Ironies of Addiction and Recovery

Baby boy socksThis is another guest post from Jane, who is chronicling her family’s experience with her son’s addiction.

Our son has over 70 days clean.  He received his green key at NA, has a Home Group, a Sponsor and just got a job–one of the requirements for his stay at the halfway house where he’s been living for over a month, post-rehab, in Florida.  He never thought he’d like Florida, but like many things in recovery, he’s finding his temporary home and environment surprisingly pleasant– amazing, considering he was nocturnal and more like a vampire than a human just a few months ago.  For years he said he disliked beaches, beach culture, exercise and sun.  He now has a tan, bicycles daily, and spends an hour or two at the beach whenever he has extra time.

Our son was a rural New Jersey boy, born and raised in the northwestern farmlands but enamored of everything New York City.  So after high school, off he went, eight years ago, to college in the Big City, where he now tells us he spent a good deal of time drinking and smoking pot.  This was no surprise to us, his parents.  We’re realists who did our fair share in college during the 70’s, but we’d warned him many times about the “harder stuff,” the “addictive stuff.”

What’s interesting about my husband, myself and our children is that we’re all very physically sensitive– to chemicals, medications, and many other substances.  Half-doses of medications usually work best for us.  We’re prone to headaches and allergies. Too much sugar, salt, caffeine–almost anything– will usually cause one discomfort or another.  So when our son told us a few years back that he didn’t really care for alcohol and was allergic to pot, we felt relieved.  Our son was actually maturing faster, was adapting to his physical reality better than we had at his age!  Wow.

What our son didn’t admit was that he was still intent on partaking of something.  He didn’t like that he was relatively straight while his friends were imbibing on things that he couldn’t tolerate. So while his friends were doing their pot, their alcohol, their hallucinogens, he gravitated to prescription opiates and, finally, blues– the synthetic heroin hybrid pills chemically tweaked to deliver the ultimate high.  It was a match made in hell.  Our son found something he not only tolerated but loved, and to him, it felt like they loved him back.

And so it began… socially at first, then as an antidote to a contract job at Morgan Stanley that he started enthusiastically and eventually hated; and finally, as an answer to the joblessness that followed and the life he saw slipping away, like his dreams of being the James Bond of Wall Street.  He said to me recently that an addict is born an addict.  The question is whether or not he finds his substance.  He said he knew long ago, when he had his wisdom teeth out, that painkillers were his drug of choice.  I remember I’d taken such care to monitor his doses, handing him one pill at a time as needed.  He says no strategy would’ve worked because sooner or later he would’ve found his way to his “high.”

I find out new things every time I speak to my son on the phone.  He tells me about his past, and about the present:  the subtleties of his NA meetings, the dealers who tempt him as he rides his bike, his need to keep it simple, every day.  We text about the lighter stuff and send emojis.

While our son is finding new ways to live in Florida, my husband and I are trying to find new ways to “be” in New Jersey.  We can’t shake the cyclical waves of anxiety, of gloom and doom.  We worry about if and when our son returns to our area and how that will play out.  We pray he can continue his recovery but can’t imagine living through another episode of his possible drug use. Honestly, we sometimes wish we could find our own “high” to offset the feeling that everything we put our hearts and souls into has imploded.  Like many our age we find ourselves questioning what we thought we knew about this crazy world, about the people in it, about our life.

What I suddenly do know too well, because I’m really paying attention now, is that Addiction is Everywhere.  Some are addicted to drugs and alcohol, others to sex and sugar.  Some are even addicted to fear and pain, not because they chose to be, but because the mental groove has become wide and deep.  That’s us–my husband and I.

As I watch the sun come up I wonder how we can fully extricate ourselves from the darkness of our experiences and start fresh.  I share a few sobs with morning light and then smile as I imagine my husband and I retiring, perhaps to Florida someday, a place we never would have considered before.


Bullying, trauma, teen addiction and alcoholism

1179314_28920035 angry boyA recent study conducted at The Ohio State Universitey examined over 78,000 middle and high school students from 16 school districts in a large metropolitan area and found a clear link between involvement in bullying and substance abuse.. The study showed that anyone who was involved in bullying – either as the bully or the bullied – showed a higher rate of alcohol abuse, marijuana use and cigarettes.

Bullying hurts a kid’s self esteem. So does divorce, zits, being shorter, fatter, slower, dumber or more of an egghead than the other kids, particularly in middle high school.  Kids who have the genetic predisposition to chemical dependency are in the cross hairs of addiction when they experience the relief that a drink or pill can deliver.  “For the first time in my life, I felt like I always wanted to feel” is a common refrain among kids who became addicts. Their brains – deficient in specific neurotransmitters – found a physiological completion in drugs or alcohol while it relieved their emotional pain and trauma. That state of reward and relief, in one out of ten kids who try drugs or alcohol, lays the foundation for addiction or alcoholism.

As ParentPathway Expert Ricki Townsend points out, chemical dependency is a complex disease resulting from environment plus genetics: “I see a genetic element 80% of the time, and the environmental element of trauma 100% of the time,” she reports. Understanding the precursers to addiction gives parents more tools to prevent it from developing in the first place.  As we know, it’s easier to prevent a fire than to put one out.

An abnormal course of events for parents of addicts and alcoholics

My 3 Sunz croppedThis is an “encore” post from My3Sunz

In the normal course of events I suppose every parent will worry about their young adults moving out, moving on and learning to be independent, young contributors in the world.

How’s it look in the abnormal course of events? Seeing your child make choices that lead to increasing incidents of serious trouble and consequences is unbearable to face. This causes abnormal responses from the people who love them. Having a child with chemical dependency is not the norm. And the lifestyle that comes from chemical dependency goes against every moral fabric of character. Living in fear is not normal. Being disrespected, lied to or taken advantage of is not normal. Living in anguish and worry is not normal. Spending every conscience moment thinking, strategizing or anticipating the next move of your child is not normal. Questioning your own values, questioning your own parenting skills, questioning decisions you made early in their development – or, wising for do-overs is not normal. I did this and it’s just plain crazy! But I did not know another way. This turmoil is not only frightening, but very isolating and lonely.

I’ve since learned about the family disease – how it slowly permeates your fiber of being. The lifestyle of negativity became my new normal. Hope that there is help seemed unobtainable or just not possible, hopeless and helpless. After repeated attempts to fix the problem, some of us hit a wall. Sometimes the wall is an event that “shakes us up.” For me it was the physical ramifications of living in a state of combat, fighting for what was clearly being taken: my child. Such experiences included what medical professionals call “stress related disorders.” You need to remove some of the stress in your life! Oh that? OK – how? My only idea was to fix the addiction, that was the problem. Thus, my life would be stress free! But this wasn’t working out so well.

In Al-Anon, I learn my terminal uniqueness is relatable to others with similar circumstances – they shared the same thoughts, actions and responses that I had! We are introduced to a concept that removes our old way of thinking and shown how we can make decisions that change our circumstances. The solution is not what we thought it would be, and another form of normalcy is introduced – One that holds happiness, joy, freedom and serenity. Then again, what is normal anyway?

Sunday Inspiration

558914_broken_heart[1]“People are not perfect… very often the relationships that are strongest are those where people have worked through big crises, but they’ve had to work through them. So the challenge to us is to work through that.”

Patricia Hewitt