Over the past year, I have hosted multiple events across Northwestern Wisconsin to address addiction and mental health. We have been screening “Written Off,” a documentary film about one man’s battle with addiction. Matt Edwards, a Wisconsin native, became addicted to prescription opioids after a toe surgery. He went on to abuse pills and other drugs, cycling between using, quitting, withdrawal, and relapse. After Matt tragically passed away in 2010, his mother discovered that he had been keeping detailed daily journals about his life and addiction. Just as any of us would, he used his diary to complain about his job, daydream about potential romances, and simply reflect on the routines of everyday life. Sadly, his routine usually included substance abuse. His diary entries can seem bleak but others glimmer with flashes of hope for recovery and times of joy. This complex experience of living with addiction is not unique.
Through our screenings, we have had the privilege of listening to the stories of people in recovery, families that have experienced addiction, and the healthcare and law enforcement professionals that work to reduce substance abuse. These open and honest conversations help make community connections and reduce the stigma around substance abuse and addiction. Removing the stigma is a critical component to facing this issue head-on and developing comprehensive solutions for prevention and treatment.
Addiction is not a moral failing, but instead often an issue of intertwined trauma, dependence, and mental health issues.
I want to highlight some snippets of the moving stories we have heard over the last year from people who have struggled with an addiction.
“My addiction started when I was 13, 14 years old. It started out with drinking, marijuana, cocaine, pills, and methamphetamine was my drug of choice for a very long time. I’ve been clean for almost 15 months now,” testimony from Dean Amundson, a Dunn County drug court graduate.
“I have made the decision in myself to become a success story. It’s extremely hard, you’re fighting against the devil himself… I know my voice is going to be heard and I ask for it to be heard,” testimony from an individual in recovery in St. Croix county.
“You’ve got to get services that effectively engage them in life itself- not the addiction, not the alcohol, not the drug, not the crime- we need to effectively engage that person in life. Get them happy to be alive, just for the day…someone took chance on me and gave me that chance,” testimony from an individual in recovery in Polk County.
Addiction is a serious issue impacting our community every day, but there is hope. As October is National Substance Abuse Prevention month, let’s all take steps to reduce substance abuse in future generations. If you’re a parent, have frank and frequent conversations about drugs and alcohol. Keep track of your prescription drugs and dispose of them appropriately. If you think a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, seek professional help early.
If you need help, call 2-1-1 or 833-944-4673 or text your zip code to 898211.
State Senator Patty Schachtner proudly represents Wisconsin’s tenth senate district with 178,250 constituents. The district covers parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.