Amidst the comments, criticism and jokes about Demi Lovato’s overdose there is also a situation in my family line where someone relapsed recently and made some very poor decisions that impacted us all. That is why I decided to write this, because many people are quick to make the allegation that anyone who uses drugs is worthless, deserves what they get and wastes space on this planet. Interesting to me that so many people who choose to be critical smoke cigarettes, tried different drugs of some variation at one point or another or quite the opposite have never experienced addiction and never witnessed what it can do to a family.
Let’s address some statistics, for those of you who make the assumption that this issue isn’t one which vastly impacts a large population of people.
From the most recent survey done in 2013 by the national institute of drug abuse, 9.4 percent of the population is affected by illicit drug use. Reference the below table for individual statistics. These facts are calculated from those that are 12 and older.Within the 9.4 percent of people who were using drugs of some form, around 7,800 of them were new users, a day over half of those being under the age of 18.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015, June). Nationwide Trends. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends
Moving on, don’t even get me started on the music that is produced which glorifies drug use to party living young and free. How about the societal influences that continually normalize and pressure people to do drugs to feel good, fit in or become successful in certain industries. The least understandable criticism I have heard recently is from users who say they don’t feel sorry for heavy users because they do it “responsibly” and they would never accidentally overdose because they aren’t addicted and could stop anytime they want to. If that were they case, I could never imagine choosing to continue to wreck a good practical life.
Tobacco usage an addiction?
My entire life my parents smoked cigarettes along with nearly every other adult in my life. I constantly saw family members including my parents try to quit smoking, only to pick it back up when in a stressful situation and it NEVER mattered what the time gap in between the last cigarette and the next one. That’s not a criticism of my family, it’s simply facts. The addictive nature of tobacco was non dismissible and I saw it happen everyday of my life. I then watched that usage influence others to smoke and develop it into a substance addition, one that is extremely common in the United States. With tobacco being addressed, no not everyone encourages and supports it, but most people understand it. To maintain statistical evidence, over 37 million Americans are tobacco users. Cigarettes kill up to 480,000 Americans a year, and of that 41,000 are only affected by second hand smoking. (Office of smoking and health, 2018) Something that is legal and profound has the ability to cause illness and death in individuals who don’t even partake in the event, yet no one is discrediting and diminishing everyday smokers.
Tips From Former Smokers ®. (2018, April 23). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/data/cigarette-smoking-in-united-states.html
How about alcohol abuse?
“According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime;” Interesting, I don’t know many people who have never picked up a drink, and along with that I do know many people who struggle with alcoholism and constantly have to drink to cope with everyday life. That’s over 15 million adults who are affected by alcoholism and 623,000 adolescents who suffer from it as well. That’s todays youth, that’s todays children who are at risk from peer pressure, influence, and simple curiosity. Yet, alcohol is completely legal and accessible regardless of the fact that it kills 88,000 people annually induced by causes related to drinking.
Alcohol Facts and Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
So what about drug usage makes people worthless?
That being said, why is it so different with drug users? Why do people quickly become saints who criticize those struggling with other forms of addiction. Do you think that you not having the same struggle makes you better as a person, makes you someone who does no wrong? Every person struggles with their own issues that make them less than perfect, the existence of drugs in ones life does not mean they deserve death, animosity and hate.
I have a relative who smokes marijuana like it’s going out of style. They have always enjoyed it and has never allowed anything anyone would say to hinder them from using it, quite frankly that includes law enforcement. Here’s the thing I do not encourage that usage, it doesn’t make me happy because for years they chose to smoke regardless of the consequences and that really affected my family. Yet I love them, and I support them and I will ALWAYS hope for more for that person for them to become successful, a good role model and for them to chose to be better every day.
How about a young single mother (not mine) who came into my family in a most unconventional way, a women who suffers a methamphetamine addiction since she was 12 years old. An addiction that was enabled by a father and continuously encouraged every day of her life. This women has children- beautiful, smart and deserving children. I have watched her get clean, make better choices and clean up her act only to relapse and fall back over and over again with the pressure and influence of those who are addicts as well. Making a choice that is dangerous and eventually will become traumatic to her babies. Yet I don’t hate her, I don’t think she needs to face death. I want her to get real and consistent help, I want her to actually rely on the people who promise and have proven they are there for her.
Are you serious?
Let’s not get this confused here. I am no advocate for drug usage, I don’t believe it should be legalized, I don’t believe there is justification for endangering children or others when on a good high, and I don’t think that we should enable or continue to encourage the use no matter how “small” it may be.
People who use should face the consequences of their actions, especially when those actions affect other people. The same way consequences are enforced on those who drink and drive or endanger others when overly intoxicated. When I heard one of my relatives say have been using meth to “see what it was like” I specifically told them that if I found out that they were ever on a high or had it in their position I would call the local law enforcement to pick them up and have them arrested right then and there. I would have held no remorse.
I know what you’re thinking, “wow, what a snitch” or “how could you do that to family? Where is your loyalty, you should intervene and help them if your so against criticizing them” Never mind the fact that for years I tried, for years I watch them make the same choice over and over and went out of my way to be accountable to them, to help them support them and pick them up when they fall. Sure it stresses me out, takes all my time and puts me into despair because I can’t FIX it.
– Why can’t I fix them, why can’t I convince them to stop? That’s my brother, that’s my cousin, that’s my dad or mom or sister. Maybe it’s my favorite uncle or grandpa and they just wont listen to me they just won’t understand how it hurts us to see them fall off the wagon over and over. How dare they put me in this position. –
Gosh, I held myself accountable for so long until I realize that when your trapped by addiction and illness for so long that no one can make you listen and change your ways until you choose to change yourself. I ENABLED that behavior by allowing myself to constantly forgive them and tell them it was okay. So yes, I stopped personally putting myself on the line and said I would have someone else forcibly intervene to get them clean. I would always rather see them live and face consequences then see them dead from an overdose because they didn’t realize they went to far JUST ONE TIME.
But by gosh, they deserve more too…
You don’t tell smokers they deserve death and sickness whether they are family or friends because they made their bed and should now lie in it. Instead you stand by their side through tough diagnostics and wish things could be different and oh boy do you give them all your love because life is too short. When a family member abuses alcohol you do your best to support them, you choose not to invite them on outings, you congratulate them for another successful week and AA meeting accomplished.
And when someone is in the hospital for an overdose or relapses once again spending the night in jail you acknowledge how terrible they are as a person and how they derive no help, no support. Nothing but criticism because you somehow think you’re better than them. Yet who are you to decide that but someone who walked through life making their own mistakes, drowning others with the choices you made that were hurtful and still neglect to take responsibility.
I have my fair share of anger and judgement when faced with another parent putting their baby at risk, another addict who dare drive on a highway casing a wreck that killed someone else, and I acknowledge that hate I feel. Then I try to understand, they need help they need intervention (proper) and they need to take responsibly for what they’ve done. But I certainly don’t say they are a worse person than anyone else who has done wrong, I don’t dare claim they are worthless humans and a waste of space or my time. You do not know the experiences that someone has had in this life, and no one gets to compare their circumstances to another as everything affects people in different ways. I won’t enable the drug users, instead I’ll hold them accountable tell them their wrong and hope they get help to make tomorrow better.
As a Christian I would say let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Read 2 Timothy chapter 2 verses 23-26 where we learn that repentance comes with truthful knowledge releasing wrong do-ers from the evil that presides over them. Our responsibility is to be kind to others and correct people with gentleness.
Disclaimer: I do drink alcohol – in high school I smoked marijuana a couple times and have smoked cigarettes. While I would not choose to do so, I am someone who made those choices before and I do not think that makes me worse or better than anyone else. We are accountable and responsible for our own decisions.