The Fight for One’s Life
By Judith Brown
Drug addiction* permeates every society known to man. It does not discriminate and has no known boundaries. Yet, help can be found. How does one fight the noble battle of overcoming drug addiction? The following article offers sound advice in doing so.
Like any other demographic anywhere on this planet, overcoming drug addiction in the African American society has its challenges.
Substance abuse is non-discriminate; it knows no compassion. And whether young, old, rich or poor – likely you are affected by substance abuse in one way or another.
Substance abuse favors no social status. It doesn’t care if the children are fed, if the bills are paid, or whether the grandparents are too old to care for the grandchildren.
It loves no one.
Throughout the United States, there are thousands of untold stories of African American families whose lives have been ruined by this dreaded disease. Yet, overcoming an addiction is not impossible.
We will look at two individuals whose lives were once marred by drug addiction, and who today are positive examples through their overcoming drug addiction.
You Can’t Have it All
Anthony** was on top of the world. With a new wife and family, his life had only begun to take flight. He was, it seemed, unstoppable.
Anthony worked hard at obtaining his GED in order to make something of himself. He did just that. His job was eclipsed only by his popularity at the workplace. The management team saw ethics and integrity in his work and promoted him. He was “big man on campus,” in a sense and everyone wanted Anthony to be in their world.
“We would hang out after work. It started with drinking and slowly led to other things,” he recalls.
“I never imagined that I’d become that person – the drug addict.” Several months later Anthony would be in search of a method to overcome his addiction. It was grueling.
He says, “My family really went through it. Overcoming drug addiction isn’t easy. It’s demoralizing, expensive and humiliating…and that’s just the start of it.”
“It Was Bigger Than I Was”
Joyce Spears began using drugs in her mid-20s.
“It all started when I used marijuana,” she recalls. “I started hanging out with different people than I used to – people I wouldn’t consider hanging out with before. One guy said, ‘If marijuana gets you high, you’ll really enjoy this.’ And I did.”
Ms. Spears reflects on her speedy decline, “It had become so much stronger than I ever thought. It was bigger than I was.”
Her descent into a decades-long battle with heroin led Joyce, a mother of four, to eventually lose her children and spend 10+ years in the penal system before overcoming drug addiction.
The Need for Change
Anthony knew it was time for a change when his paranoia frightened his new wife and kids. Unbeknownst to his family, he would tape their conversations in the house while he was away at work.
During this time the last thing on Anthony’ mind was overcoming drug addiction, which only fed his paranoia.
His sister, one of his closest supporters, recalls, “One day he called me to the house to have me listen to the “orgy” going on in the home. I could hear his wife speaking with the kids, and kids’ laughter, but nothing else. In his mind, the laughter was some random guy in the house having sex with his wife while the kids were running around doing what kids do. It was crazy!
“Since he trusted me, it was up to me to get him the help he needed. It took some doing, but he eventually went into a 30-day program to free him from his crack addiction. That was nearly 30 years ago and I’m proud to say that he’s been clean since.”
As for Joyce, her release from substance bondage began after she “got tired.”
“The sad part about overcoming drug addiction is that you don’t realize just how bad things are until you hit the bottom. And then you want to get clean, but you start to think about all the things you’ve done, the people you stole from, the people you’ve hurt. And then you feel so bad that the only thing to help you feel good is to get high. It’s an endless cycle.
“But I was just ready for change. It had been so long and I had nothing left. I didn’t have my children. I did four separate stints in state prison – not to mention multiple trips to the county jail. I just decided I’d had enough. It was time to get clean. Overcoming drug addiction is far more challenging than using drugs, so I had my work cut out for me but I didn’t allow that to stop me.”
Joyce’s point is well taken: The US penal system just doesn’t work! Facts and figures through the US Department of Justice show that the system is a poor attempt at “rehabilitating” substance abusers. Often drug abusers use the system like a revolving door process, getting clean for a minute and then returning to their former habits once released.
More is needed. But what could possess a person with addictive behavioral traits in overcoming drug addiction?
The Will to Change
How does one succeed in overcoming drug addiction? It would be quite easy if “determination” was the only criteria, but much more is involved.
“I needed God,” says Joyce. “No one can become a better person without the help of God. And also the love and support of my mother, who never gave up on me, added strength. She always told me, ‘You won’t be this way always.’ She believed in me.”
Today, Joyce spends the majority of her time as a substance abuse counselor, treating others in their efforts of overcoming drug addiction. Now a pillar of the same community she’s taunted for so many years, her determination only adds impetus to other fighting the fine fight in overcoming drug addiction.
Anthony’ life, too, changed tremendously after he fought his battle of overcoming drug addiction. He says, “My family’s support meant so much to me. It wasn’t just my wife and kids, or even my sister.
“I remember the day my parents came to the rehab center to see me. When I looked up and saw my Mom and Dad – it brought tears to my eyes. They were great parents and never hinted at drug abuse or tolerated any of the things that so many of us get into, so to see them there for me…,” Anthony says, his voice trailing off to fight back tears.
Make that Call!
There are literally hundreds of centers ready to assist others like Joyce and Anthony in their fight of overcoming drug addiction. Many of these centers – or rehab facilities – offer free services along with a guaranteed high level of anonymity, so the option to free one’s self from the prison of substance abuse is readily available.
Many of these programs use a 12-step method for overcoming drug addiction, while others might offer a “buddy system.” Still others are totally faith-based (such as through a neighborhood church), while some might not affiliate themselves with any particular faith at all.
And since drug addiction has been identified as a disease, the necessary treatment might be covered under your benefits plan. While an abuser might feel ashamed to discuss such an issue with his employer, some workplaces actually have programs in place to provide needed treatment and counseling – even allowing time off in one’s efforts in overcoming drug addiction. (Check with your Human Relations Department to find out your specific guidelines in overcoming drug addiction.)
The point is this: Help is out there and readily available.
Overcoming drug addiction can be accomplished, but ultimately YOU, the abuser, must take the first step. It can be daunting, yes. It might be intimidating, no doubt. But the end will absolutely justify the means.
If you or someone you know needs helps in overcoming drug addiction, don’t delay! Call NOW! Your life – and your life’s happiness, including the happiness of all your loved ones depend on it.
*In this article, “drug addiction” applies to all forms of substance abuse, including crack, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, crystal meth, glue, alcohol, medicines prescribed by a certified physician, and more.
** Anthony’s name has been changed for the sake of anonymity.
Brown is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.