Lessons Learned from Someone Who Has Struggled With Addiction

Lessons Learned from Someone Who Has Struggled With Addiction by Lynn R. Webster @LynnRWebsterMD

In the February 19, 2018 Refinery29 documentary, producer Jacki Huntington shares the stories of Dr. Lipi Roy, Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Cortney Lovell. These women are working to solve the opioid crisis through their work in addiction medicine, drug policy, and recovery services.

Courage in Escaping the Grip of Addiction

In an accompanying essay, Cortney Lovell courageously tells her story of trying to escape the grip of addiction. Lovell has been in recovery for heroin addiction for ten years, and she understands the tremendous effort and frustration that goes into reentering society while bearing the stigma of addiction and a record of incarceration.

Lovell works as a recovery coach and addictions counselor. Her comments and insights are worthwhile because of her first-hand experience. Much of what America does wrong in addressing the opioid crisis can be seen in 4 revealing statements that Lovell shares.

Four Revealing Statements About Addiction

“I tried to end it all – to overdose and die and slip all the way into that darkness.” This is how lonely, isolated. and defeated a person with an addiction can feel. Too many people reach a point in their suffering when they believe suicide is the only option. They often want to be clean, but the addiction’s demands won’t let go. Understanding the grip the disease has on behavior is essential for understanding addiction.

The next two statements reflect the fear and torment people with addictions have.

“I knew the cops were looking for me.” Many people who want help feel that they can’t get it, for one reason or another. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems determined to reignite a “war on drugs” and to criminalize people with addiction. As a consequence, people in Lovell’s position know that they have broken laws and may have to face legal consequences. They fear the stigma associated with incarceration, and they lack the resources to fight it. Once a person has a legal record, their chance of finding a job diminishes. This often leads to a revolving door of drug use, incarceration, and back to drug use. Treatment is the only way to break the cycle. However, the treatment must be affordable and customized to serve each patient’s individual, long-term needs. Otherwise, treatment will only be another aspect of drug users’ revolving doors.

“I went through withdrawal in jail, in this cold, concrete box.” This is another illustration of the cruelty with which our legal system treats people with the horrific disease of addiction. Withdrawal from the substance of abuse would be more than punishment enough. To add incarceration to the mix seems tragic as well as abusive. This type of insensitive and abusive treatment leads to recidivism rather than healing.

“The self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love that I hadn’t had my whole life started to develop.” With these words, Lovell sums up the seeds of addiction and the basis of most self-destructive substance abuse. These feelings are often taught and perpetuated by our societal norms, cultural perceptions, and legal systems that target people with addictions. Most people who develop addictions have had emotional pain that was blunted, or replaced, with drugs. Feeling good or happy is what most people are seeking, but drugs don’t provide long-term relief from pain. Society doesn’t care about what causes the need or work to reduce the demand. Instead, users generally find that their drug-seeking behaviors are rejected and often legally, economically, and socially punished. This is a major reason why it is so incredibly difficult to escape the cycle.

The United States Can Do Much Better

The United States can do much better at addressing the opioid crisis. However, first, we must decide whether we want to punish people with mental health disorders or rehabilitate them. It seems clear to me that treating people with addiction would serve society better than incarcerating them.


  1. David W Cole on March 13, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Looks like dr. Jeff a****** sessions can’t get anything right, he sends his DEA Goons after good Dr, denies treatment for the addicted, tells pain patients to take 2 Advil and go to bed. Time for him to go, should have been put out to pasture long time ago.

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