Monday, July 7, 2008

Through the words of an Addict

The "tough love" forums that had been there for me in the beginning were not going to help me now. I had a bigger challenge, a life threatening challenge. My son was an addict, not an unruly teenager.

I turned to addiction sites and found myself begging for help from active addicts, struggling addicts and recovering addicts. These people I had once despised, I now turned to for help. Lack of knowledge had always led me to think that their actions were selfish ones, that they did not care about the pain and misery that they caused the people that loved them. But I was now ready to open my mind and understand addiction. I needed to know what motivated them to turn to drugs.

They asked me many questions about Robby, and one question in particular... "Is your son ready to quit?" They asked why he was not there talking to them. I told myself.....He was overwhelmed with his addiction, he did not know where to start, I had to help him. He wanted it, he really did. My answer to them.... he WAS ready to quit. He will be here soon, online, ready to get help.They warned me that this had to be Robby's choice..... not mine.

Pushing through their doubt ....I logged on every day. I needed to learn and understand everything. In the end the answer was always the same, (but not what I wanted to hear).. "You cant help him if he doesn't want the help."

Of course he wanted help....but then I would ask myself, did he even understand fully what he had done to himself? Did he believe he even had a problem? Was he ready to fight this battle? How could he believe it when I could barely except it?

I kept asking questions, refusing to believe their warnings. I was obsessed with finding answers that I wanted to hear. I lurked on many addiction forums reading tragic stories and joined others to tell my story. As the days and weeks passed, I found friends among these addicts. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, housewives and even a Congressman. Blue collar workers and white collar alike. Twenty year olds and fifty year olds. Some came from households with addictive parents and some did not. Others had started taking prescription pain killers due to an accident or illness. And still others turned to opiates as a recreational drug not knowing that it would eventually eat them alive. Each story was unique but eerily similar. Most had never thought for a moment that this would become a life long battle. They were people just like me who had jobs, families and very full lives. By the time they realized their lives were becoming unmanagable due to their addiction it was almost impossible to stop. They could not function without these pills now. Coddling their addictions, they continued to do whatever they could to get pills, convincing themselves they had legitimate pain or suffering. Some were filled with shame or embarrassment that kept them from seeking help from their family. Addiction kept them from thinking rationally always finding a reason why they still needed to take pills. Chasing pills was part of their lives until the inevitable day came when they were losing or had already lost everything...... their health, their families, their jobs, their lives were gone or hanging on by a thread before they knew it. These are some of the nicer stories.

All of these people had started using painkillers for one reason or another years ago. In some instances it had been half their lives and even after being ravaged by addiction were still fighting to stay sober. My fears grew as I listened to them. All of my previous thoughts and feelings started to dissolve away. There was 'no truth in labeling'. These were people who had wrestled with addiction.... got chewed up and spit out, defeated by drugs..... now they were haunted by years and years of drug abuse. They had been humbled along the way and now selflessly helping others get through it. It did not take me long to gain a new found respect for all of them. I will never know a stronger group of people than the recovering addict. There 'will to survive' is in a class of its own.

I 'watched' as literal strangers met and bonded in a matter of minutes. Rallying support from other members... staying close to one another, pulling each another through the weeks of retched physical and mental pain associated with withdrawal, all the while cheering each another on. Sometimes they would relapse, only to be encouraged to keep moving forward, pick themselves up and not look back. It was incredibly heart wrenching. I longed for my son to be there with me watching what he could do if he only wanted it bad enough. It was nauseating to think that this is what he had to look forward to. As painful as the reality of it was I was seeing these people were beating it..... and I knew he had a chance. It was a moving experience. One I will never let go of. One that opened my eyes yet again.

Still......they were ruthless in their belief that my son had to want to change and that I could not do it for him. I could not do anything for him but love him. Their words were painfully harsh. At times I was far from comforted.

I continued to challenged their 'expertise'.........and pressed on, learning as much as I could from them and any other source available to me. I was consumed. I was on a mission to save my son. I had always been there for him, and was not going to stop now. I would never give up.

But the questions would drive me insane.
"Why could he not just stop?"
"How could he not see how much he was hurting himself and JUST STOP!"
"Didn't he want a 'normal' life?

Their answers were always the same. "He was an addict, he cant stop unless he truly wants to." They kindly tried to reassure me that "it was not my fault". I had to let him take full responsiblity for his decisions now and back away from the situation. Their questions to me where always the same. "Where is Robby?" ...and "Why is he not here talking to us?"
Although some were more compassionate then others (or maybe they just started to feel sorry for me) it was as they had warned .....always the same dead end. "I could not force him to stop, I could not help him if he did not want the help". He not only had to want it, but want it bad enough to endure the unavoidable and painful struggle that was to come.

Through the words of the addict I had acquired knowledge that I never thought I would crave. I hung onto the belief that the more I could educate myself the more I could do to help Robby. Funny, but at this 'late date' I was listening to their words but still not hearing everything they said. Somehow I had contributed to this mess and it was now my 'job' to fix it.

When I was not talking with recovering addicts, I was scouring the Internet trying to understand addiction through science and medicine. What affect were opiates having on him mentally, physically and emotionally? What I was about to learn was both mind blowing and frightening.

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