Monday, January 10, 2011
Don't Hate Me Because I'm an Addict
I was not qualified to write anything remotely involved with being an addict prior to reading Impaired by Patricia Holloran. I’ve never been addicted to anything but love and coffee, and even now, I use the word addicted loosely. I didn’t know what diverting was (as it applies to the medical field) , that getting caught doing so was a blessing instead of due punishment, what the road to recovery involved, or that returning to that lifestyle after going through the recovery process was not based on a lack of self control.
The medical field as a whole has let down healthcare workers when it comes to stress related issues. It can be argued that those in the medical field generally have the same personality trait-the need to fix other peoples problems-and that co-dependency can lead to stress and personal breakdowns including drug use. Not only do healthcare workers judge patients that present with dependency problems, but they are even harder on coworkers that are found to have the same addictions. Unless, of course, you have been down that road and have recovered. (Or are on the life long journey of recovery) Add the fact that medications are pretty easy to come by in a healthcare setting-think Pyxis machines, and the lack of a strong support system after getting caught diverting…well, the problem becomes complicated on multiple levels.
Sure, there are hospital based chaplains and counselors, but when you are sent home after being told you no longer have a job, or are being suspended indefinitely, no one dares to counsel you on the real task at hand. You need someone shooting straight-advising that you should get an attorney because facing the boards is excruciating, or that recovery is more than going to a support group, that finding a mentor and sponsor is crucial, that urine samples are a way of life for you, that facing this without your drug of choice will be harder than facing each morning wondering how to get your drug for the day, that returning to the healthcare setting after a short intensive recovery process will not be easy, and on and on it goes.
Impaired was also a wake up call to the Christian in me. I have judged far too long. And our churches have totally let down its members. Think about it. When an addict attends meetings, they begin the meeting by everyone announcing their names and saying “and I am an addict”. No one judges them because everyone in that room has the same problem. They find spiritual support, encouragement from others further down the recovery path, and inspiration to make it just one more day. What would church services be like if each member stood up at the beginning of service and announced their name and added the problem weighing heavily on their mind?
“Hi. I’m Mary and today I am overwhelmed. Or “Today I am angry.” What if other members chimed in with encouragement and hope to help me overcome my problem-of-the-day? Now that would be church. No sermon could speak to me so clearly, or help navigate my Christian walk more accurately than mentors that have been there already.
Recovering addicts say that twelve-step programs are some of the most spiritual experiences of their lives. It is because they are accepted, share a common belief in a higher power, and lean on that and each other. Yes, the church needs to take note and change their approach to servant hood. I believe openly admitting our struggles and shortcomings and focusing on how to cope would be a powerful ministry.
I could never do the topic of addiction recovery justice in one blog entry, but do encourage you to read more by consulting the resources below. In some ways recovering addicts are a blessed group of people. With the wonderful support systems in place, they can learn about themselves, implement change, and make friends for life while finding the source and resource for all they will be-God. If, as an addict, you need this kind of help, please make contact with one of the many recovery programs across the nation. If you have made the journey successfully and know of other support networks that can help, feel free to post that information in the comment section.
The Reality of Recovery
Nurses For Nurses
Contact author, RN, recovering addict, and activist Patricia Holloran at firstname.lastname@example.org