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Inhalant Prevention Info and Coming Back Towards Life

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Inhalant Abuse and Prevention Update:  The Alliance for Consumer Education has put together a site where you can go and make a pledge to talk to your child about the dangers of inhalant use, as Children are 50% less likely to try an inhalant if an adult role model talks to them about the dangers of inhalant abuse.  I have attached the following link for those who might be interested.

http://www.inhalant.org/nipaw/talk-child/

They also have public service announcements related to inhalant abuse from those affected, family members from children who have passed away, as well as former users, like myself.  I did a public service announcement with my mother and sister some years back for the Alliance for Consumer Education and the results of their effectiveness are amazing.

Www.inhalant.org also offers an Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit, quiz, and lesson plans for anyone looking.

 

This week I was going through some of my worksheets, packets, and books I was given in rehab when I came out to California in 2008 for treatment.  I found a lot of tools that I still use today, on myself and with my clients in treatment, but also, I found a lot of my own writings from that period of time.  It was discouraging to see just how little I cared about myself at that time, yet encouraging to be able to see the change in myself since my first day of being inhalant free.  It's just so sad the way that we feel, the guilt and shame, the lack of self love, the demoralization.  I wanted to share a poem that I had written in my very first day in treatment because I can guarantee that anyone who has struggled with addiction, or anyone that currently is, can relate to my view of myself.

What the hell are you?

This question plagues your mind each day, but the answer is simple.

A monster.

A god damn drug addict.

You often feel as though you have expired, with the exception that your biological shell seems to continue to battle. Your heart still manages to beat.

This, you do not get.

The drugs want to kill the walking corpse you have become, what’s left of you.

But what they don’t know is that you have already won.

You are dead.

You died a long time ago.

What a bad fucking day you’re thinking as you storm out to your sedan. People are so damn petty; it’s just retail for Christ’s sake.  You struggle with your keys in the pouring rain, ruminating in the anger and resentment for your current employment situation, one filled with only the uncouth and odious.  You feel panicked, almost terrified, as you finally sink into the solace of your grisly car, a Pontiac Grand AM that seems like it has been through a demolition derby. What do you do? you think, in order to shake this feeling? You can’t believe you even ask yourself the question.  You knew the answer once you opened your eyes this morning.

Drugs…

You must get them.

Immediately.

You throw your car in drive and race off with the anxiety comparable to a newbie ambulance driver who has an expiring patient in his backseat.  You are in a frenzy involving road rage and edginess until you get to the parking lot of your local office supply store. As you walk into the store, every member of its staff stops to stare at you. They knew what you were buying. They knew why. This was a day after day visit for you, your schedule revolved around it.  You make trivial, yet frantic banter at the counter to seem like you might be more than an addict, hoping to give them at least a tiny tinge of skepticism in their very accurate judgments. You ditch the receipt at the counter, no paper trail.  You never ask for a bag, for it contains a store logo and as you pass the outer garbage can, your hands tremble as you pluck the very distinctive straw and tab off of each can you purchased.

No evidence, just you and the cans.

You try not to walk to your car so fast, sensing that the store workers are scrutinizing you still. Once in the car, you immediately hide all the cans but one. You spray it once, continuing in your rituals you follow each day, and place the canister in your mouth. You inhale the spray as deep as you can without dry-heaving.

The rush is immediate. The rage? The anxiety?  You don’t even remember what those words mean. All you are able to feel is…satisfaction. You smile as you maneuver out of the parking lot, like you’ve just heard your favorite song on the radio. You are holding your breath for as long as possible.  You feel that tingling sensation in your brain, your eyes glaze over, and you already begin to shake. You know you will be unconscious soon, but you don’t fucking care. All you can do is grin like Lewis Carroll’s god damn Cheshire cat.

 

When I read this my eyes well up for the person I used to be, the pain and suffering that I was in.  That description was a daily activity, my entire life revolved around getting high, it's all I thought about, it consumed everything I did.  Outside of being loaded all I felt was that rage that's mentioned, intense anxiety, incapacitating depression, and shame.  The level of shame I felt was unbearable.  I didn't want to see anyone, ever, not even my family that all lived within a one mile radius.

But what that poem did not do was continue narrating what would always happen after I would get high immediately in the car.  The things that happened were sometimes unspeakable, from immediately vomiting on myself while trying to drive home, to blacking out behind the wheel, waking up hitting signs that thankfully prevented me from hitting people in the crosswalk, and many, many car accidents.  But I could not bear the intensity of those feelings when I wasn't under the influence.  From things that I took internally, and from what I've learned, things that weren't even my fault.  Sometimes we internalize things that cause us intense shame, like me growing up in a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive environment, and we punish ourselves, sometimes manifesting as taking it out on our bodies.

My addiction did not just start with inhalant abuse, but actually with anorexia nervosa, age 9.  I struggled with that as well until I went to treatment at age 26.  The anxiety of what I felt as a child from the things that happened to me had always consumed me.  The MOST IMPORTANT thing that I was able to learn, however, and albeit the hard way, was that there is a way out of it.  There is life past an eating disorder, there is a way to deal with negative feelings and conflict without being under the influence, without having to self-medicate one way or another.  There was a time when I didn't think this was possible, that I would never be like "everyone else" and that this was just my path, that my suffering was too much, and I would suffer to death, in whatever which way.

But I sit at my laptop in my new life, dedicated to helping others, to tell you that it is absolutely not true.  That anyone can make it over to the other side.  I thought I was hopeless, a lost cause, not worth living, and that the pain was too much.  I was convinced I was better off dead.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Whatever addiction or core issue ails you, you are absolutely worth saving.  And if you don't believe it now, please let us believe for you, because I promise you, there will come a time when that pain subsides, and you will believe it for yourself.

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Allison Fogarty is an interventionist, Registered Addiction Specialist intern and has worked extensively in multifaceted directorial roles of residential treatment. Allison has been on A&E’s Intervention, worked with the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, and Alliance for Consumer Education, where she has appeared on several talk shows, public service announcements, and as a guest lecturer at several addiction venues in the fight to prevent the use of, and further the education of, inhalant abuse.


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