After years of seeking help and weeks of searching unsuccessfully for a treatment facility for mental health and addictions in Ontario (wait lists, one so long that they wouldn’t take any new names), we desperately decided to send our 23 year old daughter out of province to a private residential treatment center. She would be undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder, an intellectual disability and addictions. The plan was for two months of residential treatment. Our primary motivation for sending her away was driven by hope, her primary motivation for going was leniency in her sentencing for assaulting a police officer; in an altered state of mind, she thought it was a good idea to spit at a cop and then say “by the way, I have AIDS”.
When she was packing to leave, her primary concern was about whether or not there would be a swimming pool. When I explained that she wasn’t going to a resort, her comment back was that for the money we were spending there should be a fucking pool – no concept; I thought it best to tell her to leave her “clubbing” clothes at home and when I could avoid it no longer, broke the news to her about the no cell phone policy that would be implemented the moment she entered the program. There would also be no contact with the outside world for the first two weeks, and then only phone calls at specified times. She panicked, swore she couldn’t do it, wasn’t going to go, there was no suitcase large enough to pack everything she needed, promised she would be better if she didn’t have to go. We both felt like throwing up, although for very different reasons.
With trepidation and on the advice of her lawyer (see Ten Years) we made the necessary arrangements and on March 1, my husband and I drove her to the airport to see her off (a.k.a. make sure she boarded the plane). Over a very civilized lunch, my husband asked her if she understood that upon her return from treatment, she would no longer be able to associate with her so called “friends”. This news seemed to surprise her but she said all the right things and acted like she was ready to work hard and get better. I was positive that she would change her mind about going and run off as soon as we were out of sight. We watched her anxiously as she waited in line for security; she smiled, waved and blew us a kiss – off on another adventure albeit one without alcohol, sex or drugs.
When we were registering for the program the intake worker cautioned that because our daughter was a “complex case” they could make no guarantees. Gee whiz, nothing like setting low expectations; way to sell the program. Honestly, I felt like sobbing it felt as though I was begging the woman to take our daughter into the program. What I most certainly did not need was for the good folks at Edgewood to tell me her case was complex, what I needed them to tell me was that she would get better and that our living nightmare would come to a happy end. They obviously could make no such promise.
Funny, I thought I would feel immense relief upon her safe arrival, knowing she would be in a safe place for at least 2 months and because she would not have access to her cell phone to call me when she was freaking out. The most pressing feeling I had was fear; gut wrenching, heart breaking fear, and incredible, indelible sadness. What on earth was left for us if the treatment didn’t work? After all, it seemed native to think that a 2 month program could heal a young women struggling with an intellectual disability, bipolar disorder and addictions. I couldn’t bring myself to think about the end of the program – what would she do, where could she go, would she be able to get and more importantly, keep a job, how would she live.
Before week one was complete we had the first of many “crisis” calls, which were the result of a) the patient threatening to leave treatment or b) the treatment facility asks a client to leave. Our calls came as a result of her inappropriate behavior and the threat to “expel” her from the treatment. Calls which sometimes had to be delayed because the staff was unable to convince her to stop running through the halls screaming. Calls that always involved tears, hers and ours. Calls that left us completely spent; weary with anxiety and exhausted from dealing with one thing after another. Whenever my phone rang and showed a 250 area code, my response was one of total mind numbing fear – would this be the time that they kicked her out and if it was, would I be strong enough to follow through on the boundaries I had been forced to set.
By the grace of God, she did indeed survive two intense months of in-patient treatment. We were told that she was making progress, but it was very slow. The clinical group consensus was that allowing her back to Toronto would jeopardize her sobriety. We all agreed that her chances of success would be greatly enhanced by staying in BC longer with ongoing clinical and emotional support. Her graduation from the residential program led to a two month stint in the extended care program. In extended care, clients are granted a bit more freedom, but live under the watchful eye of two full time counselors. Concerned emails replaced crisis calls – progress was slow. Helpless and frustrated, it often felt like we were bleeding money and all of it was going to Edgewood – daily fee charges plus the patient needs a spending account, they need prescriptions, they need lab tests, none of it covered by the health care system.
By July, it was clear that she needed to move into a sober house regardless of whether she was in BC or Ontario. What a relief it was when she agreed to stay in BC and move into a house for women in various stages of recovery. The “mother” of the house is a wonderful woman who seems to love our daughter as much as we do. Finances would allow us to cover her in the house for three months, at which point our financial support would end. This would give her 3 additional months to get her act together, find a job, line up a place to live and stay clean and sober.
Three weeks ago she celebrated 6 months sober; the day after her AA celebration she relapsed and had to spend the night in a women’s homeless shelter.
To be continued . . .