Archive for January, 2010

Moving On

Posted on January 30, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , |

I just learned that Hayley has moved.  She was living in a ‘decent’ house with two brothers, whom, I believe, were cocaine dealers.  I’ve driven by the house.  It was neat, well kept, with a nice RV in the driveway. However, all the windows were heavily curtained during the day, as well as at night – which is one indicator of something ‘fishy’ going on inside.

My ‘contact’ for Hayley, Eric, has been in jail for a couple of months – so recently, I’ve had no reliable source as to Hayley’s true whereabouts.  Eric is now out of jail, and is going to and leading AA and NA meetings.  He says he’s doing well – or, at least a lot better than he was.  He called me yesterday to report that he had heard that Hayley has relocated.   She’s now living with an ‘older’ guy, who must be at least 60 yo, says Eric.  Sh*t – – – I wonder what that means?  My head is going in a million directions analyzing this bit of news. Eric said that he knows the general location of the house, but puts himself at risk by visiting Hayley and subjecting himself, once again, to the drug world/arena.  But, he said, he would try to find out more info about Hayley’s current living situation.

This recent news of Hayley moving has really underscored the impossible logistics of doing a family intervention with her.  We just can’t be sure of where she is, how to reach her, and getting her to a location for an intervention.  As an alternative, we’ll probably all try to write Hayley individual letters and see if Eric can deliver them. The intent of these letters will be to merely make contact with Hayley, remind her that we love her, and then – – – each of us will say what we feel we need to say to her.

If I were to write a letter now, I think it would be very different than what I would have written a week or a month ago.  Today, I would tell her that she is my teacher . . . that I am learning things about myself and those ‘in the margins’, that I would never have considered were it not for her heroin addiction.  And even though I posted the  Tips for 2010 – Things I’ve Learned But Would Rather Not Know , and it’s all true, I am sincere when I say that my daughter’s disease has enabled me to discover and develop new compassion and understanding for people that I had previously made stereotypical assumptions about and/or judged harshly.

And the following excerpt from a post by a recovering ‘functional’ heroin addict and freelance writer, Laura Lang, is an example of the lifelong struggle addicts face.

I encourage you to visit Laura Lang’s site and read the entire post:

I wish I could videotape myself writing this because I am shaking. It’s been two years since I last did heroin, but I know if someone were to walk in with works and a bag, I would have that needle in my arm before you could say HIV. I miss it. Sometimes I wonder how I have gone this long without even dosing once. And I look forward to a time when I can dose again. I even know when that day is, and I am counting down. It’s not until April though, so I have a while to wait. You might ask, “Why would you quit for two years only to take another shot?”

Well the answer is obvious. I miss heroin. I miss the routine. I miss waking up everyday and knowing exactly what I need to do that day. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it until just now. Just now while trying to put into words what I think about when I think about H. Besides, you don’t get addicted in one shot. I figure since I haven’t had one for two years I can have a couple, and be ok. But that’s a saga for another day. Actually I’m pretty interested to find out what it feels like after all this time. I’ll probably puke my guts out.

I’m not going to pretend that heroin is okay — most people who develop a real addiction to heroin never quit. I don’t know the exact statistic, but I know this previous statement is true. I am lucky to have been born with the willpower I have, and as stated previously, I only know of one other functional addict. I’m lucky to remember what I wanted before heroin. And what I want from life is much bigger and better than one small moment of heroin bullshit. But that one small moment of bullshit is something that I can’t get out of my head. 

As difficult as this is to read, somehow, I understand it.

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The Family Intervention Debate

Posted on January 26, 2010. Filed under: Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , |

Here’s some feedback from family members on the option of an intervention with Hayley.  (see my previous post, “Intervention vs AlAnon”)  My thoughts regarding an intervention were that the goal would be to come together as a family, express our love and concern for Hayley, and ‘break the ice’ in terms of diffusing her shame and reticence in communicating with us.  We just want to hear from her once in a while to know she’s alive and relatively ‘OK’.  And, if we can somehow give Hayley a reason to want to point herself towards recovery, then great.  At this stage in our family’s story, we would most likely not present Hayley with an ultimatum for treatment.  The general consensus is that she needs to initiate this step herself.

The logistics and reality of planning an intervention still seem impossible.  Two key family members would be flying in from California, and one from Seattle.  Scheduling this in terms of work and family is a major commitment.  Yet, Hayley doesn’t have a phone, and any communication with her is dependent on messages being transmitted via third party.  And then, if we actually do make contact with her, there is no guarantee that she would reliably show up for any kind of meeting.  In fact, past history has shown that she is paranoid and frequently changes meeting times/places at the last minute.  It’s all dependent on her ‘drug’ schedule and transportation arrangements, which are often ‘iffy’.

This from Brian, Hayley’s younger brother:

I don’t think any of us really know exactly what it will take for Hayley to seek treatment.  But I believe strongly that we must be willing to do all that we can to support her.

I think we should move forward with an intervention.  There are only a handful of things we haven’t tried which I feel may have some chance (however slight) of success, and I want to make sure we try them all.

The final decision needs to be Hayley’s, but there’s no chance for her success without all of our continued love and support.  In my mind, an intervention is the strongest articulation of this support.

I don’t think that Hayley can tolerate phone contact because of the shame associated with her addiction.  The less contact she has with us, the more her addiction / current state festers as this sort of shameful secret that she’s uncomfortable sharing.  My sense is that an intervention may help open the lines of communication by putting everything on the table.

We would all need to make sacrifices to make this happen (making phone calls, getting time off, plane tickets, the discomfort of the actual intervention) but what if it did make a difference for Hayley?  What if she did decide to go into treatment immediately, or a year later, or five due in part to the exchange?

Ultimately, I don’t think we have a lot to lose.

So, in my mind, the only real question is timing, as Jaclyn mentioned.  I don’t think there will be a “good” time.  So my general preference is the sooner the better.

It seems like next steps would be:
1) Dad to decide whether he would participate in the intervention and send out possible dates that work with his schedule
2) Mom to continue investigating what it would mean to actually execute the intervention and identify what preparations would be necessary

I love you all very much and feel blessed you have you in my life.  Talk soon.

This from Brad, Hayley’s dad:

Peggy, I think that the logistics of doing an intervention, whether it is to tell her how much we care about her or to try to coerce her into treatment, are daunting. If you add the possibility that she wouldn’t show up or that she would feel threatened by the whole thing causes me to reject this idea. I think that part of what we would try to accomplish by the intervention could be done by letters and pictures from each of us that could be delivered by Jill (Brad’s wife). If Hayely doesn’t show up for the meeting we could figure out another way to get her the letters. The letters would remind her how much we care about her and how this is affecting us all, and I don’t think that it would be too difficult to do. Having had Hayley leave the detox. program one day before she was to go into rehab on our last try at this makes me unwilling to support anything that is not initiated by Hayley on her own accord.

This from Judy, Brad’s sister, Hayley’s aunt, and a professional family therapist in California:
Hello all, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to imagining what it would look like and feel like for Hayley to be forced into a meeting with her family to hear how much we love her and care about her when she can hardly tolerate the most minimal phone contact periodically. My image might be completely wrong but what I picture is her bolting almost immediately and running out of the room. I think it would be extremely overwhelming for her. If the intention of the intervention is not to get her into treatment but to share our ,concern then I fear that this large group setting, even if it is her family would not sit well with her. There may or may not be a desire for the family to share feelings together but I think it would increase H’s defensiveness…..fight or flight! Although I understand the feelings behind trying to ” give her some ideas of how/where to start” unfortunately, I don’t see any alternative to detoxing and then directly into treatment. So I don’t see the point of the intervention if it is not to have all that set for her to proceed. Having said that, I realize that she has given no indication of interest in treatment at this time, in fact, she is feeling particularly stable ….”new puppy, people she lives with care about her, using less heroin, clean house:, etc She also seems to have access to her drugs. I don’t think the timing is right. From things she has said at different times on the phone it seems she knows the family cares about her but she can’t imagine getting through her eating disorder and addiction and all the other problems she would have to face…a kind of lack of courage and faith that she has the strength to face all those obstacles. I guess the simple response is that I don’t think an intervention is indicated at this time. I am interested to see whether Hayley sees Jill when she is in Y***** as she had mentioned on the phone……. That would be a very good sign that she is wanting more contact and see where that takes us in thinking.
I’m reminded once again of how painful it is to accept that we have so little leverage (as Peggy said) to motivate Hayely right now.
Take care all. With much love,  Judy

To blog viewers, thanks for slogging through all of this.  I welcome your input regarding a potential intervention with Hayley and urge you to read the great comments from readers in response to my post, “Intervention vs AlAnon”.

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Visit These Sites

Posted on January 25, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support |

I’ve been on overload for the past week, and haven’t had much time to write.  And so, in the meantime, I recommend visiting this site for good info, book reviews, and recent posts on insurance coverage regarding addiction:   http://dadonfire.net/

Also, check out the Recovery Help Desk.  Tom, a professional addiction counselor, is a  passionate advocate for the dignity and compassion that drug addicts often don’t get, yet deserve.  His provocative posts always cause me to stop and examine my own biases and consider new ideas and perspectives regarding the treatment of drug addicts  in our society.

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Al-Anon vs Intervention

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Here’s an interesting article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis in today’s The Daily Beast:  “How Alcoholics Anonymous Gets It Wrong” Most experts say you can’t change the people you love who are addicts, but Brad Lamm’s controversial book, How to Change Someone You Love: Four Steps to Help You Help Them, says intervention is the key. Denizet-Lewis takes a close look at the book and talks with the author.

You’re going to piss off a lot of people in 12-step circles with this book, says Lewis in an interview with the author.

“I know”, says Lamm.  “(But) if someone we care about is self-destructing, we are not acting with love if we don’t intervene. And I realize that the title of my book will be controversial. But if you boil down the work that I do with families, I help them change their loved ones.”

I encourage you to read this article, and then the comments that follow. The comments from readers are powerful and very convincing.  However, they made me very uncomfortable.

This article was very conflicting for me.  Ever since we learned that Hayley was smoking crack last June, living in a crack house, then ‘graduating’ to heroin, her younger brother, Brian, has been adamant about doing a family intervention.  However, the logistics of an intervention seemed impossible to me and overwhelming when she was living in the crack house.  How would we contact her, get her to reliably show up somewhere for an intervention, then get her to treatment?  She was suspicious of us – ashamed, and didn’t really want to be rescued. We barely had contact with her.  On top of all that, I was diligently following Al-Anon and my therapist’s advice, that Hayley had to be in charge of and initiate her own recovery if it were to be authentic.

I have learned that it can take up to two weeks to actually get an addict in to treatment, due to a variety of barriers.  It’s not necessarily a smooth, linear process, as shown on TV.  Once the intervention occurs, there are prerequisites before going to treatment:  the required TB testing/reading period (3 days), likely antibiotic treatment for abscesses, getting the addict in to a detox facility (3 – 7 days), then finding an available bed at a treatment center, transportation, admission interviews, etc.  And, the addict needs to be somewhere during this waiting period, out of their ‘using’ environment. All of these factors work against an addict’s desire or intention for recovery.  They chip away at their tenuous decision to seek treatment and capability to follow through with all that’s required.

Basically, I don’t know if I could have my daughter here with me, at home, while she was waiting to get in to treatment.  We tried it twice last summer, and it didn’t work.  Hayley just could not make it through the 3 – 5 days it took to get in to treatment.  She needed/wanted to use and left my house two times.  As she was leaving the second time, I told her that if she left, she couldn’t come back.  I had no control and felt totally powerless over her disease.  Since I’m the only family member in town, Hayley would have to come to my house after an intervention. What it boils down to is, I’m terrified of and intimidated by my own daughter.  If she were here with me, I’d feel I couldn’t leave her alone, couldn’t trust her, would be worried that I was saying/doing something that would trigger her – in essence, ruin the whole intervention attempt.   I’m just not sure I could do it – be strong enough to adequately monitor my addict daughter for a few days in order to get her in to treatment.  Yes, she should be a willing participant and want treatment badly enough to follow the “rules” – but, I’m not sure she could – or would.  She never has – not prior to being a heroin addict, let alone now, as an active addict.

And, it’s not as if Hayley is in denial about her addiction.  However, Brian’s point was that she needed to see us all come together and profess our love for her, and tell her what she means to us – so she would have a reason to want to get clean/sober.  And, we, as a broken family, may need to come together to unify, express our love and concern for not only Hayley, but for one another.

It is true – – – I don’t think Hayley thinks or feels she has anything or anybody to recover for.  So, the looming question is – – – should we try an intervention?  I’m not sure her father would participate, though if we insisted, he probably would.  It’s just so difficult to get everybody together.  Brad and Brian would have to get time off from work and fly several thousand miles from California.  Jake isn’t as far away, but is out of the country a lot on business, and has a young family.  All the planning would be up to me – – – and, then, what if we couldn’t actually get Hayley to show up for the intervention?  As you can tell, I get overwhelmed with the logistics and details of an intervention.  I’m a bit of a wreck just thinking about it.

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Safety First

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , |

If you haven’t yet visited the “recoveryhelpdesk” blog site, I suggest you give it a look.  Tom’s regular posts there have provoked me to view drug addicts from a modified perspective:  with more dignity, respect, and compassion.

The article below, Focus on Safety makes more sense to me now, after futilely trying to get my heroin addict daughter in to recovery mode for the past 8 months.  However, since I don’t have regular/reliable contact with her now, I’m wondering how I can convey this message to her – that her safety is the ultimate goal?  At this point, her personal health is my biggest concern and minimizing her risk for infection and unintended pregnancy.  I know I can easily slip in to the rescue mode here.  But who else is ‘out there’ educating drug addicts about harm reduction?  It doesn’t seem to be a part of our community education/outreach programs. 

Healthy Steps: Focus on Safety

by recoveryhelpdesk on January 3, 2010

“Whether or not you use today, your focus should be on safety.”

For most people, recovery means abstinence from the use of alcohol or other drugs. I think this is true of most drug treatment providers.  And I think it is true of most family members and friends of people who have a history of opiate use.  It is even true of most people who are currently using, or who consider themselves to be in recovery.

As a result, the focus of recovery is on not using.  The measure of recovery success becomes whether or not a person uses.  And time itself becomes measured in days sober.  Had a relapse?  Reset the recovery clock back to zero!

But shouldn’t our real focus be on safety?

Think of what it would be like to say to someone you care about, “whether or not you use today, our focus should be on safety.”

How would that feel?  What would that mean?

Focus is a powerful thing.  That one change in focus has great transformational power. For the person in recovery, changing the focus of recovery from use/non-use to safety has the power to transform their relationship with recovery.  For family and friends, it has the power to transform their relationship with the person they love.  For doctors, counselors, probation officers and other professionals, it has the power to transform and improve their life’s work.  Even more, the change to a focus on safety has the power to save lives.

Take a look at the traditional ways we talk about the focus of recovery:

Traditional Focus of Recovery

sobriety/relapse

abstinence/non-abstinence

use/non-use

dirty/clean

Now consider a new focus:

New and Improved Focus of Recovery

safety

sustainability

It’s not that abstinence is not a worthwhile goal.  It’s just that abstinence is really only a means to an end: safety from harm.

All too often, in focusing on the means (abstinence), we lose sight of the ends (safety from harm).  It’s a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.  And the sad truth is that devastating harm often results.

“Abstinence is really only the means to an end: safety from harm.”

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Puppy Love

Posted on January 13, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , |

I heard, indirectly, from Hayley.  It was not in response to the letter I sent her last week – I don’t believe she ever received it.  Actually, I’m not sure.

As you know, I’ve been very concerned about not being able to reach Hayley since Thanksgiving.  And when her younger brother tried texting and phoning the 3 contact #s we had for her, with no luck over Christmas, we became very distressed.  A couple of weeks ago, I heard from Jill, my ex-husband’s wife, that she had received a text from Hayley asking for her brothers’ phone #s.  That meant that Hayley no longer had her phone.  I called Jill last night (who lives a couple of thousand miles away) and asked her when Hayley texted her and from what #?  Apparently Hayley had sent the text the day after Xmas from a number I didn’t recognize.  I asked Jill to text Hayley and see if she responded.  Amazingly, Hayley did respond by calling Jill last night, around 10:00 pm.  Hayley said she was fine, living in a safe place with people who cared for her and had a new puppy.  Jill said it seemed her speech was slurred at times, that Hayley cried about missing her family, but just couldn’t face talking to any of us.  Her shame was, obviously, a huge barrier.  She told Jill she was still using heroin, but not as much, and that ‘using’ helped her manage her eating disorder – that stopping the drug use, like the eating disorder, was impossibly difficult and beyond her capability – or, desire.

I am, of course, greatly relieved that Hayley is alive, and apparently ‘safe’.  And after a lot of thought, my paradigm has shifted.  My “hope” now is not for Hayley’s recovery, but simply for her to be alive and relatively safe.  It appears that she has made some sort of life for herself.  For most of her adulthood, Hayley has struggled to manage, connect, function at a ‘normal’/acceptable level.  She never could really make it work for herself.  And now, she has found a way to ‘live’, and cope and be. I don’t like pushing the limits of my ‘hope’, but I do wish that Hayley is able to give and receive some level of joy, compassion, experience goodness and beauty and, dare I say, Happiness?  And, who am I to say how some one else needs to live or what they should do?  Yeah, we all agree that as long as you aren’t harming someone else, there’s a range of behavior and lifestyle choices that are ok. But the “ok” is definitely premised on my own life experiences and perspective on the world.

I try not to dwell on the liklihood of criminal activity necessary to support a drug habit – or how opiate addicts support Afghani terrorist activities by filling the demand for poppy crops.  I drive an SUV, playing my own part in America’s oil dependency and consumption, which most likely contributes to the instability and scramble for power and influence in the Mid East, which ultimately drives terrorist activity.  ARGHHH . . . stop!  My guilt complex is taking over!

Nevertheless, for now, I am comforted by the fact that Hayley is alive – and feels like she belongs somewhere – and perhaps, is giving and receiving love from a sweet, innocent puppy.

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Puss-y Stuff

Posted on January 11, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , |

Last summer, when my daughter and I met to talk, soon after her ‘graduation’ to heroin use, she wore long sleeves with one arm wrapped in an ace bandage. “I have an abscess”, she announced, almost proudly.  “Wanna see it?”, she asked, as if it were a badge of honor.  No, I didn’t want to see it.  Why would I?

“’We know what to do”, she continued. “We use milk and . . . “  At this point, my microbiology and public health professional background kicked in and I didn’t really listen to what she was saying. My head was reeling and I was silently screaming,  “Are you fucking serious”?

Recently, however, as I recalled that conversation, I was curious about junkies’ home remedy for the treatment of abscesses.  When I tried to Google a reference to this, I landed on the following article about addicts’ compromised medical treatment in ERs and in medical facilities.  I think it’s worth reading.  Needless to say, my opinion of and perspective on addicts’ access to and quality of health care has drastically changed.  Read the full story about Dr. Neill Flynn and his inspiring work to give drug addicts the medical treatment they need and deserve.

The doctor
The 30-year-old, 45-foot RV manufactured by a short-lived Southern California company called King’s Highway sometimes smells like it’s overheating. The sun-worn white exterior screams for a paint job; you can tell someone else thought so, because it’s partially sanded down as if in preparation for bodywork. An old cartoon-character dog logo of some sort is still partly visible toward its rear. A water hose runs from a nearby building into the RV to supply the faucets inside, and water leaks through the frame of the RV, leaving a muddy puddle underneath. Inside, the RV is outfitted with two medical-exam rooms–one at the front, behind the driver’s seat, and another toward the rear–and a workstation in between, all with low, mustard-yellow ceilings and faux-wood-paneled walls.

Peter Simpson, who runs the nonprofit Harm Reduction Services (HRS) office down in Oak Park, right there on 40th Street at 12th Avenue, found this thing at a Sacramento County auction a couple of years back. He put all $2,800 on it–everything HRS had in the bank at the time–but worried he’d be outbid, so he called the good Dr. Neil Flynn, who kicked in another grand, winning the RV.  Flynn is the man who started this medical clinic–the Joan Viteri Memorial Clinic–that targets Sacramento’s injection-drug users, those people in the community who are high in risk but low in medical-insurance coverage.

During an annual lecture to medical students over at the UC Davis School of Medicine–one of Flynn’s speeches where he talks about how drug addicts are abused in this country and in which he calls them “America’s untermenchen”– a student suggested someone go find those drug users and street workers and deliver medical treatment to them, old-fashioned house-call-style medical outreach.

Flynn, 57, works in the infectious-diseases department of UC Davis’ Medical Center in Sacramento, with AIDS mostly, conducting research and doing drug studies and vaccine trials. For nearly 20 years, he says, he has studied how to bring compassionate medical care to drug addicts. So, this student’s idea fit right in with his philosophy, which is this: Drug-prevention money is doled out backward. Eighty percent of all government funds to combat illegal drug use go toward law enforcement, he says; the remaining 20 percent to medical treatment.

“The paradigm is almost 180 degrees from where it should be,” Flynn said. “Punishing the behavior is almost the antithesis of what there needs to be.”

Doctors need to start viewing drug users as addicts, not as criminals, he says. “We, of all people, should know that addiction is not something people have control over or can be considered self-inflicted,” Flynn said. If doctors can’t get that straight, how can law enforcement and the rest of society be expected to?

But he acknowledges that bias against drug addicts was packed into his medical schooling.

The abscess has gotten smaller, UC Davis medical student Tina Oliver, left, tells Dr. Neil Flynn, right, describing what she’s learned from her visit with a patient named Denise.

PHOTO BY LARRY DALTON

“I was taught … that these are scumbags–criminals who prey on other people and that they don’t care about anybody but themselves,” said Flynn, 47. However, “when I talked to these people, they were not as we represented them in our practice and teaching.”

In 2000, the first year of the Viteri clinic, volunteer medical students from UC Davis conducted 1,000 patient visits. The clinic closed for two years and reopened in 2003 as one of six school-sponsored volunteer clinics. Neither the students nor the supervising doctor are paid for their work.

For the first time this year, the clinic went mobile, rolling to West Sacramento to reach people there. Next month, the RV will travel to North Highlands. Organizers want to reach those in Del Paso Heights and other areas. Ten to 15 patients are seen at the clinic each Saturday afternoon. Flynn said that with approximately 14,000 daily injection-drug users in Sacramento, there is enough need that the clinic could be busy a second day of the week, or for a second RV in another location.

Reaching more of the often-neglected population could save taxpayers even more money, according to Flynn and HRS. When drug injectors without medical insurance are seen at the county’s taxpayer-funded UC Davis Medical Center emergency room, the hospital eats the cost. Just to break even, the hospital spends $1,000-$1,500 for a routine visit, Flynn estimates. The Viteri clinic can provide the same service for about $200, he said.

In three years of the clinic, Flynn said, “we have seen enough successes that we know we’re on the right path.”

The namesake
In March 1997, Joan Viteri was a bright, passionate 32-year-old woman. She was happily married and holding down a full-time job. She loved riding horses and displaying her “wonderfully wry” sense of humor, according to her cousin, Rachel Anderson. “She had a heart as big as all outdoors,” Anderson said.

Viteri was also a heroin user. And she developed an abscess.

“She’d been a drug user for years, had abscesses, and been to ERs and been treated like crap,” Anderson said.

Anderson, who works trying to prevent the spread of HIV among Sacramento’s injection-drug users, said emergency-room doctors too often judge them for their behavior and treat them accordingly. The stories make their way throughout drug communities–doctors who don’t want to treat drug users at all; doctors who refuse to use topical anesthetics before cutting into an abscess; doctors who cut liberally, leaving large scars.

“It’s like they’re saying, ‘If this is hard enough, hurts enough, or disgusting enough, maybe you’ll stop doing this to yourself,’” Anderson said. “Or it’s just strictly done as a form of punishment.”

And so Viteri didn’t go to the hospital, even though she knew her wound was bad enough to need treatment. Her husband couldn’t convince her to go, so, four days after Viteri first noticed the abscess, he called Anderson.  “I sat with her for hours until I finally got her to go in,” Anderson said. Turns out Viteri had contracted flesh-eating bacteria–necrotizing fasciitis.

She went into surgery to have her arm and a big chunk of her shoulder cut away, said Flynn, who cared for Viteri during her short hospital stay. During a second surgery to remove more bacteria, Viteri died.

“Her body couldn’t take it,” Anderson said. “It’s almost like somebody dying of measles today. It was a preventable death.”

Flynn said Viteri–a productive young woman “well on her way to giving up heroin”–perfectly illustrates what he is fighting against.

Anderson agreed, explaining why she and Flynn thought to name the clinic after Viteri: “I don’t care what your stance on the drug war is. I will argue to the day I die that she did not deserve to die, at age 32, for being a drug user.”

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Tips for 2010 – Things I’ve Learned But Would Rather Not Know

Posted on January 9, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Things I’ve Learned But Would Rather Not Know:

•you need a land-line phone to receive collect calls from the jail.

• how to check the jail inmate population online.

• hydrocodone and oxycontin prescription pills are opiates and are often precursors to cocaine, crack, and heroin use. They can be used as a temporary ‘fix’ for coke/heroin addicts.

•Hardcore drug addicts will often enter detox and a 28 day drug treatment program just to heal up their injection site abscesses and lower their drug tolerance levels, resulting in their ability to better afford their drug habit when they get out.

•In order to conceal the phone number you’re calling from, dial *67 first.  This blocks the number you’re calling from.  Most drug  addicts know this trick.  If and when I feel compelled to call one of the phone #s at my daughter’s crack house, I will dial *67 first to protect my anonymity.

•Medical detox facilities and treatment centers will not accept patients who have any ‘open’ wounds due to the risk of MRSA.  MRSA infection is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — often called “staph.” MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It’s a strain of staph that’s resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it and can be fatal.

•before drug addicts can enter a treatment/rehab center, they must first be tested for tuberculosis.  The administration and reading of this TB test (a skin test) pose significant barriers to getting the addict in to treatment. The drug addict not only has to be willing and able to get themselves to a health facility for the TB test, but also needs to be able to return to that same clinic for the TB test to be read/interpreted, within a narrow window of time.  Twice, my daughter was unable to get herself back to the clinic to get her TB test read, within the prescribed window of ‘opportunity’. Both times, the bed reserved and waiting for her at the treatment facility, was ‘let go’, because the TB test had not been successfully completed.  Injecting drug use is a major route of TB transmission in most of the world.

The intradermal Mantoux TB test technique is a skin test that must be administered and read after 48 hours.  The addict must then be admitted to the treatment facility within the next 24 hours. This 24 hour window for admission can be a problem, as well as getting the TB test read on time (after 48 hours).  The timing is tricky – a bed may not be available at the treatment facility during the 24 hour TB window for admission.  And it’s difficult to get the addict to comply with these strict timetables. My daughter slept through 2 TB test readings – and had to have a 3rd TB test which only complied with public health criteria because I was able to closely monitor the reading and medical detox admission schedule.  No addict would be able to manage and coordinate this on their own, in my opinion.

•A large amount of white powder in a zip lock bag isn’t necessarily cocaine – but is more likely baking soda used to ‘cut’ cocaine. Baking soda is a base used in preparation of crack cocaine.

heroin withdrawal does not require a medical detox.  Although opiate withdrawal can be very unpleasant, painful, and difficult, the process is seldom fatal;  withdrawing from alcohol is more dangerous and requires medical supervision.  Heroin withdrawal symptoms include: drug cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and other symptoms that usually last about a week, but may last for many months. More info on heroin withdrawal.

•I realize now that my daughter’s carefully guarded purse, at all times, was a suspicious sign of drug use.  And taking her purse in to the bathroom with her was definitely not normal behavior.  And, odd cell phone use/calls – constantly running out of minutes, losing track of her phone, car keys – everything – weren’t just ‘kooky’ personality traits.

•bic lighters and bits of crumbled foil should be considered suspicious and most likely relate to crack cocaine/heroin use.

•nasal spray containers can be a flag for inhaled heroin use.  Before a drug addict resorts to IV heroin use, they often dissolve heroin in saline and inhale it.

•my daughter was always in financial crises due to drug costs. Her power, water, and TV cable were being turned off regularly; she took out ‘PayDay” loans, pawned jewelry/electronics, was overdrawn in her bank accounts, received a constant barrage of collection agency/creditor letters, etc.  Because she lived on her own in an apartment, I didn’t discover evidence of all of this until she was ultimately evicted from her apartment. In the process of trying to retrieve important, personal family artifacts from her apartment and dispose of her things, I discovered the drawer w/ 4 years of unopened mail. My daughter was, by then, living in a ‘crack house’.

dirty fingernails and poor hygiene (click to read my post regarding this) are suspicious clues to drug use/abuse.

Physical Signs/Symptoms

Because the strength of heroin varies and its impact is more unpredictable when used with alcohol or other drugs, the user never knows what might happen with the next dose. Know the Signs. How can you tell if a friend is using heroin? Signs and symptoms of heroin use are:

  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Slowed down respiration
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea

Signs of a heroin overdose include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Convulsions

I can’t believe what I now know and how I learned it.  Look for updates to this list, and I invite you to submit your own “tips”.

These signs/”tips” just in from viewers:

•missing spoons, ball point pens (the type you can take apart and use as a “straw”), tinfoil. My son kept very weird hours and his car kept getting dings and scrapes.

•”I found straws at my daughters apartment – assumed she liked to drink from them; tinfoil balls – didn’t give them a second thought. And every time I pulled a pen out of purse to write she’d say, “Can I have that?” Assumed she lost a lot of pens.”

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Letter to Hayley

Posted on January 7, 2010. Filed under: Addiction Resources/Support, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , |

Thanks for all your comments regarding my last post.  As a result, I thought I would post the letter I just sent off to Hayley today.  I probably should have run this letter past a few close friends and family members to get some input on my ‘tone’.  I’m not always a good judge of that.  I sent a copy of this letter off to Brian for comment, but hadn’t heard back from him and was feeling some urgency in getting the letter in the mail.  So, here it is.

Dear Hayley,

Just a quick note to make contact.  Brian tried to reach you during the last 2 weeks with no success.  He texted your phone and the 2 phone #s of your ‘roomies’.  He also tried to call you a couple of nights ago and someone answered one of the phone #s.  The guy sounded ‘out of it’ and said you were unavailable.  Naturally, we are concerned, and want to know that you’re alive and capable of responding.

Please know that I/we have not given up on you.  We love you and hope and pray for you every minute of every day.  Don’t give up on yourself.  Try to love yourself enough to believe that you have something of value to give to the world and that you can have a better life than what you’re living now.  It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past.  Let it go.  Start from today.

In case you have lost your phone, here is Mike XXXX’s phone # at Dependency Health Services.  He will talk with you confidentially and help you, if you want help.  248-xxxx.  Just talking with Mike can’t hurt – you don’t have to commit to anything.

Hayley – I need to know that you’re alive.  Please text or phone me.  I’d rather not get the police involved, if possible.  But, if you don’t respond, I’ll wonder if you’re in need of medical attention, or even alive.

You are loved, in spite of what you’ve done or have not done.  There is hope.  I hear stories every day of miraculous recoveries.  I believe in you – I will always be your mom.

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Cape-ability

Posted on January 6, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: |

I’m trying not to panic, but having trouble keeping things in perspective.  My intuition tells me that I need to intervene.  This comes in direct response to Brian’s inability to reach Hayley. I wonder if it’s time to don my cape and whirl in to action? Is it time for  desperate measures?

Brian, my 25 yo son, was home for 2 ½ weeks over the holidays.  During that time, he tried texting his sister, but received no response.  He sent the text to the 3 different #s we have for her.  We’re pretty sure that she’s lost her phone – or, at least, it’s not working.  She had given us her ‘roomies’ phone #s, to which he also sent the text.  On his last night home, Brian decided to try to call Hayley.  He was convinced that she needed to know that we/he had not given up on her, so that she would not give up on herself.  He tried the first 2 phone #s with no success.  The last # he tried was answered by a guy that sounded strange and ‘out of it’.  Brian asked if he could speak to Hayley, and the guy said she was “unavailable”, then hung up.  This was very upsetting.

It just occurred to me, in a very real way, that I may never see my daughter again. A deep ache welled up in the bottom of my throat and chest at this revelation.  I’m not as detached as I thought I was.  Even though I haven’t heard from Hayley since November 26th, I’ve always believed that I could get in touch with her if I wanted/needed to.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I know that Christmas must have been very difficult for her.  Does that mean that she used more to numb herself – – – and is now so juiced up that she can’t even function?  And, of course, I go crazy contemplating how Hayley is ‘earning her keep’ and getting her drugs.  Truly, I can make myself sick to my stomach ruminating about her sordid lifestyle.

I’m seriously considering a few possibilities:

  1. calling the phone # that I know works, and demand to speak to my daughter.  I need to know if she’s alive – and can talk.
  2. Write/send a letter to Hayley, telling her that I have not given up on her and not to give up on herself – that I want her to love herself enough to imagine a different life for herself – – – and that she is of value to the world. (I do now have an address of where Hayley is purportedly living)
  3. Go to the house where she’s living, and try to see Hayley.
  4. Call the police and have Hayley arrested.
  5. Hire 2 “goons” to storm the house where Hayley is and ‘kidnap’ her.

Each of these options has serious drawbacks and risks.  And almost all of them end with the phrase, “And then what?”  I know I can’t bring her here to my house.  And orchestrating a detox and treatment program didn’t work in August, so I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work now.  Or would it?  Is Hayley so incapacitated that she simply can’t take any steps herself towards changing her situation?  Or, does she just not want to?  Do I/we need to remind her that we love her and she has a life worth living outside of the drug world?  Right now, I’m feeling that she has given up and thinks that we have given up on her.  Guilt and anxiety, once again, are moving me towards some kind of action.

I guess that writing a letter to Hayley would be the safest option right now, although there is the possibility that she won’t actually receive or read it.  But, I’ve got to do something.  So, a short, simple letter is what it will be.

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