Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – America’s Addiction Crisis

Name: Haley Schattschneider

America’s Addiction Crisis

it’s you in the waiting room. In that poorly lit hospital, filled
with unfamiliar faces, confusing charts and cold coffee. You sit
down and realize the moment you’ve prayed to never come, is facing
you head on. Your father, who has been a smoker for over fifteen
years, has lung cancer. It is stage four cancer. There are
treatments and programs to help your father, and the journey will be
hard, but you must try to fight off what is in store for him. After
all, this is a disease, and although you are not a doctor, you will
pray for the best and get the best treatment program for your father.
You go home after realizing what is becoming your reality, you check
your social media and the regular twitter arguments are rolling
around. Democratic debates are taking place, a celebrity is
endorsing stainless steel straws and you continue to read. However,
today is different for you. Something catches your eye. You read a
tweet from a man named Chris. He has decided he needs to share his
two cents on cancer. His tweet says, “Lung cancer isn’t a real
disease if you get it from smoking. That’s simply a choice.”
You’re infuriated so you turn off your phone.

this scenario seems quite illogical or even slightly unreasonable,
this anger and confusion stemmed from the ignorance of those around
us, is felt everyday from people who are dealing with addiction in
their everyday life. Of course, lung cancer is a disease, and
this disease is directly related to one’s addiction, it does not
discredit the idea that this life threatening and fatal disease is
purely a choice of an individual to have.

Therefore, if we so easily classify lung cancer that has been brought
on by years of smoking, why can we not view alcoholism through the
same lens?

is the leading contributor to America’s addiction crisis,
specifically America’s addiction crisis in regards to alcoholism.
The reason this crisis exists, is because of the false portrayal of
what addiction really is, and the lack of awareness and knowledge of
the seriousness of it. We are not taught the depths and dangers of
drugs and alcohol, and do not understand the consequences of misusing
them. But more importantly, we are not taught to take them
seriously. There is more debate whether addiction is a disease or a
choice, than there is general talk about what addiction is. Without
proper knowledge of what addiction is, the deep understanding of the
realness of the disease will never be unveiled. This is how the
never ending cycle begins. If you don’t know how to swim, would
you jump in a lake? Most likely, you would not. But if you always
believed the water would only go up to your ankles, you would not
fear jumping in.

how do we fix the problem? We must talk. People who have overcome,
or who are currently struggling with addiction, or their loved ones,
must be the leading force in explaining the first hand effects that
addiction has on humans. Without human connection and the telling of
personal testimonies, the realness of this crisis, will never become
personal to those who have not directly experienced it. We have to
be able to spread the realness of the crisis, in order for people to
take it seriously. Because if we are not taught to take it
seriously, the number of people with addictions will only rise.

lack of understanding is what makes this disease an overly emotional
journey for those experiencing it, and those watching someone they
love experience it. The “invalidity” of this disease makes it
hard for those who don’t experience it firsthand to understand how
serious it is. You do not have to have cancer, or watch someone die
of cancer, to understand how serious the disease is. However, it
almost seems as if the only ones understanding the depths of this
disease are the ones experiencing it firsthand, because it is not
viewed as a real illness. You wouldn’t make jokes or casual
comments about other terminal illnesses because we have all agreed
they are serious. However, the insensitivity encompassing alcoholism
is an unbearable pain to those who have experienced it. To you,
alcoholism may just be a word on your screen, but to some, it has
been the central turning point in their lives. To me, alcoholism is a
disease that has turned my life one-hundred and eighty degrees.
Because the reason that I understand the depths of this disease, is
because at sixteen years old I lost my father to it.