In a Meth Addicted World, Silence Still = Death

 

It was one of the earliest lessons from the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, especially for those of us who were affected by the disease: we had to break our silence. At first, the shame associated with this mostly sexually transmitted illness had been so overwhelming, a silence had settled in. But as we watched our friends and neighbors die by the dozens, and then hundreds, that silence itself became shameful.

In the days of epidemic, we quickly learned Silence = Death.

No less is true today with the epidemic of crystal meth addiction. In 2010, it was estimated that more than 350,000 people in the United States used crystal methamphetamine. Worldwide, the estimate came in at a cool twenty-five million.

If we have a moment of clarity, we see it is not just “those people” in the inner city skid rows who are addicted to crystal meth, nor merely the partying youth of the gay culture. We see beyond those well-meaning public ad campaigns that depict the average meth addict as some street-person derelict with a sunken, scabbed face and rotted teeth. The reality is, this is only a fraction of the meth-using population.

Yes, it is where many of us will eventually end up once the drug takes its final toll, but that may be years away, if ever. In the meantime, meth use is the quiet little secret of housewives across middle America who have to raise the kids while holding down two jobs, or the overstressed college student who is pushed to stay up night after night studying, or the white-collar father who must work 60 plus hours a week to support his family.

Who’s addicted? 25 million of our neighbors, cousins, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters.

And if you don’t think crystal meth addiction is stigmatized on the level that AIDS was in the late 1980s, you haven’t been paying attention. The medical community considers methamphetamine addiction to be a “chronic disease,” just the same as high blood pressure or asthma. The difference between meth addiction and these other diseases is the location of the malfunction.

With addiction, the malfunction is in the brain—so the illness affects feelings and behaviors. Because of this, those who don’t know any better still view addiction as a moral issue, a matter of willpower or character. They are wrong.

According to evidence-based science, the truth is: addiction is a biological process in a brain that is malfunctioning.

We don’t blame someone with high blood pressure or asthma for the physical malfunction happening in their bodies. And we certainly don’t shame them for seeking treatment.

Why is it different for the meth addict? It shouldn’t be.

From the likes of tennis star Andre Agassi, singer Amy Winehouse, and super church evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, crystal meth addiction has proven itself to be epidemic across all social, economic, racial, gender and national boundaries. On the planet Earth in 2013, Europe, Asia, even Afghanistan, are being overwhelmed by growing numbers of new meth addicts. Indeed, crystal meth use is not only epidemic, but pandemic.

A crucial step toward combating this great tragedy in today’s culture is to come out of the closet, especially those of us who have fought the addiction and lived to survive.

We may call ourselves former, or recovered, or recovering crystal meth addicts — or, perhaps, we don’t like the term “addict” and refuse to define our entire lives by a few years of drug abuse. As with most addictions, recovery begins with an admission that we’ve had a serious problem with crystal methamphetamine.

We are your neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers. It’s time to speak the truth. When you hear from us, try not to rush to judgment and condemnation. Instead, try to open your mind and heart to the courage it must take for your friend, family member, or neighbor to admit to you that he or she has a problem with meth.

Recovery is an ongoing lifelong journey back to one’s authentic self. It’s never an easy road, but the alternative of silence is simply not sustainable in today’s world.

In the days of epidemic, silence still equals death.

  • Hi Joseph,

    New to your blog! I love this line – “A crucial step toward combating this great tragedy in today’s culture is to come out of the closet,…” I so agree. That is wonderful that you are online and supporting recovery. It helps so many to know that they are not alone. Your work is so needed. Take care and great to connect with you.

    • Joseph Sharp

      Hi Cathy,

      Great connecting with you as well. I just watched your intro video at your website http://cathytaughinbaugh.com and was very impressed. Your work is so important. Addiction might as well be a family disease, it’s harmful reach is so encompassing. Please feel free to send any parents or loved ones with meth related questions my way and I’ll do my best to answer them with specific info to the drug. After exploring your website, I’ve decided I’ll be referring any parents to you as they need special care I cannot provide. Thanks again for connecting and for the work you do.

  • Anne

    Hi, My name is as Anne and I’m the mother of a meth addict. Your blog has been a great help in understanding my sons behavior. More than anything else, it makes me feel better about wanting to love my son thru this when everyone else wants to criticize him and banish him from the family. Thank you for being there when people just need someone to talk to.

    • Joseph Sharp

      Thanks, Anne. I’m glad this helps. Addiction is a disease in the brain, not a poor moral choice. Sure, doing that first drug was a mistake. But, for the addict, once he’s done it once, his brain becomes hijacked by meth immediately and he’s, literally, no longer in charge. Feel free to email whenever you want, too. josephinrecovery at gmail.com.

  • Jeri Dawn Stringer Condie

    I have been addicted to meth for almost 20 years I am now 9 months ckean. But I’ve found myself very lonely and depressed and board. I hope this feeling is only temporary or I am afraid of relapse. Can any one tell me how long I will feel this way is it just part of recovery or is it something more

    • Joseph Sharp

      You may actually have clinical depression. 20 years of meth use takes the brain a long time to heal (usually about two years for total healing). Sounds to me like you might also be experiencing anhedonia, that’s the brain’s inability to experience pleasure. Everything seems flat and lifeless. This will PASS in time. It’s actually a good sign — it means the brain is healing. I’d take a look at a blog post here about “the Wall,” which is stage 3 of meth recovery:

      http://www.quittingcrystalmeth.com/hitting-the-wall/.

      With such longterm use, you could easily still be in that stage (stage 3). I know right know the temptation is to pick up and use again; you think, if life is going to be this empty why not just go ahead and use, at least I’ll feel something… but this is only your disease (addiction) lying to you. Remember anhedonia is the brain’s response to healing itself from meth use. Your brain is healing now. This will not last, Jeri. It may be a few more months or only weeks, but it will pass. Still, if it were me, I’d also check on getting some Wellbutrin or some other similar drug to help me through this period (I’m not giving medical advice, ask you doctor, please). But I do know Wellbutrin has been prescribed to help people coming off meth deal with their resulting depression. Hang in there. You can do this.