[Crossposted from the blog of the program which I’m honored to direct, FirebirdTransformations.com]
Many people avoid the news because it’s become such a repetitious carnival of the same old, same old. Some politician said this crazy thing, a celebrity was photographed in some scandalous way, and then there’s the things we don’t like to see; terrorism, gun violence, diseases spreading. Even worse, we’re inundated with a THIS versus THAT way of viewing situations. Just like looking at a coin, you can only see the heads side- you have to turn it, alter perspective, to see the tails side. Then, you might just notice the edge separating the two- the “third” way. Part of what we do is train our Members and ourselves to focus on the edge, the gray between the white and black, getting comfortable with the “maybe?” between the yes and no. What a service the media would do for the world if it offered just the slightest bit of looking for the “other” between the THIS and THAT!
We’re endured heart breaking arguments about certain lives mattering less than others, and seen pitiful examples of some lives obviously mattering more (wealthy celebrities with great lawyers walking away from crimes download (5)that would make felons out of everyday people
, etc). However, there’s been shifts. Among them, the media is finally pushing through celebrity schmutz and the poo-litical mudslinging to shine a light on this genuine epidemic, in the truest sense of the word. Whether you like him or not our President has put evidenced based treatment of Opioid Addiction at the forefront of his agenda for his final year in office. You can say “too little, too late,” but the fact is this initiative is going to save lives. Any life that can be saved matters.
All of the men in our sober living program have lost friends or family to this disease. It’s personal for me too: I’ve lost two cousins to overdoses, a stepmother to alcoholism, and other family members where substance abuse contributed to their decline- not to mention the many friends who are gone forever because of lethally addicting chemicals. The “War on Drugs” really was a war on people, and solved nothing. We know that now. We know that because of hard science, not the blustery opinions of Congresscritters or expert-shaped Bobbleheads who get airtime to spout words without supporting data. People using the scientific method, from clinicians on the front lines to researchers behind the scenes have dedicated their lives to finding truly effective methods to break the cycle of addiction, and these are emerging. We must unite behind these, putting aside the insistence that we only see one way. People living with addiction for too long, living without hope and social investment, know of three outcomes of one-sided thinking: “jails, institutions, and death.”
One of our mottoes here is “Recovery is a necessary social movement to reclaim the value of life.” This isn’t just meant to be a catchy slogan, it’s a call to action. The only way we can create a change in this polarized environment is to be the “other,” to replace the “versus” with insistent and authentic recitation of verses for the creation of justice where it hasn’t yet grown. Our people need justice- in this case, access to affordable and effective evidence based treatment of addiction- not jail, which merely isolates the disease and allows it to fester. There is a hugely disproportionate number of African-Americans who are sent to jail for non-violent, drug related crimes than Caucasians- fact. Same goes with poor people of any ethnic background. Once FIREBIRD has fully established itself as a stable and sustainable company, my next project will be to reach out to the needs of these underserved populations, including the LGBTQ community, where there are few to no viable aftercare choices after treatment.
I ask you, whoever you are, to support the President’s bi-partisan initiative to make the drastic changes in the Opioid Addiction field needed to begin to not just lower the death rate, but to change the dialogue about substance abuse. Let’s start talking about why addiction manifests so we can have a broader range of preventative and intervention options in place- not just institutionally, but in our way of thinking and understanding. Let’s recognize addicts- such a stained word- as people just like anyone else who have a curable disease, not as people who we automatically don’t trust. At FIREBIRD, we begin with trust. We hold fast to the ethic that each human being is entitled to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, equal to and above the full potential of the dignity and respect that’s repaired in the recovery process. We think of this as a small part of the paradigm shift that a new way of approaching addiction requires. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. We are very much prepared to be a loud voice in addiction advocacy and also to be a good listener as new data comes forward as to best practices.
We recently got our first batch of T-Shirts with words adapted from Gandhi’s ethos for social change. They say “I am the the change I’ve been wanting to see in the world.” That’s what this shift is about; to be unabashedly honest and authentic perspective shifters in a world so intent on only seeing- and believing- the coin has one side. As Staff, Members, and Families, being that change means that we’re willing to flip the coin, reveal the other side, and most importantly, the edge.