The Other Side of Drugs

Trigger warning!!!! There are graphic photos of hard drugs. If you can not handle looking at pictures of hard drugs, I highly suggest for you read another post. This blog post was written with the intent to help others understand and cope with loved ones who are currently on drugs. There may be some content or photos you are not comfortable with.

Many people hear stories about past drug users getting sober. How they overcame and conquered the hold drugs had over them, hoping to inspire others to do the same. These life stories are beautifully empowering, and I hold a lot of respect for those who overcame addiction.

I cannot personally speak about overcoming a drug addiction, I have never done drugs (other than marijuana to reduce anxiety and help me eat in the past, I am talking about things like cocaine, meth, crack, heroin, opioids, etc.)

However, I can speak about the other side of drugs. The side where you are outside looking in, watching a loved one destroy their lives, the pain of unknowing if they are going to overdose, and the joy that comes when your loved one takes steps to stop using.

Keep reading below if you are interested in what the other side of drugs looks like, advice on how to stay strong for a loved one who is on drugs, and ways to stay strong if you are experiencing a loved one who refuses to stop destroying their lives with drugs.

Drugs

According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a drug is a substance used as a medication or in the preparation of medication. Furthermore, it is often an illegal substance that causes addiction or marked change in consciousness.

My personal definition of a drug is a self-medication used to escape reality, something that takes hold of its users, more often causing harm than good. This is my own conclusion of the term, not to be used as an actual definition. Remember, I’m talking about hard drugs, not the medications prescribed by a doctor, though a lot of prescribed drugs are misused as well.

Drugs like heroin, cocaine, meth, and opioids can take hold of one’s mental state of mind and refuse to let go. Picture a snake wrapped around its prey before the prey is devoured.

The way I think about it is drugs can wrap around the mind and take hold of someone, slowly consuming them. Drugs like the ones mentioned prior can change the way a person behaves, thinks, reacts, etc. Many people let their addiction consume them entirely, often resulting in an overdose.

According to the website Harm Reduction Coalition, an overdose happens when a toxic number of drugs, or a combination of drugs, overwhelms the body. Not all overdoses result in death, though; unfortunately, many do. It can be a burdening thought to carry in the back of your mind if you have someone you care actively using.

Watching a loved one destroy their lives

One of the hardest things to experience is watching someone you care deeply about, ruin their life with drugs. Wishing they would come to their senses and reclaim control of their life.

As much as it hurts, you must realize you can not make them stop using. You can yell at them, tell them you are not going to talk, or see them again until they get help, try hinting at rehab, or even put them in rehab. If they are not ready to change themselves, they will fail with broken promises every time.

They have to come to the realization they do not want to live life like that anymore. I know that sucks to hear but think about it. Think of a habit you need to break but have yet to break.

People can tell you that you need to stop whatever that bad habit is, but until you, yourself, are ready to stop the bad habit, then you are going to continue doing what you were doing.

The same principle applies to those who are being controlled by drugs. Here are some ways to help cope with the worry, anxiety, and stress that come along with loving someone who is destroying their lives with drugs:

  • Journal how you feel. Getting the unpleasant thoughts out of your head and onto paper can help you in many ways.

    For example, if you were to bottle up all the emotions and pain regarding a situation that involves drugs, you could end up becoming very defensive when the subject is brought up.

    You could become irritable, angry, upset, depressed, etc. Which, can cause more stress and mental strain. Journaling can also help you look back and reflect on how you were feeling, it could be a reminder that you got through that day.

  • Set up ground rules for yourself on what you allow and do not allow. For example, they can visit if they are not high. You know and understand they are still using, but you have 0 tolerance for them to be high around you. If they can not respect that, then they must accept the fact you do not want to be around them unless they are sober.

  • Make a set day out of the week to call your loved ones to make sure they are okay. This helps reduce the fear of an overdose. Though, the worry will always be there.

  • Talk to them about how you feel, but not in a harsh manner. If you become harsh, it might have a reverse effect causing them to become defensive. Being cruel to anyone would make their red flags go up, this is especially true with a drug user.

  • Take a step back and love them from afar until they get help. I know this sounds heartless and scary, but sometimes it has to happen for the user to realize they need help and to take those first steps.

I am not saying don’t try to help and encourage them to stop using drugs. I am saying don’t set yourself up for disappointments and heartbreaks from false promises. Honestly, many drug users are genuine when they say they promise to quit or to get help.

However, the withdrawal, bad days, and the stress of life can all be significant factors in them not going through with their promise. (I am not trying to give excuses for all the broken promises, honestly, if someone wants to get off drugs bad enough, they will do it. I’m just mentioning some of the challenges they may face when deciding to quit.)

When someone is facing an addiction, more times than not, they are trying to escape the reality they’ve found themself in. This world is not all rainbows and butterflies like some people try so hard to make others believe.

The feeling of relief from how cruel this world can be, even temporary with all the risks tied to it, sounds welcoming. Try to understand them. Ask them questions.

Also, it’s important to realize, some people enjoy getting high and do not want to stop. If they are someone who enjoys it, then it is up to you to decide if you want to stay in their life or not. This isn’t enabling. This is a fact.

Their life is theirs and the choices they make are theirs. They are fully aware of the consequences. Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone is accept them for who they are even if we don’t agree with their lifestyle. If not, then you may have to make the hard decision to walk away for your own mental wellbeing.

However, I will say if there are children around them, please make sure the children get to a safe place. There is never a time where it is acceptable to be an active user and also have kids in the same home. If someone chooses that lifestyle as a parent, until they are sober, I fully believe a child should be taken to a safer home.

The First Steps of Stopping Drugs

Taking the first steps of getting sober and living a drug-free life is a beautiful moment. As someone whose mother was on drugs, I cannot express the happiness and relief I felt when she told me she was in rehab, getting the help she needed. This was a big step for her and our family, just as it is for many. Though, there is advice I would like to mention when supporting someone on the path of recovery:

  • Always ask if it is okay to announce the good news. Some people may want to keep things a secret before letting others know. This can stem from not wanting to disappoint people if they do not go through with recovery, or not wanting certain people to know where they are. However, there could be other reasons for this.

  • Do not make them feel as if their decision is unimportant. Recovery is far from irrelevant. When someone is taking steps to better their lives, one of the worst things you can do is tell them things like they will mess up eventually, laugh at their goals, or anything to that nature.

    You could potentially undo all motivation they had to stop using drugs for good. Some people think that their opinion shouldn’t matter, and that may be so, but why belittle someone who is trying to do good?

  • Do not enable, coddle, or try to do everything for them. This might sound harsh, but this is their journey they must complete on their own. Sometimes you have to take a step back.

  • Read books and articles about drugs, how they can affect the mind, and ways to cope with someone using drugs. If you have never had a drug addiction, this can help you understand the inside of a drug user’s mind.

  • Talk to others about your experience and gain advice. I am sure many communities are out there to help, guide, and support those who are trying to stay positive. Being on the other side of drugs can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. A good support group that knows what you are going through can help in many ways.

The path to recovery is long and can be challenging, try to be supportive and understanding.

My Journey on the Other Side of Drugs

If you have read some of my other blog posts, you know my mom started using drugs when I was around 12 or 13. Luckily, she was not using it for too long. While I was in the facilities getting the help I needed, my mom decided to go to a place called The Foundry. A Christian rehab that helps thousands of people overcome drug addiction. I will always be thankful for the program that helped guide my mom off drugs.

Before my mom went to get help, I remember worrying about her nonstop. When my brothers and I were taken away from her, we did not have contact with her for a while. At the time, I did not understand drugs, the way they can affect someone, or what they even looked like other than the D.A.R.E pictures they showed in the mandatory drug classes in middle school.

The only thing I knew was I was not with my mom, and one of my brothers was sent to live with his dad, while my other brother was sent to live with our stepdad. It was horrible. I would cut my arms to numb the pain on the inside, that is until my grandmother found out and sent me to get help.

While I was in the facility getting help, I was surprised by my grandmother and mom. They came to the unit I was on and were able to do a short visitation with me. I had not seen my mom in maybe 6 months to a year, I was filled with so many different emotions when I saw my mom sitting there.

I immediately ran to her and started crying. My mom let me know she was in rehab getting herself clean. I will not go into detail about her journey, it is not my place to tell her testimony. However, I will say once she got clean, she started her own cleaning business, and at one point in time, employed women who were in rehab after they graduated.

She knew the struggle of finding a job with drug charges and decided to help those in need. She also started gathering donations to give to people in need. My mom is a beautiful soul who took her life back from all the turmoil. She leads by example and works hard every day.

My mom is not perfect, but she is one of the people I look up to. She showed me, and many people, that even if you had a bad past, you could still have a good future while helping others who might be in a place you were in at one point.

One good thing about the facilities I was in is we had the chance to go on home passes. Home passes are precisely what they sound like, a pass to go home for the weekend. However, to obtain a home pass you had to be on certain levels, have enough points, not be in trouble, etc.

During my home passes, I was able to meet many people in the rehab my mother was in. I met people from all walks of life who became addicted to drugs or alcohol and chose the path of recovery.

Unfortunately, two of the women I met and had become very attached to, relapsed. One died in 2015, and the second passed away in 2018, both of a drug overdose. I can not express the heartache that comes along with someone dying due to an overdose. Especially when they were in the process of recovery.

Both women were very active in the community and were loved by many. They were full of love, and light, and were willing to help anyone with open arms. They both had terrific families and friends who cherished them deeply. Unfortunately, they were taken too soon.

If you had someone you were close to die due to an overdose, here are some ways to cope:


  • Talk to someone about it. Get your thoughts and feelings out instead of holding them in.

  • Do something special to remember them by. Yes, they ultimately knew what drugs could do, but they still had feelings and should be remembered for the good things in life they may have done.

  • Try not to let anger, depression, or guilt rule you. When I first heard about the first overdose, I became angry. Angry that she would turn back to drugs and mad at the supplier.

    I spent so much time being angry and not fully healing from the news, that I became very bitter toward anything drug related. It was mentally exhausting. It is okay to have these emotions, just try to not let it overtake you.

    Know the signs of depression so you can actively seek help if you start feeling hopeless, not wanting to live, going days without eating, or taking care of yourself. This is a heart shattering experience and sometimes we need professional help. It’s okay to seek help.

  • I know I mention this next one a lot. Journal your feelings. Journaling can help get all your feelings out and on paper. It can be a great reminder of how you overcame darker times later on in life. Even drawing how you feel instead of writing can help.

  • Channel your emotions into writing, drawing, poetry, or anything creative. This helps get your mind on something creative using the hurt to make a masterpiece.

  • Spend time with your loved ones. They are experiencing similar emotions. Be each other’s rock through hard times. If you have no one to turn to, try to seek out communities and groups that have people who have gone through this.

  • Start an awareness cause and let others know the dangers of drugs. Get creative and speak from the heart.

Please note that all suggestions are some of the things I have tried and may or may not work for you. Sometimes events like this can hurt someone mentally and emotionally to the point they need therapy.

Additionally, it can even cause physical damage due to overstress. It is okay to seek a therapist if you need to. Never feel bad for reaching out. Life can be tough, and there are people out there that are willing to lend a genuine hand to help you overcome anything in life.

Conclusion

Watching a loved one go down the path of drugs is heartbreaking and can cause a lot of worry for family members along with friends. There are ways to cope with a loved one using drugs, so you are not overly stressed. You can journal your feelings and set up ground rules for yourself on what you allow and do not allow.

Additionally, the added worry of a loved one possibly overdosing can be beyond stressful. Calling your loved ones can help reassure you they are okay. Unfortunately, many users end up overdosing and passing away. Having a sound support system can help you get through the death of a loved one.

Drugs are not okay. They are not cool. They are not a way to escape reality. Drugs can and will destroy relationships, lives, and anything good you have going for you. You can lose your job, house, children, etc. The people who experience a family member or friend who is on drugs go through so much heartache and worry it’s unreal.

If you have any advice on how to handle a loved one on drugs, comment below. You never know if your feedback could help someone you never met. Life can be tough; let’s all help one another overcome hardships with an open heart.

Additional Information

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you were able to gain something valuable. I wrote this to help those who are experiencing a loved one battling addiction. I understand this is a hard time and wanted to share a little bit of insight into how I was able to cope with a mom who was on drugs and two friends who overdosed. Hopefully, I can help someone through this tough time in life.

Resources

Drug. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/drug

What is an overdose? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://harmreduction.org/issues/overdose-prevention/overview/overdose-basics/what-is-an-overdose

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