Updated: Feb 10, 2020
Twenty minutes ago, I walked my brother into a local Emergency Department.
We’re not biologically related. We claim each other.
I love my brother.
My brother has a horrible disease. His disease is trying to kill him. It will succeed if he does not receive the medical attention he needs immediately.
My brother is equally brave and desperate. He’s been here before. He knows what lies ahead.
My brother is going through Delirium Tremens. He shows outward signs of his body struggling to eliminate poison from his system.
His parting question to me, “What do I do if they kick me out of here in a few hours?” My answer was, “You call me.” Driving away I thought, “And what do we do then?” I hate every answer to that question.
Please, God, let them find a bed. Please God, make them care so much that he won’t be discharged to the street.
I met with the triage nurse who was clearly weirded out by me. I don’t know if it was just because it’s unusual that a professional accompany someone to the ED or because I was trying to impress upon a medically trained person that this is a life or death situation.
Please do NOT give me kudos for what I did. What I did today is simply what a human being should do.
Last night I sat in a presentation designed to garner community support for addiction recovery. I have sat more than a hundred of such meetings. Each time, I hear my friend Bob Fickett in my mind saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could conference our way out of addiction?”
I am so unbelievably f@cking angry. I am outraged. I am self-righteously rageful. Our current plight is not based on a lack of understanding but rather, a lack of care.
But my anger doesn’t help anyone.
I am incredibly afraid for my brother, but that doesn’t help anyone.
I hear my friend Ardis White in my mind. She addressed a panel of “experts” at a conference on addiction recovery. They were discussing the limitations of addiction treatment available due to a lack of finances and resources more than a dozen years ago. She said to them, “You’re counting beans and we’re counting bodies.”
I hate the disease of addiction. I hate that it takes away people I love.
No one should have to plead for their life. No one should have to beg for what is medically necessary to live. No one should have to hear, “I’m sorry, there just aren’t any beds. We’re discharging you and we encourage you to go to the homeless shelter.”
I am tired of hand-wringing. I am tired of people who talk about how complex the issues around addiction are. This much is simple: medically supervised detox helps people not die.
Even if you don’t support addiction recovery, you should care about where your tax dollars go. Paying for medical detox is cheaper than any other option that my brothers and sisters face – with the notable exception of death.
Please help. Please care. Please show up and demand change.
I promise you – 50 years from now, our great grandchildren will look back with bewilderment and embarrassment at how most of us responded to addiction in 2018.