Addiction is an illness

My name is Robin Barton.

I am the mother of a recovering addict. She is now over five years clean. Because of her/our journey through active addiction, I have become an advocate. I have spoken at the Ohio Statehouse before the Senate, House of Representatives and Criminal Justice System. President Obama quoted from a letter I wrote him when he signed CARA.

I have spoken to groups and churches and belong to Community Coalition for Opiate Relief Efforts in Logan County. My daughter and I did an interview with Maria Durant at ABC 6 a year ago telling a piece of our story. I tell you all this just so you have a little of my background. Spreading the truths of addiction and this epidemic is of utmost importance to me and if you could help me do this by sharing this I would be so grateful:

It seems like forever I have battled the “addicts choose to use” or “they could stop if they wanted” comments. From the beginning of my advocacy, a huge, huge battle has been educating on the truths of addiction so these comments will end.

THEY ARE SICK. THEY USE BECAUSE THEY ARE SICK.

I have shared many times that I have never met an addict who said they love this life; I chose it and it is wonderful. Not one time in years have I heard that. I hear and have seen and felt the opposite. They are crying out for help because without it they are not strong enough to stay clean on their own and they know it. They FEEL it.

These comments to and about them make them even weaker as they feel the judgment of a society that has no idea how badly they want to be free of this hell. And how their words add to the destruction of their being. And how often they do seek treatment that is not there. For many, over and over they hear “there is no room for you today.”

Addiction is a disease and I need you to believe this. I need you to reach out and help us in whatever capacity you can.

Per Dr. Michele Pole, director of psychological services at Caron Treatment Center, “No one with a substance use disorder should live under the illusion there is no hope. A major challenge to treating substance abuse is the mistaken belief recovery is simply a matter of willpower. Substance use disorders are a form of chronic brain disease. Once addiction takes hold, the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which governs decision making, becomes chemically subordinate to the need to keep using. In other words, addiction damages the brain’s ability to make rational decisions.”

She goes on to say like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, addiction can be managed, but not cured and it is unrealistic to expect to emerge from 30 days of rehab free from addiction. Addiction is a disease.

A dear friend of mine came to me recently and told me with tears in her eyes something she had witnessed with those eyes. She had been in the waiting room at a medical facility in Columbus the night before. She said a young woman came in with a back pack and duffel bag. She was an addict seeking treatment. She mentioned Mary Haven, a much sought after treatment facility in Columbus. There was no bed for her at Mary Haven. There was no bed for her anywhere. Her bags packed, she sought help. Only to be turned away. She was brave. She faced her fears and reached out in hoes of treatment. She chose help. Help that wasn’t there. As my friend sat there, a young man came in. Shaking, sweating, withdrawing. He, too, asked for help. He, too, mentioned Mary Haven. As sick as this man was, there was no help for him. As she walked by him, she touched him and he looked up at her as she wished him good luck. His eyes filled with tears as he thanked her. There was no place for him to go. Without help he will use again. And maybe he will die. He chose to seek help. It was not there. Utter hopelessness felt by two people who chose help. This happens all day long every single day in this country. In your community. This is inhumane and it must end.

I ask that you please, please get involved in your community and help us find treatment and hope for those who choose to be well. You can make a difference in someone's life. You could save a life.

Please pray for those who are sick and suffering with addiction. And for their loved ones.

Robin Barton is a Bellefontaine native who currently resides in Hilliard. She watched her daughter struggle with drug abuse and alcohol addiction for 10 years before finding long term recovery. She volunteers with the Community Coalition for Opiate Relief Efforts InLoganCounty. She can be reached at atrobinaz1007@yahoo.com