Meth Abuse: Where Have You Been

by Ned Wicker

(Wisconsin, USA)

A sad but not uncommon story of addiction and abuse

A sad but not uncommon story of addiction and abuse

Working in a hospital every day, I am used to watching our medical team approach patient care in terms of making a diagnosis and treating the illness. It can all be rather cold and distant, which is why the executive leadership has gone to great lengths to train our people to be sensitive to emotional and spiritual needs.

Many hospital systems around the country have programs for this, R.I.S.E.N., Plain Tree and the like are all designed to help medical people make a human connection with patients and their families. While it’s good to have this sort of training, it falls short of really equipping medical staffers for dealing with emotional and spiritual issues. Some programs I’ve been exposed to provide some information, as well as a warm and fuzzy, but little else.

There was a young woman in our care recently who was dealing with a very treatable medical condition and we were doing solid work in helping her through that process, but as one of our chaplains spoke with her and listened to her story, we very quickly realized that the medical was the least of her problems.

She was in her early 20’s, but she looked like someone in their early40’s. Several years of dreadful decisions, an addiction to meth and visits in and out of jail gave her a gaunt, hardened look; one of having no hope, no options and no reason to go on. Yet at the same time, in moments of calm, she had a kind of innocence about her, albeit fleeting.

She was on her second husband, had lost custody and visitation rights to her two children, and our chaplain could only imagine where she had been and what she had been through.

The pattern of her life was all too familiar. Her parents were divorced when she was 10 and mom immediately married an alcoholic before the ink on the divorce decree had dried. The stepfather wanted nothing to do with children, took charge of his new wife’s life and other than allowing this girl and her brother to live in the house, had nothing to do with them.

Mom was one of those who just needed to have a man and this was all she could get. The kids would just have to understand. There was always booze in the house, so after a year or so the girl started drinking. It was her only real connection to her new daddy, who decided to take some physical liberties with his new daughter. She rarely went to school and did not get out of the eighth grade until she was 15, but never did get past her first year of high school. She was introduced to meth at that time and found it to be a good escape from the reality of her life.

She had her first child when she was 17, fathered by one of the boys who hung out and did drugs. The maternity of the baby, however, was somewhat in question. It could have been any one of a surprisingly large group of suburban teens. At 19 she decided to get married to one of the gang, but with no money, no job and no prospects, he quickly lost interest in her and moved on.

Like her mother, she immediately set out to find somebody to take care of her and hooked up with a 30-something man, who was not exactly a walk in the park, but he had a job. They had a child right away.

As she described, life was ok for a while, but he soon lost his job due to drug use, so the two stayed home, did drugs and neglected their children. Long story short, child social services got involved and removed the children. He has a pending drug charge hanging over his head.

Strangely, somewhere in the middle of all of this, she decided that it was imperative for her to have some cosmetic surgery to enhance her looks. The surgery led to her developing an infection, which landed her back in the hospital.

The story has so many chapters and despite her young years, it’s a long tale of misery and suffering. She was a patient in the hospital for an infection. Actually, it wasn’t a taxing situation for the medical people, they had it covered right away and the prognosis is excellent.

But it’s the least of her worries. Her anguish will be there long after the infection is gone. She is an addict in need of treatment. Her need to latch on a man or a substance just to feel good about herself or keep from feeling the pain of a tortured past is the real story.

I often ask a person, “What hurts?” All of the pieces of her life that are used to numb her from the reality are like chains holding her to the ground, never allowing her to feel a moment of freedom and relief. At present, without treatment, there is no end to the pain and suffering.

The cycle of addiction needs to be broken. Without treatment, her chances to straighten out and life a happy and productive life are all but non-existent. The meth will win.

The infection will be treated, but her health is going to continue to decline. A young vibrant woman in her early 20’s is on the fast track to becoming a middle-aged zombie. Something has to give.

Meth abuse…

by: Lynette


Ned-Thank you for this story.

I know very well about the struggles and heartbreak of addiction. I’m sure you’ve read my story about myself being a recovering alcoholic – I haven’t drank for 25 years-and about my son who is in jail and who is a drug addict and alcoholic.

I know about some of the pains that that girl is going through but the story helps me realize that my situation could be much worse than it is. So, I thank you for that. Also, I greatly respect you for caring about your patients in a kind way.

Ned, it is such a tremendous, baffling problem! Thank goodness for the programs of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al Anon. I know they have helped many people, including myself.

I will pray for you and for the girl you wrote about. Drug and alcohol abuse is such a devastating problem and it affects the families of addicts and alcoholics so much, too.

Thank you for caring and not giving up.

Sincerely, Lynette

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