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Relapse

BOUNDARIES: FOR ALL OF US

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me, It’s midnight and I’m struggling with a decision. My son is a heroin addict and homeless. He just called and asked if he could come home. I asked him if he was sober, he said yes. I don’t believe it. A week ago today, I rented him a hotel room and, when I went back the next morning to get him, I found syringes and weed in the room. Do I listen to my gut and turn him away? This is SO hard, but I don’t trust him. He lives a very destructive lifestyle and until that changes and, as hard as it would be, I feel like I need to tell him that until he’s been clean for at least 6 months, he can’t come home.

My reflection: This situation is tragic, but it is also common in families suffering with an addiction. I remember well an evening when our family was invited to a special event. I wanted Jeff to attend, but when he arrived he was covered in sweat and shaky. He told me that he hadn’t used any drugs for twenty-four hours so, according to him, he was sober. It was obvious that he was detoxing in an effort to be a part of the family. When I told him he couldn’t come to the event, he said, “I’m not a yo-yo. You told me I could come if I was sober. I’m sober.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Our addicted loved ones want to be close to home. They need the connection to those they love, and they need to know they are loved. As parents, however, we have the responsibility to be clear – to say what we mean and mean what we say. Boundaries keep us all safe and let people in our lives know what they can expect from us.

 


UNDERNEATH IT ALL, THEIR HUMANITY REMAINS

A young girl, suffering from a crystal meth addiction, wrote to me: I met the local drug dealer. It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days, and l have a meth addiction again. It has been 2 years, l think, or maybe 3, since l relapsed. I don’t remember.

I constantly hear voices and can’t leave the house in daylight. I am convinced everyone hates me. The voices tell me that they will kill me, or I’m ugly, or I’m disgusting or that l smell. Some days l have 8 showers and then the next day l get so scared it takes all day to have 1 shower. Most days, I don’t trust the water out of the tap.

I’ve never ever hung with a crowd so violent. Last night a guy pulled a knife on a house full of people. And it’s hard when l never know what’s real.

Thank you for listening to me as l have no one to talk to. I have my mom, but l don’t want her stressed out. I’m afraid the stress will kill her. My lifelong friends and family have nothing to do with me. My mom and cousin try, but l abuse them day and night. l don’t mean to.

It’s all getting worse by the day. I have to go as voices are bad, and l can’t think now.

My reflection: Even in the midst of writing this rambling and tragic message, this young girl is concerned about her mother, loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to judge an addict as uncaring, selfish, and manipulative. While all of these might be true, as long as our children are alive, they still exist underneath the disease. Their empathy and humanity are still there, just buried deep within. In the face of this, I, too, will keep my empathy and humanity. I’ll continue to love my child, stay close but out of his chaos, and pray he chooses recovery.


KEEPING HOPE ALIVE THROUGH RELAPSE

A dad of a recovering daughter wrote to me, Relapse is sometimes harder than the initial experience of discovering your child is an addict. The hope you build one day – one hour – at a time as she was in recovery disintegrates into grains of despair. This time around, both of you are a little wiser at the game. In all that wisdom, though, the pain, the hurt, never eases. You feel the individual grains of hope in your hands, and you find faith in them. They are tired, weak, but as long as these grains exist so does your hope. 

My reflection: Relapse was a steady thief during my son’s fourteen-year addiction. Just when I thought he had changed his life and shown great fortitude in making healthy choices, the floor fell out and down he went. Over and over, relapse slapped us in the face. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Hope finds its strength in the heart, not the brain. With addiction, the events often spell disaster, and I found that only love could combat my despair. My younger son once asked, “Momma, how will you end the story about Jeff?” I admitted, “I don’t know, Jer. It’s not my story to end.” His answer was clear, “But that’s the point. We don’t know what will happen to Jeff, but no one can ever take away our hope. You have to end the story in hope.”


RETHINKING TREATMENT AND INCARCERATION 

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A social worker wrote to me: I agree completely with the philosophy of Stay Close. I have learned to be very tolerant and understanding of the pain and choices made by young people in recovery. I believe that our society must develop a new paradigm in terms of treatment vs. incarceration. The American prison and juvenile justice systems have become a dead end for so many. I hope for a time when drug addiction and mental illness will be treated with the same compassion as any other disease.

My reflection: Incarceration seems to be our society’s first answer to addiction. Sure, locking up the addict gets him off the streets and might even save his life, and the lives of others – but the problem is that we’re putting people is jail who are ill. Addicts need help or else their sickness resumes when they later hit the streets.

Today’s Promise to consider: Every nineteen minutes, someone dies of drug overdose. This can’t continue. Our addicted loves ones need help and treatment. The problem is that THEY must choose to get help. We can’t force them into sobriety. I pray that our judicial systems become enlightened to the realities of this disease and develop new ways to steer our children toward the help they need.

 


CUNNING, BAFFLING AND POWERFUL

Photo credit: Audrey Melton

Terry Gorski writes, Addiction comes into our lives posing as a friend and then slowly grows into a monster that can destroy us.

(Terry Gorski, Straight Talk About Addiction)

My reflection: I was deluded by addiction. It entered our home and looked like a phase. I shrugged off my concerns with the thought my son’s behavior was normal because many teenagers smoked pot and drank beer. Surely, Jeff would grow out of it. Silently and rapidly, addiction grew fat, fed on our angst and misery and, in the end, mocked us with its strength and power.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. It’s crucial that we parents pay close attention to the signs of impending danger so that we can intervene early. We are part of the medicine that can heal this disease. Education and closeness are the keys.

 

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SOMETIMES EVEN DEATH ISN’T A DETERRENT

A recovering addict told me: Dying didn’t matter. I couldn’t have been any worse off than I was, but I definitely didn’t fear death. If you die, that’s sort of a blessing. I was raised Catholic, but suicide didn’t scare me, didn’t scare me to be in limbo, or purgatory, or wherever you go. I don’t know, but I figured I had to stay here on earth and suffer for the shit I did to the people I hurt.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I would have sold my soul to know what it would take for him to put down the drugs and change his life. With each of his bottoms, I prayed for his salvation.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addicts are overwhelmed by the obsession to use – it often belies their own understanding. Sometimes even death isn’t a deterrent in the race for the drug. I pray that our loved ones choose life, but what will it take? I will stay close in love and hope.


“ADDICTION IS A CHRONIC BRAIN DISEASE, NOT A MORAL FAILING,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

vivek-murthyDr. Murthy recently wrote, I’m calling for a cultural change in how we think about addiction. For far too long, people have thought about addiction as a character flaw or moral failing. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and it’s one that we have to treat the way we would any other chronic illness: with skill, with compassion and with urgency.

My reflection: I had the good fortune of attending the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), 2016, in both Vienna and New York City. Jeff joined in New York and spoke about recovery from addiction. At both sessions, the world’s stance was clear: Addiction is a disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: As our medical community learns more about addiction, the worldview is changing in a fundamental way. For many of us, parents and family members, it can’t change fast enough. Our addicted loved ones have felt society’s scourge and loathing for too long. Today, I will help educate others, and I will pray for addiction treatment to meet the needs of the suffering.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/vivek-murthy-report-on-drugs-and-alcohol_us_582dce19e4b099512f812e9c

https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/surgeon-generals-report.pdf

 


HOPE THROUGH RELAPSE

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mother wrote to me: My son is an addict and is currently working on recovery, again. I’ve been down this road so many times before that it’s hard to be hopeful, but it’s impossible for me not to hope. During all the years we’ve battled this disease, I haven’t given up on him. I don’t know if that’s good or bad – it just is. Now that I’m older, I wonder if this is the way it’s going to be until I die.

My reflection: We must remain humble in the face of addiction because it is stronger than we are strong. Perhaps addiction’s most devastating effect is that it suffocates our optimism. As parents, we feel that we need to do something, but we don’t know what to do. We fear that the addiction will never end, and the truth is that it’s up to our children to choose sobriety.

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse can serve as a deepening of our loved one’s resolve to get and stay sober. It highlights the magnitude of the problem and points to the imperative to work diligently at a program of recovery. As long as he attempts to remain abstinent, there is hope. Without hope, all is lost.


RELAPSE AND STAYING CLOSE

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mother wrote to me: My eighteen-year-old son is dying in the next room. It started with severe headaches that became an every day occurrence. I took him to an internist who prescribed for him oxycontin. He became addicted in a matter of weeks. He lost thirty pounds, had black bags under his eyes, and did nothing but lay in his bed. We found a rehab center, but after two weeks he signed himself out. He is home now and trying so hard, but he is quickly losing faith as his body is turning against him again. I am so afraid that he will never get better and will die before my eyes.

My reflection: When relapses happened with my son, I thought that treatment centers were the answer; however, he never stayed very long and constantly walked out before his time was up. Their response was always the same, “We can’t keep him if he chooses to leave.” I, too, lived in constant fear that he would die.

Today’s Promise to consider: We want to save our children. It’s instinct. It’s what we do as parents. But drug addiction is powerful and it doesn’t let go easily. Today, if my son relapses and asks for help, I will steer him toward recovery and other recovering people, not necessarily with money, but with emotional support and love. I’ll stay close.

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ALL ADDICTIONS ROB YOU OF YOUR LIFE

20150915101043237A mother wrote to me: I am a mother of a 25-year-old son, who lives with us. He is a compulsive gambler. It isn’t heroin, crystal meth or alcohol, but it is the same thing. Any addiction robs you of your life, your joy, and the natural and innate endeavor to survive and thrive. My son has boundless gifts – he is charming, handsome, an athlete – but now those qualities and God’s gifts to him are buried. He is almost unrecognizable. He is full of shame. He is anxious, lonely, in debt and he says he hates himself. 

My reflection: There are many kinds of addictions: drugs, alcohol, food, sex, shopping, smoking, gambling and more. They all take our loved ones and our families to the same desperate place.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addictions range from heroin to gambling, and from marijuana to shopping. Addicts of every type live a tortured existence. So do we, who love them. There are times we need to take off our blinders and see our loved one’s behavior for what it is: an addiction. Only in honesty can we find a place of commonality and healing.


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