As someone who has struggled with various addictions throughout my life, the worst being alcohol, reading this story about Andrea Towson touched me and hit home. I was never addicted to heroin, but I feel that many of my days while active in my disease mirrored hers… get up, start drinking, make sure I have enough to get through the day and into the next, plan on how I was going to get more, then continue drinking until finally passing out. Every day was the same. And it was a nightmare. I also had more than one near death experience, but still continued to drink for some time before finally ‘waking up’ to the idea that I needed help. On July 13th, 2017, I gratefully celebrated five years of sobriety. It also happened that an AA event that my spouse and I attend every year was a week early this year and fell on the same weekend of my sobriety birthday. My favorite part of the event is the countdown. Now mind you, upwards of 1000 people attend this event every year, and what is staggering about this number is that we live in a small community. During the countdown, the person at the podium starts by finding out who has the longest sobriety – it’s usually someone with 45-50 years. Then we countdown one year at a time, and those who have that period of sobriety stand up to be recognized while everyone claps and cheers for them. Once the countdown gets to one year, then we continue by month, and once we hit one month, we countdown by day. There is always someone who has only one day of sobriety. That person walks to the front along with the person who has the most time, they hug, and the person with the most time under their belt gives the person who has the least time a copy of the ‘big book’ and words of encouragement. I always tear up during the countdown, especially when I see those who have only days or weeks stand up. I remember that time so clearly and how hard it was and wondering how anyone could make it a whole year, or even longer. As time has gone by, I have grown and gotten stronger and no longer wonder how, as I am living it day by day.
Sadly, there are many who will never experience sobriety because their lives will be taken too soon as a result of their addiction. It is unfortunate too that rehab is very costly, and often there are no available beds, leaving those who want and seek treatment out on their own. Addiction is very complex; there are many factors in play as to why someone becomes addicted. Too often people who have never been there do not understand this, all they want to do is point a finger and place the blame. And unfortunately, the U.S. currently has an administration who largely does not understand addiction and they are going about fighting the current epidemic all wrong. Most of the people who are out there still struggling are good people; many have the qualities our society deems as good, but we can’t see these qualities because they are masked by drugs and/or alcohol. Many would be very shocked and surprised as to how many people who currently hold, or at one time held, positions of power and prestige also have a past that includes addiction. The point is, addicts are worth saving, and building walls and returning to a 1980s-style ‘war on drugs’ absolutely will not stop the problem so many are facing. Instead, educating people and the public, creating safe places for addicts to go to, and providing support and programs is what will help. Congrats to Ms. Towson for finding sobriety and reaching out to others, I wish her the best!