Picture tens of thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder on the National Mall. People in recovery from addiction, with their loved ones, families of loss, members of law enforcement, the faith community, educators, laborers, business people and college students, indeed, people of every color and orientation.
What a beautiful tapestry we'll present to America on October 4, 2015 -- three short months from now -- when individuals and families impacted by the addiction crisis gripping our nation descend on Washington, DC for UNITE to Face Addiction, a historic gathering to shine a light on, and demand solutions to, the addiction crisis.
The time has come to end the silence around addiction -- to help the more than 22 million people currently addicted, to stand up for the 23 million more in recovery and to urgently try to save the estimated 350 lives lost each day.
Some will say, "It's about time!" Others might not understand why we must gather on the Mall. The National Mall is not just any national park. It is a symbol of equal citizenship, unalienable rights and unity -- three things missing today from the lives of more than 45 million Americans, and their loved ones, impacted by addiction.
These symbols worked powerfully when civil rights activists made the National Mall our country's platform for sweeping social change. They worked when anti-war protesters regularly took a stand there. And they worked when the LGBTQ community "came out" on the Mall in a big way leading to the ultimate unveiling of the unforgettable AIDS quilt -- and opened our hearts to another health and human rights crisis.
Overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States -- more than car accidents or gun homicides. Simply put, addiction is a national health crisis, not a crime, and it deserves national attention and a unified response.
The prevalence of alcohol-related deaths and drug overdoses is no surprise to the more than 23 million who have found and sustained their recovery from addiction. I am one of those people in long-term recovery. Throughout my thirteen years of recovery, I have worn my black suit to a lot of friends' funerals. Knowing my friends didn't need to die -- that their deaths could have been prevented -- is almost as painful as losing them.
Preventing, much less ending, addiction is not simple, but neither is curing cancer, reducing heart disease or managing diabetes. However, we still find the collective will to search fearlessly and with faith to find better answers to these other devastating health conditions. Yet how we collectively react to addiction as a community and respond to it as a country are light years away from what we do for other health problems. As many have come to understand, we will never be able to incarcerate our way out of this problem.
Where is the outrage? Where is the public outcry about this needless loss of life, the devastating cost to our economy and the lack of an organized effort to provide the solutions? We can't hear it because the silence is too loud.
At last this silence will end on 10.04.15.
UNITE to Face Addiction event is being organized by Facing Addiction Inc., a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to finding solutions to the addiction crisis, as well as an independent coalition of national, state and local non-profit organizations.