The Epidemic of Our Generations: The Diagnosis
Hi, my name is em, and I am addicted to self harm. Drugs were my desired choice, and since then I have been addicted to narcotics and hard drugs. My preferred drug of choice was tramadol when I started. When I first started abusing drugs I was 15. I would take whatever I could find in those cabinets with tequila on the side, and go to bed. I don’t remember how long I kept that up…I don’t remember when it went from one tramadol in the morning and one at night, to 5 to 7 at a time throughout the day. I don’t remember what started it. I don’t remember. I just remember looking for a poison to drown in.
I wish I had this knowledge earlier in my life when it could’ve saved the life closest to me. It didn’t click until I lost a childhood friend or classmate, or two, three, four… But when she died, something in me died as well. Nothing’s been the same since. Time will never be able to measure the amount of pain that fills my heart. I fight the urge to blame myself everyday for not being a better friend. For not stepping in more. For not being strong enough. For not coming across this wisdom and information earlier in life. But I couldn’t because that would mean coming to terms with my own demons, my own vices, and I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite. And more importantly, I was young. I was a kid. And what does it say about our society if this is what our children are having to navigate and survive?
What’s been missing from this conversation about drugs is the environment we have created as a society and as communities, mental health, and coping mechanisms available to people engaging in this form of self harm- in whatever form that may be. Additionally the alternative and healthy forms of coping are not accessible to the people that need it most. From cutting to alcohol to eating disorders to opiate addictions-it’s self harm, but it is OUR form of coping with our pain. For some, it’s the only form of coping we know. For some of us, it’s the only form of coping that is available to us. We are COPING from PAIN AND TRAUMA, and that needs to be understood.Placing drug abuse as coping mechanism is central for this analysis. The other problem surrounding this conversation: Honesty with self and reality. We’re not talking about what it takes to save a life. Whether it’s suicide or drug addiction, we’re not being honest with ourselves about the battles we have internally AND externally to be able to truly see the dynamics at play. We are not understanding the rampant phenomenon of drug addiction- as symptoms of a toxic matrices of power that plague our society. Drug addiction, like many issues we see in society, is a symptom of a white supremacist agenda, a white supremacist society and structure of power.
Our Black and Brown youth have BEEN dying at extremely high rates from heroin, crack, and opiates for decades since the Reagan presidency and the CIA covert operations that ran through Nicaragua ultimately bringing in crack-cocaine into the states. Then it magically ends up on our streets and in the hands of every drug dealer. There have been multiple accounts from people engaged in the underground economy the role law enforcement on every level has played in putting these drugs on the street. Whether this is an entire government conspiracy or a few rouge agents-it’s still not clear. However, what is clear is the government has been complacent with drugs being brought into the states, and they have used the trafficking of drugs into the black and brown neighborhoods as an excuse to only further criminalize black and brown bodies. Ultimately, through all of this, they launched a full blown war on black, brown, poor people- the War on Drugs. According to Mutulu Shakur, an acupuncturist, founder of the Republic of New Afrika and the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North American that dedicated itself to healing the people from drug addiction and other ailments during the later part of the Black Power Movement, the government of this country and its law enforcement agencies on every level have created and implemented a two part agenda with these drugs which was 1) to run and fund their covert operations all over the globe 2) to subdue and neutralize the dissent within the ghettos of America where black and brown people were being mobilized and organized as nationalists and anti-imperialists. Crack and heroin were specifically brought into black and brown neighborhoods due to this government’s fear of the Black Power Movement and its capabilities of awakening the anger and passion in the hearts of black youth of the nation, and the world. Additionally, they organized across races, ethnicities, and nations-building alliances with Young Lords Party, Brown Berets, Red Guard, Cuba, Algeria, North Korea, China, etc.
*Note: this approach is most commonly known as chemical and psychological warfare.*
“Amerika stole my light
Amerika stole my dreams
America took my heart
And I let it…”
And Amerika steals the heart to create a void. Then it fills it with a poison that only rots you from the inside out, and it seems the only free-will we have in the matter is what poison we have to choose from. Eating at your soul, the flesh, and the bone. The War of Drugs functions as America’s way of subduing its society, its youth, and the nations of oppressed people living within and outside of its borders to ensure the illusion of the Amerikan Dream. If it’s such a dream, why do we have to do so much wrong to ensure it? Why must so many die-in and outside of these borders- to keep the dream alive? A dream for a few; a nightmare for some; a catatonic, brain dead state for the rest- simply people going through the motions and filling their positions within the toxic cycles of society that keep the world we know to keep spinning.
The American Dream is where the problem truly lies. We’re not talking about this issue with Amerika as the root cause. There is not enough of a structural and holistic analysis to fully understand this phenomena. We are not talking about how we have created a world where working tiredly 40+ hours to barely afford rent has become the norm, but being open about the voices in your head that tell you to kill yourself is now a “personal” problem. And to share with the ones around feels like a coin toss-they may understand or not. They may empathize, but maybe too much that we’re all in crisis because we know that we’re all going through it. Or we can’t burden our friends who are already so low and trying to stay afloat. Or you may not say anything at all cause the voices told you not to. Suffering in silence is the only way we know how to survive and cope.
We need to understand drug abuse as a medium of coping that has been historically pushed onto poor and black and brown people as a tool for domination and profit. Additionally, we need to taken more consideration of how the human psyche acts and operates under such conditions. I do not believe that one is destined to be an “addict.” I do not believe that ANYONE wants to be an “addict,” and if you do, then you have no true understanding of the reality of this situation or even human beings. Nobody wants to be this way or live with such demons, but some choose, some fall victim to their environments, the external pressures on top of dealing with the internal wars we deal with. Or that the external poisons around us are killing us from the inside-from this government and its systems to our basic human interactions that are slowly drifting farther away from basic empathy and understanding of the human condition and behavior especially when mentally and sometimes physically caged and contained. This society, this country functions as a cage on the human psyche and if that is not understood, then the ability to mobilize and organize among people like us will become a lost, vital skill.
Organizing among the people requires a strong level of personal responsibility and dedication to understand these issues on on a personal, inter-personal, institutional, and structural level. From the personal perspective, we cannot save anyone till we save ourselves. I couldn’t save or even help her because I could not save or help myself from my own demons. I could not look her in the eyes and tell her no, when I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror and say “no” to myself. When we frame drug abuse as a problem not of the individual of but ignorance to different coping mechanisms as well as a culture that has been pushed onto us since our youth. Putting it in this framework as well allows us to connect across experiences because in this world, we all our vices; we all have our ways of coping that are detrimental to our health. It may not be drugs, but it could be spending money on a middle-class idea you’ll never attain. Or consistently having sex and holding space for people who are detrimental to your well-being but you find comfort in that crowd because they nurture the parts of yourself that you’re too scared to let go. We will have to also come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard we try, we may not succeed in saving a life, and that’s okay. We can never really save anyone, only provide a genuine connection and love for that person in whatever form they can accept-assuming if they can accept it. Most importantly, you can only provide and give as much as you can. Placing this issue in such framework along with the needed self-reflection allows us to understand multiple different perspectives of the problem as well as keeping the focus on the root problem- a clear and thorough diagnosis.
The art of self-reflection. If it isn’t the pain we hold from generations of trauma or our personal past, it’s the pain that moves in the air of this toxic society and it’s perspectives that shape our human experience. Additionally, if we are practicing daily addressing our pains and learning to heal continuously in the moment instead of waiting til we hit our breaking point, we can begin to ingrain coping mechanisms and lay a foundation for ourselves in times or turmoil and for others around us. We must shed light on the cycles of pain, abuse, and trauma that plague us individually to fully understand the cycle of violence we are in as a collective. Neither is separate; they are all interconnected and working harmonious for our demise. If we don’t get to the root and address the diseased root of our society, we will simply continuing bandaging wounds and ignoring the puss and virus continuing to spread.
Sources and More Readings on this topic from a structural and institutional level:
Historical context of government activities and functions towards black nationalist groups- COINTELPRO documents
Narratives and Experiences of community organizers and activists who were targets of COINTELPRO- All Power To The People Documentary