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If I was in a position of power that allowed me to make changes to the community that would help the families of those who suffer from substance abuse, I would begin with research. There is substance abuse everywhere, but not everyone is willing to be helped, or to allow their children to receive any kind of assistance from someone they don’t know or trust. The research will have to start in neighborhoods that have the biggest problems with drug sales, and the neighborhoods that have the highest alcohol sales. Those neighborhoods are the places to start with any kind of changes that may be implemented, but the changes are not limited to those locations, because of how far the reach of substance abuse extends. As someone who has dealt with being dependent on chemicals, I understand that chemical dependency and addiction are two different things, but there are people out there who don’t, and I want to spread knowledge and understanding. It is also important for people to know that people with substance abuse problems are not criminals, they are victims of a disease called addiction.
In order to start a new generation of understanding, youth informational programs are the best place to start teaching the effects of drugs and alcohol. Programs that will teach elementary school students what can happen if they or someone they love begins to abuse drugs or alcohol are good, but the programs need to teach how to handle situations like that as well. When I was in fifth grade, I had a D.A.R.E. officer come to my class a few times, but he only told us what kinds of drugs were out there in the world, such as alcohol and cigarettes. The programs that I want to implement in elementary schools will teach how to handle being in a situation where a parent is too drunk, or too stoned, to be able to take care of their children. Young minds need to understand that someone that needs to drink to get through the day, or someone that needs to get that drug fix, is someone that needs help. No matter how much love a child has for their parents, children need to know what to do and who they can call to get their parents the help they need. My elementary school program needs to provide knowledge and support to kids who will find themselves in a situation that requires them to be stronger than any child should ever have to be. My program will show kids that there is a better life out there for those with families suffering from substance abuse. My program will show kids how to get help for their parents without feeling like they are betraying their families. I will make sure children know what can happen to their lives if they become dependent on harmful substances such as nicotine, alcohol, or any other drug. Those people that are suffering from the disease known as addiction may not see their dependency as an addiction until it is too late to change. If a parent is addicted, it may take their child looking them in the eye and telling them that their addiction is going to hurt their whole family, especially if they don’t find some help.
When it comes to research, the gathering of information can only go so far in providing insight into a neighborhood or community. In terms of substance abuse, local liquor stores are a great place to start asking questions about how much they sell, and if their alcohol sales are higher with certain people. Unfortunately, it is hard to find people that have the authority to receive information like that without making people feel threatened, like a police officer might. If a familiar face can build up trust with those they are trying to gain information from, then people in power can begin to cut off the supply line for those who depend on the chemicals. As that trust builds more and more, probably with an undercover operation, the police can monitor neighborhoods for people who are displaying signs of withdrawal, and can interfere when situations escalate.
As someone who is dependent on certain chemicals myself, I understand that not everyone knows that there is a problem with something they do every day. My personal dependency is with the medications I take daily to be able to function in a semi-normal manner due to my fibromyalgia, but I’ve watched people I love go through addiction without realizing how much they’re hurting the people around them. If I was given the power to change the way substance abuse could alter a family, I would make sure that there were informational flyers up in every liquor store, and even grocery stores. If information about how to get someone the help they need was readily available to both the people actually using their drug of choice, and to the families of the abusers, then maybe there would be less horror stories about chemical dependency. My uncle has been an alcoholic since he was in high school. He has been to rehab and detox more times than I can count, but it never sticks, because he can’t handle reality and he can’t remember some of the worst things he has done. I’ve tried to remind him, and I’ve tried to point him in the right direction, but no matter what I do, he always turns back to alcohol. His mom and I have finally convinced him that heroin and cocaine are not the answer. He promised my dad that he would look out for me, but instead I do the best I can to look out for him, regardless of what nasty things he says under the influence of drugs and alcohol. I’ve called his local authorities, I’ve driven him to detox, I’ve called his pastor who runs an out-of-state rehab, and I’ve looked him square in the eye and told him how angry it would have made my dad to see him in the condition he is in now. Talking about my dad is the only thing that has ever really sunk in for him, because he knows my dad would have slapped him silly and dragged him off to detox in the woods. Sometimes a person who is dependent on harmful chemicals will be able to see reason when they are confronted with the things they’ve done, sometimes they just need a swift kick in the rear, and sometimes they need to be sent to jail to finally understand that they need help.
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