In this episode, Annie Augustus Rose, author of ‘Addicted, Our Strength Under the Influence‘ returns to share her unexpected journey of raising her grandchildren. Annie shares some heartbreaking decisions and actions she had to take with her children.
Annie’s book offers numerous examples of the Monkey Chatter family members’ experience, and a powerful addiction is the written words of family members sharing their stories.
embracefamilyrecovery #podcast #AddictedOurStrengthUndertheInfluence #AnnieAugustusRose #author #SusanAvery #recovery #addiction #addictionrecovery #addictionawareness #addictiontreatment #addictions #familyrecovery #familyrecoverycoach #familyrecoverycoaching #familyaddiction #familyaddictionrecovery #recoverysupport #recoverysupportgroup #recoverysupportservices
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 we pick back up with Annie Augustus Rose the author of ‘Addicted Our Strength Under the Influence.’
During the last episode Annie shared about the generational influence of the disease and how she used the writings between herself and her ex-husband as the foundation for her memoir.
Today Annie talks more about raising her grandchildren, the role patience, hope and faith has played in her own recovery and heartbreaking decision she has had to make as a mother of children who have struggled with the disease of addiction.
Let’s get back to Annie.
The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast
In talking about your mom and her work ethic and what she did for a living different but similar, you feel like when you turned into the gram and arranging the meetings and finding the resources, quite a social worker in tenacity and finding the right things to get the help for the different players in the family.
Annie August Rose 01:48
It just felt like a natural ability in some way. But what I often say is that I had two years of typing in high school and really, truly that led me into a career that today would never be possible without, you know, certain kinds of degrees. But when I was working in the natural food business, I was an executive assistant to the CEO. And I often felt that I was taking full advantage of his University of Virginia education. So, I learned a great deal in my seat, so to speak, and felt like I’m just going to do the best I can here. I’m going to take the things that I’ve learned along my way, and apply them wherever I can and assertively so, and not taking no for an answer.
You did not do that. Did you ever doubt taking the children? Was there a question about it? Or was that a natural I have to do this?
Annie August Rose 02:47
Oh, yes, there was. There was a big question. I was 52. At the time, I’m now 76. So, it’s been a good span of time off, taking care of and loving my grandchildren.
However, when they first arrived, there was some conversation about possibly living with their dad with whom they’d had a very fractured relationship. And when I gave it great thought, realize that the services that we had in place were in our state of residence, and he lived in a neighboring state. And I just thought, you know, these children have already had so many changes, I’m not going to do that. However, I did engage him to become a part of their lives when they hadn’t for very many years. So that was a good thing that came out of that. But in the meantime, now, my grandson had some significant behavioral problems in school, and in life at that young age. And so, it made good sense for all of us to stay together. But first the question you would ask me, was I questioning? Do I want to do this? Well, no, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be raising another family. I’ve already done it. But this is what I need to be doing.
There is a home here in our state that it’s a wonderful program for families who cannot raise their own children. It’s a school that eventually after graduating, then there’s another school, the Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania is a component to the educational piece. So, I applied, I wanted to send both of these children to the school. And when they said that my grandson would pose a problem because of behavioral issues. They said we will be glad to take your granddaughter, but we just can’t take on your grandson. And of course, well that was the answer. I’m not but it’s one and not the other. That doesn’t make good sense. So, I just had to twist my thinking. Tweek it so to speak, and we just move forward.
What came across also in your writing was the struggle with boundaries with your daughter and her parenting, or her role in the children’s lives at different times because of obvious challenges if she was not able to be sober or able to be in a stable living environment? How hard was that to navigate Annie?
Annie August Rose 05:27
We gave many opportunities for reunification. My daughter really struggled with her addiction. I mean, it just ate her up inside. And I would never believe she would have wanted that life. I’m remembering back to when she asked me to take care of her youngest child who had a different dad from the older two. And when she first asked me, I was overwhelmed by that question. And I said, no, I just can’t do that. But when it became very obvious that she was just failing miserably. I did. I had that youngest child come and live with us and eventually adopted her. And I know on that very day that my daughter gave up her parental rights, that it crushed her. But she didn’t have the presence of mind to know that she just wasn’t capable of taking care of this child.
A very painful tragedy in the progression of the illness. And as you said, your daughter would never want to ever have to make that kind of a choice, but actually made the most loving and responsible thing she could for her child, when she was not capable of being a healthy parent, because the disease had trapped her so badly.
Annie August Rose 06:49
Yeah. Oh, it was, it was the worst. And like I said earlier, you know, when your child is pleading, and begging, and wants you to, you know, put $500 on an account for them and, and it’s raining outside, and they have no place to live, and someone stole my shoes, and I’ve been staying under a porch. Imagine that conversation and then say, I’m going to hang up now. And I did. I’m not a heartless person. But there is a place where you have to save yourself where you end up as the victim of the disease yourself.
What gave you the strength to make that decision to hang up saving yourself from the disease taking you down?
Annie August Rose 07:32
Oh, I believe in faith, I believe in someone in a spiritual sense in the religious sense, wrapping their care around me and holding me strong. Without that, without the support of my Nar-Anon group, I would never have been able to stand the task, so to speak.
Its decision and momentary choices and life requires of those of us who love some with this disease that are unimaginable to those who never have to navigate these day-to-day experiences. And it’s so easy to judge from the outside, lest you walk in someone’s shoes, you have no business judging?
Annie August Rose 08:20
Well, that’s why I said to you earlier, before we started recording, I’m hoping that if someone sees my book, and that word addicted is going to stand out against the backdrop that it might spark something for them, they’ll pick it up, they’ll open it up at random and see themselves perhaps, or a child or friend. And it really is a tool. This book is a tool to help folks not only who have addiction in their family, but someone who has no idea what it’s like to be a child in a family. Because as you said earlier, I have standalone chapters are in the book of family members who could talk from their perspective of what it was like to feel left behind. And to not have a dad or a mom.
Yeah, I have to say any, I think probably the most other than the Monkey Chatter in written form, which was painful to read, but resonated because I know it and teach it and understand it personally, was the next piece that really grabbed me about your book was other than your candor, and openness of sharing it for yourself were the different family members putting their written word in their own word of what the experience is like for them. I think books can be one sided and you absolutely changed the narrative of that by having the ability to have those in there. And they’re not always glowing and easy read. They’re very honest and authentic to what they felt. You validated that even if it might have been different than what you felt. And I thought that was profound to read.
Annie August Rose 10:06
Thank you. Thank you. The idea came and we ran with it. And I asked all of my family members and my mother who passed away in 2019, was the first to participate. That was 2018 when I did an interview with her, and everyone, but two direct members of our family agreed to participate. So, it was awesome. And as hard as it was to sit down and talk about the past and how it had impacted them as a child. And then moving forward. I think it was pretty remarkable. But as you say, it’s truth. Its reality its what was happening to them at the time. And they were not ashamed or afraid to say how they were feeling. And my son included, and my daughter, I mean, it’s all there.
It is all here. And it’s also beautiful is a hard word. But I would say a beautiful portrayal of how everyone in the family has their own perspective and reality. And they’re all valid to who they are. Like, your daughter’s words, about her experience, in different parts may not mirror what you experienced, because you’re having your own experience. But both are equally valid. I think that’s important, because I think families often get stuck and trapped in defensiveness, and blame, and hurt and anger, when they can’t get to see the other side of the story and not take it as an attack or personal.
Annie August Rose 11:41
Margaret: Good word.
Annie Augustus Rose: And that’s why I felt in retrospect. And now looking back, did I have the intent of what you’re describing? I was just doing what I felt was the right thing to do. And then it all came together with the help of a fantastic editor. She really drove this project.
Well, but the other piece, yes, I’m sure you’ve never, gosh, 25/13 years ago ever thought you would have this story, let alone write it. What I think is so courageous is to hear the unvarnished truth of members of the family that may not have sounded like they would have been, if you had tried to tell it for them.
Anni Augustus Rose: Exactly.
Margaret: And that was really, really good.
Annie August Rose 12:30
I would not have tried to do that. I couldn’t have done that.
But was it hard to hear some of them? What they wrote or said? Did you have to go back to your own resources to come through that and look at that?
Annie August Rose 12:45
No, it felt very natural. It felt very much like who they were. Because I grown up with these. Now they’ve grown up with me, I guess, and I’ve grown up with them too, right?
So not that surprising or unexpected?
Annie Augustus Rose: No, no.
This podcast is made possible by listeners like you.
Bumper: I have been inspired through having been privileged to have conversations on this podcast with Annie and many other authors, to dip my toe into writing. Writing to me feels more intimate, and scary than speaking my story, which I do quite often.
All of this to say I am absolutely thrilled to share that in February of 2024 I will be one of the women coauthors in ‘Voices of the 21st Century: Women Empowered Through Passion and Purpose.’
I’ll keep you posted as things move forward!
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast. Can you relate to what you’re hearing? Never miss a show by hitting the subscribe button. Now back to the show.
How does the story unfold? You took the grandchildren in when will the first two were how old when they came to live with you?
Annie August Rose: seven and nine.
Margaret: And then the youngest came later because there’s 12 years is that right?
Annie August Rose 14:26
Six years later, Emily joined our family and then very shortly thereafter, I adopted her, so she had permanence. She wasn’t a foster child or a kinship kid. She had a real place ,in a real home, and a real family with us.
And how have they done? How have your grandchildren and Emily your child done?
Annie August Rose 14:51
I would say that in life everything is a work in progress myself included. But I’m very proud of where my grandchildren are and the choices that they have made overall. My oldest granddaughter is a single mom. She has a 10-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
My grandson remains in the National Guard, he spent a good deal of time in the army as an enlisted person, but managed to have a fantastic career, and is now studying to be a physician’s assistant, a local college.
And my youngest granddaughter had a baby in December, she’ll be 22 next month, and she’s figuring it out. But she’s living on her own. And I’m not too far down the road from where she lives, we have a very strong relationship, as I do with my other granddaughter. They’re both in the area here we see each other pretty frequently. I’ve been on duty, a great deal of the time, I’m still in the kid business. And this is speaking of someone who really never even liked to babysit when I was a kid. I don’t know how this happened. But it did.
Annie Augustus Rose: Yeah, very different.
Margaret: And how’s your daughter doing?
Annie August Rose 16:16
My daughter is doing quite well. She’s living in a town not too far from here in Southern Vermont. And she struggled so with a variety of programs she was in and out of and eventually found her way to MAT, which would be medicated assisted treatment with methadone. And it has allowed her to have a real life. She owns her own business. And she’s working very hard. It has been a struggle. And she’s faced down many struggles within her business, that if she didn’t have the strength of her mother and her grandmother, I could see that she could have faltered, but she’s had been hanging in there.
I think that’s an interesting point you make because you have a strength to speak of your mother had a strength to speak of, your grandmother had a strength to speak of. And though your daughter was in her disease, and really beat up by her disease, she has an incredible strength to survive that and find the solution that works for her to give her the life that she’s gained. There’s you know a lot of people can judge people who have the disease of addiction in many ways. But they are some of the strongest people because what they survive, many wouldn’t.
Annie August Rose 17:40
They know I have that image of her calling me that day, you know, or somebody stole her shoes, pouring rain. She’s living under a porch. And oh, by the way, it’s Easter Sunday. I carry that with me. And then and then and I think about how far she’s come. And I remind her pretty frequently. And she’s very grateful for the fact that she has survived this one day at a time, of course.
Margaret: Absolutely. And your son?
Annie Augustus Rose: Well, my son had a conviction. Two years ago, he was arrested while driving on an interstate with drugs with intent to distribute, and a loaded unlocked handgun. He is currently incarcerated. And I’m sure it saved his life. So, he and I would possibly not agree with that. But that’s my feeling about it. And he’s worked a program, I would say that the impetus was that if he completed the program, with success, he would have six months taken off of his sentence. So, he did complete that. And he’s hoping to be released sometime before summer. So, we talk pretty frequently. We laugh, we’ve always laughed as mom and son. And when the three of us my daughter, and my son, myself would get together, we would just be riotous. We would have such great conversations most recently. They don’t have a lot to do with one another for the all of their own reasons. I don’t try to orchestrate it. But when I have my individual conversations, we can go right back to great stories and laughter. And that’s okay.
How was their response to you writing the book? I know they both have contributed so I assume many things from that, but I don’t want to assume so. How was it?
Annie August Rose 19:37
It’s interesting, because, you know, my daughter works seven days a week. She’s working 12 hours every day and she runs fast and hard. She was very excited when I told her about it. I don’t think she’s even seen it.
Annie Augustus Rose: She did participate, of course.
Annie Augustus Rose: But my son being a captive audience received a copy of the book from me, like A couple of weeks ago, and we’ve talked on the phone twice. And he hasn’t really mentioned anything about it other than the fact that he’s really proud of the fact that I did it, that there are other people around him that are interested in reading the book. And I said, well I’d be glad to send a couple extra copies. You said, no, that’s okay. Well, I’ll share mine. But neither of them have really said too much about it. I think it’s something that bears a lot of thought, and especially for my son, and reading what his children had to say, has to be a real gut punch. And I don’t know if he’s even read those letters yet. I don’t know. Because he did some things as a young dad and left the family and children just, you know, they lost their dad for a while. And now, I don’t know if they’re going to get it back. It’s up to them.
And I hope if he’s listening, or the grandkids ever choose to listen that they hear my two cents on this, and that is the disease robbed them of their dad. Your daughter, disease robbed her of being the mom, she wanted to be your son was robbed of his ability to be the dad, he wants to be by a disease that was no fault of his own.
Annie Augustus Rose: Absolutely.
Margaret: And the kids are going to have, like you say, to come to their own terms about where they sit with that. And one of the things you’ve done a lot of in your time with the grandkids, and I’m, again, won’t assume, I’ll ask probably with his children, too, is keep a door open for language, communication, and resources that seems to be very strong in your story.
Annie August Rose 21:47
Very, very much so if there’s any information you might possibly want or need, believe me, I will go to the ends of the earth to get it for you. Now my son is not too far from where I live. His son lives south of us by about 10-hour drive. But he drove here last May. And he applied for permission to visit his dad in prison. We drove to the prison. We had about an hour and a half conversation with my son. It was very traumatic for both of them. Because my son had his own eyes on it. And he said to me, as we were walking out, my grandson walked ahead of me. He said, you know, I, I told him, I told my son in the book is a handy dandy I loved him. And you know, he never said a word. And I just hugged him, and we left and in the car. And he said, you know, I didn’t even know that old man was sitting across from me. Yeah, so we drove along home and had, you know, pretty light conversation was about an hour and a half. And I decided that I would sit down in a few days, and I would write a letter, same letter, I would send to both of them and sort of give them my take on it. And then it would really be entirely up to them to try to figure out how to come together again, if ever, it may or may not happen.
Annie Augustus Rose: I felt like it was a good idea because it brought them together in thought, even though they weren’t having a conversation about what was going on at that particular moment when I was writing this letter.
The collateral damage of the disease of addiction right there. Yeah, definitely is a different story to yours with your grandfather, though they’re not grandparent, and I wonder if it would be different than what your mom would have said about her dad. Because your grandfather’s disease didn’t appear to cause the destruction that your son’s disease did in the family. But it definitely takes tolls on family even if one is more functional.
Annie August Rose 24:15
Of course, my mother had grown up with ideas and attitudes and a very protective heart. She didn’t say I love you very often to anyone. So, it took its toll on her. For sure.
Right? It does. The other piece of it though, is that you’ve afforded the generations after you some insights, some language, your own recovery exposure, whatever they’ve gleaned from you through your sharing that there is hope and healing and that’s the work they get to do if they choose to.
Annie August Rose 24:56
Well, by having this as an example of our legacy really, then it can be a jumping off point for healing between family members. I think there’ll be many uses for our story.
I’d agree. Is there a part you would want to read from your book? Is there a piece that stands out that feels like one that you’d want to share?
Annie August Rose 25:21
I’m going to read just a paragraph from the back of the cover.
Tell everyone the title again, in case they missed it in the beginning,
Annie August Rose 25:27
Okay, the title is ‘Our Strength Under the Influence.’ Annie Augustus Rose, that would be me. This is something that I thought would be catchy, but it’s truth. And I’m sure that with reading the front of this book, and someone picks it up and turn it over, it would resonate for them to.
“Wait, what, Jamie? What did she just say, heroin addicted? What the hell? These words would change the course of all our lives yet until that day in September 1998 would I have had any reason to consider heroin or addiction a part of my family? Never. As our personal journeys began to collide, and unfold concurrently, not in my wildest dreams, what I have believed I would eventually come to know both of my children as addicts.”
There are families listening, who have never got any resources, this is their first step into the world of even listening to people. If you were to look back to your younger self, when this all started to unfold, what would you have wanted to know them that you know now?
Annie August Rose 26:47
The importance of parenting, and a parenting style that would hold your children close, to let them know how much they were loved and revered. To be a role model, like none other. That I eventually became in later life, but wished I’d had as a younger parent. I think like I said earlier, you know, we have regrets. But we don’t know, there’s no manual. You figure it out as you go along.
And when it came to the evolution of the addictions of your children, and your engagement with them, with your own recovery, what do you think a takeaway has been that you would want to share that was helpful to you?
Annie August Rose 27:38
Just believe in yourself. But most importantly, believe that that child is in there, that child is your child. You love them unconditionally, despite their choices, despite their bad behaviors. And honestly, if someone is in the situation, as I found with my children, if they didn’t have the support and love of their family, I think that we would have had a much different outcome. Have to hang in there.
Annie Augustus Rose: With boundaries.
Sounds like boundaries became a vital part of your journey that you wouldn’t have had early on but came to establish. Do you think that changed when you have the grandchildren that the boundaries became more enforced, or they were happening before?
Annie August Rose 28:27
Oh, definitely, I had to. I mean, we were in big trouble. And I wanted to make sure that my grandchildren had the best possible lives to live because of what had happened to them. They didn’t ask for it. And as I said earlier, too. I was a single mom made some mistakes along the way. I didn’t have the nurturing gene, I developed it. I would say.
It’s incredible, isn’t it when you say the word legacy to look through our family stories, in the different stages we go through as we mature in age, our ability to look back with compassion. When maybe when we were younger, we would have been more critical to realize the lack of nurturance your mom may have felt because of her family of origin, that you also felt.
Annie August Rose 29:24
All of those aspects of personalities get paid forward, good or bad. It becomes who, who they were and then we become who they were, and so on and so forth. And somewhere along the way, you have to figure out that you can’t change behaviors, you just have to have a different way of looking at it.
And you can only change your own no one else’s.
Annie Augustus Rose: Right?
Margaret: Isn’t that a humbling truth when you watch someone going down a path you wish they weren’t on?
Annie August Rose 29:52
There’s nothing worse than believing that that’s your child who was looking at you and there’s nothing more are heartbreaking, then believing that you can’t do anything about it. You cannot make it any different than it is. And it’s up to them. And that’s where patience and hope come in and faith.
And another piece you mentioned that I think is also a very big part of finding stability and serenity in your own recovery journey, as a family member, is learning to pause, learning to not react, even when the disease is pressuring you through the person. And so, I think that’s another component that you raise that’s incredibly valuable for family members. That you learned to take the moment you need to take the day you need, take the time you needed to respond in the healthiest way possible, just rather than react from the fear and the intensity of the moment.
Annie August Rose 30:55
And, you know, I do want to mention the support I had, I mean, I really wasn’t a one person show here, I had my children’s dad. And even though we had been divorced for a number of years, and it was as contentious as most divorces can be, we realized quickly that we needed to have a unified front. We needed to be on board to do whatever it was, and maybe only to support one another in the moment. And we did I mean; we became far better friends through this time in our lives than we had ever been before as young people getting married and having children.
And then I had a partner who was absolutely fantastic. And what I learned from her are all the things that I didn’t know about. And she was from a larger family, she was one of five children, a very strongly knit family themselves. And she was pretty wonderful and did more than her part in keeping us all together.
And then there were also the support services that we were able to tap into. And I found a grandparent’s support group. I mean, how valuable was that in just sharing with other people around my age who had been thrust into the position of re-parenting, their grandchildren because of the behaviors of their own children. And that was just remarkable. I’m still friends with people from that group today.
And then there were the support services in the school system. And then personal therapist. And as I mentioned earlier, Casey Family Services, I mean, we just fell into so much good fortune. Because we were persistent, and we weren’t going to let it fail. And we were going to find what we need to find or resources for our family.
Yeah, you were tenacious around that. I also think that one of the things you mention in your sharing of all the support you had around you. Your children’s father, and your back and forth letters, were really another visual that I think families could benefit from reading and seeing. Because it’s in written word, what many partners go through, in trying to navigate when the disease tries to pit them against each other, or one parent might have a different desire than the other, that you had each other to lean on when one was more tired than the other and could step in the gap a little. Your letters and the way you wrote the book really demonstrate that in a very clear way, that I think a person who’s never written it down will be reading it going, oh my gosh, that’s what we did. That’s how we did this. Because it’s so familiar to the survival around loving someone with the disease.
Annie August Rose 34:08
I think that also plays into the patience of the moment, because we couldn’t have a conversation we couldn’t articulate. So, we had to keep that flow going and keep those letters moving along. And so, it did give time to be a little more thoughtful about what we were saying back and forth. And I think there’s great value in those letters.
There are and I think you really raise a great point like hey, families out there listening to this, if you find yourself being really reactive within your partnership when you’re trying to parent an adult child with this disease. Take a minute and consider using the tool of writing to slow you down rather than this banter back and forth that can get really heated and really reactive fast
Annie August Rose 34:56
And it doesn’t solve anything
Annie Augustus Rose: only you know adds fuel to the moment. And I think that that was a strength that we developed over time.
Yeah, out of necessity was you couldn’t do it any other way. So, you were given that tool that others maybe don’t even consider, because they could just sit there and go back and forth verbally?
Annie August Rose 35:17
Oh, yeah, no timeouts.
Yeah, no way to read it with a different listening set in, you know, when you read something versus say something versus hear something, they’re all different. So maybe families, that’s a really big takeaway from Annie’s book, consider the tool of writing, maybe that can be a part of developing a pause and slowing down the reactivity that tends to be in the chaos of families with this disease.
Annie August Rose 35:46
For sure, then again, that just developed because we had no other choice, you know,
Annie Augustus Rose: but we made the choice. That’s the thing. I mean, we just didn’t do nothing. I mean, we made it work and the way we had to.
Yeah. And there’s very clear evidence of the struggles to set healthy boundaries stick to healthy boundaries, to co parent to not let the disease pit you. I mean, all of that’s in the writing. And it’s what I think is universally true in any family. That’s a struggle. Annie Augustus Rose, I thank you for writing your book, I’m so excited that I got the note that you had written this book through my virtual assistant. And she’s like, this looks interesting. She always throws things at me. And I contacted the writer in the paper. And they jumped on it got you in touch with me. And I’m so grateful.
Annie August Rose 36:45
Yes. And I’m grateful for meeting you. And having this opportunity to share our family’s experience. It’s a story that needs to be told. It’s a story that needs to be read, it needs to be shared. And I’m hoping, that’s my biggest hope.
Well, you’ve already got 11 reviews. And I’m guessing if anyone listening takes the time, which I know they will, to find your book and read it, they’ll add another review for you and get the message out there the value of this book.
And I extend also gratitude not only to you and your courage to do what you’ve done in writing this, but to every family member that contributed, because I think, as I’ve said already, that is an absolutely powerful, unique piece in your book. To hear, read your story, which involves you and different players, but mainly from your word, and the letters to then hear their words at the date that they put them in paper and share them with you. I really valued that a lot.
And I want to say again to everyone listening who wonders why that would be so valuable. We may all grow up in the same family, but we all have our own truth of what life is like in that family. And as families if we could be more compassionate towards ourself and each other and understand that truth it would go a long way, and I think your book shows that in many ways.
Annie August Rose 38:11
Thank you very much.
Margaret: thank you.
Outro: Thank you, thank you Annie Augustus Rose for sharing so openly about your family’s journey with the disease of addiction. I hope you’ll all go out and buy ‘Addicted Our Strength Under the Influence’ and write a review on Amazon. Help Annie have her book reach more people who will benefit from reading a story similar to their own.
Come back next week, I am thrilled to introduce you to Dayna and Mazz, a couple whose partnership was tested and proved more powerful than alcoholism.
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!