This day is in remembrance of those we have lost this past year to overdose. I find it to be a solemn day of reflection. If you had told me a few years ago that this day would have such a heavy impact on me, I would not have believed you. I realize that as our awareness of overdose focuses primarily on the opioid epidemic.

We must not forget that people overdose on other substances such as benzodiazepines and alcohol. Do not forget, alcohol is still the number one killer in our country, eclipsing the damage done by narcotics. Yet, alcohol is something that is encouraged to be “used responsibly” in our culture. We dedicate happy hours and other forms of entertainment around alcohol, yet it is killing humans and an alarming rate. Unfortunately, one of the ways it is killing people is through overdose.

Many people have come through our clinic. Some stay and some go. Never to return. As a human being who cares for others, I cannot help but wonder if some of the people who have never returned could have perhaps died of some form of narcotic overdose. I am concerned for a population that is now an integral part of my life and whom I love. It is the individual who is struggling with the disease of opioid addiction that reminds me of my place in this world.

It is that of a humble servant. We must work to save those affected by this terrible disease. I remind people that this is not some sort of moral failing on the part of the addict. They are simply coping, managing, and self-medicating a life of turmoil and pain. I do not say this so that we will share our pity with the addict. Pity does not help. It is the compassion, kindness, and respect that will move a person towards recovery. We must motivate and work with the gifts that the addict has to offer our world.

So, I am writing today to honor the memories of those we have lost to overdose. It is a tragedy that this happens, but it does. My hope is that as a supportive community, we will work towards a common goal of helping those who are struggling with opioid and other substance addictions. Hopefully, we can save a few lives along the way.

As a public service announcement, please get yourself armed with a dose of Narcan. Narcan is a drug that can reverse the overdose process that happens when a person takes in too much narcotic. Narcan helps save lives. Please ask your local pharmacist how you can attain this life-saving drug.

Why does the addict continue this behavior?

Why do we continue to engage in a behavior that we know is killing us and ruining our relationships with those we love?

The answers will come in later blogs. I want to shed just a glimpse of light on the pain of addiction. In future blogs, I will attempt to address the stigma that comes with addiction.

We are at an interesting point in our country’s history when it comes to addiction. We see and hear all over the news that there is an opioid epidemic in this country. Many well-meaning people are crying out that we need to do something about it.

All you need to do is look up the CDC’s current reports on opioid addiction in this country, and you will see alarming numbers of overdose and deaths as it relates to these powerful drugs.

And at the same time, we live in a culture where those who are not suffering from this disease, or are yet seemingly unaffected by it, are yelling back, “stay out of my backyard! Don’t bring that trash anywhere near me. Go get treatment but don’t do it anywhere near me. I’m sick of watching these junkies hang around at the highway exit or in the downtown area where I like to sit and have my coffee!”

What they don’t understand is that they are in fact, already being affected. And the chances are, they will have a loved one who falls prey to this dehumanizing experience.