Have you ever had your child look at you and say “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want this,” with fear and pain in their eyes? I have, and there was nothing I could do to save him. I could be talking about cancer or any diabetes or any other chronic or life threatening disease, and actually, I am. I am talking about drug addiction.
As a society, we put a stigma on addicts because we believe there is something dirty about them. Maybe it’s because drugs are illegal or we call it their choice. Maybe it’s because we don’t understand addiction, and why would we. We don’t get educated on it until after we are impacted. As a result, we have an epidemic that continues to grow, and a disease that impacts virtually every family in this country in some way. You say not you. I say you’re either not being honest or you just have not figured out who yet. I say this because I know. I have lived this. I have had to face it. I have had to witness the pain and devastation. And now, because of my ignorance, I have to live with the loss.
Old stigmas are stealing lives
What we say about addicts we would never think to say to a person with a “real disease.”
- We say it’s their choice.
- We say just quit.
- We say they deserve what they get.
- We say they know better.
We say these things about addicts, but yet we have compassion for cancer patients and diabetics. We feel badly for them even when maybe their choice to smoke or have poor eating habits led to their diseases. We have empathy for them because we understand these diseases, we have been educated, and yes, killing yourself through cigarettes or food is perfectly legal.
With addiction, even though we have failed to educate kids and families, we hold them in disdain. Our healthcare system doesn’t want to pay for the proper care, the same care any other chronic disease would get. There are no fund raisers or national foundations, only the dark black hole of addiction and its stigma.
Learn from parents like us
There was a day, a time in my life when I held many of these beliefs. There was a time in my life I was ignorant. I did not understand the disease or its impact. There was a day that I would cast a stigma down upon the addict because they did it to themselves. Then I learned, and I learned the hard way. I learned about the disease. I learned about the pain. I learned about the desperation and hopelessness.
I learned too late. I learned after my son became an addict, a victim of a disease, that neither he nor we were ever really educated about. I learned too late. I learned after my son died and there was nothing I could ever do to fix it. Because I learned to late, my family will live with a loss that will forever leave a hole in our hearts and souls.
I learned too late, but you don’t have to. I know, it’s never your kid…until it is. Then what?