"The difference between an addict and one who is drowning, is the one who is drowning knows it." -Michael Lee
Addiction; a compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.
When the word "addiction" or "addict" is mentioned, what most jump to is the image of a disoriented person doing whatever they possibly can for drugs. Normally a negative mental picture, and also normally associated with crime and violence. While there is truth to that statement, it isn't as distasteful as others make it out to be. While addiction is a terrible disease, it is not a reflection of the persons character. Some are quick to jump to belittle these people, thinking that because they themselves do not have a substance problem they are somehow different than these people. When it comes down to it, drug addicts are people too.
When someone in the community falls ill of a disease like cancer, many rally around them for support and to generally uplift. As a society we have created many outlets for those who fall under the circumstances of a debilitating disease. You wouldn't go up to a person who got cancer and tell them that they did this to themselves. Putting the American society in perspective, we are all addicts in our own way. Whether that be the food you choose to eat; filled with chemically processed fillers and preservatives, some affecting the same centers of the brain that heroin and opiates do, or the pills given to you by your "legal drug dealers" (doctors). When it comes down to it, how aware you are of your own actions dictates how much accountability you take for them. Things we perceive as normal to us, causes diseases like cancer in our society. Even knowing that knowledge, people still don't blame cancer VICTIMS for their disease. So why do we treat addicts like criminals, not victims of a world that is heavily influenced by current culture?
I understand that most don't want to support your local heroin dealer, or even any local dealer. As a person who has lost close friends to drugs, I understand not wanting to support a dealer. But, that dealer is still a person. And that person is still an addict (either to the lifestyle, or the drugs themselves). And an addict is still a victim. Even if a person makes the conscious choice to do the drugs, no one asks to ruin their lives. And if someone does intentionally want to ruin their own life, that in itself is an obvious sign that this person is unhappy and not well off. Sometimes we can be so quick to dehumanize a person, to erase all of their struggles, because we don't understand their actions. Yes, you may be strong enough to deal with your problems without unhealthy coping skills (drug use), but not everyone else is as fortunate. Many find themselves victim of this vicious cycle, and realize that they have no where to turn. By alienating addicts, you are further pushing them away from recovery. By kicking someone who is already down, you are making the process of lifting themselves out of the hole they are in harder. You are creating a person who doesn't want to get better, who may feel like they aren't worth being better. Or worse, you help create someone who feels like they can never change.
As a person who has not only been in intimate relationships with addicts, but have found myself too in the position where I was traveling down roads that were destructive, I firmly believe that trying to understand why a person is doing these things is better than just labeling them off. While it's easier to not take responsibility for helping those around you that need help, it doesn't make it the right thing to do. The smartest person I was lucky enough to know, was a heroin addict. I had never met anyone so smart, so resourceful, someone so caring and compassionate. He was selfless down to his core, and he wanted to help everyone feel happy because he himself was struggling every day. I knew a beautiful girl, so full of so much life and light who found herself victim to this disease. A guy as bright as the next, so full of new ideas for a better world who fell victim as well. Not only in the town I come from, but all across this nation an epidemic is occuring. Our children are being exposed to a glamorized perspective on drugs, and because of many peoples decision to label these people instead of trying to understand and empathize; we are sharing the responsibility of drug addiction and culture in our society.
The only way to work towards eradicating a problem is to gain a better understanding on what the problem is, what these people are going through every single day. It is an experience unlike any other watching someone slowly kill themselves, and watching how helpless they feel in their own lives. It is a very painful, very sobering feeling, knowing that your childhood best friend passed away because they couldn't beat their disease. Knowing that maybe if more people stepped up, knowing that maybe if more people cared to educate the masses on this disease, that maybe it could have saved them. While there is no way to know, and we can't live in the past, we can use the past to influence our future in a positive direction. For every addict there is a mother, a father, a sister, brother, child, a lover. For every addict, there is someone hurting over their loved one slowly disappearing before their eyes. For every addict, there are people struggling. Its inhumane to assume these people don't deserve better because they aren't struggling in the way you are, and inhumane to assume these people deserve this life. I know it hurts watching someone make the same mistake over and over again, but anger and hate towards the topic will not bring constructive solutions. We must stand together, and help all of those who have fallen victim. You don't have to even be a drug user, or even a fan of drugs, to understand that support, love and compassion for your fellow human can and will go a long way. We are all struggling in our own way, and we all could use some help.
The next time you find yourself in a situation ready to talk down on these people because you don't understand their motives, just remember that it could be your sister, your brother, your child. It could be your mother or your aunt, or maybe your bestfriend you are talking about. Give these people a chance to grow from your love, from your support, not from your anger and your disapproval. You don't have to like drugs to love an addict. You just have to be compassionate. Go uplift somebody today, go get involved and tell someone that they are worthy. That they can do it, they can beat this disease. That they are strong, and that you love them. And most importantly, that you are there.
And to every addict out there; you are STRONG. You are WORTHY. And you are LOVED. I support you, and I ask others to help join me in supporting you as well. Go get help, you deserve it. You deserve the freedom, the happiness. You can change your life, I believe in you and others do (and will) too. Don't be afraid to ask for help, to make the change to be better. Because someone loves you out there, someone cares about your life. I care about your life. And I will speak on your behalf, on our behalf, till my last breath.