A message to my 2010-2015 mother self in the throes
This morning I was thinking about what I wish my 2010-2015 mother self knew about substance use and recovery and everything that leads in those directions knows now. What would my 2022 mother self tell her? How would I guide her? What would I say if I came alongside her at the beginning of her son’s substance use, at the escalation of the “opioid crisis,” when it got really scary and chaotic, when she was feeling altogether confused, terrified, helpless and lonely and then when treatment and the long process of recovering a brain, body and spirit had been initiated.
What would be the simplest way to help myself so that the suffering would maybe end sooner.
At the beginning when he was in high school, I was operating on a societal norm. “Teenage experimentation.” A normalized behavior until someone gets in trouble or hurts someone else. Marijuana wasn’t legal but it seemed to be “cool” with the kids and moving in the direction of legalization. I wasn’t ok with it. I was policing my son. He’ll tell you I flushed a lot of money down the toilet back then. I had my own beliefs about alcohol use (acceptable as a social norm though illegal under the age of 21) and drug use (not socially acceptable nor legal and some drugs were more socially unacceptable and were criminalized more than others)
When his best friend died in a car accident, (no substances involved) and we all experienced other traumatic loss over a period of 3 years, his drug use escalated coinciding with the cultural escalation of prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines and the beginning of legalization of marijuana. His teenage/emerging adult brain was ripe for all the addictive substances. The trauma of loss, a deep state of grief and a family history of alcohol addiction created a trifecta for addiction. Environment, Trauma, Genetics.
The response to substance use like his didn’t have a protocol. All the old ways that family, society, culture, religion, medicine, law enforcement responded needed to be dismantled. Most of the cultural/systemic response was based on either legal substance use (alcohol treatment programs/AA) and illegal substance use. (criminal justice)
We cannot discount the impact of what the Sackler family and other pharma companies introduced into the drug supply with oxycontin, xanax, adderall and fentanyl and how those legally over prescribed drugs caused addiction and made way for the enormous increase in the illicit drug trade by creating more consumers of non prescription versions, (heroin, meth) and fake pills (xanax/bars, fentanyl, adderall, oxy). We cannot discount the impact of big alcohol and their marketing campaigns and the epidemic proportions of alcohol addiction and related terminal illness. We also cannot discount the impact of a treatment system ill equipped to handle the “opioid crisis” and addiction epidemic and the fraudulent treatment programs that grew out of opportunity to fill a desperate need for more treatment programs that then exploited vulnerable people and their families whose addiction was caused by the pharmaceutical industry. Industries families should have been able to trust were largely at fault here.
Add to the disastrous combination a societal/cultural driven response conditioned by the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs taught us to treat people with addiction as criminals, to dehumanize people, and to abandon them if they couldn’t handle toxic substances on their brain and in their body.
Do you see where I am going with this? Depending where you entered this matrix, your conditioning, the current systemic response, the escalation of marketing and increase of product and potency in the supply worked against you and your family. The dealers, pharma, alcohol companies and cartels needed us to disconnect/abandon/wait so they could make more money. (they still do by the way)
Some things I would tell myself now.
This is a hard thing that is happening right now. Your kid is very sick don’t lose sight of this as a health/medical condition.
The popular culture is wrong about how to treat a person using toxic substances, diagnosed with substance use disorder or addiction. (see how I said “treat a person” not “treat a disorder”)
Society is behind the times. Way behind the times.
Trust your instincts.
Find the most up to date, humane, data driven, information, treatment, responses you can and act from that place.
Stigma, (your own and societal) will get in the way. Don’t let it.
You will be shamed, blamed and guilted for loving and staying connected with your kid. Don’t let it stop you from seeking proper care and treatment. Don’t let it keep you silent.
Toxins on the brain and body make people sick physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Some days you may not recognize your child. That’s the substance, not him. He is still in there. Keep the faith that you are connected at a level even substances cannot compromise.
Different substances have different effects on the brain and the body. The treatment and recovery for the brain and the body will vary greatly. (that’s why now they say “there are many pathways of recovery.”) Learn all the ways a body and brain needs to heal from those substances.
It’s the toxic substances fault not the person’s fault their body/brain can’t handle toxic substances. Most of us can’t, some people just kind of do because drinking and using drugs has been normalized. And it’s ok as long as you are “functioning in society.”
Secure attachment is your best ally. You are right to stay connected. When you were told to abandon your child, disconnect, ignore the symptoms until they worsen, make him homeless, shirk your parental responsibilities for your child’s health and wellbeing, that was misinformation.
Stay present but also take care of yourself, take breaks, tend to your physical and emotional needs.
Addiction is not a family disease. You are not sick. You are stressed. You are misinformed or misguided by outdated ideologies, beliefs and systems. Society hasn’t caught up.
Addiction is a treatable health condition. It also impacts/stresses a family system like any other potentially fatal health condition. You are having a normal response to a person you love being very sick.
Wanting to and doing what you can to keep your child alive is a survival instinct. It’s not only normal its natural.
Trust your instincts. Let them lead you.
Then I would be kind of like a yoga teacher. (did I tell you yet that I teach yoga?) I’d invite me to recovery class and teach myself the moves, the practices, the way to breathe and regulate my nervous system.
I’d say this my dear is the practice for your body and this practice is for your mind when your thoughts are going wild and here do this one for your spirit when you feel hopeless, lost, lonely. Here is a community (in yoga its called a Sangha) of people to lean on, to share stories with, who don’t shame, blame and judge you and will hold you and your family all the way through to the other side.
I’d say, this is a hard thing that is happening. Let’s do what we can with what we have, with what we know to end the suffering and recover. It’s possible.
Tell me where you are in the matrix. Let’s start right here, right now.
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