Post Series: A Mother's Heartbreak

This blog is a guest contribution from MaryBeth, one of the members of the My Recovery Helper Facebook community. MaryBeth is a mother who lost her son to the disease of addiction, and wants to share her story with our readers. To read more of her story, visit http://mothersheartbreak.com/.

Being the mother of an addict thrust me into a world I never wanted to visit let alone live in. This world was full of chaos, lies and feelings of both helplessness and hopelessness. I referred to this time as the roller coaster ride from hell. One day things were looking up, full of hope and promise, the next day life was spiraling out of control. Addiction is like that. Giving you the illusion of control. Controlling the addict. Controlling your reaction to the addiction. Controlling anything you can get your hands on.

During this time I received a front row seat, hands-on education into the world of addiction. At first I bought into the mindset that addiction was a self-inflicted condition. That if my son really wanted to stop he would. I never understood the assault being inflicted on his brain and body by the opioids he used daily until the day he decided to detox at home. It wasn’t by choice. He blew through his monthly supply in two weeks and had no money to add to his supply. Being a nurse I wasn’t afraid. I really was so naive and knew very little about what to expect.

The first day wasn’t too bad. Some shakes, sweats, nausea and irritability. By the second day I was panicked. His body was raging war with itself. I was witnessing a medical nightmare. If I had any pills I would have demanded he take them to stop the madness. I learned from that experience that addiction was not self inflicted. Addicts must continue to use in order to live. If they don’t, the brain and nervous system wage a war the addict will never survive.

During this time I also learned that society’s mindset is addicts are disposable people. That their lives just don’t matter. After all they are a drain on the system. Most are unemployed, living on welfare and getting free health care. What the public doesn’t see is the person behind the disease.

My son was a beautiful man. He worked, paid bills and taxes. A back injury led to surgery that led to chronic pain. That pain led him to become one of the many victims of a pain management practice in Delaware. These pill mill docs lined their pockets with cash while supplying a steady source of brain altering drugs. Knowing that as time went on their patients would become addicted to the poison they prescribed.

No one faults the prescribers, those who are licensed to push pills. It’s easier to blame the victim, the addict. No one would dare think that a doctor would cause harm. Doctors are held in high esteem. The God complex.  After all, doctors are trained to save lives. Do no harm is their oath. What many people don’t realize is that all doctors are not created equal. The problem with abuse isn’t just from illicit use, but from the legitimate prescribing of opioids. It’s big business for drug companies and doctors.

So here we are again. Blaming the addict. The victims of a broken system. Victims caught in a trap that has no escape. Victims of a disease so powerful that it changes the physiology of the brain. The brain turns on the owner. As the opioid receptors multiply the brain forgets how to make natural endorphins. It becomes dependent on drugs to give the same effect that their body would be able to produce prior to addiction. In other words, addicts are screwed.

Not only do addicts battle a powerful brain altering disease, they also have to battle the stigma and bias. Public perception of addiction is a big part of the problem. People believe addiction is self-inflicted. Addicts choose to use. No one gets the fact that addiction is not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s a chronic, treatable disease, just like cancer. Except with cancer comes sympathy. With addiction comes stigma. No one likes an addict. They are disposable people. They choose their lifestyle. Who cares if they die.

This mindset permeates through the medical community. What other disease is limited in a time frame of care and follow up? Addiction receives 30 days per year for allowable in-patient or out patient care. That means if the addict can’t get completely detoxed, find a rehab and fly through the treatment plan in a mere 30 days they are dropped from the system and must wait until they overdose to receive any further life saving treatment. Yet, no one blames this broken system. A system that is set up to fail those suffering from addiction. The blame once again falls on the addict.

Never before has the perception surrounding addiction been more in the limelight than recently. First responders verbalizing feelings when

responding to the scene of a medical emergency. An overdose. People who never had to live through the hell of being an addict or ever felt the pain of loving an addict, showing their ignorance regarding the value of human life. People trained to save but unable to see past the disease to the person suffering from it. To think that an addict is not worth saving or doesn’t deserve to live. It’s this mindset that continues to hurt the perception of addiction as a disease. To think that human beings could show such callousness toward one another.

Before passing judgment on an addict please imagine what it must be like to be one. To suffer from the most demoralizing, misunderstood, stigmatized disease. A disease that no one recognizes. A disease that carries the ugliest stereotype. To feel like a nobody. Unworthy of being loved. The world has given up on you and left you for dead.

Now imagine being the mother of an addict. A mother who’s child grew up and became a victim of overprescribing physicians. A victim who’s chronic pain changed him into one of the 44,000 people who overdosed and died in 2015. Imagine my pain and horror. My anger at those responsible for promoting the stigma that continues to fuel the idea that addicts are not worthy of comprehensive treatment to save their lives.

No one grows up with the goal to become an addict. Yet addicts come from all walks of life. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, and politicians – all beautiful people falling prey to a disease that kills. Just like cancer or diabetes, addiction must be treated with respect and empathy. We must change the bias that fuels the stigma. Addicts are dying in record numbers. All worthy of being saved. Every life matters.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Cindy Price

    Awesome blog! I’m going to share this with my mom. Our family has watched my sister suffer addiction for over 20 years with many giving up on her. My mother and I refuse to! Ally of people do not understand or try to understand this disease! Thank you for sharing!

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