In the state of Maine 400 overdose deaths occurred in 2017. This year it is likely that the number will be matched or exceeded. To say the least, opioid addiction is a major problem for our society. I recently attended a conference in Maine that focused on opioid addiction among veterans. Some of the problems identified were the fragmentation of the system of care and the limited resources for treating addiction. A major issue we talked about was the lack of understanding that the general public has about addiction. Many still view it as a moral issue and believe that those who become addicted are weak. The stigma of being addicted keeps people from seeking treatment. The skills and attitudes of resilience are ones that our society in general needs to combat a variety of problems including addiction. One of the tools that we have developed to educate the public about the different struggles that we are facing is Bounce Back, a serious game that asks participants to respond to challenges using the skills and attitudes of resilience.
For the next few posts, we are going to focus on addiction using some of the challenge questions from Bounce Back. Some of the challenge questions I think you will find provocative. We encourage you to talk with others and to respond to the challenge by describing in some detail how you would deal with the challenge of using the skills and attitudes of resilience.
Here’s the first one: phone rings. You roll over to see that it is 3:20 a.m. Your breathing races along with your heart. You want to answer the phone but you’re frozen with fear. Is tonight the night she overdoses? Your husband rolls out of bed. “This better not be more BS from Jenna. I’ve had about enough!”
So how would you deal with the situation? Your daughter is a major issue for you in terms of her addiction, but your husband’s attitude sounds like it is also a challenge.
Here is some of the things that we think might be helpful. You need a support network of other people that you can turn to in addition to your family to help you deal with this challenge. Talk with other people — other family members, other friends. And manage the strong feelings that you have about this challenge. You need to acknowledge a lot of the anger, sadness, disappointment that you may feel. Take care of yourself in this process. You will be unable to take care of anyone else if you do not.
Try to see the big picture. The present situation is temporary, not permanent. Her addiction and your husband’s attitude have an impact on your life. While it may be a major impact, it doesn’t affect everything. And don’t blame yourself for anyone else. Addiction is a disease and needs to be treated like one. Blaming yourself for the person with the addiction does not help.
Will be talking more about the issues around managing addiction in our society in the coming months.
Dr. Ron Breazeale