When you ask a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Among “A fireman, a nurse, an astronaut or a pilot.” I have NEVER heard, “I want to be an addict.” I have never met anyone that deliberately set out on that path. For those that have never had the struggle of addiction, it may be hard to understand those that do.
My father was my hero, I am the Daddy’s girl of all Daddy’s girls. But my hero was an alcoholic. My father would have never done anything to hurt me, he loved me with his whole heart and I knew that, but his addiction DID hurt those he loved, it ALWAYS does. My experience of my amazing father taught me so much! It taught me that those that struggle with addictions are not hopeless. He was able to be free and it helps me to see that others can be too, I got my dad back and I am forever thankful for that. People that met my father at the height of his drinking may have seen him as self-destructive, irresponsible, etc., but in my eyes he was the dad who loved me, the one I adored, the one whose heart I knew to be kind, funny and wonderful. They may not have been able to see his worth, but in my eyes he was worth everything. His life was worth more than all the riches in this world. My little girl heart was seeing him as our Daddy God does, beyond the addiction, beyond the hurt that he was medicating, to the wonder of who he truly was.
I sat to write this because each “statistic” is a PERSON! Not just a number, a person. A beautiful baby a mother held in amazement the day they were born, someone’s sister or brother, mom or dad. A life worth redeeming. I sat to write this because I have lost too many friends not to fight for others.
I write this because too often we see drug and alcohol addiction through the eyes of judgement, as self inflicted. Just for a little perspective, I ask you if you have ever downed a bowl of "comfort" food or chocolate as a reward or comfort after a particularly hard day. We call it "comfort" food for a reason, because we are SEEKING comfort in it! It is self medicating. We know that extra weight and obesity causes all kinds of health issues, heart disease, diabetes, etc, but the slow death of consequences of eating disorders/food addictions are not seen through the same light as a drug or alcohol addiction even though they too could be called self inflicted to those not understanding the issues of addiction.
Every time I walk up or down my stairs I see the sweet face of my friend Michael. His mother gave me a framed picture of him shortly after his death. It keeps me fighting for others, it keeps me pressing on so no other another photos are added to that wall, not without a fight. If you didn’t know the amazing person that Michael was, if you were a casual observer, a passer-by, you could have easily labeled him. But the mother and grandparents who cherished him and never gave up hope for him saw his worth. He was worth everything, more than all the riches in this world to them. Problem was, Michael couldn’t see his worth. Why is it important for me to write about my father or Michael? Because addiction was not who they were, it was what they did to make the pain, the sickness inside go away for awhile until it took over everything. It’s important because I want everyone to know the Michael I knew. The Michael that was kind and caring and amazingly talented and funny. The Michael I miss dearly. I write about Michael because I have to.
Beyond the aspect of redeeming the life of the one addicted, addiction affects every area of society. From the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence:
“Alcohol and drugs are implicated in an estimated 80% of offenses leading to incarceration in the United States such as domestic violence, driving while intoxicated, property offenses, drug offenses, and public-order offenses. Our nation’s prison population has exploded beyond capacity and most inmates are in prison, in large part, because of substance abuse:
80% of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol.
Nearly 50% of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted.
Approximately 60% of individuals arrested for most types of crimes test positive for illegal drugs at arrest.
It is estimated that about half of state and federal prisoners meet the criteria for drug abuse and dependence and yet fewer than 20 percent who need treatment receive it.
For many in the criminal justice system, preventing future crime and re-arrest after discharge is impossible without treatment of addiction. Approximately 95% of inmates return to alcohol and drug use after release from prison, and 60 - 80% of drug abusers commit a new crime (typically a drug-driven crime) after release from prison.
Treatment offers the best alternative for interrupting the criminal justice cycle for offenders with drug and alcohol problems. Research has shown that treatment works -- people can and do recover from addiction, maintaining abstinence from alcohol and drugs. Research has also shown that as substance abuse declines, so does criminal behavior. Jail or prison should be a place where people can get the help they need.
Treatment also saves money. One study found that each dollar spent on substance abuse treatment saved $5.60 in terms of fewer arrests, incarcerations, food stamp use, and less child welfare and medical costs. Since, criminal behavior decreases as alcohol and drug use decrease, it follows that drug prevention and treatment will save valuable tax dollars.
Treatment saves money!!!!! I want to scream this from a mountaintop until everyone hears and actually listens! It saves lives, it saves families, it saves resources.
If you or someone you know is fighting an addiction, please seek help. We would be happy to speak with you, pray with you, help you to get placement in a treatment facility and help you in your journey of freedom.