You Are In My Thoughts – Mother’s Day

To the Mothers who have lost a child. To the Mothers who are rebuilding relationships with their children. To the Mothers who don’t know where their children are. To the Mothers who never sleep more than an hour at a time. To the Mothers who are themselves away in treatment. To the Mothers who long for one more hug. To the Mothers who can’t stop asking, “what more could I have done”? To the Mothers doing everything possible to change the stigma around addiction. To those Mothers – you – who never stop loving. And to Mothers who are mourning their own Mothers.

Mother’s Day can be especially difficult for many Mothers – those who have lost their child or grandchild to overdose. Those who have their teen or adult child living in the depths of their addiction.  That every day pain that never goes away.

The love of a Mother knows no bounds. When everyone has given up, Moms are often in that battle alone.

One thing Mother’s Day most certainly is, is an emotional day for everyone who is a Mom, has stepped up to be the Mom, is a Grandmother or aunt who stepped up to fill the Mom roll,  is a son or daughter who grieves for the Mom who has passed away or the son or daughter whose Mom simply walked away one day and never returned.

True love is never negotiable – it is there – it isn’t something you can turn on or off.  A Mother’s love is something we can’t explain.  That love, that bond, that powerful force.  I can’t imagine anything more powerful.

To all of you Moms or Moms by choice, you are an inspiration.  You are a strong and powerful force.  You are loved filled.  There is no one, nothing more powerful than you.  You are the definition of strength and love.

Yes you have those times of utter frustration.  Those times when you have to step away for awhile. Those times when we feel we just have to throw our hands in the air and say “I’m done”.  Those times when we find ourselves rolled up in a ball, in tears.

But that bond.  That unbreakable tie that binds us to those we love – oh it stretches sometimes, but it never breaks.

I hope that you have been able to have a peaceful day today.  That you heard from those you love.  That you remembered the one you lost with gentle memories of the person they truly were inside.  They were not their addiction.  And a Mom knows that.

I hope your day was one that brought you some joy.  Some contentment.  Some peace. Memories that made you smile.

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms everywhere. 

Take care and remember to be kind to yourself.

Much love,


The Me In The Mirror

I posted these thoughts in June 2018. Lately I have noticed this particular post is being viewed fairly frequently so I thought I would print it again in the event you may find something in this post that speaks to your heart. Take care of and be kind to yourself.

The past is the past – time to let it go!!

Far to often we stay stuck in the past.  What we did.   What we regret.  What we wish we had done differently.  We constantly beat ourselves up with “what if I had only….”.

That is a sentiment what keeps us stuck.  It keeps us regretting.  It keeps us in pain.  It keeps us in “blame” mode.

I know as parents our actions are with the very best of intentions.  We make decisions based on the information we have at that time.  We always have our loved ones best interests at heart.

And every decision you make as a parent is based on the deep unconditional love you have.  Whether that decision is to help, assist, enable, show frustration or anger.  Whether you say, “yes you can come back home”, or whether you say, “you have to leave” or “you can’t stay here because of your actions but when you are ready for help, I will always be here”.

Every decision you made, you made with the very best of intentions in mind.  Whether it was to help your adult child who is addicted with a place to stay or help protect your other children from the kayos of their siblings addiction and have to say,  “you can’t be here right now”.

Your decisions have always been based on the love you have and the information you had at that particular time.  Your decisions were also based on what was known about addiction at that particular time.

If your loved one was struggling when tough love was suggested and that is what you tried, you were trying your best.

If your loved one was struggling when drug use was considered a moral choice and you treated it as such, don’t blame yourself.  You were trying your best.

If your loved one was struggling with the concept of ‘they have to hit rock bottom’ and you thought that was the right thing to do, don’t blame yourself.  You were only trying whatever you thought could help get your loved one out of the bowels of addiction.

Today we have scientific and medical proof that addiction is a disease.  It is often a disease that runs in families – so there is a genetic component.  We also know that addiction can raise its ugly head when there is no family history.  No one can look at someone and say, “this person will become addicted”.   One day, and hopefully not far off, science and medicine will allow that awareness long before it can become an issue and hopefully be halted.  But that time is not yet here.  Soon hopefully.  But not today.

We know that the brains of those addicted are altered.  The damage is there. The part of the brain – the frontal lobe, responsible for decision making, choices, is the part of the brain deeply affected and permanently altered.  It has been compromised.

In my book Addiction: A Mother’s Story I quote Glenn A Hascall who brilliantly said, “The me in the mirror is not what I once was.  The me in the mirror is not the final word on who I will become.  The me in the mirror is simply a reflection of today”.

Whether you are the parent of a teen or adult child struggling with addiction.  Whether you are the person who is struggling with an addiction.  Whether you are a person who is in recovery.  Whether you are a sibling.  Whoever you are, however you reacted, whatever you did, this is a message for you.

Please go and get a mirror.  A handheld mirror if you have one and find a quiet place to sit.  Away from noise, bright lights, anything that might affect your peace and quiet time.  This will only take a few minutes.  Put everything else aside.  Just take a few minutes to spend with yourself.  And this is what I want you to do ……..

Sit quietly.  Hold up your mirror. You are not going to be checking your makeup or your hair.  You are not going to be checking for blemishes.  What I want you to do is look at your eyes.  Just your eyes.

Now say to yourself – whatever I have done in the past, whether is was with the best of intentions or not; whether it hurt or helped; whether decisions I made caused suffering unintentionally. All that is in the past.  I cannot change my decisions of the past.  They are past.  I have to live with those decisions and so do those who were affected.  But I will stop blaming myself, because that “me in the mirror is not who I once was”.  Everything I did was with the best of intentions.  If it was you  trying to help the child you loved so deeply or if you are  that person who struggled with that addiction.  Or if you continue to struggle.

Just remember, everything up to this very moment is in the past.  You can’t change a single thing.  It happened.  You felt the pain.  You suffered.  Perhaps you caused the pain.  None of that really matters any more.  Its done.  That  person is gone.  Stop obsessing because that will only lead to continued suffering, pain, sadness, depression.

Keep looking in the mirror.  But don’t think about tomorrow.  Tomorrow hasn’t come yet.  You will deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.  Don’t ruin today, worrying about tomorrow.  Tomorrow will come tomorrow and whatever happens you will deal with it then.  Remember, today is not “the final word on who you will become”.  If you get too far ahead of yourself,  you only create anxiety.

Stay in the moment.  Stay in this moment.  Because this moment is who you are today.  Right now.  The “me in the mirror is a reflection of who I am today”.  And you can decide who that person will be.  And you can decide how you will act or react to anything today that comes up based on what you now know.

Whoever you decide “the me in the mirror” is today, let it be that person with information you maybe didn’t have before.  Let it be the person you are going to be kind to.  We have to be kind to ourselves.  When addiction has taken over the life of someone we love, we often blame ourselves. “Why didn’t I see this coming”? “What did I do wrong”?  Don’t go there.

And if you are the person who has struggled with addiction, be kind to yourself.  You have beat yourself up long enough.  The past is the past.  You aren’t there anymore.  The you “in the mirror” is who you are today.  And it is not “the final word on who you will become”.  You deserve help.  You deserve understanding.  You deserve treatment.  Reach out and get the help you need for this horrific disease that is holding you hostage so you are able to live the best life you can.

Remember – we all deserve peace in our lives.  But when we have someone we love addicted, peace is a distant memory and it is not something we can see ahead when right now everything is dark.

So look in that mirror and say to yourself, “The me in the mirror is not what I once was.  The me in the mirror is not the final word on who I will become.  The me in the mirror is simply a reflection of today”.

I wish you peace today.  Take care of yourself and remember you are not alone.  I truly care.

2020 The Year Drug Poisoning Took A Tremendous Tole

When we thought the number of drug related deaths could not get worse, the Global pandemic hit and the number of deaths from drug poisoning escalated to unimaginable heights.

I do not say “drug overdoses” intentionally.

Those struggling with addiction are not dying from overdoses as much as they are dying from a poisoned drug supply – a toxic mixture that has affected drug supplies from coast to coast to coast.

Taking a overdose means you have taken an excessive or dangerous amount of a substance you believed you were taking. You have “over dosed” yourself by taking too much of the intended substance. Today people are dying at alarming rates because the substance they thought they were ingesting, inhaling, injecting had been tainted and become a poisoned drug supply. Tainted by the gangs, traffickers and dealers with absolutely no consideration for those we love, rather just trying to increase the toxicity bringing more people into the life of being addicted and desperate.

The Pandemic has also meant that far to many people are using in isolation. More than ever before people struggling with addiction are using alone. The isolation from the pandemic as well as the ongoing stigma around addiction and drug misuse, the lack of understanding and compassion for those struggling, often means those battling addictions are using in private and no one is there if the drug they have taken overcomes them.

The pandemic has also seen an increase in the number of people struggling with a relapse. Those who have grabbed that life-line to living free of the substances that held them hostage, experiencing a relapse because of feelings of isolation and despair. Decreases in the number of support meeting. Decreases in the amount of time they are able to spend with others for support. They need our understanding and compassion and encouragement. They need to know we are there for them. That we believe in them. That we are there to help them get back to their hard-earned lifestyle. While we may not be able to be there in person – a daily phone call can be a life-line.

Judgement and anger or frustration will do nothing to help your loved one who has relapsed. They already feel they have failed. They need encouragement not judgement.

I believe as we end this year that has impact every single person – many extremely hard, we are going to see a reset in 2021. It will continue to be dark with the pandemic still raging, but as we get through this year, I believe we will find a world more tolerant. More understanding.

With so many people, first responders, medical teams, the healthcare community, families, Mothers in particular – Mothers are the real heroes in this fight – standing up and speaking out about the disease of addiction affecting the lives of those we love and tragically taking the lives of far to many of those loved ones – we are taking the disease of addiction out of the closet and into mainsteam discussion. We must never allow this awareness to ever again be hidden.

We must continue the momentum, speaking out, writing to every level of government to affect changes. The disease of addiction must be recognized and treated with the same level of care and consideration as every other disease. Diseases affecting the brain, affecting behaviors have for far to long been treated very differently than diseases affecting the body. This must end. We can only have a healthy body if we have a healthy mind.

This fight must continue until every single person asking for help with their addiction receives that help immediately. Not put on a three week wait list. The help must be immediate because a one day delay, can be one day too late for far to many. They deserve better and so do the families that love them.

I was recently invited on a podcast called Undercover Mental Health. Steve Serbic is a Surrey Firefighter who has seen first hand the impact of the illicite drug trade and Undercover Mental Health is his podcast. Please find two links below.

The first podcast is called The Burden of Abuse in which I discuss presentations I have given and the impact of emotional pain and how our emotional pain can be so prevalent in self medicating with drugs and alcohol simply to “quiet” the pain of past experiences or trauma.

The second half of our discussion is called Addiction: A Mother’s Story. The story of my journey with my son. These two sessions go hand in hand. I would suggest listening to The Burden of Abuse first and Addiction A Mother’s Story second to get the full message and complete story I am trying to share. I am sure you will see yourself and your addicted loved one in these two podcasts. They are free podcasts – you just have to hit the links indicated.—Listener-discretion-is-advised-eo2vgk—A-Mothers-Story-eo3a09

As we say goodbye to 2020, I hope that 2021 brings you and your loved ones the peace and contentment and happiness you all so deserve. Remember – we are making progress – we cannot slow down.

Remember to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It is a necessity.

Much love to you all,


We Must Keep Addiction And Mental Health Issues Front And Centre

As a society we treat physical pain with compassion and understanding.  When we see  someone on crutches we hold open the door.  We offer assistance.  We all understand physical pain and there is no stigma toward physical injury.

With emotional pain, with illnesses affecting the brain, that same compassion is not always evident.  Instead of holding the “door open” the person struggling often feels “the door shutting.”

We have to realize it is the entire being that makes up the person.  The brain is vital to the body functioning.  A fine tuned machine works best when everything is working together.  When we take care of our brain, when we take care of our thoughts, when we take care of our mental and brain health – we function at our best. 

Addiction to drugs and alcohol, un-diagnosed and untreated depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, any number of brain related illnesses greatly affect the way we live our lives.  It is often what determines whether a life is well lived or a life is lived in despair without the health, wellness, and sense of security that person deserves.  It affects our physical health.

We have to embrace the concept and be powerful advocates in stressing that we treat illness affecting the brain with the same care, compassion, consideration, support and urgency as we do with illnesses affecting the body.

We have no idea what emotional pain or trauma another person may be carrying.  So often those smiling on the outside are crying on the inside.  We do not walk in anyone else’s shoes.  We may not know what our loved one’s journey has been.  We can’t know if feelings and experiences have been kept in secret out of fear of being judged or shamed or embarrassed.

Our best hope of leading healthy lives is taking the same care and consideration of our mental health, of our brain health, as we do with our physical health.

When we realize our loved one is struggling, the kindest thing we can do is show compassion and a willingness to listen, to encourage and to support them in getting the help they need to be able to live the life they deserve.

When we allow and encourage our loved ones to talk about their emotional pain – it doesn’t have that same hold any longer.

Sadly, all to often our offer of help is dismissed. But, don’t give up. Just let your loved one know you are there when they are ready to talk.

If emotional pain has been caused by trauma – we have to remember we can’t un-see the things we have seen.  We can’t un-hear the words that were spoken.  You can’t un-feel what you have felt.   And we as parents, as family members know our loved ones deserve every opportunity to work through those emotions with support and guidance.

The life they are meant to live is waiting for them.  But that window of opportunity is to often very small.  When someone we love who has been struggling is willing to acknowledge and accept help – that help must be immediate.  They and we don’t have the privilege of time.  Time delayed means a crucial opportunity will be missed. 

We must continue to speak up and speak out for the immediate services those struggling with addictions, with mental health concerns, which very often go hand in hand, deserve.

We would never accept being put on a waiting list if we were having a heart attack.  We would never be put on a waiting list is we just had a stroke.  And why is that?  Because waiting could cause further damage and possible death.

Those struggling with addictions, with mental health issues, perhaps with thoughts of suicide, face that exact same situation.  Waiting means further damage and possible loss of life.

We have to keep speaking out that those health issues affecting the brain should and must be treated with the same level of urgency as conditions affecting the body.

While we are going through this horrific Covid 19 health crisis and all that goes along with it –  overwhelmed healthcare system, loss of income, of jobs, we can’t allow the health crisis of  addiction, of mental health issues get pushed to the back burner by any level of government.  We are seeing more overdose deaths and death due to suicide because of despair, because of isolation and these numbers will only increase without proper supports – we can’t slow down – our fight for those we love and care about is not over. 

In the meantime, I hope you take time each day to remember the importance of taking care of yourself.  So often our own needs can be pushed to the back burner when someone we love is struggling.  Please remember, you matter, taking care of yourself is a necessity.

Take care.  Stay safe.  Be well. I truly care.

The Walls We Build To Stop The Pain

Each one of us build walls around  ourselves.  We do it to keep safe.

Those walls are very different for each person.   We build walls to protect ourselves.

Why walls?

We build a home.  It has walls.  Those walls keep out danger.  It keeps out the extreme heat in summer and the dire cold and rain in winter.  It keeps out people that have ulterior motives.  Walls keep us and our possessions safe.

Walls are vital.  But when do the walls we build go from keeping us safe,  to keeping us isolated? To trapping us? To keep us from reaching out?  From isolating us?

When those are emotional walls.  We all put them up.  They are needed  temporarily when we follow our intuition.  When we sense danger.  Or fear.  When we believe we are about to feel pain.

But when do those walls go from protecting us to trapping us?

When we suffer with emotional pain.  Emotional pain is the most destructive of all pain. 


Because we feel it deeply.  We may feel it to our very core.   But no one sees it.  It is not like a broken leg where everyone recognizes the cast and offers assistance.

We keep emotional pain inside and we build walls around us thinking it will keep us safe.  And what happens?  The pain and suffering from emotional pain, from the trauma that was the cause of that emotional pain, never gets addressed.  It is never dealt with.

So many people are hurting in such profound ways.  They are hurting often because the very people who should have kept them safe, didn’t.

People build walls to keep people out.  They also build walls to keep their pain in.

“If I don’t let you in, you can’t hurt me”.

Walls keep that emotional pain that is devastating their life, trapped inside.

“If I don’t share my story, I won’t be judged”.  “If I don’t share my pain they won’t know how ‘weak’ I am”.  “If I don’t share my pain they won’t know how ‘dirty’ I feel”.  “If I don’t share my pain they won’t know ‘what a loser’ I am”.  “If I don’t share my pain I won’t be rejected”.

Every single person battling addiction is carrying emotional pain.  It may be pain they have carried since childhood.  It may be a situation where they were made to feel less than.  When someone’s unkind words were like a knife to their heart.  If they were sexually abused.  Physically punished.  Felt abandoned or neglected.  We don’t have a need to self medicate unless we feel emotional pain.  That feeling of not being good enough. Of being a disappointment.

Perhaps your loved one had an absolutely wonderful childhood.  Was treasured, loved and kept safe.  You did everything as a parent or caregiver to protect that child. 

So you ask yourself, “why would they be suffering with emotional pain”?  You know you did absolutely everything you could to protect your child.  To love and care for them.  To give them opportunities.

Emotional pain may have been caused by an incident you never knew anything about.

Emotional pain may also be caused from the  inner dialogue your loved one had with themselves.  There was no basis for it.  You know how wonderful they are. But for whatever reason, they carry the feeling of not being good enough.  For whatever reason they may feel they have been a disappointment. They may feel they are ‘less than’ others.

You wonder why they could feel that way.  You know they are wonderful.  But what you may not know is that they are struggling with depression or anxiety.

They are struggling with feelings that you don’t see or can see no basis for, but to them it is real.  If you feel ‘less than’, no one can make you “feel better”.  Why? Because your feelings are real to you.  It is that dialogue we have with ourselves.

If your child had had a wonderful upbringing but used a substance at a party one night and that is how their journey into addiction took root, that is emotional pain they are now carrying.

No one puts a needle in their arm if life is good.  Self medicating is all about pain.  Real or imagined, it is that emotional pain that is most destructive.

80% of all overdose deaths are men.  Three out of four suicides are committed by men.

Men are suffering and we need as a society to do everything possible to open that dialogue.  To let men know they are not alone.  To encourage men to talk about their emotional pain.

For years and years men have been expected to “be a man”. “Big boys don’t cry”.  “Don’t be weak”.  It was wrong then and it is wrong now.  That mind set is what keeps the men in our lives feeling trapped.  Feeling that they cannot share their emotional pain for fear of being judged.  For fear of rejection.

And the walls go up.  They suffer in silence.  They often turn to drugs or alcohol to self medicate and far to many loved ones take their own lives.  Not because they want to die.  They just are trying to stop the unbelievable pain they are feeling.

As a society we all have to do everything we can to support brain health.  To support those who are working at changing the stigma and isolation around those diseases affecting the brain.  Affecting behaviors. To encourage our government officials, our medical personal to give the diseases and conditions affecting the brain such as alcoholism and drug addiction,  depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder,  PTSD the same respect and consideration as diseases affecting the physical body.

Only when we start medically treating the whole person will those suffering with addictions and brain health issues, those struggling with the stigma and feelings of shame, receive the care,  compassion and help they deserve.

We can’t just choose treating those with health conditions from the neck down.   Stigma and secrets kept out of fear of judgment must end.  Those walls must come down.  We are loosing far to many loved ones who have suffered in silence way to long.

I encourage you all to visit a site   The information contained on the HeadsUpGuys site will give true understanding and help to those suffering and to those of us who love them.

I am also attaching a music clip – about walls – it is truly moving.  It is raw.  It is heartbreaking.  It is real.  It lets us ‘in’ as to how our loved one may be feeling.

Never give up on those you love.  Keep hope alive.  Hope for your loved one and hope for yourself.  In all the pain that addiction causes, please remember to take care of yourself.

“The kindest hearts often have the most scars”.  I see the pain and scars your loved one’s addiction has caused.   Remember, you are not alone – reach out.  I truly care.



Mother’s Day – The Most Important Day Of The Year

Mother’s Day can be especially difficult for many Mothers – those who have lost their child or grandchild to overdose. Those who have their teen or adult child living in the depths of their addiction.  That every day pain that never goes away.

The love of a Mother knows no bounds. When everyone has given up, Moms are often in that battle alone.

One thing Mother’s Day most certainly is, is an emotional day for everyone who is a Mom, has stepped up to be the Mom, is a Grandmother or aunt who stepped up to fill the Mom roll,  is a son or daughter who grieves for the Mom who has passed away or the son or daughter whose Mom simply walked away one day and never returned.

True love is never negotiable – it is there – it isn’t something you can turn on or off.  A Mother’s love is something we can’t explain.  That love, that bond, that powerful force.  I can’t imagine anything more powerful.

To all of you Moms or Moms by choice, you are an inspiration.  You are a strong and powerful force.  You are loved filled.  There is no one, nothing more powerful than you.  You are the definition of strength and love.

Yes you have those times of utter frustration.  Those times when you have to step away for awhile. Those times when we feel we just have to throw our hands in the air and say “I’m done”.  Those times when we find ourselves rolled up in a ball, in tears.

But that bond.  That unbreakable tie that binds us to those we love – oh it stretches sometimes, but it never breaks.

I hope that you have been able to have a peaceful day today.  That you heard from those you love.  That you remembered the one you lost with gentle memories of the person they truly were inside.  They were not their addiction.  And a Mom knows that.

I hope your day was one that brought you some joy.  Some contentment.  Some peace. Memories that made you smile.

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms everywhere. 

Below you will find a poem sent by Frances Kenny of the support group Parents Forever.  Take care and remember to be kind to yourself.

Much love,



I See You ❤️


* I see you running your child to AA and NA meetings when your friends are running their kids to jobs or college placement testing.

* I see you slipping out of the conversation when your friends are all chiming in about milestones and college acceptance letters.

* I see you constantly juggling out-patient meetings and court dates.

* I see you sitting at your computer for hours desperately researching addiction and treatment options.

* I see you cringe when people whine about what feels like petty things.

* I see you debating whether you should pull out of your retirement *again* to pay for another round of treatment.

* I see you spread thin but still going the extra mile for your other family members because the guilt eats at you that they get so little of your attention.

* I see you yet again not taking a much needed vacation for fear of what might happen while you’re gone.

* I see you digging for depths of strength you never dreamed you had.

* I see you showing appreciation to the judges, therapists and medical professionals who serve your child with compassion and understanding.

* I see you rising early in the morning to do it all again after another chaotic night.

* I see you when you’re hanging on to the end of your rope for dear life.

I know you feel invisible, like nobody notices any of it. But I want you to know I notice you.

* I see you relentlessly pushing onward. I see you keep choosing to do everything in your power to give your child the best possible care.


What you’re doing matters. It’s worth it.

On those days when you wonder if you can do it another minute, I want you to know I see you. I want you to know you’re beautiful. I want you to know it’s worth it. I want you to know you aren’t alone. I want you to know love is what matters most, and you have that nailed.

And on those days when you have breakthroughs, those times when the hard work pays off and success is yours to cherish, I see you then too, and I am proud of you.

Whichever day today is, you’re worthy, you’re good and I see you. ❤


Adapted by Monica W. from an Alethea Mahar poem


Just When You Think You’ve Hit Bottom, You Find There Is Another Trap Door

Just When You Think You’ve Hit Bottom, You Find There Is Another Trap Door

June Ariano-Jakes

Visions Journal, 2019, 15 (1), pp. 17-19

photo of author June Ariano-Jakes

A month before his 14th birthday, my second-eldest child, Nathan, was hit by a truck while he was getting off a bus. He broke his legs, a kneecap and an ankle. He smashed his rib cage, ruptured his spleen, damaged his left kidney and left lung, bruised his heart and went into congestive heart failure. He developed a sepsis and had nerve damage to the left side of his body. He spent a long time in hospital and then spent a year and a half in physiotherapy, five days a week.

During his time in hospital, Nathan was given morphine, Demerol and Tylenol 3. These medications were necessary—his injuries were extensive, his pain unfathomable.

Years later, my son told me he loved the feeling he got from those opioids.

In my life, I’ve experienced kidney stones. I’ve had surgeries. While morphine was necessary for pain management at the time, I hated the way the opioids made me feel and wanted off them quickly.

But I was not predisposed to drug addiction. Clearly, my son was.

By his late teens, Nathan was battling cocaine addiction. Within a couple of years after that, he was also addicted to heroin. Drug addiction is an unforgiving disease. A horrific disease. A devastating disease for the person battling it and for those who love him.

Nathan tried to walk away from his addiction many times over the years. He entered treatment programs, recovery houses, treatment centres. He went to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He knew he was in trouble. He knew that he needed help. When he said he needed help, I knew he meant it in the moment. An hour later, he may have changed his mind. But I never doubted his intent. He did not want the life that he had spiralled into.

For 23 years, my son’s addiction to heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and crystal meth took him to some dark places. As a family, we’ve seen darkness we could never have imagined as we’ve been swept along on this dangerous journey with him.

Our lives have been punctuated with addiction, homelessness and gang violence. Although he was never a gang member himself, Nathan often owed money for drugs. He has been beaten with baseball bats and metal pipes by dealers and enforcers. He has been kicked and stomped on, he has been stabbed numerous times, he has been shot at, he has been burned. He has been held against his will and he has been tortured. He has overdosed on multiple occasions.

He has also been incarcerated in municipal, provincial and federal penitentiaries for drug-related offices. The longest stretch of time in jail was two years—for a series of bank robberies. He needed the money to fund his addictions.

Sometimes my son lived with us and at times he was homeless and living on the street. Sometimes his behaviours were so dangerous that—despite the pain and guilt it caused us—we had to ask him to leave the family home. It wasn’t about choosing the needs of one child over another. It was always about protecting the younger children from harm.

Regardless of where he was, Nathan and I always stayed in touch. We spoke at least four times a week on the phone and went for walks or a bite to eat. Clearly the relationship we shared—and the sort of non-judgemental support I offered—was as important to him as it was to me.

At one point, when he was struggling severely, he said to me, “You can’t understand me, Mom. Just love me.”

The love I have for my son, whether he was deep in his addiction or during a period of health, remains unchanged. Essentially, my son is two very different people. There is my son, and there is my son-on-drugs. I was acutely aware of who my son was, and I saw the dramatic difference when his brain was altered by substances. Through it all, I never questioned my son’s love for me. The love I have for my son is unconditional and I told him so.

And then he said to me, “I used to have hope, Mom, but I don’t anymore. I used to believe things would change, but I don’t believe they will. I accept this is my life. I want it to be different, I just don’t know how to do that anymore.”

Understanding what lies beneath the addiction

During the many years of my son’s addiction and my years of work in a mission and shelter providing support to others struggling with addiction and mental illness, poverty and homelessness, I have come to my own realization. There are only two reasons people start using a substance: curiosity and pain.

Curiosity is something we can all understand. Physical pain, too, is something most of us can relate to—to varying degrees. But the pain that is much more complex—and much more difficult to understand and relate to—is emotional pain.

Emotional pain may be the result of living in a home with domestic violence, perhaps sexual abuse. One might be a victim of a sexual assault. Or bullying. One might have feelings of abandonment or neglect.

Emotional pain often leads to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD. Feelings of low self-esteem, and of not being “good enough” or “worthy.” There is always a reason for emotional pain, and often that emotional pain has been augmented and perpetuated by someone else when the victim is vulnerable. While there are various reasons as to why people are suffering emotionally and find themselves addicted and often homeless, in my experience, the most common denominator is unacknowledged and untreated emotional pain.

Finding a way to help your adult child

As a mother, I did everything I could possibly think of to help my son. I read everything I could find. I discovered that men make up 80% of all overdose deaths.1,2 Men make up 75% of suicides.3

As parents (and as family and friends), we have to encourage the men in our lives to talk. To open up about their pain. Secrets keep us trapped and keep us feeling powerless. That old adage “Big boys don’t cry” has got us to this terrible place. Keeping secrets and carrying emotional pain is toxic. Too many people are dying because they are trying to “quiet” their unacknowledged pain in isolation, and using drugs to do so.

One of the other things I have learned as a parent of an adult child living with addiction is that my son’s addiction is not about me. My son was being held hostage by his addiction; as his family, we were held hostage by his behaviour. This is a painful realization, a painful place to be—both for the person struggling with addiction and for those of us who love them.

Is there a right way or a wrong way to help our addicted loved ones? I don’t think so. Whatever decision you make, whatever direction you decide to take, you have to be able to live with it. What is right for you may not be right for me. Although we may be on a similar journey, we all walk in our own shoes.

Over the years, I have tried “letting go,” practising “tough love.” But for me, this kind of approach just didn’t work. I felt like I was abandoning my son. The guilt I still feel for having asked Nathan to leave the family home—even though I know I was protecting the younger children—will haunt me for the rest of my life. Instead, I held on, tried to access help, remained ready and willing to sell my home and help in any way possible to show my son how much he was loved.

Another truth I have learned is that not everyone has a rock bottom. All too often, just when you think the person you love has hit rock bottom, or that you have hit your rock bottom, another trap door opens and you fall further. But you know what? You find a way to deal with it because you have no choice. Giving up on someone we love is not an option.

When my adult son told me that he had lost hope, I knew that I had to carry hope for him. When our loved ones are struggling so incredibly and have lost all hope, it is our job to never, ever give up hope.

Harm reduction

Today, as a mom, I believe whole-heartedly in harm reduction. Harm reduction begins with accepting the fact that we can’t control what someone does; we can only offer them the support to act in a way that causes less harm. When it comes to addiction, we can’t force someone to stop using substances. They have to make that choice for themselves. But we can offer supports so that they cause less harm to themselves when they are using. Of course, ultimately, the hope is that someone who is addicted will come to realize on their own that they don’t want to be living a life consumed by their addiction. Providing the supports they need to arrive at this conclusion themselves is what harm reduction is all about.

My opinion of harm reduction has changed dramatically over the years. I used to think harm reduction was a way to enable someone to continue using. But someone who is struggling with addiction is in pain. They are using drugs to get through the day in the only way they know. They already feel shamed and blamed. They are being controlled by the drugs. They don’t need to be controlled by us.

We must embrace harm reduction if we are to keep the people we love from dying.

Harm reduction saved my son’s life. For the past five years, he has been on the Methadose program and his life has stabilized. Being on Methadose means he can avoid using the substances he was using before. He has maintained an apartment for five years, something that would have been unfathomable years ago. He is living a healthy, peaceful life—his best life—because of harm reduction. I think of everything he has done, and everything he has been through, to get where he is today. He is a wise and strong adult. He is deeply loved.

We do not know how strong we are until we walk the journey of addiction with someone we love.

About the author

June is the mother of five and the author of Addiction: A Mother’s Story. She works in Whalley (Surrey), BC, with those struggling with addiction, mental illness, poverty and homelessness. She has given over 180 presentations on addiction, homelessness and gang violence throughout BC

  1. Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2017). Opioid-related harms in Canada. Ottawa: CIHI.
  2. BC Coroners Service. (2019). Fentanyl-detected illicit drug overdose deaths, January 1, 2012 to March 31, 2019. Victoria: Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
  3. Schumacher, H. (2019). Why more men than women die by suicide. BBC Future (March 18).

Don’t Isolate Yourself In Your Worries


An Interview with June Ariano-Jakes, author of Addiction –A Mother’s Story.

By Isabella Mori – Coordinator – Vancouver Coastal Health – Family Connections

Ms. Ariano-Jakes shared some of her own life experience before moderating the panel at the end of a conference. The following is a post-conference interview with her.

What did you find useful about this particular conference?

Conferences such as the 2019 Family Conference on Mental Health and Substance Use are particularly valuable to families in providing updated information that many may not be aware of. It also provided a chance to ask questions and feel heard. Those in attendance are able to ask questions in a “safe” setting where there is no feeling of judgment or stigma.

When professionals set aside time for conferences, it is because they truly have a vested interest. You do not go into this field of work unless you truly care about people – the patient or client.

Often times the people most in need, are fighting any available help or support all the way. This career choice may look like a thankless job, but when you hear the professionals speaking, as family members you realize they are looking out for your loved one. As a family, you are not in this alone.

At times during the conference, you could sense that some people felt we are not making progress. This conference in particular allowed the sharing of information showing just how far we have come, in just the last five years for example.

There has been a phenomenal shift in thinking – in how the public views mental health conditions and addictions. More and more people are speaking out. Many more people are discussing addictions and mental health within their family unit.

As a society we are taking addiction and mental illness “out of the closet” in a sense – people no longer feel it is “the dirty little secret” that even just a year or two ago was common.

This conference provided information on harm reduction, and the importance of trust between the doctor and the patient, which is crucial.

I understand families want to know what is happening. I get that. As a family, no one besides the patient receiving care has more at stake in their treatment. However, what is more important – getting the information about our loved ones care and treatment or allowing that loved one to feel safe in knowing that their discussions are between the doctor and themselves and is privileged. Failure to understand that puts those needing help most at risk.

They have to know that their right to privacy is respected. Failure to provide that “privacy safety” could mean the difference between someone accessing help or refusing it.

The discussions and talks during the conference validated that. At the same time it allowed the family members a safe place to voice their frustration with that while learning why it is so vitally important.

As someone who frequently interacts with people with severe substance use/mental health issues, what is one little thing that an individual/supporter can do for them? What do they need most from the system?

My answer is in the form of a story ….

A couple of years ago while working in the Whalley area of King George Blvd and 108thAve, while doing outreach – I heard about a woman that had recently be released from the penitentiary. I didn’t know her when she lived in that area years ago, so I only “knew” what I was hearing.

That she was mean, aggressive, a bully, eager to fight, etc.

One day I saw her sitting on that corner leaning against the building with her backpack and contents spread out in front of her.

I put a few personal care items in a bag and walked across the street to offer them to her. This was our discussion:

“Hi, how’s it going”?

“Fuck off”.

“Oh that good eh”?

“I hate you church ladies, always wanting to save the junkies”.

“Oh I’m no church lady and I definitely can’t save anyone. I just wondered if you could use a few items”.

“Fuck off”.

“Okay, well you take care”.

The next day I saw her sitting in that same basic spot so I thought I would give it another try.

I walked over and said, “Hey, how you doing today”?

“I told you to stay the fuck away from me”.

“Okay, well, you’re a phony”.

“Fuck off.  You don’t know nothing about me. You don’t know who I am or what I’ve been through”.

“You’re right I don’t. But what I do know is that you’re a phony”.

She got up, walked right up to me and said, “Yeah, well Fuck you”.And I left.

Now the next day I saw her sitting in the exact same place. I knew she was waiting for me. I knew she had a question for me. Otherwise, she would have picked a different place to sit.

You know it was one of those times when you think to yourself, “I’m making progress. We are communicating”.

Anyways, I proceeded to walk across the street and as soon as I reached the other side, she stood up, angry and said, “Yesterday you called me a phony. Why would you do that? You don’t know nothing about me”.

And I said, “You are right. I don’t know anything about you. Except that you’re a phony”.


“No, please let me explain. The other day I watched as a little boy and his mother walked by you on the street. The little guy fell and he started crying. I saw you reach into your backpack and hand him a little stuffy. And he stopped crying.

“Now I know that everything and anything of any value to you is in that backpack. And so I know that stuffy was important to you. And yet when you saw that little guy crying, you gave it to him.

“You see, I think you are a really good person. I think you are kind and thoughtful and I think that ‘mean girl’ persona you flash about is your armor.

“If you can keep people away from you, they can’t hurt you. So you wear this hard-core armor and it keeps people away.

I think you are a really kind person”.

“Yeah – well if you ever tell anyone that I will kick your fucking ass”.

I did the zip across the lips thing and in time we became really good friends. She would eventually allow me to cut the ‘rats nest’ out of her hair.  She asked me to dye her hair purple and another time blue. I carried nail polish with me and when I would see her sitting on the sidewalk, I would paint her nails and then she would paint mine.

You see everyone in her life who should have protected her let her down. From the time she was a young child. She was used, neglected, abused. And eventually she learned that if she didn’t let people in, they could hurt her.

She wore that tough armor and it worked. No one wanted to be around her.

But she let me in. She made a comment once, “Everyone I ever trusted fucked me over”. I don’t trust no one except June. Her I trust. I’m a mess, but she always listens to me. She understands me, and she always gives me a hug and tells me she loves me, and I know she does”.

The reason I wanted to share that story is because often times those people who work so hard to push you away, it is only because they have been repeatedly hurt by people that should not have hurt them. It is much more safe –to keep people away than risk letting them in and getting hurt.

And sadly that is exactly what so many people struggling do. Those needing love the most, are often the ones who appear most unlovable. It is crucial to make inroads. But you have to carefully judge the situation.

I fully believe that we have to meet people where they are at. We often have to go to them because they won’t often come to us.
For me, sitting on the curb talking to someone, or offering a haircut or a shave, has never served me wrong.
It is vitally important to do whatever we can to gain trust. And sometimes that is by being vulnerable ourselves.
Once someone trusts you they are much more apt to allow you to help them. In whatever way is comfortable to them. And again we have to accept what is, not what we may want it to be. But to be there and hopefully at some point be able to guide or help or direct that person to help.
What do family members of people who experience severe substance use issues need the most from their immediate supporters? What do they need most from the system?
We have to accept that each person will accept or handle their loved ones’ mental health issues or addictions differently. While we wish everyone could be on the same page, that is not the reality.
We have to accept that each person’s perception of a situation is their reality. What may be heart wrenching grief for a mother may come out as anger from a father, frustration from a sibling, alienation from extended family.
And while that is frustrating, we have to understand that each person is being affected differently and no one’s pain is more or less than another’s.  We just all process differently, our personalities are different, and our basic understanding may be different. We can’t judge anyone else’s reaction.
We need to also remember that we are making headway – we all wish there was a magic formula –but there isn’t – but every day I truly believe we are making progress.
Is it as fast as we would like? No. And many, many will continue to suffer and tragically die.  And that is heartbreaking.  Devastating. But we are making progress and that is the message we need to share with families that are struggling. We need to continue to offer this support in a non-judgemental environment.
What is your message of hope?
Never, ever give up. The miracle you are hoping for may be just around the corner. You will never know when that day will come when your loved one is ready to get help, or when your loved one’s medication finally connects the pieces.
Just never give up. And remember you are not alone. Reach out to those who understand your journey, because they too have walked their own journey.
We may not walk in each other’s shoes but the path we travel is very similar. The most important thing is to not isolate yourself in your worries, in your times of devastation. Those times that seem impossible to be able to reach out are exactly those times when you must

Mother’s Day – A Mother’s Unconditional Love

To all the Moms who make our world a better place, a safer place, a more understanding place, I hope you have a peaceful day and a day that brings you some comfort.

I want to say Happy Mother’s Day, but I know not everyone will have a happy day.

You may not see or hear from your child.  You may have tragically lost your child to overdose, suicide, illness or accident.  Your child man be hospitalized or incarcerated. Today may feel more like a day of grief for you.

So I wish you a peaceful day.  A day that hopefully brings you some comfort.  A day when the memories that flash through your mind include many happy ones.  Those are the memories, not illness, not disease, not incarceration, not loss, can ever take away.

When our children are struggling with addiction and/or mental illness, Moms often don’t get the support they need.  The support they deserve.  And often when Moms are trying to be strong for their families, for their loved one struggling, society can sometimes be cruel and judgemental.  As if you have done something wrong.

In fact, Moms are often the one doing everything right.  When we Moms are speaking out and standing up, rallying support and awareness to end the stigma and shame often going hand in hand with addiction and mental illness, diseases and conditions that affect clear  thinking and behaviors – we are doing what is right.

As I recently posted on my twitter feed @AddictionAMS “Mothers everywhere are the unsung heroes in both the prison system and for those struggling with addiction both on the inside and the outside and suffering because of that horrific disease of addiction – we give our loved ones hope when they feel where is no hope.

“Many other’s eventually and understandably throw up their hands and give up but mothers don’t.  When we became mothers, motherhood did not mean ‘for the good times’.  It meant for ‘all the time’.  There is no limit on the love we have for our children, on the belief we have in our children. We don’t give up.

‘There is nothing stronger than a mother’s love. As mother’s we have to continue standing up and speaking out to promote harm reduction, healthy change, ending the stigma and providing hope when often all hope has been lost’.

And to all those women, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, foster care Moms, parents who have adopted –  women who have stepped up when for whatever reason birth Mom was unable to care for their child – you too deserve that biggest Mother’s Day support imaginable because you stepped up when the need was greatest.

So this Mother’s Day, I hope you  all find time to rest.  To take care of yourself.  Often time, taking care of ourselves feels like a luxury instead of a necessity.  We are so focused on taking care of our loved one that we forget ourselves in that mix.  Remember you count too.

Wishing you a peaceful day. A day of gentle reflection. A day I hope that all those you love, will remember you.  And when that isn’t our reality – to fully enjoy and embrace those who do remember.  Those who do show their love and support. Those who are always there for you.  That is a gift to truly embrace and appreciate.


Please keep in touch, I truly appreciate when you take the time to update me.  You are all in my thoughts.  I truly care.


We Must Embrace Harm Reduction – Time to Stop Incarcerating Sick People And Treat Them With Medically Sound Intervention

This past week I was privileged to be a guest on Talk Recovery Radio 100.5 Vancouver.  I hope you will take the time to listen to that interview.  It was streamed live on Talk Recovery’s Facebook as well as available on their podcast.


As well,  I have now finished the Third Edition of Addiction: A Mother’s Story.  If you previously read the first or second editions of Addiction: A Mother’s Story you will find a third of the content repeated.  A third revised content and a third completely new content, with a focus on harm reduction.

Below you will find Chapter 66 of the Third Edition – I feel it falls in line with some of the discussion I shared on Talk Recovery Radio  – We Must Embrace Harm Reduction – Time to Stop Incarcerating Sick People And Treat Them With Medically Sound Intervention

I am sure that every one of you who has a loved one struggling with drug addiction and the resulting criminal activities will feel as passionately as I do about this subject.

Do we, as a society, keep doing what we have always done, or do we stop that revolving door and admit that what we have been doing is not working? It is not working now. It never worked in the past. And it won’t work in the future.

Our prisons, worldwide, are overflowing with people whose crimes are related to their drug addiction. Most of those people likely made that first moral choice to try potentially addictive drugs in their teen years or early twenties. And I believe it would be fairly safe to say that none of those who experimented with drugs ever expected to become addicted. Never expected to be that person who would lose everything.

Those are the years when every generation tends to take the biggest risks. In the case of drugs, not any one of our loved ones ever expected to become addicted to the drugs they were experimenting with. It was just supposed to be fun. It was just supposed to be a party.

And for some, it was just a party.

As I have previously said, it wasn’t that they were stronger or more determined. It wasn’t that they had willpower and our child didn’t. It wasn’t because they were born into a certain family or attended a certain school or lived in a certain area. None of that matters. It was simply because they did not have the disease of addiction, and our child did.

Many people will argue that it is a moral choice, not a disease. As you know by now, my feeling about addiction is that the very first time our loved one took a potentially addictive drug, they made a moral choice. They crossed that line. But once addiction raises its ugly head, it is a disease, albeit a disease with a choice. At any time, an addict can stop using their drug of choice, and the disease halts. They will always have that propensity, but they will have stopped their addiction in its tracks. Sounds simple enough.

Well, if it were that simple, we would not have hundreds of millions of people struggling with addictions so severe that they lose everything in life they love. Everything and everyone they care about for that next fix or that next drink.

Addiction is a disease, and as a society, we have to stop treating addicted people with punishment. Worldwide, countries are building more and bigger prisons to house all those people who have committed crimes to feed their addiction.

Now don’t get me wrong, I too believe that people should have to pay for crimes they commit. I am not saying they should not be held accountable. I am only saying that incarceration is not the long-term answer.

Instead of building more and bigger prisons, why are we not turning those resources around and providing places of help for those struggling with addiction.

We will never “punish” our way out of a health crisis. And that is exactly what addiction is. It is a health crisis of monumental proportions. Punishing very sick people for being sick makes about as much sense as spanking a child for hitting their sibling and then telling them “don’t hit.”

If nothing changes, nothing changes. It is as simple as that.

The average cost to incarcerate one person is $115,000 per year. I say the average cost because minimum-security prisons would be less, maximum- security prisons would be more.

What if our governments got smart and admitted what they clearly know: that the status quo is not working?

On average, 90% of imprisoned people are for one reason or another there for drug- or alcohol-related crimes—possession, robberies to support a drug habit, car thefts, home invasions, assaults, spousal abuse, prostitution to support a drug habit, DUIs, vehicular homicide while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, identity theft, credit-card theft, shoplifting. The list goes on and on. But the common denominator is that 90% of the imprisoned population is in for substance-abuse-related offences, and 70% of them are battling severe addictions.

We need places of help. We need places of hope. Punishing sick people for committing crime, without addressing the root cause does absolutely nothing to address their disease. If we help those struggling with their addiction, they won’t have that need to turn to criminal activity. The revolving door of the criminal justice system must end for those battling addiction.

From my many years of experience in the field of drug addiction, both with Nathan’s devastating addiction and with the work I do with those battling addictions, homelessness and mental illness, on the street, I have come to realize there are only two reasons people use drugs. Curiosity and pain.

People are naturally curious and that may well be what first brought your loved one to try an illegal substance. It may be as simple as that. And that curiosity led them down a path they could never had imagined in their worst nightmare and neither could you.

The second reason and this is more complex, is pain. I say this is more complex because we have many different types of pain. It may be physical pain. Like my son initially prescribed opiates because of a motor vehicle accident. And as he told me years later, “I loved the feeling I got from that medication”. It could be pain from a skiing or sports injury. A ruptured disc from lifting something the wrong way. Something that caused extreme physical pain and needed to be treated with an opiate.

Now I am not saying that everyone who takes an opiate loves it because that is not the case. When I had surgery and was given morphine, I hated the feeling and told the nurse I didn’t want it again. Clearly my physiology is different than Nathan’s. It left me very uncomfortable. It left him initially feeling relaxed, peaceful and warm. And that is the difference being someone with the disease of addiction and another without that disease.

It may be emotional pain, perhaps a sexual assault, maybe domestic violence, the death of a loved one, continuous bullying, seeing a traumatic event. Perhaps PTSD. An emotional pain that leaves you feeling broken or isolated and you found that taking that medication left over in the medicine cabinet when you got your wisdom teeth out, helped. You forgot for a while with its lulling affect. So many people are suffering in silence and we may not even be aware of it.

When addiction takes control of your life, and it does take control, it leaves the person addicted feeling helpless and hopeless. I will repeat it again, look into the eyes of someone struggling so severely with addiction and you will see sadness, pain, hurt and hopelessness.

Repeating the comment Nathan once said to me, after many years in his addiction, “I used to have hope, Mom, but I don’t anymore. I used to believe that things would change, but I don’t believe they will. I accept this is my life. I want it to be different. I just don’t know how to do that anymore”.

They are stuck.   We have to offer every bit of help we can. And help is there. But we need to make it readily and easily available. People struggling cannot go through hoop after hoop. They will give up. We have to meet people where they are at and provide them with the best possible treatment option, individualized care that works for them. Addiction treatment is not a “one size fits all” disease any more than any other chronic or potentially terminal disease is. An individual care plan must be established for people to achieve the best and safest results for themselves.

It is stunning to note that 80% of people struggling with the disease of addiction are not receiving treatment. That is staggering. We are failing people by keeping them isolated, stigmatized and living in shame.

We have to improve a person’s chance of success by normalizing their treatment. And what may be effective treatment for one person will not be effective for another.

Abstinence alone, when dealing with opioid use disorder rarely work long term. Statics are not in their favour. But we have medications available that have proven highly effective treating addiction. Highly effective. Science, not emotions should guide decisions around addiction and harm reduction. We need a continuum of care with evidence based, immediate access to treatment.

We have to make it easier for people struggling to access effective medication. Every doctor should be able and willing to prescribe it and  all pharmacies should have it available to fill those prescriptions. Not just in larger communities but in every community in every town and city everywhere. Because this issue is everywhere. Methadone, Methadose and buprenorphine (Suboxone) are highly effective in the treatment of opioid addiction. I see first hand how it gives those we love their lives back. These are life saving medications.

Far to many people take the attitude that you are just exchanging one drug for another. Or that you should be weaned off it as quickly as possible.

I disagree completely. And so does medical science. The facts are evident. These highly effective medications can stabilize the life of a very sick person. We would never stigmatized a diabetic for taking insulin or a person with arthritis taking anti-inflamatories, or someone with high blood pressure taking medication. Those are all chronic diseases. Then why do we treat those battling the disease of addiction with any less awareness, understanding or compassion. If taking a medication every day to stay healthy is wrong or a sign of weakness, then we are all wrong and we are all weak. Addiction is a disease that no one ever thought they would get. Absolutely no one. But they did. They made a decision at one point in their life and that decision gave birth to the disease of addiction in their life.

By the time a loved one struggling with addiction is ready for help, they may have been through considerable trauma. As I have said before, those people in the illegal drug trade are ruthless.

They may be struggling with the underlying causes as to their initial drug use. We have to, as a society, do everything we can to offer support, counseling, and understanding. This is not a quick fix. And we should not expect it to be. But help is available and should be much more easily assessable.

And what about those individuals that have tried everything available. They have gone through detox. They have gone to treatment facilities. They have been on Methadone and Methadose and Suboxone. But they cannot get on top of their addiction. That grip just will not let them go. Do we forget about them?

Absolutely not. And this is where we have to embrace other means of harm reduction. As I have previously said, this is not a “one size treatment fits all” disease. We have to think outside the box. It may not be popular. It may not be what many want to see happen. But it saves lives for those people who would otherwise never get a handle on their addiction. Specialized clinics that provide prescription heroin or hydro-morphine injections daily. Where a person struggling goes in a few times a day for their medication. They are no longer using toxic illegal drugs sold on the street. They are not overdosing. Crime goes down. They are seen thoughout the day by a nurse and they are able to stabilize their health and stabilize their life. And that is a very good thing. Like I said, many in society will not consider this a popular treatment but it is not them that is struggling every day just to make it through the day. We have to keep our minds open to effective possibilities. Popular or not. For some, this is the only option they have left. And for them it works.

Drug addiction is a chronic and deadly disease. If we keep incarcerating sick people, keep punishing them, without giving them the help and medical intervention they desperately need then the cycle continues. But if we offer treatment then we give each of those people the opportunity to break the chains of addiction holding them hostage.

Everyone wins every time a person struggling with the disease of addiction gets help. We then have another responsible adult in our community—contributing in a healthy manner.

Crime would go down astronomically. The costs of health care, emergency personnel, police, the courts, and all the other services related to substance abuse would decrease if members of our addicted population received the proper treatment.

Addiction is a disease. The status quo doesn’t work. It is time to rewrite some of our laws. Every day that we delay, more very sick people continue in the revolving door. And sadly, many die while our governments world wide are building more prisons.

We will always deal with the naysayers who believe we should simply lock up addicts and throw away the key. And that is absolutely ridiculous. Too often, though, people have stayed silent when their voices could have made a difference. We can’t stay silent any longer. The lives of our sons and daughters are depending on us. We need to speak up and let our politicians know that it’s time to see addiction for what it is: a disease that has far too many of our loved ones in its grip.

Until next time – take care of yourselves – talking care of yourself cannot be seen as a luxury – it is a necessity – remember in all the kayos of addiction, you count.  Be kind to yourselves.

Much love,


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