Since 1949, the month of May has been observed as the Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States to reduce the stigma around those suffering from issues caused by mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019); the spectrum of which is wide. The National Institute of Drug Abuse classified drug addiction as mental illness citing dependency altering the person’s state of mind and behavior, in ways similar to those suffering from mental health issues. There is a lot to be said about those individuals that have “gone clean” whether of their own accord or with assistance; but once they get past that hurdle of substance abuse, are they really mentally healed?
As the son of a mother who became addicted to drugs at a young age, I can confidently tell you that overcoming drug addiction means that you have had the courage to mentally triumph over way more than the average person will ever overcome in their lifetime. Moreover, there are invaluable lessons that can be learned in context, from their struggles to triumphs.
Unfortunately, my mother passed on twelve years ago from Hepatitis C, but her triumph over drug addiction led her to attain an M.B.A. and Ph.D. Raised as a white girl in the foster care system in Englewood, my mother grew up moving from home to home. Like many that grow up in the system, she was exposed to the inevitable stresses of instability and wound up hooked on drugs before adolescence. Thankfully, she made it out; but for many who never do, it becomes a vicious cycle for them and their loved ones, often winding up ostracized and more often than not, dead.