Hey, I have a question for you. Yeah, you.
You know who you are. You’re the ones who hate. The ones who bash. The ones who spread the stigma about a disease you know nothing about. You belong to the group that posts such horrific opinions about people you have never met. You’re the person who’s words break the hearts of mothers like me. Who’s ugly words break the spirits of those struggling with the powerful, misunderstood disease known as addiction.
What I want to know is can you spot the junkie? I want you to look closely at the photograph above. Can you spot that person you refer to by that ugly word? Is she the beautiful blonde with the incredible smile? Or perhaps the “junkie” is the handsome man in uniform? How about the “shit bag”? You know those people you refer to after you find out they were revived by Narcan and given another chance at life. You felt it necessary to post that society would be better off if we let the “shit bags” die. That Narcan was wasting money on a life not worthy of being saved. Which one of these beautiful people would you consider a “shit bag”? Which one of them deserves to die?
Now, let’s talk about the dirty homeless person. You know the one you point fingers at and laugh at when you are approached by them. Who looks homeless and dirty to you? Can you point to the homeless addict? Which one looks anything like the ugly picture you paint when you speak about people who suffer from the disease of addiction? You know the ones. People who don’t bathe and live under bridges. People who can’t hold a job and eat out of trash cans. Is it the man riding a tractor with his son? Or maybe it’s the man in the blue shirt who just happens to be my son.
I want you to look closely and see beyond your stigma. I want you to look into the faces of everyday people. The college kid. The cheerleaders. The first time fathers and mothers. Those who started a new job or started a new life after years of struggling against people like you. I want you to imagine what it feels like to be the brunt of your hate. I want you to understand that these pictures represent the hopes and dreams of parents left behind.
I want you to know what it’s like to be them. To fight for your life with every breath you take. To battle a system that created your disease but refuses to provide treatment to fix you. I want you to fight discrimination in every thing you try to do. I want you to live knowing that some people think you are better off dead. I want you to be mocked, ignored and kicked to the curb whenever you cry out for help.
I want you to look into these beautiful faces and know that one day your picture could be among theirs. One day your life could spin out of control. One day your doctor will give you a drug that will change who you are. One day it might be you people now refer to as “junkie.” One day it might be you who’s homeless and begging for food. One day it could be your mother spending time visiting your grave. One day your mother might be defending your life.
So you can’t find that “junkie” among these beautiful souls. You can’t put your finger on who’s dirty and who didn’t deserve to live.
These are the beautiful faces of addiction. The smiles, the amazing eyes. These are the faces of those who paid the price of stigma. These pictures are the hearts and souls of grieving parents like me.
Next time you feel the need to hate I want you to remember these faces. The beautiful women and handsome men and remember that even you with all your hate couldn’t find a “junkie.”