“A True Friend will tell you the truth, even at the cost of the Friendship”

The #1 reason why people don’t become who they want to be is because they’ve grown too attached to who they’ve been. Change is a mountain sometimes. Change amid and from addiction is a mountain without a map. But change is necessary if one is to rise above the state of substance use disorder. We are in the midst of the worst public social health crisis America has ever seen; and with more people being affected by addiction than ever before, one has to wonder where we go from here. How do we overcome this pandemic? How will we avoid losing an entire generation of people?

When will we have a system of care and an evidence-based approach that is void of profit-focused care, absent the fraud and lacking the siloed, splintered remedies that permeate the treatment world?

When will we stop telling people that “Relapse is part of Recovery”? When will America treat this issue with the attention it deserves? When will we stop looking for a chemical solution to a spiritual problem? When will we stop looking for the answer in more drugs when the answer is in connection, coping skills and self-fulfillment?

These are all great questions. But, at times I wonder if they are rhetorical. I wonder if the questions even have answers. I wonder if the questions aren’t answers themselves. And with so many people asking these questions, are there more contradictory answers than shared answers? Is perception and interpretation getting in the way of what will work for most? I often hear now that there are many pathways to recovery; that people find recovery on different journeys. I often hear recovery defined in so many ways now that it puzzles me. How can “Recovery” be a matter of interpretation? A recent “Recovery Coach” trainer stated that, “Someone is in ‘recovery’ when they SAY they are in recovery.” WHAT??? How can we accept that an addict, whom we accept is incapable of rational thought, define their own recovery? How can we define it so differently for different people? When did it change from becoming completely free of all mind altering and mood-altering substances?

The “Disease of Addiction” – I think that’s one of the most controversial social topics we’ve ever come up with. We try to change societal perception of addiction. We try to educate society about this being a brain illness and set out to smash the proverbial stigma. We try to convince people that addiction is not a choice, that it is a disease from which there is no known cure. To many, that sounds like addicts are victims, and I don’t know if that is the right approach. The disease concept became divisive in the solution and it’s more misunderstood than ever. I want to believe that we are making more progress than ever, but, the increasing number of people affected does not support my hope. The escalation of social rhetoric in the comment sections of newspapers on articles about addiction, continue to fuel the division.

Victim stance is the most damaging and devastating self-defeating mindset in our country. For those caught up in addiction, and often as a result, the criminal justice system, it is more commonplace to simply blame the world. “My parents got divorced when I was very young”, “I was abused”, “I grew up poor”, or, my drug-dealing sibling turned me on to it” … I’ve heard them all. I have used many of them myself. It was when someone told me that I was inviting more problems into my life that I started to change. He told me to “Cancel My Membership to the Woe Is Me Club.” It was some of the best advice I had ever received. I don’t know that this mindset can really change everything for everyone, but, so many people I see caught up in addiction don’t see their way out of it through their own power.

What you don’t want to hear is more than likely what you need to face. The truth is already in you. The validation just forces you to no longer deny it. I learned this recently both from self-reflection and by giving the advice to someone I mentor in early recovery. The lesson came from both sides, and learning it both ways doubled its impact on me. I want to solve this addiction pandemic more than ever, and I ask myself how it can be done.

The point I make at this juncture is that none of these questions can be asked by themselves without consideration of the other. No group in society is going to come up with the same answer for each and every question. That doesn’t mean that we cannot have the same shared goals, but, without collaboration rising from antagonism, without partnerships over dissociation, without unity in our shared goals, I just don’t see the end of this.

Do we want to become a society free from addiction? Is that even possible? We are at a point in our history where life expectancy is actually decreasing faster than at any time on record. And it is preventable. “Despair deaths” – alcoholism, drugs and suicide – are a big part of the problem, and so is obesity, poverty and social isolation. It is absolutely NOT just about opiates and heroin. They are merely the flavor of the day. The headlines mislead America; and the groups that pop up titled, “Fight Heroin” or “Stop Opiates” are missing the forest for the trees. If we are to answer the many questions I pose, if we are to cease this preventable decline in the decrease in mortality, if we are to become a nation that does not destroy itself from within, I imagine we must face not only the problems, but face ourselves. We must ask ourselves not only some of these questions, but all of them. The real question is- can we face the answers?