The key word in this sentence is “but.”
(Because my husband is not going to run for state office!)
These words were said by a well intentioned family member. It was a warning that having a known addict as a child would most certainly preclude any future political appointments.
So secrecy, or discretion, is key.
The problem with secrecy is that it doesn’t invite change.
Your “problem” remains hidden – swaddled in shame.
Addiction is one of the last frontiers to be openly, and honestly, discussed. It used to be common to deny a relative’s homosexuality. (To put them in the proverbial closet!) Thankfully those days are behind us. Many parents will proudly introduce you to their child and their child’s partner. But not many will freely admit that someone in their home struggles with the disease of addiction. However, numbers don’t lie. And the alarming number of young people overdosing across the nation is testament that the problem is right here…. and right there… and over there. It is no longer expedient to be discreet.
As for politicos with addicts in the family… I can think of quite a few. In the recent primary debates Carly Fiorina spoke of the loss of her step daughter to addiction. Ted Cruz’s sister overdosed. Jeb Bush’s daughter smuggled crack cocaine into her rehab facility. Donald Trump’s brother died of alcoholism. And how about those who suffered from the disease of addiction themselves? Our very own mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, is in recovery. Our nation’s Drug Czar, Michael Botticelli, is in recovery. Former President George Bush freely admits that he had to give up alcohol because he couldn’t control his use.
And what about the first lady Betty Ford? In the words of Barbara Bush, “Betty transformed her pain into something great for the common good. Because she suffered, there will be more healing. Because of her grief, there will be more joy.”
Now that’s worth talking about.
The addict isn’t the only member of the family to act completely irrational. So does the mom. Alarmed by a gut feeling that something is “just not right” the mother becomes an insanely overwrought junior detective – searching rooms, tracking cellphones, eavesdropping and spying on social media. But the truth is not easy to uncover- because the addict is a very convincing liar. (And, let’s face it, a big part of the mom wants to believe those lies.) The disease requires the addict to hide their spiraling use. And this requires lying. A lot. In fact there is a saying in the community that “if an addict’s lips are moving…they are lying.” I never liked that saying. I still don’t. But the sad fact is that once this drug has claimed your child, they are no longer your child.
Then the really irrational behavior begins. What mother would ask their sick child to leave their home? What mother would show them the door when it was beginning to snow? What mother would watch their child walk down the driveway with a sad trash bag of clothes thrown over their shoulder? And no money in their pockets? With the realization that they may never see their child again. With the realization that their baby would seek that drug wherever, and from whomever, they could? And with the very real possibility that they might die frozen and alone?
Me, that is who.
There has to be a better way. We have to find a better way.
Heroin addiction is a disease that appears to favor those who have a neurotransmitter imbalance. Dopamine and serotonin are monoamine neurotransmitters which regulate mood, appetite, energy and sleep. In layman’s terms they are responsible for an overall sense of well-being and happiness. That’s a pretty big job. Now imagine you are low on them. It’s sort of like you are missing the keys to your own inner kingdom. You can live your life, but the reason for living – the sheer joy of it! – appears to be missing.
So you discover this drug. You do this drug. And you feel that flood of joy. Most of us enjoy some form of a narcotic here and there – be it a glass of wine, a cigarette, a joint. Suddenly you feel….. relaxed. And life shines a little brighter. But the addict is different. The addict realizes that this is what they are missing. It doesn’t make things shinier…. it just makes the previously dull things shine.
So the addict seeks the drug. Addiction makes sense at this point.
But soon the drug that seemed like a savior actually shuts down whatever limited production of neurotransmitters your brain originally made. The drug floods the addicts brain at higher levels and at a higher strength (2-4x that of the natural neurochemical). So the brain refuses to naturally produce it. (Why bake cookies when gourmet ones are being delivered to your door?) And here’s the kicker – heroin also compromises all those other “feel good pathways” that have been built into the human brain for specie survival – like the desire for food, sex and sheltering warmth. The addict’s genetic defect now creates very real biological, and neurological, damage.
The “drug of joy” will eventually leave you hungry, homeless and without the love of family and friends. Then, the drugs beloved effect will leave you. Addicts are always unsuccessfully chasing that original “high.” In the end they use just to keep the sickness at bay.
Doesn’t make so much sense anymore.