— Listening to one another is the first step towards understanding the road to recovery.
Heroin can kill those suffering from addiction—we all know that. Did you know it can kill families, too? It can kill a mother’s devotion, a child’s love, a life savings, and a person’s “golden years.” I know all this because heroin is, in so many ways, killing me. My beautiful, smart, kind, fun-loving daughter is in recovery from heroin addiction, and it is for her, for me, and for my grandson, truly, “one day at a time.” She fights the cravings daily. I fear she will relapse and die of an overdose daily. My grandson wonders when he will see his mom again daily. Without a doubt, addiction is a family affair.
Shockingly, my family situation is rather commonplace these days. America is in the throes of a full-blown heroin epidemic that everyone seems to know about but few understand, or care to, because it hasn’t touched their family … yet. If we don’t do something right away, as a nation, as a state, as a community, it will touch every family. In fact, it already has—the ripple effect of addiction eats up the discretionary funds of police departments, impacts businesses by stealing capable workers, and overloads EMS personnel, ERs, and public health departments—resulting in a devastating blow to our economy.
One recovered addict stated that his 12 years of sobriety is worth anywhere from $250,000 to $2.3 million dollars to the taxpayer because he no longer has run-ins with the law or ends up in emergency rooms—AND he earns a good living and pays his taxes. Viewed through this lens, addiction already impacts your family, too.
When I first found out my daughter was addicted to heroin, I felt shame, fear, anger, despair, and, eventually, hope. I no longer feel shame for my daughter or for myself, because researching the facts and talking to former addicts, parents of addicts, and experts in the field helped me to understand what does and does not cause addiction. Hopefulness, always abundant in my life, re-emerged and allowed me to turn some of my energy outward to seek solutions to the larger crisis of addiction beyond my family. In fact, activism has helped to heal me. I know that by efforting to bear witness to the utter devastation of this disease by sharing my family’s story and by seeking solutions for our community, I help my daughter, my grandson, and myself.
I believe that we are responsible for each other; we are called to care for each other—in both private and public life. My public life now includes running for County Commission, which has provided me with the opportunity to look at how I might help to shape public policy regarding addiction prevention and treatment as part of the larger issue of public health in Jefferson County.
I know that the first step is to listen—listen to those who have been affected by addiction, whether personally or professionally. You have heard my story—now it’s time for me to listen to you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Jan grew up in Shepherdstown and is running for the County Commission, Shepherdstown District.