You're Sick and You Almost Died
A while ago I heard from a friend about his son who has addiction. There was a recent overdose on opioids, which he luckily survived. He has been through treatment now and is doing well. I was glad to hear he was doing well, but what really struck me in the conversation was that after word of his overdose had gotten around the extended family, my friend’s son was uninvited to his cousin’s wedding. You’re probably asking why, and I’d love to tell you. But, I don’t know why.
My friend didn’t know why. Were they afraid he’d make a scene and stop breathing during the reception? Were they afraid he’d vomit on the wedding cake? Were they ashamed he was a person with addiction? I have no idea.
But the first thought I had when I heard the story was the title of this article: “You’re sick and you almost died, so don’t come to my wedding.” That’s what overdose in someone with addiction means. It means they are ill, and now they almost died, if they’re lucky. Of course a lot, and increasingly so, aren’t so lucky and do die.
Would we ever call up Uncle Ben during his cancer chemotherapy and tell him not to come to the wedding? Would we send cousin Sally a letter telling her that after her recent near-death experience with diabetic ketoacidosis we’d rather she stay home? No, we would not. In every other case, where a relative was potentially terminally ill, we’d welcome the chance for just one more family memory. Not so with addiction.
I wrote recently about what people with addiction die of. Is it the disease, or ignorance, or cruelty. Too many have to live that way too. Hopefully, one day, we will be able to say that more and more people with addiction live with health and hope and love. Until then, social isolation will continue to make the illness worse (the biology of this is described in my book), and we’ll continue to wonder why these addicts don’t just learn from our isolating them. “After all, if we were snubbed, we’d change, right?”
So try to stem that ignorance every day. Just keep telling people you know the truth about addiction. It’s just an illness. It’s just biology. It’s just an act of nature. It just happens. If enough people understood, we could maybe get to health, and hope, and love.
Copyright 2018 Howard C Wetsman MD
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