The Intersection of Addiction, Suicide, and Stigma

“My demons up against me
I’m facing them now
I wear the face of a clown
I feel so unloved
Because of the monster
Created from drugs.”

Charles Aubrey Rogers, Rap Song, “Just to Hurt”

As most of you know I lost my son to suicide who suffered from an addiction to heroin. Many think he died from an intentional overdose. Not so. His death was far more desperate and visceral. My son would not have been counted in the stats of overdose deaths. We know 100k died of overdose. But what about all the other drug-related deaths? The accidents? The suicides as a result of addiction? Someone who is addicted is 7X more likely to die by suicide. It is a serious risk factor.

That 100k per year number doesn’t even come close to representing all we have lost to addiction. The feds acknowledge what a huge blow this is to our economy not having a segment of working adults due to the addiction crisis. There’s the cost to our policing, the criminal justice system and then those who are profiting from the tragedy in some really grotesque ways.

You think that stigma is only among uneducated parents and friends? Those prejudices are in our churches, schools, neighborhoods, the mental health system, & even the hospitals. How do I know? An area hospital turned my son down for a suicide assessment saying they didn’t take “those people” anymore meaning those who are addicted, making him feel less than human, like worthless piece of trash. He killed himself 2 weeks after that in utter despair. My heart still breaks over his desperation and being turned away.

I acknowledge my own prejudices during the time of his relapse. I wish I had said, “As much as I wish you would get well, I love you even if you didn’t.” Instead, I didn’t know what to do or say and didn’t reach out to tell him I loved him as much as I should have. Because the one thing we should never withdraw is our love. I did tell him I loved him but he needed to know it was unconditional. I needed to tell him more often over the course of that two weeks.

Shame drives those struggling with this disorder to use more when we yell or shame. It’s how the disorder works.

We need to meet them where they are.

Our attitude towards substance use disorder could literally save lives. So examine your own prejudices regarding addiction. I have. In my first book, I readily admitted to where I made errors and what I should have done differently. And I have forgiven myself. Because I can’t undo it. But I can seek change. And that’s what I do daily.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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