‘Moms’ are best advocates in addressing opioids

It is something that happens in and around the newsroom at Minot Daily News (and away from the office as well) and it happened once again this past week.

A caller dialed in to talk about her personal struggle with her son’s opioid addiction, the bad circumstances that led to, and the overwhelming challenge in getting the young man help. She was crying halfway through the call and it seemed clear to me that she needed to vent and she recognized that the newspaper has been ringing the alarm on this issue for years now.

It’s impossible to remember how often this has happened. Phone calls, visits from family members, emails, even folks introducing themselves in public and quickly sharing their stories. Each and every time, the pain and anguish expressed is gut-wrenching. The tragedy of opioid abuse isn’t just the addict; it is the struggle of family members and friends.

In fact, it is moms who make the best advocates for taking dramatic action to combat the scourge of abuse. By “moms,” let me be clear that I’m not leaving out dads, spouses, children or best friends. I’m referring to moms to keep it simple and because it has been most often mothers who have come to discuss their plights with MDN.

Law enforcement, medical professionals, therapists and politicians are all integral to addressing opioid abuse. However, when it comes to convincing those still unconvinced that this enormous problem is complicated and will take a Herculean effort to alleviate – no one can be more authentic and effective than a mom.

Some in Minot could see that up close last week, coincidentally. Wednesday’s community forum on the issue included personal stories from family members, sharing their experiences and perspectives. These first-hand experiences highlighted the issue the way nothing else could. It is hard to imagine that anyone could hear these stories (and others) and not feel that there must be more we can do as a society and as a community.

There are probably some who still feel opioid addiction is the result of a character flaw or bad decisions. But as one parent participant in the forum pointed out, everyone makes mistakes and everyone warrants a second chance. The character flaw argument is dubious when it comes to a drug many addicts encounter first in a medical environment; and which is absurdly addictive.

Moms can make this argument best. Moms who worked hard and raised good kids in good homes, only to see circumstances tear their world apart when a child fell into addiction.

Moms who have spent their life savings trying to get their child help.

Moms who have struggled to find anyone, anywhere who can help.

Moms who have lost their children.

These are the voices that are going to be most important in rallying communities and government to take action. These are the voices that need to be heard.

Minot heard some of those voices last week from people with stories similar to that of my emotional mom caller.

The more we hear, the more likely we are to find a way to act – individually or together or, better, both.

I’ve written before of the emotional toll some aspects of news can take on journalists. Few things have the impact of hearing story after story about this particular, horrible challenge.

In a week that included a whole range of news, local and global, it is this one phone call that resonates the most with me. I knew it would be in the silence after my caller hung up.

Real narratives from loved ones of the addicted are the strongest arguments for finding a holistic solution to this ongoing tragedy.