When we think of drug addiction we often think of people who have thrown their lives away; they may be homeless, hopeless, made poor decisions have no support system, or they may be like my son. He was an altar boy, a boy scout, played sports, won academic awards, and has an extended family who loves him and continues to want the best for him.
It could be, and is for many, a dual diagnosis; mental illness and addiction or a legitimate introduction to opioids after a diagnosis of a chronic illness or an accident. Many times the mental illness is undiagnosed or untreated. My son doesn’t want to be labeled as mentally ill.
There are so many variables, but what we do know is that it is a family disease. Those of us that love the addict are collateral damage. Under the influence they become liars and thieves and this is difficult for loved ones to accept. The trauma is all too real for those of us that love our family member, friend, etc. We are all on the front line, witnesses to the self-destruction and feeling powerless to stop what may be to come; incarceration or death.
Family finds themselves in the trenches with their loved one, looking for answers. Can we access services: detox, in or out-patient counseling, meetings, Faith-based initiatives, Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT), transitional housing and/or recovery housing? Can we get them to go through legal maneuvering of their own free-will and if they go, will they stay? Can we help them choose and/or stay on the road to recovery?
And even if we do everything right, for many relapse happens. Maybe a slight bump in the road or a complete fall down the proverbial rabbit hole. Sometimes those in the throes of their addiction think things are so bad, it can’t be fixed. Maybe it can’t. Maybe they will overdose and die, or go to jail, but this Mom thinks the latter choice looks so much better.
My son doesn’t have the same dreams I do for him. My dreams are for him to not use drugs, to pick up the pieces of his life and be a dad to his son. His dreams are to be high.
Many friends are living this life, too. They fear for their sons or daughters living with addiction as my son has relapsed after 10 years. I remind them that you have to work your program, every day. You have to commit to recovery and embrace however you got there and remain there.
You need the mind, spirit and body connection, a strong faith and a positive and loving support system to keep you grounded and to be there for us when we fall down and we do all fall down, some just fall harder than others.
Prevention is key: talk often to your youth about drugs. Not scare tactics, the truth. It gets in the way of everything good in your life, destroys families and may cost you your life. Support mental health and addiction services in our community and support recovery efforts.
One of my sons told me that I wouldn’t be advocating like I do if not for what I’ve lived through. I may not be able to help my son, but I may help someone else’s son or daughter.
My son will always carry a piece of my heart.