One of my favorite things about my neighbor, Diane is her heart of gold. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She’s always doing something for someone. She’ll walk a dog or watch a house and not expect a thing in return. Of course, everyone gives her something…even if it’s that Harley Quinn costume she had her eye on but can’t afford. She's the youngest sixty something I know.
The other night she brought me some Halloween cupcakes and we chatted for a while. She asked if I heard about what happened to our neighbor, Michelle. When I said I hadn’t, she explained that Michelle had been rushed to the hospital because she’d been found unresponsive.
As Diane told me the tale, my heart sank. Michelle is a drug addict. I live just a few doors down from her and had no idea. None. I’ve been her neighbor for over a decade and didn’t see any of the signs. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. No one knows I’m a recovering addict either.
When I first moved here, I saw Michelle a handful of times but as the years progressed so did her disease. What started as a regular prescription for a regular health issue, led to addiction. Her husband is still very active and out and about in the neighborhood while she remained bed-ridden from various bogus ailments that required one painkiller or another. She then began doctor shopping without her husband’s knowledge and buying medication off the Internet. They found bottles of drugs stashed all over the house…all with refills. Michelle is recovering from her overdose and will be transferred from the hospital to a rehab facility.
While it may seem Diane was gossiping, she wasn’t. That’s not her M.O. She was concerned for her friend. I reassured Diane the best I could. My hope is that she’ll go to either NA or AA when she leaves rehab and I shared that hope with Diane but stopped short of saying anything else even though I wanted to scream, “It Works When You Work It!” and “One Day At A Time!” and “This Too Shall Pass,” and so many other great slogans that have served me so well over the years.
It saddens me to know that there are still so many doctors out there who prescribe opioids to the extent to which they do. Then they wonder why some people get hooked and move on to heroin when the doctor cuts them off without properly weaning them from the narcotic. My neuro won’t even write a prescription for them because of all the mandates that are in place now.
I wanted to send the family flowers or something to let them know I was thinking of them but didn’t. Why? The freaking stigma of addiction. That’s why. If she were in the hospital for heart surgery, sure, no problem. But an overdose, well that still holds shame in our society. Like the addict did something wrong because some people don’t see addiction as a disease. So all I can do is pray for her, her husband, and her adult children and maybe one day I’ll see her at an AA meeting. Maybe. Hopefully.
Would you send flowers? Do you know anyone who became addicted to opioids?