Addiction causes sadness in Philadelphia as Garrett Reid is found dead

It’s strange how saddened we can feel when someone we don’t even know well dies of an addiction related death. It must be because we can all relate in some intensly personal way. While I have never lost an active patient to a drug related death I’ve lost friends to addiction, colleagues to this disease, sponsees when I was a sponsor in AA, and I’ve worked with countless  clients who have lost family members to alcoholism and drug addiction. I’ve met many people who later died of an overdose or who took their own lives because the pain was just too great. For them it seemed that there was no way out. They can’t be to blame. They sat on my office couch, that my kids used to play on and told me that they couldn’t get a clean needle but they needed to get high so they picked up a dirty needle from a street in Kensington and they shot  up heroin not caring if they died.

As an addiction psychologist and recovering addict myself, I know all too well about genetic predisposition and it is my worst fear that my children with struggle with addiction. My son could struggle with drug addiction and my daughter could battle an eating disorder. I know at some point there may be nothing I can do about it. At least I can know they aren’t watching and learning it from me now. 

Whether you are a recovering addict or have a family member, partner or friend in active addiction I think we can all relate to what it feels like to be dependent on something. Healthy dependency is an adaptive life force which is part of survival, sex, intimacy and love. Yet as an errant behavior we  can hate feelings of dependency in ourselves as they lead us into addiction, to an affair, unrequited love, countless cosmetics surgeries or an empty shopping compulsion.

As I learned of Garrett Reid’s death I’ve been thinking of his father and their family. I can’t imagine how much pain they all must be in. I hope they can take the time to  grieve and feel whatever feelings they must go through.  If the fiasco at Penn State has taught us anything it is that football operations, and winning football games pale in comparison to honoring young people’s lives, protecting them and celebrating their youth, vulnerability and health.

In Alcoholics Anonymous meetings I always winced when I heard people say, “some have to die so that others can live.” I’m not sure I’ve ever fully understood the saying but if it means that Garrett Reid’s death can serve as a warning, a preventive measure, an educative tool to help others find treatment and help then I’ll take that. Though I feel for coach Andy Reid and I would never wish this nightmare on my worst enemy.

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