The different ways I have seen addicts conceal their track marks are incredible and also, shocking. One girl who came in after being addicted to crack and heroin showed me where she shot up, and I was blown away. She took off her shoes and showed me where she injected the needle in-between her toes and also pointed to scars left behind from abscesses that developed when bacteria infected the injection site. She told me, she began shooting in areas that appeared inconspicuous and once those sites were no longer an option, she had to move on to the more visible areas, such as her arms.
Another patient that came in with a drug addiction record of thirty years had collapsed veins in both of his arms and, as it turns out, he quickly found more veins to try until those, too, collapsed from overuse. Seeing patients with collapsed veins on their bodies was once a terrifying thing for me to witness, almost scarier than the craters on patient’s faces from picking scabs repeatedly. Of all the physical signs of addiction the worst, in my personal opinion, is the rotting teeth. Now, this is most common is users who smoked their drug but is also common when a user is so caught up in their addiction that they stop brushing their teeth and other common hygiene practices.
Denial is something you might expect to hear in an addiction facility and or rehab center: “I’m not addicted to the drugs/drinking, I just do it to function from day to day.” This was something my dad would say to my mom regularly. Even as he was crashing his car into the garage door and as he was stumbling through the kitchen to refill his thermos. So seeing first hand how someone who is so obviously addicted to his drug of choice and be able to deny it to everyone’s face, has allowed me to understand how everyone that walks through these doors says, “I’m not addicted.”
My brother, on the other hand, would snort his “roxies” (Roxicodone—powerful opioid) prescription and roll his eyes at anyone who had anything to say about it. He didn’t deny or even entertain a conversation about his habit. The higher his habit grew, the less he would talk about it. Unless my brother was in such a bad way, which I would consider multiple overdoses to WORD, he would pretty much do what he wanted and expected everyone to let him be.
Volunteering at the center has provided me with the insight I was looking for to see why people would choose addiction over their families and friends. I grew up with it, so I felt as though maybe my family was just broken and selfish. After speaking with the patients and medical staff, I can no longer believe that my dad and my older brother do not care about me, or the rest of the family. In many ways, I believe my dad and my brother loves us tremendously, but they are fighting an internal battle—a battle they will lose if they do not seek help.