God — Higher Power, The Great I AM, Yahweh, whatever name we choose to endow the power greater of ourselves in the Universe — does work in mysterious ways.
Two evenings ago, I attended my first Nar-Anon meeting a mere five days after learning that my heretofore alcoholic adult offspring has been using heroin for at least the last year. As an Al-Anon attendee going-on 8 years, I am interested in the difference in message between Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, as the opiate overdose presents a more immediate life risk than alcohol abuse.
Good old-fashioned alcoholism. Bad enough, but somehow easier to assimilate into the family tree than the big dog, Heroin. My offspring is now in the major leagues of substance abuse, while I, as a parent, have experienced the shift of a new fault line, not unlike the one I lived through when my then-teenager wracked up the first DUI at age 19 (some 20 years ago). My universe has shifted forever.
At this same meeting I learned that “The Courier-Journal,” newspaper of daily circulation state-wide in Kentucky, had begun a series of articles the day before, “Heroin: A Rising Scourge” that I not seen as I had yet to sit down with the Sunday paper. There it was on the front page when I got home, four full pages of comprehensive and riveting material written by Laura Ungar, Chris Keaning, and Alton Strupp, beginning with “Addiction’s High Cost.” Boy Howdy!
The reporters note that in Bluegrass state alone, the number of inmates booked on heroin trafficking charges in the city of Louisville progressed from 1 in 2011 to 100 YTD in 2014. (My offspring has been supplied by one of these traffikers!) Treatment is not wide-spread. According to a C-J investigation two years ago, less than 15 percent of treatment and recovery sites offer 24-hour residential care; the focus is primarily on outpatient care only.
More statistics: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes a 55 percent increase in heroin-related overdose deaths nation-wide from 2000 to 2010. Kentucky usage reflects the national figures showing that heroin users first abused prescription narcotics. As the cost of prescription drugs escalated, so did the availability of cheap and available heroin of unknown and increasingly deadly concoctions. According to recent statistics from Kentucky medical examiners, heroin overdose deaths escalated from 22 in 2011 to 143 in 2012; in the first nine months of 2013, 168 deaths were reported.
In a city with a population of 1,307,647 by the U.S. Bureau of Census in 2010 ranking 42nd in size nationally, I was astonished to learn the other night that there is only one Nar-Anon group for family and friends of narcotics users. ONE! Al-Anon meetings are available just about any time of the day and evening across the metropolitan area for family and friends of alcohol abusers, but the one Nar-Anon meeting organized five years ago was attended by 24 people!
Clearly, legions of people are closeted with the nasty realization that a loved one is abusing drugs, which smacks of widespread denial across this community. This also checks with my experience in promoting IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS! written for parents of addicted daughters and sons. A year ago. I contacted seven social service agencies working with drug and alcohol abusers, and several private specialists, among whom I sowed at least half a dozen books for perusal, with an offer of presentations at no cost. Only one even acknowledged that they had received the book, noting that she was using it in a hospital program with patients and families. No response from the television and radio stations. Nada from The C-J as well.
That’s discouraging work. Granted, no one wants to come rushing forward, hand extended to shake mine and proclaim, “I’m the parent of an abuser, sign me up for your presentation, and a book, too!” But the need for relief from fear, anxiety, grief, loss and guilt (for starters) is more rampant than the whole of the ”using” community, considering parents alone.
I hope that the comprehensive coverage of heroin use provided by The C-J will make the Louisville community more receptive to offering residential treatment for abusers, and support for families and loved ones.