Sunday, December 16, 2007

Uniting to confront and contain meth

Pinal County in Arizona is facing an “extreme” methamphetamine problem, according to county officials. At the only hospital in the county, the ER usually sees two methamphetamine addicts each day. And two or three of every 10 babies born there has a mother who is addicted to methamphetamine.

Moreover, law officials estimate that 70 percent of crime in the county is directly related to methamphetamine addiction.

So the Pinal County Anti-Meth Coalition is actively working to fight the problem head-on. And they’re doing it by pulling together existing community-based drug prevention coalitions.

What a novel idea! Instead of reinventing the wheel, they’re approaching the problem by gathering together people already involved in the fight, so they can communicate and move in the same direction, together.

Bravo! Too bad more communities haven’t realized the value of this approach.

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Finding strength through support

There’s nothing like going through a crisis to make a person realize the importance of having the support of others. One’s church family can be more supportive than the birth family. And addicts and codependents who participate in 12-step recovery programs understand the need for support very well.

It’s also easier these days to find 24-hour support online—through social networks of others who share your problems, interests and values.

As this year draws to a close and my children face even more difficult days in the year ahead, I’m grateful for the support I’ve had in recent months from friends and family, nearby and across the country. I expect to turn to them in the coming months, and my shoulder will always be there for someone else to lean on when they need it.

If you’re going through tough times, who will you turn to for support?

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Most wonderful time of the year?

Ordinarily I might have been happy that Thanksgiving came early this year and we have an extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s because I always thought Christmas was a magical time and enjoyed everything about it—decorating, baking, shopping and wrapping, sending and receiving Christmas cards. And the music—especially the music.

Life was simpler then, even those years as a single mother. This weekend, I can’t stand to listen to those songs that bring back memories of simpler, happier times. I’m heading right down the road to Grinchville where, most days, I feel I could become the queen Grinch!

It’s been a tough year for me in many ways, for many reasons. But my own problems pale beside those of an alcoholic struggling not to take that drink, the addict fighting not to relapse, or someone with a serious mental illness trying to stay on their medicine and be their best.

It’s the season when depression is prevalent, alcohol and drug binges are up, domestic abuse increases. Not so joyful.

But I’ve done a reality check and I know I have a choice. I can choose to be grateful, pray for my loved ones who are struggling, do something for someone less fortunate. Remind myself I cannot control anyone else but I can control my own thoughts and actions.

When it’s all said and done, maybe it won’t be such a bad holiday season after all.

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The Disease of Addiction

Five young people died of drug abuse during the last year in a small community outside Austin, Texas. The mother of 25-year-old Travis Morford, who died of an overdose of Xanax and alcohol, knew she had to do something.

So she and four other mothers founded Disease of Addiction, or DOA, to help people in their community think about underage drinking and drug use, and the risk of addiction. Kudos to them!

Their first public event, a town hall meeting at a local high school, was titled “I’m Your Disease” and drew 400 people. A great start . . . but can they really change the culture? Can they make a dent in the thinking that brought about the deaths of five young people in just one year? What do you think?

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Monday, October 8, 2007

'Life is kinda cool'

It’s been a few weeks since I saw an article in a California newspaper that I found inspiring.

A young woman is working hard to overcome her meth and heroin addiction and be a good mother to her two young daughters. Now a role model for other recovering women, she’s been clean for 16 months and is enjoying the little things in life—goofing off with her kids and clean, sober friends, drinking a soda at the movies.

What a great reminder when I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. Despite all she’s had to overcome, she expressed it so well and so simply: “You take away the drugs, and life is kinda cool.”

Thanks for the inspiration, Mariah.

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Crystal Darkness airs in Oregon

If you live in Oregon, be sure to tune in to a rare statewide broadcast. Learn more about the methamphetamine crisis when you watch "Crystal Darkness: Meth's Deadly Assault on Our Children.”

Television stations (including all in Portland) throughout the state will air the program from 7:30 to 8 p.m. tomorrow, October 9. The documentary “features powerful and honest testimonies of young people who have gone through addiction.”

Its message targets youth and their parents but is a valuable one for the entire community.

Don’t miss it.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

They are our daughters

NOT ripped from the tabloids . . .

Everyone is tired of hearing about the Lindsay Lohan-Britney Spears-Whitney Houston-Amy Winehouse revolving rehab doors. And we’re tired of the way the media has glamorized their addiction problems. I’ll spare the gory details here.

Instead, why isn’t the media portraying the stories of REAL addicted women?

Because it’s a sobering (no pun intended), sad look at lives impoverished, destitute, nearly destroyed. This week author Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich provided an eye-opening commentary for AOL’s Women’s eNews.

I point it out to you as important reading for Recovery Month 2007. These are our daughters, our sisters, our nieces. Yes, they are responsible for the choices they’ve made that took them to these depths. But as family members of those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, what is our responsibility?

And I ask again, what can we do to prevent our granddaughters from making those same life-altering choices? Who has the answers?

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Wise words from a rocker

Rocker-star-idol, that is—not the kind you sit in on the front porch down south.

It’s National Drug & Alcohol Addiction Recovery Month. And I never thought I’d take seriously anything the founder of the rock band Motley Crue might say. But former heroin addict Nikki Sixx spoke recently on Capitol about addiction and recovery, and I was impressed.

Check it out for yourself. Do you agree with his comments about the family in recovery?

I liked his final words: “Close the door on destruction and celebrate recovery.” That's where my family is today and it's a good place to be.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

It's about time . . .

Finally, the societal crisis that is being created by the manufacture, distribution, sales and use of methamphetamine is being addressed by prevention and law enforcement authorities.

Several years ago when I took a social marketing position with a federal government contractor at SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, just one small piece of prevention information about methamphetamine was available in our vast warehouse.

I was shocked. Having lived in Southern California for more than 20 years, I knew through the media and personal family experience how this substance ravages lives, families, homes and communities.

This isn’t just a western problem or an urban issue. Some states are already in crisis and others are close behind.

And in the Midwest, where down-home values have been the hallmark of daily life, meth is changing life as residents know it.

Learn more about the meth crisis in several small Missouri towns when the A and E Network airs “Meth: A County in Crisis®” this Friday, September 7. You’ll see the personal stories of everyone affected—addicts and their families, law enforcement officials, hospitals, pharmacies.

Above all, don't think meth is a problem that doesn't concern you and your community.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What about parental responsibility?

A recent national study commissioned by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America reports that fewer parents than ever are talking with their teens about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

According to the 2006 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study: “Only half of parents, 54 percent, reported thoroughly discussing the use of drugs like heroin, cocaine and crack with their kids. Even more concerning is that a mere 36 percent of parents reported having in-depth conversations about abuse of prescription medications and only 33 percent have thoroughly discussed abuse of OTC cough and cold medicines with their teens.”

Teens today are at high risk to abuse the drugs they find right at home, in the medicine cabinet. And even scarier, parents are aware of the problem!

What is the answer? This isn’t just the schools’ problem. Education about the risks and dangers of abusing alcohol and drugs starts at home and parents need to take that responsibility seriously.

Of course, there are those of us who tried talking with our kids but they chose that road anyway.

So what's the solution? Anyone out there have an opinion on how to reduce the number of teens who start abusing alcohol and drugs they find at home?

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is the NFL hypocritical about alcohol?

Saw an interesting item this week. Apparently suspended Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman may be sent to jail for violating the National Football League’s substance abuse policy. But the judge who has to decide his fate is accusing the league of hypocrisy in its punishment of Thurman.

Allegedly, Thurman, who had skipped a drug test and was arrested for drunk driving, had alcohol in his system. But Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge John Burlew pointed out that if the NFL wants to crack down on alcohol abuse, they should stop selling beer sponsorships and selling it at the stadiums. Of course, that means millions of dollars a year in revenue to the league.

What do you think? Is the NFL being hypocritical by having a policy against excessively drinking a substance that they sell and promote? Do they even care about alcohol abuse?

It can make for a thought-provoking discussion.

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On being part of the sandwich generation

It’s been an action-packed couple of weeks for me, and I didn’t have time to sit at the computer. A week after being away for a week, I’m still cleaning up hundreds of unopened messages in my work and personal email boxes.

I decided to take a road trip to visit my elderly mother. Thankfully, my sister lives near her and the trip confirmed what I already suspected. It helped to see Mom in her surroundings. We’ve known her memory is slipping very fast, and the changes I’ve observed in just eight months are alarming.

She’ll see a new doctor next month and wants to be tested for dementia, and as far as I’m concerned, it can’t be too soon.

During the first two days of my Florida trip I drove 1,200 miles, while receiving phone calls from my homeless son and daughter-in-law who were detoxing, hungry and having major car problems in Arizona’s 115-degree heat, all with nowhere to go.

A young man who's been in their shoes said if they were going to succeed in staying clean, they needed to be told what to do. They weren't capable of clear, rational thinking in those first days. So as I drove, my friend in Missouri researched family and social service organizations online for them to contact. But did you know homeless agencies are closed on weekends? Yes, at least in Arizona they are.

They survived that week of hunger, exhaustion, loneliness and reliance on the kindness of strangers and family, and are now safely starting over at the Kaiser Family Center. It’s a wonderful program helping homeless families with young children in Phoenix get back on their feet.

How reassuring it is to hear the difference in their voices as they find themselves and regain wholeness once again, attending Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings, working to rebuild a home, becoming productive members of society and responsible parents.

Each day, I still entrust them and the baby to God’s care. And I’ve added Mom to that list too. Yeah, I could definitely be the poster girl for the sandwich generation.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Addiction, recovery and a few good laughs

It sounds like a novel way to share one's story of addiction and recovery. The Comedy Addiction Tour is hitting the road, four men telling one story: "More is never enough."

Their recent debut was in New Orleans, where Mark Lundholm, Kurtis Matthews, Billy Robinson and Jesse Joyce told the audience about their own experiences with addiction and recovery. Their stories are sobering, but they poke fun at themselves.

You can check out a nine-minute YouTube clip at the tour's website.

What do you think? Is their comedy too irreverent? Are addiction and recovery too serious to be treated with humor?

Being able to laugh at yourself is a good thing. And it sounds like these guys have achieved a level of sanity and psychological health that make it possible for them to do just that.

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Making a difference in Yuma

The Yuma Sun reported a heartwarming story this weekend.

A group has been started to help those in the community who have been victimized by meth addicts. They trying to educate the parents, spouses and children of someone addicted to meth about how to tell if they're being victimized - and what to do next. In addition, they also want to serve those who are victims of crimes involving meth.

As I've read in articles from other parts of the country, people are so often reluctant to talk about it. Why is that so??

I applaud the efforts of the Yuma County Meth Nucleus Group and wish them much success in helping their community cope with the effects of this insidious drug.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Keeping it simple

Earlier this week, the daily entry in the little book One Day at a Time in Al-Anon offered me a good reminder.

As the mother of an actively using meth addict with a 1-year-old baby, my life can be full of uncertainty and turmoil—although they’re 2,000 miles away. In times of trouble, when my mind is racing, it can be hard to slow down, think through what’s happening and change my focus. But it helps to focus on one idea or concept that can bring quiet and serenity.

Often, I try to concentrate on gratitude. Listing those things for which I’m thankful, either mentally or on paper, focuses my thoughts and gives me a more positive outlook almost instantaneously.

When I’m trying to make a decision--especially one I’ve prayed about--the Al-Anon concept “Keep it simple” is an excellent reminder. It helps clear my mind so I can receive God’s guidance in the situations at hand.

A scripture that has been especially comforting to me throughout the past 14 years is Psalm 62:5-6—Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress—I will not be shaken.

I’m always interested in how others cope with their times of trouble. What have you found to be helpful?

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

'Meth is OUR problem'

Over the past month, a Clovis, New Mexico, paper published an exellent series about the methamphetamine crisis.

Now in a follow-up opinion piece, the author of that series has shared her emotions about the experience of writing those articles and her compassion for the families of meth addicts that she met. Especially the mothers.

It touched my heart. But then, it's a subject I know well.

Helena Rodriguez has done a wonderful job of shedding light on this darkly disturbing problem. But she found not many people are willing to talk about it.

Has that been your experience? And I wonder, is that true of other drug problems? Heroin, cocaine, oxycontin. Are people more willing to talk about these drug problems and if so, why is that?

I believe that meth is the biggest problem drug our country faces today, and its effects are going to be felt in generations to come. Let's talk more and DO more to eradicate this insidious drug!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Explaining addiction in layman's terms

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has released a helpful new booklet titled "Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction."

In its 30 pages, it describes how science has revolutionized what we now know about drug addiction "as a brain disease that affects behavior."

Somehow I find hope when I see addiction explained, rationally, and see references to prevention and treatment. After all, until the addict is in the grave, there IS hope, isn't there?

Check out the PDF of the booklet or order one here.

I'm going to get a copy for my 84-year-old mother, who doesn't understand why it isn't just a matter of will power. Gotta admit, some days I wonder that myself.

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Prevention ads are working in Montana

Keeping young teens from trying drugs is such a daunting task.

Our federal government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into prevention campaigns in recent years, but it doesn't seem to be making a difference. I've had conversations with my addicted son over the years about how to keep kids from experimenting with drugs, and he didn't have a pat answer.

Now, businessman and Montana rancher Tom Siebel has come along and gotten involved in the fight. When he learned how serious the methamphetamine problem had become in that state, he decided to do something about it.

The Montana Meth Project was born. Compelling TV public service announcements have "significantly reduced first-time use" and helped reduce meth use overall in that state. And I'm really glad to hear the state of Arizona has also begun to air these startling TV spots.

They're the most graphic, in-your-face prevention spots I've ever seen. Learn more about the project and take a look yourself. Do you think they're effective?

I hope other states buy into them and through their airing, we can begin to chip away at the horrifying statistics related to meth use. And spare families from the pain and agony of an addicted child.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Have you seen 'A Mother's Desperation'?

I have not seen HBO's Addiction program. But I came upon their "Supplementary Series" and the short programs titled "A Mother's Desperation."

I could relate to the concern of this mother, having spent the first years of my son's addiction in the same general vicinity. Now that about 2000 miles separate us, the concern and angst--the desperation to do something constructive that can help get my child into detox and treatment--is no less than hers.

Take a few minutes and see how this mother handled it. If you've been through this, what do you think? Is she too involved? Should she have just let circumstances develop as they were?

Knowing that for some addicts, "hitting bottom" is death--is there a better way for families to help their addicted loved ones get into treatment?

I would appreciate hearing from you. The lives of my son, his wife and my one-year-old granddaughter are at stake.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A bright spot on the meth front

So, USA Today has reported that progress is being made against the manufacturing of methamphetamine in the U.S.

The good news: a 58% drop in meth labs and abandoned sites seized last year by police and U.S. agents, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Apparently the state and federal laws that restrict the sale of cold medicines and other chemicals used in the manufacture of meth, as well as increased law enforcement, are making the big difference.

The bad news: use, prices and supplies remain the same. Sources in Mexico are flooding our country with this highly addictive drug--about 80 to 90% is imported.

Some 512,000 people in the U.S. use meth regularly. In 2005, a survey of law enforcement officials identified methamphetamine as their biggest illegal drug problem--surpassing cocaine, heroin and marijuana. It's driving up crime across the country.

When are people going to take a stand against this hideous drug? Have you felt the effects of the meth epidemic? Let me know what you've seen and how you've been affected.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Meth use linked to heart problems--this is news?

If an active methamphetamine addict cared what the drug was doing to his body, a recent study at the Scripps Research Institute might get his attention.

As if anyone whose life is touched by this insidious substance doesn't know, it can cause the heart to race. Heart attacks. Instant death. And usually at an early age.

But now, these researchers have identified medical complications resulting from prolonged use that had never been recognized before. These include numerous cardiovascular problems such as arrhythmias, intracranial bleeding and congestive heart failure.

The study also noted that methamphetamine reacts with proteins in the body, creating compounds that have been associated with Alzheimer's disease and diabetes.

It's not a pretty picture. Too bad the addict usually doesn't get it until the damage is done. As a society, we haven't begun to see the effects of this crisis, but the next 20 years will be telling.

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Tough love for addicts: more love, less tough?

I found an interesting podcast today. It’s a discussion with Laurence Westreich, MD, author of the new book Helping the Addict You Love: The New Effective Program for Getting the Addict into Treatment.

Dr. Westreich has all the right credentials. In addition to being a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of patients dually diagnosed with addiction and mental disorders, he is associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and serves as the consultant on drugs of abuse to Major League Baseball.

In his book (and the podcast), he suggests that families “use a combination of creative engagement and constructive coercion to push addicted members into treatment. Threats and ultimatums are less helpful,” he says, “than are multiple and lovingly delivered confrontations that continually push the addicted family member towards obtaining treatment.”

Traditionally, family members have been encouraged to use "tough love" in dealing with an addicted family member. But Dr. Westreich fears that too many families emphasize the "tough" over the "love".

Interesting. Through the years, I’ve thought most parents have found the tough part to be more difficult.

Take a few minutes to listen to the podcast, then tell me what you think. Are families too tough on the addict? Not tough enough? I’d like to know what you’ve observed.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Flavored meth: truth or fiction?

Is there really such a thing as strawberry-flavored methamphetamine? Several months ago, the Carson County (Nev.) Sheriff's Department reported seizing a quantity of what was described as strawberry-flavored methamphetamine, dubbed "strawberry quick" after a container of Strawberry Quik drink mix was reportedly found at a meth lab.

Both the Nevada Department of Public Health and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) followed up with warnings about strawberry flavored meth, and reports spread about meth being flavored with chocolate, cola, and more.

Local and national media began picking up the story as well as another about "cheese" heroin, a mix of black-tar heroin and Tylenol PM that has become popular in the Dallas area and is linked to a number of overdose deaths among adolescents.

Only problem is, it seems that no other law enforcement agency has actually found and identified strawberry-flavored meth in their community. So maybe it’s just the rumors that are spreading and not the stuff itself.

Have you heard of this in your community? It was news to me, but then, I’m living in the mid-Atlantic area where meth has not traditionally been the drug of choice. Not like it is in the West and Midwest. Well, at least not yet.

You can read more online about the controversies around flavored meth and “cheese” heroin at Join Together, a program of the Boston University School of Public Health. Since 1991 Join Together has been the nation's leading provider of information, strategic planning assistance, and leadership development for community-based efforts to advance effective alcohol and drug policy, prevention, and treatment.

Thanks for the great work you're doing.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Thoughts in circles

This is one of those days when the thoughts just keep going in circles.

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks and a while since I’ve had a chance to write. So many thoughts, so little time.

I was able to see my son and his family last week, and my greatest concern was how the baby was doing after these chaotic months that happened to be key ones in her development.

The joy: she seems to be a healthy and happy about-to-turn-one-year old, and I was so blessed to get to see her really start to walk. After putting one or two steps together, she moved on to four, five and six steps at a time before falling. By the time I left, she was walking across the room without falling. Yay!!

The heartbreak: wondering if she is really getting the nurturing, hugs and kisses when she needs them. Wondering how long it will be before she can just go to sleep in her own bed for a whole week, then two, then permanently.

Seeing her took me back to her daddy’s first birthday and how cute and sweet he was as a child. It boggles my mind to try to understand how he went from that child to become the addicted person he is today. How could it happen? I know it wasn’t a path he deliberately chose, although the choices he made since then have taken him down a long road of pain and problems.

As recovering alcoholic Bill Webb said in a recent blog post, “Perhaps it might help to remember that no one wakes up one day and says, ‘Hey! It’s a nice day today—I think I’ll become an addict!’ All of us thought we could control it to begin with, and all of us were blind-sided by its power.”

It helped to read his words that followed: “I tell sponsees over and over that when we’re using we suffer from chemically-induced insanity—that we were literally not in our right minds—and still they are often unable to forgive themselves for what they have visited on themselves and others. How much harder it must be for those who have not experienced the power of drugs and alcohol first hand to understand the mindless compulsion that shapes every minute of an active addict’s life.”

Yes, it is so hard to understand. And the saga continues.

Hopefully, THIS will be the week my son and his wife decide to walk away from the insanity they’ve been living for months now. Before immediate consequences extend into lengthy ones. Or their baby is left with life-long scars.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

More ups and downs

The very same day I received some exciting personal news this week, life came crashing in on my son.

Another ride on that emotional roller coaster. But for some reason, maybe because we've been prepared for this, or maybe because I'm doing better at taking each day--each hour--as it comes, it hasn't been so devastating for me. I've also chosen to look at the positive side of the situation.

First of all, I'm grateful he's still alive. Whatever he faces in the coming months and years, I know God has granted him mercy and will give him the support he needs. I know the man my son is deep down and can just imagine the man he will become when he's not using drugs.

I'm grateful for my family and that my daughter is able to support her brother in a way that's healthy, with boundaries. I'm glad that the baby can spend some more time with her daddy when he's clean and sober, and hope she will realize and remember, even at her early age, that he loves her deeply.

And above all, we do hope this will be the beginning of his recovery that will last the rest of his life.

Then just when I needed another good dose of hope and encouragement, I found this story in Sober 24 Highlights. Take a moment and read it. Come back and let me know if you were as moved by it as I was.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A story of hope

Somehow it makes sense to focus on hope this Memorial Day.

As families across the country have sacrificed in recent years to fight a war outside our country, other families have been personally touched by the other war—the war raging around drugs in our own state, county, city, and home.

Today, I don’t know how my son is doing, where he is living, or even if he is alive. But I’ve chosen to entrust his life and well-being to my Higher Power, the God of the Universe, so I can go on with my own life.

And that’s why this story of hope from Pryor, Oklahoma, encourages me today.

I know there is hope. Some days, it’s just so hard to find.

Whether you have an addict in your life or not, what gives you hope today?

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Addiction and free will

I read recently that Harvard Provost Stephen Hyman gave a lecture titled, “Compulsion and the Brain: Subverting the Concept of Self-Control.” It reminded me of a conversation I once had with my addicted son, then in his 20s.

So the question is: once addicted, how much choice DOES a person have in using? Do they go on autopilot and just feed the need? Or is there some point at which they can actually stop and evaluate the situation?

In the conversation with my son, I pointed out that the first time he was offered some, he clearly made the choice to use. He agreed. After that, he said, it was harder to tell when it was a choice vs. an automatic reaction. But more than once in the past 14 years, he did make the decision to stop using. Relapse has always followed.

Please take just a minute and read a short portion of Dr. Hyman’s lecture transcript that’s posted at He describes the changes that happen in the circuitry of the brain that cause a person to lose control over goal-setting and goal-seeking.

As a result, because the addicts’ brains are so compromised, Hyman says it is necessary for others — families, friends, and institutions — to fill in and act almost like “a prosthesis” for the brain functions that are missing or disabled. In order to succeed, however, they must be “absolutely relentless,” added Hyman.

But that raises the question, how can family members fill in for missing or disabled brain functions and still maintain a healthy perspective? How can we continue to pull away from a codependent relationship and offer that help without enabling?

Does anyone out there know?

His final point was one of responsibility. “Drug addiction is a very dramatic form of compulsion,” he said. “We are probably a little less in control than we’d like to believe we are.” Nevertheless, Hyman believes that addicts should still be held responsible for their actions.“The fiction that they are responsible may be what gets them to change their behavior,” he said. “A society that errs on the side of holding people responsible is better than a society that errs on the side of giving people excuses.”

There are actually clinically proven reasons for holding people responsible for their actions, Hyman said. Experiments have shown that people function better and are more able to deal with stress when they feel that they are in control.“We are wired for personal responsibility, even if it’s a bit fictional.”

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What about the children?

Today my beautiful soon-to-be one-year old granddaughter is safe. She is at the home of grandparents in another state, far from the dangerous choices and actions of her addicted father. Yes, he loves her. No father could have been more elated or joyful when she was born last summer.

But in recent months, this little family has been turned upside down by her daddy’s relapse. And I have feared for her safety as I know meth addicts can be unpredictable and turn violent.

Then I came across this article today.

My heart goes out to these children. Also to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and yes, even the addicted parents whose choices and actions have made the earliest years of these children’s lives so difficult and danger-filled.

I’m not close enough to see this photo display in the Tucson area, but I would encourage you to view it if you are. Then come back and tell us what you thought and felt.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Detachment, anyone?

Everyone knows that addiction to drugs or alcohol affects not only the addict but also the people in their lives. It strains, stresses and often breaks relationships with those who care for and love them deeply.

Spouses and other family members often find themselves in the midst of chaos, as if a storm were swirling around them. New problems surface, old issues read their ugly heads once again, and everyone assumes their places for act 3 (or 4, 5, or 6) of “Here We Go Again.”

But it’s so tiring to re-live the same scenes, over and over again. Alanon and other 12-step recovery programs teach that changing the patterns of a relationship starts by changing ourselves. Usually we are required to step back from the situation, untangle our emotions and take care of ourselves.

That may not be easy to do, and since change doesn’t happen overnight, it can start with small steps.

In her book Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People, Elizabeth B. Brown writes:

Detachment is releasing someone to be responsible for himself and to bear the responsibility of his own actions. Detachment gives us the objectivity necessary to look at our situation and glean from it the possible good, the lesson that can make the next steps in our walk more steady and focused, and move us toward our goal. Detachment is ceasing to worry and changing our focus, perhaps heroically, from the other person to what is good for us in our life.

Some days, I feel my efforts to detach have been fairly successful. Other days, I'm not so sure.

I wonder how other people have done it. How have you detached from your situation with the addict you care about? What helped? Was it something someone said, something you read, or something else?

Share it here. I would love to know how you’ve done it and how you are doing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

But that's not my REAL son

Earlier today I was talking with a family member about the latest crisis. It was similar to other conversations over the years: "That's not who he is REALLY. That's the Addict doing those things, not my son. My REAL son would never be so hurtful--he's caring, loving, giving. Not the monster out there today."

Not making excuses, believe me. His choices have brought him to this point. But I now understand more about the process that got him there.

According to author Craig Nakken (The Addictive Personality, Hazelden, 1996), the addicted personality is actually created by the illness of addiction and results from the addictive process that happens within a person. In Stage One of the three-stage addiction process, Nakken explains that the Self and the Addict emerge:

"The Self represents the 'normal,' human side that is consumed and transformed by the addiction. Eventully, the addicted person forms a dependent relationship with his or her own addictive personality."

So I wasn't crazy. It really is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation with the Self and the Addict arguing with each other at first, but the Self eventually being swallowed up by the Addict. It explains so much about their behavior, why they don't care about the people they actually love. They are truly not themselves.

The whole situation was different when he was younger and single. He hurt himself through the drug use--yes, his sister and I cared and felt the pain of the incarcerations, but ultimately, it was his life that he stifled. Our lives kept moving right on.

Now, after a stable period--marriage, a baby daughter, learning a trade and being recognized as a valued employee--something snapped, my REAL son is gone and the Addict is again fully in charge. This time, more dangerously than ever.

It's as though someone threw a huge rock into the lake--making the biggest ripples I've ever seen. The ripples created by that enormous methamphetamine rock now reach farther and wider, touching not just his family of origin but now, his own little family he helped create. How long will these ripples slap against our feet, taunting us with the questions?

One ripple whispers, Will this craziness ever end?
Another asks, When will his wife decide she's had enough, and walk away?
This one says, Will his little girl ever know the wonderful person he is inside--her daddy and my REAL son?
And I wonder, Will he even live through this episode?

It's a problem that has consumed not only my family, but families across our country. Read about the Methamphetamine Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act of 2007 recently introduced by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Let me off this roller coaster!

In general, life is like riding a roller coaster. For most people, weeks go by without any major issues--life's looking good and it's a smooth uphill ride. Then problems at work or with the kids make it feel like you've taken the steepest dive on the Blue Streak. You hold onto your stomach until once again, issues are resolved, your "car" has pulled out and you're on the uphill climb.

For mothers and families of those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, it's certainly a roller coaster ride--except unlike a "normal life" ride, the ups don't come as often and the dips are a whole lot deeper.

Understanding that addiction as well as codependency have spiritual components can help both the addict and family members survive the addiction roller coaster ride.

In his book The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior, author Craig Nakken says: "Addiction is a spiritual disease. Everybody has the ability to connect with the soul and spirit of others. Because addiction is a direct assault against the Self, it is also a direct attack on the spirit or soul of the person suffering from an addiction. A person's spirit sustains life; addiction leads to spiritual death."

I believe this statement also applies to the life of a mother and other family members who love an addict. Life can become so difficult that we can miss out on the beauty of the sunset, the laughter and smiles of friends. We need the support of others who understand and care, and we need to find our own spiritual balance.

Twelve-step programs speak of reliance on a Higher Power, and I write from a Christian perspective because that is my personal belief. In the 14 years of coping with my child's addiction, my faith in a God who loves and cares for me and my family has sustained my hope, even as we walked through the darkest valleys. And the prayers of friends and loved ones have encouraged me.

Anyone who has ever attended a 12-step meeting is familiar with the first four lines of the Serenity Prayer. Here are Reinhold Niebuhr's words in their entirety:

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. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you in the next.

When you're holding on for dear life as your roller coaster takes a sharp dive, or just seeking balance for the day ahead, remember and repeat those words. Pray for strength, courage and wisdom. And remember to ask for the help of a caring and compassionate friend.

Then when you're steady on your feet and ready to reach outside yourself, consider lending a hand to one of the many organizations and groups that are working to share messages of hope and truth. One of these is Mothers Against Methamphetamine, a national faith-based organization whose mission is to educate the public about methamphetamine and other drugs.

In all, you'll be much better prepared next time life's roller coaster whips you around one of those turns and down a long, deep dip.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to moms everywhere, especially those whose son or daughter is enmeshed in the world of addiction or better yet, growing through the process of recovery.

Some of you will enjoy a close family time today. If you do, be sure to treasure every moment with each child and remember to add it to your gratitude list for the day.

Others may not know where your child is, or he or she may be incarcerated for actions they would have never taken were it not for the influence of their drug of choice.

I've been through it all and there are no pat words or assurances to ease the pain and anguish of a mother's heart that has been broken--maybe for the eighth, ninth, or tenth time. The chaos, destruction and calamities that surround active drug use results in broken trust, broken relationships and broken hearts.

If your heart is hurting today, my hope is that you take comfort in even the smallest joys you find: the happy tune the bird is singing outside your window, the smells of spring after last night's rain, the smile of your sweet grandbaby.

Share your feelings with an understanding friend, and take comfort from God's Word: "May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant." (Ps. 119:76)

Take comfort, and above all, don't give up hope. Please add your thoughts here. Tell us what gives you hope in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of addiction.