Board of Contributors: Questions, few answers in battle against addiciton
When I first started practicing medicine in Concord, I knew there were people with drug problems but it seemed isolated. More families seemed to struggle with alcohol abuse.
Every now and again, a family would bring a teen in who was using marijuana to an extent that was detrimental to his or her health. The occasional baby was born addicted.
Now we read all the time about another young life lost on the streets to heroin (both regular and the “bad” heroin laced with fentanyl).
In my family, this is no longer a sad story that exists only in the news; it has become our reality, and I write this in memory of a family member I shall refer to as AB.
My family and I remember AB as a happy child. Full of life, very feisty and loved by her family. Fast forward to the teen years, when so many children lose their way to bullying or peer pressure, and AB changed. She started dressing differently and hanging out with a crowd of “outcasts.” She was still loved and accepted by her family, but we struggled to reconcile this teen with the child she used to be.
Through a series of misfortunes, AB became separated from her family. She had many struggles and was unable to join the mainstream world.
So she found her “family” in those who live on the streets – hardcore heroin addicts among other things. She was still welcomed by her true family if she wanted to leave the street world, and she tried various times but couldn’t be happy.
There was also mental illness that was untreated, though it was diagnosed by mental health workers on several occasions.
Jail time actually did her some good and got her “clean” for a few months at a time, but when she got out she was drawn like a moth to a flame back to the drugs and the street.
Fast forward to this month when her lifeless body was found on the street in a New Hampshire city. Where was her street “family” now? They left her there to be found so we would know what happened, but where was the care and concern that she chose over ours?
Why do I write this? Why do I put my family’s personal pain out in a public forum? I do this in the very small hope that some drug-addicted youth out there may read it and take whatever small step they can out of this world of darkness and pain.
At AB’s wake, they all showed up. You could tell who they were by the way they dressed, the way they only whispered their condolences, by the way they seemed to fade into the wall while standing in line.
You could tell them by their dark makeup, their emaciated bodies, their hats pulled low over their eyes, their slurred speech and unsteady gait.
One of them whispered her condolences so softly that we couldn’t hear her. When we stepped closer to hear, she backed off like a stray cat when it comes close and you reach out to touch it.
This still makes me tear up when I consider that this fragile young girl, barely out of childhood, has a family somewhere that loves her and fears for her safety, the same fear we lived with for years in regard to AB.
Addiction is an awful thing and often ends tragically. To the young people out there struggling, there is help but you have to take the first step to get it.
There is Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, the Farnum Center in Manchester, all the community mental health centers in New Hampshire and many other mental health centers that are waiting to help you.
But you have to take the first step for yourself.
One of those steps is to reach out to your family, who will most likely welcome you back, even if you think those connections were severed.
I can tell you from experience – we , your family, will help you if you ask.
So still I struggle with the question of how do we get through to these young people, and I can’t say I have any answers.
If you struggle with this issue in your family, I urge you to give help if it is requested, but don’t try to do it all on your own.
Seek out the help of professionals.
In the end, I write this for the one person who may read it and get help.
This is the only legacy left for AB: that she helped her friends by inspiring me to write this article filled with questions and few answers.
(Dr. Patricia Edwards of Bow is a pediatrician and president of Concord Pediatrics in Concord.)