I love the practice of medicine. I find it absolutely fascinating the way the body and mind work. Some of the best scientists believe that everything we need to know or learn about the body is tangible. The heart pumps blood, the lungs push oxygen, the muscles along with ligaments and tendons help move the body, the bones are the source of strength and our skin keeps it all together. The brain sends a signal to a foot to wiggle a toe, this involves many different actions under the skin, in the brain, down the leg to the foot for one small wiggle, and it all happens in seconds, or less. The brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves system together create a complex integrated information-processing and management system also called the central nervous system. Together they regulate all of our conscious and unconscious facets of our life. Imagine that. The brain is the beginning and end of all things life. It controls body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. It accepts and process all of our senses; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. It manages our physical movement and allows us to think, dream, reason and experience emotions.
The Neurons in the brain have the remarkable ability to gather and transmit electrochemical signals, like a TV or IPad moving information. There many different types of neurons: motor, sensory, interneurons and associative neurons. I could continue to educate everyone on the billions of neurons or the way they move, but the part I am most fascinated by are the changes when they are damaged. It wasn’t until circa 1972 that the full effect of opiate use was clear. A group of scientist from Johns Hopkins University revealed that the brain has specific protein receptor sites for opiates. It wasn’t long before they identified that the body produces its own endogenous opioids. When synthetic opiods, like heroin, are introduced the body’s perception of pain lessens and elevate mood by increasing the levels of dopamine. There is a process where the opioid is converted back into morphine which triggers sensations of euphoria (and pain relief) much greater than the body is able to develop on its own. There is evidence that a single use can change the receptors in the brain so significantly that the body begins to feel higher levels of pain and discomfort while not using, occurring in the need to use more and more.
Long term use has even more dire consequences. So even if a person is to detox from the drug physically, the other side effects will continue to be a problem like poor ability to regulate one’s own behavior, impaired emotional processing, impaired memory, diminished flexibility with completing tasks, decreased capacity for making decisions and decreased ability to imagine future events and interactions. In short, the user becomes a poor decision maker with radical mood instability and no ability to see or plan for a brighter future. And many think that solving this problem is to just not use. Just not use. Just like that. Many people have a notion that addicts are lazy and ignorant, classless and untrustworthy. Often society only sees the result of the addiction and not the addict. If this was a surgical case, if there was a part of the brain causing the problem, like an aneurysm or a brain tumor, a well trained physician could open the brain to remove the anomaly. If this was an appendices that was hot and inflamed, a general surgeon would either open the abdomen via a laparotomy incision or a laparoscopic procedure to remove it before it infected the whole body resulting in death. There is no such treatment for addiction.
Doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatrist, psychologist have spent decades studying and learning and yearning to find a cure but there isn’t one to be had. There is no fix. There is no surgical procedure, or medical intervention of standard practice. I cannot simply make a phone call or make an appointment for her to show up to help her. There are alternative methods. And I would love for her to try them, but at the moment, I can’t reach her. Not emotionally. I could pick up the phone and call her. I could send her a message on Facebook but anything I would have to say would not be received. It would not register in her head and it certainly wouldn’t mean anything. I have become the enemy. I have become the thing she hates the most. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it is because she has nothing left to hate. Maybe it’s because I remind her of her. Maybe it is because I have done something wrong as a parent. Maybe it is because I don’t know what else to do. The mixed messages I receive from her are confusing and frustrating. I know she is not using, but that is not the same as being clean. Being clean is about a lifestyle change, a reckoning with her own psyche, attitude. The things I see, and hear, isn’t giving me the warm and fuzzies. She is feeling sorry for herself, and wrapped up in some kind of thing I don’t recognize. Separating from her family is never a good sign. We want her to be well and we want her to be part of the family but the negative, angry, blaming, spiteful, and poor-me girl that has taken her place is not something we can be part of. When she tells me one day that she can’t be part of us, that we are not good for her recovery, but calls the next day to say I love you, oh and I have no money in my account sounds an awful lot like I want to do what I want, without answering to you or anyone else but I want you to financially support that.
I don’t want to make her pain worse, but I don’t think she cares about our pain at all. I think she is so tied up feeling sorry for herself she doesn’t have time to understand the effect of her actions on us. I spend and have spent so much time worrying about her physical health and emotional health that I often forget about my own. Or the other kids. She doesn’t see it that way, which was a problem for me because I would want to pay attention to the other kids while convincing her she is important too. There is no way to be with her and be in my own present. I can’t divide myself. And I don’t think there is a single thing left that I could possibly do to help her. Anything else I do is hurting her, I think. I keep thinking that when I was her age I had two children, pregnant with my third and Daddy-O and I owned a house. We both worked, grocery shopped, mowed the lawn or washed the car. We were adults. Adulting. Daily. I want her to adult her own life and she can’t. Or won’t. I don’t know. Her brain is so fucked up, I know she doesn’t see life in real terms. Somehow her addiction has become my problem to solve but I want a life. I want to spend the day with kids, and my grandmother, and my friends without feeling guilty because she is wasting her life. I gave her that life. I did the best I could with it. I can do nothing at this point to encourage her to live it differently. And I know I run the risk of losing her for good but she was gone a long time ago.
It is time for me to accept that I cannot make her be something she isn’t. Or someone she can’t be or won’t be. I cannot put her in an operating theatre, open her brain, excise the thing that makes her this way, close her up and monitor her for post operative complications. I know there are ways via neuropath ways, for her to be better, but she would have to want that. I won’t give up on her, I won’t forget her or cast her aside as worthless, because she isn’t. She is far from that. She was destine for greatness which she is capable of if she can make it there. Her brain and her body need healing. They need to rejuvenate and regenerate to become whole again. I don’t think there is enough medical practice in the world to do that right now.