by Colleen Marlett
Hello and thank you for allowing me to be here and speak today. I am humbled to have my story heard and honored to be one of the voices of the millions of parents across the globe, struggling with the issue of addiction, with their children.
Addiction is a family affair. My 23-year-old daughter Cydney, is a drug addict, but her decision to use drugs, thus becoming an addict and all that that entails, does not only affect her…. It tears the entire family apart. It rips at the core of our communities. My husband and I are the ones who lay in bed sleepless at night, wondering if the phone will ring and on the other end will be the worst news possible. She’s dead. My son is the one who no longer has a big sister. She can’t live at home anymore, so we have to live with a piece of our family missing.
My daughter started down this path at about 17, drinking and using marijuana. She was caught, we cracked down and she decided that would never happen again. Not that she would stop ”partying’: but that we would never find out. From that point on, we were behind the 8 ball, chasing her up stream, without any hope of catching up to her in time. She graduated high school and started at a Junior College She had a nice little part time job. At the age of 18, She bought a medical marijuana card from a doctor for $100. By 19 she had dropped out of school and lost her third job. Her drug use had spiraled out of control and she had advanced to pills, synthetic hallucinogenic drugs, eventually meth and heroin, always using marijuana. A drug induced psychosis is not something any parent is equipped to cope with. I can’t express to you how difficult it is to hear your daughter scream and cry because she believes there is a serial killer hiding in our backyard, come to kill her entire family. This, usually ending with the police at our door and her escorted into the night. Still hallucinating and scared to death. Drug use in our state is not against the law. She has become a product of the streets.
Cydney has woken to guns pointed to her head, she has been abused and exploited and God only knows to what extent she has gone, to get the drugs she needs. I don’t want to know. But, for a moment …put
yourself in my shoes. Go back to the day you heard the news you were having your first child. Remember the excitement when they were born.
Think of all the things you hoped and wished for that child as you held them in your arms and watched them sleep. Then recall the first time you got that ache in your stomach realizing all the horrible things that could happen to your child. How would you keep them safe from those terrible situations? And then be me again, with your child over the age of 18, no say, no reach, no protection for that child and you realize that all the hopes and dreams have been doused and every unimaginable terror you worried could happen to your child, has. What would you do? For me, I had to overcome the stigma and shame associated with raising a drug addict. I spoke out and called my daughter a drug addict publicly with my head held high. She may be a drug addict, but addiction is not a choice. It isn’t who she is. It’s where she is today.
People start using for many different reasons, not all become addicts, but with the availability of very cheap and easy to get drugs on the street, the number of addicts is rising, as is the death toll. It is unacceptable. Many of these addicts don’t want to die, but rather are more afraid of living. As parents we are helpless to do anything. What we offer for rehabilitation and recovery is completely inadequate for the challenges they face to get clean and stay that way.
According to a report from drugfree.org in 2010, “Drug use is on the rise in this country and 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. That’s approximately one in every 10 Americans over the age of u – roughly equal to the entire population of Texas. But only 11 percent of those with an addiction receive treatment”. The new stats for 2015 say that 40 million Americans age 12 and older meet the addiction criteria and an estimated 80 million are “risky substance users”.
Now let’s talk about treatment options. Residential rehabilitation, outpatient and sober living houses are a booming industry, costing individuals and/or health insurance carriers and/or governments, hundreds and some even thousands of dollars each day. A person addicted to Methamphetamine who has insurance, is at the mercy of the health insurance board, who decides how long they need treatment. Because Meth is not a “physically” addicting drug, they usually only allow for a week or so. For Heroin and opiates, the stay may be approved for a little longer. No insurance and/or no money and no government sponsored programs, almost absolutely guarantees they will get no residential care. However, even if they do get some length of stay, all addicts are faced with the same daunting task once they leave; What now?
What now indeed? They didn’t get to this place in 15 or 30 days. How are these addicts supposed to function after being detoxed and thrown into a 12 step program? A person addicted to Meth, Heroin, Opiates or alcohol obviously have issues staying on course with any program and a couple of weeks, months or even a year sober, then back to the real world, isn’t going to cut it. These addicts are marginalized. Most of these people are homeless. Sober living houses cost money. Health insurance doesn’t pay and the waiting lists are ridiculous. These people are coming out of rehab with no job, no money and no place to live…yet need a job, money and a place to live to even begin to think about staying sober. Many have criminal records stemming from drug related crimes. They can’t get a job; most have no job skills. Probation is just another weight to hang around their necks. They have not functioned within the lines of normal society in years. A stint in residential care as it exists today, isn’t going to unravel the mess they have made of their lives. Truthfully, that in itself is a trigger for any addict. To come out of treatment, raw and exposed and expected to hold it together? They’ve been taught nothing in rehab but to work a program that isn’t fostered by the outside world. They are desperate and hopeless. We can do better. We should be doing better.
We are literally losing a whole generation to drug addiction. That has to mean something. We have to be willing to invest in these people. Make them whole again. Help these addicts build themselves into happy, healthy, productive members of society. Give them a reason to get help. A program that will show them that there is a way out. Let them know, they won’t be thrown to the wolves in 30 days to fend for themselves, back on the same streets they came from. Let all addicts know, regardless of money or insurance, this program is for them as well. Yes, there is still hard work to be done to accomplish this. But the program that is working in Italy is the blueprint we should be following.
In Italy there is a community called San Patrignano that is succeeding at rehabilitation. Their philosophy is simple; “a respect for life, for one’s self, for others, and for the environment”.
Here is an excerpt from the San Patrignano website:
“For over 30 years, San Patrignano has welcomed young men and women with serious problems linked to drug addiction, completely free of charge and without requesting any kind of contribution from their families and without state funding.
The community is currently home to about 1,300 young men and women.
Since 1978, San Patrignano has welcomed over 25,000 people, offering them a home, legal and medical assistance and the opportunity to study and learn a trade and to thus change their life and return to being fully respected members of society.
Some of the people at San Patrignano are following a rehabilitation programme as an alternative to a prison sentence. In the last 25 years, the community has replaced over 3,600 years of custodial sentences with rehabilitation programs, targeting full recovery and reintegration into society and the workplace.
On the basis of sociological and toxicological research carried out by the Universities of Bologna, Urbino and Pavia on a sample of former residents, the percentage of people who fully recover after completing their rehabilitation program at San Patrignano is over 72%. Compare that to the U.S rate of 10%.
Three weeks ago, my daughter had a skype interview with admissions to San Patrignano. We are now working on her travel papers and visa, to go. It was the first time I had seen the light of hope in her eyes in years. She is hanging on by a thread, but hanging on because she now sees there may be a future for her after all.
These are different times we live in. These aren’t the drugs of the 7o’s, Bo’s and 9o’s and the culture and thinking on their use has changed dramatically. San Patrignano is exactly what the U.S. and the world should follow as a model if we are serious about solving this problem of reforming rehabilitation and recovery. Whether government sponsored or not, this is the answer. It can be done and the world has enough resources to make this happen. We need legislature changed concerning the addict, we need more availability to programs that work and we most definitely do not need to legalize drugs. That is a disaster waiting to happen. We should be investing in changing our practices and in drug abuse prevention. “Revolving door” and “frequent flyer” are terms that should be wiped from our vocabulary when talking about rehab and our children.
I believe in this concept. I believe anything is possible and I also believe that if something isn’t done, something doesn’t change, we will have failed a generation of our youth. I say this to you as a mother of an addict, but also as a collective voice for all those parents out there struggling as I am. For all those parents who have already lost their child and for all those out there who may face this same challenge someday. The ache left behind, the tears shed, my heart breaks. I wouldn’t wish this journey on my worst enemy, but it could happen to anyone, when you least expect it. Addiction does not discriminate and crosses all boundaries. I don’t simply want Cydney sober, I want everything in life for her that we had always wished for and I know she does too. She deserves it! They all do.