KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — “Nobody has ever woke up and said, ‘I’m going to rob my mom today so I can get my drugs.’ Nobody does that,” stated Kevin Haines, executive director of A Bridge to Hope and recovering alcoholic. “What people need to know is addicts don’t decide they want to live this life.”
Research and studies have proven addiction is a disease — one that can be linked to family genetics, trauma, mental health issues, environment and just about everything else that can shape a person’s life.
Addiction manifests in a variety of ways and is linked to a variety of things, yet the stigma surrounding it is unforgiving and brutal to the extent addicts are afraid to take the first step in asking for help.
That’s where the Indiana System of Care subcommittee, Substance Use Recovery and Treatment, steps up.
SURT is a group of individuals working to address substance use disorders in Kosciusko County, educate the public about the realities of addiction and cultivate an understanding space where addicts can come forward for help.
Through a five-part series SURT will be spreading awareness and confronting misconceptions and stigmas surrounding addiction. Understanding addiction and personal accounts of recovery are just a few topics that will be included in the series.
Another one of SURT’s goals is to attract more services to the area as the ones already present are being shared with surrounding counties.
Tammy Cotton, Rose Garden Recovery Community, stated her friend who is an EMT gets an overdose call every day. According to Cotton’s research, 97% of those with substance use disorder have experienced trauma in their life.
“We have to get to the root of the problem,” urged Cotton. “They’re going to relapse, even if they’re going through a recovery program, if they’re not focusing and dealing with that trauma.”
On top of educating the public, she plans to focus on employers in the community. According to Cotton, 60% of those with substance use disorder are employed — meaning those in recovery are constantly exposed to substances in their work environment and could struggle with not relapsing.
“When you look at it as a disease, it’s in a class of its own. It’s a unique disease because it involves a personal choice,” said Ben Irvine, True Purpose Ministries and recovered addict. “I think the reason why some people are up in arms in calling it a disease is they feel like it’s taking away the personal responsibility people have to an addiction.
“There are choices involved with addiction but that doesn’t take away from facts. There are people who may have the disease of addiction but they’ve never used drugs — but if they tried it one time, they would be an addict.”
People are only human. One misstep shouldn’t result in a lifetime of punishment.
There are physical differences in the brain between a non addict who tries alcohol versus someone who has a genetic link to addiction who tries alcohol. The outcomes aren’t the same. Additionally if someone starts using substances before 25-years-old, when the brain is fully developed, that addiction can completely stop brain development.
“We need to be better in how we handle it,” advised Haines. “There is no easy answer to this. It’s a difficult subject that people don’t want to talk about, but it’s not going away.”
The first article of the series will be published next week, Wednesday, May 1, in The Mail-Journal and on InkFreeNews.com.