Sunday, December 20, 2020

If you think addiction is a moral weakness, read this. If you are struggling with addiction, read this. If you know someone struggling with addiction, read this.

I have struggled so much figuring out how to start this post. I usually only blog when I feel compelled, and I have felt this way for several days - on this particular topic. But I just haven't been able to wrap my head around what I wanted to say. Until now.

Scrolling through Facebook on this lazy Sunday morning, I came upon an article in our local newspaper written by one of the few local reporters left in our town, Phil Luciano. He's known as a no-bullshit type of guy who at times can be considered "controversial" in this conservative town. I've always respected him and his writing, but today that respect rose to new levels as he gave justice to a topic that many would shy away from. 

Let me also say that I have the utmost of admiration and respect for the parents in this article, and there are no words of comfort I can offer them other than my heart breaks for you, as it has broken for so many.

On November 17, two bright lights in this world were extinguished due to addiction. Normally, deaths like this would be treated as "two more overdoses" and left as a statistic and short obituary minus the cause of death, leaving people to speculate and sadly, judge. 

The parents of Chase Bennett and Annabelle Rodgers did just the opposite. In what has to be unfathomable grief, they chose to speak up and educate an audience that to me spans threefold:

  1. Those who may have otherwise sat silently in judgment of these young people and their families;
  2. Those who find themselves in the "club no one wants to be in," which is anyone who has a loved one who detrimentally uses drugs, whether or not they have accepted their loved ones as having an addiction or not;
  3. Those who may see themselves in Chase and Annabelle - those who are in active addiction and want to stop - but don't know how. 

Please take the time to read this:

Agony of addiction: While grieving the deaths of their children, parents offer hope and help to others

In the article, Phi writes, "Still awash in grief, they hope that by sharing their stories, they can help addicts and their families avoid the agony that long has racked their lives. They hope the legacies for Chase and Annabelle lie in hope and help for others."

No matter what your thoughts are on addiction (and what you consider "addiction"), I encourage you to read Phil's article. The parents of Chase and Annabelle are anybody's parents. They loved their children fiercely and saw their light, their joy and their promise. They saw - and acknowledged - that their children struggled with the use of drugs but that didn't change their love for them. I am SURE they were faced with judgment, as were Chase and Annabelle. Because the only way you can even begin to understand addiction is if you are touched by it. It takes changing your behavior, your thought process, your reactions, what you say, what you do, how you live - everything about what you thought you knew about, well, EVERYTHING. It's life changing, and at times, devastating. 

I could fill 100 blogs with my thoughts on overcoming the stigma of addiction. The only thing I want to say here is, if you haven't been touched by it, don't judge. Don't offer advice on a subject you know nothing about. Don't vocalize what you would have done, or what that parent or that child should have done. You have no fucking idea. If you are sitting there thinking that all addicts are weak, or that their addictions are completely their own fault or that of their parents, or that "your child" would NEVER do that, sit the fuck down and listen up. If you want to learn about what addiction really is and what people go through as a result of the disease - and yes, it is a disease - then ask for a guest pass into the club no one wants to be in and listen for a while. I assure you that what you are thinking now and what you will think then will change dramatically. 

If Phil's article doesn't give you some awareness of and empathy for the disease of addiction, then Chase Bennett's obituary should, which is a brutally honest and heart wrenching summary of the light he was on this earth and the darkness that ended his life with the flip of a switch. 

If you read nothing else, read this: 

"He [Chase] will always be remembered for his kind heart, willingness to always help anybody in need, beautiful smile and his love of life. For a few months recently, he had been sober and seemed to be on the road to recovery. During this time, the family was fortunate to have spent some quality time with the real Chase (the person he was before addiction took him from us). 

"As his parents, we will miss him with every fiber of our beings, but also as his parents, we will no longer have to witness his pain or worry about this day coming as we have for so many years because it's here, and it will leave an empty place in our hearts forever. Our only solace is that he is now free from the struggles that haunted him, and he can now forever rest in peace. We loved Chase more than life itself, but that love could not protect him. If a parent's love could fix addiction, it would have been eradicated years ago. The grief of this loss is infinite to us. And now, so is he.

The disease of addiction is merciless. It is up to us to open our minds and hearts to those who are still suffering from this disease that is killing our children and shattering families. The family hopes that Chase's passing won't be in vain and that someone's life can be spared from this tragedy. If you or anyone you know suffers from this disease, please know you're not alone, and help is always available."

If you know someone who you believe has a drug problem, or if you yourself are using drugs and want to stop, I promise there is help out there, but it's not obvious. Unfortunately, you have to hunt for it. But there are advocates out there - professionals and simply people like me who can and want to help you when you're ready. There are local, anonymous meetings you can attend - whether you are using drugs or are a loved one of someone using drugs. These are judgment-free zones to find acceptance, understanding, help and love. One of the hardest things to do is walk through that door for the first time, but once you did, you've taken the first step. And there are 12

In addition, there are resources, no matter where you live. There are actually people out there who dedicate their lives to helping families and loved ones facing drug addiction find the help they need - even if it's just someone to listen. 

I've listed some resources below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. If this is overwhelming to you - whether you are in need of help for your own drug use or a family member of someone using drugs - please feel free to reach out to me and I will help you navigate in any way I can. 

If you are the loved one of someone with alcohol or drug problems: 

Families Anonymous (FA)
Families Anonymous is for those relatives and friends of those who suffer from a current, suspected or former problem of substance abuse or related behavioral problem. In our meetings, we learn how we can stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution. We can learn to find peace and serenity by practicing the FA program, even in the midst of the chaos and insanity.

Peoria meetings are currently on hold due to COVID-19, but you can find a directory of online, face-to-face meetings here. If you're interested in the Peoria meeting, contact me

Al-Anon
Al-Anon is for loved ones of those with a drug or alcohol problem. Again, though the emphasis is on alcohol, the journey is the same no matter what the drug, and all are welcome. In Al-Anon and Alateen, members share their own experience, strength and hope with each other. You will meet others who share your feelings and frustrations, if not your exact situation. We come together to learn a better way of life, to find happiness whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not. Find a meeting near you, either in-person or online. 


If you need help with your own drug abuse:

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
While their site describes AA as "an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem," many attend no matter what their drug issue. There are meetings literally every hour of every day; some in-person, some online. Here's a list of Peoria-area meetings, or find one where you live.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
Narcotics Anonymous offers recovery to addicts around the world. We focus on the disease of addiction rather than any particular drug. Our message is broad enough to attract addicts from any social class or nationality. When new members come to meetings, our sole interest is in their desire for freedom from active addiction and how we can be of help. Find a meeting near you, either in-person or online.

SMART Recovery
12 Steps not for you? SMART Recovery is a global community of people and families working together to resolve addictive problems. In our free group discussion meetings, participants learn from one another using a self-empowering approach based on the most current science of recovery.

American Addiction Centers (recovery.org)
Recovery.org supports and provides resources for the recovery lifestyle, including pre-treatment, treatment, aftercare, and potential relapse. Recovery from a substance use disorder is not a short-term goal—it is a life-long process.

To find treatment:

Therapeutic Consultants
If you are looking for a treatment facility for a loved one (either under or over 18), I would suggest enlisting the help of a therapeutic consultant. They are basically the "realtors" of the treatment world, and, based on an assessment, insurance/price point and resources, recommend the type of treatment and facilities. Here is a list of TCs but take note, you don't have to hire one in your city or even state. Personally, I highly recommend One Oak Therapeutic Consulting

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA has a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, a confidential and anonymous source of information for persons seeking treatment facilities in the United States or U.S. Territories for substance use/addiction and/or mental health problems. Click here for helpline info or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSP)
The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs serves as an advocate and resource for innovative organizations which devote themselves to society’s need for the effective care and education of struggling young people and their families.

Other resources:

Addiction Guide
More resources, including blogs, forums, mobile apps and more

God bless the families of Chase and Annabelle, and all the others who have lost loved ones to the disease of addiction. It's time to stop the stigma, stop the glorification of drugs and start expending more effort and funding on the resources to help addicts and their families.