Saturday, November 21, 2009


AddictionAddict is such a strong word. No one wants to be labeled an "addict", as it has connotations that you are no longer in control of a certain aspect of your life. Even things that may not appear harmful can become an addiction-running, shopping, eating...yet in all of those situations, something that is either healthy or 'everyday' becomes something that is out of your control. People become "shopping addicts" and spend all of their money, and get into credit card debt. People can become "exercise addicts' to the point of injury. People that are addicted to eating are often people we see morbidly obese, and end up suffering from Diabetes and high blood pressure. Just like a drug and alcohol addition, no matter what the subject, an addiction takes over a persons life to the point they are no longer in control, and if they don't get their "fix" of whatever it is they are addicted to, it can send them into a frenzy.
If  you happened to read my previous post, it is no surprise that I attended and participated in my first (and hopefully last) intervention today. I have thought about nothing else all week, and woke up with hives this morning in nervous anticipation of what was going to happen. I had no idea how I was going to react, other than I knew I was so nervous and pretty "checked out" of every other aspect of my life for the last week. All I could think about was how fast this person spiraled out of control, and became an 'addict'  that was absolutely going to kill himself. It wasn't a matter of  'if'; it was a matter of when.
When I got the the "pre" intervention meeting, I felt a strange calmness, and some comfort that so many people that I KNEW he cared so much about were all together, asking him to get help. I felt like with this united front, there was no way he'd continue down his path of destruction. I was happy to see his best friends weren't going to make excuses for him, but confront him so that he had no one to turn to, no direction to go in-except to get help.
Two of his friends went to get him and bring him back to the one of the guys' house "to hang out". We got a call about 45 minutes after they left that he wasn't coming, and he told them he just wanted to stay at his own house all day and 'take it easy'. So, the 9 of us got in the car and headed to his house. I felt sick to my stomach not knowing what I was going to walk into, and even worse when I started to think about the fact there was a loaded gun in the house.
As expected, he was surprised, confused, angry, and hostile when we all filed in. His sister did an amazing job at talking out to the living room, because as soon as he figured out there were quite a few people there, he retreated back to his room. She began her letter to him, and we all went in the order that was rehearsed. Everyone had a tough time getting through their letter, as every single person was in tears as they read to him what his addiction has done to them, and how its destroyed relationships.
The rest of the details of the intervention don't need to be rehashed, other than to say he refused to go. Oddly enough, he emailed me at 8:30 that night and just said "thank you for being there today. I really appreciate it", which completely caught me off guard. I thought he was upset and angry I was there. I replied to his email, and then he replied back. I have never been in this situation before, so I didn't know what to do-but I felt like keeping the lines of communication open was a step in the right direction. We talked about how he felt when he saw us, and how he's never felt so alone in his entire life as after all 9 of us left his house. We talked until 6:30 in the morning, and there were so many times throughout the night I thought I had him just about to agree to go...then he'd dash my hopes with a reply that he needed more time. Starting about 2 hours after we hung up, at 8:30, his sister, his parents, the interventionalist and I were all in constant (and I mean CONSTANT) contact to put a plan together to get him into treatment. Luckily, around noon I got a call from him, and as soon as I said "hello?" he just replied "I need help."
I called the detox and got the packing list of what he could and could not bring, and we made plans that I would pick him up the next morning at 11, help him pack his bag, and take him to the crisis stabilization unit. I did arrived at his house and went straight back to his room where he was already laying clothes out.  I just kept looking around his gorgeous house thinking how he had so much-the nice house, the fancy car, a great family...and a SUBSTANCE was going to take it all away from him. I have a hard time understanding how addicts get to that point, because I don't think I've ever been addicted to anything. When I walked around to the far side of his bed, I saw all our picture frames still out, but on the floor. We haven't spoken in two years, or seen each other in the same amount of time. I said "oh...our pictures? I know you've dated girls since we split up..didn't they mind?" and he goes, "look at this" as he opened the top drawer of his nightstand, I could see everything I had ever given him. Every card, every note I had left for him, the photo album I made for him for Valentines day over 2 years ago...all right next to his bed. I felt so sorry for him, because that was clearly a sign that he doesn't cope with things in his life that he doesn't like, or can't get past. It was a small symbol of a much bigger problem, but it was impactful just the same. As I packed his bag, the tears were streaming down his face and he just kept repeating "I can't believe my life has come to this."  Honestly, I couldn't either.
As we drove to the hospital, I kept looking over at him and just saw tears streaming down his face. Every now and then he'd crack a joke, which would make us both laugh. At one point he said "So, does it make me any less of a man that I love Taylor Swift and my favorite song is 'Fifteen'?...(ironically, it is a favorite of mine as well)...or does the fact I am a prescription drug addict and alcoholic, on my way to detox kinda take that title?"  Comments here and there like that, there were small signs of the person I knew so long ago, and they made this entire experience even harder, because I knew that person was still there, buried under all the pills and booze. Unfortunately, years of heaving drinking and pills have taken over much of that funny, sweet, always smiling, "do anything for anyone" guy, and he was now outwardly a slurring, stumbling, mess to most people. His legs have already started to atrophy from the extremely high doses of drugs he was taking, so he couldn't walk. He held onto my shoulder as we walked from the parking lot into the waiting room. The tears had stopped, but as soon as I said "I am here with (insert name), and we are here to check him in. You guys are expecting him"  I looked over and the tears just started flowing again. I could tell it was becoming more and more real, and all starting to sink in.  After the paperwork, we were sent to an "assessment room" where the check in counselor immediately brought in a nurse. She said he was in danger of seizing, as he was already in withdraw, since he hadn't taken anything since the intervention two days earlier. When they took him back, it was one of the hardest goodbyes I've ever had to do. I went to give him a hug goodbye, and he had a death grip around my neck-and I practically had to peel him off in order to go with the nurse. He could barely walk on his own, so I knew he couldnt walk and carry his bag, so I went to hand it to the nurse and she said "he must carry his own stuff". He reached for it, and took two steps, when it was crystal clear he couldnt go any further trying to walk AND carry the bag. She finally gave in and took it from him, and watching him walk away, towards the big sign that read "Crisis Stabilization Unit" was absolutely gut wrenching.
I had no idea it would effect me the way it did, since I haven't seen him or talked to him in so long. Walking out of the hospital towards my car, I felt like it was up there with one of the worst days of my life-with the exception of the day my mom was in the ICU and I thought she wasn't going to make it. It was absolutely comparable to the day I had to bury my two best friends, and in some ways it was worse. Their funerals were awful. AWFUL. But there was some finality to it, and there was a definite ending. Its been a long and slow process to deal with their death, and I am not sure I'll ever be in a place where it doesn't effect certain aspects of my life. But with this situation, I left that hospital and had no idea if I would ever see him again. He has to stay in detox for a week, but then what? No one can force him into rehab, and if he goes, no one can make him stay there. It wasn't discussed, but I think he thinks he has to go to detox for a week, and then he'll return home to his beautiful house, his fancy car, and he will have beaten this awful disease. He has no idea that the "plan" for him is to go to a residential treatment facility for up to a year. Again, no one can make him go, but many professionals that have seen him think that is his only shot at living a sober life. He can't do it without going to a live in treatment facility where he learns the coping skills and life skills he needs to deal with emotions he has numbed with drugs and alcohol his entire life. I think when he gets out, and realizes he needs to go into a residential facility, he's going to resist it all over again. When he realizes he is most likely going to lose his house, his car, and most of his material possessions, it will send him into a downward spiral. Walking out of the hospital that night, almost 6 hours after we walked in, I was so sad for him, and it was so devastating in so many different ways. This was someone at some point not too long ago that I looked at and thought had a very serious relationship with. Now I didn't know if he is going to live or die, ever be able to walk again, or if the damage he has done to his body was permanent. I called up to the hospital that night I checked him in to make sure he was okay and he got on the phone and sounded like such a scared little boy. He kept saying "Ali, they are treating me like I am insane. I feel like I am in jail. Everyone keeps telling me about this condition where you stop taking Xanex at the level I was taking it, and you just die in your sleep-you never wake up. I don't want to die. Please don't let that happen to me." I have absolutely never felt so helpless in my entire life. I couldn't tell him it wasn't going to happen. I couldn't really say anything except, "You are in a hospital, and they are going to take good care of you."
From the time I took the phone call asking if I would attend the intervention up until that point I did think he wanted to die. I thought he was trying to kill himself with drugs and alcohol on purpose. I realized during that phone call he had the "invincible syndrome" most of us had when we were in high school or college. He didn't want to die. He wanted to numb his emotional pain, but he never thought it would kill him in the process. He also told me that he wanted to go to treatment from the intervention, but "something" wouldn't allow him to, and "he couldn't tell me what it was."  He finally told me while we were packing his bag. He had done cocaine for the first time in many years the night before the intervention, and was afraid for it to show up on the tox screen when he checked into detox. I replied "you have X, Y, and Z (all prescription drugs) in your system already. They aren't going to care if cocaine shows up too. They just need to know what you are on so they know how to detox your body."  He replied, "but I don't want them to treat me like I am a drug addict." I was completely confused and I looked at him puzzled and said "but you ARE a drug addict-with prescription meds"...and he replied "Right. Cocaine is for street thugs, or the people you look at and know are drug addicts.  Its a low class drug. I haven't done it since a couple times in college.  I don't want them to look at me like I am one of those people that do cocaine". I said "So whats the difference between cocaine showing up on your tox screen and the insanely high doses of what you are on?" and he replied, and I will NEVER forget exactly what he said "A doctor can prescribe what I take, so its not nearly as bad."
I haven't stopped thinking about that sentence in two days. In reality, cocaine alone cannot kill you. Heavy doses of prescription sedatives and pain killers can. This whole time he didn't think what he was doing was that wrong, or harmful, because he originally got all the medicines from a Doctor.
What pisses me off the most is a General Practice physician wrote those meds for him, many years ago. Not a psychiatrist. Any physician besides a psychiatrist does NOT get extensive education in CNS conditions or medicines. No GP should have written that for him to begin with, let along with the plethora of other meds he was prescribed. That is not to say if it wasn't these drugs it wouldn't have eventually been something else. I am sure it would have.  But I bet there are a LOT of prescription drug abusers out there that don't realize the harm they are doing to themselves, or justify it, because "its legal", or it started off as a prescription from a medical doctor.
Now he is fighting for his life, and in the process going to lose everything he's worked for for the last nine years. His dad is going to lose a lot of his retirement trying to pay for his detox, and then he has to figure out how they are going to fund his rehab (if he goes). At the same time, we can all want him so deparately to get better, but if he isn't ready or willing himself, all this money, time, and energy is its only a matter of time before a relapse if he hasnt hit his own rock bottom and realizes he needs to turn his life around, and he can't do it alone.
I went straight from the hospital Tuesday to school, and was an hour late getting there. I sat in my seat in a class of about 120 students and just sobbed. I hadn't shed a tear up to that point, but it hit me all at once, several hours after I left him. I tried my best to hold it together until class was over, but when I got home i couldn't stop crying. I was upset for HOURS, and I felt like I was going through the exact same grieving process I had gone through with my friends that had died. At that particular moment I was angry. So angry I couldn't stop crying. I was angry at the Doctor that wrote him that medicine.  I was angry at him for not realizing a drug addict is a drug addict-it didn't matter if he was on crack, or a prescription. If he was abusing it, he was an addict. I was angry it got to this point before he was getting help. I was angry he couldn't even walk anymore, and still was in denial it was due to his drug use. I was mad that after two years it still absolutely killed me to give him a hug when they came to take him away, and he had such a tight grip around my neck and wouldn't let go; which killed me inside, but I wouldn't let him see it. I am mad that he asked me to "not let him die", because to everyone up to this point, it looked like that is what he was trying to do to himself, and there was no way I could stop it if his body couldn't take it anymore. I am mad that the guy I knew in college, that would do anything for anyone, had the cutest smile, and most infectious laugh is now a committed patient at a hospital I call on for work. I am mad he had the world at his fingertips, with a great job, great family, great girlfriend (if I do say so myself), and he threw it all away, because he couldn't deal with his own reality and never learned coping skills to deal with life.
He has now been in treatment for 2 days. He has 5 days left, before he is released. I have no idea what is going to happen to him or where he is going to go at that point. I hope beyond hope that he is committed to getting sober, but unfortunately I am not sure he is in detox for himself. I know from my own extended family members that have been through similar situations that he can go to detox to get us all "off his back", but if he isn't ready to get sober himself, this is all for naught.
Two weeks ago he honestly never crossed my mind, and rarely has for the last two years. Now I think about him constantly, and wonder how this could happen. How does it happen to anyone.  How can you get to the point where a substance, or a drink, literally can ruin your life. I simply don't understand it, and I'm not sure I ever will.
Before I got the call asking if would attend his intervention, I already felt like my plate was full. I have my own medical issues going on, my dad has medical issues that I am worried about, work had been crazy with launching a new drug this quarter, and with an extra load in school, finals, and end of semester projects and papers coming up in the next two weeks everyday my "to do" list was overwhelming. I feel like I dropped everything Sunday, and just started picking it back up today...and its incredibly overwhelming to think of what I have to get done in the next two weeks. But it pales in comparison to what he has to tackle in the next two weeks, and the long road he is facing to what we all hope is a recovery.
Everyone is talking about their Thanksgiving and Holiday plans and it makes me so incredibly sad to think that in the BEST case scenario for him, he will be spending the holidays in a rehab center with a bunch of people he doesn't know.  I hate drugs and alcohol for what its done to him, his family, his friends, and so many others just like him. I only hope its not too late for him to turn it around.
To top off this week, tomorrow is my best friend's brithday, that passed away on November 2, 1997. Tomorrow he would have been 33.  I have dreaded Novembers (his died November 2nd,  then his birthday is November 21st) for the last 12 years. Now there is so much more to put on my petition on skipping November, and going straight from October to December.

1 comment:

Missy said...

Holy crap, yep, that's stuff that the shows are made of! I hope it works and he gets his life back on track. It sounds like there's a lot going on there for sure. Be glad you were there for him and always be cautiously optimistic. I am forever thankful that I do not have an addictive personality.