the opioid crisis rages on, grim stories of death and tragedy have become commonplace. (During the same four-year span between the development of Kaitlin’s addiction and her arrest, opioid-related deaths tripled in the the U.S. They now rank higher than gunshot and automobile-related deaths. The problem is particularly grave in Massachusetts; in 2016, opioid deaths in the state rose by a steep 16 percent from 2015.) But the ripple effect on addicts’ families gets lost in the headlines. For tens of thousands of parents, the opioid epidemic has impacted their lives in ways they could never imagine. As their children battle substance abuse disorders, many parents hand their own lives over to the rollercoaster of addiction. They throw their energy into finding treatment centers, attending court dates, agonizing over whether to support or cut off their children, and helping their children reintegrate into their normal lives during recovery. They take in and raise their grandchildren. And like Cavanagh, they’re looking for a place to empathize with others who’ve been through similar experiences.
“The revolution began by breaking the silence. Silence equals death. My silence is over. I choose life.” Elias Altman
The correlation between sexual abuse and alcohol won’t surprise anyone, both as an escape from the trauma, and too often, a precursor to the abuse. I am so very proud to know this brave man who felt the need to break the silence, both to free himself, and to open the door for others to realize that we live in the prison of our own misplaced shame, As he says, “silence equals death.”
By Deb Whittam
It was a well-worn path; she had walked it a thousand times. When the sun shone she had meandered down its length, enjoying the warmth as she admired the flowers blooms. She had cursed when the rain came teeming down, hurrying down this treacherous path clutching her precious load to her chest as she slipped on the uneven cobblestones.
Sometimes in her more philosophical moments she believed that this daily walk encompassed her whole existence. It was the measure of her joy, heartache, despair, even resignation but then reality forced her to concede she was only hanging out the washing.
I resolve to take back the remnants of my life, and then it happens- in the shifting swiftness of everything, cyclone-like, pulling me into the center of the chaos without a chance to grasp on to myself- I plummet, head-first, all too often, into the lives of everyone, patching their open wounds with fragments of myself, oblivious that this is in fact my choice to wear their scars inside. I look for pieces of me, familiar things that I’d recognize to grab onto, like an amnesiac trying to recall who they are, but I remember only me in relation to them; so little of me anymore and so much of them. I promise that this is the last time and I brace myself against the next storm. Temporarily the whirling stops and for a moment, I forget that this is my life.
There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go.
A child has died. Not my child, but the child of a friend. Technically, he was no longer a child. But still, he was her child. She was supposed to have her child forever. Except forever didn’t last.
I didn’t know this young man. My friend’s son. I don’t know if he liked basketball or if he wore his hair parted on the side or how he preferred his steak cooked or on what day he was born. My arms don’t cuddle the memory of his tiny heft and softness as though years haven’t flown by since his birth. I don’t know the feel of his hand — if it was calloused or smooth — or the sound of his voice curled around the name Mom. Like silk. Or wind. Or leather.
No, I don’t know the things, the essence, the him that filled the space in his mother’s universe…
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From Courage to Change, March 13:
“I’m apt to think of Step Seven—‘Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings’–as a step I take tearfully and on my knees. I’ve had that experience, but I want to entertain the possibility that Step Seven might be taken with joy—and even humor.
Sometimes the sign that I have actually gotten humble enough to ask my Higher Power to remove a shortcoming is that I can laugh about it. Suddenly a past action or decision of mine seems ludicrous and I can stop taking myself so seriously…
So the next time I want to tear my hair out because I haven’t gotten rid of some nagging shortcoming, I’ll try to lighten up and see how silly my intensity can be…
Desperation and pain can certainly lead me to humility, but in Al-Anon I’m cultivating a new and eager willingness to follow my Higher…
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Photo Credit: Randy Mason
So many people in my circle will say in anger “They will never know how it feels until it happens to them!” We are talking about the loss of our loved ones to addiction, the struggle that we had fighting their addiction, the sacrifices we made, the changes we went through and the pain that we will carry forever. Nope some of “them” (YOU) will never know these feelings, and for that I am not angry but grateful.
I hope that those of you who “don’t know” never will!
I hope that you won’t spend days searching the streets for your strung out child.
That you won’t sit in courtroom after courtroom either trying to get help or standing with your child to face the consequences.
I hope that you don’t ever face the disappointment and distress of having your loved one turned away from…
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How much have we lost in this madness of helping our loved ones?
Distant memories of old friendships, good jobs we enjoyed, family members who didn’t understand how we could keep loving, and relationships broken beyond repair. Most of all many of us have lost ourselves. When I stop and look around I barely recognize my life. My answer to that is not to stop too often.
We keep going, patching pieces of what is left together, and putting on the brave face; trying to save someone who often appears not to want to be saved. We keep going.
I encourage you to stop. Take your own advice. Step back for a moment and survey the only life you are going to get. You can’t save anyone but you must save yourself.
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Trying to locate appropriate treatment for a loved one, especially finding a program tailored to an individual’s particular needs, can be a difficult process. However, there are some resources to help with this process. For example, NIDA’s handbook Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask offers guidance in finding the right treatment program. Numerous online resources can help locate a local program or provide other information, including:
This project has been funded in whole or part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, NIH, under cooperative agreement UG4LM012347-01 with the University of Massachusetts- Worcester.
We need to trust this: in the midst of our daily life activities, the possibility to slow down, to stop, and then to appreciate naturally unfolds. For a fleeting moment we pause and note the sunlight on the sheets as we make the bed, note the warm sun on our cup as we sip tea, or note the fading light on the curtain as we enter the room. And we let out a breath or sigh…
— Elizabeth Searle Lamb, from “Pausing” in Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart By Patricia Donegan