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Addiction, Painkillers, and Retirement: My Mom the Opioid Abuser



my mom the opioid abuser - the problem of opioid abuse and older americans

When I think about addiction, I should reflect on my personal experiences. You see, I’m in recovery. Often I do think about my journey, but when the topic of conversation flutters around Opioid addiction, or I read another news article about the rise of Opioid abuse, I think of my mother.

Addiction Can Suck In Anyone

She is an addict that was in denial for years — more than a decade — about her addiction. She would hoard Vicodin and Hydrocodone, continually ask her doctor for a new script — which was somehow, always granted. She would also attempt to pilfer drugs off my brother whose shoulder and back pain prevented him from being able to work, play basketball, or pick up his two little girls.

She did this openly, too. The denial was so strong that those of us closest to her didn’t bat an eye. Why would we? She’s our mother, our wife — the woman who takes care of us, spoon feeding us assurances about her health and well-being so that we wouldn’t have to worry.

Toxic Opioid Cocktails

She lost her ability to tell us lies in December after she was taken to the hospital for what my father believed was a stroke. Her face was drooping; she was unable to eat or talk. She was in the hospital for three days enduring a battery of tests. That is when we learned our mother was giving herself a deadly cocktail of Ibuprofen and Opioids. Her body was becoming, over time, toxic. She needed a pacemaker. Blood transfusions. Physical therapy.

Seven months later, she still can’t call herself an addict. Her willpower, pride, and shame keep her steadily rocking in the boat of denial. Her unwillingness to admit she has a problem hurts my parents’ relationship. My dad — whose alcoholic mother killed herself in front of him, scarring him for life — can’t trust her.

Her suffering, which needs love and compassion, causes more pain. All because of denial. What I’ve learned is that we who suffer from addiction don’t have to acknowledge our habits. We don’t have to call ourselves an addict to be one. When we are lying, stealing, and manipulating our activities and the people around us, our addiction is in full force. The addiction is making the decisions, not a rational, clean mind and body. The denial is usually the biggest, brightest red flag in our disease. If we continue to deny the fact that we have a problem, we don’t have to face our fears, our emotions, our lives.

Acceptance of Addiction Is the Only Way

Acceptance that one is powerless over Alcohol or Opioids — which, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 21.5 million Americans are — is simply the first step to recovery. I believe one can, and will, continue to be an active or ‘dry’ addict until acceptance becomes a part of one’s daily mantra.

I compare, with as much objectivity as I can, my mother and myself. I see how my acceptance has led to a better, less co-dependent relationship with my husband. He no longer tries to control everything I say or do out of fear of relapse. My father, on the other hand, demands so much control that my mother sometimes can’t breathe without permission.

 Since I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and turned my will over to the world greater than myself, I was able to start working in my dream career again. My family has moved out of my in-laws’ house. I have an army of new friends. I was able to return to running. I have a beautiful daughter, and another on the way, who will not remember, or know, an addicted mother (one day at a time, of course). My mother, however, is retired. She struggles to maintain a social life, resorting to filling her days with Netflix series characters and a slight routine of chores.

It’s Okay to Be an Addict in Recovery

I just want to tell my mother that it’s okay to be an addict. I am an addict. My father is an addict. My brother is an addict. My sister rides that fine line, believing she has control over her alcoholic tendencies. Her denial is so strong that she can love us unconditionally and with boatloads of compassion but struggles to do so with herself. That’s the power of denial and the power of addiction.

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