Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Great Narcan Debate

At the risk of receiving a horrendous amount of backlash, and with hands trembling, I would like to weigh in on this controversial topic.  

Naloxone (Narcan) blocks or reverses the effects of opioid medication, including extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing, or loss of consciousness. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Narcan is used to treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation.

I have read so many negative things on facebook and on other sites about the use of Narcan.  Here are just a few of the statments I have heard and/or read.

They should just let those junkies die.

Why would they stop an overdose?  That's one less drug addict on the streets that we have to worry about.

People just take advantage of Narcan.  They get high knowing they have a so-called lifesaver.

Why am I paying for a drug addict to be brought back to life?

Some people have had to use Narcan like 6, 7, 8 times!  They are taking advantage of it.  

If the elderly and veterans can't receive free medications, why should a bunch of junkies?
(I do believe that the elderly and veterans should be taken care of.  I have two amazing grandmothers who could use the help and a disabled veteran brother who could as well. That's not the point here.)

We live in a country where EVERYTHING is controversial and debatable.  I get it...we like to argue.  And....we like to be right.  

But, my question is this.  

Since when did we become a society that wishes death upon people?  

I'm sorry, but I do believe we have reached a new low. 

I agree that some addicts will take advantage of Narcan.  We humans have that tendency to take advantage of things.  I can quickly rattle off a list of things (and people) that I've taken advantage of. Some people take advantage of government assistance, but some people don't.  We shouldn't completely take assistance away just because of the ones who abuse it.  It only hurts the ones who truly need it.  

I met a lady recently and I began listening to her story.  She was neck-deep in her addiction and overdosed...twice.  She received Narcan....twice.  She is now carrying the message of recovery to everyone she meets.  She had a complete turnaround.  Not only did Narcan bring her back to life, it brought her back to LIFE!  She is just one of the lives saved by Narcan.  I wish that I could show you a picture of her because sometimes we are so quick to judge someone we don't know...can't see.  If you saw her smile, you would never wish death upon her.  If you heard her laugh, you would be grateful that she was given a second chance...followed by a third chance.  

The most "popular" argument I have heard is that someone's life should not be saved if he/she engaged in risky behaviors (like shooting heroin) that could lead to death.  Humor me for just a minute.  Let's say you like to drive fast.  Like, sometimes really fast.  You look at the speed limit signs, but you don't really obey them.  Yet, you always have a good reason for speeding.  Maybe you are late for an appointment or you are getting ready to have a "digestive emergency" (cops say they hear this all the time).  As you are speeding (and essentially breaking the law), you lose control of your vehicle and it flips....with your two-year old in the back seat.  Someone witnesses this and calls 911.  Police cars, ambulances, and firetrucks quickly arrive, and, upon inspection, it is determined that the jaws of life are required.  The firefighters extract the small child from the vehicle, but you are fading quickly.  At this point, all of the officials gather together to debate what to do. Should they save your life?  The thing is, when they ran your license, they learned that you've had not one, not two, not even three, but four speeding tickets in a two-year span.  Even worse, it looks like you rear-ended someone not even three months ago.  Hmmmm....what should they do.  Let you die?  NO!!!  They don't let you die.  That would be asinine.  Without any thought, they've got the jaws of life cutting you free.  You get a second chance.  And, even if you don't learn your lesson and you continue racing around in your mom-van, it was still the right choice to save your life.  You see, what you do with the gift you have received is up to you.  

How many times should an addict's life be saved with Narcan?  My answer to that is as many times as it takes. Until they "get it."  But, what if they never "get it"?  Well, that's unfortunate.  Still, we have not made a mistake by extending the opportunity to live. Someone in my family is in a mess right now. He has battled drug addiction the majority of his life. Just a month or so ago, he overdosed and received Narcan....just in time. Sometimes I lose hope that he will ever break free. Sometimes I get angry when I see the pain it causes everyone...including him. Sometimes it breaks my heart to know his mom's biggest fear is getting a phone call that he has died. The only thing that kept her from getting that phone call recently was something called Narcan.  He's been given a second chance at life, and it is up to him as to what he does with it. I pray it's that he finds recovery before it is eternally too late.

Here's the deal. That girl you saw lying on the side of the road, lifeless, getting revived by EMTs, she's still a person. She has a heart. And a soul. She has parents. And grandparents. And possibly children. She had dreams of being someone. Now, all of her hopes and dreams are scattered on a dirty, cracked sidewalk as men and women she does not know do everything they can to save her life. In that moment, nothing else matters. It doesn't matter that she just prostituted herself for dope money. It doesn't matter that everyone who loves her has turned their backs on her. What matters is that she is dying....and there is something that can save her life.

I'm not sure why there is so much controversy about a life-saving medication. If something has been discovered/manufactured/invented that can take a person that is essentially dead and bring them back to life, why in the world would we be mad that it is being used? The only travesty regarding the use of Narcan is that it wasn't available sooner....that there are grieving mothers whose children it could have saved.

I do hope that parameters regarding Narcan are set....and that they are set soon. I believe that any person who is revived by Narcan should be court-ordered to some type of treatment, whether it be inpatient or outpatient, and enrolled in drug court. I would love to see the addict get real and lasting recovery.....once his/her life is saved. 

We can all agree that this drug epidemic is out of hand. It's absolutely devastating our communities and tearing families apart. What is the solution? Well, I know the ultimate solution is surrendering to God. But, logistically, what is the immediate answer? Where can they go for treatment? How will they get through the withdrawals? How do we show them that there is hope? How do we make them want to get clean? How can we get them to hear truth when they have sold themselves out to a lie? I have no freaking clue. 

But, I do know one thing for sure. It's not by letting them die. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Addiction is a disease

My heart has been so heavy the past few days. So many horrible things are happening. I get it.
Drugs are taking over the town we live in. People are overdosing and getting hit with Narcan, not just once, but multiple times, and sometimes as many as twenty people in one night. As bad as this is, I still don't think they deserve to die. As bad as this is, they are human...just like me....just like you.

I know that what I have to say may not be popular, but that's okay. I don't expect everyone to understand my point of view. I actually hope most of you do not understand, because if you do, it likely means you have walked through hell either as an addict yourself, or with one you dearly love. If you don't understand, consider yourself lucky. I hope you never have to.

Anyway, here are my opinions (and that's what they are...opinions).

There has been an article circulating ALL over Facebook called, "A 12-step guide to show that 'drug addiction is NOT a disease'." The title alone initially turned me off, but I like to read articles that pose differing positions as mine to educate myself more and to attempt to understand the position from which others are coming. Addiction is such a complicated thing and I do not believe that anyone has a solid, infallible idea of its origins or particularities.

However, all I know is what I've learned through treatment, 12-step recovery programs, sitting in rooms with other addicts, and my personal experience. And here is what I believe.

I believe that addiction is a disease. 

I believe there is something within an addict that makes him/her different from others, and I believe this "something" is genetic. It took me a rather long time to come to that conclusion. When I first entered treatment, I was adamant that this talk of addiction being a disease was bull. I, like many others, stood the ground that it was a choice and that people who thought it was a disease were looking for an easy way out, a "get out of jail free" card (no pun intended). However, after some time, I began to see a larger picture....I began to see that there, indeed, was a chemical component involved.

In AA, this is called the X-factor. This is an explanation of the X-factor found in "The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:  Interpreted by the Hazelden Foundation."

Many people get high when they use drugs or alcohol. But, they can stop using if they feel sick or if using leads to problems. This is not true for chemically dependent people. Drinking or using drugs makes us feel great. And once we start using, we cannot stop even when we want to.  Experts think this happens because our bodies react to drugs and alcohol in a unique way. We call it the X-factor because no one knows exactly why this is true. Many studies have been made of this problem. But so far no one can explain why some people become chemically dependent and others do not. The main point is that we are not responsible for the X-factor. Think of it this way: Some of us have blue eyes and some of us have brown eyes. Some of us have a heart condition and some of us don't. Likewise, some people who use drugs and alcohol will get addicted to them, and others will not. People who have blue eyes or diabetes are not bad people. They are not weak-willed or lazy. Their bodies are just different from the rest of ours. In the same way, those of us with the X-factor are not bad, weak-willed, or lazy. Our bodies just respond to alcohol and drugs in a different way.

No one knows where this phenomenon originates or what makes certain people have it. It's why some people can take prescription pain pills for a short period of time and never think about them again, while others take them for a short time and learn they can't live without them. There is way too much on that topic to delve into here, and I'm not willing or able to provide that info.

What I do know is that there is something in my brain that makes me an addict. Had I never been exposed to opiates, I think the disease would not have awakened. However, when I was only 16 years old, I smashed my finger in a car door and ended up having a screw placed in my fingertip. I was given Tylenol with codeine, and something in my head changed. I can remember nearly everything about that first experience, I know what chair I was sitting in, what food I was eating, and even what clothes I was wearing. And that was twenty years ago. After that first encounter, I spent the next several years relishing in that memory. I couldn't wait for it to happen again. I believe I became sick in my early years, my disease just lurked underneath the surface, waiting to overtake me.

When I first entered treatment, I did not think I had a disease.  You know what I thought? I thought I was just a bad person. I thought I was scum....a sinner. I thought I would never change. When I learned more about the concept of addiction as a disease, I found hope. Many non-addicts believe that we addicts give up when we accept that we have a disease....that we just succumb to it and become card carrying victims. Oh, but no. Quite the opposite. When I looked at this new information that I possibly had a disease, that I was genetically predisposed to addiction, I let go of the belief that I was just "bad." That belief was what trapped me in guilt and shame. That belief was what kept me an addict. That belief was what gave my disease complete control of me.

Now that I know I have a disease, I know that I HAVE to stay completely away from the thing that makes me sick. For me, that is pain pills. They keep me sick. They keep my disease active. Because I have this disease, I have to exercise my CHOICE (yes, I definitely believe the choice factor comes into play with addiction...but more on that later) to manage my disease or it will manage me. If I CHOOSE to not use, my disease will remain in remission. If I DECIDE to use, that disease is gonna flare right back up. I have to take the proper precautions (every time I use that phrase I picture Harry from Home Alone saying it) to not let my disease end fatally.

I believe that I will always have this disease (more on that later). That does not mean that I will live in active addiction; rather, knowing that I have a disease makes me scared, even terrified, to go anywhere near pain pills. It means that I choose to live in pain rather than to take pain pills. When I start taking pills, the choice goes away and the disease takes back over.

I don't care if your list of 'why addiction is not a disease' is twelve steps long or two hundred miles long. I can give you a million examples and first hand experiences to back my case that it is, in fact, a disease. It's okay that you support your really is. And I will continue to support mine, because knowing that I have a deadly disease keeps me alive.

I have written a rebuttal to each 'addiction is not a disease' argument.

1. Cancer doesn't have a 28 day rehab.  I sure wish there was a twenty-eight day rehab that cured cancer.  Furthermore, I wish there was a twenty-eight day rehab that CURED addiction. Unfortunately, there are neither. Rather, both diseases are progressive and deadly. 

2. You can't point to the exact moment the cancer started. I also can't point to the exact moment the disease of addiction started.  I'm gonna assume sometime in my formation as a fetus, because I carry a genetic predisposition for addiction.  I can, however, tell you the exact moment that I knew I was different, and that was when I was given pain medicine as an innocent young teenage girl. 

3. Cancer can't be eradicated with hard work and self-discipline. The word eradicate means to destroy completely and put an end to. I guess this example means that addiction can be eradicated? Believe me, I work my butt off and use as much will power and self-discipline as one can muster, and I still have the disease of addiction. It might not be in control, but it's still there. I've seen people with twenty years clean and sober take one drink of beer and their alcoholism return in full force. If someone can show me how it is completely eradicated, I would appreciate it!  I have a disease, I just choose to starve it.

4. Cancer doesn't give you satisfaction, a high, a confident feeling, or an enjoyable moment. I find it funny that the word satisfaction is used to describe addiction because that lends itself to the notion that addiction can be satisfied. Quite the contrary. A true addict has a desire to use that is insatiable. This disease is a beast that can never be fully fed. Addiction is enjoyable? I will admit that it is fun for a season. I rather enjoyed getting high. But, the fun/enjoyment ended when I tried to stop using and couldn't. I definitely didn't feel satisfied or confident when I came to that realization. 

5. Cancer doesn't make you the life of the party.  Well, neither does addiction. I'm pretty sure the person sitting in the corner nodding out isn't the life of the party. I'm pretty sure the person convulsing, seizing, and foaming at the mouth isn't either. Believe me, my addiction never made me the life of the party. Instead, it made me an isolated, hateful, depressed ogre who was on the verge of committing suicide. 

6. You can't get cancer because your friends convinced you to try it. Yep, you're right. And, unfortunately, we sometimes don't know that we have the disease of addiction until we try drugs or alcohol. That makes even more sense for ALL of us to stay away and never try it. 

7. We don't know what caused your cancer.  I so wish we knew what caused cancer. I also wish we knew what caused the chemical component of addiction....why some people's brains are wired differently....why some are predisposed to it. I wish I could know for sure if my kids will have it. All I can do is encourage them to never find out.

8. You can't spend money, steal money, or sell yourself for money to buy cancer.  We do often steal money and do gross things to get drugs.  Yes, we do.  Because we have a nasty disease that drives us to do bad things that we normally wouldn't do. My disease turned me into a monster. My disease made me someone that I am not. 

9. You'll never get in trouble with the law or go to jail for cancer.  Actually....funny story. I was in treatment with a school teacher (gasp) who had found herself deep in addiction and the trouble that surrounds it. How did she get there? She had cancer as a teenager and after she started using opiates to treat her pain, she discovered that she was the proud owner of two deadly diseases. Luckily, neither one killed her. Rather, she chose to seek treatment for both of them.

10. Cancer doesn't feel good.  I won't even pretend to understand what cancer feels like. I can't imagine, and it breaks my heart to see victims of cancer become so weak and powerless. It does feel good to get high....for a season. But, let me tell you, there comes a point in time when it no longer feels good.  When it hurts so bad that you just can't stop. It breaks my heart to see those with the disease of addiction become so weak and powerless.  

11. After you recover from cancer you aren't tempted to slip back into it.  Some people with cancer (with proper treatment or miraculous healing ) are lucky enough to have the disease go into remission. That might not necessarily mean that the disease is gone forever, it just means that it is, at that moment, dormant. Sadly, the cancer often comes back and many don't win the battle a second time. With addiction, we often experience a thing called sobriety. It doesn't necessarily mean that our disease has vanished into thin air, it simply means that the disease is dormant....and as long as we starve it rather than feed it, it will stay that way. Sadly, many people relapse and don't win the battle a second time. 

12. You don't lose friends and family because you have cancer. In fact, you tend to gain more.
Yes, the disease of addiction is so serious that it rips parents from their children and children from their parents. It tears apart marriages, breaks up life-long friendships. It robs us of any meaningful relationship we've ever had. But, when those of us who suffer admit to it and walk the journey toward healing together, new relationships are formed. Honestly, I have more friends (true ones) since I became open about my disease than I ever did before. I have a recovery small group that has become my lifeline. They are my best friends and the ones I want to do life with. Those of us who share the same struggle bind together and hold one another up. We are all survivors of a deadly disease and we celebrate that with one another. 

Honestly, that was a pretty good attempt to disprove the biological ideology of addiction. I'm fairly certain that this article succeeded in 'proving' to thousands of readers that addiction is not a disease. Really, I'm kind of glad that people are having dialogue about this disease! Even if my view opposes yours, I'm glad we are talking about it and not ignoring it. I am, however, not happy that some people continue to converse about it in such a derogatory, ignorant way. There is a huge difference in asserting that addiction is not a disease and stating that we should "stone those addicts to death" (yes, I actually read that statement this week and it reminded me of a time I heard a preacher say that teenage girls who get pregnant should be taken out and stoned. So, yeah.....).

Here's the deal, you can take your twelve step guide and I'll take mine. The big difference is that my 12-step guide is going to lead me to a life of freedom despite my disease.  While I have a disease, I'm going to choose to not let it control my life.  I'm gonna do whatever it takes to keep it at bay.  I'm gonna do whatever it takes to make sure that this disease does not rob me of life or of true enjoyment. I'm gonna do whatever it takes to make sure that a disease that is out to kill me does not succeed.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I tried not to steal your pills

So, I've never considered myself much of a thief. In fact, I can't recall anything that I've ever stolen. Well, except for a sweatshirt I accidentally carried out of a store while Christmas shopping several years ago. I didn't even realize that it was in my hands and I didn't remember which store it had come from, so I couldn't return it! I tried to give it to Chad as a Christmas gift, but it didn't fit him. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, not much of a thief. I actually returned a twenty dollar bill to the bank once when the teller gave me three instead of two. She nearly stroked out that I brought it back. I will not steal from you. Or anyone else.

Unless it's pills. Then I will rob you blind. Well, the old me would. When it comes to pills, they are all mine. My pills are mine. Your pills are mine. If you don't think so, just watch.  Well, don't really watch. I need you to look away so that I can steal your pills.

Over the years, any medicine that came through my house was free territory for me. My motto was "one for you, two for me." If it was in my house, it was mine.

Along the way, I decided to get clean, and I seemed to be pretty successful, provided there were no narcotics or amphetamines in my presence. Then, I was in trouble. Big trouble.

Unfortunately, I married a man with dental problems. His teeth are straight and white, though, because that would have been a deal breaker....I'm a teeth person. They just aren't as strong and healthy as they should be; even though I've never met another person who brushes, flosses, and power washes (his words) their teeth like he does. Anyway, I was clean and sober, and he had a dental procedure. I can actually remember where I was (in a parking garage) when he called and asked me to pick up his prescription for him. I cursed him under my breath for making me do that. I picked the script up at the drive-thru pharmacy, and I vowed to not even open the paper bag they sent out to me. But, I did open it, and I immediately regretted it....but not really. I then proceeded to unscrew the lid on the bottle and just stare at the contents. I was super jealous. I wished that I was the one who'd just had a mouth full of root canals. (What a freak!!!) I put the lid back on the bottle and placed it back in the paper bag where it belonged. All the way home an internal argument took place.

I am NOT going to take those pills. Definitely not. Well, maybe I will just take one. Or two. No, I'm not going to take those pills! Nope. Not doing it. But, if he doesn't end up using them, I won't let them go to waste. I'll give it a few days and see if there are any left. No! I'm not taking them. Oh, I know I'm gonna take them. But I'm gonna try hard not to.

That dialogue truly happened. Addiction is absolute insanity.

I walked into the house and to the bedroom and handed Chad the bottle. Before I left the room, I said, "You better put those pills up. Because I want them in a bad way." I was proud of myself that I told him what I was thinking. So proud that I found myself digging through our bedroom for them the next morning as soon as he left for work. I eventually found them in his sock drawer stuffed into the toe of one of his white pairs of socks. I opened the bottle, poured them out in my hand, and counted them. He hadn't taken very many and he seemed perfectly fine when he left that morning, so I was sure he wouldn't miss one or two. So, I took one or two and vowed that I wouldn't take anymore. I positioned the sock in the exact way I had found it (I secretly thought maybe he had it placed a certain way so he could tell if it had been tampered with) and closed the drawer. I decided not to take anymore.  Until later that evening when I found myself in the drawer again. And the next morning when I again found myself in the drawer. I counted them every single time. Nope. He hadn't taken a one. I kept this up for the next day or so, until I realized there were only a couple pills left. I took one and left the last one for him. You know, in case his teeth started hurting. I wasn't that heartless.

The next day, I was putting clothes away in our bedroom. He walked into the room and started toward his dresser. I held my breath as he reached for the top middle drawer. He opened it up and I waited. "Misty! Did you take my pills?" I just turned around and stared at him. I couldn't really lie.  I mean, I could have blamed our young children or our German Shepherd, but I knew he wouldn't buy it. He picked up the bottle and threw it at me and said, "Well, why did you leave me one?! If you're gonna steal my pills, take them all!" So, I did what any self-respecting drug addict would do, and I took the pill. He did offer it, after all.

That type of situation happened way more often than I would care to admit. I would start out with all intentions of steering clear of anything I couldn't/shouldn't take, but I failed miserably. I wanted to stay away from them, but I guess I wanted to get high more. One of my friends, Destiny, told me once, "Misty, you won't get clean or stay clean until you want to be sober more than you want anything...more than you want to get high. Plain and simple." I wasn't there yet. Because as much as I wanted to be honest and responsible, my desire to get high was stronger.

Last week my oldest daughter had her wisdom teeth removed. I was worried for many reasons. I was worried for her and for me. Addiction runs deep in her blood too, and I was scared for opiates to be introduced to her. I was just as scared to know they were in my house. Her boyfriend went with me to take her to her procedure, and he was also the one who took all of her paperwork, including her prescriptions. I pulled up to the drive-thru pharmacy and he handed me the scripts. I tried not to look at them, but I found myself reading them none the same. When I read the word Norco (the new Vicodin), my breath got caught in my chest. My drug of choice. In my hand. I left the prescriptions there for Chad to pick up later. He told me he would be giving her medicine to her and for me to keep my hands off. I happily obliged. Then, a little conversation started in my head. It sounded kind of like an argument. It went something like this.

I'm glad he put those pills up......I wonder where he hid them.

I'm not going to look for them.......Surely he's gotten smarter than the sock drawer. Wonder if they are in the safe? Maybe in his nightstand where he keeps his medicine?

I would not dream of taking one.......One little pill wouldn't hurt. No one would ever know.

Luckily, I've learned to distinguish between those two voices. I know which one is reason and which one is insanity. I know which one is right and which one is wrong. I know which one wants the best for me and which one wants to kill me. I know which one is truth and which one is a lie. And I quickly told the wrong one to shut up. My daughter's procedure was on Friday morning and my Recovery small group is on Friday evenings. As soon as our women's group started, I told them about the battle going on in my mind. They showed me love, support, and encouragement. My good friend Kristina looked at me and said, "I've never seen this Misty. In the years that I've known you, I've never seen you openly express a struggle. I think you're going to a place you've never been before." She nailed it.

I never once looked for those pills. After that initial freak-out moment, I forgot about them. I truly didn't give another thought to those little things that used to hold me captive. For the first time in the last decade, I didn't steal pills that I knew were there....somewhere.

You see, I am in a place I've never been before and I'm headed to a place I've never been before. Recovery is like that. I'm growing and learning and changing every single day. And somewhere along the way, I think I've finally figured out what my friend Destiny told me. Last week, I may have had an extremely short moment where I wanted to get high, but you know what I wanted even more than that? Way more than that? I wanted to stay clean and sober.

I want to be clean and sober more than I want anything.

Because staying clean and sober gives me more than I could ever want. 

It gives me life.

A freaking amazing one at that.