Hopes & Dreams

(Twenty-first in a series of topical blogs based on chapter by chapter excerpts from Opiate Nation. Translation into most languages is available to the right.)

I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope.

–Aeschylus, Agamemnon

After our son’s death from overdose, John and I truly felt like “men in exile,” forced into separation from our son, banished from each other’s’ lives. We are not just on different continents, but in different worlds, different dimensions. And hope? Any hope would have been just that—a dream, a mirage.

His untimely death took all hope of a sober and content son in this life away. Lost hope is what crushes parents when their child dies a needless death, an ignoble death to many. Had he fought in a war and been killed in action, to society it would have been a noble death. Most people who are separated from the life-and-death battle with addiction can’t see the struggle that this generation of young people are fighting on a moment-by-moment basis against an enemy that is in their brain, in their body—not outside it—one they can’t shoot and kill or put in prison. But we, as parents and friends, see it and wonder how much longer can they fight before they lose?

An ancient proverb tells us “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Hope was definitely deferred while John and I hung on for the last several years of JL’s life, waiting for our desire to be fulfilled for him to be clean and sober.

But what about his hopes and his dreams? Do individuals who are addicted to drugs or other substances or destructive habits still carry hopes and dreams deep inside? That is one of the soul-robbing aspects of addiction of any sort: the need of instantaneous gratification for pleasure that sidelines future aspirations and hopes while that insistent, always present, urgent need for immediate satisfaction is a mirage they head toward. All plans beyond the present compelling urge their mind and body are clamoring for are pushed aside until they finally disappear, out of sight, and ultimately out of reach. Acquiescence to the fate before them. Crushed hopes. Lost dreams.

I saw this many times in the last few years of JL’s life, and it was torturous to observe. In conversations, I would try to give him a picture of what his future could be like once he was clean and sober, to remind him of his hopes and dreams, the ones he had when he was young, and again, as a university student. But I could see the absence of hope in his eyes. It was, and is, devastating to think of someone I love living without hope. It was so hard to watch, and must have been even more devastating to bear. I know I couldn’t do it.

Hope is essential to life. It is breath to our souls. With it, we envision a better future, which motivates us to figure out, and then take, steps towards that future. I want to be a person who can not only say words of hope and encouragement to others but who can also offer practical solutions and wise help. What will that look like for me – and for you – to the people we know who are struggling with addictions? Perhaps the first step is offering the dignity of viewing them and accepting them as a person – not causing them to feel ashamed of who they are because of their self-destructive behavior. When the stigma surrounding addiction is removed from the room, anything can happen, even hope, even dreams.

Author: Jude DiMeglio Trang

My husband, John, and I are parents of a young opiate addict who died of an accidental heroin overdose at 25. These are our credentials for writing and working towards reversing the exponentially rising statistics for opiate addiction and deaths in our country and the world.

2 thoughts on “Hopes & Dreams”

  1. Our story is similar but opposite. Our son, Macauly, struggled with addiction for 10 years but always felt confident that he was in control and that he would someday be what he wanted to be. The longer in addiction, the more out of control he was, he still felt like he was in charge of his heroin abuse. He could stop anytime. He said it’s not hard to quit. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay stopped. So stubborn. He would not listen to anyone. His parents. His older brothers. His friends. But near the end of his life, I did start to see a hopelessness in his eyes. He was 26. Although not too late but maybe he felt it was too late to go back to college or audio school and redirect his life. He had such big plans before and had to watch his friends finish college and become adults. His closest friend became a DJ with someone else. This was their dream together since they were 15. I know that crushed him. But not enough to stop. I think that is the most sorrowful aspect of my grief. The lost potential of what he could have been. He was so smart and talented and had a lot to offer. He wanted to make a difference in the world. And he could have, should have.

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    1. What you are describing is what a recovery leader called “the addict brain”. Since addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain, the longer someone is addicted, the more the cravings take over and logic leaves. Hijacked. This just shouldn’t have happened to our sons, to their generation. Opioids are the cancer of addictions that historically were the end of the line for drug users – but not anymore. Thank you for sharing part of your story and your pain. It is by doing this that we may help prevent young people growing up today to avoid this deadly drug.

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