Monday, March 18, 2013

Walking towards recovery

We visited our son last weekend, and he is doing amazingly well. He looks great, seems incredibly healthy, and we saw no sign of depression. He took it upon himself to have a tearful confession with us, and to profusely apologize for his past actions. His words brought our whole family to tears. He is not particularly happy in his current program, but is doing what we ask;  putting one foot in front of the other each day, taking one day at a time, doing what he can to make the best use of his time, and working his program. When you are a reluctant teen, this is asking a lot.

He has been in treatment for one year, one month and one week. (and 3 days, he reminds me)

Statically speaking, the best chance of long term recovery for both the addict and the heavy user is 365 continuous days of sobriety, and 12-18 months is optimal. The brain, especially in males, is not finished developing until the age of 26 (female brain approximately 18 years). If a young person begins using drugs or alcohol before the age of 15, they are at far greater risk for addiction.  It is especially important to note the mean age for experimenting with drug/alcohol usage today is age 13.  Here is the reason why that sucks...

Drug use at a young age actually rewires the young brain for addiction. The longer we can delay our teens from drug or alcohol use of any kind, the greater the chance for full, healthy brain development. The brain develops kind of like a computer, where one task is mastered, and then it goes on to the next task and begins to master that. When drugs and/or alcohol are introduced (and/or trauma, which, when experienced during this critical developmental period, can rewire the brain in the same way exposure by drugs and alcohol does), brain development, particularly in the pleasure centers can actually shut down, the brain will rewire itself to only want more of the substance that gives it immediate pleasure (drugs/alcohol), thereby preventing the brain to develop continuously and normally

You may think of someone you know who has perhaps abused drugs or alcohol for a long time? How they may sometimes seem ... um, "inappropriate". Maybe ... all the time-? Yep, that's what I'm talking about.

Pleasure centers in the brain, when governed by drugs, attach all ability to find pleasure to the drug use. Things that made our kids happy before drug use, such as enjoying time with family and friends, playing games, enjoying time at the beach, etc... all these things soon become secondary to drug usage. A brain on drugs lights up, and seemingly, all the troubles in the world are easily solved. Coming off the high means a return of troubling situations, and the brain demands more of the drug. A vicious cycle  ensues, and pleasure, initially long lasting under the effects of the drug, becomes more and more elusive as the brain cries out for more of the drug. The brain is effectively telling the body the only way to find pleasure is to use drugs.

Each month we travel to visit our son, he is new to us. I'd like to say that he's renewed to his former glory, but last year, along with every prior year in his life, he had seizures going off in his brain and he couldn't think clearly. His former glory was always murky, questionable, tenuous, though we knew deep down he is is capable, loving and kind. Drug use and abuse just worsened the murkiness to the level of being intolerable, both for him, and us. Now, the son we see before us is this amazing, knowing, truthful, perceptive kid. He stuns us with all that he is. We feel incredibly blessed to have been able to bring him back from the brink of devastation. He has a life to live, and wants to move forward, living life on life's terms.

We are beyond thankful. We are beyond blessed that we have found 365 days where he could be removed from "life", allow his brain to heal, and introduce new ways for his brain to seek and find pleasure. God is good, so good...

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story, Val...may he continue on this path! I'm sorry to hear of his brain seizures, it's all hard to understand, but an addiction is like any illness. My father actually was involved in a lot of drug use in his late teens and early 20s. God came into his life a few years later and things completely changed!!!