We hear a lot about opioid addiction and how it is the next plague. And I agree — it is.
I work as a pharmacist in an inner city, addiction care pharmacy. And I have seen up close and personal, opioid addiction in my own family.
Lest you think this can never happen to you, any of your children, family and friends, think again.
Maybe you judge these poor souls who are battling an inner demon bigger than themselves, as weak, stupid, pitiful but hell, not worth sweating about. Then think again.
These people are us.
There is the Ann, a healthy, happy young mother, who sees her young, vibrant two-year-old child run over and killed. The pain nearly destroys her. The medication helps and numbs her, so she can quiet the screaming in her head. Twenty years later she is wrecked, her body destroyed, her mind cracked into schizophrenia and destructive mood disorders, and her values? Gone. Sold on the street for another hit.
There is Linda, violently assaulted at age 15, who decides the world doesn’t care, the pain and fear will kill her, who starts taking drugs at a party, because frankly ‘who cares anymore’. Little does this young girl know that her future self is picking dirty needles off the street, selling anything she can (including her precious self) and then going to the pharmacy to take her daily hepatitis medication.
Then meet Ed, a highly successful businessman, who attends a party with good friends. Too much alcohol and one bad decision later, Ed finds himself on the slope to heroin addiction. He loses everything. His job — gone. His family — very much gone. His friends — gone. His house — gone. The car- gone. Finally, his dignity and self-love are gone.
Now Ed is in and out of hospital because the daily morphine he picks up at his pharmacy (prescribed to keep the opioid addiction at bay and reduce the cravings), is misused. He hides the little beadlets in his mouth, goes out of the store and spits them out. Then he injects them — and of course, all the bacteria lurking in his mouth.
The infections cause him even more widespread damage to his body and mind, and hospital time.
These are just three of the patients I see daily. (Names have been changed). The list is long in my pharmacy. And everyone has a story. No one just wakes up one day and decides “ today I am going to become a drug addict”.
No — the path to drug addiction is a painful one.
But it’s not just drugs that form our composite face of addiction.
Being right. (Oh — yes, that is an addiction).
Smoking (Technically a drug, but it is a tough one to quit so I’ll put it on its’ own).
etc. The list is long.
The definition of addiction is this:
Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.
There are many treatments for addiction, but the mental battle must be fought.
Twelve-step programs have a lot of success. There is a lot of personal responsibility that occurs in following the steps. (I recommend Russell Brand’s book Recovery: Freedom from our addictions. He teaches the 12 step program in his unique way and free from the traditional language. Expect an F-bomb or two!)
Change requires you to accept the fundamental truth that you are responsible for everything that happens in your life. Everything.
Until that acceptance happens, you live in victimhood. Victims have no power.
Personal responsibility gives you endless power. It is the only real power we have as humans.
Helping yourself, or others, overcome addiction should allow them to pick up the gauntlet of personal power.
But we also need to stop judging and start helping those with severe addiction.
Most of them got there by mistake, through the path of trauma. They don’t need your judgements. Learn their story and find the connection to the human within.
They need connection not judgements. Believe me, their self-judgement is hard enough.
Remember there is a human face behind the addiction. So many faces.