Posts Tagged ‘Addiction’

Last weekend, as we were rolling into our new home in Nashville, we heard about the death of Mayor Meghan Barry’s only child Max. Her son died of an overdose at the age of 22 in Colorado. I have to give Mayor Barry credit for being honest and open about his death; drug addiction is an insidious disease, an equal opportunity killer. Too often parents feel shame regarding this issue, and the stigma only grows in the dark.

Bob has always said, “There are no fifty year old addicts.”

“Our family would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and would respectfully ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our child and begin to understand a world without his laughter and love in our lives,” the Mayor said in a statement.

Almost every American family has been touched by this epidemic. If you don’t have a family member who is suffering or recovering, you most certainly will know someone who does. And when I told the Bride about Meghan Barry’s tragedy, she was shocked and saddened. They met at a medical conference just last year and she has a lot of respect for the Mayor. .

My daughter is currently on a beach vacation and not in Nashville, so lucky for her she’s been media-free. She asked if it was opioids and I didn’t know; the fact is an addiction is an addiction, is an addiction. Heroin, pills, alcohol? In my mind, your drug of choice is secondary to the disease. Although politicians would like to blame the current opioid crisis on the health system, I think we need to dig deeper.

While we were discussing the rain in Florida and the grandbabies, the Bride told me about a book she’s reading, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” by Brene Brown. The author is a story teller and a researcher, her area of interest is what makes a person’s life authentic? And what does shame have to do with it? To reference my previous post – how does one remain real in this world?

“Participants who were living “amazing and inspiring lives” reported embracing imperfection and vulnerability and being grateful and authentic. As Brown writes, they talked about these things “in a way that was completely new to me.” These participants were living life and loving with their whole hearts.”

Before you tell me this sounds like a jewelry commercial, think about it for awhile. Once you have a child, you will become as vulnerable as a newly hatched soft shell crab. You will wake to a whimper, sit up all night with a fever, and foolishly try to shield your child from the rough parts of life. If you had a child who had to learn from his own mistakes, you know what I mean. But protecting a child too much can interfere with their growth. It’s a delicate balance, parenting.

Brown talks about cultivating three things –  courage, compassion and connection. Once we send our children off to school, these qualities may become elusive in our Kardashian culture. I just heard of parents in NJ who are suing a school system for not addressing the bullying their daughter was receiving. Instagram and Snapchat were weaponized by her peers. The 12 year old girl eventually killed herself. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/02/after-months-of-bullying-a-12-year-old-new-jersey-girl-killed-herself-her-parents-blame-the-school/?utm_term=.ffbf01eb5a92

This was SIXTH grade, in the town right next to our hometown.

I don’t know if Max Barry was bullied in school. I don’t even know if he suffered from a mental illness. But I can tell you this parents, if you keep those lines of communication open, if you can manage to stay connected to your children, they might just stand a chance. Disconnect from your cell phones and don’t worry about being the “perfect parent,” there is no such thing.

And have courage if your firstborn is starting Kindergarten this month!  IMG_1031


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Once, when I was writing for the Berkshire Eagle, a headline went something like this: “Sunshine for Six Days Straight!” True. Because of the topography, similar in some ways to Seattle, Pittsfield, MA was overcast and grey much of the time. That is, when it wasn’t covered in snow. Spring was called “Mud Season,” and summer was fleeting. I’m sure Climate Change has affected New England, and maybe it’s warmer and sunnier up there, but I’m pretty much done with this “Omega” thing that has Central VA stuck in endless overcast, cold, rainy days.

“Scattered Showers for Two Weeks Straight!”

When my sister Kay, and niece Karen came to visit, after my Nashville trip, the mountains did a disappearing act. I swore up and down they really were there, under that blanket of clouds, and I know they believed me. And all the old-timers are telling me not to despair, cause we need the rain, we’ll be happy in August when it’s triple digits…And I don’t need to wear a sun hat…another silver lining for this ex-waterfront counselor who gets a basal cell carcinoma scraped off her nose every few years.

Yes, this is the down-side to having a ski-jump nose.

Still, I’m getting Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And I’m sorry to be a downer folks, but there is good reason: 1) I was alone for Mother’s Day – OK that’s not unusual, but it still hurts; 2) Two 90 year old family members were just hospitalized – they’ve been released but…; 3) Trump seems to have won the nomination; 4) The Love Bug has a cavity.

Oh and let’s discuss Prince for a moment. We advertise for laxatives on TV when our opioids make us constipated?! Hello! Prescription pain addiction is a huge problem that started awhile ago – remember Elvis? Let’s drag out all the experts, until the next celebrity succumbs, and talk about heroin addiction on the campaign trail ad infinitum. Until we stop waging a WAR on drugs, and treat this as I’ve said before as a Health Policy issue, we are the real enablers of this epidemic.

I know this does not seem like the end of the world list, and since I don’t like to use the term “First World Problems,” I won’t! But the rain has granted me more time to research the Flapper for my book. Where were the restrooms located in speakeasies? What was the alcoholic content of beer sold in drugstores? What kind of lighter was used to ignite cigarettes?! And since this is historical fiction I know I can just “make stuff up,” but I’d like to have a believable context to work around.

Maybe today I’ll throw on an anorak and head to the garden store for some flowers. The time to plant was last weekend, and I’ve been dragging my feet, since planting in a slow, steady rain isn’t my thing, but if I can’t actually see the mountains I might as well look out on some pretty pots. Maybe we should call Spring in the South “SAD Season?”

Here are two sisters, with identical noses, dodging raindrops! Kay was like another Mother to me, it’s like I had three moms growing up. Forgive me, it’s my Blue Period. And thanks to Karen Bisset for the picture – her company is fabulous btw! http://www.fromthecradle.biz/about-us.html13151762_788085601326885_8141167915272270988_n 2

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Happy Earth Day everyone. I was reminded of my favorite psychologist, Abraham Maslow’s, saying this morning, “At any given moment we have two options; to step forward into growth, or to step back into safety.”  I loved his theories when I was an undergrad Psych major – only I’d add another option. We could also choose to stand still and do nothing.

Doing nothing is a choice. We all know these people. They are the ones who say, “Oh we tried that before and it didn’t work.” They are the self-involved, solipsistic loners. If they are not talking about themselves, well then what’s the point? Which is why a film about a young environmentalist falling for the middle-aged mom of a prescription-drug addicted daughter caught my attention.

“Bottled Up” explores the life of an enabler. Melissa Leo plays the quirky, lovable mother who flirts with denial like a pro – because for any addicted child to continue to live at home in their childhood bedroom, they would need the full cooperation of someone, right? Getting this reclusive mom to stop doing what she’s always done, and open her heart to a little, light Indie film romance gives this timely, weighty topic a humorous edge.

This Earth Day, instead of committing to changing your light bulbs, or remembering your grocery totes, why not think about what parts of your psyche may need an overhaul. Throw out the cobwebs in your head that keep you stuck in a “monkey mind,” adrift in a sea of indecision and inertia.

Instead of worrying about your carbon footprint, today let’s pull on our work boots. Get out in the yard, make the choice to start living a more healthy life. To make a few small, incremental changes toward growth, thank you Dr Maslow! After all, if we heal ourselves, maybe the planet will have a chance? Our hydrangeas need pruning and food! I’ll  eat more oranges, walk more and complain less. Maybe try to avoid sick/germ carrying people – unless it’s my Love Bug, then all bets are off. I’ve been wondering if all the Puffs tissues I’ve been going through with my latest virus are biodegradable?!

Speaking of my little Easter bunny. This is what you get when your adult children have to work on Easter Sunday. The Bride, my Jewish ER doctor/daughter and her husband the Christian Groom, who was on call in the MICU, sent the Bug off to a day filled with chocolate and jelly beans courtesy of their wonderful Nanny Kristy and her son Caiden. And for this moment, I am eternally grateful.        10271536_10203190002052914_8222434554150655467_n

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Fair warning. I’m going to talk about marijuana, simply because it’s in the news this week. Recreational sales of weed will be increasing the tax revenue of the state of Colorado by many millions of dollars. The prohibition is over; the plant grown as hemp by Jefferson and enjoyed in colonial days has finally come out of the college closet with a grow light. And it’s high time too!

Here we are, in 2014, beginning to realize that non-violent, drug offenders are clogging up our prisons and it’s time we treated addiction like the public health issue that it is. Let’s regulate and tax our fellow citizens, like we’ve done with alcohol and tobacco. And finally, everyone is confessing to a dalliance with pot in their past. After all, even our President wrote a book about his youthful indiscretions.

But most notably, the semi-conservative NYTimes columnist, David Brooks, copped to his high school experience with weed, where he felt like a loser in English class in his article, “Been There, Done That.”

He was forthrightly mocked: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/03/david-brooks-pot-column_n_4537463.html

Well I don’t know about you dear reader, but virtually everyone I know has tried pot. Yes, they inhaled it and proceeded to empty out their parent’s pantry. But then again I’m one of those Baby Boomers, our mantra was “Why not?” May I remind you that the Big Chill went to Woodstock… 6020_1115890693726_5811966_nThen again, we were older. In high school we were clueless.

My friends in the next generation, a decade younger, were introduced to weed earlier, and I have to admit, I think it’s tantamount to child abuse. The still developing adolescent brain can be damaged by all that dopamine, and IQ just may be affected. Who wants their kids living in their basement forever? Pot is not supposed to be physically addictive, but it can be psychologically addicting. It can develop into an expensive habit. Albeit, one that leaves you feeling very zen most of the time.

What if someone started smoking daily in high school and didn’t stop until they had a baby? That’s more than 20 years! I asked my Pulmonology Fellow SIL about the risks of cancer and heart disease for long-term pot smokers. He said since weed has been illegal, there haven’t been many studies addressing these problems, but I found one out of California, naturally. http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/01/11282/marijuana-shown-be-less-damaging-lungs-tobacco

So my advice – brownies! Now that all those Rocky Mountain High dwellers can just go down to their local dispensary and order up some King Tut Kush for $45, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sfl-colorado-marijuana-20140102,0,4217222.story why not make some ghee butter and bake some brownies? Thereby avoiding any possibility of future respiratory disease.

You’ve all seen the ACLU graph about African American kids being three times as likely (I repeat 3x) to be arrested for possession of marijuana with or without the intent to distribute than White kids…which amounts to a type of apartheid in this country. ACLU_5_0Even Chris Hayes fesses up to carrying some weed into a Republican convention in his eyeglass case, and realizing he was not arrested because of the cop’s perception of his privilege.


I believe that about 10% of the population may develop a problem with weed. Because that’s about the same number of recreational drinkers that may become alcoholic. In other words, they go from having a couple at parties, to binge drinking in college with an occasional blackout, to hiding a bottle in the garage and drinking every day. They lose their jobs and their families, and end up in court over a DUI. Their life goes downhill slowly, over many years. They change jobs, they move, they repent; but they never blame the bottle, they keep drinking.

What will a marijuana addict look like? That 1 person out of 10 people lighting up legally for recreational use. Well, he’ll probably not drive fast, in fact he may be picked up for driving too slow. He or she will most likely be similar to the alcoholic. They will suffer years of recrimination, rejection, and reprimands for a life that somehow was derailed. But he or she won’t be thrown into jail and become a caricature on Orange is the New Black, they will avoid that path. The double standard inherent in our justice system will cease to exist in Colorado.

Now let’s share our recipes for double fudge brownies with our Denver friends. Rocky Mountains, the Blue Ridge salutes you!

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I have not got my divas mixed up. This is one of my favorite Tina songs, my generation’s “Rolling in the Deep.” What’s love got to do with it? On this Valentine’s Day, amid all the saccharin sweetness, I’m reminded of the underbelly of passion; about breaking up, breaking hearts and spirits in the process. When the news broke about Whitney, some talked about her demons, her drugs, but I thought about her ex. You stay with your codependent, coaddicted, abusive partner too long, and you sink into the abyss. Whitney, you really could have had it all.

In the Yeardley Love murder trial, the jury has been hearing evidence from the medical examiner. This beautiful girl, tried breaking away from George Huguley. They lived in the same area, right up the street from a favorite bar, both played lacrosse for UVA, and had an “on again, off again” relationship for the last two years of college. It’s too simple to blame alcohol for his brutal attack, for the bruises on Love’s neck and the bleeding in her brain. We also can’t blame the victim, as the defense is trying to do, to reveal a justification for smashing in her door and smashing her head on a wall – was he jealous, did she take too much adderall? This is unconscionable in my book.

At some point we all grow up and take responsibility for our actions. In a perfect world, date violence could never happen. The girl says “No,” the boy says, “OK.” The first time the boy slams her into a locker, or puts a choke hold on her neck, the girl says, “So Long, See Ya, Goodbye.” But what’s happening to our girls in college? These young women grew up under Title IX, they work hard and play hard. They are under tremendous pressure to compete on the playing field, make the grades, AND look beautiful/thin/happy all at the same time. The Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) cites nearly one third of all students are seeking mental health counseling.

Sometimes a peer-run group can do a better job at catching those students who don’t seek out counseling. Yeardley Love’s friends and team mates must have felt tremendous guilt after her killing. We always ask ourselves what we might have done. Did someone hear her pleading? Should I have called her Mother? Was she not eating and sleeping normally? To Write Love on Her Arms http://www.twloha.com/ is a non-profit that seeks to help people with anxiety, depression, self-injury and body dysmorphic disorders. It has charters on many college campuses, in fact there is one at UVA. So if you think your roomie is suicidal – or drinking too much and blacking out – or being abused by her boyfriend, instead of doing nothing, you can gently engage them in this charity. Fostering empathy and compassion in a booze-fueled, fast-paced, “hook-up” culture is a good thing.

Whitney we will always love you. Tina you will always inspire me to dance like no one is watching. And Yeardley our community will remember you always. And to all you lonely hearts out there, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to suck! Buy yourself some tulips, spring is right around the corner.

A Valentine Breakfast

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