My Name is Susan - page 2
My name is Susan, and I'm an alcoholic. I'm also a registered nurse, hold a bachelor's degree in Human Services, and a Masters in Human Service Administration. I have diabetes, a cirrhotic liver, and... Read More
Apr 3, '13It is one thing to have those feelings as a human, and quite another to allow that to inform the treatment of patients entrusted to our care.
Unfortunately, we are not equally skilled in that regard.
Apr 3, '13I always find it humorous or smirk outright when some staff makes rude comments about such patients in a "higher than thou" attitude while stuffing their face with everything in site. Also some really should accept that they made choices that led to their problems. Yes, given a different childhood, life , parents etc. things might have been different but we all have choice to an extent, as unpleasant as it is. But by the time those choices lead to medical problems, contemplating over them won't help. If someone needs and ID for shooting up heroin in their arm and getting an infection, or COPD exacerbation and still smokes.... that does not bother me at all. majority of medical problems we all see are a bit " brought upon ourselves" some people just ignore the ones that affect them. Must be some sort of coping mechanism.
Apr 3, '13Some have said that everyone has an addiction. Not true at all. True addiction whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex, food, video games, etc., is life-threatening. The addict's life and often the lives of others close to them are threatened by their addiction. My brother drove drunk with his kids in the car and his BAL was close to a lethal level for his 2nd DUI. My dad wrecked into another vehicle on the road when he got his DUI.
Addiction is soul-destroying. We use the word so flippantly- even me- but me being a "chocoholic" or even a recovering one, doesn't cause my sister to never be 100% sure that I'm not lying about everything.
Apr 4, '13Those of us that have had family members that were addicted to alcohol or drugs seem to have a harder time not being judgmental. We remember the times that our parents drove drunk with us in the car, the times we were ill yet our parents wouldn't buy medicine for us, only to buy beer or the times that they stole money from us. It would seem as though they chose the addiction over us.
That being said, our patients are not the family members that did those things to us. Could it be that the patient needs to be treated like any other patient? Yes. We do need to take into account their addiction while being treated for an acute illness so they do not go through withdrawal in the hospital. If their illness is the result of using whatever they are addicted to, then yes, we need to make sure that we educate them about what happened, why, how it will progress if use of the substance continues and offer to get them help. Education in a non-judgmental, caring way is the key to change. It might take 10,20,30 even 100 times of them hearing about help that is out there before they really hear it. Try to be one of the people that at least makes them contemplate the possibility of an addiction-free life.
I see addiction to be no different than the diabetic admitted for the 20+ times with a blood sugar of 900 and we watch as they go from losing toes one by one to bilateral above the knee amputations. All we can do is educate and hope that this is the time that they hear us!
Apr 4, '13Quote from missej2002You can feel sorry for their loved ones on your own time, but as a nurse, your practice should be less judgemental. A little empathy goes a long way. And that is not enabling. People don't choose addiction.Love the article, but I have encountered numerous addicts. I do not feel sorry for them, and at times I do judge them, the addicts that won't buy their seizure medication, or Tylenol for their child's fever because they can't afford it, but they smoke two packs of cigarette a day, just bought junk food from the vending machine, brought their pain medication, or they drink daily. They are on dialysis, have DM, do not control their glucose still smoking and does not know why their wound will not heal or why they are losing another toe. I am not sorry for feeling this way, we can not enable addicts, I am not here to baby them, addicts need to stop feeling sorry for themselves, attempt to get help, and stop blaming others. We all have choices, that we make, we are not perfect, but when we make the worry choices, we have to face it, fix it and move on. I have many addicts in my family, drunks, smokes, drugs, comfort eaters, etc. The ones I feel sorry for is their family-their parents their children the spouse, and etc.
Would you feel the same if a patient has melanoma from a tanning bed, but chooses to continue to tan? Or the high blood pressure patient who blows off getting their prescription, has a stroke, and the kids now need to take responsibility? Or how about extreme sports with multiple broken bones, but a patient continues to partake in these activities?
One is no different than another. Adreneline rush, can't stay out of the sun, and no real symptoms until it is too late blood pressure--or having drinks that turns into an addictive process--all conditions that need treatment. And that is our job. Think what you would like in your personal life, leave the judgement at the door.
Apr 4, '13Congratulations on your sobriety! You are a valuable person in the field. I too wish there were more education for nurses on addicition because many are judgemental about it. I read somewhere that 75% of nurses are the oldest child of alcoholic/drug addicted parents. I think many of them have not resolved their feelings about how addiction has affected their own lives.
Apr 4, '13Thanks for your truth and your practice both. When a beloved family member of mine did exactly what another sneering post in this thread recommends--"attempt to get help"--he got almost none. He went to his doctor who admitted him, with exactly zero orders, to the local hospital for detox. (CIWA has since been implemented at this hospital.)
He had several nurses of varying helpfulness. Most did not speak to him about his alcoholism at all. One aggressively recommended an expensive in-patient treatment center for which my friend had no insurance, no financial resources to cover. She assured him that he would fail otherwise.
And one night nurse, whose memory I treasure, treated him with respect, and called the doctor to advocate for medication orders, finally allowing my loved one a few hours tormented sleep. The single discharge intervention from social work? A woman who sailed into the room, gave my family member a mimeographed list of phone numbers, and sailed right back out again. Did not sit down for a moment. Later, I helped my family member dial the numbers to find post-detox help. Half the numbers were no longer correct or connected.
This is the kind of "help" available to many people who, in the depths of their disease and despair, seek a cure. And to those of you judging them and others: let's be a little less glib about assuming that effective treatment is a phone call away. Alcoholism is deadly, destructive, and resistant to treatment. There ought to be a wealth of treatment options. There are almost none.
My family member, a lifelong high achiever, managed to succeed, as Susan, the OP, did. My thanks and respect to both of you, and my gratitude for this very welcome article.
Apr 4, '13My daughter is now 9 months sober. She is one of the smartest people I know, so there has to be more to addiction than being dumb. You are right. No one has the right to judge. I get really peeved at nurses and MD's who label people and base treatment on that label (frequent flyer, user, etc). Keep preaching sister!
Apr 4, '13@salvadordolly,
Interestingly, I am the oldest child of an alcoholic dad. I know that I haven't resolved my feelings and how it actively impacts me even today. I've dabbled in al-anon and believe that it- or something like it- is key for those like me. Finding the "right fit" as each meeting has it's own personalities/strengths & weaknesses/range of health and dysfunction, is so difficult.
I applaud Susan for her sobriety. I see how hard it has been for my family members who have gotten sober. It isn't for the faint of heart.
Apr 4, '13Thank you for sharing your story, and I TOTALLY agree with everything you said!
I have seen something similar recently where I work---staff not caring or saying
they have NO sympathy for a patient who is suffering *medical* issues terribly
as a RESULT of her psychiatric issues.......!
I want to say "reallllly?? You have
absolutely NO empathy or compassion for her because of her self-harm? Really?
I always want to tell those co-workers they need to get OUT of this field if that's how
they feel .....ugh!!!
Apr 4, '13Quote from missej2002And just as you feel sorry for the family of addicts because the addict cannot see past their own problems in order to be there for their family, I in turn feel sorry for your patients who are addicts, because you cannot see past your own feelings in order to be there for your patients.Love the article, but I have encountered numerous addicts. I do not feel sorry for them, and at times I do judge them, the addicts that won't buy their seizure medication, or Tylenol for their child's fever because they can't afford it, but they smoke two packs of cigarette a day, just bought junk food from the vending machine, brought their pain medication, or they drink daily. They are on dialysis, have DM, do not control their glucose still smoking and does not know why their wound will not heal or why they are losing another toe. I am not sorry for feeling this way, we can not enable addicts, I am not here to baby them, addicts need to stop feeling sorry for themselves, attempt to get help, and stop blaming others. We all have choices, that we make, we are not perfect, but when we make the worry choices, we have to face it, fix it and move on. I have many addicts in my family, drunks, smokes, drugs, comfort eaters, etc. The ones I feel sorry for is their family-their parents their children the spouse, and etc.
Those who have experience with addicts, such as family members like yourself, are usually the least open to understanding the disease of addiction. I too have had family members with many levels of addiction problems, and have suffered with issues myself. As time has gone by I have experienced some of the same issues my family members have and a light comes on in my head and I think to myself "well no wonder they responded the way they did". That is not making excuses, that is understanding the causes, and we can't move forward if we don't understand the causes of our problems. No one can move on without support, no one. Yes, in the end, it is up to the individual to change, but everyone needs to feel understood, accepted for who they are in despite of their weaknesses. Supporting someone is not babying them, that is just what people who cannot open themselves up to understanding and supporting someone call it.
Apr 4, '13If I was a drug addict I would hesitate to tell medical providers. So many times ai have seen serious conditions be blown off as someone being a "drug seeker." That seems to be the go to diagnosis for a few drs and nurses no matter what.