Suffering Addict Shows For Christmas

But just for today….
Leave your judgments, questions, and whispers in your car when you walk in and see the chair that has been reserved for me for all these years that has sat empty is occupied today.

 

Hey… Yeah… It’s Me…
Yes, good to see you too..

Here I am in all my glory.
The black sheep of the family.
The let down.
The disgrace.
The addict.

I’m not really sure why I showed up today.. I can feel all your eyes resting upon me with every move I make. I’m not here for your entertainment, I do know that much.
Seeing everyone I haven’t seen since I was a kid is a bit overwhelming to me right now.
Please don’t push me into a corner and surround me with your questions.
And please, don’t offer your advice unless you have walked the crooked mile that I am on.

In your mind it is so simple, just stop doing drugs. Go right on out there and get yourself a job tomorrow and buy that little house on the corner by the end of the year.

It sounds great.. just so puke perfect. When you are talking to me about what I should do with my life, keep in mind that it is easy to sit back and preach to someone when you have never encountered even the smallest of my problems in relation to your perfect little world.

I know that it makes for a good conversation starter.. but I am not living anywhere permanently, and I am not employed. Truth be told, I am wandering through this world relying on dope to keep me numb, so that I do not have to feel any emotion whatsoever.

I don’t have time to explain to you “how it makes me feel when I do drugs” or “when I am going to get myself together”. I’m broken.

What I do need from you right now is to be shown some respect, even though I know you do not respect me at all in my current state of mind.. please.. be a good sport and pretend.

I need to look around and see the faces of my family, enjoying their Christmas time together.. not blank faces and glares from those of you who think you are better than me because of the decisions that I made, and still make.

I’m probably not going to have much of an appetite, considering that my stomach is filled with anxiety and I don’t really eat much these days.

Please don’t insist on loading my plate with all the things you want me to try, I am not going to eat the things I know that I like, much less something that you are forcing me to take.

Let’s all sit down and just be family. Just be here, together.. laughing and cutting up about old memories, and let’s pass around all the new babies.

Don’t pull me to the side with the “Can I talk to you for a minute” scene.. and take me outside to tell me how I need to do this or that. You don’t know what I need. I’m not me.

When it’s time to pass out presents, don’t make excuses of why you would have got me this or that.. but… Listen carefully, I do not want gifts from anyone in this room. That is not why I am here.

The greatest gift that you can give to me right now is a taste of normality.
Look at me and talk to me like I never fell off the wagon.. like I am not a junkie.
Let me remember what it was like to be me. Before my demons drug me into the life I live now.
If only for a moment, let’s pretend that I am me again.
Let’s act like I can look you in your eyes with confidence while we carry on a random conversation about the news, or sports, or the weather.

I need to find me.
I am so lost.

Please don’t bring up my past, or the life that I lived before.
Do not ask me when I am getting my children back from CPS.

Befriending me in order to get me to open up to you about my life and then using my words against me later on will cut me to the core. Let’s avoid that at all costs.

Please do try to include me in things.. Invite me outside to play tag football with the rest of our cousins. I am an addict, not a stranger to our family traditions after Christmas dinner.

And last, but not least.. don’t feel sorry for me.
I am grown.
These are my choices, and my consequences.
And I live with them every single day.

But today.. I want to feel normal again.
If only just for the afternoon.

Even though you don’t understand…
Help me remember what it’s like to be me again.

And if you happen to be present in one of the emotionally frail moments and breakdowns that I am bound to have happen sooner or later, the longer I am here.. Just sit here in the silence with me. Don’t ask what’s wrong. I’m not sure.

Maybe I just miss me a little more today.
And maybe tomorrow I will keep one of those promises that I make to myself every day when I try to get clean and stop using.

But just for today….
Leave your panoply of  judgments, questions, and whispers in your car when you walk in and see the chair that has been reserved for me for all these years that has sat empty is occupied today.

I am here.
That’s all I need for now.
Love,
The Still Suffering Addict

My friend: Danielle R. Gilliam, we will get through this.

Christmas & Addiction

With some awareness and understanding, Christmas might be great again.

I love Christmas, it’s truly magical to me, in my mind.  Since being an addict for over 20 years, most of my fantastic Christmas’ have been fantasies in my mind.  The truth of Christmas for me always ends up the same.  I was clean last year and have had 4 or 5 clean Christmas’ during my 20 year run with opiates.  The crazy thing is it doesn’t matter, at least not yet, if I am clean or not.  Christmas always ends up making me feel like a subhuman.

These are some ways that Christmas would be easier for me, and this is using or not.  If your loved one is actively using or even new to recovery, they may not have something nice to wear to the get together you want them to attend.  A week or two before the event if you know they don’t have anything to wear, take a bag of hand me downs over and tell them so and so was cleaning out their closet.  Don’t mention they can wear any of it to Christmas, they will figure it out.

As a kid, we craved the approval of our parents. As we mature, very little changes in our need for approval (often beyond just our parents). So if you are the parent, family member or friend of someone struggling with addiction, do your best to let them know that they are cherished and valued. This underlying message opens the doors of communication and brings them that much more likely to confide in you when they are ready for help or just for an ear while they are on their recovery path.  If I ever look into my mother’s eyes and see something other than disappointment, it will be the happiest day of my life.

For the person abusing substances, as well as for family and friends, gifting can be tough. Before exchanging elaborate holiday wish lists, consider trading in material objects for “healing gifts.” This can relieve tremendous pressure that may be placed on addicts who are often just getting back on their feet financially and can’t afford to purchase presents. So you can do like letter writing to each other instead of gift exchanges.  Something where the addict can express their feelings and give a gift without it costing money.

You will be surprised at what a difference even a minor attitude change can make in behavior. Your loved one is likely under a lot of stress just keeping up with the rest of family or friends and staying in high spirits, so remind them of a phrase that’s said a lot in recovery: “It’s progress, not perfection.” It’s a valuable reminder for them to continue moving forward like they say one day at a time and, though it might not always feel like it, a holiday is just another day like any other in the broad scope of one’s sobriety journey.  If the person is still using and they show up to the holiday events that could be a big step in the right direction but make sure that no one yells out OH LOOK WHO GRACED US WITH THEIR PRESENCE, stuff that seems very simple but is huge to an addict.  Just writing this has got me in tears.

Don’t Hover:  Have the strength to let your loved one feel safe, even if it means giving up some control.  If they need to skip out on the customary touch-football game to go to a meeting or meet up with recovery friends, you should give them room to do that and permit their absence at this event. No accusations, no judgments. Period.

With some awareness and understanding, Christmas might be great again.

Anyone’s Son

 

On a cool late October day, Deb Noethe and her husband Tom load dozens of backpacks in the back of a pickup. They’re filled with toiletries, snacks, hats and mittens. Deb hopes they may also contain a lesson or two.

She calls them blessing bags. They’re meant for people struggling with homelessness and addiction in Grand Rapids.

“I hope and pray that they go to the people that really need them,” Deb Noethe said.

The inspiration for the bags, however, comes from pain.

“Every parent’s worst nightmare, and it happened,” she said.

Deb’s third son, Garret Bethke, struggled with addiction for 10 years.

“It started using oxycontin,” she said. “A friend had given him one, and he liked the way it felt. That was how he explained it to me.”

He eventually got hooked on heroin. But he’s not what you would picture when you hear the phrases “heroin addict” or “drug user.” Garret loved music, art, baseball and fishing.

He told his parents about his struggle with heroin about five years ago, in 2011. He was 23 at the time.

“I couldn’t believe my son was a heroin addict,” Deb said. “Any mother that has gone through this or parent says exactly the same thing. I had no clue. I had no clue. That’s what’s scary about it.”

They immediately got him in to treatment, but in this round, he wasn’t going for himself.

“He told me … the only reason I went to treatment was because I did it for you. Because he knew I was so scared. He did it for me,” Deb said.

The treatment never seemed to stick. The longest time he was clean was 60 days during his last stint. He would relapse over and over.

“If the person doesn’t want to go to treatment, what good is it going to do when he gets to treatment?” Tom Noethe asked.

But years later, in 2014, Garret was ready to go. He was living at home, working at his mom’s gardening business and waiting for a bed to open up.

“I thought, Oh, this is going to be the time,” Deb said. “I think he actually thought, I think this is going to work. I’m going to try really hard.”

He knew it would be difficult. He’d been there before. During one clean period, he wrote a letter breaking up with heroin. One line read, “Please don’t try to get ahold of me. I won’t answer to you anymore. We are done forever.”

This time, in October 2014, seemed different. Garret was 28.

Through the years of her son’s addiction, Deb slept with her cell phone under her pillow just in case.

“You’re always in the back of your mind, this can happen,” she said. “But you say, it’s not going to be my child.”

Yet six days after Garret was released from the halfway house in St. Cloud, Deb got that dreaded call in the middle of the night.

“Fifteen minutes later, the police were knocking at my door,” she said. “That’s exactly how I played it in my head. That’s exactly what happened. ‘I’m sorry to tell you your son has died.’ I said, ‘Overdose?’ And they said, ‘yes.'”

Deb said she went numb. But she woke up to a bitter truth that night.

“Drugs don’t care, heroin doesn’t care. They’ll take everything from you, and they’ll take your soul,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.”

This October marked the second anniversary of Garret’s death. Friends and family gathered at his grave to remember him. As the song “Dancing in the Sky” played, emotions were raw.

Still, Deb spoke through her tears, recounting the lessons her son has taught her about who addicts really are.

“Most addicts that I know and I’ve had the privilege of calling my friends are the kindest, most loving people you’d ever meet in your life,” she said.

They’re people like Garret’s friends Melissa and Michael Lane. He met the two through using.

“He was the man. Really, he was a cool person,” Michael said. “But I don’t know. They say the good die young, I guess. I don’t really know.”

Deb said Garret would remind her addiction is an illness and should be treated that way.

“He’d say, ‘Mom, they’re addicts just like me. They’re not bad people, they just have a really bad disease,'” Deb recalled. “Hate the addiction, love the addict.”

Deb took that advice. She loves these people she used to kick out. She has welcome with open arms the very people who shared in the drug culture that led to her son’s death.

“It’s just weird how everything happens,” Michael said.

“We adopted her, she adopted us,” Melissa added.

Both Michael and Melissa are now three years sober. Other of Garret’s friends are turning the corner too. A woman at the cemetery on the anniversary of his death announced she’d been sober several months. Deb’s reaction was priceless. She went straight for a hug.

“I’m so proud of you,” Deb whispered to her. “Garret’s helping, he’s pushing you.”

Those moments aren’t easy. She couldn’t save her own son. But Deb has no intention of giving up on the family she’s adopted.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” she admitted. “But if you can save one family from this horror, that’s what we’re going to do.”

That explains the backpacks, or blessing bags. The packs were donated by local organizations, and the foundation Deb set up in Garret’s honor, the Garret Bethke Foundation, buys the toothbrushes, lip balm, snacks and water inside.

The group that gathered at the cemetery caravanned to Veteran’s Park. Michael, Melissa and the others who had used with Garret showed Deb which spots would be best to leave her blessing bags.

“It’s pretty crucial to do stuff like this. This is really pretty amazing,” Michael said. “I’d have been happy as hell.”

“I would have been surprised that somebody actually cared, you know? I would have been thankful,” Melissa, who was homeless at one point, said.

This isn’t the conclusion of Deb’s lesson plan, though. She hopes to share her story with children in schools this winter. She also wants to train people on how to administer Narcan, a drug that can reverse an overdose.

“A lot of things need to change, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Deb said. “But if we can just do this, just do these little kind things, it will help people, I believe.”

She believes addicts like Garret deserve better.

“There’s hope, and there’s help,” she said.

She has resources for families, friends, addicts and whoever may need the help on the Garret Bethke Foundation.com

Baihly Warfield
November 23, 2016 08:28 PM

What it Was Like Then, and What It’s Like Now

After my rehab stay I moved back home. My mom was very skeptical of me living in the house because my teenage years were a disaster. I assured her that no matter what, I will not use, steal or lie to her. She slowly began to trust me again, which I never thought possible.

Today’s guest blogger, Benny Emerling, got sober at 19. It’s valuable for parents and professionals to have this perspective in mind when working with young people. MWM

As a young kid, I always felt like everyone around me was given a golden textbook on life. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail. I was different, but not an outcast, in fact. quite the opposite. I had many friends, a loving family and a decently smart head on my shoulders. However, my idea of fun was different from most of my peers. Misbehaving, stealing and bullying were some of my favorite activities. I was always a happy jokester and had a smile on my face the majority of the time.

Having three older sisters and a younger brother, it was easy to slip through the cracks and get away with murder. In middle school, my behavior got worse and worse. I grew up in a primarily Jewish area, so when I was in seventh grade every weekend we had a bar or bat mitzvah party to go to. Virtually, every weekend there was a different elaborate party to go to. After a couple, I noticed the adults at the parties drinking. Curiosity grew inside me, it looked awesome. It was not long before I tried drinking.

I was 13, one of my friends at the time made me a delicious alcoholic beverage. By delicious, I mean repulsive, it was a combination of anything he could grab off the adult tables. This included wine, beer, a shot and a mixed drink. It was the most disgusting beverage I had ever had but at the same time the best. I felt the buzz of alcohol for the first time in my life and I was instantly ready for more.

Drinking at these parties became the norm for me and a couple of friends. Weirdly enough, none of us ever got caught. Then the summer hit, growing up every year I went to sleep away camp in Northern Michigan. And this year at summer camp was monumental, one of my cabin mates brought weed to camp with him and I smoke it for the first time. Drinking was a blast, but weed was a different type of fun. I finally found the missing piece to my life, and it was drugs. After my first experience getting high, I never wanted to be sober.

I became a huge pothead by ninth grade. I had drug hookups because my sister was older, and I was friends with kids who sold pot, among other drugs. Smoking weed became an everyday habit before school, at lunch, sometimes between classes, and always after school. Weed took over my life. I quit all after school activities I once did because it got in the way of me smoking weed.

Smoking weed is an expensive habit, so how could I afford it? I stole, manipulated, worked little jobs and sold drugs.

My first job was at an elite men’s fashion store that sold thousand dollar suits and top of the line shoes. I couldn’t stop smoke weed and I dabbled a little with taking prescription pills. I didn’t want to get fired, especially because of speculation about me being high at work was on the rise. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant lie: I told my boss who knew my stepmom that I was allergic to wool and that was why my eyes were constantly bloodshot.

I didn’t last long at this job, to say the least. I picked up a caddying job that summer, but no money compared to selling pills. So after a couple of months I made my money exclusively selling prescription pills and little amounts of weed. My supplier? My family. Members of family were prescribed prescription pills for medical reasons. I looked at these pills as dollar signs. My family gained suspicion. They knew I didn’t have a job, but they also knew I had a lot of money. Oh yeah, and all of the pills in the house were missing.

It didn’t take long for my parents to catch me red-handed. I was forced to take my first drug test, which I failed miserably.

It was then my parents started looking up local rehabilitation centers. When I was 16, I was put into my first outpatient treatment center. I was told I had to stay sober and there would be drug tests once a week. I tried to stay clean for about a month and decided it wasn’t for me.

My high school career could be summed up pretty easily, I got high and partied, then ended up in outpatient treatment. Maintained decent grades and did what I wanted, when I wanted—I thought it was the greatest time of my life. However, I knew the best years were still to come…college.

I chose to go to the biggest party college I got accepted to. The first couple of weeks were exactly how I wanted them to be. Huge parties every day, drugs whenever I wanted, and unlimited freedom to do whatever I wanted, without any consequences.Or so I thought…

The fun lasted about two months then I hit what most people would consider a bottom. I didn’t sleep, eat, go to class, and barely left my dorm room for five consecutive days. I ended up going insane from all of the Adderall I took, and it wasn’t long before I overdosed and ended up in the psych-ward.

By this time I hadn’t talked to my families in over a month, and everyone assumed I was either dead or in jail. My close friends stopped calling me because I betrayed all of them in one way or another and I was basically alone, miserable and physically and mentally broken.

I remember the exact moment when I realized I needed help and that I needed to get sober.

I was sitting in the psych-ward, I hadn’t slept for two days straight, and then I looked in the mirror. I was 40 pounds underweight, my eyes were sunk into my face and my body was bruised up from trying escape the hospital. At that very moment, I made the decision to get sober.

What’s It Like Now?

This was over six years ago. I was 19 when I admitted myself into treatment. I thought my rehab stay was only going to be three months, but I ended up needing a nine month stay. Rehab was great because I learned how to be a human again. I learned how to maintain relationships, grocery shop and take care of myself. I was taken to AA meetings and I actually learned from them and received hope from them.

I finally started feeling good for the first time in over six years.

After my rehab stay I moved back home. My mom was very skeptical of me living in the house because my teenage years were a disaster. I assured her that no matter what, I will not use, steal or lie to her. She slowly began to trust me again, which I never thought possible. I started paying back the people I owed money to, and I kept up with AA meetings. It didn’t take long before I found a friend group, all young, sober adults.

I realized the more meetings I went to, the more I hung out with my sober friends and the more time I spent helping others, the less I obsessed about myself or getting high. It was an incredible realization, for over five years, every waking moment I thought about my next fix and how I was going to achieve it. But after I came to terms with the fact that I will never be able to use like a normal person, my life was shot into what I call the fourth-dimension.

I got sober when I was 19, I am currently 25 years-old and couldn’t be in a better place.

The disease of addiction took me to the darkest world imaginable, but at the same time blessed me with an amazing one at the same time. Suffering from addiction has made me a better person. I wake up every day knowing that as long as I stay sober, I can accomplish anything.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.

https://ouryoungaddicts.com/2016/11/03/what-it-was-like-then-and-what-its-like-now/

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The Media Is Doing Us No Favors, Tell Them To Stop

Recently I read an eye-opening comment. The woman mentioned that every news story about heroin has the picture of a dirty spoon, dirty house or some stereotype that people often associate with heroin use. Yes, some heroin users use dirty spoons and don’t keep their homes spic and span. The problem with these photos is that it perpetuates the mindset that, this is how heroin use always looks.

Let me explain why this is an issue. Let’s say a young lady is getting ready to a party and sees a story on the news or online about heroin.  In the story the users look like they haven’t taken a bath in a month, the room they are using in is in an abandoned home and things look pretty dire. The young woman, of course, sees this and takes a mental note. If we are lucky right?

When she gets to the party and has had a few drinks she gets offered heroin. The person offering it is a clean cut, handsome guy that has a nice home. Her mind will go back to that News story but in front of her is walking, talking, breathing, proof, that those things don’t happen to everyone. Those people don’t know when to stop, but he does…what can’t she?

This is a perfect example of how teenagers and young adults take that first step into heroin addiction.

Our News organizations need to do a better job of reporting on this epidemic instead of fanning the flames of the already deadly stigma that comes with heroin addiction.

Holy Addiction and Heroin Bulletin are asking everyone that reads this article to reach out to your favorite News stations and speak up. Tell them that it is wrong to use needles and dirty spoons in every News story.   Tell them that heroin doesn’t discriminate but with the photos of only dirty spoons and people that portray only the depths addiction can take you they are doing the public a disservice.  Those who will be mislead the most are our children.

There should be photos of silver spoons and well-dressed people in these photos because when that young lady gets offered heroin for the first time, she needs to be able to recognize that misery isn’t always dirty. Sometimes it comes in familiar settings and could be offered by beautiful people.

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