Tag Archives: Addiction

The Redefined Addict

25 Jul

The day after Amy Winehouse’s death became international news, a client of mine emailed me. He works at a long-term rehabilitation facility for addicts and alcoholics in Texas called Burning Tree. He wanted a 300-500 word article about the Grammy award-winning singer’s drug addiction and chronic relapse. I wrote it immediately.

While I enjoyed some of her songs, it wasn’t my appreciation of her talents that motivated me to start writing so quickly. Her death reminded me of an addict who spent years in my life, providing some of the worst experiences I remember in two cities: Albany, New York and Houston, Texas. One of the Albany incidents involved discovering him unconscious in his bedroom and struggling to open the door because his body was blocking it. I remember rushing to the phone to call 9-1-1. A 5 am phone call alerted me to an incident a couple years later in Houston. During an apparent drug deal, he had been beaten badly and was in the hospital.

At times, I felt like I hated him. He once “borrowed” some of my clothes and left them at a girlfriend’s apartment. She broke up with him and threw out “his stuff” one day, including a pair of slacks and leather shoes that he took from me.

At times, he inspired me. He often made gourmet meals for my wife and I, entrees I felt compelled to take photos of because they looked so lovely. And he would make these delicious dishes using whatever we already had in the refrigerator and cupboards.

Like Amy Winehouse, his life was like a rollercoaster ride through those years. In addition to taking him to detox, rehab, AA meetings, I accompanied him to court and visited him in jail. He eventually got out, left town, came back, left again, came back, and finally left for good.

If he had been a friend, the relationship with a chronic relapser would have ended a long time ago. But he was my brother-in-law. His sister spent years trying to save him, and finally accepted that he wasn’t willing to save himself. He’s still alive, and although I don’t keep tabs on his arrests and jail time anymore, there is a part of me that is still very concerned. That part of me is my daughter. As her uncle, he will always be part of her family story.

He’s still an addict. He will always be an addict. Yet knowing that my daughter would benefit from seeing her uncle clean and sober helps me redefine him and the experiences I had that were created by his substance abuse and dependence. Even the most difficult moments become stories I can share with Aidan in the coming years, and provide lessons from which to learn.

Meantime, his own life continues somewhere several hundred miles away. I hope he’s okay. I hope he figures it all out. 28 days were not enough. Jail time only helped while he was behind bars. Perhaps finding the means (and funds) to commit to a long-term rehab would have provided a solution years ago. It may still be his only hope.

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I’m Addicted (and I just can’t get enough)

15 Jul

It’s Field Day at my daughter’s summer program. The theme: JERSEY DAY. Last night her mom brought over Aidan’s Boston Bruins jersey, an excellent choice following the team’s Stanley Cup victory over the Vancouver Canucks. So dressed as a little Boston Bruin, with her Chorkie puppy in her lap, she and I set off for the 3 mile drive to the school hosting her summer program.

I don’t think we managed to cover half a mile when I started to hear her little voice singing in the backseat:

“I’m addicted and I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough …”

She repeated it a few times before we reached the first STOP sign. Hearing my six year old daughter sing the lyrics of a Black Eyed Peas song isn’t a new experience. She loves the group and she’s sung other songs in the car before. But it was this particular song that made me feel compelled to start a conversation about addiction. After all, one of my writing clients is Burning Tree, a long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Texas.

Me: Do you know what addiction is?

Aidan: Yes.

Me: What is it?

Aidan: Um…I forgot.

I suspected that answer wasn’t quite true. This girl has an amazing memory. She can recall all kinds of details 24 hours, 1 week, 1 month later. She just needed a little coaxing.

I started by explaining how addiction is a dependence on a substance, one that becomes a habit that’s hard to break. She said, “I’m not addicted to anyone or anything. Are you addicted?” I replied, “I’m not addicted to anyone or anything either.” She seemed happy to hear that statement.

As we continued chatting, it was obvious that she’s had the addiction conversation before with her mother. Her mom knows more than a thing or two about addiction. In fact, she has a brother who’s been dealing with multiple addictions for more than two decades. I’m sure Aidan has learned a lot by listening to her mother talk about the subject of addiction. 

One of the points Aidan brought up was her mother’s own addiction to cigarettes. I acknowledged her example and said cigarettes are highly addictive, although not everyone will become addicted to them. For me, I told her, cigarettes are too expensive, taste bad, and have a nasty smell. I’ll never be addicted to them, I assured her. But I also reminded her that her mother has tried to quit and has had managed to stop smoking for long periods of time in the last several years.

The only other addictive substance we managed to cover in the short drive was pain killers. I explained how certain types of pain killers are more addictive than others. Her first question was, “have you taken those pain killers.” I told her that I had taken pain killers after my car accidents, but assured her that I never became addicted to them. It’s obvious that she’s trying to gather all the facts here and make sense of the world of addiction, as much as it could ever make sense to a young child.

Last night as we looked at the full moon together, she imagined being the first child to “discover the moon.” Today she may be thinking about discovering cures for addiction. I’m sure our brief conversation will be on her mind occasionally throughout the day, although I hope she can set it aside and fully enjoy Field Day. But if the topic comes up again this afternoon, I’ll be equipped with an kid-friendly view of addiction delivered by kids and created by Dr. Robert Lefever, Director of Promis Recovery Centre.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzkA7ArGkak 

I’m sure one view of this 8-minute video will change the way Aidan thinks about that Black Eyed Peas song. It won’t prevent her from singing it again, but she will be a lot more informed the next time she does. Of course, if she comes home singing Beyonce’s “Best Thing I Never Had”, I may have to discuss a radio ban with her mother.