Substance abuse has no boundaries. What may be news to some readers is what types of substances are abused are influenced by geographic location. Milwaukee and much of Southeast Wisconsin are battling Opiates (Heroin, Oxycontin) and Xanax. Unfortunately the “dealers” are often well meaning physicians who buy in to false claims of anxiety and pain. The pain and anxiety suffered by the addict, pales in comparison to emotional nightmare felt by their family and friends.
Last week I had the unfortunate experience of attending the wake of a former 27 year old male client. He attended my substance abuse group and was winning his battle against opiate addiction.
He was full of life, outspoken, funny and generally lovable. He would be the first in the group to call the other member’s on their weaknesses. More than one time, he told group members “Take your suboxone, methadone, xanax, or whatever crutch your using and flush them down the toilet”. He knew the power of addiction and how the demon of rationalization justified the use of prescription drugs.
His continual personal dilemma was the same echoed by many other group members.
“My family won’t quit accusing me of using, they won’t get off my back, and I’m clean!” “What’s the point of even being clean?” I knew full well he as well as the group knew the “point” of being clean. My only response was “How would you treat the person who was trying to kill your child with drugs?”
I observed many of his peers obviously under the influence. Part of me wanted to wake them up to what was happening. Part of me wanted to call the police for a drug raid. Of course, I chose to remain silent. I knew how futile any action would be as my dead client had attended three funerals of friends which died due to drug overdoses in the prior six months. After each funeral I would ask the group “Which one of you is next?” I never imagined I was asking a prophetic question.
Finally, I approached the casket, his father, greeting each visitor. The father spoke about his son with nothing but pride. Clearly he loved his son and was proud of him. If only he could have spoken those very words to my client while he was alive, there would be one more person who could share their story of success.