Addiction has far-reaching implications

The people I’ve dealt with over the years certainly live a different life.

I’ve had so many probationers who meet untimely deaths. Right now, it’s an epidemic of the number who are dying from heroin and other drug overdoses. I really don’t have any idea what to write to help people understand this, since I don’t understand it myself.

Back in the early 1980s when I started my career, we had a large number of IV drug abusers. In my last article, I wrote that respect for oneself shows self-control and self-worth. I can’t understand how these people lose that self-respect. As bad as I feel for the abusers, I feel even worse for their families and friends who see the path of self-destruction and feel helpless.

Obviously these people are so addicted they don’t care at the time and therefore need all the help they can get. While writing this, I’m thinking of the five people I have coached over the years who are dead because of overdoses, all within a short period of time.

Multiple times I’ve had people I’ve worked with who have led police on a high-speed pursuit. Too many times, they crash and die. What’s sad is they also sometimes crash and take the life of an innocent person as well. Yes, most of them are either drunk or high on something. Many of the people I’m mentioning are people who have put themselves in danger, doing things that are dangerous and ultimately paying the price of their life.

The part I really hurt over is the innocent people who lose their lives due to actions of others.

I have dealt with about every murder case in Hancock County over the past 33 years. I meet with the offenders and conduct an interview and submit a presentence investigation to the court, so the judge knows more about the individual before deciding on sentencing. A major portion of this task is obtaining a victim’s statement from either the victim or the loved ones of a victim.

It is beyond words to be able to express the pain and sorrow I’ve witnessed from these victims who have lost a loved one due to greed, heat of passion or irresponsibility due to intoxication on drugs or alcohol.

When I started, I thought it would be easier because I figured most of these defendants would have to be nuts. Trouble is, I discovered they were not nuts, just sometimes evil and sometimes not in their right mind — again, because they were intoxicated on something.

Again, I don’t know what to say to make people understand the dangers of substance abuse.

Hancock County is an amazing community; however, we have problems here, too. What is worse is just 10 miles away, it’s almost a war zone. Indianapolis ranks in the top 10 of murders in the United States. Many are bad people killing other bad people; however, there are always the innocent people who suffer as well. Why is this happening? Drugs.

Even if you think you have done it, take a few minutes to express to your children the benefits of remaining clean and sober.

Also remember, addicts are not a lost cause. Addiction is a disease that will need to be managed for life, but a person can certainly overcome chemical dependency. In reality, modern addiction treatment practices can help people escape the grip of drugs and alcohol. With the right tools and support, they can go on to do great things in life.

No one in their right mind would choose to live the life of an addict. It’s a lonely and depressing existence. Addicts feel like prisoners. And no matter how much they try to deny it, we all know — on some level — that they can’t stop on their own. Admitting they’ve lost self-control is a terrifying thought that is present every moment of every day. How eager would you be to live that life?

There’s also a huge misconception that punishment can “scare” addicts into sobriety. However, there’s a big difference between sending someone to prison where the access to drugs is virtually cut off and finding lasting sobriety through recovery.

Look, it’s easy to get clean in prison. But without the tools of recovery, relapse is virtually guaranteed upon return to society. When threatened with punishments like arrest or incarceration, rational people modify their behaviors. Addicts, however, are living with a disease where the emotional and motivational need for drugs totally outweighs the threat of negative consequences.

It’s not easy, but people can beat addiction. Trouble is, way too many lose the battle. I, for one, will continue to fight the fight, one person at a time.

Wayne Addison is chief probation officer for the Hancock County Probation Department.