I was like most people. I knew the War on Drugs wasn’t working. I probably knew that the War on Drugs was doing more harm than good. I didn’t think I could make much of a difference.
I was like most people until February 10, 2017. That was the day my son, Tim, died of an overdose. He and my other son were/are the light in my life. They were both independent and wanted to succeed in life without much help from Dad. They both became successful.
Tim worked his way up in Information Technology starting at the bottom-working in a data center and rising quickly to become a Cisco Certified Network Engineer. Tim was earning more than $90K and had offers almost every day to make a great deal more money but he would have to move from Cincinnati. He had taken a year-long position in another city and was miserable. Tim knew he just couldn’t leave his family and friends.
Tim was an avid primitive backpacker. He would head into the wilderness with his dog and supplies. His first rule was bring back out everything you took in. In his 30s, Tim needed knee surgery. He was prescribed OxyContin to take for 30 days while he recovered. Somewhere in that 30 days, Tim became addicted to opiates. He hid his addiction from everyone. He was so ashamed of his addiction. He thought we would think less of him. When I did learn of Tim’s problem, I was only disappointed that he didn’t come to me earlier.
In addition to his day job, Tim was a musician. He was a member of as many as three bands at a time.
When Tim died, I got his smartphone. I found out that Tim would use his cell phone to send messages to himself. Reminders, notes, and ideas for song lyrics.
I found these lyrics from 2014. It’s really hard for me to read:
You took my sense of right and wrong. And any shred of class.
I slammed you straight into my veins, you slammed me to my ass.
You’ve taken me to places I thought I’d never go.
Turning me into a man that I don’t even know.
She’s taken all my money. She took away my wife.
Oh, my sweet dark mistress, she’ll surely take my life.
I’ve got a thimble full of madness. A bindle full of pain.
That when I administer, takes me from zero to insane.
There’s no great answer here. No guide to getting over your addiction. Just pain. Just pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days each year.
Maybe that is Tim’s message. I don’t think he wrote this for himself. I think he wanted to tell other’s what he was going through as a warning. He never asked for sympathy.
He told me once that he knew he was loved. Love is important but it’s not enough. I wish love was enough to overcome addiction. Addiction is stronger than love but only because of the changes it makes to the chemistry of the brain.
That’s why some addicts will steal from the people they love most. The addiction is more important than relationships. Please remember that it’s the chemicals in the brain that affected this change.
Tim knew everything that heroin had taken from him and that, if he stopped, he could probably get most of those things returned to him. He went cold-turkey many times. He went without heroin for two or three years.
Things were coming back but he still had to fight the urge every day, every hour, every minute. One minute he was here. The next he was gone.
You don’t have much time to get control of your addiction. 175 AMERICANS every day find out they didn’t have as much time as they thought.
I have a vision of life in the United States that I would like to share with you.
Every neighborhood will be much safer. Police officers will have time to engage in community policing; developing relationships with citizens which may allow them to get involved in tough situations before someone turns to violence.
You can take a walk around your neighborhood in the evening stopping to chat with neighbors you’ve never met before. For a little extra exercise, you can add on the next neighborhood over because there’s no reason not to. Neighborhoods that used to be run down will be coming back to life as great places to raise a family.
Property crime like burglary, car theft, and robbery will fall to unprecedented levels.
Families will start to heal. Families who are missing a brother, sister, son, daughter, mom, dad, grandparent, aunt or uncle who are incarcerated or overdosed will know that the likelihood of losing another family member is now remote. Families who have not suffered the loss of an immediate family member can breathe easier because that terrible loss is much less likely.
Neighborhoods that you wouldn’t think of walking through today will come back to American life when there are no drug dealers fighting to keep their turf.
Taxes and the national debt will go down because providing the best care in the world to addicts will cost almost nothing compared to the costs we pay now to lock up two million AMERICANS.
Treatment programs that hardly ever worked when drugs were prohibited may become very effective because now the addict will have hope. While drugs are illegal, no program could offer hope because having a conviction or even just an arrest on your record meant you wouldn’t get a fair chance when applying for a job or even applying to rent an apartment.
Many addicts will become productive members of the economy even while still working on their addiction rather than a drag on the economy.
The number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) will fall. There will be fewer of these babies born after being exposed to drugs in the womb because the mothers can get help without fear of arrest.
This new vision of AMERICA will include many other positive changes that we can’t even imagine while we are living in the punishment paradigm.
I want that AMERICA. In this new AMERICA, my son, Tim, would be coming over this evening to help me with a project because he wouldn’t have died alone in a dark little room. He might still have been an addict because it’s a life-long problem like diabetes, but I would rather have Tim fighting an addiction than this burning hole in my heart knowing I’ll never see him again. If you think I’m not crying as I type this, you don’t know me, but it also means you’ve never lost a child. You should know you are blessed and thank God.
Now you know why I ran for Congress. I lost in the primary and that was my fault. I thought the logic of my argument would go viral. It didn’t. Many Americans believe that punishment is the only way to deal with drugs. After forty years, we should know that the War in Drugs does not work. You won’t hear this from anyone who is a Congressman now or wants to be a Congressman because they are terrified that they will be called “soft on drugs”. I would reply, “It’s time to stop being stupid about drugs”. I can’t do this alone. I will need a lot of help to spread this vision. Will you help?