Drug Users are Worthless

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.

Graph of past-month illicit drug use in 2013. Numbers in Millions. Illicit drugs 24.6, marijuana 19.8, Prescription drugs 6.5, cocaine 1.5, hallucinogens 1.3, inhalants 0.5, heroin 0.3

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. 

 

My Missions experience on Sex Trafficking in the Philippines

Featured

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let’s start off by introducing what human trafficking is defined as, considering the mixed message people garner as a way to avoid and sometimes justify the issue.

Human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

For two weeks I was honored to become a part of the Wipe Every Tear organization in order to pursue the mission of providing girls that are trapped in the sex trade a future of freedom, love, opportunity and restoration. During my trip there were 11 amazing women in total, myself included who took on the daunting task of traveling into a third world country and doing this tremendous work.

WW

The bond that we created as a group is something entirely different from a normal relationship. We went in not having a clue what to expect and not knowing a thing about each other but over 14 days of long flights, multiple living quarters and several emotional nights we developed a bond that is insurmountable. I couldn’t be more grateful to know them and to have shared this experience with them.

So I’ll start off at the top. It took me alone three flights to get to Manila. We landed extremely late, mind you there was a 13 hour time difference from North Dakota. Upon arrival and getting through customs we had some amazing Filipina leaders meet us with some vans to take us to our first stay which was a bit of a ride, and not to mention their traffic conditions are like nothing I have ever experienced even in other Asian countries. Once we got to finally got to bed it was around 2 am and boy we were exhausted.

For reference, please understand that I will not disclose some of the information details such as locations, true names of the girls in our care or from the bars and I will not be posting any photographs of these women to protect their identities. Their safety is paramount to us and I appreciate your support on that matter.

Something that initially weighed on my heart as we walked through the streets and saw the different areas of the city is actually acknowledging the state of poverty that this country resides in. You hear it time and time again about third world countries, how they have poor infrastructure, struggle for jobs and hurt for food. Yet, when you see the slums in real life, you walk on the crumbling dirty streets, you can’t use toilets with logical cleanliness and plumbing and see a flood of stray animals that’s reality hits you. When you walk by homeless women in the city sleeping with their barely dressed toddlers on the street, there is nothing more heartbreaking. Now we didn’t go here to save the homeless, to fix their struggling economy, to feed the hungry but only the Lord understands the pain that we felt bearing witness to these circumstances. It’s not possible to walk on by unaffected by what you see in their everyday normal.

Over the first few days in the country our first true experience was going to each of the safe houses and spending time with the girls getting to know them, allowing them to share whatever they wanted, (which many times included teaching us their different dialects and how to say different words) we did hours of Zumba – and they are incredible at it by the way! We also just got to give them time to be who they were, love on them, support them and hear about their aspirations or their families back in other provinces. Oh I can’t even express in words how amazing these women in our care are!

After the first week it was time for the part that seems so challenging. We went into Angeles City. We stayed in this hotel, close to the Walking Street, this is where all of the bars that host the women are. This is where are story gets tough, because it was easy to see women who already have a new hope, its joyful to love women who are already working for their future. It is so extremely difficult and painful to go into bars where women are exploited, so beat down and downtrodden. It is gut-wrenching to see men partake in these behaviors, men who could be your father, or coach or mentor. Men who choose to be oblivious, who choose to make excuses or simply choose that they do not care the cost it takes because they can do it so they will do it. Yet we did witness this and we did show kindness and respect with these men even when we felt they were undeserving.

Here’s a run down of what you expect in any given bar on the street. Before entering they usually have door girls who sit out side in an inviting manner. We split into small groups with some Filipina leaders (some of which are brave women in our care who originally worked in the bars!) I was custom for some bars that you can’t get into the bars without a male escort which was quite the hindrance for our teams. Once we could get into a bar we figured out where we were going to sit or we were seated by a “waitress”, you were typically required to order a drink to stay so that was usually the first thing we did, different bars had different layouts as you could expect.

Each bar has a mamasan or maybe even multiple mamasans – these are the older women in charge of the girls, usually women who were involved in the trade until the were to old to “perform.” The one thing the bars shared in common was the stage.  What you could expect to see is women scantily dressed standing often times uncomfortably on stage or moving slightly in effort to appear as they are dancing. Thee women would be anywhere from 18 to over 30, different in every aspect of the word, different confidence portrayed. When we felt compelled to speak to girls we would have to ask a girl who had this laser pointer. We would tell her who we wanted off stage and they would point the laser at her until she noticed and made her way towards you. It was not uncommon to watch their faces drop and see their anxiety or disappointment in being chosen. Once we have the girls seated with us we are expected to purchase them drinks where we are charged double and they get half that commission for the cost of the drink. We would talk to them, try to make them feel at ease and the invite them to a week-long getaway at an Island hours away from the city. This task was not accomplished with ease since several factors stood in our way.

Mamasans and bar owners would tell the girls we would traffic them for their organs and kill them. They would tell them that; should they go on our vacation when they came back they would lose their already miniscule salaries. Anything to prevent them from going with us. If a mamasan saw our cards she would take them from the girls and rip them up so you would see them hid our cards in their bras or undies.

Now you may ask, is prostitution and sex trafficking legal in the Philippines? The nature of these bars sure would make it seem plausible. But no it’s not legal and yet they have found their way around the law. When a customer wants to purchase a women for the night he will pay a “bar fine” – this is essentially stated as paying a 60 dollar fine (3000 Pecos) for her to leave her shift early. Except this isn’t by the choice of the girl and she is not obligated to say no. Once she is “bar fined” she remains the property of the customer until the next day when he sends her on her way after doing what ever he felt inclined to do with her. Almost nothing was off-limits.

We did outreach for four nights, four painful, amazing, eye-opening, and difficult nights. We made relationships with girls in the bars, we would invite them to lunch or breakfast after their shifts which end at 3 and 4 in the morning. Sometimes they would show up to McDonald’s which they LOVE to eat by the way, and other times they wouldn’t which was a hard revelation to deal with. The last morning the girls we told to be at our hotel by 7 am to go to the island, we would be able to accommodate 50 girls on this trip should they choose to come. In the end we only had 7 – but that was 7 girls who took a chance, 7 girls who risked everything for a glimmer of hope.

For the next 5 days us 11 women, the staff and leadership of Wipe Every Tear both American and Filipino and our 6 girls got to go on this vacation. We got to show these girls a care free environment where they didn’t have to pretend, they didn’t have to stress and worry, they didn’t have to be fearful. We got to do so many activities with them, from snorkeling, swimming, riding a banana boat and karaoke. We laughed, cried, joked and slept! We ate many meals together and an unforgiving amount of rice and mango (though you guys don’t know what you’re missing on some true fresh and delicious mango). I skipped on the Fish – sorry ya’ll I just couldn’t bring myself to eat fish even there!

At the end of this trip 5 of the girls who took a risk – chose to come to our safe houses pursue an education and live a life of freedom. We continue to pray for all of the others. The ones who are uncertain, fearful, and can’t leave as they provide for families in far away homes. The new ones, manipulated and confused. The long time girls who know no other way to provide, who thinks life is to far wasted to start over. It’s never too late. I could never fully put into words this experience, I could never say the impact it has made, the heartbreak I have felt, the love I have gained. It is a world we do not understand, and that is okay. God provides and restores and I will eternally be grateful to have had this opportunity to know these women, to even for one moment show these girls trapped in the sex trade that someone loves them, someone cares and that they do matter. I can’t exaggerate their need because it is so great all around, though I will ask that you pray. Keep these girls in your thoughts and if you ever feel inclined get involved and do more. It only takes one person to create change whether that is in the hearts of many or you just change the life of one person.

Please understand this is such a brief overview of my experience. If you have any questions, comments, curiosities feel free to ask. Some things I will share and some thing I am still processing so I may choose to politely decline to answer with hopes you’ll understand. It so difficult to put all this into words, and there was so much we experienced that simply covering the entirety would take a novel to explain. The last thing I will ask is to just keep the girls who went over to do this ministry in your thoughts and prayers as well – as this was such an emotional rollercoaster and processing all of this has been hard on all of us as we transition back into a somewhat normal routine.