I have recently been reading books related to the opioid crisis. “Saving Jake: When Addiction Hits Home” by D’Ann Burwell is our focus for today.
Burwell recounts the story of discovering her son, Jake’s, addiction to heroin, the roller coaster of their family’s struggle and five stints with rehab to achieve recovery.
Jake started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana in college, then Oxycontin, which led to heroin. Burwell shares how her middle-class, smart, athletic son lost three years of his life to addiction and how this impacted their family. She offers three suggestions for other families who are involved in this battle.
1. Get support. Take advantage of support groups such as AL-Anon, Nar-Anon and other groups to decrease your feelings of isolation and gain help from others who have been affected by addiction.
Locally, we have Mothers of Hope support group for mothers of addicted children. Visit the Mothers of Hope Facebook page.
2. Trust your gut. Burwell describes the uneasiness she felt that something was not quite right with Jake, but was unsure what all the symptoms meant. He was losing weight, had a terrible cough, was failing in college.
And most puzzling of all, she noticed soot on his forehead. She happened to see a television show that explained this was an indicator of snorting Oxycontin. This was the moment when that all the pieces suddenly fit together, and the light went off in her head — her son was using drugs. She confronted him, he admitted it and years of struggling for successful treatment began.
3. Learn and research everything you can related to addiction and recovery. Burwell struggled to understand the power drugs had over her son, how he could throw away everything and be consumed by drugs.
Woven into the book are insights she discovered in her research about how addiction affects the brain and the thought processes of a person struggling with addiction.
From page 57: “Addicts don’t have the choice not to crave. Craving for the addict is not, ‘Gee I want it a lot.’ Craving is … up all night, can’t sleep, sweat on your brow, pulse at a hundred and fifty, staring at the ceiling thinking, ‘Just one more time.’ Every cell in your body screaming, ‘Just one more time …’ Make no mistake, that is genuine suffering.”
She felt she was battling on two fronts — battling the disease with and for her son as well as battling the shame and judgement she felt from others. Addiction is a disease of isolation not only for the addict, but for his family as well.
“Saving Jake” is a recommended read for those struggling to support loved ones or wishing to know more about addiction.
Addiction is a lifelong disease. Recovery is a lifelong process. Burwell presents families with an honest picture of addiction. She demonstrates that with perseverance, resources, and support, recovery is possible.
Check your local library for copies.