Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
People In Recovery- Please Stand Up And Speak Out.
— North America is facing an addiction crisis, but there is a solution. We need to be talking about it in our schools, homes and workplace. With 23 million people in recovery, the message should be one of hope. Addiction is a treatable illness, so where are all the success stories? As an advocate and person in long-term recovery, I have a request for every person across North America who managed to climb out their own personal hell- stand up and speak out! With overdose being the number one cause of death among North Americans under 50, those of us who have moved beyond addiction need to step out of the shadows and let the world know- we can and do recover. Staying hidden in today’s epidemic feels wrong. With so many of our brothers and sisters dying, we can’t afford the comfort of remaining anonymous. Many families believe addiction is a death sentence, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right help, addiction is highly treatable. It can also be a gift when change is sought. Recovering from substance use disorder means stepping out of your comfort zone and asking for help. Admitting defeat forces one to surrender, to quit fighting and take direction. When surrender occurs, one is teachable. One learns to confront their demons and all that holds them back. Recovery gives one the tools to cope with their life. It allows one to step beyond their present circumstance and into their personal best. The media is doing a good job shining a light on the deaths, but let’s turn that light on the lives that are being saved. It’s time to ask questions and find out what people in recovery are doing. How did they get clean and sober? What lessons can we take away from the people who survived this illness? Learn the difference between helping your addicted loved one and enabling them. (Enabling is helping someone stay sick. Helping is supporting choices involving recovery). Addiction is a disease of the mind, body and soul. It permeates every aspect of one’s life. It’s similar to traumatic brain injury- those struggling with it are often combative, depressed, confused and struggle with rage. It’s the worst kind of hell because someone suffering from addiction perpetuates the very acts that are killing them. People struggling with addiction have lost the ability to reason and think clearly. They want to stop, but can’t. Unless you’ve walked in their shoes it is hard to understand the shame on the other side of a high. A shame so crippling and demoralizing that the only relief is using again. When I was using, I didn’t know a single person in recovery. Had someone with a similar story to mine reached out and said “you can do this, I did,” maybe I would have gotten help sooner. People struggling with addiction need to know that we’re here for them. We’re rooting for you and you’re not alone in this.
As the number of overdoses continues to rise, I fear we are becoming desensitized.
I’m calling on everyone who survived this disease. Your experience, strength and hope are needed. Let your friends and co-workers know you’re in recovery. Talk to the person standing on the street corner. Buy them a coffee. Listen to their stories. Take them to a meeting. Get involved. Give back. Let them know there is a way out. Remember someone helped you. As Maya Angelou once said, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Speak out and challenge the outdated and deadly myths of addiction. Those struggling don’t have to lose everything before going to treatment. Rock Bottom is a lie, and it has a trap door. There’s a new deep end each and every time the addicted person picks up again. A woman many years sober once told me I was living in a period of grace and I shouldn’t take it for granted. She said, “grace ends when helping others stops.” In other words, the key to long-term recovery is to keep giving back. Share your story. Educate your policy makers. Educate the media. Tell them that those with addiction are not bad or evil. They are desperately sick and need our help. The push is on to keep addicted persons comfortable in their illness through harm reduction- but we can’t stop there. Harm reduction is one tool, and it’s especially helpful when used as a stepping stone to abstinence. Addiction is a progressive disease robbing those suffering of their reasoning and impulse control. If the addicted person has passed the point of reasoning, we must be able to mandate them to go to treatment. Addiction is terminal if left untreated. If our society becomes more comfortable talking about substance use disorder as an illness rather than deeming those with addiction as weak and immoral, we can reduce the shame and stigma of this disease. When this happens, those struggling feel less ashamed to ask for help and the numbers of lives lost to overdose will decrease. Addicted persons are highly intelligent, intuitive and creative. This is why they’re excellent manipulators while actively addicted. It’s also why they have the potential to achieve greatness in recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t wait. Reach out. Ask for help. You don’t have to want to go to treatment for it to work. If your loved one is resistance to seeking help involve professionals. The real the solution to saving lives lost to the opioid crisis is recovery. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 888-601-8693.