Last year our family worked on reducing stigma and shame for people and families affected by substance use disorder. The stigma prevented us from getting the help we needed for ourselves and our child. If all our kids were being consumed by cancer or a viral illness, there would be outrage. People would demonstrate for a cure. There would be support for families, not just in church basements but, at work and in the community.
I helped a little in the realm of treatment, by becoming a prescriber for suboxone and began part-time work with a local mental health agency. I majored in Psychology in college and have always had an interest in mental health. In my general field, there has always a been a mental health piece. It not very different from general medical practice to counsel a person with a substance use disorder. Not that long ago, I had to convince my colleagues that SSRI’s were helpful for depression. Depression wasn’t a mental failing but, an actual disease.. sounds familiar doesn’t it.
Luckily, all the years of living with Sean taught me about what works and what doesn’t, I was able to develop boundaries that loved the person despite the disease. Also, how to set limits and have a good sense of boundaries. My BS detector is finely tuned. All this means, is I can provide support and care without enabling. I don’t need a UA to tell me how a patient is doing (though we definitely do use them)
Looking back on the year, I am incredibly overwhelmed by the supportive community that has read our blog or followed our Instagram. It has been a helpful outlet for all the grief and extra energy. Now, if I could somehow translate that energy into cleaning up the basement….
As the year 2019 approaches, I hope to continue to work to support people and families with substance use disorder. I plan on continuing work with treatment. I would like to work more on prevention.
I know we need to treat people with this epidemic, broaden our approach and improve harm reduction. I feel we also need to look hard at where the mental health of our children has gone awry and what can we do about it. Suicide and substance use disorders are affecting our kids at alarming rates. Our life expectancy is decreasing.
I don’t have the answers but, I am looking for them. I see the fear and concern in the faces of the parents I know in the community, my patients of young children at my Ob/Gyn office. How do we stop this from happening to my kid.
I am traveling to Iceland to attend a conference on prevention. I look forward to being able to bring evidence- based programs to our state. I am impressed that the programs target parents and accurately asses what activities correlate with decreased substance use. Clearly, “Just Say No” doesn’t work.
When I look back on what happened with Sean, I think the biggest issues he faced were bullying and undertreated mental health. As with most people affected by substance use disorder, Sean was a bit different from other kids. If your child has big ears, get them fixed. If your child is very short do the growth hormone. We shouldn’t have to do these things to our kids. However, our society prizes wealth and good looks and everything superficial.
Sean’s mental health was adversely affected by high potency THC in the form of oil. He said over and over that he thought it helped with his bipolar. What we witnessed was the opposite. The drug fueled mania and unsafe behavior. I have worked with like-minded physicians to delay commercial marijuana. I am fully in favor of legalization and decriminalization (of all drugs for that matter). A few have voted a Vermont Medical Society resolution and lobby to prevent commercial stores.
I know this is a very touchy subject, I have no problem with adults smoking normal potency weed. I do have concerns about the high dose oils that my son used. To give the idea that substance use is safe is dangerous. We have enough microbrews and wineries, tobacco advertising.. we could do so much more to provide health and wellness to our children.
I think we failed Sean deeply with involvement in the criminal justice system. We pressed charges one time after multiple thefts, vandalism and threats. We tried to have the charges removed but, once in the system that didn’t happen as we
had wished. We thought mental health court might help, we were out of money and patience. However, the criminal justice system has no ability to help people with a disease.