Saturday, 18 October 2014

Promises to my struggling child


I will never stop learning about the disease of addiction until I completely understand it so that I can make decisions that will help, not hurt, you.

I will keep an open mind as I research so that I don’t miss out on the very thing that just might save your life.

I will listen to expert opinion based on evidence, not public opinion, when it comes to the treatment of your disease.

When the beautiful day comes that you find your path, I will be so proud of you and will celebrate wholeheartedly, no matter which pathway to recovery you choose.

I will treat you with love, compassion and understanding like I would if you had any other serious illness, and I will never be ashamed of you. You are sick, not bad.

I will never forget the important fact that the very thing (brain) you need to rely on to get well is the thing that is affected, which is what makes addiction so hard to overcome but it can be done!

I will fight your disease with all the power I have in me, knowing that my power comes from focusing on the things that I can change.

Those little glimpses that God gives me of the “old you” will serve as constant reminders of why I’m fighting so hard.

I will set boundaries that will keep our family healthy and you close to us, allowing you to gather strength from our love and support as you struggle to find recovery.

I will let you suffer the natural consequences (i.e. job losses) of your disease without rescuing you so that you might find the strength and will to change much sooner.

When I look into your eyes, I will see YOU, not your disease.

Finally, I promise to always love you and to keep up the fight for your life until the day comes that you find recovery, or one of us takes our last breath.

Love mom, 
the promise keeper

Written with love for all who struggle and their families
by: Rose Barbour, Living in the Shadows in Prince Edward Island

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Giving thanks: One year of recovery!

One year ago, we had an empty chair at our table for Thanksgiving dinner. Our son had gone into detox once again, trying to break free of the chains of addiction.

We had no reason to believe that this time would be any different than the other stays at the facility, but we always kept the hope alive. We made a big deal of it every time he took the step toward help because you just never knew when the miracle would happen. We wanted him to know that we believed he could do it and that we were there to support him. 

Although we missed having him with us for Thanksgiving, we could be thankful that our son was trying to get well. We prayed that the chair would be filled the following year with a healthier son. Our prayers were answered.

Today, our son celebrates ONE YEAR of recovery! We had our Thanksgiving dinner last night and his chair was filled. We are so thankful and incredibly blessed.

Our son’s life is moving forward in so many ways. We are proud of the work he’s put in and his continued efforts in recovery. He was able to find what works for him and is enjoying life again. We have so much to be thankful for.

I don’t know what the next year holds but it doesn’t matter because I live one day at a time. Today is a very good day.

Finally, on this day of giving thanks, I would like to take the time to thank the staff at Addictions Services, Strength Program, and the Reach Centre for your roles in our son’s new life. You all planted seeds of recovery in his mind during his journey through addiction. Eventually, these seeds started to grow. Thanks to your support, we have our son back. We are grateful to all of you!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Where have you been all my life?

Jacob and Cody had been best friends since the second grade when they became inseparable. They played on the same sports teams, and their families went camping together each summer. They were like brothers. While they would get into trouble, occasionally, they were considered good kids by anyone’s standards.

When the teen years rolled around, they experimented with alcohol, marijuana and whatever else their peers were using at the time. Someone even brought mushrooms to a party one night so they ate them. If it was there, they tried it. They had a lot of fun during those years, and somehow managed to hide it from their parents. Very few kids ever got caught.

After high school, Jacob and Cody packed up their belongings and drove many miles from home to start their new lives as college students. They enjoyed all that college life had to offer, including many parties. At one particular party, someone brought out a bottle of pills and passed them around to be crushed and snorted.

Unsure of what to do, the two friends looked at each other. Of course, they both had heard about the problems with prescription drugs. Some kids in their high school had gotten messed up in them. Despite what they knew, Cody shrugged his shoulders and Jacob nodded his head. They silently agreed “what the hell”, thinking that they could handle it.

Cody had his turn first. He liked the sensation the pill gave him. He felt really good for the rest of the evening. Jacob, on the other hand, would experience it very differently. The first thought that came to his head was “where have you been all my life?” He felt like he found something he had been missing, although he didn’t realize he had been missing anything until that very moment. Everything he had experienced in life to date paled in comparison to the euphoric feeling that little pill had given him. He wanted more.

Whether it was genetics or for some other reason, Jacob couldn’t walk away. His body longed for more. That euphoric feeling was all he could think about. He would do anything to feel it again. He eventually dropped out of school as his drug seeking became a full-time job.

Despite Cody’s attempts to help him, Jacob got sicker and sicker until he eventually lost his life to the terrible disease of addiction at the age of 24. 

NOTE: While this story is not real, it is reflective of the different experiences people have with prescription pain pills. The lucky ones can walk away but some can’t. Opiate addiction is caused by the brain’s reaction to the very powerful pills, which were originally meant for end of life or post-surgery pain while at the hospital. Both Cody and Jacob were doing what most young people do, which is using substances to have a good time. The only difference was in how they experienced the pill, not in their upbringing. The addictive qualities of these medications make them extremely dangerous and we are seeing the result with an opiate epidemic in North America. We need tighter controls to keep them out of the hands of our young people who are especially vulnerable. Lives depend on it!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Stigma Kills: In memory of Mary

Below is a comment that I wrote on Facebook in response to a woman who was implying that parents are to blame for the current addiction epidemic. I posted it in a few groups as well and received an overwhelming response and it was shared several times. I thought I'd put it here on my blog for those of you who are new to this journey and/or may be blaming yourselves (it is not your fault!):

We have a national opiate epidemic that is claiming our youth in record numbers. The majority of them are addicted to opiates. These drugs were not available to us when we were kids because they were used for end of life or post-surgery pain. Had they been available, previous generations would have been affected as well because they are highly addictive. The majority of youth, past and present, experimented with substances because they were curious, wanted to be grown up, were risk-takers, etc. The only difference today is that the drugs available to them are far more dangerous and addictive. Some will become addicted very quickly. Just like when we were young, a youth’s drug of choice is whatever is available to them. In our day, that was mainly alcohol. Today, that is opiates, which can be purchased from their own peers in and out of school.

A recent study from the University of Manitoba pointed out that between 1991 and 2007, the number of prescriptions in Ontario for one type of prescription opioid — drugs with the active ingredient oxycodon — increased by almost 900% and oxycodone-associated deaths rose from less than 1 per 1-million people every year in 1991, to 12.93 per 1-million people in 2006. Many more opioids have hit the market since then. These pills are making their way to the streets. This is why we are seeing the rise in youth addictions.

Finally, as a parent of a youth who struggled with addiction, now in recovery, I can assure you that my children had rules, lots of love, were talked to about the dangers of drugs and had two parents who didn't smoke, drink or do drugs. People commented all the time on how well-behaved and mannerly our children were. I have met MANY parents on this journey in the same boat as our family is. This happens to many loving and supportive families.

Comments putting the blame on parents are extremely stigmatizing. This is especially sad considering these parents have been through more than anyone should ever have to go through. Not only do we have to worry about our children dying, we have to endure a system that is underfunded and ill-equipped to respond to the crisis. Also, most families endure their incredible pain in silence because of the stigma caused by people who are dead set on blaming parents and seeing addiction as a moral issue. I know of a mother who took her life recently because she couldn’t endure the pain of her child’s addiction any longer and she was gripped in fear that people would find out about it and judge her. That is a tragedy! It is also one of the reasons why I will not stop educating people at every opportunity.

The medical community sees it as a disease but the greater community views it as a moral issue. That is a big part of the problem. If we are ever going to address this issue properly and save lives, we have to look at the big picture.

(Written in memory of Mary, a beautiful mother who was on a heartbreaking journey, and all of the others who lost their lives to this disease)