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Not My Child

Overdose Awareness Day

For all those who see all the purple banners today representing overdose awareness day and you scroll on by thinking:

“I’m glad that doesn’t affect me, I’m glad I taught my kids better” or “Someone should have got them help”.

I applaud you. I do.

I am sooo glad that you have never had to watch your beautiful child turn into someone you didn’t know,
I’m sooo glad you’ve never had to get a call from the inmate phone system asking if you’ll accept the charges as you swallow the lump in your throat.

I’m soooo glad you’ve never had the experience of watching your 28-year-old, Once 220 lb- now 160 lb son, thrash around in the back seat, sweating, then freezing, begging his own mother to please take him to get drugs to stop this sickness, as you’re trying to take him to detox.

I’m sooo glad you’ve never had to see a dad in a restaurant with his kids & have your heart ache so deeply that your son isn’t with his kids.

I’m so glad you don’t have to sit down at a delicious meal & feel a twinge of guilt knowing your child hasn’t eaten for days & wondering where he is at.

I’m so glad you’ve never had to see your precious grandkids celebrate a birthday & not knowing the words to tell them that their dad has a chronic, progressive, fatal illness that teaches him lies & makes him do crazy things but he’s NOT crazy & this IS NOT happening because they are unworthy of love or did something wrong.

I’m glad that you would never tell a dying lung cancer patient that they shouldn’t have started smoking. I’m glad you would never tell a diabetic patient that they only get ONE chance to get their blood sugars under control, and then they’re on their own.

Or they should just get over this pesky illness that’s inconveniencing everyone.

I truly am.

Because I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on anyone. I would never want anyone else to lay awake at night, unable to stop the tears, wondering what they could have done differently.

I wouldn’t want anyone else to wonder if today is the day that THEY get the call.

I’m very glad that you taught your kids to make better choices, & that you’ve never broken the speed limit or took a drink or had something so traumatic in your life that you just needed to get through the pain for a minute- And if you did, luckily you were able to stop or walk away without any devastating effects.

Great genes, or coping skills! I wonder if you could help teach those to others? Obedience to life and all the rules, like you have done your whole life, must feel great. I’m sure you love your wonderful life.

What say you? Oh, your life isn’t perfect? I must have missed that part when you were shaking your head in disgust, or when you were rapidly typing with your two thumbs on the Narcan post that your tax dollars shouldn’t have to pay for others’ dumb choices.

In that case, we should start looking at ALL the programs funded by taxpayer money AND also the local hospital programs for heart disease and diabetes, HIV, many of which are the result of personal choices and they DO affect others in their own way.

I’m sure you’re normally a compassionate person. I used to be you. I was compassionate AND caring! I donated to the local children hospital fund. I ran in the race-for-cancer cure fun run. I donated coats for the homeless drive every winter when my kids were little. I left cans on my front door for the boy scout food drive.

But when driving by the guy on the corner, avoiding eye contact with him; I just KNEW that he was only supporting his habit and I had all I could do to not say out loud, “Just GET A JOB!

I understand, I do.

Never, ever, did it cross my mind that I would be walking into a police station to pick up leftover evidence that they had from a drug bust. Never, ever did I think I would be watching a nurse drain a cyst off my sons arm and watching him scream in pain. Never, ever did I worry every single day that my sons life would end, except maybe when he was a baby and had a high fever and was vomiting all night.

See, I’m not really that much different than you. The difference is, I’ve had the humbleness bug forced upon me for a few years now. I don’t hold it against you that you have missed that bug.

We need to create practical affordable solutions for all- while eliminating the waste & fraud in treatment.

Shame and embarrassment are keeping people from seeking treatment.

Even if that means opening our mind up to alternative treatments such as Harm reduction.

The death rate is frightening and it IS AN EPIdemic as it affects the core of the family structure, jobs, crime, the jail system, and little kids who grow up with the stigma of a parent in jail or who has died.

Addiction affects every aspect of society whether directly or indirectly. If you don’t have anything to offer to help stop this nightmare, then please please offer your compassion and time. Even if you don’t understand how it gets to this point, you can still give
HOPE to a suffering addict or a kind word to the family of a person with a substance use disorder.

Or what about not arguing about insulin needing to be free. Maintenance meds are not usually free to anyone, but AED paddles and Narcan to revive-not treat, are free to EMTS.

Other people in pain are NOT the enemy.

See, I don't want one more parent to have to bury a child due to drugs or alcohol, but the only way that's going to happen is if we ALL take on a little part of this ongoing and progressive epidemic to get rid of judgements and stigmas so we can forge practical, affordable solutions for all. 
This IS everyone's problem...

It’s ok to NOT understand the complexities of this disease and to not have a solution!

You can still give that person holding a sign on the corner, a $5 McDonald’s card to let him know that yes, someone does give a damn today- no matter what their motives.

Without hope, everyone suffers.
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Home Base

Deep Learning versus Disease?

I despise the argument of addiction being a disease or a choice. For the simple fact that I’m a nurse. If a child has a sliver in their finger, it really doesn’t matter how it happened; we just have to get it out. Even while the child is fighting us trying to get it out.

With addiction, I just don’t see the relevance to what it matters after the fact. If it’s a choice then are we really going to use that as a punishment?

Someone is writhing in pain from excruciating nausea and chills and shaking uncontrollably and we are going to tell them you made this choice? Really?

Or the unconscious patient, as we stand there holding the narcan saying, “I don’t know dude, I don’t know if this was accidental or your choice so I’ll just stand here and play God for a minute until I decide if you’re worth saving”.

Remember the tainted Tylenol episode from year’s ago? Someone put stuff in bottles of Tylenol then put them back on the shelf. Customers took them for pain or discomfort and a few died.

Well -I make the argument that Addicts are in pain and discomfort and they take something to make themselves feel better too. And some of what they take is deadly. Just because we don’t agree with what they took doesn’t make their life less valuable.

I’m all about finding better ways to get them to not want to take the “tainted” Tylenol.

So it was interesting to read this article from the National Drug and Alcohol Centre in Sydney; stating that addiction may be more the result of Deep Learning. Rather than a disease. …or basically Habits as I wrote earlier.

The article states that:

“Addiction still is ‘probably’ triggered by stress or alienation. It can duly be unlearned by forging stronger synaptic pathways via better habits”.

This gives me alot more hope for recovery for my son, than being chained to 12 step meetings the rest of their life and forever facing “triggers” that will surely cause relapse.

I feel that way because that seems to be my son’s attitude too, and a main reason why he doesn’t seek recovery. He just doesn’t believe in the current advertised recovery model. He sees the statistics and sees the relapses and he feels like the stigma perpetuates that it’s a lifelong battle and only makes addicts feel hopeless that they can’t achieve that.

Some of this attitude is definitely his hijacked brain talking, trying its damndest to extend the addiction as long as it can, to keep my son it’s slave in misery.

My son also doesn’t trust the medical prefessionals who he feels perpetuated his early addiction. ( Again, this IS his hijacked brain talking- BUT The proof has also come out that this is true. )

The article agrees:

“The implication for the $35 billion-dollar treatment industry in the US is that tackling addiction as a medical issue should be only a small element of a more holistic approach. The problem is, there’s a lot of vested interest – and financial investment – in perpetuating the disease model”.

Professor Allison Ritter expresses fatigue with the brain disease model.

“It has not produced any new technologies for treatment nor necessarily decreased stigma or improved the lot of people who experience dependence problems”.

Matthews Hope Foundation is one model that’s trying to change the landscape of recovery with remapping the brain to imbed different pathways which result in better habits. It’s called Iasis technology.

On their website they have Nicole Labors’ Neuroscience of Addiction video. She is one of my favorite advocates for explaining addiction and this video hits it all.

Regardless, the cause isn’t nearly as important as the solution. As this Mother who has lost a child stated: What does it matter? The pain of loss is heartbreaking.

As I sit here in the early morning hours finishing this article, awaiting my nurse shift to begin; I’m overwhelmed with a sadness that I even have to defend my son’s recovery. So much energy spent on some sort of moral aspect of addiction, when people are suffering and dying. It’s heartbreaking. My entire family has a big hole in it from this journey, just as we would if my son had a debilitating, progressively deadly disease such as Lou Gehrig’s. Some diseases do affect the mind eventually yet that doesn’t lessen our compassion for them.

Addiction is a complex insidious, torturing disease of the brain and all I’m asking for is some compassion that will move people toward more action- less judgement.