The other victims of addiction

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To the Editor:

There is so very much yet to learn about addiction. Why do people end up addicted? Can’t they just say no? Isn’t experimentation with drugs and alcohol just a phase that one will grow out of? Do we treat with medication? Rehabilitation? Meetings? Tough love? How do I know my loved one is an addict? Who do I turn to if I have these questions?

As we struggle to answer these questions, we try to do two things: Figure out how to prevent addiction, and figure out how to treat it. But there is a large fallout much in need of dealing with, for other than those who are addicted and die, or those who are addicted and live: those whose lives the addict has touched and touched deeply, to the core of our deepest nerve. Parents, siblings, teachers, judges, healthcare providers, therapists, counselors, law enforcement, coaches, relatives, friends, employers, acquaintances, deep and casual, etc. We are all touched. All affected, our entire community.

We all pay a price, even if it is simply one moment of sadness in our day, as we glance upon one so deeply entrenched in a world we wish to never come close to. As the conversation about searching for answers to addiction grows, so must the conversation about supporting those who suffer through the fallout. We all suffer. We all are touched. We all must be kind to each other and support each other, as we struggle to find a remedy to this epidemic. We all need each other.

I need you.

I am worried about our community, all aspects of it, fearing that we cannot speak of the “unspeakable” drug or alcohol addiction. It is one of the most difficult subjects to approach, and I understand why it is avoided. It’s OK. It is not something easy to talk about.

If you ask me how I’m doing and I break down in tears, thank you. You have allowed me to be real and vulnerable, and you have become a closer friend. If you ask me how I feel and I cannot respond, thank you. You have shown me you care, and given me hope we may have a conversation another day.

Please don’t ask me how I feel if all you can handle is good news. I will be real with you, and you may not like what you hear. But it will be real. I want nothing more than to give you good news.

I don’t want to feel I can’t walk through my community, do my shopping, go to the Post Office, or grab a cup of coffee for fear that I may make you feel uncomfortable. I am here for you, as I hope you are here for me.

You may know someone suffering through a relationship with a loved one dealing with addiction. You may be suffering yourself. It is one of the most painful and isolating experiences one can go through. Please, to help all of us who are living in this isolating world, keep the conversation going. One’s voice can be very powerful. I hope that our ability to be curious, concerned, caring, and charitable human beings will hold each other up to get through this, together.

Christine Todd

Oak Bluffs