Tag Archives: recovery

My Turn: A successful journey through the minefield of addiction

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 6.59.06 AMMy son, at 23, is lucky to be alive.

Statistically, he is a member of a generation decimated by an opiate drug epidemic so far-reaching that in 2010 – the year he graduated high school – New Hampshire reported having a higher percentage of people abusing pain medication than any other state, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The largest demographic was young people age 17-25.

And it continues even now, an epidemic that has led directly to the resurgence of heroin, a drug that is a much cheaper and far more deadly alternative to painkillers.

I guess it should be a given at this phase of my life, but I am frankly overjoyed that my son is a senior at UNH, and that he’s managing his life, his money, his studies and his future so deftly. I slip him gas money when he visits and he takes it, reluctantly. He is acutely aware that his childhood is defunct, and that standing on his own two feet is the only way to move forward in this life.

I say he is lucky because, in the same way I’ve heard veterans of war wrestle with survivor’s guilt, I can’t quite understand how my son found his way out of enemy territory, mostly unscathed.

As a mother, I’ve been over it a hundred times or more, and still, there are no good or logical answers.

I only know that five years ago, I didn’t see much hope in his heart for the future. He was trapped in a high school where his big brain was overshadowed by his apathy for the rat race. He underachieved because he was mostly invisible to the educators who were there to help him find himself, obscured by his long hair and the space between academia and its relevance to his world.

Looking back now, I realize there was a sub-narrative to the plot I couldn’t see because it was written in the secret language of teenagers. Now I understand that my son’s apathetic Wonder Years coincided with the pharmaceutical phenomenon we are now recognizing as the pathway to opiate addiction.

Many of his peers – smart kids, dumb kids, athletic kids, kids from good families and fractured ones – dabbled with pot and alcohol, moving on to illicit encounters with cough syrup, LSD and the premier ADHD drug Adderall – which they learned quickly would help anyone focus enough to cram for a test and excel. It was easy enough to score from someone whose brother was diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder.

Better living through chemistry led many of these kids to discover oxycodone, another easily acquired pill dished out like candy to anyone with pain. Like Adderall, it was a magic pill that quickly boosted their adolescent spirits, or dulled the pain of their perceived losses – dads that were MIA., parents who didn’t engage, romances that didn’t materialize or economic realities that didn’t support brand-name fashions or top-of-the-line technology.

My son is one of the lucky ones because some primal lobe in his big brain lit up enough to guide the rest of him out of the darkness of dabbling that has swallowed too many of his peers whole.

If you’re reading this and judging these kids, or these families, who struggle every day with opiate addiction, you don’t know the half of it. You don’t know how many of your neighbors and co-workers continue to dance this exhausting tango with a diabolical partner that won’t let go, spiraling into the twirling, clutching drain of fatal desperation that robs them of their finances, their hopes and dreams, and, sometimes, their children.

New Hampshire lags far behind in addiction treatment. Ask anyone involved in the bureaucracy. They will confirm that it’s a problem we can’t solve through law enforcement. If you’re lucky enough to find your way to a treatment bed, five days of detox and 12 steps at a time for 28 days is a futile dance that does not add up to long-term recovery.

It only leads back to a revolving door of the most powerfully relentless addictive substance on earth, which is claiming those who otherwise may not have been prone to the disease of addiction.

Join the HOPE for Recovery Rally at NH Statehouse, Oct. 18, 2014, 11a.m. -2 p.m.

According to the state medical examiner’s office, although prescription drug-related deaths dropped between 2012 and 2013, from 88 to 72, heroin-related deaths have nearly doubled, from 37 in 2012 to 70 – and that’s just as of June.

This is more than unacceptable and should be at the top of our to-fix list, just as it was for Pete Shumlin, governor of Vermont, who scrapped the PowerPoint version of his 2014 State of the State speech to focus on just one topic: how to mount a counter-attack on the heroin and opiate addiction threatening his state.

My son and I don’t talk much about those we know who are still prisoners of this particular drug war, or those who died on the battlefield. He and his own two feet have moved on.

He has the right to judge them, I suppose. He has the right to despise the human weakness that prevails when someone gives up and gives in to an enemy that takes them over and delivers them into the belly of the beast.

I was happy to hear he was planning to stop by with his girlfriend after a birthday dinner for two out on the town. I decided to bake cupcakes, the chocolate-peanut butter ones I used to send to school with him for classroom celebrations of his youth – and not because I thought it would remind him that childhood is only lost to us if we choose to forget the dreams we dream and lessons we learn while we dwell there.

But because his life is my gift, his experience has been my teacher, his losses have left permanent scars on my heart – the heart of a mother who celebrates another year of hopes and dreams for a son who, for no reason I can put my finger on, didn’t get caught in the vice-grip death trap that is our opiate drug addiction epidemic.

And because I get to celebrate another year with my amazing son and light a birthday candle for all those mothers who can’t, and who never will again.

As published in the Concord Monitor, Oct. 10, 2014

(Carol Robidoux is a freelance writer who lives in Manchester.)

Fighting Addiction: Content + Action = Community Engagement

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A simple February 14, 2014 Facebook post resulted in a community gathering. Behold the power of social media and engagement.

There is power in words. I know this from many years in the field as a journalist.

I also know that with a boost from social media, word power morphs and magnifies, and extends to places we can’t predict.

Today, allow me  to testify about how one person can make a difference simply by putting thought into words and words into action, through social media, powered by a strong sense that others want and need to connect to make the world a better place.

Here’s how it happened to me:

On February 14, 2014  I read an article on my hometown newspaper’s website about a community screening in Pennsylvania of a documentary about addiction, and hope in long-term recovery.

I immediately shared a link to the movie, “The Anonymous People,” on my Facebook page and wished someone would bring the movie to New Hampshire.

Wish granted.

One influential friend and 10 days later, a date was set for a public screening in New Hampshire.

On April 2, 2014 I was seated among 100+ movie-goers at the Dana Center on the Saint Anselm College campus for a free public screening of the movie, followed by a panel discussion.recovery1

Among those in attendance: Students, physicians, policy makers, professors, priests, community organizers, recovering addicts and alcoholics, family members with loved ones currently battling addiction and in desperate need of meaningful treatment options –which are few and far between in New Hampshire.

That was at the heart of bringing this movie to New Hampshire, the need for change.

There is a national drug addiction phenomenon  featuring  heroin and oxycodone currently driving a human  health crisis of epidemic proportions. This is not an exaggeration. From our state health officials here in New Hampshire to the U.S. Attorney General, the cost to society in human suffering, crime, law enforcement and incarceration, is exploding.

Missing from the equation: Effective resources focused on recovery from addiction. New Hampshire ranks 49th of the 50 states in recovery programs. The only place harder to find treatment is Texas, according to Cheryl Wilkie, Senior Vice President of the Farnum Center and Webster Place Recovery.

I guess even the drug problems are bigger in Texas.

Some take aways for me from “The Anonymous People:”

  • Public perception drives policy: Headlines about the daily horrors of addiction and celebrities stuck in or lost to addiction drive our sense of hopelessness.
  • “This is our black plague” – a quote from actress Kristen Johnston, a recovering addict who is one of the many celebrities telling their success stories. Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 9.38.03 AM
  • Lack of systemic support: Those in recovery from cancer are immersed in free post-treatment services “as part of their recovery.” Addicts get five days of detox or 28 days in a rehab bed, if they are among the lucky ones who have insurance or have good timing. After that, they are on their own.
  • 12-Step recovery peer-based programs work: Because they offer immediate support with a proven track record – there are some 23 million people currently living in long-term recovery through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs.
  • War on Drugs: A reversal of progress: There was a dedicated push toward recovery during the 1960s and ’70s, “Operation Understanding,” championed by high-profile politicians and actors in recovery, to raise awareness and remove stigma. That momentum was buried  under the weight of the orchestrated U.S. “War on Drugs,” chronicled here via “Frontline.”
  • Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 excludes addiction: We continue to view addiction as a shame-based disease. U.S. insurance companies provide a fraction of resources for what is a paralyzing and pervasive human health crises in America.
  • Community is the backbone of recovery: For an addict, recovery is initiated in treatment centers. But they recover in our communities – provided there are resources available to support them in their sobriety.
  • Silence = Death: Borrowed from the early AIDS political advocacy movement and Act Up, actress Kristen Johnston cites “Silence = Death” as the best slogan to describe the urgency of addressing this public health crisis here and now.

So, What now?Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 10.58.16 PM

I went back to Facebook after the screening and created a community page: Empowering Addiction Recovery in NH. Please join.

It was my initial reaction to keep the momentum going and give people a place to discuss how to move forward, again harnessing the power of social media.

I have heard there were some in attendance interested in bringing a public screening of “The Anonymous People” to their city or town. Anyone can do that. Here is a link for more information at ManyFaces1Voice.org.

Contact your mayor, board of aldermen, town councilors, town administrators, public health officials, state reps, senators and congressmen. Demand that they address the need for treatment and recovery programs and funding. Ask how you can help.

Beyond that, you can reach out to the panelists and experts who supported the April 2 Saint Anselm event, and find out how you can join the conversation and make a difference here in New Hampshire.

Tym Rourke, NH Charitable Foundation (tr@nhcf.org)

Cheryl Wilkie, VP Farnum Center/Webster Place Recovery (cwilkie@eastersealsnh.org)

Lee O’Connor, Narcotics Anonymous Granite State area (loconnor621@gmail.com)

Jerry Hevern MD, family physician Suncook Family Health Center (ghevern@comcast.net)

Megan Shea, Family Willows Manger and Therapist (MShea@fitnh.org)

Eric Spofford, Founder, The Granite House Sober Living (ericspofford@granitehousesl.com)

View this VIDEO: Excerpt from “The Anonymous People” April 2 screening and panel discussion at Saint Anselm, via YouTube.recovery2