In addition to telling my story, it is my prayer that in the writing of my journey, people who have not struggled with addition can find a base of knowledge and understanding. This is one of the subjects that needs facts, figures and heart knowledge to understand.
The brain is a delicate, intricate and fascinating organ. The National Institute of Drug Abuse gives a great explanation about why our brains become addicted to drugs:
“Our brains are wired to ensure that we will repeat life-sustaining activities by associating those activities with pleasure or reward. Whenever this reward circuit is activated, the brain notes that something important is happening that needs to be remembered, and teaches us to do it again and again without thinking about it. Because drugs of abuse stimulate the same circuit, we learn to abuse drugs in the same way.” Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 8.2 million adults aged 18 or older or 3.4 percent of all adults, had both a mental illness diagnosis and a substance use disorder in the past year. Just let that sink in. IN ONE YEAR. The not so rare co-occurence of mental illness and addiction is so common. From a personal perspective, more often than not, the people who I meet in recovery are also battling depression, anxiety, OCD and a myriad of other diagnosed mental illnesses. Many times, the first line treatment for these conditions is self-medication.
In late June, I was two and a half months sober. I was going to meetings. I was working the steps with a sponsor. And I was still dying. Without the ability to numb the pain of depression and obsessive thoughts through drugs and alcohol, there was no way to get my brain chemistry to cooperate and play on the team. My depression was back in full force. I was doing all in my power to avoid the psychiatrist, and yet I was spiraling to a dark place.
There was nothing that people could do to help. My inability to deal with life on life’s terms was overwhelming. It was at this point, I reached a new low. I faced the reality that removing alcohol from the situation was only one step. Now I had to deal with the underlying causes of my drinking. Oh, crap.
With great shame and disappointment in my self-will, I confessed that I wanted to numb my life and I was at a place that a drink, drug, pill or going to sleep forever were all on the table. It’s from this space, that Lucas and I once again took direction. We were led to a treatment facility that had a program for dual diagnosis. So for the next 4-5 weeks, I went daily to rooms where doctors, therapist, addiction specialists and family members built a coordinated team approach to care.
I don’t think there has been a time before or a time since that I was so defeated. I knew what I stood to lose. I just wanted to pack this mess of a life away in a box and store it in the attic of our family. Instead, I was once again parading my disaster through the living room with all of my insanity for parents and siblings and friends to see. There is no way to go to treatment with a 5 year-old and 2 year-old and not tell anyone. You cannot sneak off in the night. It requires caregivers and support and rest. It is not like going to a job and coming home after a long day. You spend 8 hours a day in intense therapy and in the process, all the things that you wished to keep buried are stirred into the forefront of your mind and heart. Tired is not the correct word to describe your feelings at the end of the day.
It took the complete team of professionals to develop a plan to launch me back into life. The regimen included more intense therapy, meetings and medication that I did not want to admit I needed. But at the end of the summer, I had my feet on the ground, a plan in place and work to do. I also had a kindergartner and my crash course in being the mom of a school age child ahead. Ready or not, our family was changing.