving those children back wasn’t easy. 

Will their mother “straighten up and fly right?”  After years of drug abuse, the answer is maybe- maybe not.  For the children, the fear of being separated from their parents over and over again is something they will always fear.  My previous clients will open their home again to those 4 kids if they need to and my family and our community will pull together to help them too because every child deserves a home.  Like them and probably the 4 children, I pray their mother will put those children first but, only time will tell. 

I’m happy to attend a Family Intervention but for clients contacting me to “fix” a bad situation or “change the mind of a drug addict,” it must be said that neither I or my sister can change your family member because they have to want to change.  We cry with you over the loss of a loved one who refuses to change and like you, we realize that prayers and love will never change them.  Why?  It didn’t change our mother…but every situation is different and if you need a friend, we will help with whatever we can whether it’s a referral to a clinic, psychologist or even wilderness camp but at the end of the day, the hard choices of what to do for you are your decision.  If you are facing debilitating depression or anxiety- PLEASE CONTACT YOUR FAMILY PHYSICIAN.

Accepting the choices of a family member with a drug problem is a struggle.  You will face anger, sadness, guilt and try to face another day of going to work and some degree of normality but occasionally, acceptance is similar to Complicated Grief Syndrome in that you know unless the addict gets help, they will die and you must prepare yourself to face the grim reality of something neither you or I can change.  Drug addiction often hurts the families of the addict far more than it hurts the addict themselves because we are dissapointed everytime they “fall off the wagon.”