Part 4. To read parts 1-3, scroll down.
I Dreamed a dream
He is back out on the street making his own choices. An opiate addict has many episodes where they make some really hard choices. But the moment they decide to use again, the choice instantly gets easy.
They make a choice to go back to Oxy or heroin knowing they are also choosing fear, guilt, shame, failure and risking jail and anger and disappointment from their family. Apparently, opiates have the power to help make the one choice that outweighs the combination of all the bad things that will happen as a result of doing the drug.
For those of us who are not addicts, it makes no sense. Why would anyone choose to give up everything- your home, family, love, support, safety, food, money, warm bed at night.
And the drug is so powerful that you willingly trade in all of those for fear, homelessness, jail, having no bed, clothes or shower, pain, hunger… and no one who will lift a finger to help out.
I don’t get it. I understand it, I just don’t get it. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about.
It has been 4 days since he has been gone. Someone called and said they saw him at Taco Bell and that he looked really burnt. He finally called me yesterday and he can’t come home because he is using. He has only been out of jail for 2 weeks. Faced with your own ability to decide how your life is going to go, the temptation for opiate users is overwhelming when they are left to their own choices.
I had a dream last night- one of those that goes on forever. In my dream Sean had died of an overdose and I had to decide if I wanted to see him one last time. The dream was torture.
Opiates- vicodin, oxycontin, heroin, norco. They remove your ability to weigh consequences. You simply don’t have the ability any longer to connect action with consequences. This is ONE reason they are so devastatingly powerful.
Opiates remove the ability of the brain to feel happiness. The addict cannot feel normal happiness like you and I when they see a sunset, or a puppy, or a baby or simply share a few laughs with friends. Their brain has changed to such a degree that they can only feel happiness when they are using. The brain takes about 1 full year to bring back the happiness function. That has got to be one long ass year.
Our high school kids are doing opiates more than all other illegal drugs combined! They are partying with vicodin, just getting that awesome high for the day… and from there it is a just a matter of time.
Soon their brain will change to accommodate the drug and will need more of it.
Soon, just to feel normal feelings, they will need the drug every day.
Soon, they will increase the dosage to get the same normal feelings.
And soon, the pain of withdrawal will be so bad that it is impossible to quit without enduring extreme physical pain for over a week.
And later, a mother will be picking her son or daughter up from jail wondering what the hell to do next. And the mothers will not be alone. But they will feel very alone sometimes, giving up everything to try and find the answer and find something that will just make it stop.
Rush Limbaugh used opiates and chose to lose his hearing as he increased to massive doses of oxycontin to feed his addiction. Many powerful, smart and successful people have lost everything multiple times because of opiates.
If you think you are not affected, think again. The jails are already overcrowded as 80% of the people in there are serving time for drug related crimes. The teens who are just getting into opiates are going to create an even bigger wave of addicts that will push the courts and correctional system way beyond what it is now. The crime supports their habits and everyone is affected. And it will take money to try to control it.
More police, courts, jail, rehab. Lots of money that our already strapped state budgets just don’t have. And families will spend money on rehab that has a 5% success rate in hopes of saving a life. They will mortgage their houses, use up their savings or go in debt charging their credit cards trying desperately to find help for their child.
I am so very grateful for all your comments and replies. Your thoughts really do help and I want you to know that feeling the love and support in your responses means everything to me right now.
Love right back at you!
(scroll down to read part 1 and part 2)An Addict’s MomÂ – Part 3
Bumps in the road.
There are good days.Â And days that could be better.
I know I need to stay positive and focus on what is good. I often default to “It is what it is” and hope that it is true that everything changes.
And everything changes. Not just for me, but for everyone. For everything. Everywhere. Everything changes. Remember that… you might need to use it some day.
With a few good days under our belt my son and I enjoy his freedom, I enjoy jail stories, learn new lingo, and with his wit and candor I am amused at how he shares his experiences.
And in the midst of the lightness and simplicity of just being together, reality stabs me to say “you are talking to your beloved first born about his time in jail” and I know this is not how it is supposed to be. The other parents don’t talk about jail toilets and cellies with their kids, do they?
No one knows what it really feels like when parents tell me about the accomplishments of their beautiful, talented children who are at the university becoming something frikken fantastic. Listen, I am happy for you. I am proud of your kid, proud of how well it worked out for you. I’mÂ dying inside, ok?
Back at home I wonder how I will be able to hold it all together and figure out how to be the right kind of mom. If you think babies didn’t come with an instruction manual… try having a 25 year old addict coming home from jail. There is definitely no manual for this.
I know I am not alone, and I know others have their pain and God knows that I don’t get a badge of courage for this one. I deserve one. But I know I’m not getting one.
For so long I didn’t tell anyone the real story about my son’s addiction, his trouble with the law, or my anguish. Nobody wants to hear it anyway.
And I when exactly would I reveal this interesting accomplishment? Right after I hear about the nuclear physicist their son has become, when they ask, “and how is Sean?”
Under my breath I say to myselfÂ “My son? Well he’s in jail again, because he is an opiate addict who has been to numerous rehabs. Oh, and did I tell you I have spent over $100,000 on rehabs that are a horribly inadequate and antiquated way to treat addicts…Â just to try to help him get clean?”
No, I haven’t shared the accomplishments of my son. Usually I artfully change the subject. And I try to keep from dying just a little more.
The truth is that so many families are struggling with me, unable to share the horrors of how addiction has torn their family apart in ways they never dreamed when they held their babies in their arms and looked into those beautiful clear eyes.Â Those parents who speak up are brave and powerful, and those who are willing to tell the truth about the pain of addiction are like a hand that reaches out of the darkness. I’ll grab that hand.
Today is a good day. After a few bumps in the road this week, today is a big breath of air. Is it OK if sometimes I have to hold that breath just a little?
Last night was hard. Very hard. And when life gets hard there is often a breakthrough in the making.
Sean has hard decisions to make about drugs and the tests that he is going to go through. No one can do it for him.
I am so very grateful for my friend Bruce Muzik who stayed up with Sean until 3 am, willing to work things through and really hear him. I learned so much. And watching them work through Sean’s fear together, I really felt the depth of my love for my son.
Today Sean is bright, shiny and lifted up. He has shifted. One step in a long journey, and it is a step.
Before he left to go to my office, he turned back around and gave me a long hug.
He says he loves me. I believe him.
When you say you love me…
The world goes still, so still inside.
When you say you you love me
In that moment I know why I’m alive.
And this journey that were on
how far we’ve come
I celebrate every moment
And when you say you love me
That’s all you have to say
When you say you love me,
do you know how I love you?
(from Josh Groban’s When you say you love me)
(Scroll down to read part 1)
Part 2 – An Addict’s mom
Last year when my son was in jail, and I used to sit on the beach and stare at the waves and wonder how it happened. How did I do this? How did he do this? How did I fail him?
â€œI listen to the wind of my soulâ€¦â€
Cat Stevens played in my headphones, and the words to THE WIND would take me to the depth of my soulâ€™s longing to go back and make it different. I loved him. How could drugs take my son away from me and shred his life.
â€œI swam upon the devilâ€™s lakeâ€¦â€
The words float through my head as I stare at the ocean and try to imagine how it must feel to be trapped in your own body with all the guilt, blame, anger tormenting you every minute. And then I try to imagine how he must think about having his life back. He hurts. And the drugs take away the hurt. The devilâ€™s lake.
Last year I thought it was over and that this would be the new beginning that we hoped for. After I picked him up, his commitment was solid. He knew he was not like themâ€¦ the inmates who kept coming back to jail over and over, unable to ever make good of their life. He was different. He is different.â€¨He is not like them, the degenerates, the poverty stricken, the homeless, uneducated criminals who have no regard for others. Please tell me he is not one of them.
Last year I hated myself every time I had to stand in a line to get visitation privileges so I could talk through a glass window with a phone that has a 12 inch cord. Do you know why it has only a 12 inch cord? So you wonâ€™t strangle yourself!
I knew that this image of my son, my baby, now at 6â€™4â€ starting at me through glass would be the image that would haunt me the rest of my life. I hate him for it. I hate myself for letting it happen. There must have been something I could have done. I hate myself for hating myself. That last sentence makes me cry.
â€œI listen to my words, but they fall far belowâ€¦â€
Things didnâ€™t go well after Sean got out. More rehab, more sober living houses and watching him surrounded by a lot of addicts who all have a hair trigger. Chin up girl, you can do this! (but really that feel more like a ?) â€¨Yes, I will be the wind beneath his wings. After all, I am the great and powerful Wendi. I can help people to do anything, to make their life be like WOW. But wow, this is different in a million ways. And here just an armâ€™s length away, all the hugs and kisses and love canâ€™t heal what is so badly broken.
I hate this drug culture. I feel bad for using the word hate so much. I donâ€™t think that we should hate anything, it is not healthy. I am scared to look in the deep, dark scary place in my soul where that hate lives. I am scared. Gotta shore up the dam a bit.
A year later and I have to do this again. I have to go shove my ID into that little slot, take shit from a condescending, indifferent woman who will coldly tell me where to go. I am not one of them! But she, and everyone in the jail will treat me like on of them.
I am falling apart in ways I donâ€™t really find very attractive. I hope the dam doesnâ€™t break. I have worked really hard to make it sturdy. Hold tight.
Chin up, chest out.
An Addict’s Mom – Part 1
Tomorrow I will go to the Eldorado county jail to pick up my son for the 2nd time.
I am nervous.
When I gave birth to my son, I made a lot of great choices that would create a foundation for a baby to grow up healthy and strong and bright. Everything was in place- I read all the books on how to give him the best of everything… I made sure he had the best foods, the best childcare, involvement in school, great family connections, love and dedication…
And after spending his 25th birthday in jail, I am on my way to pick him up.
They will take away all my belongings and coldly tell me to walk down the hall and follow the blue line.
I will look at him through a tiny window at midnight.
The guards will treat me with indifference.
I will see his face across the room as we wait for them to process his papers.
I will imagine what it will feel like for him to be hugged for the first time in months.
I will cry, and be the most confused, sad, angry and scared that I have ever been in my life.
After a lifetime of loving my child, this moment was never, ever in the plan.
It is not the first time. A year ago, I picked him up from Jail.
My beautiful son- the tall, handsome, creative genius with an unbelievable ability to inspire others- is an addict.
Just like most addicts, he started doing vicodin in school as a recreational way to get high. Vicodin is just the start and it changes the brain in such a way that you have to increase the dosage just to avoid withdrawals. As you work your way up to Oxycontin you become a horribly addicted opiate addict.
The withdrawals are severe and intense. You increase your dosage to avoid the physcial pain and hate yourself more and more as you spend every hour of your day managing your addiction.
And after getting high with vicodin because it feels good, your life is deeply and profoundly changed forever.
In the last 4 years my life has been a constant struggle to try to figure out how to make him stop.
I have sacrificed so much, we all have.
As he battles with an addicted brain, and the pain and guilt of having hurt so many people, he reaches for anything that will numb his pain.
Opiates robbed his brain of theÂ ability to feel good or just plain happy on it’s own. His brain depends on opiates to feel what we consider to be a natural state of happiness.
He hurts. He openly tells me how horrible it is to steal to get money for oxy. He hates it and lives with his guilt every day.
In jail the first time he, and all those drug addicts that surround him, sit and deal with the sentence that is greater than any judge could impose.
The fear of how you will deal with reality without drugs.
The guilt of knowing that you have hurt those that love you so deeply… and that it will probably happen again.
Sean battles with his fragile state of going back to life without having any new tools, thoughts or direction to release his demons. Jail doesn’t provide much in the way of personal growth.
When the phone rings and I see that same number on the caller ID I am excited to talk to him. I listen to the recording telling me that this is a call from an inmate at the Eldorado County correctional facility. I have that recorded voice stuck in my head. I love to hear his voice. He sounds so hopeful and so ready to make his life into something remarkable.
How did this happen?
I loved him, cared for him, read to him, hugged him, woke him up each morning with loving words, held his dreams in my heart, and tried and tried to do my best.
He has been in jail for 3 months this time. Jail. Correctional facility. Correction, yea right. What is it correcting?
My fear is that despite his overwhelming desire to never, ever go back to drug use,Â it could happen. Families of addicts know that you hold on hard to your dream of having a happy, healthy child who has learned from the depths of hell, that it is time to live without drugs. And these families also know that your holding on for dear life. Literally. I am holding on-Â to a thread of hope.
Addiction makes you something you never thought you would be. And involves everyone and everything in your life.
Tomorrow I will go pick up my son.
I will hope, pray, and scream from the depths of my soul that this is the last time he and I share this special moment together.
I am certain this will be the last time I see him in jail.
I am certain this is the last time he will do drugs.
And yea, I am scared.