The recovery community can't do this alone, but, the community as a whole can change the world forever!
Looking at addiction thirty years ago, and prior, compared to now is truly astonishing. If you hadn’t noticed, there is a stigma behind getting help for an addiction problem. Many are shunned and even told it’s just a “phase.” But consider yourself thirty years ago when you couldn’t be anyone or anything but perfect, normal, and what society sets up as an expectation that isn’t just plain ole' ordinary.
But, that wasn't just the case thirty years ago, but we had an even deeper fight many years before that, before we had times like “National Recovery Month,” along with the new ages of breaking the silence behind anonymity and various social media and news outlets recognizing addiction as something we need to speak out on in a positive light to encourage those who need it, to get help. Rather, thirty years ago, or even at times like the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, you wouldn’t find yourself getting proper treatment, let alone going to a treatment center. You would find yourself locked away for a mental health disease, psychotic break, or contagion, inside an institution set to cure, stun, kill, or rid you of this problem we are to society in a psychiatric unit, not detox facility or drug and alcohol treatment center.
Years out, stemming up until now, we are just now making strides in what it means to speak out on addiction and show the true face of recovery. That true face only comes through with what everyone else, thirty years ago, would call your neighbor, your grandma, or even the post man struggling from an invisible illness.
30 years ago we looked at this disease—looked at worse than cancer or AIDs—as a problem that is sickening our world, and something that we need to rid or purge ourselves from. And speaking quite frankly this would be hard when the root problem is just the substances people were ingesting or injecting, it was the society itself. If we had tried to go into a full on purge, the society itself would have collapsed entirely because our leading politicians, our lawmakers, our police force, and even our school teachers would be heckled, ridiculed, and shunned out of any means to changing what the stigma meant because they were the ones struggling too. And thirty years ago… that's exactly what happened. We pointed the finger, placed the blame, and kicked up the war on drugs while incarcerating mass amounts of people for petty crimes. And of these petty crimes, they are ones that need treatment or diversionary programs… not an overcrowded prison system filled with family men and women.
Fast forward to 2016 and we are now starting to see people standing up and saying in the public’s eye, “I AM AN ADDICT.” But as the generalized society doesn’t know how to react, they just leave it as their jaw on the ground and pass it by until something monumental comes along and sweeps their community away. Perhaps it would be overdosing, or even new police reform coming from communities struggling with overdosing. But what we are seeing in the newest, biggest trend is that people are now speaking out—different than 30 years ago—that it’s okay to get the help you need and you shouldn’t be ashamed to do so.
There are programs run by local police stations telling addicts and people who use drugs to bring in their supplies and enter treatment without the cost of being arrested and ridiculed or ashamed. This all in the effort to reduce overdosing, but the fact still remains, we still do have mass amounts of people suffering, and dying, each and every day!
So, within thirty years we’ve come up with more support groups, more advocacy groups, television commercials, political actions/activists (in recent months), and even support through sharing personal stories of wisdom and guidance. But have we completely broken out of the stigma? No.
So, what do we need to do next in order to reach a wider audience and get the general population’s mouth off the ground, and feet into action? This typically seems to be the biggest question we come up with today. Because usually anyone and everyone can find someone they know who is addicted to something, no matter what the relation or how close they are to that person. Although if you aren’t directly affected by drugs or alcohol, personally or family wise, then you don’t know directly how to deal with it besides idly sit by and watch as the movement passes. And here comes the dilemma of turning a recovery movement, into a recovery revolution. What needs to happen next?
What needs to happen next is something that I, nor the people in recovery, can, or should do. We are now sharing our voices, and yes there could/should be more of us doing this too. But what we need to do, is things that group leaders are doing now, too.
The action that needs to be taken is to go out and educate the “regular” population so they themselves know what they are voting, trying to pass, or advocating for for when acts like the CARA act come up, and we aren't left scratching our heads and just sending it to a processing machine without a clue of if we had done the right thing standing up for this process or not.
Or what happens if they/you/or me have a friend or family member enter into drug addiction and not know what to do because they’ve/you/ or me have never been educated, too? That would be the time of most need and action. It would be like being a paramedic without knowing CPR, standing in a restaurant off duty, and then someone chokes. "CAN SOMEONE HELP ME?" They scream. While the room is met with nothing but silence. Just like addiction.
Or what about our children and showing them "the ropes?" How will they grow up without “the talk” from someone who’s been there and done that? That's crucial not only to their development, but the development of our communities as a whole as we start to age and mature the World for something greater. Something needed.
So I give great commendation to groups like RISE TOGETHER who are going out on a national level and engaging the youth to speak up in their community, in efforts to make a more educated decision at a younger age about issues that will impact them for the rest of their lives. It's like preheating the oven when you know you'll need to be cooking all day; or preparing for something big for the rest of your life!
On another note, there are people like social activist, “Ryan Hampton,” who is pushing for the issues to change from problem to solution seeking behavior within communities, so that people are not just idly sitting by, but instead, taking action on all platforms of their lives and those around them. See where he contributes at places like Facing Addiction, tackling much larger issues than one man or woman could. But, together we can! Or educate yourself with a new groundbreaking film, Generation Found, by holding a screening for your community!
So, as I said, it’s not what those in addiction or recovery can speak out on further, but it’s those who are around us and what they can do to speak out and make this a public health concern, or rather, global health concern, while changing the topic from thirty years ago—shaming the addict—to today—getting to know the addict. While, truly, getting to know and strengthen our community as a whole.
What will you do to go out and make a difference in your community? How will you impact the next generation? And what way will you stand up for what is right? That is, fighting for the everyday common folks right to a good, healthy, and happy life. Because, heck, aren’t we all just common folk, fighting whatever our humanly struggle is, just for today?
And most of all, don't just get to know an addict… get to know YOUR community!