Light The Night Purple

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.

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We had a lot of fun walking with Jay J and Cinderella as seen here:

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And AC, OC, and SC:

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My friend Steen and Jared:

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Look at these two, OC and AC literally walk the same. Two peas in a pod.  Cray Cray.

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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.

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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.

 

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/brain-changes-in-an-addict-make-it-hard-to-resist-heroin-and-similar-drugs/2014/02/14/dcc91c5e-9366-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html

 

Responsibility

Being responsible sucks. Adulting sucks if we are being completely honest, but being responsible is even a step above being an adult. I know some adults that aren’t responsible. I also know some kids or teens that are responsible but are not adults, so the two are not mutually exclusive. Responsibility and being responsible require maturity and a level of education surrounding a large pool of life’s issues. It means being able to make a decision based on fact not emotion, but weighting in the emotion that might be effected by it. Being responsible means doing what’s best because in life it is not about the difference between right and wrong, it’s the difference between what is right and what’s best. Being responsible is being able to ascertain the difference.

Lately responsible means going to work when I don’t want too, cooking meals when I don’t want too, and not spending money on things I would like too so we have money for events that are coming up. It means not offering to let my addict daughter move home because even though I want her too, I know it is not the best decision. I can recognize that it has not helped her in the past, and it has not helped anyone in the house have a better relationship with her. It means having to put up with secondary individuals because they are weaker than me, and they can’t understand how to be independent or responsible for themselves, even though I am really, really sick of it. Being responsible means recognizing that I can’t make any sudden moves or important decisions that will affect all of our futures because I am annoyed, and frustrated, and if I make a move while emotional it will likely be the wrong one.

Being responsible also means understanding how to be a participant, even when it isn’t the way you want too. So, I would love to find a way to rescue my daughter from addiction, but I cannot. I cannot do anything else. I know I have said this many times, but I can’t. Each time I say that something happens and I DO something. There is no something’s left. I can’t give her money, or a place to sleep, or a phone, or supplies to go to another detox or rehab she will run from. The welleth has runeth dryeth. But, feeling a little hopeless does not mean I am helpless. In fact, it’s the opposite. When I don’t feel like I can do anything for my daughter, I can try to do something bigger than her and me.  Which is why, I am participating in Light The Night Purple sponsored by Danvers Cares.  It’s a  walk and community gathering to help bring awareness to the community regarding substance abuse, including the opiate crisis. Everyone thinks it doesn’t hit their town but it does. My daughter became a heroin addict right in our home town. A wonderful community of people, with a good education system, great sports team, awesome local business, and a farmer’s market. She wasn’t raised by addicts, or suffered a terrible childhood trauma. She was an average kid, that got decent grades and had lots of friends. We have a hard time understanding that it can happen to anyone really means it can happen to anyone at any time because teenagers think they are invincible.  There are a great many that begin by using prescription drugs, but not all. My daughter didn’t. Sometimes good people make poor choices and those choices become life changing. Life altering and possibly life ending.  Don’t let that happen in your family.

Come out and learn about addiction. Learn about programs available, the way our community is trying stop addiction and help those already affected. Get informed so we can stop the stigma. Stopping the stigma helps addicts reach out without fear of being judged. I can tell you from personal experience how important that is. My family and I will be walking in purple to light up the night, tomorrow from 6:30-  8:30 at Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, I hope we see you there.

DanversCARES…… Do you?

After attending the Candlelight Vigil in Medford, I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from their community. And it sort of got me thinking of what support and drug-free programs Danvers has invested in. I wondered about whether Danvers Police carried Narcan, and what education is offered to the school systems and their parents. So, I googled it. I love google. I mean, you can literally google “what do carrots look like when they germinate” and get a million answers. I googled myself recently, and guess what, I have a blog! Who knew. Anyway, I was directed, via google, to DanversCARES. I have lived in Danvers basically my whole life, other than a small stint living in an extremely rural town in South West Nebraska, and I had no idea about DanversCARES.

DanversCARES is not just about a drug-free community. It is a partnership that encourages, educates and offers programing for youth and families to help make healthy decisions in many areas of life. This includes education on tobacco use, physical education, abstinence from steroids, as well as drug awareness. They partner with 12 organizations including Essex Agricultural and Technical School, DEEP, Danvers Public School, Peabody Institute Library of Danvers, Lahey Behavioral Health, North Shore Medical Center and the Danvers Police Department, just to name a few. If you click the link below, you can learn more about their programs, their resources and catch up on their blog.

A recently blog post was called Defy the Opi-Odds. It spoke of a course for Teens last summer that focused on Opioids, Overdose Prevention among other things. Last summer, I was neck deep in relapsing with JoDee so I’m not super surprised I didn’t know about it, but I am surprised I hadn’t heard much about the organization as a whole. So, I did what I always do when I don’t know something, I set out to educate myself. There is a tab labeled “contact”. By clicking that tab I found out about Peg Sallade. She is the Program Director. Her contact info was readily available so I emailed her. I introduced myself as a life-long resident of Danvers with a daughter that is a heroin addict and would like to become more involved in the organization, as well as learn more about it. Peg and I met on a Friday morning, after many emails back and forth to find a time that fit both of our schedules.

One of the things I learned is that DanversCARES and Peg specifically have a tough job educating the community. The thing about drug addiction is it is not seen as a community problem. I mean, from the community that is. The people involved with DanversCARES understand that it affects everyone whether you have an addict in your family or not. Drug addiction is typically related to higher crime rates, increased sudden death and lower continued education statistics. If your child is 5 h/she will be in high school someday. And that beautiful, wonderful, smiling, innocent child may make one poor choice that leads to another and another until suddenly; you are where I am, and wondering why. I think often another huge hurdle is reaching those in the community that don’t have young children, any children, or whose children are adults without children. Community is just that community. If any particular malady ails a community that means directly or indirectly it affects everyone. The rate of addiction is rising rapidly. It is also rising predominately in the young age group; 18-25 are most likely to over dose, but that doesn’t mean it ONLY affects those age groups. There are many families with adults/adult children suffering from addiction. My family is a good example. JoDee is an addict but I have two younger children that could definitely benefit, and maybe be helpful providing inside information to others in their or similar situations.

Maybe part of the struggle with getting the community to open up about drug use in our own neighborhoods is due to embarrassment. I can understand that. I didn’t get to the point that I was publishing blogs on the internet about our family overnight. This was a process. It took a lot of Al- Anon meetings, N/A meetings and near death experiences with JoDee for me to be so open. I, too, was embarrassed at first. Not just for JoDee and what it meant to be an addict, but as a parent. I know even now that people judge me, but I have learned people will judge me if I drive a big car, a small car, wear glasses, cut my hair short, wear pants too tight or too lose. I had to have my own come-to-Jesus meetings to evolve into someone who understands addiction. And not just understanding it, but learning that concentrating on being embarrassed is taking time away from looking at the bigger picture; helping my addict find peace of mind to begin recovery. Just as we take pride in our homes, and our lawns and whether or not the taxes will increase because we build a new school or save a funeral home, should we invest time in the future of the children of our community.

If you want to know more about DanversCARES, reach out to Peg. If you have a child suffering from addiction and you want to be part of program that can help bridge the gap in the community, reach out to Peg. If you think that you can’t offer anything to this program, but you are invested in a better tomorrow for Danvers as a whole, reach out to Peg. Let her know what programs you would like to see, give her ideas on how to attract the masses. Is there a subject you think would be beneficial? Let her know. If reaching out to Peg seems daunting, you can reach out to me. I have offered to speak at forums; I will do whatever she needs to help put an end to drug use in Danvers.. I told her that I would lead by example. While parading my family’s personal problems through the town like the Little League Parade is not something I look forward too, I also know that for anyone to understand the struggles of addiction, they need to have something tangible to attach it too. I don’t want another mother to suffer like I have. I don’t want another mother to lose a child to addiction or for any child, at any age, to lose their life because of addiction. DanversCARES is taking steps to help educated the community so we can successfully pave a cleaner future for everyone. Will you help us?

 

 

http://danverscares.org/