Monday, 30 December 2013

Addiction Named A Major News Story for the Year

It is about time! It is so amazing to finally see addiction get the attention it deserves. Even Premier Robert Ghiz talked about it in his year end interview with Guardian reporter, Wayne Thibodeau. I cannot tell you how much it warmed my heart to hear him finally speak in a meaningful way on this important issue. I taped the interview and watched that part three times already.  I waited a long time to hear him acknowledge that more needs to be done. Many other Islanders battling addiction and their families have waited as well. And, let me tell you, our wait was not easy. It was full of pain, worry, stress, grief and so much more.

These types of conversations are very important because they raise awareness about the issue to the general public, many of whom do not understand addiction, so they still see it as a moral failing. But, like I told my son when he was in early recovery and wanting so badly to earn our trust, talk is cheap. Your actions speak louder than your words. If you want us to have faith that it will be different this time, you have to show us and he did! We need the same from government.

This epidemic didn’t just happen overnight. It has been building for years. The people, who could have prevented it from getting to this point, didn’t. I, and many others, felt frustrated and let down on so many levels. To make it even worse, we, as parents, were being blamed for the epidemic by some people, even though there are MANY factors that contribute to drug abuse and addiction, many of which are outside of a parent’s control (genetics, mental illness, supply in the community, etc.).

Not that it makes it any easier for those who have been suffering, but PEI is not the only place in this situation. North America, as the biggest consumers of prescription pain medications, has been hit hard. Governments were not prepared and reacted much too slowly. Many are still dragging their feet. The war on drugs was a complete failure because this is a health issue, not a justice issue. Governments have been slow to right the wrong. With its recent investment, our government is starting the process of change, which is good. I firmly believe that PEI is small enough to be a leader in this area. We have many unique advantages over other places, the biggest ones being our sense of community and caring attitudes.

I think I have a pretty high BS detector when it comes to the issue of addiction. As I mentioned above, I need to see action in order to be convinced that the government is taking the problem seriously now. Based on a couple of recent actions, I feel that change is in the air.

First of all, the 1.2 million dollar investment made recently. Of course, this investment is not nearly enough, but it is a start. We can’t change the past, but we can change the present and the future. This is a positive step in the right direction. Our son was able to get the help he needed thanks to the investment. He is in early recovery and doing amazingly well. We are so proud of him.

There is one other thing that convinced me more than anything else, but I will cover that in another blog posting at a later date, when the time is right. Just know that I was impressed enough that I began to feel hopeful that the government truly is serious about tackling the issue of addiction. Time will tell.

In a couple of days, my blog will be one year old. It has had almost 68,000 visits to date! This shows me that people are very interested in this topic, which puts us miles ahead of where we were just a couple of years ago when addiction was seldom discussed. Another positive sign of change!

I wish you and yours a healthy and happy 2014.


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Wrapped in Love

I already knew that this Christmas was going to be amazing. All of our children were healthy, and that is all we ever wanted. To say that we are happy would be an understatement. I have no words to describe how we feel, although I always try to give it my best effort with words like grateful and peaceful.

I already had the best gift in the world with three healthy children. I didn’t want or need anything else for Christmas, but the gift that my wonderful sister-in-law gave to me (and my parents and siblings) blew me away and reduced me to tears.  She had a throw (see photo above) made for each of us out of my late brother’s clothes.

My 39-year-old brother, Frank, passed away in July after an 8 year journey with brain tumours. This was going to be our first Christmas without him.  I tried not to think about it too much because it made me sad. I chose to focus on the positive (our son’s recovery), knowing that my brother would be just as proud of his nephew and just as happy as I was. He loved his family and was a very devoted uncle.

I cried like a baby when I opened the beautiful throw and realized what it was made from.  It is such a thoughtful and beautiful gift. I will cherish it forever. I am so grateful and so blessed. I can’t express how much that gift means to me. I can wrap myself in my brother’s love whenever I want to.  What a gift!

I wanted to share this with you because I think it is such a wonderful idea. The throw was made by “My Precious Cargo” near Cornwall.  Here is the link to their Facebook page in case you are interested:

The photo below is of me and my wonderful brother.


Sunday, 22 December 2013

My Christmas Wish

It was just my son and I home all day yesterday. My father in law is in ICU in the Halifax Infirmary so Mike and our daughter went over for the night to visit his parents while we stayed home to take care of our beloved pets and to keep the house running.

Anyone who has ever been in our home knows that I am a pampered princess. Mike is a very kind, caring and nurturing person. That is what makes him such a wonderful father and husband. We are blessed.

In Mike’s absence, our son has been so good to me. While I worked away at a project yesterday, he made me a hot chocolate and later offered me a coffee (all the things that Mike does while I am working, minus the food offerings). He took care of our pets and kept the stove going, among other things. He is so awesome! 

When Mike called last night I told him all about it. He said, “So he has been paying attention all these years.”  We are just so thrilled to have our son back and to be seeing his upbringing shining through. When he was in active addiction, we would see little glimpses of our son, which is why we never gave up. He was in there. We just had to find a way to get him out from the grips of addiction.

My son and I finished decorating the Christmas tree, and also shared some great laughs. When he was looking at all the flavours of tea on the David’s Tea website, he saw one called “Mom’s Apple Pie”. He said, “I don’t know how they can make it taste burnt with the oven on fire”.  That is one of our kids’ favourite memories. What a commotion in the house that day with the pie and oven on fire and the smoke alarm going off. They couldn’t wait for dad to get home to tell him the news about mom’s pie! Dad saved the day by going out to buy one. What a wonderful memory of a time before addiction entered our home!

This Christmas season and every day, we are filled with gratitude for the beautiful gift of having our son back. We look forward to Christmas Eve and morning when we will all be together celebrating with peace in our minds and in our hearts.  

My Christmas wish (besides my father in law’s return to good health, of course) is that we will end the suffering brought on by addiction. That we will begin to treat it as aggressively as we would any other disease so that other families will get their loved ones back too. That society will come to understand the disease and show compassion for those suffering its effects. That when history is written, the future generation will be shocked at how we treated sick people and feel grateful that “times have changed”.

From my family to yours, have a very blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

With love,

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Feeling blessed

I truly forgot what it felt like to have peace of mind. It feels good. It feels really good.

The last five years have been so hard for our family…

Our son was caught up in an addiction that progressed to the worst level possible...

We watched his health deteriorate right before our eyes as he became a skeleton with sunken eyes...

We ran into roadblocks every step of the way in trying to get help for him...

Our son had a disease that was treatable but there was little to no treatment available for it...

Our son (and many others like him) was crying out for help but no one was listening...

We had to resort to calling politicians (the first time in our lives) to beg for help. There is very little patient confidentiality with addiction as addicted Islanders and their parents have to do whatever they can to get help...

There was so much silence around the disease of addiction that it was deafening...

To add to our heartbreak, we would read anonymous comments in newspaper articles referring to my son and others like him as “druggies” as if he wasn’t even a fellow human being with value...

We would also read anonymous comments like “where are the parents?”, “parents need to parent”, “parents need to set good examples”, “parents need to stop expecting the taxpayers to pay the price for their poor parenting”, etc. as if we – and others trying to survive this heartbreaking journey – were bad parents who deserved what we were getting...

We were frustrated that our son had a disease that no one understood. A stigmatized disease. A cruel disease. A disease that everyone thought they were an expert on even though they never took the time to really learn about it...

We were saddened as our son’s life-savings (earned through paper routes where half his pay was saved for education and half for a car) was handed over to drug dealers when they came to collect...

We sat helplessly by as he was arrested...

We visited courtrooms wondering how the heck a member of our family ended up here...

We felt frustration when his sentencing included getting treatment for his addiction, even though he had already tried to get it and was turned down...

We saw our son in shackles being led to and from a court room...

In jail, we talked to our son from behind a glass using a phone. We couldn’t even hug our son...

I cried more tears then any mother should ever have to, and we carried more stress than we ever thought possible...

Life goes on no matter what you are dealing with or how you are feeling. During the past five years, we’ve had tremendous loss including my grandmother, my grandfather, my uncle, three young cousins, friends, and, most recently, my dear brother who died two months shy of his 40th birthday... 

When I look back now, I wonder how we got through it all in one piece! It reminds me of Mother Teresa’s quote, “I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much.”
Now that our son is better, my mind feels free. For the first time in a very long time, I feel at peace. I no longer think about my son dying. I no longer feel worry. I feel happiness. True happiness. I feel like a big load has been lifted and I can do anything. I feel free. I feel grateful. I feel alive.

Our son feels better too. He is so happy to have his life back. The kind, caring and generous person we raised is back, much to our delight.

Because I am so proud to be seeing our son’s upbringing shining through, I’ll end this post with one heartwarming example of his compassion for others. It certainly shows the human potential that is lost when we leave addiction untreated.  There are so many others like him who need us to look past the addiction to the person who is lost inside.

He and his girlfriend were standing in line to order at a coffee shop in Montague. There were three teenage boys ahead of them. The first two boys ordered Iced Capps and donuts while the third boy ordered a glass of water.

Our son assumed that the last boy was ordering water because he didn’t have any money.  He felt sorry for him so quickly came up with a plan to give him money without embarrassing him. 

He reached into his pocket where he had $3. He tapped the kid on the shoulder and told him that he found the money on the floor and was wondering if it was his. The kid said that it wasn’t. My son said, “Well, I don’t want it. You can have it”.  The kid gladly took the money and our son ordered his green tea and left.

Yes, our beautiful son is back!

Feeling ever so grateful for our blessing, and living one day at a time,