Urging more people to share addiction stories

This is a response to the editorial “A family’s tragic loss to opioids” published Aug. 26.

I apologize for the stigma surrounding addiction that may cast a poor light on your son and your family. My sister has suffered for over three years from addiction. Looking back, I am amazed that she still walks this earth.

Too many times has she overdosed, and too many times has she danced with death. Her pain is something I will never be able to fully understand, but the marks of scars on her wrists and tracks on her arms hint at it.

Inside, she battles every day to fight this disease. That is what this is, a disease. Some are genetically predisposed to it, and trauma can contribute to it, but, as was expressed in the editorial, addiction does not discriminate.

If my sister were to have cancer and I shared with my high school class that I don’t know if my sister will be alive in two years, I wouldn’t fear shame. I would receive sympathetic looks and awkward pats on the backs, mutters of, “I hope she gets better.”

No one would accuse her of letting her cells reproduce too much. This is because that doesn’t make any sense. A person cannot control the cells in their body.

It is the same with addiction. It is a matter of chemicals in the brain, not of selfish choice. If you wish to learn more about the effects of addiction, I would recommend watching a talk given by Dr. Ruth A. Potee, an addiction specialist.

I write because I want to help stop the spread of stigma surrounding addiction. I hope that more people are willing to share their stories, just like the Werbiskises. Maybe, people will be able to share their stories about loved ones with addiction without fear of judgment or shame.

Ava Harper

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