Monday, December 17, 2018

There is no normal with the drug problem: Message from a Mom

There is no normal with the drug problem:
Message from a Mom who lost a child to addiction

This little exercise was pretty cathartic.  I had to weed through a lot of stuff in my head and came up with some observations.  The thing that stuck out most was the fact that there is no normal with the drug problem.  I went to a few meetings and heard some unbelievable stories.  My boy didn't compare with most of them.  Although Chris had a few DUIs and lost his license for 2 years, he always had a job and never missed any work time.  Fortunately (or not) he had the means to purchase what he wanted without having to resort to theft.  I heard stories of kids who were in jail several times for stealing to support their habit.  Kids living on the street because they didn't have the funds to live anywhere.  Kids who didn't have anywhere to turn for help or support.  I also talked to parents who tried everything to help their child, but nothing worked and they had given up.  I don't know what I would have done if I were in that situation.  
After writing pages and pages of notes and recollections, I think I can answer your questions in a fairly brief manner.....with some explanations. 

To someone who is experiencing addiction: 

Provide a combination of positive and negative reinforcement.  That person needs to be told that they are likely to end up in jail or dead.  It isn't useful to be positive although that should be part of the conversation.  You need to tell them how special they are and how much they are loved, but too much sugar-coating doesn't really deliver the message...they are heading down a dangerous path.  Nagging doesn't help.  The bottom line is that the person has to take responsibility and decide that enough is enough.  No one can do that for them.  I struggled with Chris for a long time, but what finally made HIM decide that he needed to walk a better path was the death of his grandmother.  He was supposed to go and see her on his birthday, but he got high with friends instead.  She died before he got a chance to see her and I don't think he really got over that.  It was what finally convinced him that he was going to get serious.   You can never, ever, give up.   And really pay attention to the friends and family that you do have that love you unconditionally.  Chris had some really amazing friends and I hope he knew how special he was to them. 

To the parents of someone experiencing addiction:

Be supportive as you can.  Reinforce the fact that you do love your child unconditionally.  Make sure they know that you love them, but don't love their behavior.  Show that you are concerned, but realize that they have to be the ones to decide to change.  No one can do it for them.   

To the friends of someone experiencing addiction:   

Be there for them, but don't condone their behavior.   Listen to them when they need to talk.   Engage them in activities to keep them busy and out of trouble.   I have been in touch with a lot of Chris's friends and co-workers.  One of the guys that Chris worked with was absolutely devastated.  He actually said to me....."I wish I would have said something to him, but I didn't want him to be mad at me."  I still have not had the guts to ask the guy what he meant by that.  Did Chris tell him he was back on drugs?  Did he tell him how he was going to celebrate on the 4th ?  I will get back to him and ask him to elaborate, but I am not ready for the answer yet.  I doubt if anything said would have changed the outcome. 

As a bonus......this was on Chris' Facebook page.  I have copied the entire post.  I am sure that he didn't write it, but copied it to pass along.  I thought it was pretty powerful.   We should all wish for a little more kindness..... 

August 31, 2014 
For all my friends, whether close or casual, just because. One of the longest posts I will ever do, and the most real too. Everyone will go through some hard times at some point. Life isn't easy. Just something to think about. Did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the ones who take care of others all the time are usually the ones who need it the most? Did you know the three hardest things to say are I love you, I'm sorry, and help me? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile to see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now -- let's start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all of those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will!!! I did it for a friend and you can, too. You have to copy and paste this one, NO SHARING... If need be, I can send this status to you in a message for you to copy and paste to your status. 

Note:  LB’s adult son died of an overdose on July 4, 2018 in New Hampshire.  She is Greg Stefanski's wife's cousin who graciously agreed to share her family's story in the hope someone else might be helped.