How many overdose deaths will it take to shake us up??
Thoughts from Don Troutman, Founder, Clean & Sober Transitional Living
Recent headlines shouted out that more people died from overdose in 2017 than were killed in the entire 20-year Vietnam War. Equally sobering: alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined. Yet only one in ten people who needs treatment for drug or alcohol abuse ever gets help. Could your loved one be one of those statistics? Could you?
No one plans to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Instead, it often begins with playful experimentation. Perhaps that drink lubricates the wheels of conversation or reduces anxiety. Maybe it began with pills prescribed for an injury or surgery. But pretty soon, drinking to excess or drugging is not by choice anymore. Once you’ve turned that corner, you need to drink or drug to make it through the day without physical illness or mental anguish. Then the other dominoes fall: jail, dishonesty, car accidents, child neglect, job loss….
We now understand who is vulnerable to addiction or alcoholism, and “bad character” or “no willpower” aren’t part of the equation. Did you experience trauma as a child (bullying, abuse, poverty, the loss of a parent)? How about depression, anxiety disorder or bi-polar disorder? Is your family tree peppered with substance abuse? First drink or drug as a young teen? If you answered Yes to everything, Congratulations! You are squarely in the cross-hairs of developing the brain disease we call substance use disorder.
If we stopped stigmatizing people who have become yoked to alcohol or drugs, they would be more likely to seek help and reclaim productive lives. Where is the shame in that?
Getting and staying sober doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop new, sober friendships, build healthy habits, and change how you manage stress, anger, triggers, celebrations, LIFE. That’s a tall order, but long-term sobriety IS possible. Ask President George W. Bush, Olympian Michel Phelps, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, actor Samuel L. Jackson, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, or journalist Elizabeth Vargas. They’re among the 23 million Americans in long-term recovery. If you’re struggling with drugs or alcohol, you’re in good company, and you’re clearly not alone.
Other names come to mind: Amy Winehouse. John Belushi. Phillip Seymore Hoffman. Prince. Carrie Fisher. Michael Jackson. You probably have names of your own…maybe your parent, your kid, a friend, a colleague. Maybe it’s you.
If you’re concerned about a friend, ditch the finger-pointing and shaming. Stand by with understanding and compassion, and help find help.
If your own life isn’t working because of alcohol or drugs, give yourself the gift of grace and a fresh start. All it takes is the willingness to change, and we’re here to help. Park that shame and stigma at our door, and walk right in.