Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow - a friend, colleague, neighbor down the street, sister or brother, mother or father – etc. overdoses. August 31st is heralded as International Overdose Awareness Day. This day is especially poignant as the nation grapples with the tragic reality that 105 people are dying daily from opioid overdoses and an untold number of folks are overdosing.
Among other alarming statistics, the New York Times reports the opioid epidemic was the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50 in 2016, and trends show no sign of slowing down.
As many of you know, I run a small practice which specializes in helping loved ones, their families and entourages get much needed treatment for AOD, etc. My practice represents a minute microcosm of the world, not even a dot on the radar of how addiction and mental health strike each day with catastrophic force, taking out loved ones on levels as large as the current opioid epidemic.
In the last three days, in my microcosm of work, my teammates and I have experienced two young people being lost and overdosing. Each in different parts of the country, each having angels watching over them. Angels who were by their side and miraculously took them to a hospital hence their lives were saved for yet another day, another opportunity for rewriting their stories and creating possibility.
In one instance, my teammate and I were on the phone with a family when a police call came in. “We have taken your son to the ER, his friend found him in a bathtub - OD’d on heroin and other drugs. He wants you to know,” the officer paused for a split second, “I love you Dad.” We were blessed to be present – the odds of being present during something like that are just as high as winning the lottery.
Then another call – a young woman who was home from treatment to take care of business never made it to take care of business. Before she exited off the plane her cravings and drinking began. For the last 8 months - at the beginning of each like a rent check being due - she relapses and binges. The binging makes her black-. She can’t remember traveling from home to hotel, in utter disarray causing destruction to herself along the way. My teammate and I tracked her movements as if we were seasoned investigators following a stolen car down freeway lanes. Her patterns now apparent and in the end we did not know exactly where she was as we thought she was on the loose again. An angelic hotel maid found her unresponsive with a blood alcohol level of .39. She went was transported back to the familiar ER.
In both instances, I was the present for the news and in each case my teammates and I were present to hear the pathos, the fright, the traumas and disbelief, the anger, the deep sadness these families experienced as their loved one had - oh no not again! - relapsed. In one case, it was I who called the weary sleepy eyed parents while the police called mom and dad on their other phone line.
There were angels watching over these young folks or as they say in 12-Step: “I came to believe there is a power greater than myself,” was certainly in play as these two thank goodness will live another day and have opportunities to learn, to grow and to heal. The parents did not put their superman/woman capes on for they have learned that they must stick with the healthy compassionate boundaries they have set as they know their loved one’s wounded with this horrible disease and that they have the resources to heal. Maintaining boundaries like these in crisis situations is one of the best ways they can help their son/daughter.
To all the brave warriors out there - mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, partners, friends and spouses - I want to salute you for being brave, tenacious, fierce, compassionate and gentle win the face of this devastating disease, for learning when to say NO!. For developing healthy boundaries and setting limits so your loved ones may grow.
And to all of you whose loved one lost the fight against this destructive deadly disease, my heart cries with you. And I am thankful on this International Overdose Drug Day and every day that we may join together to make a difference. Blessings to you all.
To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website.