We went. We walked. We lit the night. We froze a little and we listen to some fantastic speakers. Light The Night Purple put on by DanversCares was held on the grounds of our library last week. The program was the first of its kind for our community. A community that has startling numbers in terms of drug overdose and death, I learned. The Chief of Police gave us the number of heroin or fentanyl related overdoses and deaths since 2012. The number seems to be going in the wrong direction. 2016 has shown a rising trend, so that is really scary. Of course, as drugs become more available and drug suppliers find newer, scarier, less expensive ways to cut their supply and double their profit, deaths are going to happen. It’s also this writers humble opinion that as long as we are treating a symptom and not the disease then it will continue to be a problem.
Addiction is a brain disease. A brain disease. A disease of the brain. That is a real thing. There is a part of the brain that does not work appropriately or at all. That is before someone begins using drugs. Not as a result of drug use. There is a reason I can drink a few beers tonight, and tomorrow have no desire to drink for another year and someone else has a drink and immediately knows they can’t stop drinking. There is a reason I drank in high school and smoked pot and never became addicted to it. Twenty three years later I rarely drink. Ever. Two or three times a year which Smolinsky’s can attest too. But my daughter began drinking and smoking pot and moved up the ladder until she reached the top of drug chain. Actually, bad example. Let’s say she climbed down the ladder until she reached hell. But either way, you are probably picking up what I’m dropping. That isn’t luck. It’s not by willpower, trust that. If you saw me in a candy store you would know I have no willpower. It’s about science. Science doesn’t lie.
Once a person begins using drugs it is true that their brain changes. Brain development ceases or decreases in teens and young adults. Heroin causes drug-induced-surges of dopamine which leads to the brain lessening it’s response to pleasurable experiences. This causes the user to have a very difficult time reaching any sort of pleasurable state. Not just with drugs but eating good food, having sex, or anything the brain would relate to survival. In other words, the brain needs higher surges to feel pleasure and believes heroin is one of the necessary elements of survival along with food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. Those long-term effects can happen quickly with heroin use. It takes the brain a much faster time to be accustomed to the surges in dopamine then it does to reverse it. The reversal for a 6 month user can take up to 2 years. Imagine someone who was using for years and years and years? Not to mention the behavioral factors. The dopamine response will happen with things we associate with pleasure. So if I get a pleasurable response from my favorite food, Burgers, then I will have that surge when I see a juicy burger on a commercial, or in a magazine, or if I can smell someone grilling when I jog by at night. The same goes for drug use. When an addict is in the presence of someone they used with, or pass a placed they used to use, or needles at a physician office or lab, they will have a similar rush associated with drug use. Those cravings, those rushes are hard to break. The longer the use, the more stimuli a person will collect. More people to use with, more places to use at and very suddenly short-term use turns to long-term use turns to nearly impossible to overcome. That is science. That is not assumptions or guesses or speculation.
Programs like we went to last night educate people on the advances we have made in finding support and help for addicts. There was a speaker whose daughter has been clean 10 years and another gentleman who spoke of his own 7-year clean time. One of the things that he said was that addiction is isolating. Addicts isolate from friends and loved ones. That is true but it’s also isolating for the families. I know that I don’t want to go out only to run into people who I see always posting on Facebook about how wonderful their stupid family is and all the stupid colleges their kids got into with their stupid athletic and academic scholarships while I sit in a stupid emergency room trying to get my daughter into another stupid detox. Yup, I would say it’s real isolating. And morale busting. Have you ever worked in a place where the morale hit an all time low and everyone hates each other, and stops working together, and would rather swallow monkey balls dipped in battery acid then talk to anyone at the water fountain? That is sort of what happens in a house with a child addict. The family has a hard time functioning because of guilt, and terror, and shame, and a whole host of emotions. It is not a morale booster to send your child a text in the morning asking if they are alive. I think those messages are good to hear because the other thing that the speakers touched on was the shame. Parents don’t want anyone to know they are addicts. Addicts don’t want anyone to know they are addicts. In an effort to shield our children from judgment and critics we foolishly believe we are helping them when we hide their addiction. It only proves to further enable them to use, and does nothing to aid in recovery. But it often takes parents a long journey travelled to figure that out. For me, I was so focused on keeping her alive; I forgot to worry about people finding out. My resolve had been beaten down to nothing, fear becoming my primary feeling that I lost attention to her reputation as a person. And that sounds like a bad thing, but it isn’t. It was not really a good thing. It was a necessary thing. It was a necessary part of my healing. For me to be able to admit there was a problem, I had to reach a point where I must confess that I could not handle it on my own. I had to realize and acknowledge that her addiction was making my life unmanageable so others could help. Help me and her and our family. A lot of time she doesn’t want help but we do. We got help. We had to or we would be dead ourselves. The message of hope and help is an important one. I know I valued hearing that. I hope there was others in the crowd that also found some value in those words.
It was also hard to hear about their long-term recovery. The elusive long-term recovery. It can’t be bought, or borrowed, or stolen, or gifted. It can’t be wished for or packaged or wrapped or stuffed in a box to use at a later date. It has to be worked on and earned. And desired. Desired being the most important part. There must be a will to live. When the desire to live becomes stronger than the will to use, a person will find recovery. But, that is none of my business. Whether she can find the recovery I so want her to have, is really up to her and not any of my business. At 22-years old she is an adult. She may be my adult child but she is still a free woman responsible for herself. I am responsible for myself and have the shared responsibility with my husband for our family. That includes her to a certain degree, but there has to be limits. Limits are boundaries and they are good and necessary.
Overall the event was a great success as far as remembering those that have died or are still suffering from substance abuse. There were a lot of high school and younger kids there which made me happy because they are learning about prevention. I was proud that most of our clan was present and accounted for. The library looked great set up at the pavilion with all the purple bags lit up.
We had a lot of fun walking with Jay J and Cinderella as seen here:
And AC, OC, and SC:
My friend Steen and Jared:
Look at these two, OC and AC literally walk the same. Two peas in a pod. Cray Cray.
Lastly, Jay J gave Cinderella a piggy back ride to the car because a bird shit in her hair. Yes. Shit. In. Her. Hair. Just right out of the sky. Pooped on. How in the world does that happen? It was the shits. Also par for the course around here.
Next time the town has an event like this I hope we can double the attendance. If you are from the area, whether you have an addict in your life or not, programs like these need the support of the community to have success. Peg Sallage with DanversCares is doing remarkable things for our community and works very closely with Lahey Behavioral Health developing new programs and with the High School educating our young on healthy choices, drug abstinence and prevention. If you are looking for a way to help, reach out to her or visit the DanversCares website. As a mother with a child in active addiction, I can attest to the need and importance of these programs. Coming together as a community is integral to preserving the fiber of Danvers. Town Selectman, Police Officers, DanversCares Coalition and the members of the high school facility can all do their part, but it’s for not if the rest of us don’t get on board.