This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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Heroin happens. Why we HAVE to keep talking about it!

So, here I sit in the middle of my not-so-clean house, not cleaning it. Yesterday was the final deadline for my summer class, it had been extended from last Friday. I really hate when the finish line gets moved, but there you go. I’ve been hanging on for this class to be over so I could get on with summer and all my grand summer plans, and this morning all I feel motivated to do is sit here. Gave each kid a bowl of oatmeal and now I’m just wallowing in the idea that I don’t HAVE to do anything. It will pass in a minute and I’ll get up and get on with my to-do list for the day. Wash the shower curtain in our bathroom, strip and wash the kids’ beds, scrub the upstairs bathrooms, go the grocery and pick up graduation gift for the last grad party of the season. Think about the fun the kids and I can have next week with no homework hanging over my head.

Life is good. My life is good. I am so aware of my blessings today.

Last week’s post about heroin lurking just on the edge of our world got a lot of hits. I am glad that folks are reading. I got feedback on Facebook, through emails, and even a comment here, about personal experiences of parents. My friend who wrote the piece I posted has written a bit more to share with you. I hope you will read it, too, and keep the conversation going. I can’t tell you how important I think it is to have this conversation. So many of us as parents are hanging on the idea that we can all somehow find the perfect book/blog/philosophy/guide/support group/whatever and we’ll be able to do this job perfectly. Or at least well enough that our children will be spared any pain, or bad decisions, or any of the pitfalls of life. I want to make the point again, with the help of my friend, that we’re all making mistakes and some of our children will get themselves into really bad places, whether it’s drugs, or something else. What I’m NOT saying is that it isn’t worth the struggle. I’m not saying that we should just accept the fact that some of our kids will turn into junkies and all we can do is hope it isn’t ours. I believe that talking about it will do two things. First, it will help remove the stigma felt by these kids who are trying to recover, and by their parents. Less judgement, more love, is always beneficial in healing. Second, it will increase awareness by those of us who don’t have a lot of experience with these things. A head in the sand never solved anything. Ever.

So, here is the next installment of a conversation I hope will continue.

 

How Did You Know?

How did you know? I’m not sure I did.

Why did you go looking? My gut told me to.

You invaded his privacy? I saved his life. For now…

Heroin is seductive; it lures you in and makes you its slave. It does not discriminate and invades families of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races and cultures. Heroin provides an almost immediate emotional and physical pain free escape from reality. It is as instantaneous as social media. RAPID RESULTS. Something our young people have become accustom too.

Statistics are showing that there is a terrifying trend. More people under the age of 21 are trying heroin. In fact, there has been a sharp increase in first time heroin use in the 12-17 age group. #Staggering

How did this happen? Ohio waged war and shut down illegal pill factories. Unfortunately, they created a climate that was ripe and ready for a heroin epidemic. Pills became less available and costly. Think $80 for a single pill. My son, since rehab, has shared with me that similar to his experience, most of the heroin addicts he knows, started on pills. For my son, his dealer struggled to get pills, so his dealer turned him on to heroin. Here is a

FAST FACT: Did you know heroin costs about $5 a hit. That is cheaper than pot and way cheaper than pills.

Guess what else? Heroin is more accessible and easier to obtain than not only pills, but pot.

The tiny blackish-brown square of black tar heroin, wrapped in foil, placed in a sandwich bag costs about $5. The physical and psychological relief this little mistress provides is reportedly amazing. Euphoric. It gives instant relief to anxiety, depression, mania, physical pain and everything else. You just don’t feel.

Regular use changes brain chemistry. Not only does your tolerance increase, so more is the only thing you desire, but your brain chemistry changes so you think being high is normal. And you will continue to use more, so you avoid any withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include, goose bumps, watery eyes and runny nose, excessive yawning, loss of appetite, tremors, panic attacks, chills, nausea, muscle cramps, insomnia, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, shaking, chills and profuse sweating and irritability.

So first, let me state, I am no expert, I am a mom. And my sons addiction, although I know it is not all on me, it feels like an exceptional parenting fail. So please, no need for you to judge me, I am judging myself daily. So there is no perfect science in how to tell if your loved one is using.

What I know is that my son was dealing with some pretty challenging personal SHIT just before his heroin addiction. I could see he was spiraling and he did not want our advice or help. I also knew he was not coping well with his stress. There was excessive pot smoking. I discovered he was drinking my booze. And although there were fights and consequences, I know he could have cared less and I felt helpless.

Then I noticed a couple times some seriously glassy eyes. It was weird and it was a look I had not seen before. I don’t remember the puddley looking eyes with the tiny pupils. I thought to myself, whoa, he looks messed up. So I would ask if he was okay. How do you think he responded? He’s 20 and he would become volatile if I pressed, so I didn’t.

He was also pulling away from us. Isolating himself, spending time with his personal shit problem girlfriend and became more private and more withdrawn.

In my gut something was horribly wrong, I knew it, I felt it and people around me would talk me out of

it. So I gave it time. I gave it about five minutes.

Then I did it. I invaded his privacy. I went in to my 20-year-old sons room and searched. It didn’t take much searching; I saw the baggie, syringe (sans needle), a small piece of foil, a spoon and a lighter sitting out on a chair. It was right out in the open.

(By the way, what this taught me was that there is no privacy in my house. If I suspect my child is in trouble or doing something troubling, I will search their things and be unapologetic because it could be life or death. It is not a betrayal, it is my house and my rules – I can search and I will search.)\So what were the signs? The signs sucked, I relied on my gut and his behavior. Did my gut tell me he was using heroin? No, but I knew something was happening.

What should you do? Every situation is different. Not every addict presents the same. There are some similarities though. They lie and they get really good at covering their addiction. They may bargain and make promises that heroin never intends for them to keep. They stop caring about everything, except heroin.

BE PRESENT, OBSERVANT AND TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.

What should you look for:

Pin Point pupils

Droopy appearance like every limb, including their head is heavy

Dry mouth and extreme thirst

Behavior changes

Appearance lacks care altogether

Withdraws or other behavior changes

Baggies and foil laying about or in trash

Missing tablespoons

Understand that addiction is a disease. It is complex and your loved one will struggle. Relapse is part of this struggle.

Understand the difference between support, enabling and meddling. This is tough, so rely on help from professionals and friends.

TALK ABOUT IT – tell trusted friends and talk about it. This hardship is too much of a burden for you to carry alone. Go to a meeting like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

Remember, there is no such thing as recreational heroin use, get them to rehab. Find a program. If they have a family component, go to every meeting, rearrange your life for your family. This is important. Embrace taking things one day at a time. You need to live during this time too. Live and find joy in every day. Look hard for it, because it is there, even if it is to be grateful your loved one is safe and in a facility.

 

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Heroin happens, even here

I really should be working on my last week of class stuff, but as I’d hoped, once I started writing, I can’t stop. And this morning, someone sent me something I want to share. But first, some other thoughts, and some background.

We bought this house in May 2009. Though both my husband and I were drawn to a bit more urban setting, the best schools we could afford, with the most house, were here in Worthington. And since our oldest child would be starting kindergarten in the fall, we were thrilled to find a house in our price range with some of the upgrades it needed, walking distance from shopping and restaurants, not to mention the elementary school, with wonderful neighbors and mature trees. I had never had the experience of moving into a home that I loved with no expiration date on my stay. We would live here for an indeterminate period, a long period. The kids would grow up here. I remember joking that I would never move again. We probably will, but that’s a post for another day.

We were so happy. We loved this place. The spot, the schools, the neighborhood, all of it. We thought it was the perfect American dream we were living. Then one morning in September we looked out the window and saw several police cars parked across the street and many officers in bullet-proof vests and Kevlar helmets. There didn’t seem to be a high degree of alarm among the officers, so we watched. Eventually they left and we didn’t find out what was going on until we watched the evening news. In the morning, the Columbus Dispatch ran the story with the headline: “13 caught in heroin sweep.” One of those kids lived across the street from us.

Bubble POPPED!

Reality!

There is HEROIN IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! And not just “in our neighborhood” like out there, somewhere, close, but vague. It’s ACROSS THE STREET!

I didn’t panic. I really didn’t. I mean, this kid was out of high school. There was no reason for this incident to affect my children. After all, it wasn’t like they found it in the elementary school, right? But it’s awful damned close to home. I could see into the bedroom window of someone who was doing, possibly distributing, heroin. Now, let’s be clear, it’s not like I’ve never been exposed to people doing heroin. It’s not like I have no experience with drugs and the people who use them. But not like this, not since I became a mother. This is different. No part of me felt sorry for the kid who got busted. No part of me thought, “What a shame they got caught” like I might have 15 years earlier if I’d read about someone caught with a joint. No way. This time all I could think about were this kid’s parents.

I am a fact finder by nature, I guess. Some might call it stalker, but we quibble about language. I wanted to find out about these folks. I hadn’t met them, yet, despite living across the street for four months by then. I looked them up on the tax auditor’s website and found out that they’d lived there for over a decade. They’d probably moved here to put their kids into the good schools we’d moved here for. They’re just parents. How heartbroken they must have been that this was happening. What did they feel like?

I lost some sleep worrying about these parents. I kept imagining myself in their position. I don’t know how you get there, but I knew that despite my best efforts and hours of praying, it could happen. I could find myself in just the same position. I was absolutely sure that at no time had those parents across the street thought to themselves, “Oh, we’ll just let this one thing go and if it leads our kid to get involved in heroin, it will probably be okay.”

But after a while, when there were no more news stories about heroin in our specific neighborhood, just vague rumors about it’s existence in the city, the whole thing got pushed to the back of my mind. Not forgotten. Never forgotten. It’s such a frightening thought, too frightening to really dwell on all the time. So we got back to the business of raising kids who would hopefully avoid such a thing. Kids who would be properly scared of the prospect. Kids who would be smart and strong and capable of pushing back against such evils. But we were not under any illusion that such evils were far away, that they don’t still lurk way too close for comfort.

Then a few months ago a friend “introduced” me to another mom on Facebook. I’d seen her also commenting on our mutual friend’s posts, but didn’t think much of it. One day this mutual friend just posted and tagged us both and said something like, “Here, you two should be friends. You are the same brand of cool.” Well, this particular friend’s opinion is good enough for me, so I had a new friend. You know how you just click with someone right away? Well, that’s how it was with this friend. After a few months, we decided to meet in person for coffee.

When we met, we ended up talking for a few hours, and only because we both had other places to be did the conversation end. But most of the conversation was around the things she told me that were not posted on Facebook. There are lots of blogs and such out there about how we all use Facebook differently, but most of us don’t put our worst stuff up there. We don’t put the stuff that makes us too vulnerable to judgement, to others seeing that life isn’t at least sometimes Pinterest-worthy. Her son was recovering from using heroin.

I was floored. She seemed so, I don’t know, so normal. Like me. So much like a mom making all the same decisions I would make. Like she’d probably approached the subject of drugs with her kids in much the same way that I was. But there it was. A mom whose kid was using heroin. She’d found it in his bedroom. She’d FOUND it! It’s not like she suspected and ignored her own red flag. She’d FOUND it.

Again I found myself realizing that it wasn’t just about making the right parenting choices, whatever those might be. Raising kids is anything but an exact science. Despite all the best intentions, and informed decisions, it had happen to this mother’s son. It could happen to mine.

So, I listened to her tale, and I made many mental notes. I was in awe of the strength she showed in the way she’d handled it and in the way she told her story. Later I went home and digested it all further. I prayed that if it were ever my kid, I would do many of the same things she’d done. First of all, she didn’t bust him, accept his apology with a promise that it would never happen again, and then forget about it. She got his butt into treatment RIGHT THEN. She went through several months of advocating for her kid because there is no good system in place to take care of him. I’m sure it was no picnic for the kid, but I still can’t see it from his perspective. I can only see it from his mother’s eyes.

In the months since, my new friend and I have met again and we’ve continued to communicate regularly. I have encouraged her to start the blog she talks about, but she isn’t ready to do it, yet. But this morning she sent me something she’d written. She’s not ready to out her son, nor does she want to tell his story. This is what she felt and I want to share some of her feelings. I’m betting there are other parents out there who have thought about these things. So, I share this as a bit of hope. Yes, she’s just like me, and many other moms and dads out there. Middle class, good family, involved parent who “kept open the lines of communication.” But it still happened. And here’s how she felt.

Six months.

I am six months out from a day I thought I would not live through. It was the day we found heroin in our son’s room and had to confront him. This day was terrifying, sad, frustrating and a new beginning.

So how does a seemingly normal family respond when you find a substance like heroin in your child’s room? Well:

It makes you question everything you believed in.

It makes you doubt any remote possibility that you were a good parent, because at this point, you pretty much know it was an epic parenting fail.

You long for the days when your child was an infant or toddler and you wish you would have enjoyed them more.

You learn how to live with the terrifying realization that heroin takes many lives and your child’s could be one of them.

You wonder every time your child leaves the house if you will see them alive again. You learn that this struggle is their struggle and you need to focus on you.

You realize you must try to rely on a relationship with a higher power that you now completely wonder if there really is such a thing.

You are also angry because you know this should not be happening but you can’t change or stop it. The pain you know your child is living with, is almost unbearable for you to feel or think about.

You are scared.

You realize your child, whom you have loved with all your heart, is in for a life long struggle and challenge that seems insurmountable to you.

You become keenly aware of every heroin death and it sits like a cinder block on your chest. It is not the life you planned or wanted, but it is now your life.

Come on NEW BEGINNING!! My life came to a halt December 6, 2013. I was afraid. I felt like a failure. But as things evolved, I dug deep and my strength kept our family afloat. As the dust settled, my strength was not needed and I was not sure what to do, but I thought I was okay: I wasn’t. I became sick. Sick with fear, sick with worry.

A friend gave me a gift. She stopped me and took a chance that I could hear her truth. She told me to stop. Stop being paralyzed by my fear. She told me to stop being afraid, afraid to live and afraid to make decisions.

You see, my fear for a long time has been my guide. It was making my decisions for me. I was not in control of my own destiny and I was unable to be myself. The heroin and the fear was defining a new me. I was becoming someone I did not want to be.

Everything felt bad. I took her truth and I am working every day to let go of the fear, turn it over to my higher power and live: live life and be grateful. Live life and stop being afraid and letting the fear guide me into despair. I am grateful for my new friend who took that chance on me and told me to let go of my fear. This is my new beginning.

My son, he has a new beginning too: six months clean. But, that is his story to tell. What I can share is that he is working hard every day and he is happy – and for this, I am incredibly grateful.


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Jumping back in…

More than two months have passed since I’ve found the time to sit down and write a full length post. I’ve got a few drafts sitting neglected and growing more stale by the day. I’m sitting down with a blank page now and thinking about all the things I’ve meant to write about this spring. I am all over the place. I have thoughts to share on politics and current events, the graduations in my circle of friends and family, end of life issues as I watch the last of my children’s great grandparents live out their lives, food and diet thoughts, observations on my children and the wrap up of their school year, even a few insights on library school and all the great experience I’m gaining volunteering at the seminary. And the weather.

But it’s too much. I am having trouble boiling it down. Not an uncommon problem for me. And this time, I’ve let it snowball to a problem so big, I’m truly unable to figure out where to begin. I think the best solution is to just start writing and see how it goes. Tonight I’ll start with school stuff. Not because it’s biggest in my mind, or because there’s the most to talk about, but because I hope I’m wrapping it up for a few weeks.

I finished the rare book class and got my grades for that and the special library class. A and A-, respectively. I was so upset about the first A-, but I guess it hurts less the more you get. I’m thrilled to have not gotten a B, yet. That rare books class was such an amazing ride. It’s the longest class I’ve taken so far in the MLIS program, and it was by far the most intense. I learned an amazing amount. I fell more deeply in love with books, as objects. At the same time, I became even more ready to accept whatever path this career is going to take, whether I actually get to work with old books or archives, or end up doing something completely different. As long as I’m working with helping people somewhere find answers, I think I’ll be okay. Surprisingly, I found out more about my ability to do research in that rare book class than I had anticipated. Perhaps that is because the professor wasn’t just looking to teach us about old books, but how to find answers. I got into this field because I am that person, that know-nothing know-it-all who loves to find the answer for you. I’m thrilled when I can give you real answers to whatever question you have. It took me until I was forty to find out that there is actually a field for that, and that it’s not about being right because I’m not wrong, rather because I really truly found the answer and I’m right!

So, that class ended on the Friday before Mother’s Day. The next class started on the Tuesday after. In effect, I’ve been in school with no break since right after Christmas. Not so tough, I guess, if school is the main event in your life, but it was wearing thin for me. There’s still a week to go in this class, but then I’m done for the summer. A couple pass/fail workshops, but I think the pressure is off until fall. I need the break. I need the break bad. The kids need the break. The HOUSE needs the break. Oh, good Lord, my house is a wreck.

summer21We’ve got big plans for the summer around here. I’m gonna get this house clean for real. Stop laughing, it could happen. We’re going to spend lots of time at the pool and I’m going to read. For FUN! We’re going to go to the zoo. It’s gonna be a good summer, I think. The kids are playing ball, and going to a couple Vacation Bible School weeks, but that’s about it. The big kids can ride bikes to a few friends in the neighborhood and the park. The little one can swim more independently in the kiddie pool. The three of them can be way more mobile than they have been in summers past. I am hoping that they can experience some of the extra freedom and unstructured time that marked summers of most childhood for most of my generation. Wish me luck.

So, maybe tomorrow I can tell you more about all that other crap going on in my head. Today, I guess that’s enough. It’s something, anyway.