We’re in this together

Every day I come face to face with a disease that debilitates the lives of those caught in its throes—addiction. Equally painful are the daily collateral affects felt by family, friends, neighbors and total communities.

Every day I talk about hope.

Every day I advocate for how we need to educate ourselves that substance addiction is a disease. And just like many diseases, addiction starts with behaviors and habits we develop when we are very young. The difference is that this disease of addiction is not only debilitating and tears the person apart individually, it rips at the hearts of those who are associated with those afflicted.

Every day I become consumed with the idea that our system and methodology of addressing this disease is predicated on our need to have something painful to react to. We need a crisis to rally around. We need to focus all of our attention on a crisis and become knee deep in it. But what we forget is that, maybe, it could be prevented. I’m not talking about second guessing, but rather saying to ourselves: “There’s going to be another crisis and right now is the time when we can prevent that crisis.”

So I know we need to treat this disease.

We need to do everything we can to treat this disease.

We need to treat this because we will become healthier as a community and because it’s tearing our families apart.

But hand in hand with treatment, there needs to be a synergy with prevention. And there needs to be a recognition by the treatment field that they are going to give the prevention community the opportunity to begin to explore the practices needed to prevent crisis, and to be able to cultivate those practices that protect our children who are our greatest commodities.

We need to understand that the irresponsible prescribing of opioid pain medicines is causing addiction in populations that have not been previously affected.

We need to take steps to change our attitudes and our perceptions about dealing with this disease.

We need to plan for the future of our community, as we know it could be. Just as people plan their eventual retirements in 20 years by investing today, we need that same mindset to apply to our communities.

We want answers today for the addiction problem, but it requires treatment. It also requires a prevention investment that says: “If I invest in my community today, maybe in 10 years from now we’ll be a lot healthier. The fruits of my investment in retirement can be paralleled to the fruits of my investment in my community.” This might not happen if we remain in crisis mode.

If we come together to deal with what ails our community, together we can provide a lot of hope to address this illness.

Together we are very strong.

Together there is a collective shoulder to lean on and a reminder that we are in this together.

Together we can face the above obstacles knowing that we can be part of the solution. We can be part of the solution by educating ourselves in regard to the disease.

Togetherness is the cornerstone of community.

So the questions become: How do you provide that existential hug to that person and family who are dealing with addiction? How do you educate people to understand that there is no difference between those families caught in addiction and those that are not, except luck? How do we change our focus so that we understand that the problem of addiction is fueled by issues.

But here’s the thing: whatever issues they are, if we address them together—we believe that we can make a difference.

And I’ve seen it for 40 years.

How we as a society deal with addiction needs to change. We need to hold people accountable. We need to make each other accountable as family members, friends and residents. We need to make the agencies that serve us accountable. And the agencies that serve us should make the governing bodies in New York State accountable.

We can only do this by working together.

[Martin Colavito is a New York State-certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor who holds a master’s degree in human services. More importantly, he is a father, a husband, a grandfather and your neighbor.]


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