It’s an average March day in Pittsburgh today. The air has once again become cold after a brief warm up and snow is beginning to fall lightly covering the deck and sidewalk. People are at work, children at school and the evening plans will be to keep warm and eat a nice dinner.
When my kids were growing up we were always busy planning the day around homework, responsibilities, sports, family commitments and spending time together as a family. One of my fondest memories was all of us getting in our pj’s and turning off all the lights, lighting a candle and fireplace so we could lay around the family room listening to the Harry Potter series on cassette. We had many special times. On Valentines Day, I would surprise my family with a nice meal and a heart themed decorated table as well as sweet surprises or small gifts. Dessert was also a treat everyone enjoyed.
During the winter months, my kids would build igloos, snow forts and spent many long hours outside only to come in and warm up with homemade hot chocolate with marshmallows and tissues waiting to dry up their cold wet and red noses. The summer was much the same when they spent hours outside riding bikes, skateboarding or picking up a game of ball with neighborhood kids.
I was the average Mom and my husband was the average Dad. We never missed a sporting practice let alone a game unless work interfered. We learned new words from cards posted to the fridge, had themed dinners a few times to learn about other countries. As parents, we taught our children manners, values, respect, love and how to love.
We never thought we would have to protect our kids from overdose or drug addiction. I am not even sure I remember going to an educational event about drugs but I knew my kids had attended them at school. We just didn’t think we needed to. Our kids were good kids. But we were wrong about one thing. While they were good kids there were opportunities and other influences that existed and for some reason, nothing we did as good parents protected our children from experimenting with drugs. I also didn’t think that I would ever have to worry about myself or my husband getting addicted to a pain pill after a surgery and thankfully it never happened but in hindsight we now know that we should have worried.
I know now that if I only had the understanding of addiction, the growing drug epidemic and how easily it is taking over our nice families across the globe I may have prevented the struggles my family has endured for 8 or so years. If only I had listened to others and got educated in my community.
You see, no one is ever fine after going through a battle with addiction in their family. Whether there is recovery or not it affects everyone in a family for years to come. Those who lose loved ones know the pain felt for their remaining years and have to learn to live a life full of grief, sadness and pain only to find a way to live the best they can after such a loss. It just changes everyone it touches.
I believe that the stigma surrounding this epidemic is continuing to kill people. Our attitudes about addiction and those who suffer are killing our loved ones. Our lack of knowledge, care and understanding are adding to the rising addiction and overdose rate. And our lack of treatment for a chronic disease that can be managed much like Diabetes or Cancer is hurting our loved ones afflicted with this disease.
Our citizens, without realizing it, are killing people who are ill, suffering from the chronic disease of addiction. Our loved ones and our families are paying the price.
The Presidential candidates are talking about it. The DEA is working on a strategy to fix it. Many politicians are holding round-table discussions with professionals dealing with the crisis in hopes to get answers and save lives. It is what they should have started to do 10 years ago but I guess late is better than never. But many organizations have been talking about this epidemic and telling the same people for years about the dangers of not treating this issue properly. I guess now that we are losing 140 people a day in our country this epidemic has finally gotten the attention of big government.
Many of these efforts are being aimed at youth and at prevention. We know that the hardest to reach are the older teens but just as tough are the parents. With busy work and family schedules on top of the “Good Kid” syndrome that plagues our communities, we lack the ability to reach the very people we need to reach – The families in our community. All of them. Why is that??
Prevention starts at home. And if you can teach your kids how to brush their teeth and wash behind their ears you should be able to teach your kids about the dangers that exist around them. But if you don’t know what the actual dangers are or how to recognize them yourself how can you teach your kids? Or even protect yourself?
Our world of drugs is a very intricate model with many facets much like a diamond. Drug dealers have high-level executives and laborers just like a respectable company model. The only difference is they have no regard for human life, only money, success, greed and possessions that give them rank. Our Pharmaceutical companies do the same harm legally making billions.
Don’t wait for big government to make the changes that you can make in your community by getting involved in the many efforts locally. That is where saving lives will begin. Get the information from those begging you to take it. Attend an event, go to a community meeting about this crisis, research and follow online groups aimed to educate you about addiction and this epidemic. It could save you or a loved one some day and maybe sooner than you think.