If every parent could open their heart and their mind to the reality of the current addiction trend, countless children could be saved. I use the word “trend” lightly. A trend will usually wear out overtime and the next new thing will take its place. The “addiction trend” we are observing now is swallowing our country whole and shows no signs of slowing down. It has proven to be a ruthless, indestructible weed, squeezing the life out of the healthy growth around it. With its ever-growing list of victims, addiction will not stop when it reaches your child. It will wrap its roots tightly around your son or daughter and it will not stop squeezing until your child exhales their final breath. Where addiction is concerned, the odds do not look good for your son or daughter. Very few family structures in America get through the grip of addiction unscathed.
I am not writing this from an academic perspective. I do not hold any degrees in medicine, addiction, counseling or psychology. However I do have what would be the equivalent time frame of a PhD as a drug addict. In the 12 years of fighting my disease, I have lost many battles but also won many of them.
My goal is to help families who have found themselves caught in addiction and to educate about the real truth behind its many misconceptions. I do not claim to have all the answers. Through my experiences, I have learned what did and did not work for me. It has also worked for thousands of others. Through my destructive past, I have learned the “tricks of the trade” used by many addicts alike. Attached to addiction, you have all the advocates of self destruction, deceit, manipulation, lies and other repugnant idiosyncrasies. If your children begin to dabble in drugs/alcohol, these attributes will slowly begin to surface. They will look you directly in your eyes and assure you that your instincts are nothing more than an erroneous judgement on your part. It is unthinkable to believe your child, your own flesh and blood would be capable of such horrendous solutions to their problems. If you believe it is possible, you are moving a step in the right direction.
MY CHILD WOULD NEVER USE DRUGS OR ALCOHOL
My parents’ initial mistake was the belief that their youngest son would have no need for drinking or drugs; let alone become a full-blown heroin addict! After all, I had both parents’, a moderately religious upbringing. I wasn’t abused, raped, molested or beaten. Why should they think I would turn to drugs or alcohol right? I may have been a bit tougher to raise than my two older siblings but other than being shy and awkward around others, I grew up comparatively normal. I definitely wasn’t shouting HEROIN from any rooftops. In other words, there were no tangible warning signs early on.
Obviously I knew something was wrong with me before my family did. Not knowing exactly what it was, I hid it from everyone. I felt like something was missing. I did have moments of contentment but they were few and far between.
My Rubix Cube brain always seemed to be two or three colored squares off of kilter. The longer I went without addressing it, the worse it seemed to get. As time went on I became a master at hiding my emotional complications and acting like nothing was eating me up inside. It was also extremely difficult to explain what was wrong with me when I didn’t really know what was wrong. It is my experience that your child could be suffering greatly and they have no intention in letting you know about it.
WHY WOULD YOUR CHILD USE ONE SUBSTANCE OVER ANOTHER?
Many Americans’ have been led to believe that alcohol isn’t as bad as drugs for many different reasons. I’m sure it can still be debated but the bottom line is the same. We need to stop the squabbling and work towards fixing the problem at the source. We are on the ground smashing the ants while the elephants are trampling us to death!
Whether your child gets trapped by alcohol, prescription medication, street drugs, gambling, pornography, sex, or any other potentially dangerous lifestyle- the lifestyle don’t matter as much as the problem itself.
We now know that no substance in and of itself is inherently addictive. Studies have yielded these results over and over. So why do some people get addicted and others do not?
If the brain is incapable of producing adequate amounts of dopamine (feelings you get when rewarded) or endorphins (masks physical pain), that person will constantly yearn for that feeling of wholeness and contentment that is missing. This feeling is such an emptiness that I couldn’t fully describe in words. It’s like having a colossal craving for grease-dripping bacon cheeseburger and all you can fit in your mouth is a peanut. It’s like trying to enjoy a delicious Oreo shake through a coffee straw. If these dream-like scenarios happened with every single activity you did, you would start to see life like an addict. Having this feeling constantly nagging at you, every waking minute is hell on earth. All an addict wants is to feel like a normal human being. This is why we turn to drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol fills in these vacant receptor pods in our brain and for that short time, we feel human again; content and at peace.
I have noticed in my active addiction that most addicts either crave uppers or they crave downers. Of course as a heroin addict, I would do uppers when I couldn’t get heroin but overall, you either craved one or the other. If an addict’s brain doesn’t produce enough dopamine, they will more often than not, crave uppers (cocaine, meth, Ritalin). If an addict’s brain doesn’t produce enough endorphins, they will sway towards downers (pain pills, heroin).
Studies have shown that alcohol can fall into both these categories. It is my belief that many turn to alcohol instead of drugs because it is readily available and there is less societal stigma associated with booze. It is acceptable to say “I drank a fifth of whiskey” but not acceptable to say “I shot up 6 balloons of heroin”. Certainly there is other reasons; preference, legalities, etc.
A large problem can occur if your child turns to alcohol because it is easy to say “they are just in a phase” or “I partied when I was their age.” Alcohol can easily be justified. Illegal street drugs, not so much. You know better than to say your child is “just going through a heroin phase.”
HAVING “THE TALK”
-Too many parents believe that having a basic discussion about drugs will produce a drug free family.
-Too many parents believe telling their children to say no to drugs will keep their children away from drugs.
-Too many parents think lying to their children about drugs is helpful.
-Too many parents don’t study addiction before having a discussion with their children about addiction.
I am scared to death to think that someday I will have to give “the talk” to my children. I cannot give experienced advice from a parent’s side on this, but I sure can tell you want would have been helpful to hear from my parents’. I will have my mother give some parental thoughts and ideas on this subject in part 2.
A basic discussion about drugs is clearly not enough to prevent anything. All that did for me was made me curious and I had more questions than answers.
Using the phrase “just say no” or “say no to drugs” can be very dangerous if used by itself- especially if your child is a teenager. If you use that phrase, you might as well tell them to go experiment with drugs. We all know that adolescents make it their duty to do the opposite of what is asked.
If your child asks a question regarding drugs or addiction, do not lie to them. When they find out you lied, and they will, your child will lose trust in you. They will find out because their friend or their friend’s friend will know more drugs than you do. That takes us to my next point.
There is nothing more crucial for your child than your knowledge and love. Learning everything you possibly can about the realm of addiction. Like they say “What you don’t know may hurt your children”. Don’t let your ignorance control your children’s fate. I was never told anything about withdrawals. I thought if I became addicted to something, it only meant I would really like to continue doing it. No one told me I would be vomiting and having diarrhea at the same time. Stomach cramps and leg spasms more intense than anything I had ever felt in my life; fever, chills and sweats, heavy uncontrollable drooling, insomnia. I was told none of that. At the proper age, our children need to know all the important factors of addiction.
Check your findings. Cross reference with other websites. The more research you do the better equipped you will be in handling addiction.
THE ADDICTION PARADIGM
Even with as much as we know about addiction today, it is still very difficult for a non-addict to fully understand the thought process of an addict. It is possible to show sympathy or compassion for someone who just lost their mother or father, but until it happens to you, it is very difficult to know exactly what that person is experiencing. Addiction is the same in that way. Many people wonder why a sober addict will choose to relapse, even when the addict knows the consequences for doing so. This type of response is typical. If you are asking that question its only because you still don’t understand what addiction is. The more you understand about addiction, the greater chance your children will live a successful character building lifestyle.
Ignorance in addiction has been used to create the judgmental stigma towards addicts that we see today. This separation of mankind- this wedge between humanity has stopped a great deal of forward progress in the fight against addiction. Thankfully, over the last few years I have noticed a partial paradigm shift in the way society views addicts/alcoholics. This is the single most important epiphany we could have as a collective society. No longer can we view addicts/alcoholics as “the weak link” in society.
The revolving door of the American justice system is designed to generate massive amounts of wealth in the pockets of government. It is not designed to help individuals plagued with crippling mental disorders. Until the current system receives an overhaul, it is left to the people of the United States to change the paradigm of addiction. When it comes to fixing the crux of the problem my friends’, this IS the solid base in which we build on. This paradigm shift needs to happen.
Addiction will never be under control in America until we all accept addiction for what it is. Addiction is not drugs, it is not laws, it is not alcohol, and it is not pornography or sex. Addiction is not a homeless man begging for change. Addiction is not that selfish thief who needs his next fix. Addiction is not will power. It is not the prostitute on the street corner or the guy sitting in a cold, damp jail cell. Addiction is a mental illness. Addiction is a brain that does not function properly. Addiction is in no way the fault of the addicted. We did not choose to have this brain damage. It is a form of brain damage so why don’t we call it what it is? The paradigm shift needs to continue. We need to be more aware of what we are fighting.
We can easily look ahead and see that our ship is headed for a huge iceberg. We can change the course we are on. We must change the course we are on. It is a matter of life and death and the number of deaths continues to rise.
For so long we have fought against the wrong opponent. Many addicts are victims of rape, brutal beatings and sexual assaults as well as products of poor or misguided parenting. Why would we ever want to side with the perpetrator of such crimes? In one way or another, the addiction manifested because of the landscaping and surroundings of that individual. I am still searching my childhood to understand why and how my addiction got planted.
END OF PART 1—
Next blog- Part 2 (Signs to Look for)