It was with great sadness I read of the passing of Gregory Michael McPartlin Jr, a young man who struggled with Opioid Use Disorder and was certainly loved immensely by his family. The bravery his family showed by being open about his disease and honoring Gregory’s life is noble. Not many people are willing to face community discrimination and stigma associated with addictive illness, and so they remain silent. Stigma is when society views something as shameful, unacceptable, or bad - regardless of whether or not that is the reality. Stigma surrounding addictive illness is a silent killer and wrecks havoc in families. Society often blames addiction on the person struggling with the disease, proclaiming their choices are what got them into the situation. For many people, one dose of the addictive substance is all it takes to set their addiction in motion. Addictive illness affects everyone in the family - not just the person with the illness. People and families who live with addictive illness do not need to be shamed. They need compassion, understanding, and empathy from friends and family members. Having strong connections to family and community and being able to talk openly about their struggles reduces stigma, helps families and individuals thrive, and supports people, helping them make better choices. These are the foundations of recovery from addictive illness.
Addiction and co-occurring mental illness touch 1 in 4 people in society. Since COVID-19, it is estimated this has increased by 30%. The rates of relapse in people living in long term recovery from addiction is profound, and is not being discussed. I encourage you to reach out to those who are struggling, talk openly about your and your family’s experiences. Sharing stories helps people feel less alone during difficult times. Please reach out! Many virtual support groups are available to those who are struggling. Local resources available are AA (http:// www.aasandiego.org/), AlAnon for family members struggling with a loved ones addiction (https://www.alanonsandiego.org/monday), NA (https://www.sandiegona.org/quarantined-na- on-line-meetings-san-diego/), NAMI San Diego for families struggling with mental health and addiction issues (https://namisandiego.org/calendar/). #yourvoicematters