NARCAN: ONE MOTHER SAVED HER SON’S LIFE

A mom wrote to me: Two weeks ago, one of my worst nightmares occurred. My son, who had been ‘clean for 3 years,’ overdosed in my house. Luckily, his friend went to check on him, and found him down. I had Narcan in the house and, thankfully, it saved his life. I never heard him come into the house and never heard him drop to the floor. If his friend hadn’t checked on him, my son would be dead! I still cannot get the image of his face, blue and not breathing, out of my head. I thank God that I had Narcan in my home. Now, all of my family members carry it, even my son.

My reflection: This is a wake-up call to all of us. I asked my son, who is fourteen-years sober from a heroin addiction, if he thought it would be good for our family and all families to have Narcan on hand. His response was clear, “Yes, Narcan is a lifesaving tool and I think it’s important to have at the ready for families with a history of opiate addiction, no matter how long it’s been dormant.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse can happen, especially now with our loved ones facing an avalanche of modern stressors. With so many drugs laced with deadly Fentanyl, the chances of death loom even larger. Today, let us each think about having Narcan available in our homes. We never know what might happen, and we need to be prepared even when we think we won’t need it. Our quick response can save lives.

OVERDOSES: AN ALARMING NATIONAL INCREASE

The Washington Post reports that drug overdoses nationally jumped 18% in March, 29% in April, a staggering 42% in May.

Nationwide, federal and local officials are reporting alarming spikes in drug overdoses – a hidden epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that the continued isolation, economic devastation, and disruptions to the drug trade in recent months are fueling the surge. The American Medical Association recently issued a warning, citing reports from officials in 34 states about the increased spread of such synthetic drugs and rising overdoses….Research has established strong links between stagnating economies and increases in suicides, drug use, and overdoses. In recent years, economists Anne Case and Nobel Prize-winner Angus Deaton have dubbed such increasing fatalities as “deaths of despair.”

 ‘Cries for help’: Drug overdoses are soaring during the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post, William Wan and Heather Long

My reflection: These numbers are terrifying. While our country is embroiled in many difficult issues, addiction help and resources have become even more limited. Addiction, overdoses, and deaths are on the rise, and we must pay attention.

Today’s Promise to consider: This is a call to awareness. The statistics say it all: in the month of May, there was a 42% national increase in overdoses. Today, let us be extra attentive to the condition of our loved ones, to their despair, and to their wellness. Addiction is called the ‘disease of isolation.’ Let us reach out to our loved ones, check in on them, and remind them that they are loved and supported. Let us join voices and form a chorus of strength.

 

 

 

 

 

ADDICTION: WHERE DO WE FIND PEACE?

A mother wrote to me: My daughter has been in sober houses, psychiatry hospitals, jails, and detoxes. She’s attempted suicide. Like a merry-go-round, she’s been sober, until she wasn’t. I can’t make her do what she refuses to do. If I could climb into her body, I would. But I can’t. It’s her journey.

I always thought that if she was okay, I would have peace. Now, I realize that it’s not her job to bring me peace. That’s a tall order to put on my addicted child…and it’s not what she needs to do. Her peace must come from living in the solution. My peace must come from inside me, from my Higher Power.

My reflection: For the fourteen years of my son’s addiction, I ached for peace, the peace I thought I would surely find if he were sober. His addiction demanded center stage in my life, and the consequences of his actions overtook me at every turn. Whether it was detoxes, car crashes, or arrests, he was always on my mind and, when he wasn’t and I experienced moments of joy, I soon returned to my mental machinations about what would happen next.

Today’s Promise to consider: Our peace must come from within. It can’t be contingent on the rise and fall of our child’s addiction because, if it does, our serenity rests on the surface of a rolling sea. Additionally, it’s not our suffering loved ones’ responsibility to bring us peace. It’s their job to fight for their sobriety. Let us pray them home.

 

I’M IN CONTROL OF JUST ONE PERSON – MYSELF

A dad wrote to me: I am so tired of the lies and the constant drama that our family has had to deal with. We parents care so much for our children that it’s really difficult to watch them self-destruct. I’m getting much better at realizing that I am in control of just one person: myself. I think prayer is the only answer.

My reflection: It’s counterintuitive to admit that we can’t control the behavior of our addicted loved ones, especially when they’re young. It was unfathomable to me that Jeff wouldn’t listen, even when I threatened to make him leave the house, take away his car, or send him to a treatment center in some distant state. My dad’s words rang in my ears, “Tell him to stop, dammit. Tell him to stop.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Once, at an Al-Anon meeting, the speaker held a hula-hoop over her head and then dropped it around her and onto the floor. She pointed to her feet to bring our attention to the space inside the hoop, “I can control only what’s inside this circle.” It was a simple visual that resonated deeply with me. My son had his own hoop. I had mine.

RELAPSE REQUIRES COURAGE FOR ALL OF US

A mother wrote to me: My son is still on the revolving road to recovery. He has been in detox three times, rehab (both inpatient and outpatient), in a sober house, involved in AA with a sponsor, and is presently trying the suboxone route with individual counseling. My heart is broken, but I will find my courage.

My reflection: Our suffering loved ones must learn to live in abstinence and that’s a new and scary place for them. They know how to occupy addiction, but sobriety requires skills that are foreign to them or skills they’ve long forgotten.

At one point Jeff wrote the following about a friend who relapsed, which helped me understand in a deeper way how complicated it is, “I know that place. He was in pain, and it was too much. He used to kill it. Then he needs to keep using because the addiction has kicked in. An addict loses all sense of free will; you’re thrown back into the space of obsession, of always needing something more. I’m sure he’s scared and confused.”

Today’s Promise to Consider: Relapse scares me as a mom, but I will remember that it’s also frightening for my loved one. I can’t fix my child’s addiction or fight his battles, but I can love him with distance. His goal is to learn to live in the solution. My goal is to have the courage to stay close.

SUFFERING: WE ALL SUFFER, BUT WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?

I once called our beloved Dr. MacAfee, my son’s addiction therapist, to talk about suffering: During the fourteen years of my son’s addiction, I suffered, as we all do when we see our child destroy himself and his life. At that time, I received an email from a mom in which she wrote, “You need to quit complaining about your suffering. You need to learn from it.” Although I understood the concept of learning from pain, I also felt confused and hurt. Was I not ‘allowed’ to talk about or feel the constant heartache? I needed help putting things together. 

Dr. MacAfee’s responded: “Life is suffering. Until we get this concept, we can’t move on. Although days are filled with many beautiful moments, suffering is part of life. The question is not how do we live without pain, but how do we allow that pain to transform us. Suffering can be redemptive, sculpting us into better people if we let it. The problem is when we get mired in our own suffering, and resist it, then it becomes nonproductive. Acceptance of pain allows it to pass through us.”

Today’s Promise to consider:  Addiction taught me that pain is both the cross and the resurrection. We all suffer, and no one is immune. Whether the pain we experience is part of the current pandemic, addiction, health issues, money problems, or a myriad of other heartaches, today I will allow it to flow through me. I will breathe deeply, not resist the hurt, and let the trauma help me to grow.

 

 

 

COURAGE: RECOVERING FROM ADDICTION TAKES A LOT OF IT

A dad wrote to me: Our children have to fight their addictions and win. We, as parents, will never know how hard their battles are or understand the strength they need. I think that anyone who has battled through addiction deserves a lot of credit.

My personal reaction: Dr MacAfee told me, “Addiction is loss.” Recovery, he said, offered my son the space to rediscover his identity and, in time, the real Jeff would emerge. This was a journey that Jeff would have to do alone. I came to realize the enormity of the fight that he had to face in order to win his battle against addiction.

I once told Jeff, “You have a lot of courage to do this again.” He paused and then said quietly, almost to himself, “Courage? That’s a word rarely used with people like me. Yeah, it takes courage.”

Today’s Promise to Consider: Words like strength, courage, and hope are seldom used in the same sentence with addicts. My son and I faced journeys of despair and self-discovery. We both needed courage as we made decisions that would lead to our health and wholeness. My son chose to fight his addiction. I chose to fight my fear. We each chose to change, and we each took action.

 

 

HOW TO LIVE THROUGH ADDICTION and THIS HEALTH CRISIS

Henri Nouwen, priest, professor, and author of 39 books of the spiritual life, teaches that the great challenge in life is living through your wounds instead of thinking through them. For example, it’s better to cry than to worry, and it’s better to feel your wounds deeply than to intellectualize them. It is in our heart where we discover they will not destroy us.

My reflection: I analyze my thoughts. I write about them and talk them to death. When my son was in active addiction, I made myself sick with worry, had difficulty sleeping, and struggled throughout the day to remain present. I finally learned that thinking about and fighting my feelings just made them stronger.

Today’s Promise to consider: Pain is a part of life, but suffering is optional. Today, I will open my heart to my feelings of grief, and I will allow them to simply be with me. I will let them run their course and trust that they will pass in time. Today, I will pray the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me: Two of my three children are addicted to drugs and my life has been forever altered. The relationship between mother and addicted child is unique, but I know that that does not diminish the experiences of other family members. Through group work, I talked with another mother who just found out that her child is addicted. She is panicked, confused, and said that she feels isolated, alone, shamed, scared and angry. I realized that I am not alone.

My reflection: There are four S’s used with addiction: shame, secrets, silence and stigma. We feel as though we are drowning in our own emotions and we don’t know what to do. I kept the secret of my son’s addiction because I felt shame. In silence, the addiction grew. But when I reached out my hand for help, I realized I was not alone.

Today’s Promise: Together we can bring addiction out of the shadows where it can be healed. Our loved ones are fighting a powerful, terrifying force and, today, we will talk with other mothers and fathers and break the silence. In our pain, we will understand. In our stories, we will find hope. In our love, we will continue to believe.

THERE IS FEAR, BUT THERE IS ALSO TRUST … in this crisis and with addiction

Photo Credit: Ferdinando Risi

Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland, wrote:

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them…

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love….

Today’s Promise to consider: Trust and hope matter, now more than ever. A friend from Florence, Italy, wrote, “The canals in Venice are clearing and baby fish are visible; dolphins have reappeared at Trieste; and in Florence the air quality has drastically improved.”

Today, let us trust that, during these uncertain and dark days, there is goodness at work. Today, let us reach out to members of our support group. Today, let us remember that, all across the globe, we are not alone.