As our community reels from the TMZ reported overdose and subsequent heart attack of hip hop icon, DMX, we are reminded of the toll drug addiction takes on some of our lives. It is easy to look at a person struggling with addiction and say, “They are not strong enough.” Or, “They are weak-minded.” But, I have found that people who are addicted are often fighting a battle that has nothing to do with the drug itself. So, I wanted to share seven reasons to have compassion for someone who struggles with addiction.
1. The struggle has nothing to do with drugs.
As a television producer who has worked with numerous addicts, I can say that 95% of the time, the drug user is fighting another battle. Whether they have been molested, abused, mistreated, abandoned, or something like it, most drug users who are willing to talk about their pain, can tell you when their pain started. Their pain started before they began using drugs. In many cases, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental illness is involved with the person who is turning to drugs for self-medication.
2. Our society overprescribes opioids.
In recent years we’ve learned about the addictive nature of opioids which are routinely prescribed for anything from back pain, muscle aches, to recovering from surgery and the like. Doctors know of how addictive the medications are and prescribe them anyway. Many doctors aren’t worried about turning a patient into an addict.
3. Drug addiction can happen to anyone.
DMX once shared the story of how he was first introduced to crack. It had been laced in a joint. From there, he admitted that his life changed. My work in the area of drug addiction has allowed me to speak with hundreds of addicts and their families. At first, the Mom who had medicated her depression with alcohol surprised me. Then, I met the Mom who had medicated her depression with heroin. In both cases, their depression had gone unchecked but their need to numb themselves had not. Like me, they were Moms who were booked, busy, and stressed out. Not knowing how to ask for help, they used what came easiest for them, and in a flash, they became full-blown addicts.
4. Getting help isn’t as easy as it seems.
Some states offer affordable and favorable programs to help with addiction. Others, not so much. Just as a hospital or doctor’s office will turn you away if you don’t have insurance, addicts seeking help are routinely turned away. America is a place that promotes drug use and yet has not created a favorable system to help drug users. There aren’t enough beds or funding in America to deal with our addiction crisis. And so, drug addiction flourishes.
5. Most addicts don’t want to be addicts.
I’ve talked with crack, cocaine, speedball, heroin, meth, alcohol users, and not one of them has ever told me, “Yep. I’m happy to be an addict. When I dreamed of what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be an addict.” That has never been said to me. Addiction happens. But, there is a wound created before the first hit of crack, or before the first injection of heroin. When the wound heals, it makes healing from addiction easier.
6. Addiction has crept up on many people.
First, it is a glass of wine after dinner every night. Then, it’s some wine at lunch. Then without realizing it, the person is having alcohol at breakfast. Drugs numb the pain the addicts are feeling. In numbing the pain, addiction happens without seeing the toll it’s about to take on the person’s life. Imagine taking an aspirin every time to get a headache. The aspirin takes the pain away. But imagine waking up with the pain of being emotionally abused. It’s there with you 24 hours a day. You start to drink to numb the pain. You want to drink all the time because the pain is with you all the time.
7. Forgiving oneself is often a large part of getting over addiction.
No one is perfect. Not you. Not the addict that you know. I can’t tell you how many addicts feel remorse for the lives they lead and for the people they’ve disappointed or hurt. Carrying around the pain and burden of addiction is heavy. Not everyone has learned how to forgive themselves. Therefore, they don’t know how to leave their addiction behind.
Over the course of his career, DMX spoke out about his demons and spoke about addiction. We thank him for his transparency. We’re praying for him and his family. For everyone in this community, I hope you remain healthy and strong. Seek help if you need it. No one is perfect. We all have flaws, seen and unseen. Be encouraged.
(All photos in this story courtesy of DMX Instagram.)