When someone has an addiction there are many people that are affected by their use and their decisions whether they are in the same home or not. This week it hurt me to hear of the death of an old friend that use to be my “right hand man”. We have kept contact over the last decade via internet and phone, but it has been a long time since I have been able to see her. It was saddening when I heard this week that she had passed from a substance abuse related death. She leaves behind a young child that will have to try to understand why her mother is no longer coming home.
There are many stages of thought that everyone goes through when death is involved. At first I was in shock to hear the news, and immediately felt heartbroken for her child, family and friends. I began to reminisce of the days and nights we spent running around together and how crazy we were at that age. It brought back memories of a time when things were not thought through, we just did what we wanted and we felt as though we were invincible. I thought of the life that we both have lived since I last saw her in person and what choices we both have made to end up where we are now. I wished that I could’ve visited and had called more often. Though we were not as close as we were when we were younger, I still hold my own type of guilt that I will have to work through. I think it is normal for most to go through a “what if” period.
I reached out to some of the “crew” from that time of my life and checked to see how they were doing. We caught up on what is going on with everyone and their kids. I have talked about meeting up with everyone again many times through the years but just didn’t follow through, life always got in the way of making the trip.
Anyone that knows someone or has heard of someone that has lost their life because of substance abuse can tell you that it affects more than just that individual.
This year it has been estimated in Nebraska alone there will be just almost 8,200 DUIs, about 100 deaths resulting from intoxicated driving, near 500 alcohol abuse deaths, over 2,500 tobacco related and 100 deaths due to illicit drugs. That’s 11,400 people that are directly affected by substance abuse. How many more of those are connected to these people? If everyone of these people have 5 people that are family members and/or friends that is a total 57,000 people that have been effected by the substance abuse. I know when I think of my own family we have more than double that just in the number of siblings I have. Being the oldest of 11 children and having five children of my own there are way more than five people that would have to deal with the consequences of my addiction and abuse if I fell into this category. I hope you can see by this example that that number of 57,000 people is nowhere near an accurate estimation of the people that are affected by substance abuse. Keep in mind I am only giving you the statistics for the state of Nebraska. Add the rest of the United States into the equation….and then you start to realize the state of urgency that we are in to assist in the prevention of substance abuse across the US.
“It is believed that there are around 85,336 marijuana users, 13,983 cocaine addicts, and 792 heroin addicts living in Nebraska. It is also estimated that there are 37,370 people abusing prescription drugs, 3,564 people that use inhalants, and 6,346 people who use hallucinogens. In Nebraska, there will be around 10,772 people arrested this year for drug related charges.” http://www.soberpursuit.com/nebraska/
When do we as a community, as a state, as members of society decide that losing our children, family members, friends and neighbors in connection with substance abuse needs to end. What is the magic number when people will realize that not one of us is safe or excluded from the harms and effects of substances of abuse? It happens in every part of the U.S., addiction is not prejudice it will take any and everyone one if we let it.
As I sit here reaching out to those that are reading this, I hope that I have expressed to you that now is the time that we all united to fight against the substances that are our families apart. Will it be easy? No! Will the work be worth it if we save just one life? That one life is worth it to me. That is one less family that will have to go through the heartbreak of burying their loved one too soon. If that one life happened to be your child, cousin, parent or friend wouldn’t it be worth it to you?by