Monday, August 06, 2007
Addiction claims another innocent life
Last month, my husband's grandson, Jonathan, killed himself. He didn't use a gun or a rope. He didn't take a bunch of pills. He sat down on a motel bed, rolled up his sleeve and injected himself with not just one, but two lethal drugs. Passers-by noticed him convulsing in the room. He had left the shades open. He wanted to be found. By the time they busted down the door, Jonathan was brain dead. He was rushed to the ER. His mother sped to the hospital to see him, but he never woke up. She was forced to make a decision. Keep him "alive" with tubes and machines or let him go. She chose the latter.

No one should have to bury a child. But every day, parents, loved ones and friends, attend funerals for the very young. Some die because of car crashes. Other lives are cut short by diseases. But many, too many children die from drugs.

Jonathan was 20 years old. In his early days of high school he was a good student, a star athlete (colleges were talking to him about playing football) and a real personality. Handsome, charming, charismatic, he had it all. When he sat down with a group of friends to smoke a little marijuana, he never thought he'd get hooked.

But there was something about Jonathan's personality that seemed to enjoy the high that drugs gave him. He went from marijuana to crystal meth. From there he moved to crack, then heroin. He got so hooked that he began to steal -- from stores, even from his mother. He eventually ended up in jail. Then he went to a halfway house, then to a rehab center. He'd try to stay clean but he'd eventually go back to the "stuff." He lived in parks, with friends, in the alleys of his neighborhood. His mother tried to get him help. He was on a roller coaster through hell and she was being dragged along for the ride. She talked to the legal system, the police, even drug experts asking for their advice. No matter what help she gave him, it just never seemed to work. His situation seemed hopeless.

This story is tragic enough, but here's the twist. Jonathan actually got clean. Back in December, after he served his longest jail term, he decided he was never going back. He got a good job, met a nice girl, went to live with his mom and started taking courses at the local community college. He was on the right track.

But drugs are everywhere, and they found Jonathan again in early July. From there the story gets cloudy. But his mother knew he was using again. She argued with him and he ended up at his girlfriend's home. On July 11, he left a note, drove to a hotel and shot up lethal doses of cocaine and heroin. He never saw his mother or his friends again. He died alone.

I can't tell you the grief that I feel for my stepdaughter. She is a single mom, a hard worker, devoted to her son. He was her only child. He was her world. Jonathan is gone now, and his mother lives with the emptiness and sorrow that only the death of a child can bring. I know she thinks about what she could have done, or what she didn't do. Everyone tells her it's not her fault, and it's not, but still she wonders. Many doctors will tell you that Jonathan had an addictive personality and that no matter what anyone did, drugs would have been in his life. He was a smart young man, he knew he was destroying himself. He just couldn't stop. Unfortunately, the drugs stopped him.

On the day of his funeral, his mother stood in front of a room filled with 300 people. As she thanked everyone for coming she spoke these final words of the service: "For the last four years, I have woken up in the morning, wondering if my son was safe. From now on, I'll wake up and know he's not suffering any more."

Do you know of someone who's addicted to drugs? Are there programs you know of that can help families of drug addicts? Let us know.
My heart goes out to your family. Losing someone to an addiction is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. Addiction is something I would not wish on anyone either. I have a family member who works in a private rehab clinic, and it's heartbreaking for her sometimes, especially when they lose a patient.

I would really encourage Jonathan's mother to find a group or a counselor and get help dealing with this loss. A clergy member, physician, or local health department can probably refer her to an appropriate care provider or support group. I wish her strength in this difficult time.
Sadly, I have known too many people like this. Here is a short list of some resources for families of loved ones suffering with addiction:
I can appreciate, for sure, how painful addiction is to those addicted and to those close to the addict. However, when you consider that addiction is probably as old as mankind, you begin to see it from a different perspective - something that is always going to be a part of who some people are. Yes as much as we want it to be different, addiction will be around until science finds a cure. I have thousands of years of addicted people to suport my case. To say that some addiction recovery programs work to help addicts recover is like saying the glass is 1/10 full - most programs fail the majorityy of the time - most addicts fail to recover through a structured program. This is becasue at their heart these programs can only tell the addict to just say no and most addicts cannot do that. I do not debate the nobiliy of the effort. I regognize the nature of addiction.
Science will eventually help those I truly belive but until then there will always be addiction and what comes with it.
There is help, it's called Teen
Challange, all over the United States. Men and Women ages 18-50.
You don't need any money just a phone call and see if they have a bed..Any one is welcome..It saved my sons life..
Addiction is a pediatric brain disease---90% of those addicted start use/abuse of substances as adolescents. The greatest risk factors for addiction are risk taking, impulsivity, and a high need for social acceptance---esssentially every adolescent. Do we really want to turn our backs on our children? Instead of the criminal justice system we should be offering federally supported medical & psych help to these individuals. There are various effective treatment programs, including new medications like suboxone. The federal government has specialized training & stipulations for those physicians authorized to prescribe this med. Unfortunately each prescriber is permitted only 30 patients at a time on the drug, with the numbers of those who could be helped far exceeding this quota. As a society we need to ask why a country like Australia (& others) for example can provide nationally sponsored, i.e. free treatment for addiction & other brain/mental disorders, while the US thinks it appropriate to leave it's addicted citizens most likely on the streets or in jail. (concerned health professional)
I agree in certain instances that drugs can be a problem but the link between marijuana and other drug use is more a lie than anything. I dont subscribe to this "gateway" idea someone brought up years ago. Heck, now they want to tell us that smoking is a "gateway" activity. Your either going to do it or not. And some of us, me included, have very little personal control. I take responsibility for MY actions and do not place the blame on society or anyone else in my world. I have enough sense to avoid certain situations, places, and people, knowing full well that if I did I may slip into a terrible world. There are lots of places people can turn for help but there is one issue: to quote the Simpsons "I aint done nothin' and Im all out of ideas"
My heart and prayers go out to your stepdaughter. As the mother of a crystal meth addict, I know the pain of watching a child kill himself slowly. Although I’ve lost track, my son has been through at least seven rehab programs, most of them in California state prison. After 14 years on the addiction-recovery-relapse roller coaster, I would confess that during his current relapse, I have even prayed that God would just let him die. It would end the suffering for all of us. But I don’t really want to bury my son and I hope some day his infant daughter will grow up to know the kind, loving and bright young man and father he truly is.

Programs can help—at least seeds are planted—but lasting recovery only comes when the addict has determined that enough is enough. No one else can influence that desire for change, it must come from within.
Teen Challenge is the way to go. I know someone that went through the program and is now a counselor for the program. Life is fragile and short.
My heart goes out to your family. I too have seen the ravages of addiction and its effect on families.

As a recovering alcoholic I want to emphasize that there are programs that offer more than 'just say no' as an option. Many addicts drink/use to numb out, forget their troubles/fears/feelings. It's a quick fix. 12 Step programs can offer the same relief, just not as instantaneously. It's a long, slow process but it can (and does) work.
Val -- My deepest sympathy to you, your husband and your entire family.

As you requested, here's another great source of information on getting help:

Also there is a site that lets one memoralize a life lost to drug and alcohol...
I know of a program that can and will help. This program will only work if the person addicted really wants it to. I know from experience. contact me at
Addiction is complicated and it isn't always about the substance, but about the person. It's hard to look into that and examine why you're abusing anything, especially with the opportunities everywhere.

But at its core, it's a common and treatable disease. It's only unfortunate that as Americans, we don't feel obligated to treat our sickest individuals for the health of our entire community.
Please Stop calling Addiction a Disease.
To Anonymous who want does not want addiction to be called a disease: it is a physical as well as a psychological addiction. Those who have the addiction are physically, emotionally and spiritually sick. All three must be treated for recovery to be successful long-term.

Those who have lived or are living with addiction become "sick" also and need to recover physically, emotionally and spiritually. That's why AA and Al-Anon call it a "family disease". The whole family system is effected and infected with unhealthy behaviors.

If it talks like a duck, walks like a duck, it may be a DUCK!

It may NOT be a disease, but the science is still out on that one. There's much genetic research still to be done.
It is a disease, but it's a self inflicted one.
To those reading or posting comments on this thread; if you believe addiction is not a disease, you are wrong. Dead wrong. Addiction, its symptoms, physical and emotional impact, and ultimate consequences (if not treated) fit with any other chronic illness, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer. If left untreated, addiction will ALWAYS result in one of three outcomes: incarceration, institutionalization, or death. If that doesn't meet the description of a chronic illness, I'm not sure what else would.
With seven years of working with people suffering from addiction, I can assure you that the so-called "harmless" or "legal" substances, such as alcohol or marijuana, have a direct, measurable connection to the progression of a person's addiction. If you think it doesn't, you're deluding yourself.
Dear Val:

I am so very sorry for your family's loss. The death of a loved one, particulary if it seems senseless, is always terrible in its disquiet, but when you add youth to the Words really can't do it justice, can they?

Anyway, I have been reading this blog posting and wondering how to respond. I do not have an addiction myself, but I know of many who do because of where I live. I live in what amounts to a homeless shelter, and the amount of women who have been coming in with active addictions is just staggering. And you know what, Val? This is supposed to be a safe place, right? I mean, most of these ladies are put here by the justice system, you heard right. And the amount of pill popping and dealing is unreal. I've seen herion being sold in the bathroom--just once, but like roaches, you seen one, there's always more than one going on. And open susbsciption pill selling!!!!! The shelter got told but for some reason the seller and the staff got to be friendly, and looking at me like I was the enemy. I had heard whispers from at least a dozen residents of the homeless sheler that the lady who had been in charge of the floor was doing drugs about 2 years before she got caught. At the time she was in charge of the violence shelter, around kids, that's why I called in the possiblity she was doing drugs. WE had an 18 year old who lived in the homeless shelter who boaasted the domestic violence shelter was her "best customer". I think our former manager got caught because of a tip I made to the state and they made her do a piss test and she failed, and now I'm treated like the enemy??!! For reporting it, yes, I am.

Oh--who'd they put in, in her place?? One of her friends...hmmmm....

Val, in my opinion, this is probably where your step-grandson got caught up in drugs even as he tried to say clean. Prescsription pills, Val, offer addicts a relatively safe (legally) option to get high. AND THEN THEY GO BACK. I see it all the time here. The resident director herself was befriending women who were doing (selling and doing) both prescription pills and (reportedly) illegal drugs too, and one of them was the lady who I saw selling what appeared to be little purple balls in the bathroom. I think it was heroin. Thats why she got put in here by the judge, for selling it.

The problem is what happened to me when I complained is what happens to others when THEY complain. I was actully told to mind my own business or "else". Staff here looked down at me and told other residents I was a "troublemaker". When I called the homeless coalition and told them did they know that the resident director had pissed dirty, the shelter manager (not resident director) went over, listened to the phonetape, then confronted me in her car. She had offered me a ride to work in what appeared to be friendship. Well scariest ride of my life when I was told in roundabout terms what "might" happen to me if I kept butting my head in. They told me that the shelter was "not a democracy"...and yet, right after, the shelter manager packed her bags ,and left for good. I was so glad.

Val, until the judicial system cracks down on supposedly "clean" places that are actually dirty, your step-grandson's death will continue to be in vain.

And the lady who OPENLY was seen selling her prescrips (Vicodan and more, up to 15 bucks a pop) on the floor, the current shelter manager has her in her office from time to time. I thinks she's still seliing. MY gut--is 100% sure of this!! And what kind of hope is there if staff doesn't disapprove but encourages it. With drugs, if you dont disapprove, you APPROVE.

Oh by the way? There's a halfway house for men a block away, I saw a deal go down outside but after what I have been through I do have some regrets about speaking to the so called task forces again, it's just unbelievable to be in this situation, trying to help but being called names for it.

In the end, all my complaints did was to teach the dealers how to not get caught. and thats the only thingthe shelter gives a damn about--keeping its damn, pristine reputation.

You dont need to post this, but I hope you get to read it. Sorry it couldn't be more inspiring in my time of pain.

What I have seen!!! Blows my mind!!!
As both a person in recovery and a person who works in the field, I have come to the conclusion, that addiction, like other diseases, has a fatal form. The story above is terribly painful to read, since I see evidence of wasted lives all around me and also , I have a 20year old son. I have to say that there is no other hope out there other than the rooms of recovery (AA and NA) But if one has that fatal form of the disease, the rooms cannot hold sway. I have also come to the conclusion that there is karmic significance to the addicted life. I will pray for the young man's family, that they find peace somehow.
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