Figures of people standing apart

According to modern-day social folklore, everyone is (at most) only six degrees separated from the actor Kevin Bacon. It’s pretty incredible to think about the possibility that we are all only six connections away from a single person on this vast earth. How true that statement is can be debated but I’m certain even if it does not hold true for everyone, there is great merit in the thought and only goes to further prove the statement you’ve likely made many times in your lifetime – it’s a small world.

It is indeed a small world and while I’m not sure if you are six degrees from Kevin Bacon, I would argue that you are no MORE than two degrees from someone struggling with the disease of addiction, and more often than not, I would argue that nearly everyone in the United States is only a single degree from someone struggling with addiction.

In other words, there is someone you know directly within your social, professional, and/or familiar network that is an addict. For many reading this, that statement will cause deep thought as to who is in their network and who could possibly be an addict, or it will cause knee-jerk denial, “I don’t know anyone who is an addict.”

Denial is your safe reaction because knowing that someone within your network is an addict requires responsibility on your part, and that is often a burden nobody wants. So (unless you see the blatant signs of addiction) it’s safer and easier to remain in a bubble and deny that someone close to you is an alcoholic, a heroin addict, struggling with addiction to pain meds, etc.

Knowing that someone you pass every day, or someone you communicate with regularly through phone or email, or worse – someone under your own roof is spinning out of control with a disease that owns them, controls them, and changes them entirely requires some interruption in your otherwise lovely life.

For me personally, addiction is all too close to home. While I have not struggled with the disease myself, I have seen firsthand how addiction affects an individual, their family, and all of those around them. Growing up I watched my oldest brother – one of the smartest people I know -be aggressively attacked by the disease of addiction. 

It stopped him from even completing a middle school education, but to this day he remains one of the brightest people I have known. He is a natural knowledge seeker. He reads, listens, and retains information readily. While he may not be able to do complicated math or pen an article that reveals his true intelligence, he can carry on a conversation of a high level intellect and offer facts and figures and research that he has learned and retained his entire life. He could hold and win a conversation or debate on nearly any social, political, or business subject matter. I have always thought that with his high functioning brain he had more potential for greatness than many I’ve encountered in my lifetime and yet every bit of greatness has been destroyed by this sickness.

I have often wondered what he may have amounted to and what he may have contributed to society if he was not struggling with this disease. I continue to hold out hope for my brother and look forward to the day that he finds treatment and long-term recovery.

Unfortunately, while I hold out hope that he will get help, I face the reality daily of what his fate will be if he doesn’t get help.

<Addiction only has three outcomes . . . recovery, prison, or death.

My brother has already served prison time and has spent several stints of time in jail. That leaves two options left at this point; recovery or death. At 42 years old, and more than 25 years of habitual drug use, the latter is statistically in his favor; or disfavor, tragically.

How does my story about my brother bring you to my theory of the two degrees (at most) of separation from an addict? If you knew me personally, you would likely make the assumption that I am so far removed from anything remotely like the stories I could tell you from growing up in my family home with addiction under our own roof.

I look like many in your professional network . . . corporate job, SUV driving soccer mom, wife and mother to a family of five living in a beautiful, affluent suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. I’m a regular at my YMCA, shop at Whole Foods, have a family membership to our local zoo, and we volunteer and contribute in our city where we can. For all intents and purposes, you could say we live “in that bubble.” I am your neighbor, your colleague, a team mom on your kid’s soccer league, or the mom of your teen daughter’s friend, and I have the disease addiction in my own family.

The next time you think your life of suburbia removes you from the world of addiction, think again! It is more prevalent than ever before and it is an epidemic in our country. Addiction does not discriminate, and it does not know socioeconomic boundaries. You are closer to someone struggling with addiction than you may have thought. This information needs to be uncovered and shared so more people are aware of just how prevalent it is.

Knowledge is power, and in this case, it is a power that can be used to bring about change.  This blog is my attempt to share this power with you and inspire you to find the power to share with others. Together, we can bring about the change needed to shrink the addiction outcomes number to just one option – recovery.

–Amber Mohr

Market Director,   Vertava Health

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