3. Prioritize meetings where parents and church leaders strategize together.
Leading her own charge, Jennifer now readily shares that "valium or Xanax are benzodiazepines, which are meds that commonly treat anxiety. Opioids, such as oxycodone, or hydrocodone are pain medications that are often found in parents' medicine cabinets. These could be there and forgotten from an old surgery, or even a tooth extraction. The anxiety meds could have been for any number of things. I recall when I was younger, my OB would give them out to many patients and call them 'mommy's little helpers'.” If you find you have these old medications, dispose of them properly. Or if you are actively using them to treat a real condition, please keep them out of reach from your children.
She said, “Joseph was depressed and started self-medicating. He had ADHD when he was younger, so the school recommended I see a doctor, and the doctor put him on Concerta. Looking back, some of the side effects for Concerta are depression and anxiety! So he was depressed and anxious. And then he took Xanax and felt better. But, it’s highly addictive.”
When I asked Jennifer how she was able to lean on the church during Joseph’s incarcerations and journey, Jennifer admitted, “I went into my shell to fight the disease and try to figure out ways to help him. There was no GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) chapter here. But now there is. However, GRASP is for people who have lost someone from addiction, after the fact. While I was dealing with his addiction, community groups like Al-Anon didn’t help me. They encouraged me to ‘detach’ and my son was 14. I couldn’t detach.”
Jennifer submitted, “It needs to start with educated parents, and then spiritual leaders need to talk about it. Parents talk, and then spiritual leaders back it up. We need to be together in this. It’s not just drugs, it’s mental health. Most people who are addicts have mental health issues...depression, bipolar, anxiety and they’re self-medicating. Depression almost has the same stigma as addiction – people say, ‘don’t be so weak, snap out of it.’ And that’s very hurtful. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about depression. It could be just chemical; it could be environmental...we don’t know why. With Joseph, it could have been the Concerta. I’ll never know.”
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