Have you walked in their shoes?

Usually I don't post my opinion on things, but I figured why not. This is my website, I pay for it, and this is my space to share whatever I would like. So here it is.

The last time I checked there were 51 overdoses in my hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania in less than a one week span. And per usual, that brought out a lot of people on social media who had a range of different opinions. It immediately went to its not a disease, it's a choice, and then the people saying they deserve it, vs people who think the opposite.  I know not everyone has had the same experiences with addiction that I've had, but I have to say, I was slightly disturbed by everything going on. 

First disturbance: all of the people on facebook judging others, making statements, yet that's all they do. Sit on social media and make statements. I'm all for people having their own opinions, even if I hate yours, but at least be educated, and do more than write posts on facebook. 

Second disturbance: similar to the first one, stop solely writing stuff online but taking no action. Go out into society and make a change that can actually better your community instead of talking to an online community that just likes to argue. I swear you could say the sky is blue and someone will say whatttt, no, the sky is red. 

Third disturbance: STOP JUDGING PEOPLE UNTIL YOUVE WALKED IN THEIR SHOES, and guess what, you will never walk in the exact shoes as someone else. I have lived my whole life surrounded with addiction, mental health problems, and criminal justice issues by people I love. And guess what, loving someone with an addiction or a mind altering state, whether that be alcohol, drugs, an unhealthy lifestyle, mental illness, etc. is really hard. It is the strongest kind of unconditional love you could know. Sometimes the love of their own child or the risk of their own life isn't even enough. But if I can forgive and continue to attempt to help the people I love, who have cut me to my core for these reasons, than you have no right to judge them. They didn't wake up one day and say hey, I hope I become an addict today, that sounds fun. There's not a day that goes by where I don't get scared one day my genetics will get the best of me, because guess what, it can be hereditary.

Fourth: Everyone sayings it's a choice, not a disease. Okay, yes it was their choice to pick up that needle the first time, or pick up that bottle, or whatever it may be. Just like it was someone's choice to not wear sun screen in the sun or smoke cigarettes or eat unhealthy food or have unprotected sex one time. So does that mean that if someone gets skin cancer, or lung cancer, or heart disease, or aids, that it's not a disease? Everything stems from choices, biological factors, environmental influences, including addiction, just like most other diseases. And it's chronic, it lasts a lifetime. And it changes the chemical balances in your brain. If it was easy as saying quit and then they quit, NO ONE WOULD HAVE A PROBLEM.  People can be in recovery for 1 month or 30 years. Also, mental illness majority of the time goes hand in hand with addiction, making things even more confusing and difficult. Yes, ultimately everything comes down to our choices, and we need to take responsibility for them, but sometimes it's not that black and white. You're allowed to have compassion and empathy for people without enabling them. 

Fifth: If you have rude things to say, keep it to yourself because no matter how you feel, that is someone's brother, sister, mother, father, daughter, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, best friend, etc. And from experience, it's extremely uncomfortable to have people asking you and commenting their opinion on things that are personal and you don't want shared. And for people who've lost someone to addiction, whether mentally or they've passed away, it's not fun to have it shoved in your face.

Sixth: Yes, it does suck that other medical things aren't free. Narcan is. Chemotherapy should be. I'm sure everyone could agree that it would be great if all these medical things that help people were free. Unfortunately the world can really suck and they aren't. But you might as well save lives if you can. YOU AREN'T GOD. You don't get to decide how many chances people deserve at life. What if that fourth time was the time that truly helped them have a new beautiful life?

Seventh: People are already ashamed and embarrassed in these situations, making it even harder to ask for help. Don't encourage a society that makes it even more difficult to ask for help because of these stigmas surrounding mental health and addiction. It just encourages separation of people more, and that will never help someone struggling. 

Final statement, many people I love and care about are recovering addicts or people that struggle with mental illness. And guess what, I love and cherish them no matter what. I have seen them fall and get back up again to keep trying. I have seen them be weak and then become the strongest people I know. I have seen them hurt and be ashamed, not wanting to feel the way they do. Again, no one wakes up one day and says hi world, I want to be an addict, that sounds fun. But guess what, sometimes shit happens, and just because their shit is different than yours, doesn't make them any less important.

(Btw, if you're struggling with addiction or with a loved one who is, you always have a person to go to with me, even if we don't know each other.)