“Start addressing the root causes of addiction and crime so we can stop the cycle.”
As a child, I lived a double life. I was a quiet student during the day, then I returned home to a life of turmoil and trauma. I switched schools almost every year. When I was just a young girl, I was sexually molested. As a young person I had no way of processing all of that. I was introduced to drugs very young and turned to them as a way to cope because help was not offered to me. If someone would have checked on me as a child or asked questions about me, maybe I would have had a better chance. I suffered from drug addiction as a teen and an adult, and I was incarcerated for drug possession.
It wasn’t until 44-years-old that I got access to treatment and help. That saved my life. It wasn’t from the justice system, but I finally got the treatment I needed to get clean. Today, I am a peer support specialist, working with people on their various pathways to recovery from addiction and mental health challenges. I myself am celebrating five years clean and sober.
My experience is not unique. So many people I met in jail had similar life stories. All too often, unaddressed trauma leads to drug use, and drug use leads to incarceration. As in my case, what was needed from the start was support. We need to look at these things differently as a society. Incarceration isn’t the way to treat addiction. People need treatment, and with limited public safety dollars, we can’t afford to keep short-changing treatment programs while we spend billions on prisons and jails.
Stigmas need to be lifted so that people feel like they can ask for help without feeling ashamed or being labeled as bad. We need more programs in place to check in with young people and increase access to treatment they need.
Anyone that is drowning deserves a lifeline. Treatment gives people that lifeline. That is why shifting funding away from incarceration and towards treatment is so important for those dealing with drug addiction. We need to start addressing the root causes of addiction and crime so we can stop the cycle.