Name: Dakota Schleigh
From: Ramona, CA
Addiction Awareness Scholarship
A life is intercepted by addiction for as many reasons as there are stars in the sky. But they have a way of fooling the mind of the addict that they are a coping mechanism that will save them from an unfavorable situation they are facing like coping from injury, mental health, self-medication, or a challenging lifestyle that is less than ideal or it is in the home and become a modeled lifestyle. Schools host “DARE Programs” and politicians have slogans like “Say no to drugs” and all the while the mental health programs in schools and underfunded communities beg for funding, there is a clear lack of interest in free mental health programs that are easily accessible and socially accepted in any peer group, our country does not have a living wage and education programs that are affordable and not a lifetime debt. We have a pain management program that pushes products designed for short term use given outside the intended design, our insurance policies fail to boost less pharmaceutical prevention and instead lean in a direct line of dependency.
The consequences of addiction for an individual is catastrophic loss. In my father’s case, he lost his life. Before that, he lost his wife, his job, the home they shared, the opportunities to be a parent to my sister and I, he lost his parents’ trust and his place as an active participant in society making a difference in lives as he tried to do even when he was struggling with prescription drug abuse. Statistics say that 80% of those who have a drug addiction are incarcerated and while my father had his run-ins with the authorities he never was incarcerated. Thankfully his parents were there to advocate for him each time and he was held for his mental challenges on 5150’s and even 5250’s. I wonder at times which came first and while we will never know for sure I have my suspicions that his injuries as a teen that required pain medications altered his brain and rendered him reliant on them. He fell into a system that promoted the drugs.
My father had a giving heart and cared for those around him. Animal or human they needed something, and he had a source they were gifted that which they sought. Even when he was down to his last dollar, he would offer help to a perfect stranger and chances where they became fast friends. He didn’t expect anything back but living a life where those around him were struggling to eat, find shelter, have a working vehicle to get to an AA meeting or were clean enough to want to be reunited with their kids he always found a resource to help them. He would have been an amazing social worker at a hospital, guidance counselor for a junior high or an addiction therapist if he had lived long enough to recover. But that is not his story. Thankfully there are those who do have that story and they made a difference in the lives of those walking a path similar to their own. I see my dad in them, and I am profoundly sad that we were never given that outcome.
I know he would have been a positive light in society. But instead, he drained resources, contributed to the ER revolving door of those requiring emergency intervention from their consumption of the prescription drugs of choice, his actions warranted numerous police presences calls and once even a helicopter to secure that his parents, my sister and I and even strangers who witnessed his latest incident, safety. He would spend a few days to a few weeks in mental institutions to detox and hurt himself to require medications to treat those injuries, he would be given state insurance and assigned a bed at treatment program only to back out and refused to go, he received SNAP food due to his lack of income and when he lived in a group home he relied on grants, state programs and his parents to see that he was not homeless and he even received medical insurance from my mother as ordered in their divorce. He existed only by the grace of programs and people willing or required to assist him. Just as an infant looks to those around them to assure, they have life. And he was 32 and one story as they are literally thousands of people living this life of dependency. And not just dependent on the drugs either.
So how do we remedy the dependency? I have given thought to this on late nights as the stars look down as a witness to my anxiety induced insomnia. Society has many short-term programs where the patient when released will be sent back into the same lifestyle they failed to thrive. A work study in colleges assures a student assistance and skills as they learn a trade on a campus. I have a simple business plan of campus communities like this for addicted dependents. They would live, work and seek intensive treatment in a facility that promoted dignity, family reunification with child intervention where needed with strong education of additions, be given outlines education plans and classes and lastly a skill in a trade. Incarceration is mandatory and this would be voluntary, and the skills learned would be to produce products that would be sold for the purpose of supporting the program and give in to societies needs instead of draining valuable resources. Clothing manufacturing? Appliance assembling? Recycling centers? Agriculture? Livestock? Or all of the above perhaps. Across our country we have a surplus of empty warehouses and factories that could be retrofitted, by the recovering dependents, to create opportunities and simultaneously decrease urban blight. And companies who partner with the programs would be given tax breaks to entice their participation. I know there are more details than I can fathom that are overlooked in the practicality of this idea, but treatment should involve the entire life of the dependent addict because the drugs affect every single aspect of their life.