Our fading social support system...
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Note: This editorial was originally published in the January 2018 edition of Life on Capitol Hill. It discusses subjects meant for a mature audience.
What's your take on drug addiction? Are addicts a problem to be forgotten—just a bunch of losers who need to "get it together"—or are they people who've gotten hooked while trying, for a very short span of time, to forget about the darker aspects of their lives for a while?
I'll show my cards: as someone who has had on-again-off-again struggles with drinking, I'm in the latter camp. Recently I've gotten a decent handle on my drug of choice, though who knows what the future will bring. I will say that as the spans between drinks has grown, I have come to realize—remember, really—that no matter how well-crafted the beer or the wine, the end goal was usually the same: drink until the desired numbness was achieved.
My personal opinion: most people who believe perseverance alone is enough have not actually endured the prospect of a truly bleak, truly hopeless future. Though I am not naive enough to believe perseverance is enough, I openly admit I must add myself to the ranks of the naive in general because, as I say above, I’ve always had someone in my corner.
Changing subjects just slightly: maybe you’ve heard through other local news channels that Arapahoe House is closing? Maybe you heard about it in passing and assumed it operated somewhere other than in the heart of the Denver metro area. Not true. The Arapahoe House Denver Clinic is—was—at the corner of West Fifth Avenue and Acoma Streets, one block south of Denver Health. The network of which this facility was a part served over 5,000 people a year, people struggling with addiction. I’m sure you’ve heard the nation and Colorado are struggling with an opioid crisis of epic proportions? According to various news sources, heroin killed 228 people in Colorado last year, and the number of people seeking treatment for opioid abuse has exploded.
We needed Arapahoe House now more than ever. What caused it’s shuttering? Insufficient federal and state funding. But is it the government or are we to blame? I believe we as individuals are in charge of our collective situation, but I feel more and more alone in that belief.
Anyway, another personal factoid: I come from a loving family and have a great support network. I have a loving wife and friends I can lean on. As Denver’s homeless crisis demonstrates, there are many thousands locally and hundreds of thousands nationally who are not so lucky. And, beyond the homeless, there’s a growing army of working poor (the numbers of which will only grow under the current administration's policies) who find themselves in the same boat: they have nowhere to turn if faced with addiction.
So, you might say, why do the drugs in the first place? Buck up! Hang on! Take pride in what you do have! These are the words spoken by those who have not been faced by the truly bleak future afforded so many in an economy crumbling from underneath, built on a foundation of temp and on-demand gigs. Add kids to the equation? The stress under which many of our neighbors are living would drive even the most red-blooded and naively self-assured of us to look for a quick fix.
My personal opinion: most people who believe perseverance alone is enough have not actually endured the prospect of a truly bleak, truly hopeless future. Though I am not naive enough to believe perseverance is enough, I openly admit I must add myself to the ranks of the naive in general because, as I say above, I’ve always had someone in my corner. There’s always been a glimmer: a memory of a teacher or coach urging me on, a friend on the other end of the line, my parents dropping in to make sure everything’s all right…
Also, I may be naive and might not know true hopelessness, but I do feel informed enough to say that the crisis here in Denver is just now beginning.