We all make choices — each and every day and every moment we make choices.
A lot of people want to blame addiction on the addicts themselves. After all, the addicts are the ones that made the choice to begin using in the first place, right? Sure that’s right, but it is not the whole picture.
Addiction, this heaving monster faced personally by so many, is something that all of us have to battle and conquer, because it will take our collective strength and every ounce of our collective resolve to beat this beast down.
I think it is all a symptom of society collectively moving away from some very important things.
I am not attempting in any way to absolve the user from the choices they have made. I’m only trying to make the point that addiction is all of our problem, and very likely a symptom of society as a whole, not just a certain group of people that some believe can and should just be shoved into a dark corner.
A symptom of what, in particular, I cannot say for certain, but I can only postulate, speculate, and take a stab at it from my own perspective. Like our society has become so connected electronically that we are actually more disconnected from each other, I think, and the sense of community fades more and more. And there are more and more things to distract us, deceive us into filling that God-shaped hole in us all with everything but the one thing meant to be there.
I had the privilege of sitting down with a good and faithful man last week for an interview, a public official who must face the raw ugliness of addiction quite often.
The topic at hand was wandered from in spurts, and God came up. I have been raised in the church. And even though I have had my faith struggles, I wondered aloud to him what it must be like to grow up without that foundation, that anchor.
“I’ll tell you what that’s like,” he said.
He then told a story of a group of kids that he was charged with speaking to for an evening – about 40 kids that were raised without God and without any other sort of firm ground to stand on. He asked them if any of them had had any supernatural experiences, and he said hands shot up all over the place. I was surprised by this answer. God is supernatural. But hadn’t he just told me these were children raised in Godless surroundings?
The stories the children told, he said, were of evil things, frightening things that I had never considered. I did not think about that possibility because of my own foundation and the peaceful knowledge that my family made sure I had.
When I remarked about that, he said that in his line of work I would likely be surprised by all the satanic, demonic tattoos, markings, and whatnot that he encountered – these things that don’t fit in a God-shaped hole.
He said by the end of that experience, the children had asked him to pray for them, and he did. It was perhaps their first good supernatural experience?
Maybe so many get lost to addiction because they are lost elsewhere, too, and endlessly seeking something to fill that void inside. I don’t know, but it all got me to thinking.
Addiction has no qualms with a person’s faith or how much money is in their bank account, if they are married or someone’s parent, if a person is from a good family or not. It will grab whoever gives it a foothold. And the lives claimed, all those not really living any sort of life, all the children affected – what do we do?
While legislators and the judicial system are recognizing that locking up addicts doesn’t fix them and is providing other avenues to help people whose only criminal behavior stems from drug use, who without that one catalyst we would likely never see in the courtroom, it is not enough.
Last week Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins suggested that a key part, perhaps, is that we talk to our kids early and often about drugs and their dangers. She and assistant prosecutor Molly Bolek at a meeting last week each commented that a lot of the children they see in the juvenile court have been exposed to drug use and can instruct a person on how to administer heroin, but none have ever heard about the dangers of the drug in the first place. These kids are already firmly embedded in the culture of addiction. Can it be stopped? Is community another key ingredient there?
I wonder, even if that is not a solution, how can any of that be a bad thing? I don’t think it can. So, the solution begins not only at home, but with the community educating the younger generation on making good choices, on faith, on self-respect, on taking care of each other.
As to helping those who have found themselves in a prison of drug use, who are seemingly powerless against this massive, devouring beast, maybe we just reach out a hand and let them know they are not alone. Maybe if we all just did that, offered some hope and a little direction to fill that void inside, the healing could begin.
It is likely not all that simple. After all, it’s a really dug-in issue and will take time and continued efforts. And I may be all off here, but what matters is I am thinking about it. We should all be thinking about it.
There is nothing more frustrating than to hear a person say that all the addicts should just be locked up. Forget helping them. They made their choices.
We all make choices, good and bad. We all have value. We all have worth. We all should have a chance to be better. Every person should have a shot at knowing what hope feels like and have the opportunity to embrace it.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.