This past week Nashville’s mayor, Megan Barry lost her son to a drug overdose. Just typing that sentence takes my breath away. Not because I knew the mayor or her son, but because I know that it could have been me. I’ve had friends and family members who have lost children to this disease. One year, I knew of six different families who had lost someone. That year felt hopeless.
I have no magic words to soothe the families devastated by this epidemic problem. But, I like what Mayor Barry did in a time when most of us would barely be able to function. With frank honesty, she refused to hide. She shared what most families consider to be secret.
Twelve-step programs will tell you that “you are only as sick as your secrets”. As a country, I think it is important to look at why we are so secretive about drug and alcohol addiction. Why are we so ashamed? If we’ve come so far, then why do we continue to think of addiction as a moral failing?
Mayor Barry says that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. She is right. Addiction is a disease. It is a family disease. I didn’t understand that until it came home to roost at my own front door.
So how should we treat drug and alcohol addiction in this country? Should we ‘Just say no’ ? Sounds pretty simple. Wonder why that didn’t work? What about the ‘War on Drugs’? How did that turn out? Seems more like a war on drug addicts. Before a marketing campaign comes along with a new slogan that can be used to make it look like we are doing something about this problem, maybe we should look at addiction like the disease that it is.
Canadian physician, Gabor Mate, author of “In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts” asks, “Not why the addiction, but why the pain?” He further explains that addictions arise out of an effort to avoid pain. There is no quick fix. There is no ‘magic pill’. It takes time and treatment. It takes counseling and twelve-step programs. It takes education and open hearts.
We all know someone. Many of us have one or many who are affected in our families. Let’s follow Mayor Barry’s lead and continue the conversation.
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.