marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Wake Up America!

From “Thirty-One Days in Nar-Anon,” Day 29:

“Through the sharing of other members and the warmth of their friendship, I started to develop a new strength. I recognized my powerlessness, accepted drug addiction as a disease and avoided having expectations. My frustrations began to vanish. With all the knowledge I acquired through the Nar-Anon program, literature and phone support, I became more open-minded. This brought me a sense of serenity and helped me set more realistic goals for myself.”

Would we even be having this conversation if our children were suffering from diabetes? Of course not!

Addiction is a gravely misunderstood disease, shrouded in secrecy, shame and stigma. Bikies, tatooes, and skid row…oh how times have changed! But thanks to the many programs out there that are educating the public about the true nature of addiction—that it’s a brain disease—awareness is increasing and attitudes are slowly changing.

Look how in one generation the American perception of alcoholism has evolved. We had a recovered alcoholic in the White House for eight years, a man who freely admitted that he struggled with alcohol when he was younger. Alcoholism is also a form of addiction, remember, and it’s my fervent hope that Americans will start to view drug addicts with the same compassion offered to many alcoholics. When public perceptions change, so will attitudes toward our addicted children.

My daughter, Angie, is a heroin addict. If she felt less shame, would she be less isolated? I believe so. In a few other countries, and even in Seattle, WA, there are programs in place to help addicts manage their addiction. This support is specifically designed to keep the crime rate down and help addicts be more functional in their daily lives. In my memoir, I wrote about how Gabor Mate, a doctor in Vancouver, has been an advocate for addicts for many years. He has made a big difference in that city.

How I wish things were easier for Angie, that she be viewed with compassion and not judgment. But I do believe that because of our efforts to raise awareness and set up support programs, life will be easier for future generations. I take a lot of personal comfort in that.

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