How To Stop Blaming Others For The Opioid Epidemic

opioid epidemic

The blame game is alive and well, but we need to stop blaming others. The opioid epidemic grows while we as a society are blaming others and judging those who are addicted to the opioid drugs. We must work together for a viable resolution to this epidemic, and here are my suggestions.

It appears to be human nature for us to want to find a reason, cause, or another person to blame for something that has happened to us or to a loved one. Think of how easy it is for us to throw blame around when we are caught practically red-handed in an act. How did we learn this?

The blame game has been with us since our earliest days of childhood. As a child, we tried the excuse that someone else made me do it to see if that excuse would work. Depending on your childhood it had varying success, yet any time that it worked we learned that blaming was a viable excuse. As we’ve grown into adulthood many of us continue to use this excuse.

Many of my clients want to find who is to blame for the way they are today. They are convinced that if they find out which parent or sibling created the current negative thoughts or behaviors all would somehow magically be well. Yet this isn’t the case, so I don’t allow my clients to go down that path.

Bonus: Download Chris Shea’s booklet on Life Coaching & is it for me? Click here to get it

When my clients, or even ourselves, wish to find someone in the past to blame for our current situation all that we are doing is avoiding our responsibility and our actions for making a change today. Even if there were someone from our past legitimately responsible and whom we could blame, how would that change who I am today? All that does is to serve as knowledge but doesn’t give me anything to do that will change how I feel or act today. Therefore, I stay away from the blame game in all situations as it serves no purpose in the present but only to educate us about the past. So even if a client’s parents were to blame for their current situation it is still up to the client themselves to make the necessary changes which will make their lives better. The same goes for the blame game when it comes to addiction and the opioid epidemic.

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve worked with thousands of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, guiding them into lives of recovery. Each of them needed to work on their present lives and make changes so that their recovery would be a daily way of life. Blaming their families, communities, doctors, or Pharmaceuticals only serves to focus our anger away from what needs to be dealt with at the present moment. At this moment we need to take action and make changes as a society or else this opioid epidemic will not end.

I don’t write this out of a naive ignorance to the societal factors and big business practices which led to the epidemic and opioid overdose deaths we are encountering today. I can make a very long list of who I would blame for this opioid epidemic, but as I’ve stated, what’s the point? What we need right now are solutions and actions to ensure that this epidemic does not become a generational epidemic.

I suggest that the first change which needs to be made is a philosophical shift in how we as individuals and society think of addiction. Many in society do not believe that addiction is a disease unlike any other mental health or medical disease. Their blaming the person with the addiction only serves as a moral judgment on a person’s character. Yet if that same person were to suffer from any other chronic medical disease they would receive the proper care without question and without judgment.

For example, a person who is discharged from addiction treatment and later relapses is judged for their lack of willpower and character. In many instances, they are not allowed back into treatment or they are told to find a different treatment facility. Yet a person who is discharged from the hospital recovering from a heart attack who is told what changes they need to make in their physical activity, as well as diet, are not judged or criticized if they fail to make those changes and end up with another heart attack. What’s the difference? The one person did not follow the recommendations of their treatment provider and returned to drug use while the other person did not follow the recommendations of their treatment provider and had another heart attack. Yet the person who suffers the second heart attack will be readmitted to the hospital without question nor judgment. This societal attitude must change!

What can we do to make a difference in solving this opioid epidemic? Here are my suggestions:

  1. Educate ourselves on the current state of the opioid epidemic and learn about your local resources available to help those suffering from addiction and struggling in recovery.
  2. Gather as a neighborhood or community pooling together your resources to work on viable solutions unique for your community. As a society, we need to stop saying that we want this epidemic to stop while at the same time deny the building of treatment centers or recovery housing near or in our neighborhoods.
  3. Doctors and Mental Health Counselors need to be educated about the addiction field and best practices for treating those who are in active recovery. As a counselor and an educator myself, I find it disheartening that the addiction courses I teach to those in the counseling profession are only electives and not mandatory courses. Medical professionals such as doctors are in the same educational situation where they may only have to take one addiction studies class in their entire career. This is not to blame either of these professions but to provide them the necessary knowledge and tools since they are in the front line of this epidemic.
  4. Be compassionate to those you know who are in recovery or still suffering from their active addiction, and don’t forget about their families who also need compassion and support.

If we tackle this opioid epidemic in light of its medical and mental health status we will turn this around and as a society, we will reap the rewards of a healthy populace.

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Happiness Is Not The Answer But Here’s What Is

inner peace happiness

Are you happy? The reason I ask is that many people tend to judge their life goals or where they are in life based on their level of happiness.

So, for our purposes, I describe happiness as “our level of satisfaction with what we have at the moment”.  Now, when we say, “with what we have,” that could be our material goods, job, career, relationships, or anything else. So, taken in the context of my definition of happiness, are you happy?  

This may sound strange, but I promote that happiness is not a goal to strive toward. Why would I stay away from a goal of happiness? Well, the reason that I say this is that we tend to look at happiness as “Am I satisfied with what I have right now?”  

The problem with that question is that the answer changes over time. I might, as a child, be satisfied in life playing with a cardboard box. But, all that changes when I become a teenager and young adult, as that box may no longer make me happy. As I advance through adulthood, the whole notion of happiness changes again.

Bonus: Download Chris Shea’s booklet on Life Coaching & is it for me? Click here to get it

So, when we look at the idea of “my life’s goal is to be happy,” are you saying you want to be happy right now, or are you talking about always being happy? If you want to always be happy, how are you going to do that? Is that a reasonable goal?

Happiness is a fleeting emotion which comes and goes. As such, happiness can’t be a life goal. This is why I don’t encourage people to seek happiness as a life goal.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not saying, “Don’t be happy.” It’s important to be happy and to want happiness. What I’m saying is that happiness to fleeting to be a goal. If you think back on your happiest moment, can you feel that emotion again?  If you can find that emotion again, can you live it to its fullest as you did then? Odds are, you can’t. Emotions are fleeting.

For me, I encourage people to find their inner peace. “What is inner peace? How can I achieve this inner peace?” I’ve come to realize that many of us feel stressed and anxious when we feel out of control.  So, if I’m dealing with something in life that I feel is totally out of my control, and I think there’s nothing that I can do about it, I’m going to feel pretty stressed over that because generally speaking, we like to be in control.  That’s just human nature.

When we’re not in control, then the stress goes up. When we find ourselves in situations we think is in our control, then our stress goes down. We can also find our inner peace when we are in union with ourselves.  What do I mean?

Think about your values, those ideals which are important to you.  What holds meaning for you? When you reflect on yourself, are you acting and thinking in ways that are in union with those values, those beliefs?

When we can become more in tune with what’s really important deep down then we begin to live that.  We think and act in ways that unite us with what we are thinking and doing. That’s when we start to feel an inner peace because we are joined with our values and actions. Therefore, I’m at peace with myself since I’m in union with myself.

When I do things that go against who I am I’m no longer in sync with who I am, then I’m going to lose that peace.

Here’s a quote I often use, from the Talmud, that says, “We don’t see things as they are.  We see things as we are.” In other words, the way that I believe about and view myself influences the way that I see the world around me; other people, situations, and the like.  

So, if I really don’t like myself, if I’m having issues with who I am, if there are things going on in me that seems negative, I am not going to look outside and say, “Oh, look at that wonderful sun,” or “Look at that beautiful sunset.”  No. That’s not how I’m going to view it because I don’t view myself that way.

Here’s a true story from when I was in college. There was this professor who, every morning, if you walked up to him and said, “Good morning,” he would look at you with the sternest look and reply, “Don’t tell me what kind of morning to have.” He was not a happy man.  He wouldn’t even let anybody sit with him during meals.

He had his reasons for this attitude given his history, but other people had similar histories as well and lived a more peaceful life. Yes, he had a reason to be upset, but even so, that was his past, and we still have the choice of how we wish to live in the present.

The bottom line is that we have choices in life. If you want to live miserably go ahead.  Live the way that you want to live, but don’t complain about the situation in which you’re living if this is something that you’re choosing to do. You can’t choose your circumstance but you can choose the way that you view that circumstance, and for me, this is why I don’t promote people saying, “Well, my life’s goal is to be happy.”

Happiness is too dependent upon feelings, too dependent upon things, too dependent upon situations.  You see if we promote living in conjunction with who we are and seek a life goal to find inner peace it doesn’t matter if I’m happy or not. Inner peace has nothing to do with my circumstance but everything to do with my response to the situation.

I could feel miserable; I could feel sad; I could feel angry; I could feel out of control; I could feel any of those things, but still have peace within myself because regardless of what I’m feeling, I’m acting and thinking in union with who I am.  

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