Nearly 90 days clean, 10 days after entering the sober living, J was granted a pass. My younger daughter, C and I drove down our first family outing, the first time we had like this since Before. We enjoyed a casual breakfast together at a Waffle House just a couple of miles from the Sober Living Home. She looked great and spoke encouragingly about her recovery. She was looking forward to a communal dinner that evening with a sister sober living house. We stopped at the store to pick up some necessities she would need for the week, and engaged in silly group selfies before dropping her back off.
As C and I headed back home we both commented on what an enjoyable visit for the three of us to have together, one that was long overdue. We had made it home for no more than a couple of hours when my phone rang. It was the house manager from J’s sober living. She informed me that J had broken a house rule and was being discharged immediately—meaning come and get her right now! On a Sunday night when no resources were available. J was allowed to leave the property, but she wasn’t allowed to give the address to anyone other than family. She allowed a guy she had met with her group at a local recovery meeting pick her up directly from the apartment to go to Starbuck’s and was caught. It was something her roommates had been doing and they all were just given a final warning about it. She pushed the envelope and did it anyway.
At the time, this seemed to be a deeply harsh consequence with likely even deeper repercussions. What would be the harm in discharging her the following morning when placement options were available? Releasing a newly sober, extremely fragile, recovering addict with no safe alternative placement plan was definitely a recipe for a pretty definitive relapse. I knew very little about addiction and recovery at the time, but I knew that. What were they thinking? How could they do this? Did they not care what pending doom was looming? I begged and unmercifully pleaded with the manager of the sober living to reconsider or postpone discharge until the following morning and got nowhere with that. This is where I learned first learned about real boundaries and the strength it takes to enforce them if you are remotely a tender hearted person. My world had been reasonably pliable to this point….boundaries in this alternate world don’t bend. I knew that although she willingly broke a rule, the sense of failure that came with the consequence of doing so could take her right back out if given the right opportunity. Finding placement on a Sunday evening was not an option, trust me, I tried with all the tenacity a mama bear desperate to keep her cub safe could muster. I was horrified to bring her back home and insisted we get a hotel until we could find another sober living on Monday. She refused, adamantly. Chaos ensued. The sober, fun-loving, silly J I just had spent the morning getting reacquainted at breakfast had given way to the vicious, tongue-lashing uncooperative J I hadn’t seen since active addiction. The 48 mile drive home was a nightmare— wildly chaotic and horrifying, it felt like 348 miles long. Another story in itself. When we finally made it back to our hometown, she got out of my car at the first stop sign and walked away into the night. I pleaded with her to come back. I screamed and bellowed from the deepest pit of my soul for her to get back in the car begging her not do this–until literally I had no voice left. I followed her as far as I could. She was gone. And I was totally depleted.
She relapsed later that night and made it back to my parents house the next day still high. We agreed that she would return to sober living that day. I continued searching for new placement as she slept off the high. Calling dozens of places and not getting very far, I was reminded of how difficult this sober living process was the first go around. Finally, I found a place that met all of our specifications and had availability. We were good to go, they just needed to talk to her first. And I could not get her to wake up. She was too incoherent to participate in the mandatory phone assessment required for admission in time to secure her bed, and we lost it.
I warned you it was a long, messy, and transparent story. Thanks for sticking it out this far.
To be continued, again…
The Tangled Tulip