I have started, stopped, deleted and started again to write this post. One of the most under discussed, underappreciated parts of addiction is the effect it has on families. There is a meeting at just about any time of day that an addict can go to for support, comfort or help. Google up family meetings either Al-Anon, Narnon, or the like. Select days and times are available. It’s definitely limited. Why is that you ask? Or maybe you didn’t because you are already a parent or loved one of an addict and you know why that is… drum roll please…. Because we get a bad rap. I can only speak of my own experience but as the mother of an addict I know that when people at large hear of JoDee’s addiction, the first thing they think of is where was her mother when this all began. Clearly her mother must be a piece of shit if her kid is running the street wild with little regard to herself. Obviously her family was uneducated, poor, child-ignoring, pimples on the ass of society. It’s irrelevant that addiction knows no bounds. That addicts are grocery store baggers, Walmart greeters, stockbrokers, doctors, nurses, mail delivery persons, cooks, politicians, who were born to poor families, rich families, middle-class families, immigrant families, natural born citizens and everything in between.
In this hell here on earth that is dealing with an addict, we (representing all family members, parents or loved ones of addicts as in all inclusive term) watch our addict slowly kill themselves, but not die. We watch them suffer constantly putting themselves in harm’s way. We lose sleep when we don’t know where they are, and then lose more sleep when we learn where they have been. We cry when we see them high. We cry when we see them detox. We cry when we see them in recovery. We know that their future is grim without long term recovery and we know that the odds of long term recovery, specifically with heroin addicts is hard to obtain. We go to court to show solidarity even when we know they are wrong. We look past their short comings, criminal acts, and overdoses to see the pain, the humanity, and the potential they have to give back to society if they can hang on long enough. We fight for our addicts when they are in the hospital or detox or rehab to make sure they get the services they need and deserve. We often pretend we don’t see the sneers and snickering behind our backs when we are waiting with our addicts to be seen in waiting rooms.. We ignore the old ladies who pull their purse closer to them for fear our addict might jump up out of their semi-conscious state to rob them. And we turn the other cheek when the fathers tell their young kids not to come near us because our addicts smell/are dirty/haven’t seen the inside of a shower for more than a week.
The limitless amount of bullshit I put up with as a mother of an addict is unbelievable, even to me some days. I know that only another mother truly knows what it’s like. Arguing with myself on the way to pick her up, again, when I know I shouldn’t, and feeling guilty for feeling like I shouldn’t pick her up when I know that my help really hurts her is only something another parent would relate too. It is because of all of this bullshit that I find what one fellow mother-of-an-addict had to endure after she suffered the loss of her son so absolutely horrifying. For those of you that have not endured this slice of heaven known as loving an addict, relief does not come when our addict dies. We are trapped in a never ending loop that includes living in hell when our child is an addict and living in hell if our child dies. I thought our society was moving toward a world that has less stigma regarding addicts. I thought that we were making progress in spreading awareness that addiction is a disease and that our addicts are people that are loved, and have loved, and were kind and humble before they were infected. I thought all of that until I saw this Man Dies From Heroin Overdose . Not only did this mother find her son unresponsive which is an unbelievably traumatic event in-of-itself, but she was violated, and traumatized a second time when the newspaper published not just her name, and her son’s name, but their address. If all that wasn’t appalling, the fact that the young man died from his overdose did not stop them from bring up his past criminal past which, in my opinion, diminished the tragic loss of his life and was completely unnecessary. It was as though they were saying yes, a young man from our town died but its ok because he was a low life criminal so really no loss. The newspaper had a choice to make: highlight the current rise in deaths by overdose and the epidemic plaguing an entire generation or ignore the current epidemic, down play this loss of life so not to upset the 92% white, middle-to-upper class population allowing them to further bury their head in the sand to convince themselves that addiction doesn’t happen to them. Just so we are all clear, so that no one can say they haven’t been warned, ADDICTS ARE PEOPLE. All those privileged individuals who think that addiction can’t and won’t happen in their family, you are wrong. You cannot throw money at addiction. It will only take your money to go buy more drugs. Or start their own drug ring. But addiction doesn’t care what color you are, what your sexual orientation is, what your father did or if you even knew your mother. Addiction doesn’t give a shit if you were born into a Christian family, under the moon in the Arizona desert, or into a family of polygamists. When a newspaper further flames the stigma that addicts lives are worthless it should be called out. And called out in a way that reminds the journalist that not only are they wrong, but us family members of addicts ain’t no dummies neither. And for those reasons I was blessed to be sent this Letter To The Editor as a follow up. The way Julie expresses her disgust at how the paper emphasized Adam’s addiction at a time when her family was grieving and brokenhearted while accentuating his wonderful life, his love of his family and all his attributes is eloquent and sophisticated. She used education and determination to tell them to Eff Off in a way I’m not sure I ever could. I did not know Adam but I walk away from this learning that he was a wonderful young man who suffered a terrible disease and will be remembered for the person he was and not the acts he committed in the name of addiction. Thank you Julie for reminding us that addicts are people with families that are suffering too.