February 24, 2007, 9:47 am

Save Me From the Nothing I’ve Become



I suppose that if you are standing underneath this guy, you would want him to have access to prompt diarrhea control.

It’s got antibiotics, soothing, detoxifying properties and it tastes like fruit.

And those are just the major advantages!

I guess the minor ones include clean underwear and a fresh smelling derriere.

I guess anything is better than having the “urge” to go when you are thirty feet in the air….


She bolted upright from a sound sleep at 0400.

Something was wrong. She heard voices in the hallway.

She got up. No one in the hallway.

She decided to go to the bathroom and then check on her adult son sleeping across the hall. “Mothers”, she thought. “No matter how old they are, they’re still kids.”

Even in the darkness she could see.

Her scream pierced the silence.


He was the color of paste, his lips cyanotic.

She thought he was dead.

He was damn close.

Her husband heard her screaming and ran into the room. Luckily, Joe was a trauma nurse.

Agonal, gurgling respirations. Pulse of twenty and thready.

Joe threw his son off the bed and onto the ground. He positioned the airway, clearing vomitus from the mouth and beginning rescue breaths he ordered his wife to call 911 and his other teen-aged son to start chest compressions.

It seemed like hours before the firefighters and the medics arrived, Joe kept rescue breathing and trying to deal with the continual emesis impeding his efforts. When the medics arrived, Joe ran into the bathroom because he was throwing up.

The patient responded to Narcan. His breathing became less erratic, and an oral airway with bag assisted ventilation was stopped. His behavior bordered on combative as he was placed in the ambulance with his mother in the front passenger seat.

The patient was no stranger to drug use, but the overdose was accidental.

That family came this close to losing a son.

And I came very close to losing a nephew.


You can imagine my interest when I was contacted by Adam Isserlis from HBO. Here is what he had to announce:

“Beginning March 15, HBO debuts a 14-part documentary series on addiction that redefines drug and alcohol addiction.

THE ADDICTION PROJECT reveals new medical information about addiction; startling statistics; issues that face 1 in 4 Americans affected by a primary family member struggling with drug and alcohol related problems; and innovative new treatments that are changing the dialogue about an illness that is now considered to be a brain disease that is a treatable chronic condition as manageable as diabetes; hypertension or asthma.”

As a nurse, I find trying to help my addicted patients difficult at best. The manipulation, the lying and the general behavior that the addiction perpetuates can be emotionally exhausting, often leaving the health care giver frustrated at the ebb and flow of recovery or in the short-term acute situation, angry at feeling manipulated or duped into giving the patient what they are really asking for: a fix.

This makes those patients with legitimate chronic pain issues feel as though they are treated with suspicion when they seek help for breakthrough pain in the ER. They aren’t imagining it.

As a family member, I’m sick for my nephew, know he’s a good kid underneath it all and want to see him succeed in his recovery.

“Directed by 20 accomplished documentary filmmakers, THE ADDICTION PROJECT presents gripping stories of addiction and recovery from emergency rooms to the work place.”

The documentary also presents the nation’s leading experts and organizations in the forefront of the effort to understand and help 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 who are suffering from substance abuse or dependence.”

I never expected to get such an in depth inservice from a cable TV station. I will be watching every episode, hoping to learn both professionally and personally new information on addiction that will help me understand it as a disease and not a character flaw.

I hope you will join me in this endeavor.


Here are some statistics from HBO that you may find astounding:

  • Nearly 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 are classified with substance abuse or dependence.
  • Over 18 million adults suffer from alcohol use disorders.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse costs the American economy an estimated $366 billion per year in lost productivity, health care expenditures and crime.
  • Of the 22.2 million Americans who needed treatment for illicit drugs or alcohol, only 3.9 million received it.
  • Among those who felt they needed treatment but did not receive it, 44% attributed it to cost or insurance barriers.
  • 95 percent of all adults dependent on or abusing alcohol started drinking before age 21.
  • If you are not addicted by the age of 25, it is less likely that you will become addicted to alcohol or illicit drugs.
  • More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking.
  • One-fourth of all persons admitted to general hospitals are admitted for problems related to alcohol.
  • More than 100,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributable to excessive alcohol consumption.

If you know someone suffering from addiction, check out AddictionAction.org and find out how you can help.

If you don’t believe you know anyone suffering from addiction, look again.

You may find it in your own backyard.

I did.



    February 24, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Addiction is a cunning and baffling disease that robs those afflicted and their families of finances, futures, relationships and everything that is beautiful and good in life. God’s blessings on your nephew and your family.

  • Jon

    February 24, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Best wishes for you and your nephew. I just returned from my brother-in-law’s celebration of 3 years of living clean. As they say at NA meetings, it works if you work the steps.

    God bless

  • Markie

    February 25, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Best wishes to you and your family, Kim.

    Interesting topic. I was surprised when Craig Fergusen (whom I only knew from the Drew Carey show) apparently skipped the easy laughs at Britney Spear’s escapades and instead talked about addiction.


  • beajerry

    February 25, 2007 at 2:34 am

    It’s a tough problem, but as the years roll on we seem to be honing in on better recognition and treatment for those who have true addiction problems.

  • Candy

    February 25, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Hopefully the HBO series will get the people who say “they should just stop at one” or “these people are just weak” to at least be open to the possibility that this is a legitimate disease.

    AA’s Big Book (the bible for recovery) calls attention to addiction as a disease.

    “An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents – anyone can increase the list.”

    The beginning of Chapter 5 says “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.”

    I know it’s not easy — my husband is an alcoholic. I have spent the last 13 years trying to change him, cajole him, shame him, FIX him. AA has given him (and me) a chance at a “normal” life.

    NA is the same — if your nephew can admit his problem and is willing and able to work these steps, he can be sober for one day. If he can work the steps day after day, he has a chance at a sober, healthly, grateful life (and so does your sister and brother-in-law).

    Hang in there — read Pat’s book again (I do all the time) and pray.

  • Audrie, friend of Bill W

    February 25, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I sent your post to all my address book of friends and family. Vital info well written. I, too, am touched by addiction. Both sides of my family, one parent, 4 sibs and myself are addicts and alcoholics in recovery with lots of sober time. But notlong enough to ever forget the horrors of being a nurse and trying to hide my problem, and the nightmare of withdrawal and early recovery. A loving intervention saved my life. Only by the Grace of God did I not end up stealing drugs from my patients. I was wily enough to get scrips from docs for all kinds of Rx fun. us nurses have a 1 in 4 chance of an abusive relationship with drugs and alcohol. Much higher than the general population. Thank goodness there is a wonderful treatmentcenter in GA just for health professionals (for obvious reasons) I am blessed to not have made nursing mistakes that might have injured a patient. I came close though. Once in the NICU, I drew up ten times the dose of gentamycin for a neonate who weighed only 900 grams.God made me re-check that dose.I still get chills knowing that that much could easily have made that baby deaf forever. You are doing great work. I look forward to your post and read it even before personal mail. Grok, Audrie B

  • Ron Swartz

    February 26, 2007 at 3:29 am

    My brother became addicted to Heroin at age 17. He battled addiction for all of his life and, finally, at age 50 died from a heroin overdose.

    The more awareness can be promoted the better.

  • Max E Nurse

    February 26, 2007 at 7:33 am

    Nothing profound to say.
    Just a big hug from me.

  • Teresa

    February 26, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Very few treatment programs for the “working poor”. I see patients that would benefit every day, but there’s nothing for them unless they are in immediate danger…or if they have private insurance or Medicaid. If addiction is a “disease” then shouldn’t treatment be available to all?

  • Candy

    February 26, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Even those of us fortunate enough to have insurance aren’t guaranteed to go to in-pt rehab — we had to pay ourselves for the 28-day stay at St. Helena because our insurance in its infinite wisdom said an outpatient program would work as well. I am so glad we decided to stick it out — it was worth every single penny of the $14,300 it cost.

    There are lots of Friends of Bill W in hospitals across the country, but many more who need to be aware that help exists. Of the 40 people in the program with my hubby, 7 were nurses and 2 were docs…and they wouldn’t have gone except for the DUIs they got that forced them into treatment.

    The California BRN has a diversion program that works to keep RNs licensed while they go through treatment, but too many are afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

    Please ask — if you can’t go to your manager, go to another nurse, or to a friend. You aren’t alone. If you get blown off, keep asking, or find an AA meeting.

  • Chris

    February 26, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Wow. It is always sad/scary but when it hits this close to home it brings an entirely new perspective. It sounds like he does have people around him to intervene. I hope it sinks in and he agrees that he needs help.

  • emmy

    February 27, 2007 at 6:03 am

    Funny this is all coming up now. I blogged recently about the fall into addiction of a dear friend and my desire to see him recover. Greatfully he’s just become a friend of Bill W. himself.

  • NPs Save Lives

    February 27, 2007 at 6:29 am

    Damn, Kim. That’s sad. Thanks for putting this post up. I had a fellow nurse become addicted to pain meds after coming down with a certain disease process. It’s pretty much destroyed her life.

  • George

    February 27, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Nice write. I hope your nephew is going through a program. It is getting rampant and out of hand!

  • Rachel

    March 2, 2007 at 4:21 am

    Thank you for sharing your family’s pain. I have skirted the issue in my own blog – my brother went through treatment 20 years ago as a teenager.

    Many thoughts to you and your family and most of all, your nephew.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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