Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
Every other week, I answer a call for advice, and every other week, I share my views on something I observed- I call this Observational Wisdom.
This particular topic is a very sensitive one, and it might upset you to the point you hate me.
You have been warned!
There is always discussion about whether free emergency drugs should be provided when somebody has overdosed, and a lot of angry people don’t appreciate that. Free lifesaving drugs are not provided for other life threatening things, and most especially enraging people is the rising cost of epi pens, but people who endanger their own lives with drugs are saved for free. Beyond that, drug recovery programs are free, and people go on disability due to their drug problems, drawing benefits. All of this angers some because it comes out of tax dollars that get removed from paychecks.
There is a battle that is never ending about this topic, and, like most people, I have a few things to say about it.
First of all, I will point out that if our government was doing its job, we would not be fighting over resources. There is enough for everybody if systems are set up properly, but we live in a Capitalism. It’s all about the rich getting richer, and the poor getting less. All the while, we blame the poor for their struggles.
We expect them to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and work. Well, guess what? They already do. Not everybody gets all the same opportunities, and besides that, not everybody has all the same capabilities. I say this as somebody who grew up poor, in the home of an addict, but I was lucky enough to get to go to college, and get away from the drug nest I was born into. Ironically, it was the drug using mother of mine who saw to it I got to college. I moved out, with a boyfriend who was very educated, and who made sure I did not drop out. I also lived nearby the University, and did not have the expense of living on campus, and did not have to work to pay bills while I went to school. Work was for part-time spending money.
This was privilege working for me, and I know damn good and well that not everybody has the luxuries I did despite my deprived youth. I am also aware the reason I was accepted in the school to begin with was because I got very good grades in my senior year of high school, and I got school loans as well. Without these things, college would not have been possible. I have no children, and I didn’t back then either. So, I was not responsible for taking care of other people, which keeps some from going to school sometimes. I’m also very good at academics, whereas not everybody is. I have a normal IQ, and I had transportation. Not everybody has these things. If even one of these things had been different, I might not have gotten the chance to get a college education, which was my ticket out of the drug nest I lived in.
More than these things, I WANTED out. I saw what the drugs did, and I saw people whose households were not ripped apart by drugs. I wanted what those households had as opposed to what went on in my home.
This explains part of my background, which instilled in me my beliefs about addiction.
I could go into what it was like living in that household, but I don’t feel like crying today. Eventually, I’ll share, but I’m not sure this blog is the best place for the long story and details.
Suffice to say, it was absolutely horrible, and I still have flashbacks to this day. Medication has not helped, and neither has counseling. I will have to live with this until I cross the veil, and I sure as hell won’t be joining with mom or her family as an ancestor when I go to the other side.
As a result, every time I see somebody defending use of lifesaving drugs for people who OD’d, it raises my hackles. Not because I want to just kill all addicts, but because this concern is always before concern for the things addiction does to the children, family members, and communities of those who choose drugs and alcohol addiction over normal, healthy life. If concern for the victims ever does get expressed, it’s an afterthought at best.
There is a never ending supply of resources for addicts, whether they are trying to recover or not, but in a lot of communities, there is not one program for the victims of their atrocities. It feels like nobody cares about us, and nobody ever will. I am over that fact, and don’t hope for it to ever change. The result of all this is I am not one of the people who cares about addicts. My concern is for the victims, and no, an addict is not a victim. They made a choice, and their choices damage their own lives, and the lives of countless innocent people around them.
I paid for every bit of my own treatment including medication and counseling out of pocket. I paid out of pocket for every self-help book I bought. I don’t think it is fair victims pay to fix the problems people with addictions create, but a lifesaving drug when somebody is about to die from OD is free. I never will.
Next, if somebody wants to take their own life, be it by deliberate suicide, or risking things with substance abuse, it is their life, and right. Let them. I am not one of the people who believes life is one strike, and you are out. I believe in reincarnation, which means we get lots of opportunities and chances. There is no death, but movement from life to life. What we seek to preserve is quantity of years as opposed to quality of life. If somebody is unable to live a quality life, and puts themselves in a situation to die, it is not compassionate to force them to continue to live due to our own, personal beliefs.
Next, I am not stupid. I know some people get clean and stay clean. I just don’t see how it is other people’s responsibility to try to push people to that when they are not ready. Sometimes, an overdose is not a deliberate suicide attempt, yes, but that is always a risk you take when you take those substances into your body. One excuse some have is that people don’t realize how dangerous it is. I don’t believe that. Not in the 21st century.
My beliefs about addicts and what I feel they deserve aside, what I would prefer to see is the funding shifting from saving addicts, to saving their victims. I would like their kids to go to better homes, and for services not to make it priority to “keep families together at all costs” in environments that are torn apart by substance abuse. Realistically, Universal Healthcare would fix the issue of some life threatening things being treated for free, but I don’t believe our government is ready to give us that. Too many of our representatives are paid by pharmaceutical companies to create laws that keep costs high, and the #1 thing on their minds is lining their own pockets. So we are not going to get Universal Healthcare for quite some time if we EVER get it.
Some people have already destroyed their own lives, and continue to do so one pill, snort, drink, or shot at a time. Really, it is their life , and their right to live it or end it as they see fit. Their ability to destroy other lives is what needs taken away.
I was one of the lucky ones who made it out in one piece, but I’m not sound of mind. I suffer chronic physical illness, back injuries from car accidents mom involved us in, and I struggle with anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. It’s not something that is ever going to go away at this point, and after living with this for 41 years, all I can do is live one day at a time, doing the best I can at any given moment. So maybe I made it out, but I am by no means whole.
The drug epidemic is getting worse, not better, and part of the issue is we are lying to people, telling them addiction is a disease they cannot avoid. People point to generations of users learning from parents, and teaching their own children the lifestyle that supports addiction, and claim it is a genetic disability, and thus just can’t be helped. That is not true. Addiction does not exist where a substance to be addicted to is unavailable. It CREATES diseases through poison of the body. So addiction is not the disease itself, but it certainly triggers a plethora of diseases, social ills, and sometimes, death.
This has been emotionally trying for me to write, and I don’t even know if it will matter, but I am putting this out there. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I do know how we are attacked, and accused of being uncompassionate when we express our feelings, and why we feel the way we feel. Ideals and beliefs based on something you read on the internet is one thing, but beliefs based on how you have been forced to live is quite another. Nobody who has not endured what we have has got the right to shame us, condemn us, or hate us, and we know the current program is not working. If you really care, and want solutions to the drug epidemic, stop the fucking enabling, stop attacking the victims, and push for legislation to advocate for the victims of addicts, and more stringent legal consequences for drug and alcohol abuse.
I would like nothing more than for us to live in a world that is addiction free, but it seems human beings are an addictive species in general. I am thankful that through both choices, and self-work, my own addictions include reading, the cats, and my dog, cooking, art, and crochet. These things are not always cheap, but they give me a better life than the one I grew up with, at least. These are also things that I can proudly pass on to any kids we might be blessed with, and I won’t have to worry about any emotional , or physical trauma for my offspring.
I wish I could end this article on a positive note, but I can’t. It’s because I know there won’t be any answers, or any solution for the issues we face anytime soon. I’m also sad because too many people are holding onto their personal needs to feel needed by enabling, and that is a huge part of the problem. I saw an internet argument online about it today, driven by a woman who feels very noble for her work with addicts, and demands credit for it. The problem is multi-faceted, and so the solution must be as well.
Not today, unfortunately. Not today.