(Twelfth in a series of topical blogs based on chapter by chapter excerpts from Opiate Nation. Translation into most languages is available to the right.)
Mazes are fascinating. I remember the ones on paper placemats that our kids would get in restaurants that had maze drawings in various shapes: circular spirals, squares, etc. They would try to get from the center to the outside without ending up at too many dead ends and then be forced to trace back over their steps and try another path.
There is a “Sensory Maze” in New Zealand that also includes optical illusions. So not only are you trying to figure a way through the maze, but you are met with an immense variety of optical and sensory illusions that add to the fun – and confusion.
Our perception of an illusion is a brain issue and not a sight issue. The visual areas of our brain process information and if it is an illusion, a misperception, it confuses our senses and our brains bend our perception of reality to meet our expectation. This correlates well to life with our son during his active addiction.
Our life, and our son’s life, during the years of his opioid addiction was very much a sensory maze with illusions that we thought would bring about our desires. We had never been down this road before, and neither had many other parents of teenagers at the turn of the century. And there were not many success stories that we could look to as examples. Then, many times, we were given advice by people who knew addiction yet we did not fully take it. We were woefully myopic, too close to the problem to see it clearly or objectively.
For families and their addicted loved ones, much of life feels like living in a maze filled with optical illusions, dead ends, retraced steps. Thankfully, there is much more knowledgeable help available now – knowledge that has been gained due to learning from hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths from overdose. We know in this day and time that Harm Reduction/Minimization is the best approach to take and that Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) is almost always needed alongside a good 12-Step recovery program and/or Cognitive Behavior Therapy. And we also know that recovery is not a quick-fix: it takes a long time and much wise support for both the family and the struggling individual.
But these are precious lives that are worth the effort it takes to navigate through the maze until you find the most direct path to recovery.
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2 thoughts on “Illusions in the Maze”
As a friend who stood by and often listened and sometimes said stuff, the maze is REAL. You could feel it. There were no ways around, no way out, dead ends everywhere. And it lasted for years. And when there was the added weight of bulky cultural “coats” covering up the conditions that were already confusing enough and slowing things down, crazy-making exchanges filled the atmosphere in daily spaces. How do you act confidently when you don’t know which way to turn or who to believe?
Yes, you were there through thick and thin, through all the years, all the tears – faithful and loving to the end. A true friend to us and to our son. Thank you.