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Why I Do What I Do

Pam
| May 15, 2015

I found myself in tears recently. A friend of mine who also lost a child to addiction posted a news item about how six precious lives had been saved in one week thanks to the fact that Narcan is now being carried by law enforcement. Narcan reverses opiate overdose. I was so incredibly happy to read it. I thought, “Thank God Almighty.” Naively, I thought everyone would be as thrilled as I was. Not quite.

Let me paraphrase for you, a few of the comments left under the story…

“Junkies should be left to die”

“They should have to sign a contract that states after they are saved one time, that’s it”

“They are a drain on society and should be eliminated.”

One poor mother who lost a son and said he was educated and productive was told “I don’t care if he went to MIT. A junkie is a junkie.”

The ever popular “It’s their fault for being stupid enough to try it in the first place.”

And my personal favorite, “Narcan, counteracting heroine and Darwin at the same time.” He didn’t even spell heroin correctly, but you can tell he thought he was really clever coming up with that one.

The negative comments outweighed the positive ones at least 10 to 1. And I thought to myself, what happened in these people’s lives that they can be so cruel? That made them lack any empathy or compassion? That makes them more worried about their tax dollars being spent on Narcan than the lives it saves? That makes them say not all lives have value? I wept at the heartlessness and lack of concern for their fellow human beings.

And then it hit me, they don’t have a clue what addiction is all about. They haven’t bothered to educate themselves, yet they feel qualified to pass judgment on something which they know nothing about. They say otherwise, but I guarantee they would feel much differently if it happened to one of their children. I know it.

So what do you do? Do you try to change their minds? I really doubt their minds can be changed. Some of them will have the devastating misfortune to be taught by life. And for that, I am genuinely sorry. I became very discouraged about whether my efforts are really making any difference. But another mom reminded me for every one of ‘them’ there are thousands of ‘us’. And she’s right. And if my efforts save one life, then hallelujah.

So here’s the plan…I will continue to shout the message from the rooftops. I will spend every free minute and take every opportunity to educate the masses to the best of my ability. I truly believe education is the key. All great change takes time. I will learn to be more patient. I see small changes every day. I will remember to acknowledge the good changes. I will rejoice with every life saved. I will never stop. Because every life has value.

If you would like to share your story and help educate people, please do! It’s really easy. You can do it in one of 2 ways:

1) Go to Heroes in Recovery and share your story. Say Pam sent you.
2) Message me on Facebook and we can talk in person or you can text me your story.

In love and light,

Pam

  • Susanne Johnson

    Where is a topic, there are opinions. It is the same with hunting, guns, or politics. Some people have a set opinion and are not open minded at all to certain topics. If I learned something very important in my recovery it is, that I can’t change other people, their behavior, their thoughts, their opinion or their reaction. I can only change myself and be a role model for others to see, how certain things might work out different than they always thought. I can educate, but not manipulate. Also important to me today is the fact, that I can’t expect others to change to fit my life, as being somebody with an addiction problem, better. I’m the one that needed to change to fit back into society and thanks God my recovery changed my life and myself. I personally belief, that if I’m the addict I cannot expect others to carry some rescue medication around in case I overdose. If a mother gets it prescribed and decides to keep it handy for her son, that’s her personal choice. Should we force law enforcement to carry it? Not in my opinion. As per my knowledge they don’t carry Epi-pens, Nitroglycerin, or Insulin either to rescue people with other life-threatening problems, if they find them. They call the paramedics. Should it be OTC available? No! I’m very concerned, that if drug users have Narcan among themselves, some will try to use higher doses, since they can’t get that ‘high’ they are chasing for. They might be a little bit riskier at times, since there is a ‘rescue’ remedy. On the other hand they would most likely not spend the money for it. But this is only my personal opinion about the ‘Narcan’ topic itself.
    I’m happy about every life saved as well, but I do understand the ordinary taxpayer also, who responded to this article in anger, rage, mistrust and disturbance.
    Now, the words that are used were not needed and this is the stigma, that I would like to see disappear some day. It’s very judgmental and hate-speech against a group of people they know nothing about. Hate-speech like this against a religion or a race would be unthinkable, but against people with a substance use disorder it seems to be tolerated. But you find angry and cruel people everywhere, especially on the internet, where they can hide behind fake names.
    Keep educating people, Pam. This is never a lost cause. You reach more people than you think, who wont use words like ‘junkie’ or ‘dirty’ anymore and come to belief, that substance use disorder is a medical condition as real as any others, as fatal as many others, and could impact their life in a heartbeat. Spreading hate and stigma will increase the problem for society in the long run, giving love, encouragement and help will diminish it.

  • Pam…

    The last sentence of your blog says it perfectly.

    “Because every life has value.”

    I frequently find myself wondering how parents like you must feel when they read about more and more lives being saved with Narcan. On the one hand, I’m sure you’re happy and relieved for those who have benefited from the drug being more prevalent and available. But I’m pretty sure you probably find yourself thinking “What if?” frequently, too. That must be tough.

    As we both know, there are a ton of people out there who are not educated about addiction. They think it’s a choice and not a disease. That’s unfortunate, and we must keep on sharing our stories so that more people learn that nobody *wants* to be an addict. Nobody wakes up one day and says, “I think I’m going to become a heroin addict!” Addiction is a brain disease and every person who ever tries drugs or alcohol is playing a game of Addiction Roulette. Nobody knows if their brain is wired in such a way that they will become addicted. So, yeah. It can happen to anyone.

    As far as whether or not law enforcement should carry Narcan with them goes… Why not? If it can save lives, I’m all for it. I’m pretty sure defibrillators are now required in a large number of public places in case someone has a heart attack, because they save lives. I think police officers carrying Narcan is a logical idea, because I think they’re likely to encounter drug overdose situations much more frequently than the average citizen.

    While we may not be able to directly change other people’s behavior or thoughts, I do feel strongly that we *can* educate people. With education comes knowledge, and knowledge is what people use to form their opinions. So I *do* believe we can alter what a person believes through education. Which is why I, too, will continue my advocacy work and do everything possible to teach people about addiction.

    By the way, I think you’re right about people doing a 180 on their opinion if they’re son or daughter were the one overdosing. If their child were dying from an overdose, would they *really* rather have them die instead of having their life saved by a cop carrying Narcan. I doubt it. If they say otherwise, I think they’re lying.

    I love what you do, Pam, and I want you to keep doing it. You’re so passionate about the cause; about helping to break the stigma associated with addiction; and about saving lives. I’m sure Andy is watching you from up in heaven and thinking how proud he is of his mom. 🙂

  • Kathy Cook Dauphinais

    I like your plan. Keep shouting, keep educating, and know that you are making a difference.

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