Rev. Suzanne Marlatt Stewart
I am choosing to write this article, because I know there are many others in my age group who are currently dealing with this issue or have in the past. It is an epidemic, so many of our adult children or grandchildren are addicted to alcohol and or drugs, plus many may also be suffering from a mental illness. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics findings state there have been 700,000 drug overdose deaths since 2000 in the U.S., and 50% of people 12 years and older have used illicit drugs at least once. For alcohol abuse, 141,000 Americans die each year from the effects of alcohol and 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). These are grim facts that many families are facing.
My son was an alcoholic for many years, and we did not communicate. Then 8 years ago through a friend’s intervention, he got sober. He has remained sober, and we were very proud of his progress. Unfortunately, due to injuries from a motorcycle accident when he was young, he has had constant pain issues now into his 50s. His current addiction is opioids. Yes, he is responsible for his choices but also part of that blame needs to be addressed to our current medical system. Drug companies push opioid drugs for big profits, it is easier for doctors to just write prescriptions for drugs than deal with pain management, and pharmacies keep filling opioid prescriptions without questioning the quantity.
This cycle is a very profitable business for all concerned. Recently, two Ohio counties won a major lawsuit against three pharmacy companies, Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS. The legal theory behind many cases is against the drugmakers, wholesalers, and now retailers who created the crisis. Public nuisance laws are different everywhere, but in general they establish a public nuisance as “a problem that causes harm to others,” and set out standards by which the person or organization that causes that problem can be held responsible for its effects.
Priscilla Henson, M.D., is a resident physician specializing in emergency medicine in California. She also serves as a member of the pain management quality improvement committee at her hospital. Part of the committee’s mandate is to work toward non-narcotic pain management alternatives.
She suggests the following when dealing with an addict:
1. Educate yourself about addictions and alcohol abuse. Knowledge is powerful.
2. Offer non-judgmental support.
3. Follow through on consequences.
4. Stop enabling the person.
5. Consider intervention.
6. Seek help for yourself.
In my current situation with my son, I found some helpful quotes that have given me comfort from a spiritual perspective:
“People must come to where they need to be to get their lessons. You can’t help someone who is not willing. But you can love them through it. Send light and love and hold them in your heart space. I had to hit my own bottom and dead end to turn around and climb back up … when I was ready and willing.”—Karen Blake
“Examine your attachment to their choices. Their challenges and choices are their life lessons, not yours. Is your wanting to help them saying something about you that you need to learn?”—Susan McCourt
“Stop trying to make them live as you think they should. How others live is not for us to control, but to learn from.”—Crystal Sverdsten
“Let go. They must help themselves and accept responsibility.”—Viengxay Jimenez
“Their path is not yours to blaze, and who’s to say they’re not exactly where they need to be at this very moment?”—Fiona Berger Maione
“Focus on your own well-being (boundaries) so that you can provide stable support when they ask for help. Allow them their process no matter how difficult it is to watch. It is neither our right nor responsibility to manipulate their journey.”—Robyn Williams
“Be a role model. Show them what life is like when you cultivate and cherish the self.”—Steven Lu
The following quote is the one I am processing and asking myself what my lessons are in this situation:
“We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.”—Pema Chodron
May you find peace and comfort by loving yourself unconditionally, without judgment or blame.
Rev. Suzanne, a resident of SaddleBrooke, is an independent writer and speaker. She was ordained non-denominational, representing all faiths, and her focus is “inclusivity.” Email her at [email protected].