93, 92, 90, 88, 85. The red flashing numbers on the monitor were screaming to be noticed, as they dived downward.
My son pulled his head up off the bed in the intensive care unit and gasped for air.
“Please get me out of here!”
“I can’t breathe!” He yelled.
His face was a shade of non- agreeable gray as his reddened eyes rolled back. He started grabbing the many tubes that were sustaining his life for 2 days now. Just an hour before, he had told me he thought he was going to die the night before. But now…..
This seemed pretty close too.
“Please help me G-d dammit!” His teeth clenched together to bite the tube that was in his mouth.
I was embarrassed, worried, scared, sad, angry, powerless and confused.
I held my trembling insides together as I watched this first born son of mine fight the ravages of the disease of addiction’s monstrous withdrawal symptoms coupled with new diagnoses of pneumonia, flu and the surprise one: congestive heart failure.
He was only 36.
This boy of mine who was always moving (no sedentary lifestyle for him); didn’t cave to the smoking fad; Loved salads along with his hamburgers; now had the heart of an 80 year old.
Over the last few years, I had conjured up all scenarios of addiction and lived in fear of overdoses; but this? Heart failure? Never, in a million years.
With the withdrawals out of control and his oxygen dropping quickly, I had to make the decision to let them intubate him. This means a tube would be inserted into his lungs to breathe for him.
My husband and I were whisked out of the room while they inserted another lifeline into my little 9 pound 5 oz baby who had metamorphosed into a 6 ft 220 man now.
A flailing struggling human.
He was finally beaten down by the deprivation and the twisted, sharp fangs of the lifestyle of addiction. This larger than life man, who was the life of the party, now reduced to the mercy of these medical professionals who were strangers in a strange and dark town.
Driving into this town lately, made my insides sick mostly because of my sons infatuation with it. 6 hours from my home; we had made many trips here to try to console, consort, bribe, and pray for my son out of it. I had begged, literally begged, stars, famous entertainers, politicians, influencers and famous recovery “helpers” and rap stars that my son loved; to take an interest, take him under his wing and help us with an intervention to save him.
No one answered me.
One slightly famous, very influential- although a bit controversial -“star”. He told me:
“Your son is not who he thinks he is, and until he can find a way back to his true self, the true destiny he was meant to fulfil; he will continue to suffer.”
Well, here we are.
I’m not sure who was suffering worse. Him or me. Probably him.
I was told once that pain is a huge motivator. Would this be enough pain? How much suffering must one human endure? Either the recipient or the recipient’s loved ones- how much can one withstand?
I try to distract myself and log onto Facebook.
“My son is a monster!””
“I’m kicking him out!”
“How can he do this to me?!!”
My feed is filled with the mom’s support group posts of their person with SUD.
I can’t. I close my Facebook and stare at my sons’ now calm face. His long eyelashes closed over his sweaty face. This boy. This boy who has stolen my heart and encapsulated the last 3 years fully into focused kinetic energy of one goal- recovery.
Would this be IT? Would this be the final straw for him? Almost dying? His future completely dependant on his choices and decisions. Would my boy love himself enough to care enough? Would he care enough to love himself?
That answer remains hidden. Under the sterile cold hospital room. Amidst the beeping red lights. Under the stark white bedding that lay over my once vibrant happy son.
All I know is that my son is alive. Here and now, my son is alive. How many times I have prayed for this moment. For him to just be alive.
For now, I will not wonder, or stress, or ruminate. I will not make bets, or promises or excuses. I will not project my fears, insecurities and expectations.
Yesterday, I came within feet of my boy yet couldn’t hug him.
Yesterday I missed a call from my boy where I could have heard his voice for the first time in months.
How many moms would give anything to be able to do that?
When you are the mom of a substance user, these things are important because of the risk of premature or unwarranted death.
Yesterday, I still thought my boy could be gone, until I saw him alive and breathing in an almost interactive picture.
But I had to leave him again in the hands of faith and God.
Because of the wayaddiction weaves its tentacles into the crevices of people's minds, some things just can't be done the way you would if your loved one had cancer
With Cancer, you would enjoy every last minute and second with your loved one because hope is pretty much gone.
Addiction is more like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s together but with a cure out there leading you around like a dangling carrot.
The mind is under some sort of control, with moments of clarity. The body seems to be unable to stop certain behavior and actions. The mind then over- justifies the behaviors and downplays them. It might even lie about them.
Pride and shame work hand in hand when it comes to feeling like a failure. Pride says: “I can handle it, I don’t need any help, NO MATTER what evidence is presented.”
Shame says: “I’ve lost my hero/dad/husband/son/ uncle/entrepreneur status and the pain cuts so deep that I want to isolate and hurt myself worse.
People/society verify that feeling by treating me as a second class citizen, which then propels me to act worse and take riskier behavior just to survive”.
I used to think Cancer was the worst thing that could happen to a body and mind.
But I now know that cancer is usually temporary- sad & painful- but has a verifiable ending.
Addiction has brought me things that I may never have discovered.
I have crept into places and feelings that may not have existed. Because, you see, as long as my kids were doing well, and what society respected and expected; I could be proud.
But the minute the stigma of addiction hit my family, I had to hide my pain and shame. After all, how do you post the small success of improvement next to the graduations and promotions of others kids?
But addiction also has made me grateful.
Grateful for Hope. For Faith. For the possibilities of recovery and connection.
Grateful for my other kids, that despite all that’s happened, they have proven they can rise above the pain and thrive, possibly in the example and footsteps and honor of their brother, to make a life of joy for their families. After all, what speaks hope and healing better than by example.
I may not have been able hug my boy yesterday but he lies in my heart constantly, whether a few feet away or 400 miles away.
Looking for a surefire way to ruin your day, month, year, even all your golden years?
Try this… let’s judge yesterday’s actions with today’s information.
Take what you know today, with all your experience and knowledge; then look back over your life, make sure to focus directly on your parenting and sort through each detail. The next step is taking what you know now, with today’s information, and judge all your past decisions. Notice all your mistakes and say things to yourself like, I should have, I could have, and I would have.
See how that works?
Now that you are good and depressed, let’s talk about judging yesterday’s actions with today’s information.
As absurd as it may seem laid out in the above way, it is one of the primary ways that parents stay stuck, sick, and unhappy.
Many parents of substance users do this to themselves for years, always with negative results. This mentality of judging past decisions with new information fosters low self-esteem, depression, guilt, poor relationships, and even poor health.
The regret and guilt created by doing this can keep a parent engaged in a dynamic with their adult children that allows the child to avoid the natural consequences of their addiction.
Sometimes parents might judge others’ (spouse, schools, law enforcement, friends, etc.) past actions in relation to their child and blame them for their child’s problems and addiction.
This mindset succeeds in keeping the addict in the victim role rather than allowing the addict to take ownership over what he/she must change in order to recover.
This mindset is also often used by parents to avoid that persistent and scary (FALSE) belief that it is their fault that their child was given the curse of addiction.
If you can see the insanity in judging yesterday’s actions with today’s information, what can you do to change this mentality?
First and foremost, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This is where parent meetings are critical. Discussion with others who have walked this path will help tremendously; a burden shared is halved. There is a difference between knowing there are other parents out there who have dealt with addicted kids and actually spending time talking with them. There is enormous relief from shared experience and identification with others.
Educate yourself about addiction; anyone who understands addiction, knows it is almost never the parent’s fault and that the only way for addicts to recover is for them to take responsibility for their own lives. It is really challenging for them to do this and nearly impossible if the parents won’t let go, stop fixing everything, and begin to recover themselves.
Focus on today’s actions, dwelling on the past is never useful. Take todays new information you are learning from other parents and only apply it to today. When we apply a solution to the here and now it can really help effect change instead of keeping us stuck in the past. So, let’s try this again…. Looking for a great way to help you enjoy your day, month, year, or even the rest of your golden years? Try the above positive suggestions and remember that you are powerless over the choices of others but have the power to feel good about yourself as a parent right now!
As a Mom, going through this tumultuous journey of loving someone with substance use disorder; I often find myself in a quandary of confusion.
It’s as if I’m in some suspended cloud of anger and sadness, relieved when a ray of hope trickles through the misty light only to be followed by dark thunderstorms of disappointment again.
The steps seemed pretty straight forward at first. After the initial gut-wrenching shock of discovering the drug use of my son; the comfort (and naivety) that he’s an adult and can handle it, left me with a slightly aloof neutrality that it wasn’t my deal.
I mean how serious could a few extra pills be? He worked hard! He was always having back pain. He needed relief, in order to work.
Wow! Was I ever naive.
When the facts of how serious it was becoming- despite continued denial on his part- I found the strange foreboding “routineness” of being the Mom of a struggling substance user, set in.
And THAT was scary!
I couldn’t ignore the signs of impending doom, swirling around like a storm just waiting to hit.
I couldn’t just “wash my hands of it” like Pontius Pilate professed to in ordering the death of Jesus.
As the perpetual shoes kept dropping -a job contract lost; another of his businesses failed; then the marriage crumbles; I watched in sometimes shell-shocked horror at the devastation such a thing could cause.
The rehab failures, mixed with moments of clarity and hope, leave me exhausted.
“Walk away and you’ll feel better”.
“Go to a meeting, do self-care, live your life “.
It doesn’t seem to matter what mode of recovery my personal journey is at; I seem to be suspended in this cloud of perpetual uncertainty.
Will I be professing the “cure” as my son happily recovers? Or will I be in the mourning Mothers club of pain & heartache?
It takes me back to elementary school when we played tug-of-war. Will I be the cheering group with scuffed hands but happy smiles? Or dragging myself out of the mud in the middle trying to wash the heartache away?
Which team was I on anyway? Am I with the tough love crowd? Especially on those days when I’m being pressured for money from my son?
Or am I in the loving well- connection- above- all- group? In the middle, are the harm reduction lobbyists who are adamant about users’ rights & safety.
I’m running back and forth, I want to be on the winning team! And by winning, I mean I want my child to survive!
Above all, isn’t that goal?
My heart sinks every time I read ‘that post”. A mom who got “the call”.
I want to scream! No! I don’t want to be in this club! I want to show the gut-wrenching pain to all those people on Narcan posts who despise giving addicts more than one chance or ANY chance. I want to advocate for more help, for understanding. I want to break the stigma. I want to gracefully educate and come out feeling proud that we are making progress. One life might be saved.
I want to be that ONE. The one who finally found “the key” & pulled everyone together. I want results or at least palpable progress.
Just when I think I’ve gained some sort of empathy for my son’s and all substance users’ struggles, I’m hit with the accusations. Sometimes a stranger on Instagram, sometimes family and friends. That I’m the reason he still uses. That every time I use “defensive language” regarding him then I’m enabling. Every time I arrange rehab instead of jail, I’m enabling. (Which happened twice in 4 years).
I’m told that I’m wasting my time because he will never change & that I should spend my energy elsewhere. More than once I was cut off from family for how I handled the addiction.
This hits hard.
Rejected-not due to effort but to the direction of my effort.
As if addiction wasn’t painful or complicated enough, it gets to perpetuate its lies and havoc not only onto the addict but onto loved ones and how they “should” react or fulfill their roles.
I felt like my role was to give him one support person like everyone needs. I needed to be able to give him hope in the midst of all the darkness.
As my friend Johanna Richards states so eloquently:
“I enable my love and truth. I enable my love. I enable a safe place for him to have a better chance of feeling loved and being treated like a human being with worth and dignity.”
This is my goal.
Everyone gets to choose their response and I choose to love without regrets.
Even “tough love” when done with anger and spite stalls any progress. I read it all the time in the Mom’s groups. Unhealed pain manifests as bitterness and sometimes when they share screenshots of texts with their person, I can’t tell who the addict is!
Addiction loves to do that. Get its slimy hands between families, friends, bosses, even organizations. Divide and conquer is how it survives.
The underlying theme in all these interactions is:
If only he would quit using.
But I have come to realize that quitting is actually a tiny step in achieving actual recovery.
A necessary step, but only part of the process.
Treatment is the gold standard, but it’s a personal responsibility to recover. We have an idea that if we get them there-then the magic will happen.
All is well right?
But in true recovery form, as usually happens- a reoccurrence of use is imminent. Recovery is not linear and usually takes several tries.
The day after his 2nd rehab stay, he moved into an old clapboard & brick sober-living house in the worst area of downtown.
We were standing in line at the grocery store. He was so thrilled at all the new cereal flavors that had come out in the year or two of him being basically homeless or in jail.
He quietly said, with that far away, introspective look he gets in his eyes, “I wish Dad would fight for me. He acts like I shouldn’t have a job”.
My mother- heart sank.
As I watched this 36-year-old man trying to make sense of this un-make-sensible disease; I was sad. How could I explain to this newly detoxed brain, with raw emotion scourging back to life into places that he wasn’t ready to handle – that no one trusted him? That people hate putting their reputation on the line when statistically, responsible behavior in recovery, is a non-linear maze of disappointment.
He went on to say, “He wouldn’t even have that job if it wasn’t for me”. In his mind, he had done so much for others, for many years and felt abandoned, in a sense.
I felt for him. To have so much hope and the momentum of getting back to center but then constantly be told you might fail, like a certain recovery model preaches; must be daunting. To have people who don’t initiate their own recovery and work on responses and healthy boundaries; lay all the pressure on him to fix everything- must be devastating.
Rehab is a huge deal to him. He’s NOT a revolving rehab-ber, so this was a giant accomplishment to his independent, resourceful lifestyle.
But he had done the thing…
Get off the drugs, ✔go to jail,✔ go to rehab. ✔
“You’re still not good enough” or even “You are 100% useless” as one text on his phone said.
I sigh. This was his journey.
I can’t hold his pain or drive his recovery.
I can’t dwell in the negative, I just can’t. We’ve come so far.
I have to take care of me.
I need relief. I need feedback.
I go back to the support groups for comfort. When I hear the echoes of those same attitudes from hurt wives and mothers who can’t contain their pain and disdain for what they’ve been through; I quickly exit out of that group.
I need a more moderate group who understands the Mom side with compassion and hope.
All is well until someone mentions: “All drug dealers should get life without parole or death”.
Please God no……
If my son is only worthy of help when he’s ‘clean’ or not crossing a certain line in the jagged destructive course of addiction; then the other 50% of the time, it’s a toss-up as to his worth?
Is he surviving the best he can, day by day- or asking family for money? It seems, either way, he’s the villain.
According to some, if I’m not doing a thing for him then he has a chance -( to hit rock bottom) – even though – unrecovered, he has zero chance of keeping a regular job or getting money legally.
What happens in that gap?
If he can’t support himself, he certainly can’t support his kids. But that must be my fault too. I must have given him too many hamburgers when he was starving.
Ughh. The uncertainty and mixed messages that Mommas feel!
My goal was ALWAYS to get him back to his kids. In whatever way he could get healed and treated in order for that to happen. I never ever justified or supported him staying in his lifestyle. To do that I had to maintain a connection.
If I even so much as hint that connection works better than shame and punishment, then someone tells me I’m supporting his lifestyle.
What is a life worth?
Every single life in this convoluted mess of evil entanglement is of value. Each person is caught in their own version of the hell that it causes.
OTHER people in PAIN are not the enemy!
I want to have that blasted on every Billboard right next to:
NARCAN to overdoses is like AED paddles to a heart attack!"
It's not a "get out of jail free card!".
I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how to help my son anymore.
What I do know is that my son never ever wanted it to be like this. The man who used to send his little girl flowers every time he worked out of town is now considered a dead-beat dad and it tears my heart out. Years of substance use and conflict has isolated him further. In the short window when he is detoxed and willing, he can’t seem to conform fast enough to recovery expectations with a complete rebuilding of his life.
He has nothing-unhoused, unemployed and yet expected to manage and fix ALL his relationships AND fulfil the court obligations.
When I hear from some that “he hasn’t called me, or done this or that”, I have to step back and accept the limit of recovery expectations.
If the determining factor for a relationship of an unhealed, skewed-thinking brain versus a healthy brain is for the unhealed brain to lead the way to healthy interactions, there’s going to be problems.
There’s a dynamic at work in ALL relationships that was there before the drugs, and now those issues need more attention than even before.
But the pressure seems to be placed on them, to fulfil our hopes and dreams for their lives as it relates to ours.
That’s a lot for one person.
The progressive nature of unhealed addiction mixed with the correctional system almost always leads to more crime.
A draw towards people and places who fill that empty hole that substances, or any addictive behavior fill.
For me, the justification for spending more money on a much-needed intervention at this point, is a hard sell. He’s facing charges that could be years in prison. Prison is expensive too, but so are funerals.
I think he feels like he’s stuck in a system that never lets them breathe freely without looking over their shoulder.
I see what that psyche has done to him. It changes a person. He’s hardened. Day by day, little by little and that saddens my aching heart.
Pain & trauma damage a soul. It causes cognitive dissonanceto maintain a core belief such as “I can’t function without drugs”.
So in his limited mind of engrained negative and survival pathways, he can’t win.
Sometimes, I understand why people stay in deep dark places. Although to us, it looks and feels scary, to them, it’s safety. It’s home. It’s acceptance.
No, I’m not justifying drug use. I’m justifying human beings in severe turmoil and trauma. If they didn’t have trauma before the addiction, they certainly do after it.
So, this journey of a thousand miles is truly just one step at a time.
There are days I have to literally force myself to breathe and count each step to get through the day. Some days each step is filled with angst, trepidation, & fear. But other days, I project hope into every deliberate movement and breath.
I envision the day when my hopes and dreams mesh perfectly with my sons.
When all things good and right come together in some kind of radical entanglement with the universe and God’s plan for him. To see little kids happy smiles beaming joy into faces of love is my ultimate wish. To have the love and understanding of family with everyone’s pain in the journey acknowledged, seen & heard with hope, moving forward in love.
If you haven’t had the distinct opportunity to call the coroner’s office to look for your child you may not resonate with this post.
If you haven’t called the ER of 11 different hospitals at 3 am asking for a John or Jane doe, then you may think I’m a bit crazy.
Then calling again in the morning to get the main hospital to see if they were admitted without ID. Then realizing that they might have his name and ID but he’s still comatose so you call them all back and give his name.
10 of them say he’s not there. 1 says they can’t confirm or deny that he’s there, which makes me think he is there.
This is all because of a little green dot on messenger.
As I watched the countdown of his ‘last time online’ tick further and further away, my panic grew. My son was on messenger almost all the time. When he wasn’t, it was only for 6-8 hrs. When it hits 15, I panic. I text his friend to get hold of him. Usually this works within an hour or two. But not this time.
You would think my son is 16, 17 or 18 years old. No, he’s 36. When addiction is involved age doesn’t matter because the drugs affect the same area of the brain including the basal ganglia, extended amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
Whatever the age, they are going to bypass rational thinking, time management & empathy for others.
The prefrontal cortex is located at the very front of the brain, over the eyes, and is responsible for complex cognitive processes described as “executive function.” Executive function is the ability to organize thoughts and activities, prioritize tasks, manage time, make decisions, and regulate one's actions, emotions, and impulses.- Source
I have to laugh when I see this meme:
The term “Grow up” feels like shaming, or “throwing shade” on an already convoluted and insidious situation. It’s either a brain disease that affects the areas of reasoning, managing problem-solving, planning, and decision-making abilities- Or they’re just being immature and need to grow up?
Not one scholarly or medical article ever says they need to just grow up.
They need healing, yes so they can make more responsible choices but I don’t see how telling them to grow up is helpful at all.😥
It’s very frustrating loving an addict. In fact, I would dare say it’s a love-hate relationship. During the moments of thinking they are actually gone from this earth, wave after wave of emotions hit: guilt, sorrow, sadness, bargaining. You will do anything to be able to rephrase your last words to them. You beg God for another chance. Then, the minute they are suddenly “alive”, after the relief, of course, the anger hits.
Why is this happening again? Why does he just disappear for 2 days then offer a “sorry, I’m ok…..my phone” or some random excuse.
In this case, my son is running from warrants again. But these warrants are for charges they pulled up from a year ago – AFTER he spent 90 days in jail and 57 in rehab. He had only been out 2 weeks when I received a junk offer from lawyers who scout new charges. Otherwise we would have never known he’s been charged.
It was 2 days before Christmas and with that one letter my son lost all progress from the last year including any hope of recovery this time. He said:
“Mom they are never going to let me have a normal life. They want me to stay in the system forever”.
All the momentum he had built and the plans he made were swiped away with the threats of indictment. For having a disease that he couldn’t control.
He ran to Vegas because they were running his license plate every other day when they spotted him. First he wanted to fight it. He wanted me to help him get a lawyer. But then, the evil claws of addiction and that horrible town sucked him into the black hole again. He is hustling who knows what, with who knows who and no longer communicating like we were.
I am devastated, scared beyond belief. He’s facing years in prison with these old charges. But beyond that, I fully expect to have to do a funeral with these Vegas odds bearing down on him.
Today someone asked me “How is your son?” This NEVER happens. No one speaks his name in my family or otherwise. But then they went on: “I was thinking about him in church yesterday as they were discussing tough love, co- dependency, versus desperation to help a child we love so much.”
My heart sank. Here we go again. The “let him go” crowd. People who have lots of ideas about how to handle a situation that they’ve probably never been in.
I just can’t today.
How to say, “he’s dying! He truly is dying! He’s sinking into a black hole of isolation, crime and addiction into the under belly of an evil town!”, without sounding like the “co-dependent, desperate mom” that so many love to label.
This is a human soul. This a man who was loved by so many. This man helped many many people when he had the means to, and now he is "worthless" because he has nothing to offer. No I will not jump on the bandwagon of "let him fall, let him fail, let him "figure it out". I won't be tossing him aside until he can perform to my expectations. I will stand in the gap between good and evil and I will fight for my son. His life matters. Whether he's struggling or " doing well", his life matters & Yes, I will go to the ends of the earth for him.
Today I will continue to pray for a miracle. I will speak life into this situation. I will pray for the funds to appear to hire Las Vegas extreme interventions, because my son is in extreme danger. It is a fight for his life at this point. He is out of control and obviously unable to pull himself out again.
I respond to the question: “He’s still struggling” and let it go at that.
I don’t know where I found the following words, but I love the whole concept. It’s so telling of why that person on the corner can’t just “get a job”. There are so many steps to getting a job that requires emotional and physical availability. We take for granted that we can sit and choose what clothes to wear or that everything we need is right where we left it in our house. Yet we can look at someone and wonder “Why don’t they just……. “
There are many many reasons why they “don’t just….” The minute we place a label or opinion on someone else, it takes us to a place of judgement where it creates disdain or detachment. When we are operating from that place, we can’t be loving and helpful.
I talk about this judgement here in a previous blog.
Anger does the same thing. If we become angry at a situation- to the point of obsessive ongoing rage- it separates us from the solution, because we are so drawn into our victimhood.
Staying in that place only leads to further disempowerment.
The following saying is true:
Even if we aren’t the ones that necessarily created the situation, we are the ones that create the emotion around it.
To move past a situation, you have to be out of the intense emotion that the situation is causing. You can’t show love while angry. You can’t show compassion if you are disgusted. And likewise, the struggling person can’t just see a solution until he feels safe in other areas to move to that level.
I read this on an Addicts fighting addiction site:
“Ever been to the trap houses? Ever sat down with the “dirty trashy addicts” and tried to figure out how they got there? I have. How many addicts have had all their shit stolen? If you have no ID you can’t get an ID. If you have no shower or clean clothes then how TF do you get a job? If you haven’t eaten in a week or two and you have no job and no ID then how do you buy food? Do you know that a bag of meth costs just as much as a meal at McDonald’s? And that McDonald’s is gonna go thru your system and your gonna be hungry again in a few hrs. That bag of meth is gonna block the hunger pains for at least a day.
Do you know that to enter a rehab you can’t talk to your family for at least a week, you can’t smoke and you can have no caffeine? So basically your withdrawing from everything your system knows all while being completely isolated and probably locked up with ppl that you dont like or that make you uncomfortable. Now let’s talk about what can be done. Let’s create some sort of liason with social security and vital statistics so these ppl can get an ID. They cant get a job or a room or visit the food pantries without it. Y’all mock the crazy lady with the shovel walking around in her underwear. She was trying to make money while everyone mocked her. Ever been exposed to the elements 24 hrs a day.
Ever been hungry, cold, or roasting hot for more than a few hours. These ppl are stronger than you think. I’ve sat in trap houses and watched meth heads paint pictures Picasso would envy. Ive watched young ppl blow the most beautiful glass bubbles with nothing but a blow torch and their lips. I’ve seen ppl buy speakers for $20 and flip em for $150. I’ve met singers, and dancers, and poets that wrote sonnets so deep your heart cries. But instead of tapping into that energy and talent we mock it cuz we don’t know what it’s like to live that life. We didn’t always have houses and electricity and wifi. These ppl survive how they can and who TF are we to say they can’t sleep next to a river that belongs not to us but to the universe. Don’t like the mess? Cool, create fire pits, put a few trash cans out and some needle disposal boxes. How about we fund a few heads along the river instead of huge useless round abouts. And how about for community service we make these bad ass kids go out on the weekends and clean up the riverbanks. They want this gang shit- ok let’s give em chain gangs and maybe in the meantime they can get a lil taste of the hard life. Prison is nothing compared to the life these ppl live. Prison provides 3 meals(starchy), healthcare(crappy), temperature regulation(sometimes), work programs(legal slavery), education(GED), and tv($300 & it ain’t flat). The homeless have access to none. Stop complaining and get your boujee out from behind the damn screens and talk to ppl. Buy em a cup of coffee, offer them a tampon, some deodorant or a Change of clothes and show them you care. Even if you can’t save them you’ve showed them that they are worth it and loved and that’s what the world needs more of. I’ve once lead a life where I thought all hope was lost. No one is better than anyone else. We are equal. The stuff we go through may be different, or maybe your problems aren’t visible to others but everyone has something. The Lord said Love your neighbor as you do yourself. Which is hard to do. Satan said careless, walk on, Lie on, Hurt, Let die, Worthless, and Hate. Which is easy. ??? Why because it’s so true.”- Unknown
Here’s some other Interesting facts that help us to understand why they don’t want to quit.
I didn’t write this but I actually have my son on audio saying this exact same premise.
It’s one of many audio recordings I have of him, that I put in my upcoming book 1000 Last Goodbyes.
“If you can think of the happiest days of your life, i.e. wedding day, birth of your firstborn, landing your dream job, etc. your dopamine level rises to about 200 units. Methamphetamine’s powerful effects come from its impact on the brain’s reward, or pleasure, center. Meth does not directly release dopamine. It attaches itself to dopamine receptor sites and fools neurons into releasing large quantities of dopamine. This accounts for the intense rush a user experiences from meth.
“In addition, meth prevents dopamine from being recycled. Instead, dopamine is active in the body for much longer, explaining the extra long duration of the meth high. The drug does this by blocking (inhibiting) the dopamine transporter involved in its reabsorption (reuptake) into the original neuron that sent it. Transporters are places on neurons that reabsorb the dopamine after it has completed its job. As a result, more dopamine becomes available to the brain. This extra dopamine, in turn, activates an even greater number of dopamine receptors. This increased release of dopamine is primarily responsible for the intensity and duration of meth-amphetamine’s effects.
“In lab animal experiments conducted by UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Program, sex caused dopamine levels to increase to 200 units and cocaine caused levels to rise to 350 units. With meth-amphetamine, dopamine levels jumped to about 1,250 units. Overall, this study showed that meth causes about 12 times as much feelings of pleasure as sex, food, and other activities, including the use of other illegal stimulant drugs. All illegal drugs of abuse release dopamine, but that methamphetamine “produces the mother of all dopamine releases.” So, when an addict stops using nothing seems right, life seems dull and gray. Meth is a beast but I do know addicts who fought hard and got free of it”.
Until they are ready to get help, we also have to be open to new thoughts of saving their life, such a harm reduction.Believe me, I never thought I would be saying those words until the last 6 months when I was met with the immensely stubborn, deeply hijacked version of my brilliant, driven entrepreneur son.
Harm reduction is an entire blog in itself so I’ll save that for later but the important thing is it BUYS TIME until they can decide to seek recovery. My bottom line that helped me see harm reduction as a necessity is when I witnessed my son in full withdrawals thrashing around in the back seat of my car. He was begging me to take him to get drugs just to stop him from this torture. I said ( yelled) to him “Good hell xxxx, is this not enough to get you to stop? How can you be this sick & not want to ever experience it again?”. He told me, “Mom, this is nothing- try lying in a drug house so sick you can’t move or walk and begging people there to help you- either with drugs or take you to the hospital while they laugh saying -no way dude, we’re not getting arrested”……
I realized in that moment that if he had a needle covered in swamp water or ‘anything’ it would NOT HAVE STOPPED him from plunging it into his arm for relief.
An addict is NOT going to suddenly stop using because they don’t have clean needles. Clean needles WILL however prevent further pain & suffering by avoiding the added disease of hepatitis and Aids.
We have to keep pointing them to recovery! A whole new life is right there waiting for them”.
I have a large collection of recovery quotes (over 200) on my Facebook profile under photos- We Do Recover album . I love to share.
I’m not a therapist and I am NOT making excuses for the adverse and defiant behavior that typically manifests in addiction.
What I have noticed is that no matter what kind of dysfunction was present in families before addiction presented itself in one or more members, suddenly the addiction takes center stage of everything that has ever happened or went wrong in the family. By this I mean suddenly all- things- bad are the fault of the person suffering with addiction. All the other family members personality traits or domineering styles of communication are forgotten and no matter what the scenario, they are innocent.
Now, trust me, I adamantly believe that people, especially Mom’s, don’t need or deserve ANY more guilt placed on them. They already question what they did wrong and mull over mistakes made in child rearing or things said wrong during the addiction. But we must realize that everyone has unique personalities that contribute to an argument and to the family dynamic. Of course we can’t drill a mom with questions of “are you a controlling person or do you tend to meddle in others’ business?” That would be rude and besides, usually, people are not self-aware enough to know how they come across or that they have certain faults or behaviors that may be obvious and well-known to others, but how would you ever tell someone those things? And besides, it IS all perception anyway.
It may not even be the Mom who has some trait that is triggering or hard to deal with. It might be a domineering dad, or a judgmental aunt who looks down her nose and can’t ever be pleased.
I could give very personal examples but I won’t here. Just know that many different types of people take the fall for a family dynamic- it’s not just the addict. For instance the youngest child might get blamed for a lot. You can watch any family drama movie and pick out who’s going to be the fall guy whether he deserves it or not.
It’s easy to get on an addiction support site and participate in the addict- bashing and complaining of everything wrong in our lives due to the addiction.
That’s what support is for- to vent & get validation. But for every one of those loved ones with addiction there’s 5, 10, 15 different people in the family that have all different personalities and expectations that contribute in some way to how the addict deals with stress. All these expectations and demands can be daunting in a normal healthy brain, let alone one in addiction or early recovery.
Just keep an open mind when you are presented with opinions and statements of “their addiction ruined the whole family”.
Can you imagine the shame and humiliation that would feel like? To know you are responsible for everyone’s happiness in the family…possibly even extended family!
What a horrible reality to come out of the darkened loneliness that addiction brings only to feel that you can’t be one bit human and screw up what every single person expects from you. Recovery is difficult enough in and of itself.
There is no doubt that addiction is ugly and messy and ends up affecting Everyone. I’m not giving the addict a free pass here at all. I’m just asking for us to remember certain things before addiction. I have kept copious journals over the years or I would not remember a tenth of what I wrote down! It’s very helpful to read how people interacted and treated each other 10, even 20 years previously.
I found this article by Sarah Swenson from Good Therapy interesting and I have received permission to share.
If only they would stop using.
This seems to become the family mantra but I can guarantee that stopping using doesn’t fix all the family dynamics that were there before the addiction even reared its ugly head.
The Blameless Burden: Scapegoating in Dysfunctional Families
In biblical lore, Aaron selected a goat on behalf of the entire tribe, cast upon it the sins of all members, and then banished it alone to the wild. The members of the tribe were then at great ease, having been freed from their cast-off sins—whatever those sins may have been.
Everyone felt better, though they had neither identified their specific sins nor atoned for them. They had simply agreed to hang them on the goat. If this spurious logic was obvious to anyone, it was not discussed. Why question an agreed-upon means of making everyone feel better?
Now about that goat. It was selected from the herd and sent forth into the wilderness for reasons having to do with the sins of others. The goat had done nothing to merit banishment. But once the ashes were cold on the rituals of dispatching it, the goat found itself alone in the wilderness, isolated from its herd, in unknown territory, suddenly forced to fend for itself. It faced dangers from predators; difficulty finding food, sustenance, and shelter; and it lived the constantly woeful insecurity of a herd animal without a herd.
In dysfunctional families, for reasons similar to those Aaron devised, there can also be a designated person selected for the role of scapegoat. In a family system, the selection process is less overt than Aaron’s. It is done more by consensual and habitual shunning that becomes an unspoken code of behavior: one person is chosen to bear the brunt of any psychological discomfort experienced by the family as a whole. It is justified by repeating the stories that create and then reinforce the image of the scapegoat as being a person who is worthy of disdain and disparagement.
Like the strong goat Aaron selected, the target of family scapegoating is also often the strongest and healthiest member of the family. At first blush, this may sound counterintuitive. But think about it a little more. In Aaron’s case, there would be no group pleasure derived from banishing a weak animal who might easily die anyway, because that would not gratify the needs of the tribe to send off their sins on a robust vehicle, a strong goat who was up to the task of bearing the burden. So it is in families: the targeted individual is often the most accomplished. She—and for the purposes of narrative cohesion, our scapegoat is a female here—must be strong enough to withstand the weight of the shunning voices which might easily and quickly topple a weaker person. The scapegoating would fail if the weight of the sins killed the goat before it could even get chased out of town. Catharsis is the goal. The goat needs to be strong enough to suffer in order that the tribe members do not.
Just as the goat was blameless despite being sent to its lonely death, so is the human scapegoat innocent of all charges. She may not be a perfect human being, but she is no different from anyone else in her range of faults. It is not her character or her actions that have directly caused her banishment. It is the way her character and her actions, and often her accomplishments, have been experienced by the dysfunctional family members, who for their own unexamined reasons need to dispel this person from the family realm in order to avoid looking into their own consciences. They need to punish the scapegoat for provoking by her very existence the discomfort family members are feeling that is actually a result of their own unresolved issues.
If you are being scapegoated in your family, please seek professional help. You are not likely to be able to intervene in a dysfunctional system that treats one of its own members in this way. You may continue to experience the futile attempts at explaining yourself. You may fail to understand the way you are being treated. You may begin to doubt your own version of your life story. The price is too high.
Can a human scapegoat die like the goat of yore? Maybe. If not physically, certainly emotionally. It is difficult for the scapegoat to believe that her family would treat her in this unconscionable manner if she were not guilty of some grave sin. She wracks her brain and her heart to understand, but she cannot. The reasons she is given for being mistreated seem shallow, petty, and incomplete. It is difficult for her to believe these small transgressions could warrant such heavy condemnation.
She begins to doubt her own version of reality, since consensus in her own family supports a narrative different from her own about who she is and what she does or has done. She learns that if she tries to sort this out, she will be accused of “playing the victim” or being selfish, or being a “drama queen.” She is able to hold to her knowledge that this assessment and treatment are not right, until one day, utterly discouraged, she gives up. The full weight of the banishment settles upon her. She is alone. She doesn’t try to understand or explain anything anymore. She has moved into accepting a fate that makes no sense to her.
Good mental health at this point suggests she make her peace with leaving behind the family that fails her so completely. And if she is strong and well-supported with friends, she may be able to do this. She will pay a lifelong price for sins she did not commit, however, because it is difficult and painful to extract oneself from one’s family. It is counter to the most basic of human needs for home, shelter, affiliation. It is a cruel and inexcusable undertaking for a family to scapegoat a member.
If you look at the research regarding the fate of individuals who have been relentlessly bullied, you can draw conclusions about what happens to scapegoated family members, for scapegoating is bullying with focused and long-term intensity. Some bullied children go on to become bullies themselves. Some develop social skills to divert and challenge bullying, though the scars of having been bullied may insert themselves into their lives in many ways for many years to come. Others, however, do not survive, driven to suicide.
I go through my day in auto mode. The little problems, the endless chitter-chatter. Someone needs a bandaid or an Electrocardiogram.
A mom of one of my patients wants to talk about vitamins.
What about oxycodone? Or Heroin? Let’s talk about that evil monster that ruined my life the last few years. But I can’t. I have to pretend I care. I have to BE NICE. Professional. I can’t think of my son sitting in a jail cell with a bullet hole in his leg.