Maybe you haven’t heard. The Wall is up, and sadly it’s working. It’s invisible, this Wall, and Donald Trump certainly didn’t give it the green light. And now he is in a position to maybe make it go away.
The Wall is the invisible barrier between drug and alcohol addiction and medical help, and idealistically, recovery and a second chance.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s report released in November on alcohol, drugs and health was nothing less than frightening. It reported that while one in seven people will end up with addiction in their lifetime, less than 10% of them will ever get treatment.
Here are the numbers: “In 2015, nearly 48 million Americans used an illicit drug or misused a prescription medication, approximately 67 million reported binge drinking in the past month, and nearly 28 million self-reported driving under the influence in the past year.”
President-elect Trump had an older brother, Freddy, who drank himself to death. According to the New York Times, Trump referred to his big brother’s drinking as “the problem.” Trump told me over lunch years ago that’s one of the reasons he has never tasted alcohol. And in the few times he brought up addiction on the campaign trail he seemed amazed that huge parts of New England are part of a heroin epidemic.
I’m fairly confident that most Americans today know somebody who has “the problem.”
The medical community is just starting to catch up. If it weren’t for some sections of Obamacare, nobody would be covered for this pre-existing condition. The fact is, addiction is a brain disease. It’s not a choice. It’s not a moral problem. No alcoholic or drug addict ever woke up one day and said, “I think I want to die today.” But there’s nothing on paper that reduces the stigma.
Just as we don’t look down at cancer patients or people who suffer with diabetes, we should never look down on the addicts: they are in our churches, our homes, our streets, on the highways, in schools and just about everywhere, secretly praying for relief.
It’s a war, and once again, drugs and alcohol are winning most of the battles. For starters, it is necessary to look at it an entirely different way and pour money into it. This could be our biggest infrastructure problem.
So many people are in trouble and, yes, dying that the wall between the addict and the treatment has got to go.
And Mr. Trump, if you really want to be at least something like Ronald Reagan, you’ll paraphrase that historic demand to Russia’s Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. In other words, Mr. Trump, tear down THIS wall. Even if for the memory of Freddy.
Pat O’Brien has been an important voice in news, sports and entertainment for 35 years. He is an Emmy-winning news reporter. He is very active in the recovery community and has been sober for eight years.
Originally published at medium.com