That’s how long she had been clean from drugs. Heroin to be exact.
5 years and it wasn’t easy. It took grit, discipline, and determination. But she did it. And she was proud of it.
She saw everything in her life improve. Her finances. Her family. Her relationships.
But like most things in life, everything can change in a second.
Before her appointment today, she stopped by her dealer. Bought $50 worth of meth. And injected it into her left arm.
I won’t talk about her past. I won’t tell you the horror and destruction and the circumstances that led to this. I will tell you….. what she’s been through would have killed most people. If not physically, then emotionally. And I’m not talking about her drug use.
But she relapsed. And that’s that. All that hard work gone.
But now, she’s here. And looking for help. And she’s been here before.
If you can do it for 5 years, then you can do it for one day. Her day starts now.
There’s a lot of talk about the opioid crisis.
There’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of walk. And we all know it takes more than rhetoric to solve a problem.
The stigma of addiction is a killer. People are treated less than human. They feel guilt and shame and turn back to drugs to escape the guilt. And thus the cycle perpetuates itself.
But I want to tell you something. People that struggle with drugs and alcohol are just like you and me. They have families. They have dreams. They have a desire to live and to be happy. They look just like you, dress like you, and work with you.
Not everyone that struggles with drugs will die from overdose. Some will just die slowly by wasting away and losing everything that’s valuable to them.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s been a war on drugs for the past 40 years. But the fight isn’t against drugs. It’s a fight to live. It’s a fight for the mind. A fight for the soul.
It’s a fight to make this world a place that people won’t feel the need to escape from.
In college I took a social work class. I was given an assignment. I had to read over case files from the local DHS office. The things I read would break your heart. Children in broken homes with broken hearts and broken lives. Now that I’m a doctor, I treat the people that went through these times. You see, people’s lives are difficult and messy. Full of torment and chaos. And children that were abused grow up. And sometimes these kids (now adults) turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the demons of their past. It’s not an excuse. It’s just the way it is.
Now that the country is talking about the opioid crisis, I will give my 2 cents.
The first thing to do is:
I’m talking more about our view of it than legally speaking. Although that’s an important aspect as well.
This doesn’t mean excuse behavior. If someone does something that hurts you or infringes on your rights, they should be held accountable. But incarcerating people for drug use is not a long-term strategy for success. You have to stop. And think. What’s our vision for the future? And then we must take action towards that future.
Patients are treated like criminals at the pharmacy, at the clinic, at the emergency room, etc.
People need to feel safe when seeking treatment. This increases the chances of treatment, and thus real recovery.
We all make mistakes. Some people make mistakes that are more costly than others. Let’s take the moral judgement out and look to viable solutions instead.
And that brings me to my second step in helping our national opioid crisis:
Increase access to care.
This was supposed to be helped by Obamacare. Insurance companies were not to discriminate against psychiatric illnesses. In other words, they were supposed to treat someone that struggles with addiction just like someone that struggles with diabetes. But in the real world, this doesn’t happen.
Insurance companies can refuse to pay for medications that help. Sometimes, they put arbitrary stop dates on medications. They can deny payments for treatment of depression, anxiety, and addiction. They can deny counseling services.
But what’s a patient’s recourse? The legal system is not exactly jumping up and down to help them. Due to the nature of their illness, they are limited financially, emotionally, and socially. And when they can’t stand for themselves, who will stand for them? Who will stand for the broken addict, the liar, the cheat, the ne’er do well? It’s not easy to do.
Some steps have been taken to help increase access. I was once limited in the number of patients that I could treat. But that number was recently adjusted. And I am thankful for it.
But this isn’t a numbers game. True recovery demands true care.
Access to care is more than just seeing a physician. We need counselors, psychologists, social workers, judges, police officers, chemists, botanists, and clergy. We need local support. We need community resources to ensure long term success.
We’ve declared the opioid crisis an emergency. That’s a start. But let’s do something. More walk and less talk.
Maybe this is something that can bring us all together. Liberals, conservatives, libertarians. Maybe we can form a more perfect union by aligning with a common cause. The cause of humanity.
We see our brothers and sisters struggling and we come together. To rebuild. To recover. To grow stronger.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of a problem like this. But all it takes are a few steps in the right direction. Keep building momentum. Keep fighting the fight. And eventually the small steps have turned into a marathon. A race like this is not won the first mile, the second mile, or the even the 20th mile. But it’s still one worth running. It’s a fight worth fighting.
The war on drugs failed. But the war for the mind can be won. And the war for the soul rages on….
The struggle exists.
But there is a light in the darkness.
And you are that light.
So be bold.
And shine baby shine.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, I would love to help. 662-322-0996
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This gentleman was wearing a hat with “Melania Trump” hand written on it. So I took a picture.