• South Carolina Recovery Housing Association

Dignity for Drug Users

How do we feel and think about drug users? I know for many years I believed that if someone using drugs needed my help they needed to do what I did. They had to come to my recovery fellowship. “Take the cotton out of their ears and put it in their mouths."I’d command in frustration at times. These kids need to get with the program as I would sit in the back my hair turning gray and my mind not real open.

Rude awakenings can definitely lead to spiritual awakenings. I saw more and more of these kids dying. Drugs were becoming more dangerous. Kids weren’t relapsing, wrecking cars and stealing wallets, they were and are dying at alarming rates alI around us. I went to funerals and held moms who were mourning from a depth I couldn’t comprehend only feel this overwhelming powerlessness.

Something changed in me spiritually, maybe I had been wrong about some things. What if my pathway to recovery wasn’t for everyone? How could I begin to just help others whatever that looked like where they were? It might mean therapy, medication, a solid recovery community organization. The fact was they were alive and how could I help someone’s son or father remain in their lives. I reflected on my own journey and remembered being told to get it together, I needed to find Jesus and didn’t love God enough, only to try what they suggested really hard and only to get high all over again. Maybe for me I was a hopeless human being and God loved those people but I was way too far gone.

This took me farther into isolation and despair. What if we began meeting drug users with dignity? What if we started to treat them not as a moral failure but as someone with a treatable and preventable disease? After all we don’t tell the guy having multiple heart attacks that he needs to pull it together. We don’t shame him to exercise and eat a better diet. We don’t tell him he needs to love God more or find Jesus. We get them treatment and encourage them to seek recovery in a lifestyle change.

That’s why drug users who are met with dignity and harm reduction are five times more likely to seek and respond to treatment. To look at another human being, someone’s loved one and say, “Here is some narcan, a clean needle, a fentanyl test strip. I care about you as a human being and am here if you decide you need help." Let’s support and treat those with substance use disorders as the preventable and treatable disease it is.