Do you have any advice for parents currently trying to help their child deal with opioid addiction?
Try to get your child some kind of treatment before it’s too late. And when I say before it’s too late, I mean before they get dug so far into that hole that it’s so hard to get out. And there is treatment out there. You just have to search for it. Indiana doesn’t have many resources. They’re getting there but I don’t know what it’s going to take for them to get on the bandwagon and realize that this is truly a crisis. It really and truly is a crisis.
But … the addict has to want the help. You can’t force them to do it. We tried that it didn’t work. They have to want the help. And until they want the help, you have to back off. You can’t enable them. You have to love them and support them outside of their addiction. I have my son. My Jack. And then I have Jack the addict. And they’re two completely different people. And I love Jack. But he has to work to get better. I can’t make him do it. And no parent can make their child do it. He has to be ready. And they say “hit bottom.” I don’t know if there is a bottom, other than death. You know … Jack has slept in his car. He has lived in his car but no more than a couple of days at a time because I couldn’t let my son be homeless. So I wasn’t doing him any favors at all. I was making it easy for him. And now I’m making it hard for him. But he has to find the tools to get his brain healed too. Until he gets to that point or until someone’s child gets to that point, all you can do is love them.
If you are married, stay connected to your spouse. Addiction with children can ruin a marriage, but it can also strengthen them as well. It does affect the entire family. Encourage your spouse to talk about the disease with other people and they will realize that they’re not alone. If God is your rock, continue your relationship with God.
The other good thing to tell parents is if you have any doubts at all, get a safety deposit box and lock things up or get valuable things out of your house because they’ll find things and they’ll sell them. And you never get them back. Heirlooms. Get them out of your house.
All of my jewelry is gone. The only stuff I have now is stuff I have replaced. I bought the lawnmower back a couple of times. My husband’s torque wrench has probably been in three different pawnshops. I think I bought the computer back three or four times. I finally said, “Son, if you think you need to pawn it again, would you just come to me and ask me for the money instead of pawning it?”
Never give up. Never give up. It will not be easy. You will struggle with enabling. You will struggle in your marriage. You will struggle with your other children. You will struggle financially. But never give up because that’s what the enemy wants. The enemy wants you to quit and give up. Now having said that, I do believe we need some boundaries and have to draw a line in the sand. There is a fine line of never giving up and drawing that line in the sand. And where is that for my family? Might be different from where it is for your family. When your child reaches out to you and says I’m ready for help, you help them. And the more experienced you are, the better you will know what kind of help to provide them. If we were to help every person who says they need help, we would be a bankrupt family because addiction is expensive. A lot of times people will say they want help, but they don’t want help. They will say I’m ready for help just as long as the court is off their back. And as soon as that cloud is gone, they start using again. You have got to remember that some families deal with this for five, six, seven, eight, nine years.
You cannot send somebody to a hundred thousand dollar treatment facility for 30 or 60 days and then have them come back home and run in with the same crew and expect good things to happen. It just doesn’t work that way. But mom and dad have a career right here in this one town and you have lived there your whole life. When they get out and come back to their old friends, what are you going to do? Are you going to sell your home, quit your jobs and move five hours away just so they don’t hang out with those friends? And then what are you going to do when you move five hours away and they’re not ready to sober up? And they go find some new using friends. Then you’re back to square one again.
So that’s why it’s important to get educated and understand the tricks of the trade. When they say you have to change your lifestyle, that is very true. But for so many people it’s just not that easy. Understand what’s really going on. And then start working your resources. Find out what your community has available. Find out what the surrounding communities have. Find out what the state has available. And don’t be afraid to find out what other states have available. We have seen a lot of success in individuals who may live in Indiana but they’re going to a treatment facility out California and they’re not coming home anytime soon. They’re going to stay out there as long as they want to if they really want help and not come home for a couple years. We have seen a lot of success doing that. We’ve seen some failures too. But don’t give up. And it’s going be a long, long, hard road.
If you think you need help, reach out for it. Talk to the school counselor, social worker, minister, priest, friends, family—see who is out there to support you. There are lots of groups that can help you and give you the support you need to walk you through it.
If you think there is a problem, better to nip it in the bud now. Don’t let it get too far down the road.
Immerse yourself in whatever kind of group you can find that you like. Get in some of the Facebook groups of parents – The Addicts Mom or the TAM group. When I thought to look on Facebook and I started finding groups, I would spend hours and hours reading and reading and reading and reading and reading because that’s the real truth. Reading real stories will help. Like Bailey said she needed to go back to her people, Mom and Dad need to find their people too because they need them. And they’re not hard to find. They’re a lot easier to find today then they were a few years back. So you have nothing to be ashamed of. And don’t forget no matter what, to love your children.
Travis: The first thing a parent needs to do when they recognize they are in this lane, is to understand this is a disease and their child is sick. Therefore they have to work, just as if it was cancer or diabetes, and get the right treatment. You didn’t fail as a parent.
Shelly: And if their child is a teenager, I would encourage them to try and force them into help before they turn 18 and the parents have no control. Catch it early and get them into treatment instead of letting it go and thinking it is a phase.
Travis: Recognize this is a disease. And then own it. The quicker you own it, the quicker you are going to start moving into positive outcomes. Because I ran from it. I didn’t help Tyler as well as I could have. If I had understood addiction better, I would have fought for Tyler like nobody’s business.
And if I can help one parent understand this thing, then they will fight for their kid. And don’t give up on them. Never stop loving them. Don’t listen to the outsiders. Don’t listen to these fools who haven’t walked down this lane before who say, “Yeah, I’d let them hit rock bottom,” and think they’re going to coach you up on something they have no experience with. And that might be your own family. Because they just don’t know. Go get yourself educated. Just as if your kid had cancer. You’d want to know exactly what form of cancer they had.
Shelly: When we were going through this, I was googling it and gathering as much information as I could. But I still didn’t understand the disease of addiction. You will handle things differently if you understand it. You will understand it is a brain thing. And they are going to lie, steal, manipulate, whatever they can to get the drug. Because the front of their brain, the rational part of their brain, is not working. And that makes sense to me now.
Travis: The front part of your brain is how you reason. If I am in active addiction, I’m driven by the inner core of my brain that says I’m going to drown, I’m going to die, I’m going to suffocate unless I feed my addiction. And therefore I can’t reason. So I’m going to lie, cheat and steal to feed my addiction because I can’t reason. I don’t care if I disappoint you. I don’t care if I stole the car to get to where I’m going because I can’t reason. All I am driven by is that I am suffocating.
Wayne – You have to educate yourself quickly to understand that there has been a chemical change in your child’s brain. It is not a personality issue or that they are being stubborn or rebellious. It is a chemical change in their brain. And you have to learn. Abstinence yes. But learn what medically assisted treatment is. That was something I said no to. I didn’t understand why you would want to give him an opiate (Suboxone) to get off of an opiate (heroin). And then we would have to ween him off of Suboxone. And I had already seen and heard how they abuse Suboxone and they sell it and double up on it. And this made no sense to me.
Christy – Vivitrol wasn’t on the scene yet. At that time it was methadone and Suboxone.
Wayne – Suboxone was the brand new drug. They called it a wonder drug. But you get addicted to that too. It didn’t make sense to me. Tyler was a very strong willed person. He liked the challenge of being told he can’t do something and then he would. He would crawl across broken glass to win a game of checkers. He had that type of will power and pain tolerance.
Christy – You have to get them the help immediately. Find professional help ASAP. Like, yesterday. Don’t wait. I don’t care if you have to take a week off of work to figure it out. Figure it out. Because that is your priority.
Wayne – Sell one of your cars. Take a second mortgage out on the house.
Christy – You do whatever it takes – in our minds now – do whatever it takes. Take the time to get in touch with the right people ASAP. You can’t drag someone who is not willing. Usually they understand they have a problem at this point. They are willing. And if they are willing, you have to get them there. Don’t be afraid of assistive treatment. Vivitrol is really the only answer right now. It is a once per month shot. They can’t abuse it. They can’t sell it on the street. And it works. It is non-opiate based. At this point, in 2018, Vivitrol is the wonder treatment. But they have to go to treatment because they have to treat the other issues going on. And when they come out, no doubt if I had to pay $1000 every time your kid needs Vivitrol, I would do it. It is a once per month shot. But the help is out there. Some of these people can go on Medicaid. Medicaid pays for Vivitrol. Go for it once you’ve done inpatient and you’re learning how to cope with the addiction.
Wayne – Treatment first. And there are all kinds of options. It will depend on what you can afford. There are programs that are $50,000 per month and you write a check. There are families that write checks instead of bringing it through their insurance because of the stigma. And you have private insurance. You have free. You have faith based. But you have to get to it immediately. And you as a parent need to get into education and counseling. You have to figure out what the heck addiction is and what can you do to help.
Wayne – Al-Anon. Nar-Anon. You have to go to those. Be around other people. They might be five years ahead of you and you can learn from their mistakes. It’s a family disease. It is not just that person. The whole group is involved.
Christy – Everyone is affected by it. Because while you’re yelling at that child, the other kids are hearing it. We wanted to protect Tyler’s younger brothers. And we were essentially trying to protect Tyler because his younger brothers looked up to him and we didn’t want to taint their idea of him. He was their big brother and we felt like he was going to get better. And it would be water under the bridge and they wouldn’t know about it. But they had to have seen me crying and heard Wayne on the phone talking about it. We were trying to protect Tyler from other people knowing because you think they are going to get better and no one is going to know any differently and we don’t want to ruin Tyler’s reputation. I’m not going to say go out there and tell the world that your child has an addiction. I’m saying don’t be afraid to reach out for help and talk to the right people. Go to support groups. Parents will be there who understand, have been where you are and can give you advice. You can form a relationship and you will know that you are not alone. You will know that you are not the only person in the world who is dealing with this. And that your child is not a bad person.
Wayne – It wears on you. So what happens then is you don’ t sleep, you’re stressed, your job suffers, everything suffers and everything starts to deteriorate around you. And then you’re trying to make decisions with 3 hours sleep and you’re emotional. It’s unbelievable how it affects people. And it ages people so fast.
Christy – It affects your relationship as parents together as husband and wife. Because you don’t agree with the way they’re handling it and they don’t agree with the way you’re handling it. And so you’re at odds with each other all of the time. And your child knows how to play on those feelings, usually a lot of the time it is the mom. Any child does. But in addiction, they can really play on those emotions.
And you can’t love it out of them. You’ll go to all ends of the earth to help your child get better if they had cancer. You would second mortgage your home. You would be do what ever it took.
Wayne – And you would be in every pink ribbon race there was. But this addiction thing … we still haven’t grasped that it is not a moral failure. It is a disease. It is a chemical change of your brain. Some of us are already pre-wired to be there quicker and easier. 20 – 25% of us are pre-wired to have an addictive personality. And it can be gaming, pornography, eating disorders, etc…
Christy – I remember Ed Hughes. He is a doctor who wrote the book Baffled by Addiction. I had a phone conversation with him and I was concerned about Tyler finishing his education and still being able to play football. I asked if Tyler could continue school and go to intensive outpatient while he is in college. I’ll never forget him saying “Christy, if Tyler had cancer, would you send him to school and then tell him to go ahead and go to his chemotherapy treatment while he was at school? Would you do that?” I said absolutely not. And he said “Well, this is the same thing. This is a disease that needs to be treated. College can happen later. We need to address this now.” He opened my eyes up and he put it all in perspective. Finishing school, getting a job – that stuff will never be there if they don’t get well. They’ll be like us, meaning their child will not be here today.
Wayne – You stop whatever you’re doing. Those things don’t matter right now – college, jobs, sports, careers, just stop. This is life-changing.