I've been told I need to "chill out," "calm down," "don't take things too seriously" a time or 10 when it comes to society and how we view addiction. Well, unless you have buried a loved one, struggled personally with addiction, been to rehab, watched friends go in and out of the rooms of recovery for years battling this beast, or at the very least, have a shred of knowledge on the topic, I'm going to need you to take a seat and shut it.
So, when I read that Urban Outfitters was handing out promotional pens in the shape of a hypodermic needles for a new "Hairroin" salon that uses the slogan "Addicted to Style," I was shocked... stunned... saddened... confused and outraged, just to name a few.
Why? Who is this funny to? Who thought this was a good idea? Who would support this? And why are we glamorizing drugs, addiction, and death? To kids, no less!
My roommate in rehab was a 19-year-old college student. She was pretty. Came from a good family. Dropped off by her two loving parents who had brought her straight from the hospital. She had overdosed on heroin and had been in a coma prior to being admitted to rehab for drugs and alcohol. This wasn't her first stint in rehab. She had been in and out the program since she was 15 years old. She had tract marks up and down both arms. She didn't speak much. Her breathing was troubled and stressed because her lungs were aspirated from a complication with the tubes being in her throat while in the coma. She was sweet and kind and had a sadness in her eyes that I can't explain.
Over the past two years I have watched her go back out several times via her Facebook posts. It's devastating to anyone who reads her updates. Her parents will make public pleas for help when she goes missing. Eventually, those posts stop, and I will see posts of her hiking with her sister or cooking with her mom, and I know that she has once again gotten clean. I keep this girl so close in my prayers because the struggle for her seems ongoing. Sadly, I know the reality is that her posts may stop one day, and she won't make it back.
Think I am being too dramatic? Well, guess what? Maybe I am, but burying a brother at the age of 29 years old from a prescription drug overdose was pretty dramatic. Checking into rehab for alcoholism at the age of 32 was pretty dramatic. Death is pretty dramatic and that's the ultimate fate for anyone who suffers from addiction if they don't get help.
So no, I don't think it's funny to joke and make light of something that kills more people than car accidents. I think there needs to be a huge shift in the way we look and treat those who suffer from addiction. The glamorization of drugs needs to stop. Education needs to happen. Awareness is a must. Those in recovery need to speak up and live out loud to show just how effing awesome a life free from drugs and alcohol is. Corporate America needs to get a effing clue and value human life over making money.
Idealist? Naïve? Dreamer? Well, I'm not the only one. And, I don't want to ever stop trying to make a difference in this world... no matter how small it may be. I got a second chance at life through my recovery. My brother did not. Millions of others did not. And I will fight til my last sober breath for those who struggle with this disease and for those who lost the battle.
So listen up, Urban Outfitters: Teaming up with a salon called "Hairroin," which uses "addicted" in its slogan, and handing out needle-shaped pens isn't funny or cute or even catchy. It's pathetic, sad and beyond poor taste. It's disgusting. I would like to think that most of the ignorance in the world is because of a lack of knowing better, but Urban Outfitters, you know better. It's time you start doing better.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.