The Holidays Make Me Think About Addiction

photo is my own

This time of year, with the parties and drinking culture that inevitably accompanies them, always causes me to reflect and think of the people in my life who are sober, whether they’ve been doing it for years or just started.

But most particularly, it makes me think of people who have had to overcome great odds in doing so because they’ve had to overcome the disease of addiction.

Addiction is an illness and it should be treated like one.

Period.

It should be treated the same way we treat other chronic illnesses, with support in mental, vocational, physical, and financial capacities. When someone is suffering from it, the worst we can do is dismiss them with a shrug and a “well what can you do, they’re an addict, it’s bound to happen.”

Addiction is treatable with the right support system in place. Unfortunately our society mainly treats people who are suffering from it as criminals, and because of that, support systems are 1) hard to find and/or 2) extremely difficult to access for so many people.

The culture around how we treat addiction needs to change. I am incredibly lucky to have a circle of progressive, smart, caring friends; but not everyone feels the same we do. Many people believe that the correct way to deal with someone who is addicted to drugs of any kind is to serve them with jail time. Punishment as cure. The fact is: this doesn’t work.

Vermont last year became one of the first states to implement a program that places emphasis on treatment, not incarceration. Notable politicians have called for a change.

But the current state of our system points to the fact that, largely, society’s opinion has remained unchanged or at least unfazed.

To some of you reading this, I may sound like a broken record. If that is the case, I ask you to challenge the views of someone you may know who believes an “addict” is nothing more than a criminal; educate them about the disease of addiction. And educate anyone who may not fully understand, even if they are sympathetic to the plights endured.

But I know many people have not thought about addiction in this way. Many people haven’t considered what someone goes through to get treatment, to stay out of prison, to stay sober. I hadn’t. I am ashamed when I think about my path to this cause because it took people close to me succumbing to it for me to understand what is at stake.

I want to be clear about a few things: I’m in no way asking for you to talk down to anyone who may have different beliefs, nor am I assuming I know what someone suffering from addiction goes through. Additionally, one of the big lessons you learn in Al-Anon is “you can’t babysit them”, so I’m definitely not asking you to run out and check up on people just because it is the holidays. Support, yes. But babysit, no.

But I had to put thoughts down because the holidays make me think about sobriety. They make me think about it because the holidays are about being close to your loved ones. And for me, the things I’ve outlined above that I believe someone suffering from addiction deserves (proper care, treatment, support) are the only things that made it possible for me to even be around certain loved ones.

My thoughts are with anyone who has experienced loss due to drug addiction. This can be a difficult time for that, a constant reminder, although I’m sure every day can be too.

I’m fighting for a change in societal attitude and official policy and I hope the country follows.

I originally posted this as a status on Facebook, but it grew into something more. Thank you for reading.