Name: Josiah Vincent Swift
From: Malibu, California
Societal Viewpoints Toward Drug Addiction
Societal Viewpoints Toward Drug Addiction
My mother’s story sheds light on the fact that anyone can become a victim of drug addiction. I grew up in a single-parent household with my mother and my older sister. Following my father’s passing in 2002, my mother’s coping mechanism included several prescription medications and alcohol. That being the norm for me, I had learned to accept it so much that I was not surprised when Child Protective Services would pull me out of my classroom to ask if I was in danger. She would go in and out of rehabilitation, and I used to love visiting her because at the time I thought she was staying at a resort. She would make so much progress, but then she would fall back into her same unhealthy routines– Something that I still wonder about to this day. When I finally reached high school, I moved in with my grandparents because I had no other choice; My mother’s addiction impacted my education, relationship with my family, and mental health.
Not only did my mother lose her children because of her addiction, but she lost her incredible job as a result. In my first semester of community college in 2016, my mother died from a heroin overdose. Her death inspired me to study psychology. Her death made me raise perplexing questions about how to explain to people how she died. I wondered if the truth was something I should be embarrassed to say. The most significant consequence that results from drug addiction is death. So far in my studies, I have noticed that society makes many misconceptions when someone faces drug addiction. Society may view people with drug addiction as nuisances, or criminal, or lazy– At least, that is how people treated my mother. Society views people with drug addiction as unworthy of the same chances at a good life than any non-addict aspires to have. Because I witnessed my mother being subjected to rejection, I understand the impacts that societal stigmas can have on those who are suffering. My mother’s addiction took countless opportunities from me growing up, and I know that this is the case for others.
Society disregards individuals with drug addiction and pays no attention to the family members of these individuals and how this experience shapes everyone’s life. Before transferring to Pepperdine University, I went through community college with no parents, and it wasn’t easy. However, my mother’s death moved me to find ways to make a difference in this ever-growing crisis in the U.S. So, when faced with the question of why we are facing an addiction crisis, I get angry thinking of all of the relevant factors that society tends to ignore. Stigmas around the field of psychology, for instance, shed light on the perpetuation of this problem; And these stigmas lead people to view therapy or rehabilitation as useless, or create misconceptions about people who are truly working to overcome addiction. What most people don’t focus on is the willingness to change; People are much more likely to overcome addiction if they have the willingness to do so – And if we continue to doubt others in their road to recovery, then we are simply acting as a roadblock to their success. We must work to change the viewpoints toward addiction recovery, and we must celebrate everyone’s willingness to better themselves.
The ongoing thought that I always wondered of why my mom would go back to her old ways after going through rehabilitation, I know that it is because society was failing to offer an equitable way to live. This lack of needed attention negatively impacts the mental health community because it creates the notion that it is simply “up to the individual” to overcome the issue. Being a single mother was not easy for my mother, and her way of coping with my father’s death was to turn to drugs. My family will never know how things might have been different if she had gotten mental health support before her addiction took over her life. In addition to her not gaining support from the start, rehabilitation did not work in the long term because of the life stressors still standing in her way. Regardless of the incredible techniques she learned for coping with her addiction, she did not receive mental health support from her place of work, and she had no healthy way of coping with the death of my father; These factors slowed down her road to recovery. I firmly believe that this is because public and private drug rehabilitation centers are not given enough support. We need more people who have similar interests as me, going into the field of psychology, and we need more funding for mental health resources. I also believe that since any person can be a victim of drug addiction, organizations should implement mental health resources for employees for free or at a reduced cost. We also need to offer support to family members who are part of these individuals’ lives. From my experience, there were many missed opportunities in which my family could have been provided mental health support while I was struggling to live my life alongside my mother’s addiction. In the individualistic society that we live in, we must look at the societal problem from a larger scale. We must recognize that society truly progresses when we support all of our members, not just those who are healthy. It is necessary for us to alter societal viewpoints towards drug addiction, making it possible to ask and receive more support, all of which will make more substantial efforts to offer better and safer coping mechanisms to life stressors.
My mother’s story has inspired me to someday go into a field where I can offer support to people such as my mother and father who did not receive the support that they deserved. The reality is that not every individual is given proper access to mental health support, and I encourage people who have a similar passion to further their career in this field as well. I find it remarkable that people who have personally experienced or witnessed drug addiction go into careers that offer support to this underrecognized community. I should never have been embarrassed to tell her story because it is, in fact, empowering – It is empowering because it shows how I learned to overcome my own life stressors, and to recognize that my mother was doing the best that she could have done.
We can all do our part by being good listeners to everyone, regardless if you are aware of someone battling drug addiction, because what this does is show that person that they are being heard, and that their feelings are valid. My mother would be proud that I am using her story to bring attention to this issue because it is the personal stories that hit at home with listeners and have the potential to bring positive change to their lives.
Only by raising societal awareness towards drug addiction does it become possible to face this crisis head on. By offering opening ears, making known to people the resources available to them early on can truly make a difference. My mother’s story is one of many unique experiences that a person can face when they are lacking the outlets to navigate difficult circumstances. For this reason, it is so crucial that we offer support that will benefit all individuals in society.
Josiah Vincent Swift