Today we have a guest blogger; Amanda S., also known as @RebelEclectic on Twitter where her advocacy has a following. Amanda has been open with her own story of addiction recovery. This will be more a story about her loving parents’ experience of addiction in their only child.
This is a story of courage, recovery, and of loving parents who do everything possible to support a child’s health and welfare. I’m appreciative of the courage of both Amanda and Mom in revisiting such a painful period in their lives so we can learn.
When my Dad came to the jail, he asked if he could see me before deciding to post bail. I was 30 at the time and really trying to keep it together, but I had been withdrawing alone in a small cold cell for 24 hours. The floor was covered with tissue wads from my runny nose, and I was using my knee socks as makeshift sleeves for warmth.
I had moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18, and managed to hide 15 years of drug use from them, so my Dad didn’t exactly know what my problem was or what drug I was using, but I was deep into my addiction.
He gave me 2 choices that day: stay in jail or get help. Saying goodbye to drugs- even if just recreationally, was a decision I never imagined making, it literally never crossed my mind. But I was so exhausted and 40 minutes into that physically uncomfortable ride back home, he had to rush me to the emergency room.
I’m an only child without children of my own, so all 5 of my immediate family members drove straight to the E.R. to support me while I was there. The hospital hooked me up to an IV with fluids, meds for nausea and cozy warmed blankets that my mom used to tuck me in tightly.
I told them everything right then and there, I just spilled it openly, honestly, and.. somewhat brutally. It was time they knew. They listened, and took me home with them, but what’s next? They didn’t have any friends or family that had dealt with addiction, and there wasn’t anyone to help them with the next steps. The hospital told them to keep me hydrated but how would they get me into rehab? Where is a rehab? Do they offer medically assisted treatment and what is that? Will insurance cover it and for how long?
They were scrounging for answers, and when I recently asked my mom how they figured it out, she couldn’t even remember. I believe they were given a 1-800 number from my closest friend, who’s also a social worker. I called it, I was assessed, and they gave me an intake date a week away. My mom called out of work; and I detoxed at my parents’ house until then.
If I hadn’t landed in jail that day, been rushed to the hospital, gotten that phone number & intake date, or didn’t have supportive parents at the time, I don’t think I would be 12 years sober or capable of writing about this now.
It wasn’t until years later when I began to realize how overwhelming and shocking it must’ve been for my parents & family to learn about my drug use and full-fledged heroin addiction. I had lived it for so long it’s a part of who I am today, and it’s always been easy for me to talk openly about it. My parents had to deal with it on the fly, figure out how to handle it and cope.
It’s been 12½ years since I went to rehab, and many things, including myself, have changed, but it’s been an extremely rough, long road. My family and I had to figure out how to navigate all the roadblocks, adversity, and health issues I’ve dealt with since I got sober. I’m very grateful for having two wonderful parents that stuck by my side, but if we had someone to help guide us during that time, it would’ve made the entire process much smoother.
I’ve worked closely with Patrick Doyle for years; I trust him, we’ve become good friends. He’s knowledgeable, compassionate, ethical, and fiercely advocates for both addiction and chronic pain; two communities I’m a part of, often helping both find common ground.
So when Patrick asked if I would interview my parents, I jumped at the opportunity. My Dad doesn’t like to relive the pain, it’s just too hard for him which is understandable, but my mom was open to answering Patrick’s questions. The following is a transcript of the audio interview I did with my Mom; the audio is also posted above.
At that time, what resource or information was useful for you? E.g. Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, MDs, other parents, friends?
Dad went to a few Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings, I think that helped him. But our friends and family were really supportive, co-workers and our family doctor.
What would’ve helped you out back then that you didn’t have at the time?
Just knowing what to expect once you got out of rehab, if you went back to it again [drug use].
Is there any advice would you give other parents going through this family issue where a loved one has addiction? What do you recommend families do or don’t do?
Just do the best you can, don’t try to give too much advice, just give hugs, let the person know you’re there to support them and talk to someone professionally if you can’t deal with it. If you don’t have a supportive spouse, then you might have to talk to somebody that’ll help support you.
I mean, you’re our daughter, you did drugs for ten years that we didn’t know about. We got kicked in the butt when all hell broke loose, we got slammed fast. We just did what we could do, so we just tried to support you, and let you know that nobody’s perfect. We didn’t have any other kids we had to worry about and that made a big difference. Maybe it hurt us a little more because you were our only kid.
Dad and I cried a lot of tears, but we did have each other’s support and that made a big difference. When you have a spouse that supports you… did we always agree on everything? No, but we did the best we could.
What was it like when you learned your daughter had this illness?
It was like a 2-ton ball that hits you in the chest and you can’t breathe… when you cry and only wailing sounds come out… you just want to get there, get to them and comfort them and help them. That’s how it was.
Did you get much support or understanding from other family or friends?
Yeah, but when it gets right down to it, you’re the parents and that’s the child and it’s between you & them. We got a lot of support from family, and from my work, they let me take time off. A lot of prayers, a lot of prayers.
You didn’t have any friends that had gone through anything like that before though, did you?
No, but they would know people that did.
Did you tell others what the family was going through?
I told everybody. I think there’s no sense holding it in, it’s not something to be embarrassed about it’s a sickness. Yeah, I told everybody.
Did you think much about yourselves, or were you totally focused on getting me healthy?
We took care of you in the first part but you got into rehab right away, so once you were in rehab I felt they knew what they were doing. So we couldn’t focus all on you because you were being taken care of. I mean, it wasn’t normal by any means, it was on our minds 24/7, it never leaves your mind.
Patrick Doyle of Family Opioid Coaching provides families with support and science-based information, empowering them to make informed decisions when helping a loved one with addiction. If you or a family member feel you may benefit from Patrick’s help, contact him here: (617) 997-4442 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to connect with Amanda, or read more about her story you can follow her on Twitter: @RebelEclectic Or read the WorkIt Health interview here: “From Heroin User To Health Advocate: Suboxone Success Story Amanda S.”