No statistics, no NA meetings, not even a recent news column type article written today will truly educate anyone on the tragic loss and confusion a caring family member experiences when a loved one is found to be addicted to Heroin. No one is capable of being prepared for the constant agony , the lies, the anger, the disbelief, the persistent questions, fear or the destruction that is introduced into the family. One moment you believe, and the next instant reality spits in your face when you recognize, all is not well. Stories are contrived for the addict to continue to use, stories the addict is utterly convinced of themselves, stories that never end, never see a happy ending, stories we the family want to believe with each telling. Stories that will break your heart.
Anyone who’s witnessed someone they love and adore, nod out, burn a blanket with their cigarette and insist vehemently they were smoking and you need to “chill”; basically is stunned, shocked and then just plain angry. ANGRY…for being treated like an idiot, being ignored, being used, taken advantage of; angry for being a failure, for being useless, for not understanding how this could have happened, for not finding the answers, all forgivable but some say forgiveness is not the solution, that forgiveness is the addicts path to enabling.
A line is drawn between the addict and the addiction, a thin line one that any decent human being is unable to walk well.
Years ago, front page news tallied a death wave of eighteen, when addicts were told a certain brand of Heroin was nothing more than rat poison. The goal here for these now dead addicts was to beat the drug, a voice in the head screams inside reading the front page tragedy “Death wish! Why would my precious loved one be on a suicide mission? Where have I failed?”
This nations FBI director James Comey, recently came to Boston, MA to address the heroin epidemic assuring local citizens their administration is taking the lead in narcotics investigations but stressed the FBI works with the Drug Enforcement task teams to arrest dealers and choke off supply. Overdoses for the year in Essex County to date tally at 120 while just over the border into New Hampshire the roll awaits for investigations to finish on another 70 deaths with 65 already documented cases listing Heroin as the cause.
What can be done? In the heat of active addiction, if we are present to only stand to the side, to watch with sadness as each day passes, with every breath we pray for some miracle; for some key phrase to be said that will bring back our loved one, to give us hope. Our hands are tied, our actions seem futile and the pain never stops, sleepless nights, constant vigils, the future is maddening. The saying goes, if you can’t help an addict don’t hurt them, everything we try seems to hurt them. Is it helping them to give up hope?
Addicts, when faced with dire circumstances will agree to go to detox. Addicts who are not sick and tired of being sick and tired will only agree to stop the family from their tireless nagging. Some are forced to detox by court orders but whatever the reason if it is not the addicts desire to end the turmoil, immediately their brilliant mind conjures up ways and means to continue to use, to outwit everyone involved and continue to do what they believe is their choice, detesting anyone who stands in their way. Notice here, the observation: brilliant minds. It’s a valid comment, a painful one. Most addicts suffer from poor self esteem, tragedies that they have survived which they believe no one could understand, while developing skills people in general would never attain; all evidence of the fact they are exceptional, above average, a force of nature however misdirected into active addiction.
To the extreme: their plans may fail; desperation will cause them to flee. Through a drug induced fog losing their children seems like the best answer. Once caught in the clutches of the system a jail sentence doesn’t sound so bad, after all the drug convinces them “I won’t get caught.” Fleeing from the only home they have, convinced that even though they are in the street, they aren’t really homeless. Lies without remorse come easier, reality gets lost eventually and those they leave behind are forgotten.
For a time, the pain of their actions deaden, but as the need for pain to stay forgotten, and the use and abuse becomes greater; the vicious circle of why they will not face their wreckage begins. Or maybe, this writer is again too kind and it’s simply, they like it, they don’t want to or think they don’t have to stop. It’s theirs, their body and their life. Heroin is now their best friend.
Although, their lives seem to be functioning with blinders on to their actions, those who are educated, who are there to help the addict see through the con. Most counselors in the field are in recovery themselves and regrettably know it is obviously not the right time for this addict to seek help. In most cases the choices become one of tough love: letting the addict hit ‘rock bottom’. Or, on the other end of the spectrum enabling: hoping over time they will come to see the need to stop on their own. Praying in both cases the addict is not a candidate for overdose.
As a grandmother the fear is the future death of the loved one. The stealing, lies and disappearances all fade from view when considering the next action we take could put the addict over the edge. And what of the grandchild? The innocent little one whose mother is not able to raise them or be fully present in their lives?
Family members remember the addict when they were a child themselves, when smiles were easy and truths were inexhaustible. “Why is the sky blue? Why can’t I smoke? Why do I have to go to bed?” The child who believed they could succeed in any of their dreams. The actress, the opera singer, the hair stylist, the ideas were plentiful, but somewhere it all got FORGOTTEN.
They’ve forgotten they are loved, possibly because the ones they look to for love as adults are not the ones willing to give it. Past hurts within my own family show me how easily it was growing up to shun those we are forced to accept as blood relatives. But the truth of the matter is; we may not be loved by who we want to be loved by, but we are loved just the same. They’ve forgotten their worth, that someone, some endeavor or some goal was waiting to be found, and brought into their life with joy. That they are unique, beautiful, charismatic, exceptionally talented, but grandmother’s never forget.
Just when we think all is lost, a glimpse of the person they were meant to be, the one they were and unknowingly still are shows itself, and hope is grasped once more; just long enough to be taken unawares when the ugly head of addiction swallows them up again.
Addicts will ignore those they held in respect, choosing to believe they are hiding the monster away, until desperation kicks in. Instead of hiding, bridges are burning with the hatred they feel for their actions somehow twisted into a reason to hurt those they once believed in. It is their life, their pain, no one else knows their struggles, their hurts so what is this life good for? The worst lies are the ones they tell themselves.
Active addiction WILL eventually put an end to the life of a drug user. There are numerous cases of even first time users found dead in hotel rooms, living rooms or in their own beds.
What then will a grandmother tell their grandchildren when they ask after their missing parent?