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The NY Times article asked a question that so many people are asking these days, and it makes me wonder will we ever stop being so cruel to people who use drugs?  Will we ever understand that ALL people should be treated with respect and dignity?

Just to frame this discussion I pulled two quotes dealing with chronic heart disease and diabetes.  These are chronic illnesses that cost our country billions, yet we rarely suggest denying people with these struggles.

Two large studies from Northwestern Medicine confirm a healthy lifestyle has the biggest impact on cardiovascular health. One study shows the majority of people who adopted healthy lifestyle behaviors in young adulthood maintained a low cardiovascular risk profile in middle age. Could I dare say, we should deny hospital care to people who don’t change their lifestyle?  Northwestern

Chronic disease is a modern plague: Nearly half of adults have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, one in three suffers from high blood pressure and more than two-thirds are overweight or obese. USA Today

The doctor in this story (I wish it was a fictional story) refuses to treat a man who struggled with substance use and they quote him as saying “It was the hardest thing I ever had to do”…..letting him die, that is.  So, in this story, we are left to feel sorry for the Doctor who had to make the difficult choice to let a human being die because he started using drugs again, after a very expensive surgery.  THIS IS DISGUSTING.

I believe it though not because this guy is super convincing but, this is my story.  This is the story of my loved ones.  I have a friend right now who needs heart valves and is being denied access to surgery because he cannot pass a drug test.  He is depressed, his life has changed dramatically since he became ill.  He had a destructive stroke that has affected him in a profound way.  He is not the man he used to be, and he knows it.  He is coping with what I know to be the most grueling reality that requires an acceptance that only comes after pure exhaustion. Exhaustion from the anger, exhaustion from the tears, exhaustion from the fear that no one will ever love you or look at you without feeling sorry for you. The agony of losing your self, the self you know.  I know this horror and it is only compounded by a society that screams as loud as it can and as quiet as it can that you are worthless and this is what you get and deserve. All this hate packaged in mega messaging and miniature nonstop microaggressions, non-stop streaming that you, don’t count.  You are not important, you are not human and we would all be better off if you would just die.  Just having all of this media questioning whether we should kill drug dealers, whether we should revive overdose victims, and of course don’t forget the memorial they have built in honor of people lost to overdose, made of pills with people’s faces on them.  FUCK YOU and your memorial.  I am more than a pill and so is my daughter who died of an overdose.  She will be remembered for her spunk, her love, her depth, not the drugs.  And while she died of an overdose like so many, It was a fucked up policy that killed her.

We can end the opioid overdose epidemic RIGHT NOW if we decriminalized drugs and provided untainted drugs to people.  I have lost so much but it is important to explain that I am not angry at the drugs, I am angry at our failure to see past the drugs and find solutions.  Why are people that use drugs always reduced to nothing more than drugs? Those of you in recovery I urge you to rethink your identification statement.  I urge you to resist identify yourself as  Ann, an addict.  This does not do anything but confirm that you are Ann and what you are is something that society hates.  I know I will never identify this way again.  I will show the world what I really am, which is a mother, a teacher, an activist, a lover and a person who is healing from great suffering and pain.

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