Richard Bach wrote “if you love someone, set them free.”
His mom, taking this saying to heart, saved Mike Miller from a lifetime of addiction and most likely death.
Today Miller is the clinical lead of The Cabin rehab centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand, helping addicts like himself conquer their demons.
The day before he spoke at a free clinic ‘How Addiction Affects Families’ on April 14 at the Fleetwood Community Centre, Miller stopped by the Langley Times office, where he opened up about his own struggles with drugs in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island — and how his mom’s tough love veered him on a path of sobriety.
Miller said the person who took the brunt of his addiction issues was the one he loved most — his mom.
“She was my chief enabler and she was rescuing me and doing all the things based on her fear and her obligation and guilt — those were the three motivating factors for her,” Miller said.
“So when she would rescue me from the consequences, all it meant was she would take on those consequences. She would bail me out of jams, out of jail, out of whatever, and at the same time she was suffering.”
Having a son as an addict affected Miller’s mom’s marriage and mental well-being.
“So she got all the consequences of my addiction and didn’t even get to get high,” Miller said. “I was the one who got to get high and forget about that stuff to some degree.”
Miller says addiction touches a lot of people, but nobody ever tells people how to deal with it.
“Addicts don’t know about addiction. I mean, they live it but they don’t know anything about it and family members… don’t know how to help their loved ones, so what they usually end up doing is helping the addiction to continue,” Miller said.
His mom’s overprotective nature fueled Miller’s drug habit. She would pay his rent so he wouldn’t end up on the street. This opened a pathway for Miller to funnel his money towards drugs.
“Every dollar that she gave me was a dollar I could spend on drugs,” Miller said. “She was doing it for what she will tell you is love — and I don’t doubt for a second that she loved me more than anything — but that wasn’t an act of love, it was an act of enabling. She was so fearful of what would happen if she didn’t take control and fix it.”
Finally, Miller’s mom had enough.
“The very hardest thing my mother did in her whole life was tell me, ‘I’m done, I’m not supporting you if you don’t get help,’” Miller said. “At which point my safety net was gone. It went against all her maternal instincts of unconditional love, I’ve got to help my son no matter what. It was where she said, ‘your consequences are coming fast and furious and you’re going to have to deal with them now because I’m not doing it anymore.’”
Within four days of his mom telling him that she was “done,” he was in treatment and he hasn’t used since.
“That was absolutely the catalyst,” Miller said. “When she took away the safety net, I said ‘I’ve got to stand on my own two feet, now.’”
Miller’s mom likely saved his life, judging from stats from the BC Coroners’ Service that show the deadly consequences of addiction.
In B.C., were 1,156 illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected in 2017, marking a 73 per cent increase over the number of fentanyl detected deaths (670) occurring in 2016.
Roughly 28 per cent of those dying in 2017 were aged 30 to 39, with 91 per cent between 19 and 59.
Fraser Health Authority had the highest number (377) of illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected in 2017, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (337) and Interior Health Authority (200)
In Langley, there were 32 fentanyl-detected deaths in 2017.
The crisis has spilled into 2018. There were 102 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in February and the average number of illicit drug overdose deaths in February 2018 was 3.6 deaths per day.
Miller notes that the number of addicts is no higher than before, but with the potency of the stuff on the streets, the overdose count has risen substantially.
“The public perception of it right now is the opioid epidemic because of fentanyl and people dying and overdoses, and it’s tragic, but I don’t think there is more of an addiction problem now than there has been historically, it’s just more deaths because of it, so it’s getting more (media attention).”
Helping families save the lives of loved ones, even if it’s one life, made the trip to his home country and province worth it for Miller. He said there were “lots of families interested in the information that was presented and we received great feedback” at the April 14 event.
“The fact that I’ve lived through my addiction here and I’m clean now, if I can come and help anybody around here, then I’m motivated to do that because it’s home even though I’ve lived in Thailand for a number of years,” said prior to the seminar.