I just had the experience of opening up our new RAAM clinic with the govt and media. I want to share what I said… ironically, right after I went back to work and found a needle in our parking lot (yes I did pick it up and dispose of it)
As the parent of a 21 year old son addicted to multiple substances; My whole family has a story to tell. For our son; one of drug use, trauma, despair and growing up with a life threatening disease. Our older son can tell us about watching his brother and best friend wither away after years of being his protector, and then trying to protect the rest of our family from his brother. His little sister would tell a story of having a brother who has been sick her whole life, and wondering why her mama is crying again. For my husband and I the story would spin out of control with a lot of love, some good times, some challenging, but finding the strength to throw off the stigma and save not only our son, but also work for our family and community.
5 days ago this is how the conversation went with my son, after once again his world imploded.
I asked, “how would you like to proceed going forward”. His response “death”. I asked “why?” He said, “seems like the better and only choice”. Shocking, but also a conversation I have had numerous times. More shocking? The fact that until now we both know there was nowhere to turn for help.
The window of opportunity is very small for a user to ask for help. The RAAM clinic can be that starting point, and hopefully will be the beginning of a seamless transition to physical and financially accessible holistic detox, long term treatment, and transitional housing that continues to be so desperately needed in Brandon and the Westman area.
My hope is that these clinics will be the first step of many that will allow us to fight for change in our social structure, laws and policies that have been allowed to metastasize into this public health crisis.
As our family began the 21 year long struggle of finding support for both physical and mental disabilities we began to discover our terribly fractured system.
Then approx 3 years ago came addiction on top of those existing issues, and a whole lot of despair, pain and trauma for our family which I thought was unique to us; until I began reaching out in frustration to navigate a system of silos, stigma and judgements with very little support for the substance user never mind the families. As a nurse myself, and former educator I thought I knew and understood the issues surrounding mental illness. Clearly, I did not. Everyone I spoke to was completely unprepared. In desperation, as his lifestyle inevitably resulted in law-breaking, my hopes as a parent was that the legal system would pick up where the healthcare and social system were seemingly unable to provide the care he needed. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case so I turned to our local media site reaching out to other parents that were having similar struggles, thinking of a coffee group meeting once a month where we could share stories, resources and advocacy.
In the 3 days that followed I had 155 emails to read through, and found that although we own our families story, our chapters are almost identical to thousands of other families struggling to deal with a public health epidemic that is devastating our communities, draining our resources,and tearing apart families of all ages, genders, and cultures.
I learned of families learning online how to detox their loved ones at home, deal with meth psychosis, take stress leave from jobs, Lose their homes to pay for tx. Find doctors that understand the challenges and will work with the user and family. Navigate the criminal system. Divorce, death, Overdose, destruction of property and person, and suicide. Today Westman Families of Addicts is providing support to over 200 families in the area. Sadly there is many more that have not come forward.
The opening of the RAAM clinics should be the beginning of a new chapter where educated professionals can delve into the multiple layers of the issues surrounding addiction, rather than placing blame.
My hope is that these clinics, along with the revenues of now legal cannabis become an important first step to looking holistically at an issue that encompasses trauma, mental health, homelessness, and socioeconomic status as well as a myriad of other issues. I also believe these clinics allow for a unique opportunity for all 3 levels of gov’t to embrace and work alongside the groups already on the ground; like Westman Families of Addicts, HUB community mobilization, AFM and other committed agencies & non profits. Everyone putting ego aside to work towards healthier and safer communities, and putting an end to a deadly disease through cooperation, expansion of services and a continuum of care. https://www.google.com/search?q=westman+families+of+addicts&rlz=1C1GGRV_enCA787CA788&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQxuerg77eAhVJ34MKHSchBpMQ_AUIFCgC&biw=1265&bih=780&safe=active&ssui=on#imgrc=sgK5jFEyLEp39M: