The Drug Fix That Is Permanent
By Christy Wiseman
(Ed. Note: Ms. Wiseman is a Certified Drug Prevention Specialist. She has trained other teachers for in-service courses.)
It happened again. This time to a friend’s son. He was found dead in his apartment. He was 47. They listed it as a stroke, but his friends knew better and so did his parents. What they didn’t know was how they could have helped; what they could have done.
Opioid addiction has become epidemic and affects not only the addict, but those living with him or her and those who care. There is one death from heroin every ten minutes in the U.S. It seems rarely to miss anyone’s family.
Life throws curves at each of us and when hit we want to avoid the pain that comes with them. Maybe the curve is a lost job. Maybe an unwanted divorce is requested. Maybe someone you love dies and you are haunted by the “would have, could have, should have” syndrome that often plagues the survivor.
Curves, curves and more curves. Life is full of them and they hurt. We want to protect those we care about from emotional pain. We do it any number of ways and with the best of intentions and love. If we are successful, they avoid the pain. The “catch 22” is that they haven’t learned to be resilient in a healthy way for the next time a curve in life hits them. When we skip or ignore the smaller consequences of unwise behavior or adverse happenings, either for ourselves or for those dependent upon us, we deprive ourselves or others of the chance to build resilience in a world in which resilience can be life-saving.
There are programs to help turn one’s life around, but there are also fixes and the fixes have the appeal of being immediate. Ignoring inappropriate behavior is often just another way to keep the shame of addiction away from one’s door. The greater shame is in ignoring a problem that has a solution.
Whatever is the cause of one’s emotional pain, the real fix is often hidden by the lure of alcohol, pain killers, or illegal drugs. That lure comes at a cost. Meth can hook you with the first use. Fentanyl is many times stronger than Heroin and the first use could prove to be lethal. Heroin seems, to be the current drug of choice among many. Alcohol seems a good choice, as it is socially acceptable. But there are those who although their problem drinking has become evident to others, kid themselves into believing it isn’t, and that they could quit anytime.
So many times the alcoholic looks at people who are intoxicated and assures himself/herself, “I’m not like that. They are much worse off than I am” and they forget to add the guillotine of truth which is the simple word, yet.
When you become aware of the excessive and regular use of a drug in someone close to you, you might cite the behavior and ask that person if he/she considers the behavior to be “normal?” An admission just might be the catalyst needed to create a desire to get help which may make all the difference. It did with two of my three sons.
One involved “S’hrumes” when he was picked up with them in So. Dakota and jailed. Another son was suicidal after a drinking binge when his wife told him she wanted a divorce after 23 years of what he had thought was a happy marriage. We think men are the stronger sex, but the truth is we all have tender hearts, sometimes damaged, hurting and vulnerable.
The person closest and caring needs to be strong and armed with the slogans and help found in Alanon or Narcanon or spiritual meetings and literature. Not because we can change or save someone else, however much we love them.
But it can give us the understanding and the strength to be fully human while being fully practical, with boundaries as to what behavior(s) we will tolerate and what ramifications we will need to bring to bear if those boundaries are crossed.
The alcoholic or addict is extremely perceptive so only state a ramification if you truly mean it. It’s called “tough love” and is seldom welcomed at first. There are no guarantees, but there’s a chance it might prompt a behavioral change.
We can literally “love a person to death” if we allow them to continue their destructive behavior without setting boundaries to protect ourselves as well as them. With luck, tough love and boundaries, your loved one might find a group; get a sponsor, acknowledge a power greater and give life another try. The 12 Step Program, available everywhere, is free and there are willing sponsors to help anyone who truly wants help with their disease of addiction.
The drug fix that is permanent doesn’t need to be death. It can be in life affirming choices, friendships made, living one day or one moment at a time. It can be in finding the joy in recovery and in helping others as they are recovering. The choice when all is said and done, and however much we may want it to be otherwise, is theirs.