When Silence Kills But Words Destroy
I never thought I’d spend a Friday night waiting for a prescription drug to prevent someone from dying from heroin.
But then, I never thought heroin would be a part of life. I never gave it much thought at all.
When I did, it was only to shake my head in disbelief. I remember the day River Phoenix died. I was in New Orleans at the time, and I was watching the news in my hotel room as I wondered why he would use a drug that I associated with society’s outcasts.
But that was before heroin started creeping into my life. It made its stealthy entrance during conversations while friends shared their fear for family members who were using. It crept in when a co-worker mentioned the number of years she’d been in recovery.
And then, one day, I realized that it had simply arrived and taken up space as a constant, heartbreaking presence in my life.
Now, every time I hear about another overdose in my small community (as I write this, there have already been 20 this month, and it’s only March 5), I worry that I might know the person. I check the Facebook page that posts all of the overdoses and the location where they occur. Only then can I sit back in relief.
Only last weekend, I couldn’t sit back in relief. I knew one of the addresses and the person who lived there. He wasn’t the person who overdosed, but on Monday morning he admitted that he’d been using with the person who had.
And this sad epidemic has spawned something else in my community: virile hate.
The administrators of the Facebook page that posts the overdose information also express disgust at efforts by emergency responders to save lives. They even encourage followers to post hateful comments.
I just don’t understand
How can the lives of others be so easily dismissed? How can some people fail to realize that addicts have friends, parents, children and others who care about them and might be reading those posts? Most of all, how can people be so cruel?
The individuals making comments on the Facebook page may not approve of the addicts behavior (who does?). But I don’t approve of the haters’ behavior nor their obvious ignorance about the nature of addiction.
While I’m also far from an expert, I do know a few thing these Facebook posters obviously don’t:
- Degrading other people will never make any situation better.
- Pointing fingers doesn’t make a problem disappear. It does make those involved more likely to hide in shame. We can never solve a problem when people are trying to hide it.
- Every single person has potential, even those who have hit rock bottom.
Just last week I was speaking with a former heroin addict who has been clean almost twenty years. She was telling me how her mother never knew she was an addict. She never even informed her mom when she overdosed and was revived by paramedics. “And now look at me,” she said. “Thank God someone thought I was worth saving.”
But because my friend is an addict, she also knows secrets.
“People think they know who addicts are,” she said. “But they really don’t. There are doctors and nurses who got clean and now are helping people every day. No one looks at them and says, they weren’t worth saving.”
Her words have resonated with me.
As my community, like so many others, continues to struggle with the heroin addiction, I have to believe that her voice and the voices of other caring people will continue to raise awareness and interest in solving the problem while simultaneously quieting the hateful voices.
Because silence about the problem will do nothing to stop the epidemic, and cruel voices can only make it worse.