On The Day You Died
Lars Schmidt

I am so sorry that you and your family have to deal with the untimely loss of your brother. And thank you for being honest and bringing awareness to the face of addiction and how it can and does strike anyone, no matter their standing in society. It is a very brave thing to do.

We are in the middle of an epidemic in our country. Addiction, especially to opioid/opiate substances, has hit the middle class hard and people are dying en mass. There are many places to lay the blame but it should not be placed on the addicts themselves. They are victims of a vicious brain disease first and then shunned and shamed by society and victimized by the medical and rehab communities and even the legal system. It is a complex issue, difficult to deal with and completely out of control.

I live in Martin County so your story hit me particularly hard. I did not know your brother but I know so many people like him — good people who came into contact with a powerful drug, initially prescribed by a trusted physician. And if the brain is wired a certain way it is impossible to stop taking it even if the medical condition for which it was initially prescribed has resolved. And they will do almost ANYTHING to get it despite horrific consequences. The sheer power of the disease of addiction is beyond comprehension to those of us who are not afflicted with it. It is stronger than the love of a parent for a child or a child for a parent. I thought there was nothing stronger than that kind of love but I was wrong.

The disease has hit my family very hard too but we are among the lucky ones who have not lost our family member(s) — yet. The devastation and destruction to the entire family cannot be understated. It is a family disease and when one person becomes an addict the entire family becomes sick. There is nothing anyone can do to help an addict except love them (which can be kind of difficult). There is no help for them unless and until they are willing to accept it and many, if not most, are just too sick.

I don’t know what will happen as this epidemic continues to rage. It is my hope that we can bring this disease out of the shadows and force society at large to realize that addiction (or substance use disorder as the DSM V has defined it) is a physical disease and not the result of “poor choices” or moral failing. I hope that the government will end the so-called “War on Drugs” and put the money being spent on chasing addicts down (they’re easy targets) and throwing them in jail, into finding other ways to treat and rehabilitate these very sick people. When 90% of the people in the county jail are there for either possession of small amounts of drugs or for petty theft trying to get money for drugs something isn’t working.

Let’s stop shaming and blaming and start looking for real solutions. The first step is to bring the disease out of the shadows and share without shame (believe me, no one is bringing me casseroles because I have children with this disease). And you have done that in a very touching way. You have put a human face on an addict. Your brother was so much more than that. A father, son, brother, friend, employee. Again, I am so very sorry your loss. You are living my greatest fear and the fear of addicts’ families all over America.

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