Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Addiction Isn't Always a Choice

After connecting with the new friend I made on Instagram that I described in my last post,  I suggested that she start a blog. Seeing her pictures, reading her beautiful captions, and commenting back and fourth showed me that she had an important story to tell and possessed an incredible tallent in writing. I explained what a release it's been for me to have this space to put all of my thoughts, and encouraged her to create one so she could do the same.

And she did.

In her post that I just finished reading entitled "Weight on my Shoulders and Memories Everlasting,"she describes the pain she's endured in her life and why she continued to use heroin to escape a reality she considered worse than that of her addiction. 

Reading her post, it was hard to blame her for looking to drugs as a way to escape emotional pain she didn't know how to process as a child. Although there are definitely better ways to cope, when you're young, feel like there's no one to turn to, and no way out of a life you can't deal with alone, drugs seem like a valid option. 

But that begged the question, what about Blake? What could he possibly need to escape from? All throughout his life he had an incredibly loving family and more friends than anyone I know. What immense pain was he hiding that he couldn't deal with and needed drugs to numb? Why did he need to run away from us? I just couldn't figure it out. 

Here is the conversation we had on her Instagram post immediately after:


Tonight my new friend helped me realize that not all addictions start as a conscious attempt to escape a rough life. Sure, that's probably why many addicts start experimenting with drugs, but not all of them. For some, like Blake, being prescribed pain killers in the first place without proper monitoring is enough to set it all into motion. It's a deadly combination of access, acceptability by peers, genetics, and the artificial enjoyment that makes the risk seem worth the reward. Before they know it, they are in over their head wondering how (or denying that) these behaviors ended up in an addiction.

As my friend put it, Blake didn't start using as a way to escape his life, but rather, he ended up using as a desperate attempt to stay present in a life the drugs were viciously trying to take him from. 

Blake had an incredible life filled with so many accomplishments, lasting friendships, and love. It would be a dishonor to him if his family, close friends, or I looked at ourselves as having any blame in his addiction. He wasn't trying to escape us. If anything, he was battling everyday to remain part of the amazing world he belonged in. A world so beautiful and filled with the most amazing people a person could ask to be surrounded by. 

I'm resting a little easier tonight knowing this. Addiction was not his choice, it was his disease. Just as you wouldn't blame a person for losing their fight with cancer, I am comforted in the fact that Blake fought bravely every day to overcome a truly terrible affliction. 

10 comments:

  1. So beautifully put, Briana! I totally agree. In the end, he used to feel normal.

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    1. That's what I always have to tell myself when I start wondering how its possible that I had no clue. Taking the pills wasn't about getting high anymore, it was so that he could escape the unbelievably debilitating and painful withdrawals. By using, he was only getting to a place where he could function normally.

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  2. This is a beautiful post. I know how hard it is. I wrote to you on IG (lilmyg817). I came from such a good home, I was popular, had a loving boyfriend...I had NO reason, no pain to escape from....I LIKED how opiates made me feel. On top of the world...like someone poured warm honey on me and nothing could bring me down. But that's not a natural feeling...and what comes up must come down. And you pay, it's just sad some pay the ultimate price. I admire your strength in writing this.

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    1. It was hard for me to understand why Blake "needed" to do drugs in the first place. From everything I knew (or I thought I knew) about addicts, I thought it always came from a place of desperation and wanting to escape. I didn't realize that's not always how an addiction starts. Maybe I was just looking for a way to blame myself... who knows.

      But I have come to realize that this was a battle that he started years before he ever met me. His drug use when we were together was probably a lot more about trying to reach a level of normalcy so he could function. Doing drugs wasn't to get high, or escape his problems, but to try to stop the withdrawals that left him completely incapacitated.

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  3. My addiction started through a legitimate prescription. Sure, I had abused vicodins and percs, but I never used enough to go into withdrawal until I had a steady supply with MY name on the bottle (because hey, if it has your name it must be ok to take right? Even if you're taking 6-10 times the recommended dose). Eventually the dr stopped prescribing and by that time I was hooked and got introduced to a new way to take the pills (snorting...you get higher faster, thanks new friends for teaching me this)...anyways...what I'm trying to say is that towards the end I used JUST to get out of bed...opiates controlled my life....they controlled whether or not I was gettin out of bed, whether or not I was going to work, and who/what/where/when/what lies I had to tell to get my dope didn't matter. When you're sick, puking, sweating, feeling like everytime you lay down you can't because your legs just HAVE to move (they don't call it kicking for nothing), and you know the cure is just a phone call away? Well then SO much more than willpower and good intentions come into play. -lilamyg817

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    1. Wow, yeah. I feel like you just described what Blake went through. It's scary how this happens the same way to so many people.

      What I don't understand is why doctors don't monitor pain medication better. When I had a double compound fracture (one bone came out of my arm and the other shattered into 4 pieces) I was on a morphine drip in the hospital for a couple full days. When I came out, I left with a bottle full of pills. Although the first day out was hard (I woke up screaming and scratching in the middle of the night), I only ever ended up taking 2-3 of the pills and flushing the rest of the bottle. Why was I given so many?

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    2. From my own personal experience, and from working in this field, it seems that doctors are either WAY too eager to overprescribe opiate medications, or will not prescribe at all. Doctor's go through less than 8 hours of training in school that is directed towards narcotic abuse. Opiates definitely have their place in medicine, and people in pain should not be denied these medications...but the fact is that there are MANY other options, and opiates work in the short term, but with prolonged use tolerance and dependence is inevitable. I will give you an example...two summers ago I sprained my ankle and was given percocet at the urgent care (which I needed because I was in legitimate pain and opiates were the correct medication at that time)...however, when I went to a follow up appointment with a new dr he wrote me a prescription for SIXTY percocets...I said "no thank you those are too strong"...so what did he do? Wrote me a script for ONE-HUNDRED vicodin! So then I said...ok I don't need that many, maybe 8 in case the pain is really bad. Now...keep in mind...I had to APPEAL this medical practice's decision to ban me for life because I had VIOLATED a narcotic contract about 6 years prior. If I had still been actively using...OR if I had never had an addiction issue before, those 100 vicodins would have surely set me on the path of becoming an addict. It's SO SO scary.

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    3. That is so awesome you knew your mind and body well enough to ask the right questions and make the right requests of your doctor. The doctor is the one with the medical degree and the person whom we put our trust in for medical guidance. I guess it just shows you that a patient needs to be just as informed to make sure they get the best care possible. Not to mention have enough will power to say no! I'm sure those 60 percocets were a very tempting way to dull the legitimate pain you were experiencing.

      So what's the solution? Give the doctors more training? Make the guidelines stricter for how often/how many pain pills a doctor can prescribe a patient? Have mandatory check ups after a prescription of pain pills? Create/run a test that can accurately test changes in brain patterns indicating addiction? Make a note on a person's medical records when there is a noted history of opiate abuse?

      I just feel like there has to be something...

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    4. The thing is...it only would have taken one second of convincing myself that I "needed" those pills...and I would be right back where I started. There's a saying in AA "you can turn a cucumber into a pickle, but once it's a pickle it can never be turned back into a cucumber". What I get from that is I can NEVER go back to drinking or using drugs socially or like a "normal" person again...that's the problem many addicts fall into...we think that because our drug of choice WASN'T alcohol or WASN'T pot that we can use those things normally...the thing is that we just found something we like better than alcohol so we stuck with that. How badly is the desire to drink and use socially for an addict, that it can oftentimes lead back into a relapse on our drug of choice.
      In regards to what can be done...wow, that is a question that everyone is trying to figure out. There are prescription monitoring programs set up (NH was the 2nd to last state to get this)...but unfortunately that isn't enough. As far as making a note on someone's chart...I HAVE that note in my chart and this dr. still chose to try to give me all those pills. I think it's a combination of patient honesty and doctors being diligent about watching for the warning signs of addiction (and if they feel that it is a concern being ethical about their treatment of this patient). Would I have become addicted even if I wasn't prescribed all those pills? Who knows...as I said I had used them prior to my legitimate script. There are SO many "what-ifs" that I could ask myself...and SO many people and situations that I could throw my drug addiction on. But ultimately, placing blame does nothing but keep the addict in the same cycle.
      One more note...when I first started going to AA and NA meetings I remember thinking "I don't relate to anyone here...I'm not homeless, I have a car, I have a job, I look good"...but that mindset kept me in my addiction for a LONG time...I was NO BETTER than any of those people...in fact, I was worse because I THOUGHT I was better then them. Until I could get real with myself and my addiction, there was zero hope for my own recovery.

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  4. also, if I could suggest a book... "addict in the family" by beverly conyers. I've had relatives of clients read this, as well as my own family (and myself), and I have never heard a bad review of it.

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