What is rock bottom and why do families wait to intervene?

Rock Bottom
How does one determine what their rock bottom is? A few weeks ago I was preparing a family for an intervention for their addicted daughter and the mother asked me a very common question, if my family did an intervention to get me to accept treatment. I answered “yes” as was the case and she followed with the next question, “When was it that you hit rock bottom?”. I thought about it for a second, recalled the moment and answered her question honestly by saying “about a couple of weeks into my program”. She was clearly confused by my answer so I had to clarify my answer. In my mind, what I was answering was “When did I really realize that I was at rock bottom and then decide that I had to make changes?”. When did it really hit me? I remember the moment. I finally broke down and realized where I was and what I had amounted to. I heard and felt the extreme disgust and disappointment in the voices of my wife and parents on the phone. I had no friends left, no job and literally no possessions. That was the moment that I broke down and FELT THE BOTTOM. I was on my own and had to do something about it all. My back was finally against the wall and this time I had nothing clever to say or to do to get out of it.

Of course, that mother was asking this particular question because she was looking for hope that she was doing the right thing and that the intervention would help her daughter realize that she was at rock bottom and therefore be receptive to help, just like it happened for me. She was looking to validate the very difficult decision to intervene on her child and praying that she was doing the right thing. The guilt was overwhelming for her.

This mom like so many others could have intervened at least a year before she did and gotten her child help back then with just as much ease as we did a month ago. The signs were all there. The girl had been arrested, lost all of her good friends, acquired a new group of horrible and addicted “friends”, she was at risk of losing her job, you name it. Her life had been falling apart for a long while before this family finally decided to intervene. Her child was not only addicted to drugs; she was disconnected from her family and falling further away from the reality of life more and more every day into a black hole of hopelessness.

The problem was that they as a family tried everything they could think of to tackle the addiction but kept getting resistance. Resistance is typical and expected. To come out of addiction and face the world without drugs is a very scary thing for anyone in that position. So when the family tried everything, they started to give up and stood back to give her space to figure it out. Then they would press on her again without a plan of action just to press because the addiction was consuming their lives more and more. They became inpatient and angry with her and became desperate because nothing they tried had worked. Desperation brought more friction and less effective communication, thereby making matters worse. Finally someone at a treatment center recommended an intervention and the rest is history. She is actively doing her program and doing very well. And the communication with her family has improved tremendously. She has a long way to go to get it all right again, but she is more confident and much more able to do it now.

Rock bottom is all about perception. The addict doesn’t see rock bottom as the end. They see it as a new challenge that has to be overcome, just another crappy day falling apart as usual, just a little worse each day. The addict doesn’t see what you see on the outside looking in. You see life becoming more unmanageable and out of control by the second and somewhere in your gut, you know they need help. The problem lies in that perception because addicts are unbelievably and inevitably notorious for convincing others and themselves that everything is going to be ok. Everything is NOT OK! Most addicts are surviving at rock bottom much longer than families and friends are aware of. Most have a closet full of secrets that families have no clue about until they finally go to treatment and need help sorting it out. Things have been falling apart much longer than most people realize but with a timely smile, a few convincing words, maybe an angry outburst or defensive comment that you’re too close to a sore spot, the addict learns how to repel all signs of potential attempts to “help” them. So you leave them alone, dance around the subject and stop pushing the issue and pray for them to wake up and finally ask for that help you so desperately want to give them.

People in general have the perception that something will have to happen to make their loved ones wake up or hit bottom hard enough to wake up and accept help. The majority of families I meet have normally waited for heavy consequences to hit their loved ones before calling a professional interventionist and arranging treatment. Or things have fallen apart so badly that it now has to be the right time because nobody can take anymore of the destruction and everyone is ganging up on the enabler to do something about it.

To expect someone under the full influence and control of drugs and/or alcohol to make a logical life changing decision, no matter what the circumstances is a mistake. Waiting for someone to just wake up one day and dive into recovery is asking the impossible for most. They need you to stop the madness and make the choices for them until they can prove to do it themselves. This is addiction! With enough support and firm stances behind them, they will wake up and have their own rock bottom to start over from. Without it, day one of recovery may not ever happen. Recovery is much more possible than most people know or believe but it takes 100% commitment from the addicted one and the supporting family and friends. Rock bottom to me was a blessing and it allowed me to finally see reality. My intervention was what saved my life because it gave me the abilities I never would have had.

Enabling and the Boundary Push

Have you ever experienced an addiction/enabling situation where the addict was so manipulative to the ones who love them that it was abusive? Can’t believe what you saw or heard? You might think, “how could people live this way or how can it get this bad?”. Usually anybody who knows that particular family, stays away from them or keeps them at arms length while criticizing how unimaginable it is to live that way. The thing that most don’t see is that the family wasn’t always that way. They didn’t always live like that. They live that way now because addiction took over. The rules and boundaries in that family were probably very solid and logical at one time but got pushed little by little over time and were never re-established.

When dealing with addiction of any kind, there is always at least one enabler, many times more. Usually the whole family winds up enablers to some degree which in turn strengthens the addiction more and more progressively over time making things worse and more dangerous. Over that time, boundaries get pushed further and further until literally there are none left and absolute chaos develops. These very bad situations are more common that people think. In fact, most families that we work with are in that very situation and can’t remember when it was any different than it is right now.

The Progression Of Enabling And Loss Of Boundaries

For example, the first time a parent found out their child was smoking pot. The parents go light on the child because they went through a “phase” and tried a few things when they were young. So they decide to handle it lightly and give a lecture. In the end, the child gets a slap on the wrist. Since it was just a slap on the wrist, peer pressure is so demanding, and the drugs make them feel good and accepted, the child decides to continue smoking pot and eventually after enough slaps on the wrist, why stop? There aren’t any real consequences other than getting a lecture or having something insignificant taken away from them. So now it becomes established and accepted that the child smokes pot because “they just won’t stop” and “what can we do?”. That boundary has been pushed away and the parents now say “just don’t bring it into the house”. Next it progresses and he or she smokes it in the house and gets that same lecture or gets yelled at again, like usual. Still there is no real reason to stop because nothing is really lost, no consequences. The child realizes over time that despite hearing a lecture here and there, there isn’t anything to stop them from doing what they want.

As we all know in addiction, one drug leads to another because the user reaches a plateau of getting high. Pot leads to more addictive drugs and with that comes the acceptance of the enabling family. As drugs become more harmful, so do the behaviors of addicts toward the enablers. Respect and love for the parents or spouses goes out the window and an addict becomes more volatile because the desperation for the drug becomes more than ever. Meanwhile, the enablers don’t stop loving them, they try to “help” them and wind up being the target for all anxieties and frustrations of the addict. It progresses terribly and it’s like the enabler gets stuck in a rip tide and taken out to sea somewhere, but on a life raft with the addict only, trapped.

How We Rebuild Boundaries And Remove Enabling

As interventionists coming into an addiction crisis to “get the addict or alcoholic into treatment”, our job is actually not just that. Our job is to educate families on how to pull away from their enabling behaviors built over time immediately and to confront their loved one about their addiction and offer them the gift of help. Literally the family that has been trained by the addict or alcoholic, has to change their behaviors and do whatever it takes to remove the unhealthy lifestyle and build new healthy boundaries so that the addiction can no longer be supported by those people. It’s quite remarkable sometimes how great families respond to the thought of hope in their lives once again and the idea that they can all have their lives back again. But as remarkable as it is, changing behaviors to help their loved one during an intervention led by a professional is just the beginning. It’s still a struggle for an enabler to let go of unhealthy behaviors, sometimes like pulling teeth but with persistence and patience, those enablers start to see that change is possible and that they don’t have to accept that lifestyle ever again.

Heroin containing insecticides found in Middlesex, New Jersey

Recently this month, NJ state police reported that heroin labeled under three different names was found to contain the chemical Carbaryl. Carbaryl is sold under the brand name “Sevin”, used for gardening and agricultural purposes to kill unwanted insects. It is advertised as moderately toxic to mammals but the thought of one of our loved ones snorting, smoking or injecting the chemical is a scary thought. Carbaryl is known to cause involuntary convulsions and nausea amongst many diarrhea and with heavy doses can cause blurred vision, sweating and loss of coordination.

The state police seized the laced heroin in Middlesex County and found the Carbaryl in three different branded names. For those who don’t know, heroin bags are typically stamped with some sort of logo, statement or both to attract new buyers and to designate which block it came from. This way the heroin user can find “comfort” knowing that a certain branded bag was of good quality or purer than another, of course prompting more sales for the dealers. The sickening thing is that this is just one of so many chemicals dealers will mix their drugs with and sell it to unknowing addicts. Normally we hear of Fentanyl being laced in the heroin to boost the potency and attract more users but this makes no sense in that regard. It shows the utter ignorance and lack of any human compassion in the dealers who sell this poison to people we love.

Middlesex County is just a short drive away from Paterson, Newark, Trenton and many other heroin infested areas of New Jersey. Where it came from and who laced it with this newest chemical mixture, who knows? Sadly no heroin addict ever knows what they are buying on the streets and the risk is always high. This is just another sickening display of what greed brings out in the world of addiction.



Heroin Addiction

Heroin abuse and heroin addiction have been horrible sounding phrases in our society for ever. Most people relate those words to someone who is destitute or downtrodden, living on the streets, using dirty needles, begging for money, robbing people and just wasting their lives as a dirty low life human being. Most people view heroin addiction as some other world or somebody else’s problem, not theirs. Times have changed over the past couple of decades though. Heroin never left the destitute and it definitely still ravages in low income areas, but it has expanded its presence to suburbs and affluent neighborhoods in staggering numbers. Reality dictates that it is probably within a short distance from anyone reading this or maybe even in your home. It has been and still it a growing epidemic that kills thousands every year.

With the onslaught of highly addictive opioid prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Dilaudid, and Morphine into our society, people were becoming dependent on these drugs and a new epidemic was created. All levels of socioeconomics were affected and our world changed forever for the worse. Pills that many people had in their medicine cabinets, left over from an operation or a pain condition became a very hot commodity and a target for any opioid pill addict. Most found that they couldn’t afford the pills once addicted to them and at an average of $1 per milligram, people had to both stop using and go through withdrawal or find another source. Withdrawal symptoms are usually unsuspected by the user at first but once the person experiences them, the alternative source becomes heroin, also an extremely potent opioid so it completely handles the withdrawal symptoms. With the cost of heroin at about a 10th of the cost of pain pills on the street, the stigma of heroin is overlooked and now becomes the new drug of choice.

Heroin can be snorted, swallowed, smoked or injected, either in a muscle or intravenously. Depending on where it is purchased, it will come in a white or grey powder (China White) or dark sticky tar (Black Tar). The purity levels are higher than ever to produce more sales for the dealers and a better high for the addict. The better it is, the more they’ll come back. But just how the opiate pain killers became too expensive, so does heroin. An addict reaches tolerance levels whereas the usual quantities don’t produce the same high as they once did and therefore it takes more to achieve it, which costs more. An addict will spend every dime to get the high and to avoid going through withdrawal. Every day is another day that a heroin addict has to have his or her fix or else they face going through a cold turkey withdrawal. Going through withdrawal is out of the question for addicts because of its horrible mental physical effects, in other words, consequences. Parents, spouses, siblings etc. begin to realize that their medications have been taken, their money has been tapped into and their belongings are missing. Pawn shops are a quick way to get a little cash for expensive items and in turn, the heroin.

Families are virtually tortured with heroin addiction, trying to understand what their loved one is going through. Love gets in the way of logic because manipulation is the only way to live as an addict. Families enable to help but in fact the enabling is hurting the chances of helping them. Getting found out and having to stop and go through withdrawal and a rehab program is the last thing the addiction wants an addict to do. It literally has full control over the person physically and mentally. Emotionally a person becomes numb to everything, including love. Every ounce of energy has to be focused on finding the drugs for the day and then the next. It is a never ending trap until something happens to curb the addicted one. Once daily use has begun, it usually only takes a week or two for a person’s body to become dependent on the drug.

Liver disease including Hepatitis B & C are very common with IV users. Overdoses are so common that many states have implemented allowances for access to drugs to families of addicts that reverse the effects of the opiates in the body. Emergency rooms see constant waves of overdoses, many because dealers cut the heroin with Fentanyl (60-80 times stronger than heroin). Families live torturous lives because they don’t understand how to help the one they love. The list goes on. Heroin has a grasp on our country, and our kids. It’s more available than one would normally expect and very cheap to start a habit. Kids are selling it to each other in school and ruining each others’ lives. Good people who once had great lives going on and bright futures ahead of them are now living lives of crime and deceit because of the grip heroin has on them. It is in fact a growing epidemic.

Signs of Heroin Abuse

  • Nodding off (eyes closing suddenly & head bobbing)
  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Stealing
  • Loss of Job or Poor Performance
  • Dropping Out of School or Grades Dropping Suddenly
  • Anger
  • Irritability-Very Short Fuse
  • Guilt and Shame
  • Overall Lack of Compassion
  • Sudden Vomiting
  • Oversleeping
  • Scars and Abscesses

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Hot & Cold Sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny Nose

Rehabilitation vs Incarceration

Legal Support for Recovering Addicts

Many of our clients have pending charges, upcoming legal defense needs and other complications to deal with as a result of their addiction. Going to rehab does not make those problems go away but it does show the courts that a person is taking it upon themselves to voluntarily get the help they need. If you have a criminal case pending and you need some direction on the best course of action, give us a call. We will help you get into recovery, and then begin to work with the treatment center and the court to minimize, or even eliminate altogether, the impact of your case on your life.

If you’ve been arrested for a drug crime you can choose rehab rather than be sentenced to jail and if you do, you’ll likely also avoid a criminal record altogether. Many courts are open to the discussion of treatment vs incarceration for first time drug possession cases and some courts are lenient to multiple offenders if presented properly. Now, more than ever before, the courts can be persuaded to allow rehab instead of jail due to overpopulation challenges within jail systems and the changing viewpoints on addiction being an illness and not a social problem.

The U.S. declared war against drugs in the seventies and, while the war persists, the way the war is fought has changed. Certainty of incarceration for all drug related crimes regardless how minor, once a mandate of the war, has been relaxed. Why? Because studies have overwhelmingly revealed incarceration of addicts to be counter-productive. Now, Judges would rather see a person get treatment rather than be sentenced to jail. However, the judge takes a big risk when approving rehab over incarceration and therefore they are very cautious before taking this action. It is up to the addict and his legal defense team to minimize the risk in the eyes of the court. Having a treatment plan prepared by a reputable and certified addiction specialist can be the difference in that upcoming decision. So many people already in trouble with the law find themselves unprepared and lacking the personal drive and self preservation when facing their legal repercussions in court and therefore make a poor showing and receive the basic sentencing. Call New Life now for your free consultation and let’s see if you qualify for rehabilitation vs incarceration. Allow us to help you to be prepared to confront your upcoming legal situation the right way, prepared.

Legal Support for Recovering Addicts

Many of our clients have pending charges, upcoming legal defense needs and other complications to deal with as a result of their addiction. Going to rehab does not make those problems go away. If you have a criminal case pending and you need some direction on the best course of action, give us a call today. We will help you get into recovery, and then begin to work with the court to minimize, or even eliminate altogether, the impact of your case on your life.