The reality of addiction

Yesterday evening, watching the news, I noticed a promo announcing a special report on drugs for the following day. Some of the “highlights” of this report are to be the fact that the date of initiation for drug addicts has dropped into middle school, to 10, 11 year old kids, that there are no means of real support in our country and that most teachers in state schools turn a blind eye, most probably overwhelmed by what this means and their own lack of such education.

It is absolutely amazing to me that 7 years after my brother died of a drug overdose, after having been an addict for over 10 years prior, the situation in this country is identical – nothing of impact is happening. There is no real drug prevention education in schools, one that would make a difference that is, there is no real support outside of the mental hospital or few centres where addicts get a glimpse of life and then are thrown back into reality. Back into the addiction, that is.

Thinking of my brother’s ordeal I wondered what we could say to our young to speak truth to the mirage of drugs. Nothing short of the truth – ugly though it may be – will work. Our kids are smart and they will call bulls..t by its name or simply not listen. I would tell them that …

  1. Once an addict, always an addict – there is no way around this. The hardest thing about this probably is that addiction sets in very quickly and it is a lifetime battle. It is there in your good moments and waiting in the shadows when you fall, it is spying for a weak moment and always speaking loudly, deceiving and finding the very best arguments to let things go, “just this one time.” There is no such thing as a “one time”for an addict.
  2. Drugs bring no real friends – though they seem like they do. Drug addicts are a tight community, for obvious reasons, and yet always ready to welcome more. It is a horrifying, dark, shadowy world that will not let anyone go. Or live. The link is the drug and the main subject of conversation is the drug and the only thing holding all together is the drug. There. Is. Nothing. Else. Period.
  3. I can quit whenever I want to – is probably one of the biggest lies. Before he died, my brother must have tried tens of times. In the hospital, at home, tied to the bed, out of his free will, in the country, outside of the country, with help, without help. The only thing that was different was the amount of time he managed to stay drug free. He told me about the awful withdrawal symptoms – severe bone pain, restlessness, plunging into depression, anxiety and constant, constant thinking of getting high. He told me about how he would be asleep (sedated in order to be able to go through the physical withdrawal) and dream about going out and getting his fix. The strength one needs to get out of this must be herculean. Especially in a country that leaves her addicted to fate.
  4. Addiction affects the entire family – not just the addict. It is never an individual affair. We lost my brother the moment he became addicted to heroin. Everything else was a prelude to a death we knew was coming and at some point, watching him turn into a walking skeleton with hollow eyes, may have even wished for. There no longer is a family for the addict, other than the other addicts. There cannot be, as there is no life outside of the next dose. The moment we realised that my brother sold not only his toddler daughter’s bedroom furniture but also his apartment windows was another one of realisation that there is no way back and that my brother was already gone. What amazes me to the day is that there is a market for all this … .
  5. Others can save the addict – is another big lie. This is so much of an inside job it is scary. What a trick: any research you find will tell you that addicts can only save themselves. I find it a sick joke of fate or God or the universe, call it what you may. The fact that a mind so lost to these poisons is expected to wake up and fight. The reality is that it will not be the mind to ever save an addict. If anything, it will be the heart. If there is enough foundation of love that can constitute an even faded light at the end of the horrifying tunnel that becomes their existence, there may be a slim chance. And even that is to be debated …

Over time I have offered to speak to young people many time, in blunt terms, about what I have seen and lived alongside a heroin addict for 10 years. Very, very few people were willing to listen. I know it sounds like a horror movie. This is exactly the catch: it’s not. It is reality.

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