If you, like me, have experienced the kind of loss that guts your soul and leaves you in the depths of a grief so profound you have to claw your way out, you will understand when I say, “Everything is a loss.”
I’m working on Chapter 4 of my upcoming book, “Hometown Boys” and thinking of the reality faced by each of these young men, their families and their future selves. Chapter 4 is a collection of conversations had with my friends who are on this terrible path with me. They have experienced the range of emotions that comes in watching your child become addicted, of watching them sink to where they break the law to feed that addiction, of feeling completely helpless against an enemy that we have never seen or thought could touch our simple, country lives.
These simple conversations reveal a panic inside of each of us. When I say that I remember the moment I knew, as I previously wrote, I begin to see that each parent I talk to also knew that moment. They could remember the single thing that had such a profound impact on their child that everything changed. For me, it was at my daughter’s funeral. For others, it may have been an unexpected diagnosis, a separation of family or an event that they may have witnessed. I have spoken of trauma as a gateway drug, and I believe it to be the absolute truth.
I think it is important to understand that when we perpetuate a culture where mental health is not considered as important as physical health, we create circumstances that also perpetuate substance misuse and abuse. In today’s world young people are suffering from so many types of anxiety. I feel that it is mostly related to our dependence on electronic methods of communication. Particularly now, we see youth suicide on the rise, we see drug and alcohol use and addiction in record numbers. We are unable to have a conversation without devices stuck in our faces and hands.
The next thing that perpetuates substance use and abuse is the American reliance on medications that make us “feel better.” When did it become commonplace to watch commercial after commercial advertising drugs? It comes down to a common denominator. Money. We should not be promoting pharmaceuticals on television and other media sources. We should not watch the ads, go to the doctor and ask for the medication and get it. It’s as easy as that. In today’s world, anyone can get almost any medication they want. Not working for you? Let’s increase the dose.
Looking into this epidemic, that’s exactly what has happened. We have thrown away or hidden the research that says, “Oh wait, this substance is really addictive.” We feed on people’s losses. No matter what they are most can cause the same mental health crisis, which in turn is medicated so that we walk around in a stupor, susceptible to the promotion of drugs.
A few years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to take my anti-depressants anymore. I realized that they had suppressed all of my emotions and I never cried anymore, and I rarely smiled or laughed. When I did, I wrote this poem. I think it sums up what is happening in the world. Mine at least.
I took a pill, it made me rot.
With words unsaid
And thoughts unthought.
And so I stopped.
The words they came,
The thoughts they flowed
With all the things,
I didn’t know.