It is no secret that West Virginia has a problem. Truthfully, the word “problem” fails to grasp the true magnitude of what is happening here in the Mountain State.
They call us pillbillies. In the (not so) distant past, one of our larger towns, Huntington, was declared the opioid capital of the country. We have more opioid related deaths than anywhere else. Check out this article in the New Yorker about the crisis.
There is another “problem,” though, and one almost as deadly and dangerous as the pills, and the heroine that eventually shows up on the scene. That problem is a little more complex, a little more deep rooted and hard to define. There are several words that come to mind–cold-heartedness, pride, snobbiness, judgmental (that’s a good one), and down right cruelty.
Consider the recent story about some teenagers who not only watched, but filmed, as a man drowned. The obvious outranged reaction of nearly everyone in the country has been everything from disdain to down right rage. I’ve seen comments suggesting that the guillotine be brought back in to service. While I’m not calling for any beheading, the story makes me sick. I think it is a sad testament to how this current generation of teens has developed empathy (or the lack thereof.) But that’s a post for another day.
At any rate, we can all pretty much agree that standing by and watching, laughing, and filming while someone drowns is not acceptable behavior.
The people of West Virginia are drowning, and yet somehow we have deemed it acceptable to stand by and watch.
There are conflicting reports as to where opioid addiction starts. Some reports say that users start with prescriptions. Others say that is not the case. It is generally accepted that opioid pill abuse leads to heroine, which is about one tenth the price of the pills, which, incidentally, have been shipped into this state by the truck load.
Let me sum up my feelings on this matter by paraphrasing a statement from the novel Warm Bodies: once you reach the end of the world, the road you took to get there hardly matters.
This post isn’t about the opioid epidemic. It isn’t about the causes of addiction, which are as diverse as the addicts themselves. It’s about the rest of us–the non-addicts, if you will.
We’re watching our neighbors drown.
I’m as guilty as the rest. I get frustrated and talk about “the druggies” and “the pill heads” and bitch about how law enforcement isn’t doing anything about it, and how you can’t even walk around in a small town that, by definition, should be one of the safest places in the world. I get it. It sucks.
I’m not telling you to invite these people to sleep in your house at night. Maybe, though, we might do well to stop and realize that these “druggies” are still people. Sadly, so many of them are young people who are following in the deadly footsteps of parents who were hooked even before their doomed children were born. They are moms and dads and grandparents and cousins and uncles. In short, they are just people–people who are drowning.
And all we are doing is judging them. We are watching them drown, and lots of times we are filming it as well.
I see it every day, especially on the accursed Facebook, where the whole population feels entitled to the role of armchair quarterback. We wag our heads and make faces of disgust. Druggies. Pill heads. Worthless losers.
We are trying to do something about the overdose death rate. Early this year, Naloxone was distributed across the state to be administered to overdose cases. It reverses the respiratory depression caused by opioid overdose. It is on hand for paramedics, police officers, and even in some schools.
Are people glad about that? I’ll let you guess.
Need more time? Or did you figure it out already?
The amount of negative commentary on this lifesaving drug is astounding, especially when you consider how many of these naysayers are “Christians.” Why should our tax dollars go to save these druggies? People are going without health insurance and are struggling to make ends meet, and you are taking our hard earned dollars and giving them to the pill heads. Let them die. They have made their own beds, let them lay in them, right?
Shame on anyone who feels this way. Shame on any who get on social media and brag about how they and their family exist on some higher astral plane than the rest of us sinners, how they and their sainted families have never dealt with addiction because they are Godly and the rest of us are not. Shame on Sunday morning “Christians” who sit in the pew and praise Jesus, then go out into the world and speak words worthy of the Devil himself. Shame. Shame, shame, shame.
I think each and every one of us who hasn’t been stricken with this epidemic had better drop down on our knees right now and say a prayer that we have been spared. I think we better take a minute to remember that if we live without compassion, we are living an empty life–a selfish life full of self-important goals and ideas. We have forgotten that each of us has just a short time here, and each of us is fragile–as fragile as blown glass. To judge and sneer and turn our backs on our neighbors seems to me the greatest sin of all.
I know I’m guilty, too, but I’m trying. I’m trying to realize that I have no idea what struggles other go through every day. I know what it’s like to have an addictive personality. I know what escapism is. If you go to the fridge or the pantry when you are stressed, you do too. None of us are immune.
To the pseudo Christians out there, allow me to leave you with this, some verses from the Book of Matthew, chapter 25, starting with verse 40: Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Now skip ahead to verse 45: He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.