Fly on my sweet angel, fly on through the sky
Fly on my sweet angel, fly on through the sky
I would like to preface this paper with acknowledgement to a good friend of mine who died as a result of his addiction. Frank Hixon, wherever you are in the universe you are loved and may your soul find peace. You are always uplifted in my heart and thoughts.
Sometimes as people we overlook the struggles of others that are not prevalent to our own personal journeys. I believe this can be the case with addiction, it is looked down upon as a weakness or a personal failure, rather than the disease it can be. If we had more empathy as a society and looked at the underlying social factors that lead to addiction. We could be more successful in cultivating the healing that so many people need. By judging, and mishandling the problem we are only hurting ourselves because the consequences of addiction affect us all.
I met Frank freshman year of high school. We both were theatre majors at an arts school. He was enigmatic, but very caring and adored by all. Even his rebellious antics brought smiles from our teachers. He had the air of a rock star at fifteen. Like most people with that alluring personality, underneath he struggled with great emotional pain. As an adopted kid he always felt unwanted and lost. His wealthy, adopted parents, ashamed of him often left him to wade in his mistakes. Kicking him out on numerous occasions and eventually cutting ties with him early into is addiction. As the years passed this dark hole he was in grew deeper and so did his coping mechanisms of abusing various drugs. As impressionable teenagers he led many down this dark path. I witnessed several of my peers lean on drugs mostly opioids, which seemed very easy to attain. Another one of our close friends ended up in jail for ten years. In my mid twenties after limiting contact with Frank for my own safety, as he had gotten me into countless dangerous situations. A decision that does bother me from time to time. Frank Hixon passed away in jail, alone. His story, his life, taught me and exposed me to so many things. I often wonder what could have been done along the way to preserve his life. As you get older you realize this system, this society doesn’t care if you get lost. You are either a productive member of society working the cog or you are no one. That is not a mindset I subscribe to, everyone’s life has meaning. We all make mistakes and can get swept up in our shortcomings. That being said, I realize you can not force anyone to live the way you think is right. I couldn’t care more about Frank’s life then he did. Perhaps the hardest lesson for me was letting go and still I carry some regret with me to this day.
Besides Frank I have several family members that consciously and unconsciously struggle with addiction. How could you unconsciously have an addiction you may be asking? A very simplistic answer would be the propensity for our healthcare system to push highly addictive drugs to assuage the pains of the elderly. Unfortunately this leaves them thinking they need these prescribed medications and with their highly addictive nature, they abuse them.
In the USA there is a public health epidemic of prescription opioid related mortality in patients with chronic non-cancer pain; more than 100,000 people have died from an unintentional overdose since policies changed in the late 1990s, and more than 16,000 people are dying from opioid related causes annually (Shipton et al., 2017). The over prescribing of addictive mind altering medications is not just a problem for the elderly or exclusively opioids. There are stimulants prescribed for attention deficit disorders people also abuse. As well as Benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety or sleep problems. Many studies have shown that our health care system promotes pill usage rather than having a more holistic approach. I see this as the main underlying problem to our addiction crisis in this country. Along with other societal factors that keep people stressed and oppressed, which leads to dependence on these drugs. We all know that emotional pain often manifests itself as physical pain over time. By over treating the physical pain, but not the other factors, we are putting a bandaid on a problem. People will continue to abuse drugs to alleviate emotional pain and never find healing. They will then create more problems for society by causing mayhem, stealing, forming empty subcultures centered around drugs. As a society not only do we need to address the problem, but also change our values. By that I mean, not being so comfortable profiting off human suffering. The prescription drug business is a huge business, in the years between 2000 and 2018, 35 big drug companies received a combined revenue of $11.5 trillion, with a gross profit of $8.6 trillion (Mccall,2020). Fighting this profit over human life mentality as it is the crux of capitalism may be too large of an undertaking for immediate change. Something more tangible would be free or low cost counseling programs implemented in prisons. This could happen if we truly cared about prison being a form of rehabilitation, rather than solely punishment. Creating safe drug free places for people to go who are without homes with resources only available to them with proof of sobriety. I believe Frank would have leaped at an opportunity like that. Helping on an individual level would be having more courage and compassion. Showing that family member that you do care what happens to them. Having the courage to say you see they are struggling with an addiction and you want to help. I decided to do this recently with an elder in my family. I gently told them I could see some of our personality similarities and could understand how substances make them feel better. This was a tactic to help them feel less alone. I left an open line of communication with them so they knew they are loved and not shamed by me, this had a positive outcome. Some people take this too far and become enablers. Education on how to be more of an aide and less of a crutch given to the public through informational pamphlets could be of use. Raising awareness of what a growing addiction may look like. I think this would be very beneficial for people in denial. Overall society needs to address the things like financial hardship or loss of jobs that bring people unhappiness. Will people still indulge in destructive behaviors, most likely yes. But, all we can do is try to lessen people’s suffering. Viewing our lives in a more holistic manner and healing our minds, bodies, and souls is one way to do this!