The War on Drugs

 

I read a headline that said the President was going to address the drug epidemic. After years of sobriety and the experience of my own struggle, when it comes to the subject of addiction, there are two kinds of people in this world. There are those that understand and those that will never understand. The line between the two is definite and clear.

Keep in mind, the addict is not specific. There are different types of addicts, which vary, depending upon the drug of choice or method of consumption. The world of addiction is made up of all sorts. It is not limited to race, creed, or sexual orientation. Drug addiction does not discriminate. Whether the arm is black or white, once the needle passes through skin and the bevel punctures the vein; once the shot is set. the plunger moves forward, and chemical infects the blood. Upon effect, the eyes fall to half-shut and the mind rolls back into soft cocoon of an untouchable feeling. Rich or poor, male or female—whether you are Hispanic, or otherwise, the drug does not compromise in any way, shape, or form.

However, more than the typical heroin or the obvious street junkie, nodding downward, slowly moving through a falling spiral, or more than the veteran dope fiend on the methadone program whose life is now hinged upon a regulated dose of a synthetic drug, there are other junkies that go unnoticed.

Let us not forget the pill poppers or the drunks. Let us not forget the speed freaks or the cocaine cowboys, the weekend warriors, the club kids, or young punks looking to be rock stars, and garbage heads just looking for a high.
You have the functional and the dysfunctional. You have the rich, upperclassman, or upper class woman that can afford their habit. You have the middle income, closet junkie. You have the poor and the homeless. You have those with an excuse and those with addictions that are rationalized as pain management.

Addiction now comes in a legalized form. You have the Xanax freaks and the klonopin fanatics. There are those who consider Valium a gift from the gods. There are those that love the sleep aids, such as Lunesta and Ambien

Then there is Kadian and the Morphine Sulfate family. The list grows with names like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percodan and Percocet. It would be wrong to leave out Fentanyl and Dilaudid. And then there’s Demerol—Demerol is really good.
Keep in mind; all of these are heavily addictive. All of them come with terrible withdrawal symptoms.  They call them opioids and according to the President, opioid addiction is sweeping the nation.

No different from the hunched forward, crooked back of the street junkies with needle-marked arms, the drooling fiendishness, the flu-like sickness, the physical pain, the crampy legs and back, the inner agony, and the terrible need that comes in withdrawal is the same with legally prescribed opiates. This is why they have Subutex or Suboxone to help control these opiate addictions. However, these drugs are misused as well.

I read a headline this morning that said the President of The United States of America is going to address this problem. I wonder if he is going to speak about drugs like Ritalin or Adderall. I wonder if Mr. President is going to question the doctors or the pharmaceutical companies who funnel these medications down our throats and the throats of our families. I wonder if Mr. resident will focus on the symptoms instead of the cure.
I wonder if Mr. President will see the actual problem, or will he stand behind a podium and use a long list of elaborate words to say and do absolutely nothing

Towards the end of my mother’s life, I witnessed what pain management does. I saw my mother; her eyes had the half-closed, half-sedated look. She was slightly muted in the sense that her spark was missing and gone without the possibility of return.
Along with any addiction, my mother’s list of medication came with paranoia. My mother believed everyone was out to get her. She was irritable and easily confused. Without patience, my mother was mean to the nurses that helped her.
Needless to say, the woman that passed was not my mother. No, my mother was far gone after pain management had its way with her.

At one point, the nurse asked me if I was aware of my mother’s dementia. I explained, “No, but I’m aware of her medication.” Then I asked the nurse, “How do you think you would behave if you were on all of these things?”
Instead of answering, the nurse simply responded, “I understand,” and walked away.

I wonder if the President of The United States is going to talk about a drug called Prialt. Prialt is a pain medication for severe and chronic pain that comes from the deadly and venomous cone snail. Prialt is non-narcotic and the effects are 100 times more effective than Morphine. The dosage is lower and more efficient—but yet, this drug is still somewhat unknown.

I have been listening to people talk about the war on drugs for decades. I was once part of that culture. I have lost friends to addiction. I have been at wakes to see the bodies of old friends who looked nothing like the way I remembered them. I have seen a generation of people find themselves locked behind caged doors, in prisons, and mental institutions. I watched mothers weep for their lost children and seen fathers break down while draping over the closed casket at their son’s wake.

I have seen some of my closets friends from my childhood standing near the Methadone clinic on 35th Street and 8th Avenue in New York City. Their eyes sunken in, their mouth hung open, and their bodies seem to dangle as if they were zombie-like puppets, hanging from the strings of the heroin gods.

I listened to a man spend a good portion of his lunch hour, talking about the governmental need for gun control and totally disregard my questions about the governmental need to help with mental illness.

During the worst of my drug use and in the depths of my darkest depression while struggling with the unmanageable fears that come with social anxiety, as well as the excruciating elements of intense paranoia, I set out to build a wall.
I was dedicated to building the tallest and toughest wall. The wall was to be impenetrable and protect the raw edges of my weakness, fears, and the fractures or cracks to my falling structure of lies.

I built a wall out of fear in order to feel brave. Each dose was another brick. The mortar was the drugs I chose. In moments of reprieve, before my use became too deliberate or desperate, I sometimes sat upon the ledge of my figurative wall.
I looked out to see the life beyond the limit of my limitations. And it was nice. It was nice to breathe or inhale the natural aspect of life without the terrible chains of over-thought fears.
I liked seeing the world like this. To me, it was a peaceful as viewing a sunset when the sky takes on an orange shade that dwindles as the sun falls into the horizon with edges of indigo and purple.

I wished I could stay on this ledge and see the world that way. But fear replaces the momentary comfort. My panic set in and I returned to building my figurative wall to lock me in and keep me safe.
In fear of weakness, I tended to the wall to avoid vulnerability—carefully sealing the cracks where others had seeped through.
Eventually, the wall I built grew too high for me to climb and see things like the colors of sunset. The tops of the wall domed inward and I could no longer sit upon its ledge. I see this as a metaphor of my drug addiction.

Had I not found people that understood what it felt to be on the inside of their own self-made prison or locked away someplace, sickly, and praying to God, “Please just help me out this one last time,” I don’t think I would ever reach this point in my sobriety. Had I not found people that understand; I would have died feeling misunderstood.

 

Dear Mr. President,

I have news for you

Drug addiction is not a new thing.
Neither is opioids

But go ahead.
I’m curious to hear what you have to say

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