Friday, March 1, 2013

Skeleton in the closet...... Addiction (a loved ones perspective)

Whew just the title makes me cringe as I write. All families have skeletons they try to keep firmly in a closet. For years addiction has been a taboo subject people only whispered about. If you were an addict you were ostracized from the family or maybe the family tried to keep it hidden and dealt with it privately. Some still do.  Addicts and addictions come in many different forms. When you think of addicts most people picture the bum on the street with the bottle of cheap wine, a person at the corner bar drinking his/her life away, the drug deal taking place on the corner, or more recently the meth lab found in some remote rural area that you hear about on the news after it has blown up. I always have wondered why people who never passed a middle school science class think "Hey lets make meth and sell it... how hard can it be"? Then BOOM they are surprised when their building blows up. I am here to tell you all of the previous mentioned are very real, some not very smart but real all the same. These are the addicts you see or hear about the most. They are the exception rather than the rule. Look around you, co-workers, members of your church, the neighbor down the street in your quaint "Leave it to Beaver or Mayberry" neighborhood. This is where you will find most addiction. Otherwise crazy brilliant people with so much talent. Business suits or blue jeans, young or old, race, creed, color, and sexual orientation don't matter, addiction does not discriminate. I am not here to quote statistics, as a matter of fact I can't quote the first one. 

What I can do is tell you what I have seen, heard, and felt when someone you love has an addiction and there is NOTHING you can do to fix it. It is the most befuddling, painful, mind boggling, heart wrenching experience you will have, short of the death of a loved one. Addiction in some ways is worse. If that seems a little over the top, then you have never walked in my shoes.

"I want to be an addict when I grow up", said NO person EVER. I am sure there are hundreds or maybe even thousands of reasons and explanations as to why it happens. Scientific, psychological, enviroment, upbringing, peer pressure, escape from reality, or "I will just try it once", are some of the top things that come to mind. Once an addict walks through that door (or gateway as it is sometimes called) for the first time they will spend their entire life trying to get back out. Addiction runs the gamut it can be alcohol, drugs (legal and illegal), gambling, other substance forms, and activities that can't be controlled or moderated. Just because you have participated in the activities mentioned above doesn't mean your an addict, but you might be. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. 

Addiction in the dictionary is defined-
"The condition of being abnormally dependent on some habit"  

Over the course of my life I have seen the cycle of addiction. The ups and downs the success and failures of loved ones fighting to win over addiction. If you are reading this and not one single person comes to mind when you hear the word ADDICTION....... Then ding ding ding you have  scored big on the roulette wheel of life go buy a lottery ticket!   GO HUG EVERY MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY and COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!!! Hell do these things anyway. They may think you have lost your mind but you and I will both know the real reason.  

I haved watched loved ones and aquaintences with addictions waste such amazing skills and talent. Natural gifts, talents and intellengence that will boggle your mind, throw away everything in their life, friends, family, relationships, careers all for the next fix (whatever that may be). Addiction is an internal struggle, people who recognize they are an addict battle this fight every day of their life. They are wired differently than people without addictions or an addictive personality (As I have heard it called). Why do I know this? I have seen it first hand, listened intently at the pain and suffering of loved ones trying to make sense of the why and how, studied, read, wrote, asked questions to those with addictions and prayed on the very subject. Prayed every day and often.

All addictions have similarities but not all addictions are the same. The one thing that every recovering addict will tell you.....
"I had to want help and I had to hit rock bottom. "
All addicts experience FEAR in their life, it's an acronym. What might seem like a normal everyday occurrence, day to day reality if you will, to me or you will send an addict into a tailspin. The addiction is their comfort zone the escape from reality.  It is THEIR REALITY it is THEIR MASTER.

F- Forget (or the F word in the non-PG version)
E- Everything
A- And
R- Run

There will  be excuses, justifications, lies, or at the very least denial that there is even a problem. Please understand if you are watching this happen there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO to fix it you can only handle how you react. Only the person with the addiction can fix it, even then it depends on the severity and only with the right kind of help. People with addictions are the only people that can truly understand other addicts and their behaviors. I have been priviledged enough to have information openly shared with me when I asked the hard questions. Knowledge is vital and key in understanding the thought process, the cause and affect.
It was explained to me one time and I paraphrase "Every day I build a wall between me and my addiction. There are days when it is easier than others, some days I don't think about using as much, but when I become really stressed, tired or upset that is the first thing I think about, USING. The best I can do is try to plug the hole in the dam by talking to my sponsor, go to an extra meeting, and pray for the strength to overcome the urge."

Being someone on the outside watching the struggles of someone I love trying to beat addiction is heartbreaking. This is a horrible disease, habit, problem, DNA code. I am not here to argue semantics if addiction is a mindset, DNA driven, or disease. Tomayto  - Tomaaato ...I will not debate this issue.

What I KNOW TO BE TRUE is ADDICTION IS REAL and crippling to the addict and the people that love them. There is hope and there is help for someone suffering from an addiction and their loved ones. Wow that sounded like a rehab commercial and it certainly was not meant to be. :)  Please educate yourself. Don't think for a skinny second you can fix this on your own or even deal with it on your own. That is no more feasible than the addict believing they can "just quit" anytime they want or do it by themselves. Sure they might for a while but they will relapse without outside help. Trust me I have seen it with my own eyes. Not every program helps every person but I will share with you what I have learned.  Be open! If you are going through this reach out. There are people like me willing to listen. (There are professionals that can help loved ones and are far more qualified than me but sometimes an ear and a shoulder is a good place to start). There is strength in numbers. Find a support group that deals with addictions.  If you are the person ready to admit you have an addiction, REACH OUT please by all means REACH OUT. I have been told that no matter what your story of rock bottom is there with be another person's addiction story that will make you go WOW are you kidding me, mine is not quite so bad after all.  Awareness, education, and a support system are key for addicts and their families. 

Addicts will deny they have a problem, play the part of the victim or play the blame game.
Recovering Addicts will admit they were the director of their own story. Their life was not taken from them but that they gave everything away, addiction was their master.

If you want more information about addiction check out this website.  Narcotics Anonymous. 
Every person has their way of coping with a loved ones addiction, mine is to write. If this blog has given you some insight please feel free to share, comment or subscribe to my blog.

You can't choose your family, your only hope is to love and understand them to the best of your ability. For all the ups and downs I wouldn't change one single member of my family. I love them all dearly. I may want to strangle them sometimes, but I am told that is normal. Let's hope so :)

Below is a poem I wrote in 2008 during a particularly difficult time in my family. Until now only a select handful of people had seen this poem. This explains my feelings better than the blog.

The War Within

I don’t understand the choices they make
Their body suffers, so little care they take,
Is it nature, genetics, the way they are made
Or does it all begin as a way to escape
It’s a world I watch every day
My heart is broken tears fall where they may.
They make the choice wanting to get well
The addiction is stronger sometimes they fail
I give my love, watch them cope
Wanting to help but I’m afraid to hope
Can't they see it tears apart
The very ones who love them with all their heart
This vicious cycle we have seen before
How can their bodies stand much more
Each day they win the harder we pray
Tomorrow seems like it will be a much brighter day
I stand outside this foreign life
I get mad and angry at the pain and strife
Such talented souls trapped in a prison
Mind and bodies addicted to the poison
I remove myself and stay just outside
For fear if I don’t I will lose my mind
My love is strong and always there
Even when it seems that I don’t care
The struggles are many and the pain is tough
You begin to feel like love is just not enough
I pray each day God will deliver the strength
For each of us has gone to a great many lengths
The inner battles continue with the war that rages
Will it free the battered souls from the chains and cages
The prison will continue while the addiction is fought
We all hold our breath as freedom is sought
I have to believe that after the war
The inner battles will be no more
Peace will be won and there will come a time
When we will all be as one, this family of mine

Nicole Huttar Sept. 2008