The Secrets we are Keeping are Killing
As a mother, as a sister, as a friend, the current opioid epidemic is terrifying me. I want to protect my child, my family and my friends. I want to keep them safe from the world of addiction. This disease is taking hold of the lives of people close to me; it is everywhere and the skills we have to deal with addiction are doing nothing to stop it. This is not the kind of addiction we grew up seeing. Although addiction is addiction, the pace at which opioids take hold is mind-blowing. The strategies we have used to cope and the secrets we kept, are not a solution. As the opioid epidemic gets worse, the secrets we are keeping are killing people.
This Addiction is Killing People we Know
Everyday, people are dying. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family. Opioids move quickly and there are only two ways that it ends: recovery or death. We throw around terms like junkie, user and addict, but they are just labels, labels meant to demean or stigmatize a person struggling with addiction. When people use those terms, they are attempting to keep addiction at arm’s length. They place a stigma on the person battling addiction; classify them as something else, someone different, not at all like themselves. But that is the problem, this disease does not care who you are, where you are from or whether your family believes that addiction won’t enter their lives. It is everywhere and it is dangerous.
Our Knowledge of How to Deal with Addiction is Wrong
Many of us were raised with addiction around us: alcoholism, cigarette smoking, overeating, maybe even marijuana use. Some of us may even struggle with our own addictions. And for many of us, our go to coping strategy was to ignore it. Keep the uncomfortable truths that plagued our families a secret. If no one talks about it, it isn’t really there. If dad drank too much, no one really had to know except the people that saw it. It could be hidden. And if it did come out in the open, we have all been taught the polite thing to do is to not say anything. Keep the secrets of the family and as long as we all keep the secret, everything will be okay.
However, if this is the strategy used when a loved one is battling opioid addiction, they very well could die before the truth is acknowledged. Keeping quiet, letting it handle itself and hoping everything will be okay will not work. Opioid addiction must be faced head on, it needs to be discussed, painful conversations must happen. It may be uncomfortable, but better uncomfortable than grieving their loss.
Abstinence and Recovery Can be Found in Truth
Hiding the magnitude of this addiction only gives it room to grow. We all must face this addiction head on. It is our problem, everyone of us. Claiming we are immune or that our families are immune is a dangerous lie. Anyone from any background, religion or socio-economic standing is susceptible to addiction. Only if we talk about it, talk to those in recovery, talk to our family, our friends and our doctors can we be begin to address the issue. We must know, truly know what the truth of this addiction is, if we are to have any ability to fight it. To prevent it, we must talk about it. And to move to recovery we cannot hide what has happened.
Keeping Secrets Gives Time for Use and Abuse
By staying quiet, we are allowing the addiction time to take hold. Pretending like something isn’t happening does not mean it isn’t happening. By keeping addiction in the shadows, we allow it to fester and grow. Of course it will be uncomfortable, but if you know someone has had to use opioids for an extended amount of time, you can ask, “Has your use of pills become a problem?” Is it uncomfortable? YES! But is that better than letting it go. If it is a problem, now it is out there and people know. If it isn’t a problem, it doesn’t mean that it might not become one, and now attention has been brought to it. Silence helps no one.
It is Everywhere. No One is Immune
“There but for the grace of God, go I.”
No one ever thinks addiction will happen to them. We use terms like strength and will-power, but they mean nothing when it comes to addiction No one ever planned to become addicted to opioids, it takes over and spirals out of control. When you are suffering and a doctor gives you a way to feel relief, it is hard to see the course it can begin to take. Addiction can take hold before you are aware of it. Then fear, embarrassment and the stigma of addiction keep people silent. No one is immune, it truly can happen to anyone and it is.
We must speak up, we can not be silent.
Conversation is not the solution, but staying silent is actively helping the addiction. We must discuss what is happening, so we can talk through it. We must see the people, not just the addiction. The secrets we are keeping are killing and it is time to stop the secrets and the silence.
This addiction has walked into my home. It has sat at my table, and I kept silent. I thank God everyday that someone spoke up and brought the secret into the light. Recovery is possible and support can be found, but we must acknowledge what we know and speak the truth.
We need to open our minds and hearts, then we need to listen and share without judgement. Let’s be honest and open, of course, it can be uncomfortable and hard, but if it will keep a person alive, I am willing to talk. Does anyone have anything they want to share?