Demi’s Disease and America’s Apathy

Over the past few days I have watched the train wreck that has been Demi Lovato’s overdose; and let me be clear – when I say train wreck I mean the discussion of Demi Lovato’s private life with anyone outside her family, inner circle of friends, and the media. I have watched as shows like Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, and “reputable” news organizations like NBC and CNN have reported misinformation, untruths, and disgusting speculations. It is almost as if they are celebrating an earth-shattering event in the private life of someone for sport.

What has disheartened me more than the media’s ass backward’s commentary has been the comments from average Americans as the relate to both a celebrity struggling with addiction and as they relate to the disease that is addiction. It is 2018. Doctors and scientists have studied, investigated, and released reports ad nauseam. Just about every report or study has told us virtually the same thing – addiction is something we don’t fully understand, but we do know enough to state that it is a lifelong chronic disease that is very hard to beat. So all you Judge Judys shouting for people to stop being lazy, put the crack pipe down, and get off the couch so you can find a job can have several seat, pick up a book on addiction and educate yourselves.

I minored in sociology while I was in college. After the intro to sociology class I took at Clemson I had to take 5 more upper level sociology classes. I tell you this not to try and prove that I am an expert in the field because I am NOT. However, I am interested in the subject and that is what led me to choose 3 of those 5 classes on addiction and substance abuse issues. The professor who taught those three classes and the information I learned while studying the information changed my thoughts on addiction, mental health, treatment for substance abuse, and criminal justice involving drugs in this nation.

Not-My-Addiction

Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world that she is an addict. Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world numerous times what she does to stay sober. Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world how hard it is to stay sober. Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world that she has relapsed. We should get one thing very clear about that last sentence:

Demi Lovato is NOT a morally weak person or failure in life because she suffered a relapse!

What do addiction, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and high cholesterol all have in common? All of those chronic conditions has relapse rates that fall in between 40%-60% chance of having a relapse in the condition at least one time after diagnosis.¹ None of those other conditions carries the same stigma that addiction has. None of the people suffering from high cholesterol or asthma are looked at like degenerates or moral failures that those who are battling addiction do. It is wrong and unfair to label these people as weak and cast them out of society. They are not lepers and we have got to do more to first, change the conversation on addiction and second, help this people who are struggling get back on the road to recovery again.

Addiction affects 21 million adults in this country and another 2 million people between the ages of 13 and 17.² It does not discriminate and no racial group or economic bracket is more predisposed to suffer from addiction than any other group. This nation spends 442 BILLION dollars every year on drug abuse.³ Imagine where we would be as a country if we spent some of that money on effective treatment, education, and prevention of drug abuse instead of spending it on funerals and incarcerations. There would be many friends and family members of many American families that were still living their best lives.

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I care about this more than because it involves Demi Lovato. While I do consider myself a fan of her music her openness about her struggles with mental health and addiction are what I respect her for most.  On a personal note, I lost someone very close to me to a drug addiction. We went out on quite a few dates, but life brought us together at inconvenient times so it never progressed to much more at that time to us remaining Facebook friends. A year or two later we reconnected after drifting apart, but his addiction kept us apart. After it got worse than I had seen it in any of the previous instances I made the decision for my own mental health to break contact for some time. It was one of the most excruciatingly difficult decisions I have ever made, but at that time I could not watch this person  waste away and become this shell of the person I knew.

I didn’t here from them for a couple weeks. I just prayed everything was ok and they would get help. Then I got a facebook message. It came at 2:45 Thursday Night/Friday morning so I knew they were using. I sighed and went back to bed, but I didn’t sleep much the rest of that night. For the next six weeks I didn’t hear anything. Talking to a mutual friend of my friend who was fighting in a general conversation a comment was made about him that confused me. When I asked what he was talking about he told me that our friend died of an overdose several weeks back. I immediately googled and found the obituary. They died 2 days after that last Facebook message on Sunday morning.

It took all my strength not to throw up at the restaurant table we were sitting in. I had not even known. I didn’t get to go to the funeral. I never got to say goodbye. There are so many things I never got to say. Addiction does not just hurt the addict. The people who love someone living with addiction suffer as well. It changes relationships and can cause wounds that never heal. There will always be a part of me that is stuck on this. I still think about whether or not I made the right decision. I wonder what I could have done. There has to have been a way for me to help more.

Maybe if I had responded that night then Andrew would still be here. That I will never know. But I do know this: Staying sober and in recover is really fucking hard and If we don’t stop looking at people who are living with addiction as terrible failures and start treating them with the love, care, and compassion they need then we are going to lose more than my friend Andrew. And for the rest of my life, losing that one is more than enough.

-WB

If you are suffering with an addiction, please seek help! If you need help reach out and ask a friend or a loved one for help. I love you and will be there for you. So will your friends and family! Here are some resources local to the Greenville area if you need them! All you have to do is take the first step.


¹https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

²https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders

³https://www.usnews.com/news/at-the-edge/articles/2016-12-19/drug-and-alcohol-abuse-cost-taxpayers-442b-annually-new-surgeon-generals-report-finds

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