This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To sign up for our special offer and benefit from the Allies in Recovery eLearning program, click here.
“My loved one is my sister-in-law. My husband and his family decided to section her right after Thanksgiving last year. They have two children, 10mo and 3yo, who have been placed with us through a kinship fostering program. Their drugs of choice are heroin and fentanyl. They have their court ordered weekly visits with both kids. They are finally in an outpatient program. Here, they are receiving methadone as well as attending groups and are also both tested regularly. Mom passed the first drug test but Dad failed for fentanyl, while the most recent one they both failed for fentanyl.
They both cry and express how badly they want their kids back but then fail the test and I don’t know what to think. I am angry at her for not choosing her children over her high. I have never liked her bf and wish he were out of the picture but know that it’s not up to me to decide. I’m angry because I’m raising her children while she’s out using a drug that could kill her. We have no contact with them at all except at the reviews. I hate that they can test positive for such a dangerous drug and still have visits with their children. I also don’t understand how their perfect little faces aren’t enough to motivate them to stay sober.”
From the outside, addiction is incomprehensible
The children’s perfect little faces aren’t enough to stop using drugs. How incomprehensible this can be to someone not familiar with addiction. This is how Laurie MacDougall recently put it at a training she and I were holding…
“Asking a loved one to find his/her sobriety is like asking them to climb a mountain … without a backpack, without water, without a sherpa or oxygen tank. And if that’s not enough, we’re also saying to them ‘You go ahead and do that. I’ll sometimes cheer you on. I’ll most often tell you what you’re doing wrong. And, by the way, I’m not doing any climbing myself.’
Was there really something that could have kept me from perseverating every night when my son was on the streets? Were there things I could have said that might have helped him find his sobriety instead of just constantly begging him to stop? Was there a way to handle my stress so that it didn’t spill out to the rest of my family?”
Dominique Simon-Levine reassures this sister that her situation is hopeful
Welcome to this site. Your sister-in-law and boyfriend have lost their children to foster care and, luckily for everyone, they have been placed with you. So many families are going through this. The numbers in Massachusetts alone of grandparents and others raising the children of those struggling with addiction has skyrocketed with the opioid epidemic.
I hope you can find the time to look at the Learning Modules (available to our members). The modules (view our introductory module here) explain what you are seeing in your sister-in-law and begin to light the way for you going forward.
Your situation sounds hopeful. Your sister-in-law and her boyfriend are now in treatment, attending groups and taking methadone. It takes a while for the methadone to start working. The methadone clinic almost expects to see illicit drugs in the urine of those just starting out. This is true with methadone or any medication assisted treatment for that matter. It takes a little time to get the dosage right so that the cravings are dampened and the withdrawal symptoms stop.
They love their children and are trying
You see your sister-in-law weekly when she and her boyfriend visit their children. They love their children and they are trying to address their addiction.
That both of them are taking fentanyl does tell us how deep they are in their addiction to opioids. It is analogous to being enchained, fentanyl being the strongest drug we have ever seen in this class of drugs. Without the fentanyl in their system, neither of them could do anything at all. They would feel so incredibly sick, it is hard to imagine the agony. And, yes, this includes being able to care for their children. So they take fentanyl everyday, not because they want to, but because they need to.
No one sets out to be addicted to fentanyl. No one is proud of this reality. The best way out is what your sister-in-law and boyfriend are doing. They love their children and they are trying. This is a start.
Addiction can make you choose drugs over your own children
Let the methadone do its work. When they come to see their children, give them a hug, tell them you are proud of their efforts, and that you care deeply about your family.
Yes, addiction can make you choose the drug over your own children; it makes you choose the risk of death each time you shoot the drug into your veins. It ruins absolutely everything: relationships, homes, careers. Addiction is a tempest.
Thank goodness for the grandparents and other relatives taking care of the children in this epidemic. You deserve to be honored, applauded, recognized, and thanked.
It will take time and more work from you
Now that you are on this site, we can teach you to understand what is going on and how to respond accordingly. We can provide you with realistic hope that your family will overcome what addiction has done. Your family can overcome addiction and heal from it.
We feel for you and everyone caught up in this storm. Those who come to this site know how all the ups and downs of addiction wear on the family – on so many levels. The resources here provide a framework that can guide family members in substantial ways. They are here to help you become grounded in what you can do, so that you can refocus your energies towards the positive. It takes practice. We all need appreciation, and encouragement. You are not alone. We are all here for each other.
image © Denis Gažík via Unsplash