How Many Have to Die Before We Call It What It Is?

How many of you think drug addiction is a disease? Or do you consider it a moral failing?  The product of a weak-willed person, someone with a poor constitution. What about alcoholism?  Disease? Or another moral failing?

Our community lost a promising 23 y/o young man this month.  I didn’t know him personally but he was part of my tribe, my community. I read his obituary and looked at what was probably his senior picture. Poster boy for good looks and clean-cut living. This death on the heels of another high-profile death in our community…the quarterback of a local football team, son of a former NFL player…dead as the result of a heroin overdose.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the ignorance of the rest of us. These are not bad people. These are not weak-willed human beings. These are sick people suffering from a disease. Alcoholism and drug addiction have long since been recognized by both the American Medical Association and the Supreme Court as a disease. By definition: a chronic, progressive and FATAL disease. Yet we as a society continue to treat the sufferers as lepers…criminals…outcasts.

Do we imprison our cancer sufferers? Do we shun the person with diabetes as someone who “just can’t handle his sugar”? No. But when it comes to drugs and alcohol, our social indifference kicks in and we stigmatize, we lock-out, we imprison.  The United States has the largest prison population in the world and the overwhelming majority of these prisoners are addicts and alcoholics. Should we forgive their crimes because they are sick? Of course not, but we need to reevaluate what is a crime.  Possession and under the influence penalties are ridiculous. Locking someone up for feeding their addiction is like busting the diabetic for possession of a Snickers bar. The criminal justice system is not the answer.  Compassionate, accountable recovery is.

Until our society as a whole has the moral courage to recognize this for what it is…a disease, we will continue to mistreat it. And we will continue to kill our young.  We are not exempt. You are not exempt. Jail does nothing to treat the underlying disease; it only manifests the problem and continues the lie.

So as you judge the alcoholic or addict next time, try to remember that they are suffering from a chronic, progressive and fatal DISEASE…if enough of us do this, perhaps it will save some lives, reform our prison system and finally begin to address the root problem.  If not, we will continue to bury our young. This is not getting better folks…only worse.

RIP Aaron. I’m sorry we couldn’t help. Shame on all of us.

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About Conversations With The Moon

Divorced father of two amazing young adults. College student, plodding away at a liberal arts degree. Formerly a Fire Captain and Paramedic. Dabbler in fashion. Liberal. Believer in Karma. View all posts by Conversations With The Moon

3 responses to “How Many Have to Die Before We Call It What It Is?

  • julieann74

    Wow, for me this was a very informative wakeup call. even I need to be reminded of this at times. Thank You 🙂

  • eddiered

    Thanks for the post. I got help getting sober when I was 17 and I have been sober for the last 8 years. I got help from a place called New Life House. Check out their site if you are looking for help. New Life House – A Structured Sober Living

  • naturallygreencooking.com

    I’ve been thinking about this post. I think it is beautiful, very passionate. I’ve noticed a common theme in my meetings these past several weeks, and it is hitting bottom. I see a lot of people go in and out of the rooms because people around them want them to get sober. And of course they want their loved one to be sober. I am dealing with that with 2 siblings right now. But what I also know is that those people tend to not stay sober. I have to believe that they have a higher power and that each mistake they make is a learning stepping stone in their lives. I need to love them enough to let them go and let them make those mistakes. We all need to be upheld by the same law. If drunks and addicts break the law, give them the same punishment as you would a “normie”. Handling addicts and drunks with special treatment will only pro-long their sense of terminal uniqueness. The cunning, baffling part of this disease, and yes it is 100% a dis-ease is that a lot of people die. They don’t make it in. Instead of blaming those around him or society for not understanding him I have to trust in God. A common thread of those that do recover with long-term sobriety is that they hit THIER bottom. Not anyone elses or societies bottom. We have to respect their personal bottom. I respect yours, Mr. Moon 😉

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