Pain Pills: Living With an Addict
Every day I wake up, and I wonder if today will be the day.
Will I get that call?
I've already gotten it twice before.
"Mom overdosed... get home quick."
Being an army wife, I don't always get to choose where I live. This makes getting home in a rush a little difficult. But I do it. I never know if I will make it in time, or if my mom is going to pull through.
The first time I got the call, it was an accidental overdose. She took a few too many, and she had to be rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped.
The second time, it was a suicide attempt. She dropped her dogs off at my aunt's house, drove 30 minutes away, and booked a hotel room. There, she proceeded to swallow over 200 prescription pain pills. The only reason we found her is because she used her debit card to pay for the room, and the charge showed up on her online banking account. This was about two years ago.
Just a few days ago, our family had to admit her into a psychiatric facility on suicide watch. I can't help but wonder if this nightmare will ever end.
In the beginning...
My mom first started taking pills in the spring of 2007. When she remarried, we moved into a house with her new husband and his two kids. During the process, she hurt her shoulder carrying some boxes. When the pain wouldn't go away, she turned to her doctor.
Getting that first bottle of pills was too easy. Her doctor simply wrote the prescription, and all it cost her was a trip to the pharmacy and a $10 co-pay.
But she didn't expect for those pills to make her feel as good as she did. All of a sudden, she was able to make it through her workday full of energy, and nothing made her sore. She felt like this was the answer to her prayers after years of being a single mom.
What she didn't know what that an obsession with getting more and more of these pills would soon take over her life.
Over the years, my mom has done so many things that she is ashamed of. Her only goal was to get more pills to sustain her habit, and nothing else seemed to matter.
She borrowed money from me, my sister, her dad, and several other people. After a couple of years of this, she was over $10,000 in debt just from personal loans.
She also began buying pill illegally from her family, people at her work, and anyone else who would sell to her. Over and over again, she put herself at risk for legal repercussions. It was simply pure luck that kept her out of trouble.
Even with all of this, she managed to alienate those who were closest to her. She missed her only son's high school graduation because she hadn't been able to find enough pills, and she was going through withdrawals. She was withdrawing at my wedding as well, so she left as soon as possible.
There isn't a single picture of me and my mom from the happiest day of my life.
Have you been affected by drug addiction?
My mom is still struggling with her dependency. She has become a "doctor shopper," and has had several medical facilities deny her care because they know what she is really after. She has emptied all of her savings and retirement accounts to fuel her habit, and she has lost the trust of every person she loves.
In addition, the years of abuse have altered her brain chemistry. She can no longer cope with day-to-day stresses, even when she gets a few months of clean time. The thought of having to get and keep a job seem impossible to her.
At the moment, she is in a psychiatric facility on suicide watch. She can't deal with her life, and she feels as though she has no reason to live. She has three kids, all of whom are either in college or graduated, and are living successful lives. She also was given the gift of a granddaughter in January of 2013. We all love her dearly, and, yet, she feels alone. This isn't the reality, but her messed up brain telling her that she is miserable.
We are unsure if she will ever be released from this medical facility.
- When someone is addicted to drugs, they are not really themselves. They do not consider the consequences of their actions in their pursuit of their next fix. When they get clean, you can't hold their actions against them forever.
- If you think someone is taking drugs, ask. Don't ignore the elephant in the room. It will only hurt both of you in the end.
- Don't help them. Addicts need to hit a "bottom" before they will understand the damage they are causing. Don't loan them money, give them a free place to stay, or give them any kind of financial support. Doing so is, essentially, supporting their habit.
- Sometimes you just have to distance yourself emotionally. Yes, you love them. Yes, you don't want to see them in pain. But if they do not choose to help themselves, they are going to drag you down with them.
- There are going to be stumbles along the way. When a person is trying to get clean, it will probably not happen on the first try. There will be mistakes and missteps, and they will feel so ashamed. It is important to be there for them during these low times. Help them realize that their addiction is not a death sentence.
Keeping Ourselves Educated
One reason that drug addiction is so prevalent in our country is because many people don't understand the damaging effects that are caused by taking drugs. If they are already taking drugs, they may hold the belief that "I can quit at any time." We need to teach the youth of our society that drugs are not safe, even the some of ones prescribed by our doctors.
So here is my effort. If I help even one person overcome the fight against drugs then I will have accomplished something. My prayers go out to those struggling with their addiction and to the loved ones who have to see that pain.
Type of Drug
generally associated with opiates; includes any drug that contains opium poppy or morphine-like effects
morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone
produces a hallucination involving one or more of the 5 senses
increases alertness and activity level in the central nervous system
usually in a gas or solvent form; vapors are inhaled through the nose or trachea; does not include drugs that are inhaled after burning or heating (ie. marijuana)
nitrous oxide (found in whipped cream cans), acetone (found in nail polish remover)
J is for Junkie
The following video is a full-length documentary following several crack addicts that have created a sort of community in Atlanta, GA. Their story is difficult to watch, but it can provide a serious message to us all.
Besides attending meetings and getting a sponsor, there are many other ways to fill up your time. The motto of Narcotics Anonymous is "one day at a time." Choose to fill that time with personal growth instead of suffering through the minutes. Keeping busy can help keep your mind off of your addiction.
And, in times of stress, always remember the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
© 2013 Stephanie Constantino