Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Bridge

The Bridge
By: Rose Barbour

Addiction is killing her boy
But she’s told to let go
How can she do that?
She does not know.

In the midst of her pain
With all the tears
She reads about a bridge
And it eases her fears.

She can picture it there
Leading from darkness to light
Taking them to a better place
Where hope shines bright.

She knows they won’t make it
In this place of grief and despair
She wants him to leave with her
But he is too unaware.

He can’t see the bridge
Though she tries to show him
He can’t imagine such a place
Where hope keeps on growing.

To help him to see
She has to try something new
Crossing the bridge
Feels like the right thing to do.

This will be a leap of faith
Unlike any other
It tears at the heart strings
Of his loving mother.

As she crosses the bridge
She prays he will join her
She encourages him daily
To please come on over.

When he finally arrived
Her heart was full of love
She looked to the skies
And thanked God above.

Written by: Rose Barbour
Poem inspired by Melody Beattie’s daily reflection called “Letting Go of Those Not In Recovery”, which helped me to understand what letting go actually means.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Whatever Works: Hope From a Person in Recovery

On a daily basis, people – many of them young – are lost to the disease of addiction. This breaks my heart, and is the reason why I am so grateful for any and all treatment options that are recommended by the leaders in the field. The more options available, the better the chances are that each individual will find what works best for them. This is so important because lives depend on finding the right treatment for each person. One size does not fit all.    

Unfortunately, addictions medications, such as Methadone, are highly stigmatized even though their use in treatment for some patients is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and other reputable organizations. I find the negative attitudes about these life-saving drugs to be very disheartening, especially as people continue to die at our feet because they can’t find recovery through complete abstinence.   

What I find strange is that when Methadone doesn’t work, we blame the medication, but when the 12-step programs or stays at residential treatment centres don’t work, we blame the individual. We say things like “it works if you work it” or “he didn’t want it bad enough”. Well, here is something to consider: the same could be said for addictions medications!  They work if you follow the programs the way they are intended to be followed.

Because of the stigma attached to both their disease and treatment, many people who have had success with addictions medications do not talk about it. They move on with their lives and keep it to themselves. Unfortunately, this means that we only hear about the people who didn’t have success so the stigma continues.  Today, I thought I would share a success story so that people can make informed decisions on whether or not medications are right for them.

This story is from Eliza Player who credits Methadone with saving her life. She says:

“Methadone was a stepping stone that got me off the needle and off the streets. I did not completely stop using heroin when I first started treatment, and it was actually nearly 2 years before I ever got a single take home!! My urine analyses were positive for everything in the beginning. And, at first, I did not really want recovery, but I knew something had to change, and that I could not go through the constant battle of dope sickness versus the high. Methadone kept me from being sick and insane with that sickness on a daily basis and, slowly, as I began to not have the extremes, things did start to improve a little. It was baby steps. Then, I was not ready to completely abandon the lifestyle. Had I tried, it would have most likely ended in relapse.

It took me a while to figure the whole thing out, as I slowly added one more piece to my recovery....but now, over a decade later...I am off Methadone and drug free for more than 8 years. And, although it took me years of being an awful Methadone patient who still used and abused Methadone if I could, it finally clicked. But...even as a bad Methadone patient, I was still far better than when using. And I took little seeds of recovery with me along the way, and when I finally planted those seeds....they began to flourish.

Methadone is not for everyone, but it is a wonderful, successful tool that saved my life!”

I found Eliza’s story inspiring so I asked for permission to share a little bit of it with you. During our conversation, I found out that she is the author of the book, Heroin, Hurricane Katrina, and the Howling Within: An Addiction Memoir, which chronicles her own personal journey with addiction. If you are interested in learning more about it, just click on the title, which will take you to more information.  

If you are struggling with addiction, please do not give up hope. There is help out there. Try everything you can until you find what works best for you. It can take several attempts before you find the right formula for success, but don’t give up before the miracle happens. Your life is worth fighting for.

If you and your doctor think that addictions medications are right for you, don’t make the mistake of relying solely on the medication. You have to do the recovery work as well if you want to have the best chance at success. There is a better life waiting for you on the other side of your addiction, but you are the only one who has the power to seize it!  Now is the time!


Sunday, 20 July 2014

I Will Never Give Up

I Will Never Give Up

By: Rose Barbour

Say what you will and think what you might
As long as my child still breathes
I will never give up

Put him down if that makes you feel better
As long as my child’s heart still beats
I will never give up

Call him terrible names and yourself a Christian
As long as my child still walks this earth
I will never give up

Judge him harshly if you are so perfect
As long as I am still breathing
I will never give up

Say he deserves to die or go to prison
As long as my heart is still beating
I will never give up

Look down on him as if he doesn’t matter
As long as I am still walking this earth
I will never give up

Your ignorance and hate will not change my love
I am his mother
I will never give up!

Dedicated to all the parents on this difficult journey. Where there is life, there is hope. We can never give up!

Written by: Rose Barbour

Thursday, 10 July 2014

An Addictionologist's Perspective

I received this thoughtful and touching email from Dr. Denise Lea who was my son’s doctor at Addictions Services before she moved away. I was thrilled to hear from her. She is someone that I really respect, both professionally and personally. I think her message will mean a lot to the parents on this journey so I asked for permission to share it with you...

Dear Rose,

I just read your poem about the beautiful gift of your son’s recovery, which is indeed beautiful, and sensitive, and I'm so happy for you.  I know how long of a haul it has been for you.

I always say that I learn a lot from my clients, and what I really learned from you and your son was that loving, committed parenting does not necessarily protect young people from addiction risk.  You were brave and communicative enough to be able to show that to me, and I am glad I had an open enough mind to see it.

There are many good parents who are severely “afflicted" by the stigma of addiction.  The way the disease affects them is by making them feel like they did not do an adequate job in raising their children when, from my educated and relatively enlightened perspective, I can see that they surely did.  I can easily see the good, moral, and kind young people that they raised, behind the dreadful distortion of the disease that is affecting them and their minds.

I also see parents become uncertain and question their best efforts in raising their children. Some get inwardly angry, for no good reason, because they think that they could/should have done “better" - and that is hurting them as well as their addicted children, and probably the entire family, quite a lot.

I have you to thank for my ability to recognize all of this, and to therefore be empathetic to it.  I have seen the pain and suffering of addiction so many times and from so many different perspectives, but I didn’t really intuitively “feel” the truth of the words, “it is a family disease”,  until I  understood, and ultimately heard your voice.  

The way I tended to interpret the “family disease” thing was more along the lines that the CAUSES of addiction originate within family dysfunction in many cases, as well as that the affected person inflicts suffering on the family due to the behaviour and personality changes that are caused by the addiction.  What I didn’t clue into right away was the truth that the suffering on a parent who has a child with addiction can have nothing to do with either of those things.  The suffering perhaps may be more due to the loss of confidence of something you really used to believe in:  That your love, support, and unceasing devotion to your children could still not have provided them with something that you thought it should have:  protection from their own so called “choices”.  

This is one of the many things that now really bugs me about the stigmatization of addiction - that many other people inherently judge the parent of an addict as having “screwed up” somehow (as well as judging the addict as lacking in “morality”).  I didn’t even realize that I was passively buying into the former element of stigma myself until you opened my eyes! 

I get tired of hearing that addicts have made bad “choices”.  None of us “choose” our DNA.  The choice to “try” drugs is hardly a choice, if you consider the relevance of brain development, mood and anxiety disorders, peer and societal influences, and the underlying desire to fit in that every single adolescent has to negotiate on their way to adulthood.

You were brave enough to eventually stand up and say, “You know what?  My husband and I did the absolute best that we could have done as parents, I loved my kids as much as I possibly could, and I believe that my children know that…and by the way, my son IS the product of a stable and loving home, and he IS a loveable human being that you people should be treating with the value and respect that he deserves,” yet you managed to say it without being strident, sensitively, but insistently.  Your voice is special, and I hope you know that.

Your words really moved me when I heard you talk in front of all the parents the night of the panel presentation on addiction at the school.  I could see how terrifying and frustrating it must have been for you, and how utterly powerless you must have felt, to have your lovely boy “stolen” from you.  I’m glad you were somehow able to keep the faith alive in you that he was still “in there”, even when it must have been really hard to see.  I’m also glad that you had enough faith and confidence in yourself to not let anyone run over you by buying into the mistaken belief that you had done anything “wrong”.  

You and most parents do the best that they can, and love their kids as much as they can, and make very few “pivotal” mistakes that make any great difference in what happens to their kids.  Some people who have the disease of addiction may be born into families suffering poverty, addiction, and violence, and their risks are relatively higher, but a LOT of people who suffer addiction do not have any huge environmental risk factors, and that this is more common within the current epidemic of opiate addiction than it ever has been before.  Good kids from healthy families who have been loved, empathized with, and supported still end up with addiction.  What I have definitely observed is that these kids often have better long term OUTCOMES than the ones who did not have good environments. They are more resilient, the damage is less severe, and the support is more likely to remain consistent, and the patients are more willing to accept the support.  It is not all for nothing, is it?  

The truth of addiction recovery is that it takes time, it is exhausting to keep on caring and to stay supportive, and that at times it seems impossible to keep on going, and to believe that hope exists... but that it is definitely WORTH IT to keep on trying, and that the rewards of doing all the hard work are often not what you were expecting at all… because they are SO MUCH MORE than you had ever hoped for in the first place.  We are somehow “perfected" by the process of “breaking” and eventually healing, and that certain joys can only be formed by the suffering that “sculpts” our souls as we endure. 

I have heard that the light often shines brighter through the cracks.

Here’s to keeping on hoping and caring,

Dr. Denise Lea