Commenting on a Celebrity Overdose

There was another celebrity overdose in the news. The young woman is alive, thanks to Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat an opioid overdose. Someone is probably getting rich off of Narcan. I don’t care. God bless whoever it is, because lives are being saved, celebrity lives, non-celebrity lives.

Demi Lovato has been open about her struggle with addiction. There were recent hints, by her, that she relapsed. Unfortunately, she will not be able to recover in private. She will be the subject of mean-spirited comments that will be blistering in comparison to the support being offered by fans and others who love her.

So what part of commenting on a celebrity’s overdose can advance prevention, treatment, and recovery?

The part where others who are struggling, addicts, families, friends, know that they are not alone. They are not alone in the struggle. They are not alone in the desperation. They are not alone in the search for answers.

They are also not alone in the grief.

One out of three of my kids is an addict, in recovery, but still an addict.

All three of my kids know classmates, friends, loved ones who have gone through the revolving doors of rehabs, a billion dollar industry that keeps growing.

They all know too many lost to an overdose.

If you have never been to a wake of a kid who has practically lived in your home, be grateful. Unfortunately, I have been to multiple wakes. I’m not sure there is anything more awful than sitting in a room and looking at the kids who have grown up in  your home as they sob for their lost friend, kids that you love, knowing that one of them could be next. Except maybe loving the kid who wasn’t saved, the kid who is being waked.

Or maybe worse is knowing that your local police and social service agencies have partnered up and claimed that their partnership is in the name of combatting this crisis. Money is always involved, but they say things about how the partnership will save lives.

They announce that they cannot arrest their way out of this problem, but then follow that with some very well-publicized arrests. Arrests that don’t seem to reverse the opiod crisis.

Of course it gets even worse when caught up in the publicity blitz is a kid who has struggled, a kid who has relapsed, a kid who is being made a scapegoat for a problem that the police and the social service agencies can’t seem to solve, despite all of the eloquent soundbites in the news.

When a mother who has been financially devastated by a divorce, illness, her child’s addiction, has to come up with thousands of dollars in legal fees because her kid is being made a scapegoat, well, tell me how that helps anyone.

My heart breaks for Demi Lovato, for her family, for all of the celebrities lost to addiction. I don’t have to be famous to know their pain is real.

I am not just a blogger, despite what some have said. I am a mother who has lived this. I know families who have gone bankrupt seeking treatment, help for legal fees. I am a mother who watched as a kid went from blue to colorless before the miracle that is Narcan save that precious life.

I watched as that lifeless kid walked out of my house. I hugged that kid a year later, and hugged him again and again, and a few more times because he’s beautiful and I am incredibly grateful that he walked out of my house and back into  his life.

I am a mother who demands answers from those who have access. I want the Police Commissioner, the County Executive, the local politicians, the CEO’s, the social service agencies, the local community counseling agencies, and the people who claim to be advocates to all step up. I want those people to stop passing the buck, stop giving clever soundbites, and get down to the business of saving our kids, our families.

Stop arresting our kids. Stop treating addiction as a crime. If you’re not part of the solution, well, you know what you are.

If the news reports are true, Demi Lovato’s life was saved today. Let’s not stop there. Let’s save more lives. Let’s find a cure. Let’s demand treatment that has a proven success rate. Let’s stop criminalizing an issue that affects rich and poor, celebrities and non-celebrities.

We deserve more. Our kids deserve more.

 

**Author’s plea- Please get a Narcan kit. Free training is available. Go to LICADD.org.

 

 

 

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Addiction Not Weakness

Addiction is not a weakness. How do I know this? Well, my answer isn’t scientific, but if it was about strength then I know that the rehab industry would not be a billion dollar industry with a 90% fail rate. Those pricey places would figure out a way to tap into an addict’s strength and have a better success rate. There’d be a cure. Oh, wait. No cure would be needed because we could tell addicts to suck it up and be strong.

 

If only that was the answer, I wouldn’t have been at a funeral a few weeks ago, my heart breaking for parents who had struggled for years as their son struggled, parents receiving condolences from people like me, people who were thanking God that it wasn’t them making arrangements.

 

Those parents had to sit in a room with their son, their son in a coffin. Could there be anything worse than that? Except maybe the years leading up to the overdose that eventually took their son from them. No. Those years had to have had some hope, some hope that the so-called experts could have found a way to help their son get clean, to live.

 

Now we’re seeing lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies that some believe are responsible for our opioid epidemic. Let me be clear. I blame the pharmaceutical companies. I blame our government. I cannot say enough that no other industry would get away with a one out of ten success rate and still be able to get federal funding. Hold on. Not just federal funding.

 

Insurance covers the treatment. I have an autoimmune disease and could not get the insurance company to cover two drugs that could have eased my symptoms, drugs that would have cost approximately $300 a month.

 

Think of all that insurance won’t cover and then imagine that rehab with a 90% fail rate is covered, multiple times, and that’s just rehab. Don’t get me started on the halfway houses.

I’d like to say that’s great that addiction is covered by insurance except it really isn’t when it is not evidence-based treatment. I mean if it were evidence-based they’d have to ask why they only have a one in ten success rate and why with that success, or fail rate, people are lining up to get in the doors. That’s a story for another day though.

 

I saw something tonight on social media mocking addiction, calling it a weakness. I saw it shared by someone who loves my child, a recovering addict. It wouldn’t be the first person claiming to love my child who has said something ugly, even if they were not meaning to be ugly. I’ve heard horrendous things not just about my child, but about me as a mother. I don’t really care what anyone says about me, but I do care when someone claiming to love my child shares something as ignorant and as hurtful as a video mocking addiction and laughingly calling addicts weak.

It isn’t a “weakness” that I’d wish on anyone. My child will most likely never live in my home again. Most of my child’s friends are either in recovery or are still in the process of getting clean, not an easy process, especially when our government allows an industry to grow into a billion dollar industry despite an alarming rate of failure.

The good news is that unlike those other poor parents from a few weeks ago, I still have my child. I was not sitting in a funeral parlor, distraught, as people tried to find the right words to say. I was in that funeral home, but as one of the people trying to find the right words even while knowing nothing could ever come close.

The bad news is that there will be more parents sitting in funeral homes. We are going to lose more kids, and we are not losing them because they are weak.

I don’t have the answers. I just know that addiction is not weakness. I also know that addicts and their families could really use support. Before you judge, before you share something hurtful, know that every parent of an addict goes to sleep at night thankful for another day that they get to love their kid. Not every parent has that luxury and they should never have to see people share things calling their kid weak, especially not by the same people who claim to love their kids.