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.
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.