A friend of mine shared with me an event happening in the center of Utah County, where I've grown up and have lived my entire life. Where my family died. Where, before their deaths, we lived through hell together battling what we didn't know at the time would later be considered an epidemic.
Opioid Epidemic Opidemic Addiction
... etc. Does it really matter what's it's being called? Well, honestly, yes. Yes it does. I grew up in this mess, and I knew the pills my family was taking as "Drugs, narcotics, pills, meds..." but never opioids or opiates. Did I know about addiction? Sure, to alcohol, and cigarettes. To pain pills? No way.
Guys, I have been blind to this FOR YEARS of my life, and I GREW UP IN IT!
Do you know what that means? That means it's not being addressed properly. It means that people who are addicted are stigmatized. That means that when your grandmother accidentally becomes addicted, she might not realize that's what's happening, and you might not either, because she's sweet Grandma who bakes cookies and hands out toys at Christmas! She had a surgery, she's not an addict... addicts are bums on the streets who don't have their shit together, and chose to put those drugs into their systems.
But if I continue, I'm just writing my book all over again. I really want you guys to read it, and I might not be patient enough to spend the next year of my life finding a publisher, or the next year after that having them tell me that it will take another year to actually give it a publication date.
I decided to go to the town hall meeting in Utah County where politicians, medical professionals, psychologists, and the DA sat in one room with maybe 20-30 civilians who have all been effected by this, the opioid epidemic. It was maybe 90 minutes long, I sat with incredible anxiety the entire time, my muscles shaking uncontrollably but I was so eager to hear what they had to say. My husband sat next to me holding my hand and being my support. I nearly didn't walk into that room. What was stopping me from doing so? Anxiety. It's real, and it exists within me and I take nothing to battle it. I sit, and I shake, and afterwards I'm exhausted.
I was not surprised at all that many people, the mayor of Provo City included, shared their stories of the people they loved who struggled and eventually died. I hate saying that I was excited to be there amongst these people who share my pain, but I was, and with my excitement, I got increasingly shakey. Anxiety makes no sense.
What I was surprised to hear about were the solutions already in place right now to help people with addiction. I'm going to create a list and come back and update this post.
Drop boxes for old pills you no longer take but have sitting in your medicine cabinet. A packet of powder to dissolve and deactivate any narcotics you have sitting around so that you can toss them out safely without risking them falling into the hands of dumpster divers. You can pick this up at any pharmacy, and many will now give it to you when you are given these narcotic prescriptions.
School programs to target at risk children.
Programs for pregnant mothers. Programs for women in jail, again specifically those who are pregnant so they won't lose their unborn children.
First responders being required to carry Naloxone. The life saving med that can be administered to those who are overdosing.
Hearing all of this was incredible to me. All of these programs that I did not know existed around this issue that I've been following for years, and many more initiatives in place.
So, if I don't know about them, how does anyone else?
Of course, this has me thinking.
This was a free meeting open to the public community of Utah Valley (and beyond) but only a small handful, not even one percent of the population attended. Why?
This event happened on Wednesday so I've had several days to sit on this.
When it came time to talk about youth prevention, it peaked my interest quite a bit. I was a child that fell between the cracks of the system. Had any of these programs been around when I was a child, would anyone have thought to question MY circumstances?? Probably not. And so, I feel that despite our best efforts, we are only looking at surface issues still. We are fighting what's right in front of us. How many of you ever realized that I went through what I did? Family?
Yeah, none of you did.
And now I'm in therapy being treated for trauma. Mmmhmm... And miraculously I'm not an addict. I could have been all too easily. My mother put the pills into my hands. My mother.
Guys, read my book.
This is all so incredibly important to me because I don't think we get it. I don't get it, and I lived it. Some of you reading my blog will become addicts. Some of you will watch your children become addicts.
All of you will either lose someone close to you or already have to addiction.
And I don't understand why this is still such a huge problem.
*sigh* I only get angry because it still hurts. I hope that what I have to offer can help this problem. I plan to continue to be part of these events and if you come across one please let me know about it.
If you're having issues, or are concerned about issues, there are solutions already in place all across the board. I will put up a list very soon so that it's more accessible. The most important thing is that you reach out to your school officials, pharmacy techs, doctors... etc and express your concerns. Stand up for yourself, and demand that your life and the lives around you matter, because they do.