When Someone You Love Is An Addict

By Joe Talbot Jr. | Jun 14, 2018

I hardly know where to begin. This is such a devastatingly painful subject to talk about, let alone try to do something to relieve that pain. Addiction destroys families as much as it destroys individuals. Living with an addict is heartbreaking and exhausting. Families are torn between how to help and how to avoid being sucked into the addict’s world. The manipulations, guilt and the destruction of relationships and people is overwhelming. When addicts know they are loved by someone who is invested in them, they immediately have fuel for their addiction. Your love and your need to bring them safely through their addiction might see you giving money you can’t afford, lying to protect them, or having your body turn cold with fear from the midnight ring of the phone. You dread seeing them, and you need to see them, all at once.

If you’re waiting for the addict to stop the insanity, the guilt trips, the lying, and manipulation, it’s not likely to happen.

Janet Mills, the Maine attorney general, reported that Maine suffered 418 overdose deaths in 2017. The Portland area, averaged one per week. In the U.S., the number was a stunning blow to our senses, 60,000 for the same period. Every year, the exponential increase is staggering.

When an addiction takes hold, the person you love disappears, at least until the addiction loosens its grip. The person you love is still in there, but that’s not who you’re dealing with. The person you remember may have been warm, funny, generous, wise and strong. But addiction changes people. It takes a while to adjust to this reality, and it’s very normal to respond to the addicted person as though he or she is the person you remember. This is what makes it so easy to fall for the manipulations, the lies and the betrayal, over and over. The addict is unable to think with reason. Don’t expect them to be logical. For them, their lies don’t feel like lies. Their betrayal doesn’t feel like betrayal. Their self-destruction doesn’t always feel like self-destruction. It feels to them like survival.

If you are reading this, you may be fortunate not to have to deal with this horrible reality. But I’ll bet my bottom dollar, that someone close to you is.

Most addicts eventually end up in jail. They serve some time, are released out the front door. They have very little or no money, no job, no license, no vehicle, and in most states the waiting list for a halfway house, or recovery center is long. Very long. So what’s the alternative? They find out where they can get ahold of something valuable, to get back into the whirlpool of continued demise. Very often, this becomes a cycle, which can last for years, until the inevitable happens.

The Bangor fire chief spoke at a meeting I attended of people who were dedicated to becoming a beacon of hope. He told us that in 2017, 80 percent of all of the occasions that a piece of apparatus left the station for emergency calls, was for drug overdose.

A county sheriff at that same meeting told us that 80 percent of all inmates were addicts, and incarcerated for crimes committed for supporting the addiction. I quickly realized that our country is totally out of control with the so-called “War against Drugs” and having little or no effect on winning that war. What’s the “up-side?” Is there really an “up-side?” Yes, there is. So far, all of my columns have dealt with the light side of “life.” However, I have real life experiences with the title of this week’s effort. I actually have someone I love, who is an addict.

Because I’ve found the Cure for it all, I think I need to share some information with anyone who might be in the same boat. A little over two years ago, when I discovered what I’m about to share, I wondered if my grandson, Chad, age 32 at the time, would be interested in getting his life back. I called my daughter in Colorado, his mother, and asked her to tell me what his current status was, “Is he dead yet?” I asked. She relayed some information to me that he was living in an abandoned car, actually died a few weeks before, and was brought back by the police with Narcan (naloxone) which is an opioid antagonist used for the complete or partial reversal of opioid overdose. She went on to tell me that he was currently on heroin, a complete mess, and she was very afraid that he could die at any time, as many in Colorado were doing at that time.

I shared what I knew, and asked her if she thought he would want help. The key words there were want help. I can tell you now that you can’t help anyone who isn’t desperately asking for help and is aware that they have bottomed out, and totally convinced they have run out of options.

Fast forward to today. Chad has been at Arise Addiction Recovery, a faith-based residential program in Machias, totally clean since Nov. 15 - six months. He will graduate the program in August, and our family is still praying that he will stay the course until then. We have every hope that he will, but no expectations. The long-term success rate there is eight times more effective than any other type of program in Maine.

If you, or someone you know, wants more information, contact ccbangor.nm-secure.com/crd, phone 991-9555, fax 991-9590.

The Cure Addiction Meeting is for addicts as well as family members and loved ones of addicts. Weekly meetings begin with a Bible study, with the central focus being applicable to addiction. Group sessions take place afterwards for men, women and family members Their emphasis is meeting the needs of each group member on a more personal level by targeting current struggles and giving practical biblical counsel. The Belfast meetings are held at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center, about a mile west of Rt. 1 on Rt. 3 (Augusta Rd.) at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday. There is no cost.

Joe Talbot is a former columnist for Peterson Publications’ Off Road Magazine” and “Four wheeler Magazine” He lives in Belfast.

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