The heroin crisis is only getting worse. People are dying everywhere. This is not just an East Coast thing, or a young person thing, or an ethnic thing. I know that when one group of people is targeted for something those not effected don’t pay attention. In fact, 30 years ago heroin was the leading illegal drug killer for black men ages 44-64. It wasn’t until it crept into the suburbs that anyone started paying attention. That alone pisses me off. But, I am not going to get into that today. Today I am going to spread the wealth of knowledge I have collected over the course of many years dealing with addiction.
Nar-Non and Al-Anon are both good groups. Clearly Nar-Non offers more support and education with drug addiction then Al-Anon. To Nar-Non alcohol is a drug, in some Al-Anon programs they only talk about alcoholics. The Al-Anon groups I went to were very supportive of families dealing with drug addiction. Nar-Non groups are harder to come by, especially at convenient times.
Learn to Cope is mostly a Massachusetts program but it is a group worth looking into because they do offer an amazing on-line community. The support groups are for loved ones who have an addict suffering from opiod use. I have found that to be beneficial because I heard so many stories like mine that it helped me realize that JoDee wasn’t possessed by the devil (well, she is but that devil is heroin). This is more than just a support group. They offer resources and education about other programs and typically have an industry professional as a guest speaker.
There are multiple blogs (like mine) that offer different perspectives. And there are a number of on-line communities such as In the Room, PAL, and the drug addiction hotline Hazelton Betty Ford Clinic has a website that I have found helpful and informative.
The things I didn’t do, but should have are listed below:
- Do not be trusting. Addicts will say things like they can’t believe we don’t trust them, or that we know them, and they wouldn’t lie to us but every single addict lies. If your child hasn’t stolen from you or hasn’t lied about where they are, it doesn’t mean they won’t or that you just haven’t caught them. No matter what, trust that everything they are saying is no true. If you are seeing changes in your child or loved one and they deny anything is wrong, don’t believe it. Addicts will have a lot of excuses but it’s important to see through them.
- Research programs. Just because a detox or rehab is near you, does not mean that it is the program for them. Educate yourself on methadone and suboxone and other drug replacement therapies to determine if that is the way your family should go. Some detox’s are better than others. Sometimes there is a way for them to find more drugs inside than outside. Find a program that has an after care, and potential parent groups too.
- Do not believe that detox is the miracle cure. It isn’t. No matter how good the program is there has to be willingness for the addict to get better or they won’t. Be ready for the unexpected.
- Find your own recovery. Just because an addict is going to stay in active addiction does not mean that you have too. Those meetings and support groups are clutch when things seem at their worst. Going to a support group does not mean you have to air your dirty laundry. If it doesn’t feel right, say nothing. AC and I went to so many meetings and I don’t think I ever really talked about JoDee or our situation. But sitting there listening to other peoples struggles gave me comfort. And hearing that their children did find recovery gave me hope. I won’t lie, sometimes they are depressing. No one says you have to go every day. Do what feels right.
- Don’t lose hope. It they are alive there is a chance they will find recovery. No matter how terrible things seem, they could change in an instant. No one knows when that ah-ha moment is going to strike an addict. Maybe it never does, but maybe it does.
- Don’t enable them. Balancing our own recovery, keeping hope and holding our bottom lines are very delicate. Try not to set yourself up for failure. There is no way to stay positive all the tie, or keep hope alive everyday or hold your bottom line when the addict asks you so many times and no is hard to say the first time, never mind 200 times. Be ready to give yourself a break and know that if you cave in and give them money, or a place to sleep for the night, or allow them to get their clothes out of your house when you said you wouldn’t, forgive yourself. No one can be strong all the time. I can’t be strong a fraction of the time. At the end of the day you have to be able to look in the mirror and see your own face, not the face of regret. So do what is best for you.
- Reject the lies and manipulation. Our addicts have lost their mind, literally, and with it their moral compass. They will be mean and angry and ugly and hateful. Do your best to not take this personally. It is so hard to do and sometimes you may just want to punch their face in but don’t bother, I have tried that and it doesn’t work. It’s best to just ignore them.
- Look around, and recognize that you are not in this by yourself. Even if you have a spouse or a best friend or a person, it doesn’t mean they will always feel the same way you do, and that can be extremely lonely. You aren’t alone. You are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone. And more importantly, this is not your fault. So don’t isolate. Call a friend, go to a movie, and take a cake decorating class. Learn from my mistakes, I basically hermit-ed myself in my house for a few years but that is no good. Do something that isn’t drug related. Stay connected to the people with normal lives. You know non-drug addict lives. It’s refreshing to socialize so to forget, even for a little while, that life is worth living.
- Don’t be afraid to do the thing you said you would never do. I once told myself I would never have JoDee sectioned and now I have done it four times. I said that I would never put myself in compromising situations as a result of her drug addiction and I have had encounters with drug dealers that involved my having a golf club (I am not suggesting anyone else should do that) . There are no limits a person will go to try to save their loved one, but that also means saying no. Don’t be afraid to say no. Even if it’s painful. Not being afraid to do the thing you said you would never do may be leaving your kid stranded somewhere because you simply can’t help anymore.
- Eat dinner together. Even if you never did the whole family at the table for dinner routine before, do it now. Or make everyone have breakfast together one day a week. Find a way for all of you to stay connected. It is so easy to push aside the family members that are not addicts. Addicts demand so much attention even though they don’t really deserve it. Ignoring my other duties and family members is something that haunts me now, but I make an effort to connect with all the other kids on a regular basis. And connecting means talking to them about them, not about what JoDee did or where she is or what she is going to do. It means letting them know I am listening and interested in their lives. I am present. And listening. It used to be hard. I would always be so invested in JoDee’s recovery that it felt like I lost interest in parenting anyone else. It was work to bring my focus back, but it can be done, and I did it.