Sculpture named "unpack" by Andy Rosen in Portland, Maine
"Addiction isn't about substance - you aren't addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood the substance brings." - Susan Cheever
"Silence is foolish if we are wise, but wise if we are foolish." - Epectetus
I learned that a woman who had put me up for a couple of days some weeks a couple of months prior was having trouble closing on a house. I have worked both as a mortgage broker and a real estate agent in the past, so I thought I might be of some assistance. As we got talking on the phone she confided that she was having a terrible time getting off of a drug called Lexapro. She had prescribed it ten years ago, and had been stepping down her doses. A couple of weeks before she had come off of it entirely.
She had an out of town conference to attend so I agreed to watch her dogs for a few days. I hadn't really known the depths of her struggle until she returned and we had a chance to talk. One of the side effects of withdrawing is a short-term depression so severe that suicidal ideations are the norm. Horrible feelings of inadequacy and a deep craving for something - anything - had had her in its grips.
Ten years ago she had sought medical help for a deep lethargy and occasional hand tremors. After some tests a Dr. had diagnosed her with Parkinson's disease. She and her husband had just recently bought their dream house on a lake in Maine. He had always been a heavy drinker, heavy enough that she had sought help in Al-Anon, the program for spouses and children of alcoholics. He couldn't deal with having to live with someone who was going to deteriorate from a debilitating disease, so he left and they divorced. She couldn't afford the house by herself so the dream home went too.
For ten years she had been on these heavy medications that wipe out all of the finer human emotions. Oddly her Parkinson's didn't progress, so late last year she sought help from another Doctor. New tests came back positive - for a tick borne condition called Lyme's disease. It was subsequent to this finding that she decided she had to get herself off of the meds that were making keeping her all bottled up, and with the help of the new doctor was weaning herself off of them.
The next day we went to look at the house she was trying to buy. There was a situation with the down payment monies - she had given them $20,000 down that she had borrowed from a friend in anticipation of an inheritance she had coming later this year. The mortgage broker was asking for another $1,800 down payment, which she wouldn't have for another month. I knew that even if the seller wouldn't make a concession for the monies there was more than enough commission between the agent and the broker to easily cover the shortage. They wouldn't let the deal go if she just stuck to her guns.
That night we sat talking with an old friend of hers - a fellow that genuinely cares about her welfare. He was concerned that she was acting out of character of late and questioned her hard on her decision to buy this house. He said it ran completely counter to everything she had been saying for the last few years. It soon became apparent that her decision making had been severely compromised by the withdrawals. She had gotten herself into something that would be an anchor around her neck for many years to come. And she had done it from a position of despair - she had been feeling so bad that she wanted something - anything to make her feel better. At the time buying a house seemed like a good way to fill the void, and of course sales-people make quick friends when one is spending money.
So, in a complete reversal, the next day we set about unwinding the mortgage deal. We wrote a couple of emails, and although we had ample grounds to blame the mortgage broker we decided that she would take full responsibility for backing out of the deal. In no time the real estate agent was back in touch saying that they could overcome that $1,800. But the mortgage broker sent her a note back thanking her for her candor - grateful I am sure that she had not thrown them under the bus.
The next week and a half saw her feeling better and better as she moved further away from the worst withdrawal symptoms of the drug. She also got relief from the anxiety associated with buying a house and moving. She later confided in me that her despair was such that if she hadn't had the al-anon program she is sure that she would have taken her own life.
There are a bunch of lessons in this experience. First and most obvious is the horrible grip that drugs get on us. It doesn't matter if your drug comes from a Harvard trained doctor or a street corner junkie. A drug is a drug and they have profound effects on all of us. I am not saying that we should not trust doctors, but it is our health and it is our body. Before we take anything we need to educate ourselves about what it is, why we are taking it and what unanticipated baggage it brings along.
Second, when we are severely compromised emotionally we have to find a way to avoid making major decisions. In fact that should be something we resolve and are diligent about.
Third is the friend that was concerned enough that he set a time to meet with her and express his concern. How often do we see someone doing something we think is foolish and just let it pass by? And if someone else questions our decision making, aren't we quick to view it as an attack on ourselves and become more even more resolved to move forward with our bad decision? Without his willingness to confront and his gentle nature in doing so she would have acted completely against her self-interest - and I would have been her accomplice !! But it is the friendships she had cultivated that provided the means to pull her through a potentially disastrous situation.
For me personally the biggest lesson is that when God nudges us into service we often don't truly know God's will until the situation unfolds. If we decide to be a crusader and charge in on a white horse we can do irreparable harm in someone's life - fully convinced we are some kind of savior. In this case the pathway became apparent and no harm was done, but that may not always be the case.
Today, may I know prudence.
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