“This is a preventable loss
caused by a preventable disease,
that we, as loved ones are powerless to prevent”
Trish Frye, Program Director of Palmer Drug Abuse Program, spoke at the funeral of “Brittany” on February 11, 2012.
Addiction: Powerless to Prevent
I’m glad others spoke before me because I have been asked to talk about the reason Brittany died . . . and people need to know that her illness was not who she was . . . it is what happened to her.
Mom and dad want good to come from their loss, so what do I say? I hate this disease. It’s a harsh disease and I’m not sure I can speak about it without being a bit harsh. I know I cannot sugar coat things because it is when we refuse to acknowledge the truth that the sickness is allowed to expand.
Brittany suffered from an insidious disease called chemical dependency. This was not a moral failure on Brittany’s part. She never intended to hurt anyone. She loved her family. She had a great sense of humor, she wanted to help others, but she was sick . . . along with 12 million other Americans battling drug abuse. She made several attempts to stop using but Brittany’s body had had enough and succumbed to the sickness . . . just as 29,000 other people do each year due to prescription drugs alone.
Let me speak for those who have suffered from this illness and anyone who has loved someone with this illness. We will testify to the power of addiction. This truly is a brain disease that affects not only the body but also the mind and spirit.
See, Brittany wasn’t just partying and having fun. Her addiction started with a prescription drug. She had some pain and a friend offered a pill. She got positive results and sought a doctor to give her more pills . . . and eventually a line was crossed in her brain where drug use became her source of relief from pain and stress, and over time her brain falsely translated pills as “required for survival”. Drugs are so powerful that I have seen hungry people choose drugs rather than food. It is one of the only things I have ever seen a woman give up her children for. It eats our nature and without help it leads to self-destruction.
“She wanted to beat it. She wanted to be strong.
She wanted to succeed.”
I have worked with addicts for many years and rarely have I seen someone on drugs who wanted to be dependent on them. Brittany did not want to be a slave to her pills, yet she was. Her brain had been hijacked and her mind screamed for relief from the addiction and saw relief as another pill. She wanted to beat it. She wanted to be strong. She wanted to succeed.
Earnest Campbell wrote a book titled “Locked in A Room with Open Doors”. Perhaps this is a great explanation of addiction. It is easy to think of people locked in a room with doors shut, but locked in a room with the doors open suggests that sometimes it is not the external barriers that bind. It is the internal barriers that hold us captive. We sometimes fail to experience freedom through the help that is available, because we lie to ourselves with preconceived ideas of who we are, what we can do, and what life has to offer.
If there was any failure in this it was Brittany believing the lie that she needed to be strong and that there was something wrong with allowing herself to need help. She couldn’t be honest with herself and accept the fact that her intelligence, kind heart, strong will and beauty weren’t enough. She saw needing this kind of help as weakness just as many people see substance abuse as a mere decision. She had a degree in psychology and thought she knew better and could pull herself out of it and teach others to do the same.
“You loved her. You loved her unconditionally
and you loved her selflessly.”
I tell parents every day that the reality is that substance abuse is deadly and as parents they have to get through this guilt free. This family has nothing to feel guilty about . . . no real guilt will stand because they tried every intervention possible, but like cancer, some forms are just resistant to the chemotherapy while others are healed. There were no stones left unturned when it came to helping Brittany access treatment for her disease. You loved her. You loved her unconditionally and you loved her selflessly.
You gave her to God every day and literally would lift a Brittany doll up in prayer. When I visited the other day the Brittany doll was in the arms of a teddy bear. Just like the doll is in the arms of the teddy bear, Brittany is now resting in the arms of Jesus. Sadly I know I am standing here speaking not just about Brittany but about others who have gone before and others that will go later.
Here it is. The ultimate fear for parents became real in this family’s life. They are living our nightmare…everything they have tried to prevent . . . a preventable loss . . . and powerless to prevent it. The battle for this person seems to have brought defeat. I read somewhere recently about how Saint Paul spoke in metaphors and Jesus spoke in parables so perhaps at this point it would benefit us to see not with our eyes of flesh but with eyes of faith when it comes to this disease and loving someone with this disease.
Jesus said “I have come that you may have life and life abundant”. To celebrate God’s love is to know that in everything, in life and even in death, God is with us for the Good. There is a certainty that God has been with Brittany as she struggled, and He has been with the family as they watched her struggle, and God is with this family and Brittany now.
Instead of viewing this death as a time of finality, perhaps through our faithful eyes this death can be viewed as birth, not as a limitation but as an unfolding possibility . . . the possibility that parents will acknowledge that this can happen to anyone, even their own children regardless of their upbringing . . . the possibility that someone here will not be driven by the lie of shame regarding this issue but rather the promise of hope that recovery is possible if we are willing to access help . . . the possibility that the people here have heard through Brittany’s story that what we are up against is something much too big for us to handle on our own and find the courage to reach out without judgment to help those that are sick . . . the possibility that someone here will stay sober another day because each day really does matter . . . and the possibility that someone here will look deep within and reach out seeking help for their own substance abuse problem, knowing and believing that there is a room full of people waiting to embrace them and point them to a truth that recovery and redemption are real.
Trish Frye is the former Program Director at Palmer Drug Abuse Program (PDAP) San Antonio, Texas area. She is one of our guest experts on “Eye on Addiction Radio.”
READ MORE ABOUT PDAP:
> PDAP: “An Instant Army, of Love and Support”
> Alternative Peer Groups (APG), Successful Recovery Model for Teens and Young Adults
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MORE REAL PEOPLE, REAL STORIES:
> From Hopkins to Homeless: My true story of prescription drug addiction
> A Mother Reflects on Her Daughter’s Addiction
> The Haven, Moms and Meth: Breaking the Cycle of Addiction
> Wife of Alcoholic. An Amazing Story
> Addiction: Powerless to Prevent
> The Accidental Addict
RESOURCES: Addiction Recovery Resources for Families of Substance Abusers, Addicts and Alcoholics
Why Don’t They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery.
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