In 2018, over 1300 people died from a drug overdose. Of those, 14 occurred in Robertson County; 337 nonfatal overdoses occurred in the county that year as well. I work in the field of addiction treatment, and these numbers still startle me. Fourteen seems like a small number, but the ripple effect of those fourteen deaths can be felt throughout the county.
As the opioid crisis gained traction in Tennessee, the state started a program called “The FACES of the Opioid Crisis.” My story – my son’s story – earned me the title of the “face” of Robertson County, but it’s a title I wish I didn’t bear.
At age 17, my son contracted the shingles virus, and his doctor gave him a prescription for Percocet to help with his pain. Two months later, he contracted the virus again. The doctor gave him the medication again. Later, my son would tell me that it only took that second prescription for him to be hooked. His life took a turn for the worse at this point. He lost his job. He was completely broke. I kicked him out of my house. I didn’t know what to do to help him. When I got a phone call that my son was in jail, I took my first deep breath in years. I knew if he was in jail, he was safe.
All my life, I’ve loved the Parable of the Sower. I try to analyze my life by the parable, by asking myself “what kind of soil am I producing?” When my son was born, I promised the Lord that I would raise him in soil that was rich with love, support and the word of God. I kept my promise, but something went wrong. I was angry at God. I didn’t understand why He would let this happen. I was buried under guilt and shame; I felt like I had failed as a mother. And I felt like God had let me down.
What I eventually realized is that addiction comes from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live, what color your skin is, or who your family is. Addiction is a disease, cunning, baffling, and powerful It is not a moral failure. My son’s addiction was no one’s fault. But it was our responsibility to pick up the pieces it left us with. Part of my healing journey has been working at The Next Door, a faith-based addiction treatment center for women. It has been a blessing to watch the restoration and redemption of God through the lives of the women that come through our doors. It took over ten years for me to find healing on this journey. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But there was healing at the end of the journey. It led us both – my son and me – back to Jesus.
You might think that the opioid epidemic has nothing to do with you. I urge you not to believe that lie. This epidemic is here in our counties, our cities, our homes. We need to pay attention to those around us and notice who is withdrawn or acting different. It will take all of us to turn this around. Below are some tips on how to have difficult conversations with your family members and friends. A conversation like this could save a life.
- Arrange a suitable time to talk
- Make sure the person is not under the influence
- Don’t be confrontational
- Express concerns without judgment
- Listen in a supportive manner
- Communicate that change is possible and that you are willing to help (ex: treatment, counseling, etc.)
- Help them find professional support (counselor, psychiatrist, 12 step programs etc.)
- Get support for yourself (Al-Anon, counselor, etc.)
If you need help getting the conversation started, here are some examples:
- I noticed a few changes in your recently, and I’m a bit worried.
- I haven’t you talk about (friends, family, work, school, etc.) in a while. How are things going?
If you are a woman or know a woman in need of addiction treatment services, call The Next Door at 855-TND-HOPE (863-4673). If you are a man or know of a man in need of addiction treatment services, call the Tennessee REDLINE at 800-889-9789.
Article by Kecia Harris – connect with her here: https://www.facebook.com/kecia.a.harris/