Parents Enabling Addiction
by Ned Wicker
This morning I received a very sad email from a mother who has just spent the last four years struggling to help her child end his heroin addiction. She has also sent the last four years enabling on his illness. She writes:
I have a 20 year old son in recovery. He was a good student through catholic school. He also was an outstanding Basketball player. The year between junior and senior high he start taking a pain medication Oxycontin.
Our lives changed that summer and 4 years later we are in a battle I don’t wish on anyone. Last year he moved heroin. He has OD’d twice and lived on the streets after he stole from everyone in the family that tried to help him.
I was his biggest enabler and we are now both working on our recovery’s. After 5 failed treatments, he spent 4 months in jail and has been out for a month. Not sure what the future holds for us just praying the worst is over.
Another story of enabling addiction:
Deanna’s father stood over her hospital bed, head bowed in silent prayer, asking God to help his 15 year-old daughter through withdrawal from her heroin addiction.
He’s a good dad, loves his girl and can’t understand how such a young person, his child, could get into such deep trouble. He did EVERYTHING to try to help her but instead he began enabling her addiction, which was the last thing in the world he wanted to do.
His daughter couldn’t be an addict?
Heroin addicts aren’t high school students, they’re people who live on the streets and beg for change. Heroin addicts don’t have a 3.75 grade point average and apply for acceptance into the top colleges. Well adjusted teenage girls don’t attack their father with a golf club and curse him. How did it get so messed up?
Deanna had been using for nearly 18 months, not always regularly, but in recent weeks her appetite for heroin increased and dad discovered that his coin collection and jewelry were gone.
Continued to miss the signs
Her allowance was generous, even by upper middle class standards, but once the addiction took over, it was insufficient to buy her the desired amount of the drug. She stole from her father, from her mother whom she lived with on alternative weekends, and from her older brothers and sisters.
Some of her grandmother’s possessions were missing, but they didn’t put two and two together and never suspected her granddaughter had ripper her off. As she increased her usage, Deanna discovered that not having enough drug was far worse than having the problem of addiction.
Coming off heroin was difficult. Her body had become dependent upon the replenishment of the drug, as the heroin would attach itself to Opioid receptors in her brain and spinal chord.
Her body no longer produced its own natural chemicals to manage pain, so not having the heroin caused her to become “dope sick.”
When the drug was not replenished, she went into withdrawal. She never experienced this before, because the withdrawal didn’t occur with occasional use, but after time, as she used more and more drug, and needed more and more drug, the abrupt removal of heroin was devastating.
She didn’t start out that way. When she was in eighth grade she and her friends were given marijuana to try. Most of the kids didn’t like it, because it either tasted terrible or they didn’t like the feeling they got when the effects kicked in.
But it agreed with Deanna, who also began to raid the family liquor cabinet when she couldn’t buy grass.
Like many Deanna started with pain pills
One day, when she was just past her 14th birthday, she discovered some pain killers in her mother’s medicine cabinet.
Her mom had a back surgery and was prescribed OxyContin, but only took a couple of them, leaving a nearly full prescription in the bathroom.
Even 14 year-old people can research on the internet and soon she learned that by grinding the drug and snorting it, the high was intense. The chances for addiction were also intense and it didn’t take long before Deanna was seeking that euphoric experience over and over.
It was the only time she felt good. She solicited her friends to steal drugs from their parents. Any kind of pain killer would do, but Vicodin and Oxy were preferred, and because they are prescribed so often, getting a supply wasn’t all that difficult. She also became rather cleaver, as each time she visited the house of a new “friend” she would secretly check out the medicine cabinets.
Deanna soon realized that OxyContin was expensive, but heroin on the street was about a quarter the price, so see looked for suppliers. She didn’t have to search long.
We shouldn’t be surprised
The fact that a young girl can become addicted to opiates should not be a surprise. Take a look at the population in general. It is estimated that as many as 10% of Americans have at one time or another abused opiates.
It could be as innocent an act as merely taking one too many pills, or taking your pills too often, but that is still abuse. Even when people follow their doctor’s prescription to the tee, their bodies can build up a tolerance to the drugs.
Even when the original injury is healed and there should not no further need for pain management, the body still thinks it needs the analgesic. Even people who were given pain meds in the hospital may experience withdrawal when they get home.
Detox was terrible to watch
Deanna was hospitalized due to intense withdrawal and was receiving the best care. It was decided that she would not go under, mainly because opiate withdrawal causes vomiting, and that would increase the chances of death. Any rapid detox was ruled out in her case.
Her father stood there, feeling completely helpless. A nurse suggested he contact Narcotics Anonymous in an effort to learn how he can best help his daughter. He needed treatment because he was codependent and wasn’t helping his daughter!
Moving forward, once she was released, and out of treatment, a support group would be a lifeline to help her rebuild her life and return to a healthy lifestyle. Some material from NA helped him understand that opiate withdrawal is painful, but not necessarily fatal. It also helped him to stop enabling her addiction and to learn what would truly help his daughter to recover.
While Deanna was receiving exceptional care, the biggest problem that she would face in the future, as her father learned, was relapse. Once the drug was out of her system, a return to the old dosage could be fatal. Over time her body built up a tolerance, so more and more drug was needed, but after detox and treatment, her body was getting back to normal.
The old amount was way too much and most overdoes occur right after treatment. She was going to need long-term treatment, so the group would be an important component to that. She would also need some additional medical testing, to check for depression or some other form of mental illness. Deanna may need the benefit of an antidepressant.
He is no longer codependent!
Deanna was lucky. Treatment is more effective when the heroin addiction is identified early and having a father who was willing to be taught how to stop being codependent. Many, many families are going through the agony of addiction and the pain of figuring out how to love the addict but how to hate the addiction.