My Opinion of Addiction in America
As I skim the other essays for this scholarship, I see there are so many different stories, and a myriad of reasons why people in our nation suffer with addictions. How different can my story be? How do my experiences with addictions differ from my peers’ hoping to gain this scholarship? I can say that each and every story is different and equally important. I feel as a 47-year-old student I may have a different view of addictions in our country, as I feel I have witnessed the progression of addictions over many years. It is no question that substance addictions have existed for as long as those substances have existed. Sex, alcohol and drugs have been available to mankind for countless of years, and addictions to sex, alcohol and drugs has been happening for the same number of countless years. The United States is currently suffering an extreme crisis in addictions. Although I do not have the answers to why, I would like to share some personal experiences with addiction in my life. As a third year Human Services student I also have some education and theories as to why America is experiencing this current crisis.
Alcoholism appears to run in my family. My maternal grandmother, my father, 4 aunts, my stepmother, and finally myself, to name those that I am aware of. Addiction to drugs is also found in my family. One cousin is deceased from an overdose, and one cousin surrendered all legal rights to his children because of his drug addiction. One other cousin has been in and out of rehab for her drug addiction over the last 20 years, and another spent time in prison and his struggle with drugs and alcohol is an ongoing struggle. My best friend growing up is currently drug free, but she has at least two siblings who also suffer from drug addiction. I have more personal examples; however, I feel this paints a picture of how prevalent addictions are in our society.
After three years of courses in Human Services, and my personal life experience I still have no answers as to why our society suffers from this disease of addiction. Do some people have physiologies that are more addictive? Do we suffer from mental diseases, like depression, that cause us to become addicted to substances? Do we suffer from a lack of coping mechanisms or childhood abuse? Do we suffer from a lack of proper developmental stages in childhood or adolescence? Do we have a plethora of adrenaline junkies, who need that ‘high’ to feel normal? Is it a push from pharmaceutical companies to use their drugs? So many questions, and so few answers. We can question the reasons for addictions for a few more paragraphs, but the answer is, that there is no answer. The answer is that is one of these reasons and all of these reasons all at the same time.
Consequences are easier to define. Either a person is ‘caught’ abusing or not caught abusing substances. If they are not found out, chances are they will continue to abuse substances. If they are ‘caught’ abusing they can make a choice to continue the abuse, or abstain. Detox for a person highly addicted to a substance is difficult and ugly. An addicted person has to weigh their life every single day. Is ‘staying clean’ worth paying bills? Is the ‘drug’ more important than their family? Can they fight the temptation of the substance they are addicted to? How does a person interact and support a family if they suffer from an addiction? I have learned that many times that modeled behavior shapes people. Children of addicts have a higher chance of becoming addicted themselves. The cycle of addiction is akin to the cycle of poverty. We pass it on to our children because of modeled behavior. For those from wealthy families who suffer addictions treatment is available anytime, for people of less economic wealth addiction treatment is more difficult to procure. Drying out in ta clinic is much different than attempting to detox while supporting a family. Each and every person who has an addiction has a struggle ahead of them, but the wealthy can seek assistance without a detriment to the finances of their family, while those who have less wealth still need to financially co ntribute to their family. The individual, regardless of socioeconomic status, has a struggle they are committed to overcome. However, those in lower socioeconomic status may become dependent on government assistance to pay bills. This can create an individual who resorts to chemical assistance in coping with their ‘failure’ to meet societies’ expectations. In my opinion, we have the wealthy/upper class seeking treatment as many times as needed for treatment, and we have the middle/lower classes seeking treatment whilst making ends meet. Neither action is ideal to actually combat substance addiction.
To combat this crisis on an individual and a societal level, we must define why people become addicted. This is an individual process. A person from a wealthy family may become addicted for the same reason as a person from a family in poverty. As a society, we need to be able to define why the individual had become addicted to a substance. Each and every persons’ struggle with cancer is different. Each and every persons’ journey with heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, celiac, MS, mental health (all forms), autism, Lupus, Stroke, or any other disease imaginable has a different journey and outcome. Why should substance abuse disease be any different? Each person who suffers from a substance abuse disorder deserves the opportunity to discover why they have developed their disease. Once an individual learns why they have an addiction they can begin to address the why, rather than the what had defined their addiction. Behavior modification is a swift and easy way to begin treatment, however it is my belief that an individual who suffers an addiction will not be able to overcome their addiction without discovering the reason why they suffer in the first place.
It is my deepest hope that this essay states that there are numerous and inexplicable reasons for people to suffer from addictions in our country. My friends, family and personal experience are a testament to this serious illness in our country. The consequences to individuals and society are immeasurable. There is no accurate measure of the financial and personal loss in our society contributed to chemical dependance. The only way to combat chemical addiction on a meaningful level is to meet each and every person with substance abuse at their personal level. A temporary cease of consuming drugs without finding the reason for the addiction will most likely result in a relapse of the individual. If a person cannot define the ‘why’ of their addiction they will most likely never find the ‘how’ of ceasing their addiction.