When Silence Kills But Words Destroy

HeroinI 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.facebook2

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 Ifbcomment1 don’t approve of the haters’ behavior nor their obvious ignorance about the nature of addiction.

fbcommnt4

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.

 

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a theater kid in high school, a band kid at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on March 5, 2016, in My life, people, perspective. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Trina, thank you so much for what you shared in this article. There are haters everywhere and we need to keep helping and spreading the word of hope with this epidemic. This disease hits everyone in one form or another. In my family alone we have over 65 years over recovery experience to draw from. It was people that were in recovery that was there for me and my family when we needed it most. My life and my wives life is dedicated to be there for anyone who wants to make that change in there life. We are also dedicated to do whatever necessary to bring recovery options to Berkeley County. We have been fighting for this for the 12 years we have been here in the background but as you may know now we are out in front of it. Thank you for your support.

  2. Thanks for all you are doing Kevin. If we believe we can make a difference we will make a difference.

  3. I dont believe anyone wants someone to die, but it gets frustrating how everyone says we need to feel sorry for the choices someone makes. I, myself am so tired of hearing that the word addiction refers to a disease. Try looking up the word addiction in websters dictionary, no where will you find the word disease. It is a DISORDER. Also first and foremost understand that unless someone is ready to recover, I dont care if you have the top facilities as rehab, they are not going to stop till they are ready. When you hear stories of individuals sitting in the middle of the road in a car with a needle stuck in their arm, that is putting someone elses life in danger. People that disagree with ones that say have a heart are no different then an organization like MADD ( mothers against drunk drivers ) or such. I personally get tired of hearing addicts dont know what they are doing. If they didnt know what they were doing they wouldnt be able to do it. They know where to get the drugs, they know when they need the drugs, they know how to use the drugs. None of which constitutes they dont know what they are doing. I dont wish ill will on anyone, but no one is shoving a needle in someones arm. They choose to buy the drugs, they choose to use the drugs, they choose to live or die.

  4. Well said. Tha site you are referring to is full of hate and no help. I believe it should be banned from FB for hate speech against those with disabilities or disease.
    Let’s keep fighting the good fight!

  5. I am new to Martinsburg by way of the VA hospital and so i liked this area and bought a home on Winchester ave in the 700 block in dec 2014.
    I too use to be an addict back in the middle 1980’s but through NA and AA and finally Jesus i found a new life. The biggest issue with people failing from stopping drugs is self pity. The other side of the coin of self pride. Self pity will turn anyone into an evil ogre constantly seeking acceptance from others as their daily fix. When that no longer works and everyone ignores them they turn to drugs. When people go to NA and announce their time clean or AA and announce their time sober they are feeding that fix still. Yes it is a better fix than the drugs which tears everyone down who comes into contact with them. However, i have found freedom from the need to get that fix of approval. That is in the humility and surrender to our Savior Jesus who came and died and resurrected to save all mankind.
    I am interested in helping any way i can. I think finding people in need of help before they start drugs is one of the best things we can do. It could be as simple as a place where people come together and share about their lives and their needs and where others there make plans to help them in some way. I think most of the people who end up abusing drugs are rejected people. They do not see much to live for so they do drugs. Giving people a place to go and listen to others and seeing people come together to offer help to get them going in the right direction would be a good thing for this community. It would give hope to the addict before they become a problem. The local mission does that with their feeding people. Yes some who go there are addicts in their active addictions but they are not having to steal food. I am growing veggies to offer them again this year.
    If we could start a place for meetings of people who have lost someone to addiction (not NA or any other self help group) it could help them tremendously know that there are people in the community that care. It could teach them they could be one of those persons and they could learn that they do not need to feel lost and rejected and end up using drugs because they are filled with self pity. If it gave them a fix of pride then so be it and that could lead to them realizing that that too is an addiction they can beat as well one day but in the mean time let it be one step at a time.
    Well i am just a 61 year old ex vietnam era veteran who has been around this country and life and is seeking a way to help those who do not know how to help themselves. Yes sometimes we just have to surrender them to their addictions and know not all will be saved. I have a roommate who is obese and has a food addiction that had him living out of his car and so since he is also a veteran i took him in and well i am learning to surrender him too and he may be lost to his addiction and lose his ability to walk soon. He can barely breathe now but he works driving heavy equipment and that supports his purchase of rich foods.
    Oh well i saw Kevins article because of a listing about taxes and this years budget and well here i am.
    Daniel = email me at ifollowyahshuaATaolDOTcom

  6. Thank you so much attention to this. I’m sure many of us share your opinion. The stigma and shame on experiences in active addiction is sometimes enough to keep them in hiding once they’ve found recovery. Many don’t know how to live with their DISORDER. It’s entirely too easy to find drugs and way to hard to find recovery. Addiction has taken over our town because it’s a medical issue that is not being addressed loud enough. I am fortunate enough to be clean. ..again. Relapse is sometimes an unfortunate part of many in recoverys stories. I am now 1 year 3 months and 2 days clean but I didn’t do it alone. I learned why and what in rehab and how to live with others in recovery. I will be loud and proud about my recovery because there is nothing easy about it but it can be done. Education is key. Addiction is not a flaw in character or a defect of ones moral compass. It’s a disorder that changes a persons behavior and thinking, impulse control. We can do this. This community can do this. Let’s teach others how to #staystopped. Teach the why it’s happening and what safety nets they can put in place to stop it. Let’s rebuild these devastated families.

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