Author’s Note: This blog post is a revision of a forthcoming Op-Ed piece that is being published in January 2019 in a southwestern Virginia newspaper. I have edited it to speak more to any community affected by addiction and how promoting recovery is a tool for community betterment and community development.
In 2018, everyone knows something about addiction; whether from personal experiences or news media reports, addiction – especially opioid addiction – is front and center. Everyone has heard the horror stories about the opioid addiction epidemic and its decimation of rural and small city American. Everyone has heard or knows about people who are living with drug and alcohol addiction.
We keep hearing stories of addiction and the epidemic. But where are the stories of people in recovery and the powerful positive impact recovery has upon entire communities?
Don’t get me wrong, the addiction epidemic is a major, catastrophic problem who negative consequences ripple out to all of society. And I keep saying addiction epidemic, because although the numbers around opioids (overdoses and mortality) are atrocious, more people are addicted to and dying from alcoholism than opioids and cocaine combined. That we are an addicted society is not changing but what we are addicted to will fluctuate based on anomalous trends.
When we talk about addiction, the focus is far too often on the ‘problem’ element of it: the rise in overdose deaths; the lost days, weeks, months and years of peoples’ lives as they spiral out of control from drugs and alcohol use; the rise in crime; the losses; the scourge, the stigma, and the death.
But what if the greatest thing we could do to start creating long-term solutions to addiction was to begin a major shift in perspective?
What is if we started focusing more on the solution to addiction which is recovery? What if we stopped the blame game (blaming addicts, families, communities, law enforcement) and started pointing towards solutions?
What if, rather than focus on the problem of addiction (and in sensationalizing it), and focused more energy on the solution of recovery?
What if we started looking at recovery and funding recovery services from a broader, community building perspective?