Saturday, November 19, 2011

Outlaw Breathing

"You don't have any idea what it is like. There is no way you can even imagine it." said Alex.

I'm reading of relapses, rehabs troubles, a fatal overdose and general anguish and anger by parents coast to coast. E-mails are coming into my mailbox and I have even gotten phone calls. Must be getting close to the holidays.

I can pinpoint the exact time I got it. I moved farther and closer to understanding addiction than any time in my life so far. It was that light bulb moment.

Alex had been using we had our normal argument with me screaming at him. The anger, fear and frustration coming out that only another parent of an addict can understand. After I had hollered at him as long as I could I calmed down and we both sat down at the kitchen table.

Tears in my eyes once again I pleaded, "I just don't understand, just quit using drugs and everything will be OK."

In the next three minutes Alex taught me more about addiction than I had learned from all the counselors and meetings I had attended up to that time.

Alex ask me to play a game with him. "Dad, hold your breath, and I will make an effort not to think about drugs, want to use drugs or what drugs feel like. Dad, you will win the game every single time. You can hold your breath longer than I can go without thinking about and wanting to use. The only time I can go without me wanting to use more than anything in the world is when I sleep and even then I dream about drugs."

In that very moment I got a glimpse of what addiction must be like to an addict in active addiction. The urge and need to use is as strong or stronger than my need for oxygen. That was the very moment that I realized everything I was doing would never have an effect on his addiction. Everything I had done up to that point hurt me and hurt him but had no effect on the monster.

Based on the title of this, "Outlaw Breathing" this essay isn't about legalization of drugs. Truth is, I still don't know exactly how I feel about that, there are too many other concerns right now. This essay is about illustrating how overwhelming addiction can be at times. Even with periods of sobriety.

Even after ten years of effective management of diabetes a diabetic can go on a one day sugarfest and end up in a coma or dead. It's the same with addiction, the past is important, success builds upon success but the absolute most important day in the world it today.


Syd said...

It is hard for me to understand but then I am not an addict. I just know that I cannot change anyone else or make them clean and sober. I truly know that I am powerless over others and what they do.

Lou said...

Parents often look at relapse as failure or betrayal. In fact, it is a basic tenet of addiction and alcoholism. Some get it after one attempt, some never get it, but the majority fall in between. Many efforts over several years. Each attempt does build on the last. Another basic tenet.

Unfortunately, most people look at addiction purely emotionally. A family member can actually "help" by understanding the science and principles of addiction. It takes us a long time to get that, we are so vested in our love for our children.

Terri said...

My son and I had a conversation this afternoon. He said, "I wish everyone could get in my head for 10 minutes and see things the way I see them". I told him that I am sure that I would be scared to death.

Thank you for sharing this today.

Maija said...

Alex explained to me that in his mind, using heroin becomes more important than breathing. It supersedes everything. For me, all I can think of is that line from the movie "moonstruck" when Cher says to Nicholas Cage, "Snap out of it!". I wish it was that easy for him.

Anonymous said...

I believe what your son said to be true and well said at that. Empathy not anger. No enabling.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to a degree with my food issues. Once I said to my husband, I said no to myself 100 times today but was tempted 500.