This past week I had a phone call with a dear friend. We had not talked in forever, as sometimes life rolls by quickly. Days turn in to months, then years. I returned her call from the previous day so excited to hear her voice. The voice on the other end was stressed, strained. She was at the hospital waiting to see if her adult son was ok. He had a fall that resulted in him needing to go to the hospital. She also shared that he is battling addiction to heroin.

Addiction was hurting her child. Addiction was hurting her and her family. Addiction hurts everyone it comes in contact with.

Years ago when we spent more time together my memories of her son is one of an individual who was smart, funny, respectful, and so kind. He was the type of person that got along with everyone. He had a slick wit. His company and conversation was always enjoyable.

My friend shared that she had never pictured his life, her life having addiction have a strong hold on everyone. He had gone to rehab numerous times, is working with mental health and substance abuse professionals, employed, and doing his best to stay in recovery. He is trying. His family is trying to support him in the best way possible. Everyone is doing the best they can. He wants to remain in recovery and is doing the work. People do recovery and thrive leading healthy, happy lives.

Addiction is an equal opportunity offender. Depending upon circumstance, emotional state, stress, genetics anyone could become addicted to a substance. ANYONE.

I used to work for a substance abuse agency as a school based substance abuse counselor. To provide counseling services to a student in the school they had to be at risk for using and abusing substances. You know who met that criteria? Every single student.

Sometimes, too often, people view those struggling with addiction as less than, as though they have the plague and somehow it makes others better than a person with addiction. A few years back a friend’s son overdosed and died. She found him at his apartment. While she was waiting with the police and emergency responders only ONE person offered her comfort and compassion. ONE.

In working in the mental health field which includes working in substance abuse, I hear judgements about individuals and families dealing with addiction. Statements like did they do this, did they do they, why did they do this, well it’s not surprising they are addicted. Too often people use the words addict, junkie, drunk and more. I spend a lot of time educating others. Language does matter. My battle is to champion that we treat everyone with dignity, kindness, respect regardless of what is going on in their life. EVERYONE. To help others understand how addiction can occur and how they can be an ally.

Kindness and compassion are healing forces in life. All of us could use some more of it.

We are all special, unique, valuable people. Everyone of us deserves a life that is healthy and happy. No one plans to struggle or get addicted to a substance. No one. In dealing with life, stress, emotions, substances can become the way a person copes. The magnitude sneaks up on you and before you know it caught in the disease that is addiction.

If you look at all the deaths due to opioid overdoses the numbers are staggering. According to an article by News Scientist from February 27, 2020 the amount of overdose deaths in the USA since 1999 is 450,000. Let me say this again. Since 1999 there have been 450,000 deaths in the USA. Each one of those people was a light force of their own, bringing their unique gifts and talents to this world.

People are hurting. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, friends are all impacted emotionally, physically, financially. Addiction causes trauma to everyone in it’s path.

You matter. Who you are and how you do it matters. If you are struggling with addiction or have someone in your life with addiction there is help and there is hope. If you come across a person who appears to be having a rough time, be kind.  Think about the words and judgements you use when talking about other people. Is what you are saying something you would want another person to describe you and your loved ones? You can use words of kindness, compassion. You can set healthy boundaries in relationships and be kind.

There is a link at the bottom of this article for SAMSHa which is the substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 24 hour free, confidential helpline which provides treatment and referral services for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. If you or anyone you know is struggling they are a great place to start looking for support and help.

May your kindness and compassion be with you for yourself and for others💜

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash