In September 2013 I wrote a speech for Raleigh Councilman Bonner Gaylord when he was addressing the Capital Area Rally for Recovery. It was a topic which was very personal for him and he had previously not spoken about how addiction in his family had impacted him. After the speech went went on to host a RaleighPlus hangout on the topic as well.
After the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I thought it appropriate to post this speech and help push the policy conversation about how we treat people with this disease and their families.
This was his speech:
I grew up in a big, fun, loving family that made us feel like we would always be safe from the pain and sadness in this world. But addiction is blind to race, class or creed.
It is a disease that bankrupts families, leaves loved ones homeless, and brings pain, sadness, and destruction the likes of which I never could’ve imagined. My brother has fought addiction for well over a decade and I have seen the devastation addiction causes with my own eyes, through my own tears.
All of you are here because you love someone who is suffering. Maybe this is new for you, maybe you have been alongside your loved ones fighting for years, like me, or maybe the addict you love didn’t make it.
But you are here surrounded by others that share or have shared the same daily fight. I stand here today as just another brother in our family of suffering.
Our legal families already quietly suffer with our brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children.
Loving without enabling. Is there anything quite as hard as loving an addict?
But without good resources and policies that help them recover, it’s like treating cancer with warm milk and good night’s sleep. Many of our loved ones end up on the street, forced into the center of debates about who gets to feed whom and whether they are a blight to our parks. We must treat this disease with love and with put faces to those whom society views as faceless.
It’s funny. I recently read an article that Raleigh is one of the toughest cities to climb out of poverty in. I hear the General Assembly is requiring drug tests for people to get needed services, I see the failed war on drugs continue, I see addicts without help – I can see why it’s tough to climb out of poverty here.
All in the name of individual responsibility? This is not fiscal responsibility! This is not how we treat our families… especially when they’re sick!
But we have a voice. As taxpayers, PTA parents, churchgoers and community members we have the opportunity to share our experiences with our colleagues and friends. We have the responsibility to share our stories with neighbors and our congregations.
I’ve shared my story with you, now you can do the same for others.
And we have the right to put those words into votes every time we have the opportunity.
Let’s bring awareness of this disease our loved ones suffer! Let’s demand better resources for them! Let’s tell our policy makers that these people are not criminals or blights on our society, but rather our family members who deserve support and treatment!