A Personal Note – Will Your Grown Addicted Child Ever Really be Free?
So, today, for a personal note, I wanted to talk a little bit about my grown addicted daughter and her situation. More specifically, I wanted to talk about a conversation I just had with my dad last night about whether there was any hope of her ever being able to be clean.
These talks are tough. It’s been a long road, and my parents – who helped to raise my oldest and have a vested interest – have been incredibly supportive. Every step of the way, every development, they have been there embracing whatever tactics we decided to try to help make coping with my daughter’s addition easier. So, last night, when I was explaining what I know about addiction, and he asked me very honestly, “So, do you believe there is any hope of ever really getting free of her heroin addiction?” I tried to answer as honestly as possible.
I’m going to recreate the conversation for you, so you have some context of how and why I answered him the way I did.
It started with me explaining what I know about addiction in general. I told him how anything addictive works with the neurons in the brain. You know, those brain chemicals that make us feel good. Dopamine, Serotonin, all those that motivate us to live well and happy. I told him how we naturally have opioid receptors in our bodies to receive the oxytocin that we naturally produce to help us continue behaviors that make us feel good. Having a baby, for example, is a tremendous shock to the system. Without the oxytocin that a mother’s body gives off during this time, the human species might not continue to procreate.
The same can be said of eating foods that taste good and achieving our goals. All of these behaviors help the human race to advance and continue to grow.
Then I went on to explain how opioids of any kind (both prescription and illicit) bind to these opioid receptors and cause a rush that “is like a thousand times more intense,” (those were my words) than what our bodies naturally produce. They make us feel euphoric. I told my dad, a dose to get high, from what I’ve been told makes a person feel how they might if they just saw God.
Imagine how that feels. Amazing, I bet.
Most of us don’t function very well without a relatively balanced level of essential brain hormones. These hormones are what give us the “get-up-and-go” we need to live our daily lives. Without them, we lose all reason for living. Hence, depression. Our brain has become dependent on the rush that our drug of choice creates (they all work with the brain chemicals, in case you were wondering), and when it doesn’t get it, it believes it is dying and creates physical symptoms that are meant to alarm and cause you to fix the problem.
It’s like if you drink a slow acting poison. Your brain says, “NO! What are you doing?!” It causes you to throw up, convulse, twitch, hurt and whatever else. In the case of addictions, your brain is doing something similar, but it’s because you haven’t fed what is perceived as a “need,” by the ever gullible brain.
It’s like your brain has made room in your body for this other need, like air. It has created a compartment within you that sees your drug of choice as a need. What’s crazy is that this is just the physical aspect of addiction. There’s the emotional part that has you convinced that your DOC is your friend. It’s the part that makes you sad when you think of life without using or drinking anymore. It’s the part that makes quitting using a lot like if you were going through a rough breakup.
So, this is how I explained addiction to him. Then it came time to answer his question. For a moment, I sat. My oldest, beautiful daughter flashed through my brain and I cautiously said, “I don’t know if people with these types of addiction will ever be truly free of them.”
I then went on to tell him what I have heard, which was that research has found that substances, especially opioids actually stay in the fat cells. Experts aren’t sure for how long, but some say it can be for a long time. Sometimes for decades. So, say you’re clean for 20 years and then you start burning that fat. Everything seems great, but then that fat cell that holds those opioids bursts open, and POW! You’re hit with a craving unlike any you’ve felt in ages. Do you relapse?
Studies show that lots of people do. Some suggest that when this happens, people don’t even have a chance to put on the breaks. They just go back to their addictive behaviors. Others feel that when you are in a long-term recovery, you have the sense enough to reach out for help almost right away.
My take is that I’ve seen addiction first hand. I’ve seen it a few times. I’ve seen people who are addicted to one thing and seem to bottom out pick themselves up and quit using that substance in favor of something milder that they can “get away with.”
Now, this brings me to my daughter. She says she’s clean. I promise you she’s not. She thinks she’s controlling things, but she’s not. How do I know? I saw a new track mark on her hand. She’s trying to get her arms to heal, or she was, and using the veins in her neck. Unlike her many hickies of the past, she tries to cover these with a choker.
I see. I see the glassy eyes and the change in attitude. She either thinks I don’t, or just doesn’t care, but I feel like she really thinks she is hiding it all from me. The sad thing is, she was clean. Her arms were healing. She was clear-eyed and minded.
When my dad asked if I thought there was any hope that she would ever get clean for good, I said this, “I feel like, without rehab that she sticks with and truly brings everything to the surface in, she will never even have a solid chance. She’ll do this dance, and go on this way for a good long while, I think. With treatment, she’s got a better chance, but it will be a constant battle, and I’m not entirely sure it’s one she wants to even fight.” I said it with a tone of acceptance. I’ve had a long time to deal with this, but it still makes some part of me ache. In fact, writing this now just makes me want to cry.
The thing is, it’s my reality. And just like anyone else who is ill, I will happily take even just a few good years of concentrated effort and wellness, with the knowledge that it could come back than give up all hope forever.
For me, as long as she is living, there is hope. Because, very simply, I love her.
This is what I told my dad, and this is what I’m telling everyone. Do people who struggle with addictions ever get free of them? I don’t know. I think it depends on the addiction and the person. I think it depends on the desire to get clean and be free. Then, it depends on the physiology of the person.
I do believe that good, solid addiction treatment makes all the difference in how well a person does at overcoming an addiction. Once it’s started, it’s not something that can be stopped and for a good long while, that treatment has to be intense, because people that struggle with addictions are really good liars. They even lie to themselves so well that they believe what they say. This has to be broken down. That takes time.
Rehab offers the time that people need to break through those lies and the deception that the source of addictions have created. It forces those who are addicted to take a good, hard look at what’s really happening, and for many, it works for a long time.
Just as I have seen people that can’t seem to get away from the source of their addictions, I’ve seen people make a change that seems to last forever. They have committed to living differently and make a concentrated effort every day to surround themselves with others who are enjoying strong, healthy recovery journeys.
For me, the choice would always be rehab. It will be the choice I make for my daughter if she ever asks me to, and it will hold all my hope that it will give her the recovery she deserves. I will call Elite Rehab Placement, and I would recommend that if you have the chance, you do it, too. I trust them, partly because I trust them, and partly because I know that they truly believe that everyone deserves help to overcome their addiction.
If I’m given the chance, I’ll give them my insurance information, and I’ll gladly talk to their addiction specialists on my daughter’s behalf. If I get the chance, I know what my choice will be, because even if she’s never completely free of her addiction, I would rather make sure that she has the chance to try. Elite can give her that.
Until next time, be well.