Today, we meet Annie Augustus Rose, who shares the deeply personal story of the disease within her family, from her grandfather to her children, and how she has faced numerous challenges head-on. Annie has authored her memoir, ‘ Addicted, Our Strength Under the Influence.’ Annie shares how this book evolved, and her story is an inspiring story of strength and advocacy.
Annie has permitted me to share that Annie Augustus Rose is her pen name. Annie is Susan Avery, and she wanted to include this link to a recent talk she gave in Vermont.
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See full transcript below.
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast a place for real conversations with people who love someone with the disease of addiction. Now here is your host, Margaret Swift Thompson.
Intro: Welcome back! Today I introduce you to a mother, grandmother, advocate, and author of ‘Addicted Our Strength Under the Influence.’ Annie Augustus Rose shares her victories and struggles navigating her children’s addictions. Please meet Anne Augustus Rose.
The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast
I am really excited to introduce you all my listeners to Annie Augustus Rose, who is the author of addicted our strength under the influence, but not only the author of a mother and woman in long term recovery around the disease of addiction. So welcome, Annie to the show.
Annie August Rose 01:51
Thank you so much, Margaret. It’s wonderful to finally meet you. And I am so appreciative that you found me on the front pages of my local newspaper.
I am so appreciative too; it was great to find you. And you were so quick to respond and say yes, let’s do this.
Annie August Rose 02:09
Well, I believe that our family story is very important. There are many people who of course, have the disease of substance use. And so often the focus is on the person themselves. And that is an enormous undertaking to try and write about. I think about it a great deal, of course, but in my journey, because I became a second time parent to my grandchildren, I decided that my focus, of course was going to be doing the best job I could possibly do for my family. And that would be to focus on the needs of my grandchildren.
So, we’re going to come back to that because it’s part of the evolution of your story. To start off when you look at your family story, your history. Who would be your qualifier or qualifiers? Where was the disease within your family system?
Annie August Rose 03:15
Well, it’s very interesting. As a young girl, I spent a great deal of time with my maternal grandmother. My mother was a registered nurse worked hours; my dad had his own business. And so, it was just a natural flow for me to spend time with my Nana, as I’ve always came to call her as a young age. And in spending a lot of time with my Nana, oftentimes, at the end of the workday, say around four or five o’clock in the afternoon, I would find myself in the car riding along with her, going down to my grandfather’s favorite watering hole. And it became apparent of course, as I grew and began to understand there was something a little different about my grandfather’s moods, that he was alcoholic. And that is and if you will, in our family tree at the very base in the roots. I named my Bumpa, what I used to call him as the source of the addictive piece in my family.
So, you had that initial experience when you were quite young.
Annie August Rose 04:28
I did. And then as I was growing up, it was something that greatly affected my mother. And as I have written about in her family, she was a second of three children, and often felt embarrassed and isolated from having friends come to the home after school because it was never clear what kind of a mood my grandfather would be in and now you know. I loved him dearly; he was a US Marine. He was hard working; he was a postal delivery man. And often though, after the end of his day, he find his way someplace, and, you know, start drinking. And so it was not often predictable. And so, my aunt, my uncle, and my mother grew up with this embarrassment in their family.
Now, how did that impact your mom when it came to her parenting style, do you think?
Annie August Rose 05:29
I would say that she chose to be a nurse, which, of course is one of the finest professions that one could have. But in her personal life, she was someone who would not agree that drinking was okay, we didn’t have much alcohol in our home. The only time we would have a glass of wine would be with a holiday or some such like that. So, I think it really isolated her as a person, and it made her maybe not as outgoing and friendly as she might have been. But then again, she chose nursing as a profession. And I have found in my experiences, that nurses necessarily are all about business, you know, they’re all about taking care of others, but not necessarily themselves.
Yeah, it’s interesting when you mentioned her profession, it is not atypical of people who are impacted by this disease as a loved one to find a profession where they can care take or care for other people. It’s also interesting that she kept a strict rule around alcohol in the house to try and protect you all from the risks, if she even was able to acknowledge that in herself.
Annie August Rose 06:42
And even today, when I think about that, I’m sure it impacted my sister and myself. I mean, I know times in my younger life, when I would go out and probably drink a little bit too much. But as an older adult, I recognize how dangerous it can really be to drink and drive, for example. So, I’m very careful about how I drink and where I drink and with whom I drank too.
Does not appear you have had the disease of alcoholism affect you directly, as a person carrying it in yourself.
Annie Augustus Rose: Right
Margaret: Moving forward through the generations, what propelled you, it seems like to write this book was your experience with your daughter, and her illness.
Annie August Rose 07:28
At first, it was very evident with my daughter. And of course, when my grandchildren came to live with us, it was right out in the open. But prior to that my son, at around age 12, started experimenting, smoking pot with a friend and you know, smoking cigarettes, and then eventually, my daughter was involved in that too.
But as you speak of my daughter, and later, recognizing that she had a heroin addiction very suddenly out of the blue. Coincidentally, my son was also in trouble. But he didn’t live close by, he lived in another town in another state. And it was really out of sight out of mind, I had really no idea until I saw that his marriage was falling apart. He was job hopping, so to speak. You know, in retrospect, I’ve often wondered if that had anything to do with not being able to pass drug tests, that was becoming prevalent at the time.
So, your book is unique in many ways. But the first observation I would make of it is that you appear to have incorporated your journal entries, your letters, different things along the way to make the context of the book. Would that be an accurate description?
Annie August Rose 09:01
I can talk to that. Now that my book has been published and thinking about the process, it was almost as if it was a destiny. When in 1998, we learned about our daughter’s addiction. My husband was hearing impaired, and we were unable to actually talk well, on the phone and using TDY services was just, you know, cumbersome. So, we each had desktop computers. So, we used to communicate on AOL back in the day and word processing. And so, we would talk every day and for some reason, I had the presence of mind to keep all of the copies of all the conversations we had during that five year period of time. And that is really what got me started in this idea of writing a memoir.
And, you know, I’ll go back to when my grandchildren came to live with us in 1999. And when they came through the door, could I have ever imagined that 20 years later, fast forward that I would be writing a story about our family. And that that’s pretty incredible to me.
Margaret: It is.
Annie Augustus Rose: So, the basis of the book began with these letters that I had saved for whatever reason, and I just started with that. I found a woman who was interested in working with me, she helped me organize the letters. And that really was the sendoff for the memoir.
You kept them you say it was almost destiny, because it came to be the book. When did you make the decision this needs to be a book. Where did that come from? In you, Annie?
Annie August Rose 11:00
Well, it was around the year 2018. And my grandchildren were grown and out of the house, with the exception of my youngest granddaughter, who is Emily, named Emily in my book. And I had time, I had time freed up to just start thinking about the process. What more can I do, I have these letters, these letters in and of themselves, will tell a complete story. But that isn’t the entire story about our family. But it could, it could have sufficed if I had just had all of these letters and had just made a book out of letters from Jim, or whatever I would call it. But I knew that, that that would be an interesting piece. And it would help the storyline flow, it would identify real life, real time what we were going through. And as you know, you’ve read through the book. To me, it was an important part of keeping the story all together.
Right. The other piece of your writing that struck me really vividly, for lack of a better word was, I have a term that I coined years ago called Monkey Chatter. And Monkey Chatter is the voice within the family members head, that is getting them to fix manage control. Keeping them preoccupied on the person with the disease, making it hard to detach with love making it hard to set boundaries, making it hard to care for ourselves. And I do Monkey Chatter regularly to tell people about it and educate them about it. Because I think it empowers people to understand that this is a disease that infiltrates everyone in the family and changes our way of surviving. You put in writing Monkey Chatter, like I was reading your book at times going, Wow, how quickly and he’s moved from this to this to that to the other and all of the obsessive preoccupation that comes as a family member about what I call our drug of no choice, which is the walking talking human being, you really pen that very clearly, in your writing.
Annie August Rose 13:12
Thank you. I have a wonderful ability, developed ability, I don’t know that I’ve had it for all of my life. But you know, I’ve talked about Nar-Anon Family Group, and the very fine support that I have received from it. And of course, bringing a chapter here to my hometown has been so beneficial for so many people. And that really got me on the path of understanding. We can’t change it. We need to figure out how we’re going to live with it. And for me, I have this ability to compartmentalize and what I call putting it up on the shelf. And when I’m feeling like I’m strong enough to deal with whatever that is, I’ll bring it down and I’ll think about it, I’ll cry, I’ll scream or whatever I need to do. And I could just put it right back up on the shelf. It’s a part of me, it’s a part of my life, and I’m not denying it is just that I can manage it.
Could you always or did you learn that?
Annie August Rose 14:18
No, I think that is something that with experience. And now of course age, that I recognize the importance of taking the time to think something through. There’s never a need to have an immediate response. I like the idea of having patience and just waiting through a situation and that’s very difficult. Especially when you have someone say my son or my daughter who is frantically trying to change my opinion about something or get me to do something they want me to do and I have firmly planted my feet and I know that I have to have boundaries. And I’m pretty good at sticking to them. And not that I have always been that way, but it’s learned is something I’ve learned along the way.
Could you have learned that without the support of a recovery community for yourself?
Annie August Rose 15:13
I would say, given that I was presented with this opportunity, probably not. This is what came along in my life. And this was a lesson I needed to learn, and also teach to others through our support group, and we have many members who keep coming back. And it’s very heartfelt for me to know that by bringing this chapter, over 20 years ago, that people have come and gone, and so appreciate the program. And really working the program is how you live your life, right? It’s not just a program, it’s who you become.
Whether you’re the person in addiction, who uses the program that’s designed for them, or their loved one, it is very much action based and incorporating it into your life.
Annie August Rose 16:03
Yes, yes. And one of the things that I am so touched by, most recently, with the publication of my book are comments that I have had in return. Of course, there have been lookers on Amazon. And there have been reviews that have been written right now there are 11 reviews. And the book has been out since the end of February. So, I feel really excited about that. But mostly because I’ve reached out to friends, and also folks who have been in our lives as therapists and counselors, and I’ve let them know, I’m a one man, show here. I’ve an author, but now I’m in marketing and need to get the word out. So anyway, I was writing emails to various people who I thought would be interested to know. And I received an email back from a fellow who worked with my grandson when he was probably eight or nine years old. So that’s a good 25 years ago. So, when I sent the email off, I just wanted to let him know that I’ve written this book and how I had appreciated his participation in our lives, and he wrote back and he said, Congratulations, this is fantastic. And in the next breath, I’ve been drinking way too much. And I’m hoping that we can get together and talk about your book and I’ve really liked to read it. So of course, I gifted him a copy and I hope that a little you know, it’ll help him.
Margaret: Yeah, that’s fabulous.
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Bumper: Next weekend October 13th through 15th I once again will be in Amery, Wisconsin at Camp Wapogasset for our second Family Program Retreat with Spiritual Program Retreats. This is a gorgeous setting for an in-person weekend of learning, sharing, and connecting about family recovery. There are a few spots left, join us!
The link to learn more and register can be found in my show notes.
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With your early sharing about your grandpa. One of the things I would love to ask you if you can articulate it is you loved him. You felt affection for him, despite his illness, you also saw the reality of his illness when you were with them. I believe we’re taught in life by the people who are in our life, but also the illnesses that are in our life. What would you say was the teaching you got from your grandfather’s addiction? What did it teach you early in life do you think is a strategy for life?
Annie August Rose 19:23
I would say that, despite the alcoholism, it never changed who he was. He was always Bumpa to me. And as he could be when he had too much to drink, he was still inside there. And I never stopped loving him one minute. And I think that’s the philosophy that I’ve carried along with me all of my life. And if that was a good role model, I guess it worked for me.
And that speaks to moving forward because it’s interesting because his disease taught you that he was always in there and that you could love him despite his ill illness? Was that a struggle at all for your children? Or you felt the same way through their journey that I love them, I know the disease’s, what’s changing them? And that I feel the same way or was that difficult or challenging in a different way?
Annie August Rose 20:14
Well, that’s kind of a tricky question and one that I admittedly, I would say that it was very challenging. I was thinking back to when I was a young mom, and my husband and I were divorced. My children were four years of age and six, I needed to find a job because I wasn’t going to be able to exist on child support that I was receiving at the time. So upfront, I want to take some responsibility for being a single parent who was trying to wear many hats. I was trying to provide a nice home for my children, I was trying to be a mom. But I was also young enough that I wanted to try to have a life of my own, and I made mistakes. And I know that. Did that contribute to the eventual outcome? No, it didn’t. And I don’t feel guilty. Sometimes I have regret about what I did, or what I had done, but I don’t carry that with me. So, I will say that it’s definitely been a learning curve. And when you can hang up the phone on your child who you know, is just trying to work you, you know that you are making steps toward the right direction, when you just don’t allow your heart to overcome your good sense of what you really need to be doing.
To go back, what I heard you say that I think is so important for families listening. You’re human. You were a young, divorced mother, raising two little kids. And you did the best to provide, to get a career, to live a life, and to be a mom, you know, intellectually that did not cause them to have the disease. You shared the word regret for some things you did or didn’t do, which I think is a very human element for all of us. When did you know that that didn’t create the disease in them? Like when did you have that clarity always? Or was that something you came to?
Annie August Rose 22:20
I never believed I caused this. I believe that we all have a destiny. And sometimes I’ll say dud this happened to my children, so that in the broad sense, I could write this memoir so that I could help so many more people than my family. I think about that a great deal. And while my children didn’t choose this, they made mistakes. And unfortunately, what happened to them was addiction. It wasn’t something they set out to do, certainly, who would want, who would want that lifestyle.
The piece that you talk about, though, that’s also interesting in my language alone, that this is my words. Your children’s disease attempted to do everything and anything to get you to cater to it. The manipulation, the lying, the pressure, the blame, the whatever that came in.
That’s very true.
They in turn inside, just like your grandfather would never have wanted to hurt you. But the disease creates this turmoil and this chaos, and this ugliness. When you look at the journey that you’ve been on with your children and their illnesses, you mentioned something that I think a lot of families will resonate with, and that is that you had your son go through it almost first, but he was far away. And he had his own life, and a family and so you didn’t see the real damage of his illness till it was obvious. What was different about your daughter’s journey? Was she close to you physically so, you saw her more often? Was it more damage more early? You know, like, did it show up faster?
Annie August Rose 24:07
Well, she’s two years younger than my son. And the day she came to me and said, Mom, I have a heroin addiction was a complete surprise.
Annie Augustus Rose: Now she had, at the time two young children. They were seven and nine, a boy and a girl. And I was divorced. I was single. I was working. And I’ve never been what they call a helicopter parent. Now she had made decisions to have children. She was married and then divorced rather quickly from the dad. And I never felt that it was my responsibility to hover over them. They had their lives I had my life. And so, to say that we were close, yes, we were close, we were close in distance. But we were close as a mother and daughter, and sometimes not necessarily in a kindly way. You know what I mean, we had our struggles in our relationship, both of us are pretty strong willed, we’d like to get our way, you know.
Annie Augustus Rose: But nonetheless, this aspect of what happened was a complete surprise. And I had no idea it was coming at all.
And in the story, as it unfolds, when you found out, you offered resources attempted to get help, and it seemed like there was a pretty consistent pattern of that. Things would happen, consequences, use issues, get help, offer the help, the help would last as long as it would last, return to use. When along that path, did you just get the opportunity take the opportunity, however, your wording, this would be to raise your grandkids, because that was a huge part of the story. They became your care.
Annie August Rose 26:15
It was and you know, serendipity. What can I say? I had been working, I had a career in the natural foods industry. Our company was purchased by a competitor. My job title was then eliminated. I did not have employment. And now I have two grandchildren to take care of and to support. And so, it was a challenge for sure. But our lives have always been about challenge, or at least me. And if you read what I wrote about my mother, failure is not an option. So, we just have to keep going through this. So, I was very fortunate to learn about a Foster Care Foundation, philanthropic organization, called Casey Family Services, and they really were the ones who came to our rescue in time of need. And I found that with their support, I would not actually need to find a new job. And the idea of staying at home and being a stay-at-home mom, Gram, was the key to the success of our family because I was home. And I was a part of what was going on. And organizing, you know, the team meetings and making sure we had good therapy on board and so on and so forth.
But my daughter was really struggling, and I did what I could do to try to lead her toward resources and it’s very true, but she had nearly a 20-year struggle with her heroin addiction. And there was little I could do, and my contribution was making sure her children were being well taken care of. And I felt pretty good about that. I couldn’t live her life, but I could make sure my grandchildren were well cared for.
Outro: Come back next week where Annie shares more about her memoir. The powerful inclusion of writings from different family members. Annie even reads from her book entitled ‘Addicted Our Strength Under the Influence’ and what be powerful, perfect title for this memoir.
I want to thank my guest for their courage and vulnerability and sharing parts of their story. Please find resources on my website
This is Margaret Swift Thompson.
Until next time, please take care of you!