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What qualifies one to truly be someone’s hero? I’m ditching the norm like most of my thinking and telling you that you are my heroin super hero. You’ve unequivocally become one of the strongest and bravest people I know, because you’ve been to the depths of places most of us will never go or see in our lifetime, in 33 short but lived out years. You’ve stood up and fought back with more will power then all the times you let heroin steal your will power. And for that you are my hero.
I look back and have bunched together all the qualities in which you have truly become my hero. How you’ve become my biggest source of strength. Have kept me so teachable and humble and how you have helped me and so many others grow. It’s truly beautiful and unapologetically magical how so much pain and suffering has birthed so many positive things for us. And for you and your future, God willing.
You’re my hero because you let heroin rob you and us in so many ways but you never cowardly backed down in your multiple attempts to get back to a place where heroin didn’t steal from you anymore. You always fought in one way or another to ultimately survive the greatest fate by allowing heroin be interwoven into our story and making it shine brightly for our glory. Your superhero strength of bouncing between addiction and sobriety has not only glued our family together but beautifully unglued it for the better of everyone in such an amazing way.
You let something tragic and traumatic teach us all and inform us of your hero like persona by showing us all that you would either not quit letting heroin take or that you would continue to fight back. And to me that’s the bravest thing. You have come back over and and over and pleaded for forgiveness and redemption. To me that’s the true definition of “Suiting up and showing up”
You have looked all,
Your family in the eyes and asked for help time and time again. To which I imagine isn’t easy for you to do, I’m sure it’s painful and makes you feel worthless and unwanted. However you have always been wanted by us. You are someone’s someone, someone’s brother, father and son.
You have stood in front of those who you have lied, cheated and stole from and truly with love and respect asked for forgiveness and begged for mercy and grace. All while battling your own soul and demons, might I add pretty flawlessly if you ask me. You have never been afraid to ask for help at your worst, even when in most likely cases your told no. You have somehow found a way to adapt and improvise when needed.
You’re my hero because you have been to places inside your mind either high and along for the romantic ride with heroin or sober and doing the deal that most of us will never have to go. The torment and hurt and sadness you feel I can only understand parts of it. Your strength unwavering through it all. You have never ceased to amaze me over the years with your determination and tenacity to ride both sides of the fence. But truly wanting to ride one side. Sobriety.
Your honesty when the fog clears and when heroin has left you is by far some of the most honest conversation I’ve had with a human being. So thoughtful and genuine, often times the reflection in your tone makes me weep with such rawness and real ness. I feel privileged and honored that you would ever trust me with your demons, your truths unpopular or not. I’m grateful for the soul that pours out of you when you hang heroin up and you tell me how much you love us.
The pain that you have inflicted and how it didn’t define me but refined me, makes you my hero. Everything we have been through could have easily been used to play the victim card but instead I chose to use it to help. To help me, to help you and to help others. The pain you caused so big that everyday I chipped away at it. I taught myself though all your mess that I would also become my own hero. That I would use our story to help others, to tell the truth about how addiction affects families and you as a whole. How it changed our lives, mine included. Our story shared with hundreds of thousands of people who relate or understand the pain of watching a loved one suffer from addiction. That my friend makes you my hero.
You aren’t my hero because you wear a cape and save the universe. You are truly my hero because you took me to places I would never go if it wasn’t for you. You are my hero because through your addiction you taught us all so much about how not all heroes wear capes, but some stick needles in their arms. Come back and live to tell the tale.
Thank you for being my hero and allowing me to be apart of your story and journey, it’s surely made life interesting and rich and meaningful. Don’t ever stop being my hero.
I strolled into the pharmacy, wearing my new dress and having just left the hair salon, I was feeling especially pretty. It took me a while to feel like myself again, but as I had gained my weight back and the color had returned to my face, I started to remember what having self-esteem felt like. The pharmacist glanced up in my direction, smiled kindly and assured me she’d be right with me. After a minute or two the bright-eyed pharmacist took my prescription slip, read it, and immediately I felt a shift in her demeanor; warmth turned to ice, and I started to wish I was a turtle and could retract my head into a shell. This experience was not the first or the last time I was judged and snubbed for trying to fill a Suboxone prescription. In fact, it became such an issue, I developed what I like to refer to as, pharmacy anxiety, a severe unease and emotional distress accompanied by stammering and sweating that joined me on every trip to the pharmacy.
This intense fear of judgment I had developed subsequent to my addiction was tormenting me. It was such a hindering, mental anguish I would put myself through. I was fine with people who didn’t know about my addiction but people who did know, my family, friends, recovery peers and the pharmacist; whenever I was in their presence, it was extremely difficult for me to get past what they might be thinking about me. Anytime I would go to the restroom, I’d hurry as fast as I could because I was scared they might think I was using while I was in there. I was obsessed with my weight and always felt like I owed people an explanation as to why I was still thinner than I had been pre-addiction, and God forbid I had a break-out, I could hardly leave the house. I knew how everyone felt about drug addicts. I’d see all the comments on Facebook articles, seething with disdain. I felt all that personal rejection from lost friends and family along the way. I had seen myself, the way the pharmacist saw me. Looking at yourself through the eyes of society can be one of the lowest points for someone battling addiction; that moment when you absorb the reality that everyone around you views you as less than, as nothing more than a pest to civilized people. Even though I was no longer an addict, and I was recovering and moving on with my life, I still carried around the drug addict stigma and the heavy burden that came with it. At the time, I was convinced I’d feel that way forever, but eventually, I did manage to overcome it.
Unfortunately, the negative and harmful perceptions that accompany the disease of addiction won’t go away any time in the near future. Only education can treat stigmas and society doesn’t seem to especially prioritize drug and alcohol abuse education. Because we can’t expect the stigma to evaporate, we’ve got to do our part in controlling it on our end. As long as I wallowed in my insecurities and over analytical neurosis, I wasn’t getting any better, my recovery was stunted. I was still inside my head, completely focused inward. I felt as though I’d lost the right to any self-esteem and things went on this way for a long time. I only began to improve when I started making moves outside of my comfort zone. First big move, I registered for community college at twenty-five years old. Even the initial registration process was a nightmare, hardcore “adulting” from my perspective, but once the paperwork was filed and my courses were on the schedule, I was good to go. I dove into my courses, read all the material and completed all my assignments. I was initially only taking two courses, but when my finals were in and my grades came back, 4.0, dean’s list, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe I’d made such an extraordinary accomplishment. A junkie drop-out turned dean’s list honor student, I felt proud, confident and encouraged. The space in my heart that was filled with shame and self-loathing started to shrink and make some room for more fitting emotions.
Stigmas about drug addicts are harsh preconceptions people hold that all addicts are morally corrupt, that addicts are losers that aren’t worth anyone’s time or compassion. These stigmas are a disease themselves and the more they are perpetuated, the more damage they can do. The best way for addicts to rise above these stigmas that are putting them down, is to take these perceptions and squash them with accomplishments and enthusiasm.
Common Stigmas Associated With Addiction
• “Drug addicts are losers.” Well, don’t be a loser. Get a job, get into school, find fun and interesting things to do like hitting up a museum, learning to surf or learning to cook. Search for events in the nearest cities and expose yourself to new things.
• “Drug addicts are morally corrupt.” Be a good person and feel good about yourself through your actions, not because your sponsor says that you should. Give yourself some material to work with and the appropriate feelings of confidence and self-worth will come.
• “Drug addicts suck the lives out of the people in their path.” Do kind things for your friends and family, be helpful and sincere. Focus on loving and caring for others, not whether others are loving or caring for you.
• “Drug addicts are disgusting and unhealthy.” Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, and find ways to get in some exercise that works for you. Do things to make you feel attractive and appealing. Self-care in the smallest forms is important and often overlooked. My therapist used to encourage me to get dressed up for no reason or simply paint my nails, it helps.
• This last bit of advice isn’t countering a stigma so much, but it is important and often goes unmentioned in the recovery community. Eventually, build relationships with people outside of the program. Recovering addicts often feel most comfortable with other recovering addicts and while I can acknowledge the benefits, I think it is also crucial for recovering addicts to build new relationships with people outside of the addiction and recovery culture. This can help people to feel normal again, to transition back into society and to start to let go of that “addict” label pinned to their self-image.
By confronting the stereotypes and being better than them, we’re proving to ourselves it does not apply to us. Before long, we won’t be proving it to ourselves anymore, or anyone else for that matter; we’ll just be confident and living fulfilling lives. By exposing ourselves to new interests and new people, we’re working on developing a new identity, an identity we can like and feel proud of. Finding a job, going back to school, and participating in new hobbies are all ways to develop a purpose, and living with a purpose is the single most crucial aspect to a successful recovery. I used to truly hate myself, I could not forgive myself, and I lived and believed in that stigma more than I believed in myself. Today I consider my past issues with addiction an interesting piece of my puzzle. I can talk about it like it’s a far away past, and not an excruciating present. We are not just addicts; we are exponentially more than a stigma, regardless of the way the world perceives us. We can defeat the discrimination and debunk the fallacies. We can prove the world, and the pharmacists, wrong.
Research has linked social isolation to lower quality of life, health, and overall well-being, but how is isolation defined and what effects does it have on our thoughts and behaviors?
The term “isolating” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “setting apart from others” or “selecting from among others.” Although this term can be used to describe the separation of substances, isolation in regards to human behavior can be both emotional and physical in nature.
Emotional isolation occurs when an individual avoids engaging emotionally with another person. Examples may include avoiding meaningful conversation, withholding feelings, or not sharing in others’ grief or happiness.
Physical isolation occurs when an individual physically removes themselves from the presence of others. Examples include moving out of the family house, dropping out of school or quitting a job, and frequently seeking out solitary environments instead of joining group activities.
Isolation is very unhealthy for humans and some experts say it even increases the risk of mortality, just as the habits of smoking and consuming alcohol do.1 One study also found that loneliness due to social isolation can impair essential functions like sleep, in addition to mental and physical well-being.2
Isolation causes people to feel sad, hopeless, and abandoned, further compounding depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Since social bonds are a defining characteristic of human behavior and are essential to the health and wellness of all people, a lack of social interaction has many lasting harmful effects—both physically and mentally.
Addiction and Isolation
When addressing addiction and isolation, one of the most important questions to ask is: Why do addicted individuals isolate themselves? Three of the main reasons people do so are:
1. To hide their substance abuse.
2. To avoid the reality of their problem and maintain their denial.
3. To avoid confrontation, judgment, and ridicule from others.
Socially isolated people are more likely to suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems. In fact, a study involving rats conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin determined that isolated rats were more vulnerable to addiction. When transposed and applied to addiction in humans, the results of the study found that social isolation leads to addiction more quickly and is more difficult to extinguish.3
Substance abuse can be either the effect or the cause of isolation. Individuals who have isolated themselves as a result of substance abuse typically experience feelings of denial, guilt, and fear. These emotions fuel inappropriate interaction with those around them, inciting rash behaviors as well as verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. As a result, the people in their life either cut them off or continually try to convince them to enroll in treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab center, eventually leaving the person alone and isolated in their addiction.
Once an addicted individual has successfully isolated themselves, changes in the brain cause them to become even more consumed by the substance abuse, prioritizing drug and alcohol use over all other things and neglecting relationships with children, spouses, siblings, and friends.
Isolation in Recovery
Even after completing inpatient rehab , some relationships may be damaged beyond repair, leaving individuals in recovery feeling lonely and deserted once again. Additionally, people in recovery often feel like they are alone after removing harmful relationships from their life, such as friends they used to drink with or local drug dealers they frequently interacted with.
Loneliness is a major risk factor for people in recovery and increased amounts of isolation can cause relapse. For this reason, addiction treatment specialists recommend participation in intensive outpatient programs. These types of extended care treatment programs provide peer support, accountability, and resources to help people in recovery maintain their sobriety. IOP groups also offer recovery support within a community and social interaction to reduce isolation and encourage the formation and growth of healthy relationships.
If planes were falling from the sky killing a large number of Americans on a daily basis, the Airline Industry would be held accountable. The FAA would be looking at data and investigating every inch of the industry. No one would be buying their way out of the nightmare and no one would be pointing fingers at the victims of the air disasters.
When life is lost due to the malfunctioning of an automobile, the (NHTSA) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducts an inquiry. If found responsible, the Automotive Industry involved is held accountable and restitution is paid to the surviving family of the victims.
College fraternities are held accountable for drinking and drug use when harm or death occurs. Families are now being compensated for loss of life due to negligence and non reporting of harmful behaviors practiced by the members.
As a Registered Nurse, I too would be held accountable if my conduct as a professional was responsible for patient harm, especially death.
My question is why should anything be different when we look at the Pharmaceutical Company responsible for the Opioid epidemic? The Sackler’s and their family owned Purdue Pharma chose to cover up the highly addictive properties of their marketed opioids. This false marketing of abuse resistant, time released poison led to more deaths than the Vietnam War, motor vehicle accidents, gun violence and the AIDS epidemic. In 2015, 44,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. In 2016 the numbers jumped to over 50,000.
This mis-marketing began in the 1990’s and continued for years. It’s widely known that the addictive properties of OxyContin were hidden by the Sackler’s. How did they get away with knowingly being responsible for this incredible loss of life and never be held solely accountable. Yes, I know that in 2007 Purdue paid $635 million in fines when found guilty of false marketing charges. Just a drop in the family fortune bucket when your company brings in revenues of $3 billion and your net worth is estimated to be $14 billion. However, even after being found guilty Purdue Pharma continued to mass produce and falsely market their precious OxyContin.
You might wonder why this blows my mind? You might wonder why I even care. My youngest son, Matt became one of the victims of the Sackler’s deception. Matt had everything to live for, but died at the age of 37 as a result of the misconception that OxyContin was safe for long term pain management. The Oxy’s marketed as lasting 12 hours didn’t, setting Matt and so many others up for addiction. But the Sackler’s already knew this.
Recovering from back surgery, Matt was prescribed OxyContin on a monthly basis by physicians who believed the claims that the drug was abuse resistant. Matt became addicted and died from an accidental overdose along with 44,000 other loved ones in 2015.
I wanted justice for my son. Having no idea of the power held by this industry I started researching. I found that Big Pharma spends millions on political contributions and even more on lobbying. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Pharmaceutical companies contributed $51 million into the 2012 federal election and $32 million into the 2014 election. Pharmaceutical companies also line the campaign pockets of both Republicans and Democrats. In other words Big Pharma owns our government.
So how do those of us affected by the cover up make them pay? How do mothers like me find a way to hold them responsible for the largest epidemic known to man? How can this industry continue to pump out poison pills and just go about their merry way? How many more lives must be sacrificed before our government puts human life over the mighty dollar?
I question how our government can continue to ignore the root cause of this horrific epidemic that is projected to continue to kill in massive numbers. There is not a state in this country that has not been profoundly affected by opioid addiction.
I’ve recently learned that a number of Attorney Generals from various states including Delaware have filed suit against Big Pharma. Attorney Generals are know as the “ People’s Lawyer” and the state’s chief legal officer. This courageous group of lawmakers have decided that enough is enough. Coming together to represent those who can no longer defend themselves against the corruption and greed that goes hand and hand with the Pharmaceutical industry. I say Bravo. I pray that these few will be joined by every state and that in the end Purdue Pharma will suffer tremendous losses. Although nothing compares to the profound loss of your children, it’s time for restitution to be paid.
My son, Matt lost his life at 37. Robbed of many years due to the illegally misrepresented OxyContin that made the Sackler family billions of dollars while robbing thousands of mothers like me of their precious children.
The Sackler’s have an extensive philanthropic legacy, known for large gifts to both museums and universities. My hope is their true legacy of being responsible for the largest epidemic known to mankind will be revealed and their gifting will be toward building free treatment centers in all 50 states. At long last being held accountable for the massive destruction of thousands of lives.
Responsibility and accountability, two words never associated with Purdue Pharma.