In the meantime, we continue to suffer. We continue to watch them slowly kill themselves. We continue to go back-and-forth on whether we should give them money or food, turn a cold shoulder, and still make sure that they know they are loved. We are in this constant inner turmoil and torture while they get to get high and escape.
However make no mistake, their life is no escape. They have their own demons and their own torturous internal dialogue going on. They feel less than and they feel worthless. They feel shame, They feel embarrassed. They’re confused, paranoid, scared, and the list goes on. How do I know how they feel? I know because I was them, I am them.
I have lived on both sides of the coin. I’ve Been addicted. Love someone who is addicted. Never got to really know my father or build any kind of relationship with him because of addiction. Lost my father to his addiction. Lost my brother to suicide. Experienced mental health issues, poverty, trauma, lack of stability etc…
Yet I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to get out. Whether it was from the love, guidance and care my mother and grandmother were able to give or my desire to never be like my father, I was one of the lucky ones to get out. Unlike my younger brother who is still on the streets and disintegrating in front of my eyes or my best friend who overdosed at a sober living home after a long stent of relapse/recovery, I was one of the ones to move away, pursue education, get a degree, and participate in the solution instead of continuing in the misery.
Although please don’t get it twisted. Every day I’m waiting to be discovered as a fraud and a phony. A hoodlum and a piece of shit in a nice shirt. Every day I question my worth and my value and that same persistent and convincing voice that pushed me to rob, steal, sell and use drugs is still a passenger along the ride telling me I’m going to fail.
As I worked with at risk youth in the streets or grown men in LA County Jail, inside I always felt like I skated the line of “drug counselor/social worker” or feeling like one of the people I was supposed to be counseling. But at the end of the day I’m one of the lucky ones.
I count my blessings every day and I’m grateful that I was able to find help when I needed it. I am grateful for the people along the way who did not turn their backs on me. I am grateful for the hardships and all the lessons learned that have shaped me into who I am today. However as I participate in my daily gratitude ritual I often feel great sadness for those who weren’t lucky. Sadness for those who didn’t make it. Sadness for those I knew and loved who lost their lives and the family they left behind. Sadness for those I’ve never met but understand their suffering and what they’re going through. When help is not available when someone needs it often is what pushes them over the edge.
Imagine drowning and someone saying come back every 4 to 6 weeks to see if we can get you a life preserver? Something has to change!
Everybody wants to see their streets clean and neighborhood safe. No one wants to see homelessness and poverty. No one wants sober living homes, mental health agencies, or treatment facilities in their cities or communities. No one understands why increased violence and acts of desperation are linked back to people with mental illness.
Well I’m here to help you understand once and for all… Availability to care is the issue. Lack of immediate help is the issue. Putting people’s mental health and immediate needs on the back burner because they don’t have the funds or the right insurance will in the long run bite society in the ass!
Unfortunately we are not a society of maintenance and upkeep. We have been programmed to ignore ignore ignore until the wheels fall off the bus and then we blame the bus driver and the passengers. We must Wake up! People are dying and families are suffering. Ignoring the problem and only making care available to a select few will not and has not worked.
Tom Buckley, CADC II, BSW
Director of Community Relations & Business Development
Pacific Solstice Behavioral Health