I wrote this letter to The Guardian, which was published on May 1, 2013. I thought I would share it here in case anyone missed it.
ADDICTION IS A FAMILY DISEASE
I am very encouraged by the recent attention paid to the prescription drug epidemic on P.E.I. by both the government and the media.
In Saturday's edition of The Guardian, a wonderful family shared their painful story (‘Painkiller Epidemic') of their son's addiction. They voiced their frustration in manoeuvring through a system that, in the end, falls short of the intensive treatment needed for opiate addiction. When they shared their story, they shared our family's story and that of many others here on P.E.I.
This journey through addiction is very painful. Only another family going through the same thing could truly understand it. Your loved one is doing something that they could die from, and you are powerless over it. Despite your best efforts to create a healthy, happy home, drugs find their way in and your family is in for a long, hard ride. The stress of fighting a battle that cannot be won (without proper treatment) is so great that many family members end up suffering health problems of their own.
To make matters worse, the stigma attached to addiction prevents many family members from reaching out to others for help so we suffer in silence. We are forced to try to act normal to the outside world when our own world is in complete chaos and we are terrified of losing our loved ones every minute of the day. If it were any other serious issue, we would have strong support from friends, family, and community. Instead, our loved ones have addiction, which is still misunderstood by many.
Like the young man in the article, our family's loved one is also waiting for a detox bed at Mt. Herbert Addictions Treatment Centre. He's been on the waiting list for more than two weeks now. Feeling very depressed, he called again last night but they were not able to tell him how much longer he would have to wait. This is unacceptable. When an addict says they want help, it needs to be immediately available. The next day could be too late because they might change their minds or they could be dead. That is the reality of addiction.
When our loved ones do finally get into detox, there is seldom a treatment program available that they can start immediately afterward. These vulnerable patients are sent home, where a high percentage of them relapse back into active addiction. For most people, staying clean after you leave detox requires seamless entry into intensive treatment, followed immediately by strong out-patient recovery programs, and ongoing counselling (individual and/or group). It will take a significant investment in addiction services for these things to happen.
Addiction is a family disease. Until the investment in treatment and recovery programs is made - or there is easier access to the programs off-Island - families will continue to suffer. If you are a family member living this nightmare, you are not alone and there is some help for you. A good place to start is at an Al-Anon meeting or by talking to a trusted friend. You don't have to go through this alone.
I may be reached at email@example.com or on my blog at shadowsinpei.blogspot.ca.