Regeneration After Addiction

We usually use the expression scars to describe the healing process of wounds to the human body. Regeneration is normally associated with animals and plants and the renewal or rebuilding of the damaged part of the body. I believe that regeneration can result after addiction provided all involved including the addict go through a growth process to reestablish normalcy to their lives. I decided to investigate through social media a different perspective where those involved with addiction, the addict or those caring, may add to, discuss or argue pros and cons of what I have learned good and bad. Ideally, the stories or comments would involve successful recovery. Tragic accounts are endless and so difficult to read. Media tends to report more failures than success which is to draw attention to the gravity of situation and need for the public awareness. There is nothing wrong with this other than looking at statistics and actual events occurring daily gives little hope to those directly involved with addiction at this moment. Many addicts turn away from meetings because they hear what they call “war stories”. The same can hold true for those attending meetings to help those affected by addiction. Even though the intention is to help in both cases, listening and reading of tragedies can be despairing.

The belief behind this idea was how to regain the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health back to those suffering. Whether you are an addict or someone who cares, there is hope. The addict cannot do it alone without support, nor can those who care. Alone is just that. The struggle for both sides will be immeasurable. If those involved will truly seek out help and understanding, there is hope. It can be done. Once understanding some of the issues and feelings of the those addicted as well as the mindset of those hoping for a successful recovery, there are routes that will help make it possible.

Myself, I can speak from both success and failure with addiction and recovery. I’ve had one son die from both drugs and alcohol and a second son successfully recovering from heroin addiction. Heroin being the drug of choice. Today I still search answers and understanding in hopes of helping so many of us dealing with this horrible disease. I can’t nor expect to find some universal answer that will make this all go away. I made a decision early in our recent addict’s journey to recovery to try and learn all that I could about the disease. I attended NAR-ANON meetings, open and closed NA meetings, had repeated conversations with addicts and listened attentively to those at the detox and rehab facilities who were trying to help. Listening to so many stories only brings more questions. As a result, I may never satisfy my decision but for myself I do feel what I’m calling regeneration. As our addict says, “unless you were an addict, you will never fully understand”. This is probably a true statement. The addict is faced with challenges each day.
Conditions never quite meet the same criteria for why I know of success and failure. Was age the question? What caused the need to reach out for help? Was it the loss of a sibling or someone very close? Was it the time for detox or in rehab? Going to meetings, getting a sponsor, doing the steps, days in and out for more than thirty days? The willingness to accept the addiction on both the addict and those caring? Support by all involved?
The knowledge that neither the addict or those caring have the tools to make a successful journey? The acceptance that there will be relapses? These are but a few of the questions.

There seems to be no suitable answer. So, what do we do? At best we can take all that we’ve learned and try to selectively prioritize events that statistically are in favor of success.
I can only speak in general terms. There are exceptions to everything. We know the short-term rehabs (less than thirty days) do little to provide the incentive for the addict to continue on to long term care. Returning home will reintroduce triggers that are part of the problem. Failure to follow thru with support such as meetings, sponsors, working steps creates a complacent attitude and increases the chances of relapse. As one who cares about the addict, you must prepare for the fact that the number who are successful first time through are almost nonexistent. Relapse is almost always in the path to recovery. Accepting this fact will help understanding some of the future events you and the addict will encounter. Understanding seems to be a major piece of a successful recovery. Instead of seeing only the harm and destructive nature of the disease, you will realize what both are battling and reach out for help. Before all else the drug is the highest priority item on the users list even before family. Again, comes acceptance that surely someone you’ve raised or loved for so many years now places you on a different tier in terms of love and needs. How can that be? The disease controls what’s most important to the user. You have no control through most of the entire journey to recovery. Your main thought is hope that somehow, someway the decision is made on the part of the addict to reach out and realize that even with all the strength possible he or she cannot do this alone. Acceptance of this on everyone’s part will help the pathway to recovery.

I recall one young addict relaying that being in a rehab facility helped getting a clear head and provided enough time in a place where you were unable to leave. Proper food, encouragement and healthy living was a piece of the rehab and a step in the journey but by no means gave incentive to continue in earnest for recovery. Until the victim chose to live right and was done with drugs and elected to go to the final rehab was he or she able to put all the difficult work into movement. Sobriety and real recovery started with getting a sponsor and recovery was of the utmost Importance. Working the steps honestly and thorough and now carrying the message. Unless the addict didn’t want to get sober in the first place, none of it would have worked.

As parents, spouses, friends we don’t have the tools to confront this mortal enemy. Here again is another acceptance piece of the journey. I guess as I continue to try and capture my thoughts I will find that acceptance of what addiction is all about and your own inabilities with regard to it, are a major step for your own recovery. I do believe that as the parents, spouse or friend as we start to find strength and understands the difference between enabling and support, the addict starts a turn-around. I’ve seen this in many cases of recovery. Strength comes from our action and belief that God or some spiritual being will help. These are words used throughout history primarily related to battle and military missions but in fact that’s exactly what we are faced with.

Depression seems to be part of every addicts being. There are numerous diagnostic terms to describe his or her symptoms but all seem to have some degree of depression. As they make their way back to rejoin society the depression seems the biggest concern on everyone’s part. Complacency now enters the challenge. You hear it in their voice and they feel it every day thru recovery. Even after recovery has been successful for a comfortable period, there are so many factors that become troublesome, no social life…limited contact with friends. Early recovery may consist of going to work, coming home, attending meetings, doctor appointments, therapists, talks with sponsors and other recovering addicts. I can remember wanting to celebrate our current addicts one year of sobriety and how wonderful that was. His response was that it was a dangerous time. Once again complacency steps forward and the addict starts the ponder the idea of even at a very young age, addiction will follow them the rest of their life. The thought of never smoking pot, taking drugs, drinking alcohol, shooting heroin for the rest of their lives is frightening to say the least, especially in early recovery.

One of the steps I found helpful as we took the journey was to record a daily journal of events good and bad during detox and rehab for more than eighteen months. Recording actual daily activities and things learned from our addict and NAR-ANON group and others allowed me to go back and see behavioral changes in our addict and myself. Re-reading events and putting more thought into my words and actions at the time was an important step in my own behavioral problems. Many of the things learned resulted in several hundred pages of text that captured actual changes in myself and our current addict. I can go back now and read where there were mistakes made by myself and our deceased addict.

At present a third-party mediator, his sponsor, stepped in and on behalf of both of us gave insight to understand and act accordingly to the issues. It is a bit difficult to accept this new member of the family but in my mind so very important. These bumps in the road occur frequently during early recovery but start to subside as the days turn into months and then into years. As a parent, you realize how important the sponsor is to recovery and how you yourself need his or her help.

It all becomes understanding. I had my own beliefs of what addicts were for years never realizing the damage it did to myself and those around me. Hate and anger made me blind to the suffering of the addict and the affect it has on you. You believe you buried this deep inside but it’s there for all to see. I was guilty of this for so many years until the thought of losing another son opened my eyes.

Another point worth noting is that the recovering addict is filled with sorrow. We don’t see that. We see all the damage done and the evil resulting from years of lying, heartache and mistreatment of those around them. It’s difficult to believe there is any remorse in all that has occurred. I once went to a closed NA meeting during the Thanksgiving holiday and listened to a large group of recovering addicts one by one step up and explain what they were grateful for, mostly that they were alive and had support from friends, but also the sorrow and shame for what they had done. Each also expressed a hope that someday they might see their children, parents or friends again one day. For now, they knew that recovery was their primary hurdle. As sad and bad as we who love them feel, believe me they cry as hard or harder recalling all they have done. Each time I went to another meeting, or read another article or saw another death, I learned that I had to find out for myself so much more. It has become an obsession with me to understand what addiction is about and while on my search I suddenly realized I was healing all the bitterness and anger that I held on to for so any years.

The word “choice” is a common term used in meetings concerning drug and alcohol addiction whether NA, AA, NAR-ANON or really addiction of any type. It always points the blame to the addict. Why is that? How we become involved is also a matter of choice. I think there are more levels of choice with us than the addict. The addict has a single choice to either get better or continue using. As parents, spouses and friends, we have a great number of choices on how to proceed. Each election we choose has an enormous effect on our behavior as well as the addicts. It can be different for each individual and results are your comfort with your decision. This is why you will always hear that the advice given is a suggestion. There are no specific rules that govern when, where or why we choose. Our choices are far more complex than the addicts. We will affect not only our own behavior but the addicts as well. To make choice in any matter we must try to understand all things involved. Making a fast judgement will not ease the stress and suffering involved with addiction. If ever there was a place and time to listen and gain knowledge, it’s when we consider and conduct ourselves in a manner that will help ourselves as well as the addict.

There are many things that have surfaced over the years that seem helpful to your own wellbeing. You will learn over time certain choices you have that may return sanity to your life. There is a range of possible outcomes from any decision we choose. Because of this it’s imperative that we try to gain as much knowledge as we can to help us achieve an outcome that may help us as well as the addict. It happens.

It is understood that misunderstanding and loss of hope are constantly present with all phases of addiction. There are times of conflict for recovering addicts when they try to help those suffering from addiction themselves. As example our son, who works in a detox center, frequently becomes depressed at the extreme measures clients will go to avoid that last minute decision they made to get help. In an instant, the addict can change their mind and try to do anything to avoid commitment to even the detoxification process. Detox can be considered as the bottom rung of the ladder in the climb to recovery. People, trying to help, feel they were betrayed by the offer to help someone who lost their way due to drug addiction. In the back of their mind, they were successful and fail to recall the physical, mental and emotional stress they themselves experienced. We spend most of our lives trying to solve all the problems that confront us. To try and take on the problems of the world which include addiction is a job far too immense to plague our minds and interfere with our own well-being. You try to help those suffering from addiction but avoid conflict with your own recovery.

I’m aware that much of what I say can be argued or may seem nonsense. It may be, but I feel that what I’m trying to present I’ve come to realize after living with the life of one son and death of another from addiction. I care deeply for all those involved to include the addict, who may have had a choice, but once enslaved to the disease started making decisions that in fact hampered recovery. We, those not addicted, have a host of decisions to make. Our lives will be in total shambles until we try to grasp some clear thinking to save ourselves. There is a greater task even after we think we have regained some sanity. This came years later after the death of my other son. Through the journey with my recovering son, I slowly, I emphasize the word slow, searched to understand addiction and found peace with my deceased son. I saw and still see the struggle they deal with daily. All have remorse but continually strive to believe in themselves that they can do it.

The most gratifying admission for me today is that I can love and care about both my addicted sons, knowing each took a journey full of hate, suffering, deceit, and absent of the freedom to choose which route to take as they met intersection after intersection. I felt confident that I knew the way but my mind was not blurred by drugs and alcohol as theirs. I could not be with them. The journey was theirs and seeking the way to recovery was through reaching out to people, places and things who could help with the decisions having been active addicts themselves. Understanding is primary to solving any problem and this will be one of the if not the hardest one we’ll meet. We need to realize from the beginning that as much as we love and care for our addict and believe with all our heart that we can save them, we do not have the tools needed.

It will take time and I’m not sure you will ever feel fully confident that recovery is final. The addict knows that this is a lifetime challenge to maintain recovery. Fulfillment comes with each day. The days turn to years and the thoughts and stress felt by both the addict and those affected will ease and life once again will become meaningful. It’s interesting that when the recovering addict looks back and cannot explain the circumstances that turned them toward recovery. As mentioned earlier, was it a moment or a series of events that did so? No doubt each had a different point that triggered the move to recovery.

Today, the numbers of overdoses and deaths climbs from addiction and alcoholism. More and more resources are directed to finding answers or help in saving the addict as well as those who suffer not knowing if or when there may be a day when the addict’s mind and body decide to seek help in earnest and return to life with meaning. There are good stories out there that can provide hope and give us strength to make the right choices and doing so will do the same for the addict. My journey towards addiction regeneration started more than ten years ago with the death of my other son. I cannot even begin to imagine how much of my life was set aside with bitterness and anger because of my own failure to reach out. The scars remained for years. For myself, I’m ashamed for not understanding. I could not prevent the outcome but could look back as I do now and realize what I lost and how grateful I am for what we had outside of addiction. For those still dealing with an active addict, never stop telling them you love them. For those with the misfortune of having lost an addict try to remember the joy you had before and not dwell on something neither you or the addict had control over. To choose regeneration after addiction as the goal rather than scaring will give hope to all involved.