As another young person from Aroostook County sits in a hospital bed following a near fatal overdose, I’m reminded of every single post I have made on this blog thus far. I think it’s great when my posts are read. I really do and my research has taken me places I never imagined I would go. The part that really bothers me is that as a country, state, community we have accepted this reality as the way things are. You might wonder, what can one person do? Truthfully, it only takes one person to start a change. That’s all it’s ever taken. With each post, I hope to spark a thought, conversation and a different way to look at this issue.
Sadly, none of this is a fairy tale, this is life, this is what has been perpetuated by greed, inadequate health and mental health care, a system and mentality whose answer is to lock people away, only to be followed by the next group. While I certainly believe people should pay their own debt to society, we have taken this idea to an extreme level in an attempt to end a war with no winners. We have become a society of “Lock them up and throw away the key.” Empathy is a thing of the past and people are quick to cast judgement on situations they don’t understand.
What we have is an epidemic, we have lost 60 people in our state in the last month. They are mothers, fathers, brothers sisters and our children. Now is not the time to judge the addict or the means they require for survival. It is time to look at the underlying causes of addiction, many of which include trauma, abuse or injury. It is time to not only hold accountable our children, but the people in power who have perpetuated this terrible system for dealing with the epidemic.
These are the things we know DO NOT work;
- Lack of adequate health and mental health care
- Mass incarceration
If we know these things don’t work, why have we been doing them for the last 50 or more years. Why is it that we can’t help someone in active addiction until they have had to make serious choices to feed a habit that consumes them daily. We let them become so lost in addiction that the only place that’s left for them is jail. No second chances, no recovery options, no addressing the trauma that more than 70% of addicts suffer from.
Have you ever been so traumatized by a life situation that you awake in cold sweats from recurrent nightmares? How about suffering serious flashbacks to an event that completely crushed you? What if your mental health diagnosis included persecutory ideations in which you felt everyone was out to judge or persecute you. What if you finally get to jail as a way out of addiction and your life and mistakes are shared all over social media with horribly judgmental comments?
Why is this our new “realty?” Have we just accepted that those with mental illness are expendable. If not, how can we lock up almost every person with issues such as the one described above? Those of you who know me personally, know this is my son. He is a son, grandson, brother, father and a person who possesses one of the greatest hearts you will ever see. His empathy and compassion know no bounds and he is well loved and supported. But he is only one. Just one of more than 95,000 in the federal system alone. He has been demeaned, prodded and forgotten by those who say we need to fix this problem.
We have failed… as a society to cast blame where it belongs, to lift the broken and to provide the help they need. On the second day my son arrived where he will be for the next several years, he spoke with his so-called Counselor and asked about getting time relief for completing the addiction, parenting and counseling programs (which, by the way, is included in the First Step Act) and was told, “Oh that’s just smoke and mirrors. There is no time relief.” So why are we paying those in Washington who claim to fix not only this problem, but ALL of the others, but only deliver “Smoke and Mirrors?”