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The face of addiction in Sullivan County

By Isabel Braverman
April 16, 2014

A few years ago my friend told me that we had friends who were addicted to heroin. I scoffed and said, “Well, I don’t know any.” Little did I know that a few years later I would know all too well.

The scourge of heroin and other opioid and addictive substances has hit Sullivan County full force. I see it or hear about it often. And yes, I do have friends who are addicts or recovering addicts (although I’ve never touched the stuff myself, and don’t plan to.)

Very recently, we lost a friend to addiction. He was one of the nicest guys you’d meet—funny and always seemed to be happy. I’m not sure many people knew about his struggle with addiction until his very unfortunate and sad death. He was 22 years old.

The face of addiction isn’t what you think it might be. Many addicts lead productive and functioning lives. They have many friends, they have a job, they have relationships. They may be clean-cut. They may not steal (although many crimes in Sullivan County are drug-related). They can be good people. What I am saying is, the stereotypical addict is no longer a stereotype. Sure, there are still those who can’t hold a job, look disheveled and unhealthy, and stay home and do drugs all day. But really, someone you know who seems “normal” could be struggling with addiction.

Those who struggle with addiction often find themselves in and out of rehab (or jail) as they try to stay sober. This is very difficult. It’s easy to judge an addict and say “Why did you start in the first place?” or “Why can’t you just stop doing drugs?” If they could “just stop” then they wouldn’t be an addict. In fact, addiction was recently classified as an illness. I’ve heard many times that just as you wouldn’t judge someone for having cancer, you shouldn’t judge an addict (take this statement at your own discretion.) For those who are trying to quit, they are trying very hard—going to rehab, to NA meetings, to counselors, and trying to find a better life for themselves. Unfortunately, many lose the battle.