Hello there and Happy New Year! You probably thought I had fallen off the face of the earth but it has taken me this long after the Holiday fog to get it all back together. Hopefully, I still have some readers:)
Warning: this is not a warm and fuzzy post and may leave you feeling a little sad but it is the truth and the good news is there is always hope. I promise to never speak truth without love and a dash of hope. If you can take the hard stuff then keep reading and if not, come back another day:)
The word epidemic is defined as a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time. Some synonyms of the word epidemic are outbreak, plague, pandemic. In layman’s terms, an epidemic is something massive and it can’t be contained. It is bad news. Our country is currently in the midst of a drug epidemic. Statistics often help drive the point home so here are the latest stats regarding addiction: 120 Americans die every day from opioid addiction. The face of drug addiction has changed over the last ten years and today a bulk of the overdoses are not happening on the streets but in affluent suburbs. Kids are dying in their bedrooms and parents are oblivious to what is going on. Painkillers have long been an easy drug to obtain and began what we called the opioid epidemic with people abusing prescription drugs but now the drug in the spotlight is heroin. That is heavy. 80% of heroin users first abused opioids. Heroin is cheap, it is high quality meaning it is purer (and more deadly) than ever before and it is easily obtained. Stats show that every 19 minutes a baby is born addicted to opioids in our country.
Just an hour or so north of our home here in Central Georgia, are the affluent cities of Marietta, Alpharetta, John’s Creek, Cumming and Powder Springs. This area is now known as the Heroin Triangle. In the last three years, heroin use in the Atlanta suburbs has increased 300%. That is staggering. A&E’s popular show, Intervention is based in Atlanta this season and focuses on the triangle. We watched the first episode today and at one point, one of the counselors made the comment that the morgues are full and can’t hold any more bodies. Heroin is here in our little town too. You have probably read about the overdoses and seen the news coverage. The last one was about a week ago when a man who was also a daddy to three boys took a break while his kids were having fun in Sky Zone and overdosed in his car in the parking lot. I just imagine those kids growing up, meeting new people and being asked if they have a Dad and they say “No, remember that guy that overdosed in the Sky Zone parking lot? That was my Dad.” Heartbreaking. And here is the thing that most people don’t understand – that man was not himself, he was an addict and he was physically and mentally addicted to a powerful drug. He did not want this life to end that way and he didn’t want to write that story for his kids but the drug was ruler in his life and he finally succumbed to it. It is easy to look at a story like that and get angry because he was a “worthless addict” that overdosed in front of his kids but the fact is, he was not worthless, he was somebody’s son and somebody’s father and he was hurting. He numbed that pain with heroin and it cost him his life. Nobody sets out to become an addict. It is a slow fade and before they know it, they are addicted and cannot function without their substance. They know they need to stop but until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing they will remain stuck. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. I am convinced that almost every family is touched by addiction in some way. Even if there is not addiction in the immediate family there is a distant cousin or a friend of a friend that struggles. Next time you ride through a neighborhood, count the houses. For every six houses, there is 1 house that houses an addict. Even if you claim to not know an addict, addiction is a drain on society so it affects all of us. It causes health care costs to rise, emergency rooms stay full, addicted people can’t work so they are applying for government assistance instead of working and supporting the local economy.
Sometimes, when the problem is this BIG, it is easy to put on our rose colored glasses and not do anything but that’s not the answer because we can all do something. I think one of the most helpful actions will be more education – educate teens, young adults and parents on drugs and how kids are getting drugs. On behalf of our ministry, Cross Roads Recovery, we have had the opportunity to speak to several high schools and I think it will also be beneficial to host parent groups and speak to them as well so they know what to look for and how to distinguish the signs. Our state is taking action & increasing funding for prevention programs, improving access to treatment programs, strengthening the prescription drug monitoring program, closely watching pain clinics, etc. As individuals if we know a friend that is struggling, we should confront them and offer to help. As parents if you notice painkillers missing from your medicine cabinet, get to the bottom of it. As teachers or coaches if you notice odd behavior or odd physical symptoms, say something. It all starts with communication We can’t be afraid to talk about it because it is a problem and people are dying and the problem is not going away just because we are ignoring it. If you live near a recovery program, offer to volunteer time or resources and commit to praying for the people in the program and their leaders.
I can speak about all this stuff because I get it. I know the shame attached to addiction and I know how easy it is to bury your head in the sand and pretend nothing is going on. That is the illusion, if you ignore it then it must not be happening right? Wrong. It is real and you just have to buck up, stare it straight in the face and confront it. Things kept in the dark are scary but once you bring it out into the light, it loses its control over you. My husband struggled with addiction for ten years so I have experienced all the feelings and it took me years to get healthy and really begin to understand the disease of addiction. It is a monster and it knows no boundaries. No profession, level of education or level of society is off limits. It attacks people and their families & the addict will either die in their addiction or they will decide that something has to change so they get help. It won’t be easy, in fact, it will be extremely difficult but it will be worth it – for both the addict and the family if they can stick it out. And here’s the thing – the family also has work to do because life with an addict affects you and you can’t live in that chaos without having your own issues so if you are family member and have someone in treatment now, take care of yourself. See a counselor, go to a meeting, join a bible study, read addiction related literature and learn how other families overcame and get in the game alongside your addict. Cross Roads Recovery offers Family Recovery meetings every month and that is a great place to start. C.S. Lewis has a great quote that says “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, What?! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Community is so important when you are going through a tough time. If you love an addict, your heart is going to hurt but I am convinced that silence makes it hurt a little more. Talking it out and sharing with someone you trust or within a community of like minded people can be so healing. We were born to be real not to be perfect.
I know there are a million problems in the world and we could spend days talking about them all so I chose the one closest to my heart, the one I am passionate about because of my own experiences. My husband and I feel like God has given us a platform through our ministry and our God story to speak and share. We are forever grateful to transparently share our story and what we have learned in hopes of helping others beat the odds and live in a life of Freedom as we now do. If you know someone that is making unwise or possibly deadly choices, call them out. Speak to them and speak the truth in love. We cannot love addiction out of someone, we cannot beat it out of them or even pray it out of them but we can help them find a way out & there can be lasting freedom from the bondage of addiction. If you are reading this and think our ministry can help you, please visit our website and reach out to us. God bless you!