Through all the years of living, volunteering and working in the world of addiction, I have come to realize, there are only two reasons people try drugs.
Curiosity – that is easy to understand. We are naturally curious beings. We think we are invincible. Who ever thought curiosity could have such devastating consequences?
Physical pain. We all can identify with that. Sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, surgeries, falls, wisdom teeth being removed. A doctor prescribes medication for pain. Sadly, for many, that initial treatment for pain, going unchecked, leads to a debilitating addiction to narcotics.
Emotional pain. Emotional pain is much more complex. Perhaps you are living in a home with domestic violence. Husband/wife/parent comes home after work and starts drinking. The more he (she) drinks, the meaner he gets. Mom gets hit. The children stay in their bedroom scared. Feeling helpless.
Perhaps that emotional pain is the result of being sexually abused as a child. Or a sexual assault. Bullying. Being yelled at. Being made to feel you are not good enough or a disappointment. Loneliness. Isolation. Abandonment.
The reasons for emotional pain are vast. And emotional pain is generally created by someone you should have been able to feel safe with.
Young males, middle-aged men make up a hugely disproportionate percentage of the population struggling with addiction, untreated mental illness, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, death due to overdose and suicide.
The disparity in numbers is staggering. Men are not reaching out for the help they so desperately need and deserve. For too long we have heard the comments, “Be a big boy”. “Big boys don’t cry”. “Act like a man”. Far to many sons have been made to feel they are a disappointment to their fathers.
And what has been the result? They don’t talk. They bottle up the hurts, the fears, the abuses, the terror, the bullying, the sadness. But those feelings of despair don’t just disappear. They fill that child or young person with feelings of self-loathing, shame, guilt.
Men don’t share their feelings in the same way women do. As a man, when was the last time you told a friend or co-worker, you felt sad? You were depressed? You were struggling? Probably never.
So what happens all too frequently? Men self-medicate with alcohol or drugs and for a short period of time they feel better. The problems don’t go away though, they are just masked for a brief while. So men drink a little more, or use a little more and before long, they have completely lost control.
And that is a tragedy. We need to create an environment where men can feel safe being vulnerable. It is only when men begin to reach out and say, “I need help” can we hope to reduce the pain and trauma caused in childhood or in the teen/young adult years.
If we are to save the lives of those struggling, we have to ensure they feel heard. That their fears and trauma are validated. Where they are made to feel safe and cared about in a compassionate setting.
We are loosing far to many loved ones because of feelings of shame and the stigmas we place on abuses. We have to pull back the shades and treat the causes. We will continue to lose sons, brothers, fathers, friends to drug and alcohol abuse, to overdose and to suicide.
Show respect, kindness and compassion to everyone you meet. You walk in no one elses shoes. You do not know their story.
Just know, that behind every single person struggling with addiction, overdose, suicidal thoughts, there is a reason. And that reason is untreated pain. Pain that has never been exposed. As a society we must care enough to reach out and take that hand. See the person, not just the addiction. Listen to their story. They have one.
Be that person to someone, you wish someone had been for you.
Remember to take care of yourselves.