As I write this, a few thousand of my friends are gathering on Penn's Landing for the annual PRO-ACT Recovery Walk. Most of them are recovering alcoholics and addicts and their families. The Walk is proceeded by an Honor Guard composed of individuals who have been in recovery for over ten years. Families carry banners showing their support for a friend or family member, honoring their battle with the disease of addiction. Some of the names on the banners memorialize those who have lost the struggle.
Everyone involved with the Recovery Walk knows and accepts this simple fact: Addiction is an illness.
Unfortunately, our society does not know this. If you don't believe me, try this experiment. Think of all the slang terms you know for addicts and alcoholics.
Junkie, drunk, dope fiend, crackhead, wino, lush, speedfreak, cokewhore, stoner, alkie....and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
Now think of all the slang terms you know for someone with leukemia. Or heart disease. Or Parkinson's Disease. Or cystic fibrosis or MS. Think of any?
I thought not.
Words are the surface of our deepest thoughts, fears and attitudes. How we talk about something, the words we use, signals our attitudes. And I am not talking about Politically Correct Speech here. I am talking about something a lot more primitive.
A dead junkie somehow seems easier to deal with than a sick child. Face it or not, they do not occupy the same place in our culture, even though they may be one and the same person.
So today we walk on, to illustrate in numbers that addiction is an illness, and to show our City of Brotherly Love that in fact we do recover. We walk on to show that addicts are not disposable people, we are your brothers and sisters and children.
(pictures courtesy of my good friends Annie R. and Jennifer D.)
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