By Wes Annac & Loral Emery-Lamere, Openhearted Rebellion
A new form of activism is emerging, and it isn’t coming from the younger generation. This new activism is coming from people you might not expect: concerned parents who’ve either lost their children to drug addiction or know someone who has.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that synthetic drugs like meth, cocaine and heroin are bad for you, but I don’t think people realize how much of a rampant epidemic drug addiction has become.
Most people are comfortable being complacent, and it’s easy to ignore social issues like drug addiction when we aren’t directly confronted by them. Unfortunately, more and more people (and families) are being confronted, and many of them have been inspired to take action.
It takes courage to stand up against drug addiction or any demon that plagues our society, but slowly yet surely, those who’ve been affected by addiction are taking a stand and trying to inform the world about a major problem that, unless we stand up against, won’t go away anytime soon.
Drug addiction is a life-stealer that traps people who are looking for a greater “high” and refuses to let go while it robs them and their family of everything they cherish.
Like any other self-destructive habit, drug addiction takes away a person’s ability to think for themselves because once they’re hooked, all they can think about is getting their next fix. Nothing else matters to them anymore, because they’ve found the ultimate high; the ultimate false enlightenment.
Because of how blissfully invincible their drug makes them feel, an addict will forever chase that high. Without it, life is empty, cruel and infinitely unfulfilling. Not to mention the physical drawbacks of going without their fix, which are enough to drive them to do anything they can to get their drug.
I lost one of my brothers to opiates last year, and the loss has torn my family apart and, strangely enough, brought us together at the same time. Nothing good can come from a fatal overdose, but if anything good could in fact be said about it, it’s that the loss of my brother inspired my mother to become a prominent drug addiction activist.
I invited my mother, who created the group “Metro Addiction Awareness Group of Illinois” (or MAAGI) to explain how my brother’s overdose inspired her to start her group, which, so far, has hosted one very successful drug addiction rally and attended several others.
This is what she had to say:
I am the stepmom of a drug addict. He began this journey at the age of 15 when he started using marijuana. (Note: There are many different views on marijuana being a gateway drug – some in favor of the idea and some against.)
When he turned 18 he moved out of our home and in with friends. He began experimenting with other drugs recreationally including pills of all sorts.
As the years went on he began depending on the drugs and pills more and more. A while later he called us and said “I am in trouble, can I come over and talk?”
He told us he had gotten in trouble with the police and was facing prison time. His dad took him to turn himself in and he was soon sentenced to a year in prison. We went and visited him a few times. It broke our hearts to see him in there.
When he got out he said he was going to get a job, save money, and get his own place. We allowed him to stay with us while he got back on his feet. Soon he had a job and a car and went out on his own again.
Not long after he moved out he met a beautiful girl, and he always joked that shortly after they met she had to go bail him out of jail. He knew she was a keeper, so he asked her to marry him and she said YES.
After a 1 month engagement they got married in a beautiful church service. Soon to follow they announced they were having a baby. We welcomed their daughter months later. And a couple years later we welcomed baby #2.
He started again with the pills, and one day someone heard him in his bedroom and asked him what he was doing. His response was that he was snorting Xanax.
Our daughter in law called and told us things were bad. Our son had started using heroin and was taking all of their money to buy heroin and they couldn’t pay their bills. We helped her out and gave her the money to pay her bills.
Then one day he called and said they were short on their rent and needed help to pay it so we did. This went on for months but we continued to help.
Then she called and said things were out of control and they lost their place to live and were moving in with family. We didn’t ask any more questions – we just took this as his warning sign to get help. He quit his job working at the place he was getting the drugs from and he spent 18 days getting clean at home.
He told us he needed help, and we had no idea what to do or where to go to get help. We started calling around to find out what we needed to do to get him help, and we were told “$10,000 or he would be put on a waiting list… BUT IT HAS TO BE THE ADDICT TO CALL”.
This took a little while but he finally came around and called for help. He was told they are full and to call back every Friday to see if they had a bed free. He called every Friday. What we didn’t know was that his doctor had prescribed Xanax for him for depression so he was continuing to take them (not as prescribed of course).
On Easter Sunday (April 20, 2014), our daughter in law called us screaming.
She said, “I NEED YOU NOW. I CANT WAKE HIM UP. 911 HAS BEEN CALLED PLEASE GET HERE FAST”.
So we got there ASAP just in time to catch the ambulance still there and the Police talking to our daughter in law. We finally made our way to the hospital. We were sent to a side room where the doctor came in to tell us our son never regained consciousness. The doctor said he had overdosed.
WE WERE ALL DEVASTATED!!
The next week was a nightmare as we made plans for his memorial service. You never dream you will be saying goodbye to one of your children.
In September, a friend of our family mentioned there was a candlelight vigil for families that lost a loved one to a drug overdose. My daughter in law and I both said we want to attend this. We called the family and a few friends and asked them to attend with us.
As I sat and listened to the coroner (who was a featured speaker at the vigil) speak about how many people die from overdoses every day, something in my mind clicked.
There has to be more help out there for those that need help with addiction. After the vigil I was SO motivated to help other people who are fighting the same battle we fought and LOST that I started searching the internet and Facebook for support groups and programs available.
I spoke to several people who attended the vigil with us and asked if anyone would be interested in forming an awareness Group. They all said yes, so MAAGI – Metro Addiction Awareness Group of Illinois – was formed. We created a float and participated in a Halloween parade in Wood River, IL.
We have attended several rallies and memorials held by other groups. We hosted an awareness rally in January and have had 2 people let us know they have gotten help for their addictions since our rally and are both in recovery.
Our purpose is to help other families get help for their loved ones battling addiction. WE WEREN’T ABLE TO SAVE OUR LOVED ONE. BUT WE WILL DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO HELP SAVE YOURS!!!
My mother was fueled by her grief to start MAAGI, and as the years roll on, her group (which I participate in and which is responsible for the inspiration to write this piece) will likely plan a lot more events that are intended to raise awareness and help people understand that this problem isn’t going away any time soon – unless we all take action.
Now that so many of us are becoming aware of the overwhelming amount of overdoses caused by drug addiction, the most unlikely people are becoming activists. The best thing we can do for those who’ve been affected is get on board and, perhaps most importantly, change our perception of drug addicts.
They’re dealing with a massive craving you or I couldn’t fathom, and it’s driven a lot of them to an early grave. We have to stand up and do something about it, as the death toll will continue to rise if we don’t.
Thankfully, a lot of people are rising up against this serious threat, but they won’t achieve much in the long run without our support.
With that said, let’s lend a hand in any way we feel is appropriate, because everyone needs to be involved. Only then can we find a real solution and save lives. I’ve done my part by writing about it, and I’ll continue to write and actively contribute in any other way I can.
All that’s left for you to do is find your role and passionately pursue it, and whether or not they realize it, the addicts who are losing themselves little by little need us to take action.