When the pain doesn’t go away

Dealing with drug addiction

January 19, 2011 | Feature | Number 2
Mennonite Publishing Network |

Jane’s nightmares kept her from getting a good night’s sleep. “They are just terrifying,” she told her doctor. “I wake up almost every night. It’s like someone is suffocating me—like a body lying on top of me—I’m holding my breath—just shaking with fear!”

“I think we can help with that,” said Dr. Shenk. “Let’s try this new sleep medication to see if that helps.”

Jane (all names are pseudonyms), married and the mother of two sons, began taking the pills every night. The relaxed feeling they produced reminded her of the way she felt in college after having a couple of drinks.

When her prescription ran out, Jane began to mix vodka into her Diet Coke—a daily ritual. Eventually, though, Jane went to see several doctors, mainly to ask for more sleep medication.

Jane would spend time with her women friends at church. With them, Jane pretended that the sexual abuse she experienced as a teen was “all in the past.” She was too ashamed to tell even her best friend. “After all,” she reasoned, “it was my own fault and it’s time to let bygones be bygones.”

Sleeping pills became her escape from the pain. There was a lot to hide: her drug and alcohol habit, and past sexual abuse. She lived in fear of being found out, especially by her teenage sons, who liked to tease her about being “a little out of it.”

Then she experienced a back injury at work, which needed strong painkillers. When those ran out, marijuana became her crutch until she could find a new doctor who would give her yet another prescription.

At 16, Jane’s son was arrested for smoking marijuana. Sitting in the police station, all she could do was pray, “Help me, God. Please help me and Jason.”

Jason’s arrest was a wake-up call to Jane, and it opened some doors to healing. As she sat in drug awareness groups that she and Jason were court-ordered to attend, she discovered a new world of openness. These people talked about all their problems—even sexual abuse.

One day while visiting with her best friend from church, Jane started talking about the pain and the drug abuse she’d hidden for so long. “I’ve never shared this with anyone at church. I know Jason and I both have a long journey ahead of us,” she said.

Today, Jane belongs to a 12-step addiction recovery group, and she sees a therapist to deal with her emotional pain. Occasionally, she still has the nightmares, but she’s chosen a better way of life that includes God and her church friends. Today, Jane continues to build a life free of denial, one of hope and restoration.

The road of recovery and forgiveness is a lifelong journey, but Jane is committed to doing whatever it takes to manage her addiction. Her friends have covenanted to pray for her and she feels the strength of their support.

Steps toward healing

For anyone struggling with a drug addiction, the following are important steps toward recovery:

1. Know that you are not alone.

2. Come into the open. Acknowledge that you are addicted and that you need help.

3. Seek the right professional help. Your physician or your pastor can point you to such people. Look for qualified therapists who will support your spiritual journey as well.

4. Invite family and friends to participate in your recovery.

5. Educate yourself. The recovery program you choose depends on factors such as your personality, the kind of drug(s) you have used, the program’s concept of spirituality, mental and physical illness that may accompany your addiction, and local availability and affordability.

6. Stay the course. Keep grounded in your walk with God and in a faithful community that helps you stay focused on your healing journey.

Excerpted from ‘Dealing with drug addiction,’ a pamphlet in the ‘Close to Home’ series published by Mennonite Publishing Network (mpn.net/closetohome).

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