Better Together Life, love, and the war on drugs.

This Demi Lovato situation has a lot of people in their feelings. There is a great deal of sadness and a swarm of ignorance-fueled confusion that comes over people when faced with the topic of addiction, however, I am grateful a larger conversation is being opened. I just regret that it has come too close to the expense of an incredibly talented, beautiful human life.

Which, serves as a great segue.

Demi Lovato is not the only force struggling with addiction. It’s estimated that more than 21 million American adults (aged 12+) battle a substance abuse disorder each year. Nearly 80% of those 21 million people report a struggle with alcohol abuse and another 7 million people suffer from an addiction to drug use. One in eight struggle with both, consecutively.

Those numbers break down to about 1.5 in every 10 Americans have sought treatment for dealing with their struggle with either drug or alcohol abuse, or both. And, the sad part is, those numbers reflect a dated (2014) survey; what we know for sure is, in the best case scenario, those statistics have only doubled (or tripled).

Demi has an incredible advantage through the financial stability of her über successful singing and acting career and a team of family and friends that (from a public perspective) seem to be pretty dedicated to supporting her recovery. Not to mention her immediate access to the medical, psychiatric, and addiction recovery system at CAST Centers (which she co-owns). She is able to open social media platforms and find overwhelming evidence of the love and support that surrounds her from tens of millions of followers around the world; yet the struggle remains.

For the other 21+ million Americans — and their respective families — who work to survive addiction that struggle is a little different. Not everyone has the financial resources, flexibility of time, or the palpable sense of support that a celebrity does. So, if you feel moved or awakened or even “turned off” by the Lovato stories in recent days, I have a proposition: Lean in.

Lean into that emotion and open a dialogue with someone; anyone. Maybe you’re struggling personally. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re seeing warning signs in someone close to you. Maybe the topic of addiction and recovery infuriates you out of discomfort and you see “this whole thing” as a “non issue.” Maybe, serendipitously, the person you choose to talk to about your concerns, views, or personal struggles might open a door to your own, personal, route to recovery.

If you doubt the idea, try this: Think of ten family members, ten friends, ten colleagues, and ten extended friendships and then consider the fact that (at the very least) 6 of those forty some odd people are plagued with some sort of struggle with addiction. If you’re being really honest with yourself, you can probably rattle off the names of those six people — and then some — without a second thought.

Uncomfortable? Maybe start here: Kindness.

It’s time to stop rolling our eyes, capturing media for the laughts and likes, perpetuating the negative message, passing judgement, and projecting a narrative littered with shame. It’s time to acknowledge the fact that we’ve all got a role in this. It’s our responsibility to remain active and vocal, present and persistent in this dire fight for survival; motivating and inspiring the forces around us to do the same. Holding one another accountable, too. This starts with educating ourselves through both a structured and unstructured approach. We need the facts just as much as we need the reminder of personal connection to all of it as well. It continues by keeping the conversations going; taking what we know and implementing better choices and actions. We need to work harder, together, to deliver our inherent, collective goal: A stronger, validated sense of worthiness, love, and belonging.

Because when we know better we do better; when we do better we live better. Together.

P.S.: Regardless of how sheltered or privileged or inherently perfect you might be, there will come a time when addiction peers it’s ugly head into your pristine life and makes you rewrite the narrative of all that you have ever known, been told, or even told yourself. When the life at stake is a precious one (to you) or the innocent bystanders are their otherwise innocent kids, parents, and friends it becomes very clear: All is fair in love and war [on drugs].

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