A SOBERING STORY: A stark wake-up call
Over the last two months, this series has exposed our readers to concepts associated with alcoholism and substance abuse. In doing so, we had two primary goals we wanted to achieve.
The first was to start a conversation in our community about addiction. It is a problem, and it is a problem right here. It can no longer be the elephant in the room everyone keeps bumping into but refuses to acknowledge.
The second was to explain that those suffering from addiction are not morally destitute, that they are, in fact, suffering from a hideous brain disease, one that is chronic. And like all other chronic diseases, it will get worse over time without treatment.
Unfortunately it’s under-treated to an extreme for any number of reasons: denial, stigma, enabling and on and on.
We also wanted to highlight the role of loved ones when it comes to dealing with an alcoholic or an addict. Living with someone in active addiction is just plain difficult, with impossible lurking just right around the corner. We learned that loved ones have the right to lead a normal life and, in some cases, may need an addict who refuses treatment to step out of their lives.
Eight weeks ago, some readers might have thought such an action to be a harsh thing to do. After all, it is counterintuitive to all we feel when trying to care for an ill loved one. Yet it is actually the right medicine for the situation. Love with detachment is not for the weak of heart, or even the strongest among us.
So the loved ones need to stay diligent and focus on their own recovery so they can be a source of strength. Part of that is creating boundaries and defining the acceptable and unacceptable behavior of the addict.
Addiction is not a disease of shame; it’s a disease. Period. And it is indiscriminant.
Like other diseases, addiction has a path of treatment and recovery. Hopefully, more addicts will find their way into treatment, either on their own or through intervention. We have learned that as difficult as recovery is, having loved ones in active addiction is far worse.
It is a problem that takes an incredible toll on everyone involved. Even in the best environment, addicts can relapse. Some experts estimate that an addict will relapse about nine times on average.From the feedback we’ve received, it’s clear that addiction is an issue of concern for the entire community, as it should be.
This series wouldn’t have been possible without support from several people and organizations, including our partners at First Commonwealth Bank, Indiana Regional Medical Center, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Marcus & Mack, Reliant Holdings, The Reschini Group and S&T Bank.
I want to say a special thanks to staff writer Sam Kusic. He poured his heart and soul into this project over the last six months. His ability to grasp this complex subject and sift through all the information to tell this story with clarity and empathy made this series a compelling read.
I’d also like to thank the other Gazette staffers — writers, editors, designers — for their work in bringing the series to life, both on the printed page and online.
And I thank you, the reader, for spending your valuable time with this series. I hope we provided you with some valuable information, enlightenment and, perhaps, guidance in your own life.