The Silent Stigma of Recovering Addicts
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The Recovering Addict
For recovering addicts, every day is a challenge and a struggle. It's tough enough to have to fight the addiction on a daily basis, go straight to a detox center where they will experience pain and withdrawals from their drug of choice, including alcohol. They have to go to AA and NA meetings, be in a rehab filled with strangers. Many of these addicts are sent away for long term centers in other states, far away from friends, family, to start over completely. Many stay there. Some centers are state run and free, others are private and quite expensive. And if you don't have the insurance to cover it, you may find yourself stuck with short term care at your local state run facility.
Here in Pinellas County, PAR has a shortage of female beds. Why? Because females are more likely to ask for help than men. But that's not good when you're a female looking for a bed and you want to get sober. The state fails to accommodate and you find yourself back out on the streets getting high. For some, it may be too late.
I personally spoke to Representative David Jolly, U.S. Representative for Florida's 13th Congressional District last year in regards to this shortage and he told me he would investigate this issue, partially due to the $2 million grant that was given to them. He asked me to contact my local state reps which I have not followed up on, so I cannot attest to any development on that front but wanted to mention this. If anything comes up, I will add a supplement.
I have not researched any other states though I would be curious to see numbers in how many recovering addicts from state run facilities stay sober. And does the state have any programs to help them find jobs?
These people have voluntarily given up their freedom to gain control of their lives. They have committed to becoming better people and eager to progress within the community with the same dreams as any one of us. Some are parents who lost their families, some are children whose parents can no longer control them, some are homeless, having lost everything.
Once inside, they study, learn about their addiction and get therapy on where it all started. Some find their faith and even find God, in whatever shape he decides to show up in. Some learn to pray here for the first time in their lives and find great healing with yoga and meditation, depending on the rehab.
Life is hard enough without having to worry about a community enthralled with bigots who turn against them, treating them as if they were subhuman; a condemnation to the social fabric, a devaluation of their property value when these rehab centers move too close to their homes and an unfounded fear that crime will somehow spread because of their presence. They are seen as criminals, even though some never went to jail. They are seen as drug addicts, even though many have been sober for years. There is a stigma here.
Recovering addicts are people who are loved by someone, missed and prayed for by someone. They have families somewhere who have suffered along with them, some for many years and others who found this is their last chance at saving their life. These are adults who have walked in asking for help and are ready to start over. They are committed and resilient. I have nothing but respect and trust any one of them more than I would someone still addicted, in denial, or who flat out refuses to get help.
I wonder if these people that feel the need to complain at a courthouse when these centers move in, would feel the same way when a hospital moves too close. In my opinion how different is a hospital than a recovery center? They may not treat broken bones but they treat broken spirits, broken sobriety and an alcoholic or drug user has a disease.
It has been established that addiction is 50% hereditary, meaning addicts have a gene from one or both parents making them genetically predisposed to addiction. Children with addicted parents are eight times more likely to be addicted themselves. So where is the other 50%? It is in environmental exposure, and the ability of the addict to make the choice.
That's where rehabs come in to help them find the trigger or cause for the addiction, what it is that pushes them to the craving and what signs to look for right before they want to use. This education along with tools to combat the illness is essential in the recovery.
But even with all this work they do to make themselves into different people, they are still judged, demeaned and not given a fair chance in our society, especially when they are done with their treatment. Who will hire them if they admit they were in rehab? If they leave work for a 90 day treatment program, what excuse do they use? Will they lose their jobs? Is it covered under FMLA? Some insurance will cover and under HIPPA they are protected. Still, there are companies that will find out and in Florida, the right to work state, it wouldn't matter what excuse is given, if they don't like it, you will lose your job for a variety of other reasons.
The government can fix this. If enough people join to get more centers out there, more education in the schools, openly talk about addiction as the illness it is, just as openly as we talk about Depression, then it will be easier for people to accept it and move on, removing the underlying negative connotations.
Case in point: Were you aware that a medical doctor who is treated for sobriety, loses his license forever? He may have had the cure for Cancer but he went to get sober and lost his license to practice anywhere. That means he will seek out treatment or go on "vacation" and just not tell anyone. There's a shame in that and there shouldn't be. You shouldn't punish someone who is asking for help. Why not just drug test them instead? Beats losing their license.
It's disheartening but when the FDA approves the use of Oxycontin for children starting at age 11 to be administered by doctors, it makes me wonder what is going on. If it's addicting to an adult, imagine what it will do to an 11 year old, especially if the child is already fostering a gene.
I am still waiting for the presidential candidates to address this ongoing problem of the accessibility to rehabs by addicts without money or resources. They should be able to receive the same treatment anyone with insurance receives. That is how you fight drugs; making recovery easier than getting high. .
More companies should get involved to hire someone who is in recovery. You take a chance on any candidate you hire, so why not someone who has been through hell itself, proven to be strong, committed, capable, eager and ambitious to actually want to work? Why not set the trend for 2016 and be the company who puts these awesome people to work?
I want to make a special shout out to Klean Radio, great people I found on iHeart Radio. From Los Angeles, CA, they are a group of talented individuals; Host Andrew Spanswick and Pat O'Brien. Every day they have a talk radio show with interviews with people who are making a difference in the world in regards to addictions, companies who are actively starting to recognize there's a problem and extending their hands to recovering addicts by giving them a chance by hiring them, to celebrities who are brave enough to share their personal stories of addiction in order to help others struggling. It is very entertaining and educational.
We are surrounded by the decay of drugs in our world. It has killed too many of our children, taken away too many innocent lives, too many people far too soon to leave this world who could have made such an impact but instead left us asking why. The movies glorify the stoner, the drinker and this is what we teach our children so they think it's cool. But the recovering addict falls in the shadows and doesn't seem to get acknowledged for their accomplishments. We need to make recovery "cool" and that asking for help is a powerful thing.
Support your local recovery center, speak to your state legislature, find out what you can do to volunteer, donate, and remember, this can happen to any one of us. You probably already know someone who is in recovery. Start by helping them. One day at a time, and we all make a difference.
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