We can’t be in denial about meth
Human beings have been getting high for a long time, and for that reason there have been addicts for more than five millennia.
My name is Ed P. and I’m one of literally hundreds in Nevada County who are in recovery, attending 12-step groups and accessing local recovery programs.
The tragedies that make the headlines are sad and heartbreaking outcomes of substance abuse. In no way will I minimize the pain of the families who have suffered, but I also think it would be less than responsible to not discuss the fact that there is, in fact, hope. But, that hope can only be forged through telling the truth.
Substance abuse has been at an epidemic level in Nevada County long before these recent tragedies. People have been dying, families ripped apart, kids turned out, businesses and homes robbed, and local citizens crying for a solution for many years.
For me, I started at a young age, 10, with cigarettes, which opened the door to marijuana, until I found my drug of choice, meth. I was a part of the problem, but I got help.
And that’s the hope. There have been a lot of people who have accepted and received help. While there are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, refuse treatment, there are those who don’t. In fact, according to local treatment providers, 35-60 percent of their clients graduate and stay clean (depending on the program). These people have then gone on to lead productive lives. Instead of remaining parts of the problem, they’ve become a part of the solution.
Those of us in recovery don’t want a pat on the back for doing what’s right. But we do want people to know the truth. I’ve heard many in the community say we should just lock up and write off addicts. After all, it’s a matter of moral choice: “Why can’t they just have more will power and quit?”
It’s not that easy.
Alcohol and drug addiction is a disease, just like cancer or diabetes. There are many who can drink or even do drugs and not become addicted. But for people like me, the moment I smoked my first cigarette, I put into motion something I was powerless over.
This disease is cunning and baffling, and it manifests in all areas of the addict’s life, rippling through his or her family and friends, place of employment and community. Substance abuse is just symptomatic of a deeper disease.
And the truth of the matter is this: A community is like a family. And our family is dysfunctional. In some cases, we have four generations of substance abuse in a single family. Kids are doing drugs with their parents. We have meth addicts in middle school, and our elders self-medicate their loneliness through Valium, vodka and Vicodin.
Whether we’re one of those people or not, we are truly affected. We cannot afford to be in denial or be codependent any more. As a family, we need to come together and deal with the problem with firmness, compassion and intelligence, with a full understanding of all the options available.
Sadly for some, incarceration will be the solution. While imprisoning addicts who commit violent or personal-property crimes is appropriate, unfortunately, all prison does is escalate the addiction and teach addicts to become better criminals once they get out.
For those individuals and families who are in active addiction, treatment is the best solution and the best hope. Even if only four out of 10 are successful, that’s four who aren’t enmeshed in the problem; that’s four who aren’t being lodged in a prison at taxpayers’ expense (treatment costs a fraction of what incarceration costs); that’s four families who are able to heal, whose children may not become involved in the life.
One of our urgent priorities has got to be the education of our kids and their families regarding the negative consequences of alcohol and drug addiction. I know this has been said over and over, but we won’t stop the epidemic until we begin telling the kids the truth about drug use and begin excavating and healing the root causes that create addictions, and change behavior. My sincere hope is that we, as a community, will make the commitment to do this.
Ed Peevey is a resident of Grass Valley and a member of the Nevada County Substance Abuse Advisory Board.
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From all the residents of Grass Valley Senior Apartments, thank you to the firefighters, police department air support and everyone who responded to the Bennett Fire. God bless you all. You are all heroes.