‘You will still have to lock your doors’

We are all suffering from the impact of the opioid epidemic. But we differ in perspective on how we, as a community, address the issue.

PUTNEY — The woman who wrote about how she had been robbed? She was writing about my son. And I'm sorry.

I'm sorry her feeling of peace was taken from her. To be victimized like that in your home is incredibly destabilizing and traumatic.

I don't know if it was my son who did what she described. I do know that my son robbed and stole from people for drug money. He stole from the people he loved most, over and over again; I don't know specifically from whom or what.

I can't know, because my son died from a heroin overdose on March 8, 2018.

I know he felt very bad about many things he did over the course of his addiction. There are parts of her story that are not consistent with what I know to be true, but arguing those details is pointless now, and ultimately whether it was by my son or someone else's, she was robbed because of drug addiction.

What is most relevant in her Viewpoint is the conversation around the epidemic of heroin addiction in our communities, and how we address it.

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My son is now gone, but you will still have to lock your doors, because it was not he alone robbing people to supply a drug habit. People are dying by the tens of thousands.

The writer's point - that the suffering caused by this illness comes not solely in the loss of life, but also from the associated crimes committed - is valid. We are all suffering from the impact of this epidemic.

I think she and I differ in perspective on how it is we, as a community, address the issue.

She offers criticism of sending addicts to treatment instead of prison. She stated that my son was sent to treatment several times, and that is true - unfortunately, that is the reality of treatment. I have read that it takes an average of nine times for an addict to have success from treatment.

Insurance companies have been drastically cutting the duration of treatment covered over the last 10 years. I have seen Vermont cut the length of treatment from 28 days, to 21, to 14. I don't know what the numbers are currently - I'm hoping they have improved with the increased attention on the epidemic. But honestly, even 28 days is not enough.

The alternatives to treatment are - what? Jailing them? That's quite expensive, and if we put a drug addict in jail for maybe five years, they will get out without the skills and support to maintain sobriety. This would just put us right back where we were when they went in.

Drug addiction is an illness. My son suffered - believe me, he suffered a great deal. He tried so hard, and when he relapsed he was consumed with guilt and shame. It is an illness, not a moral failing.

We must stop blaming the addict and instead provide supports. My son's stays in drug treatment gave him longer and longer periods of success. I'm grateful for those periods.

I'll tell you, I'd give every possession I have for one more moment with my son to hug him and tell him I love him. I can't have that, but maybe we can start reducing the number of deaths each year. I don't want another mother to be facing a life in a world without her child. Not one more. But next year, there likely will be another 60,000 deaths.

To this woman: educate yourself about drug addiction. You write without an understanding of it, and you are going to have to keep locking your door, as will I.

To those reading these words who are struggling with drug addiction: I am rooting for you. Keep trying. Ignore those who are blaming you; they just don't understand. The shame and guilt just feed it.

If any one of us was judged and defined by the worst thing we ever did, we would all look very bad. Know that.

Just keep trying.

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