Picture tens of thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder on the grounds beneath the Washington Monument. What a beautiful tapestry we’ll present to America on October 4, 2015, when individuals and families impacted by the addiction crisis gripping our nation descend on Washington, D.C. for the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally, a historic gathering to end the silence.
The time is now to end the silence around addiction – to help the more than 22 million Americans with addiction, to stand up for the 23 million more in recovery, and to urgently try to save the estimated 350 lives lost each day.
Many will say, “It’s about time!” And it is. This is our time because the National Mall symbolizes equal citizenship, empowerment, and unity – three things missing from the lives of more than 45 million Americans, and their loved ones, impacted by addiction.
Simply put, addiction is a national health crisis, not a crime, and it deserves national attention. Addiction and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States – more than car accidents or homicides.
The prevalence of alcohol-related deaths and drug overdoses is no surprise to the more than 23 million who have found recovery from addiction. I am one of those people in long-term recovery. In the first five years of my recovery, I wore my black suit to a lot of friends’ funerals. Knowing my friends didn’t need to die—that their deaths could have been prevented—was almost as painful as losing them.
Preventing, much less ending, addiction is not simple, but neither is curing cancer, reducing heart disease, or managing diabetes. However, we still find the collective will to search fearlessly and with faith to find better answers to these other devastating health conditions. Yet how we collectively react to addiction as a community and respond to it as a country are light years away from what we do for other health problems.
Yes, we spend a lot of money “battling addiction” in America. But for each dollar we spend, only two cents goes to prevention or recovery efforts, while ninety-eight cents goes to picking up the pieces that result from not being proactive about the addiction crisis. As many have come to understand, we cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem.
Where is the outrage? Where is the public outcry about this needless loss of life, the devastating cost, and the lack of an organized effort to provide the solutions? We can’t hear it because the silence is too loud.
Long-standing shame, stigma and discrimination keep the suffering silent. On October 4th, with Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, The Fray and John Rzeznik providing the soundtrack, that silence will end.
Now is our time to face addiction head on and to stand up for prevention and recovery. Now is the time to UNITE to Face Addiction.
I hope to see all of you in Washington, D.C. on 10.04.15. For more information on the Rally, please visit https://www.facingaddiction.org/.
Greg Williams, UNITE to Face Addiction Director
UNITE to Face Addiction rally is being organized by Facing Addiction Inc., a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to finding solutions to the addiction crisis, as well as an independent coalition of over 650 national, state, and local non-profit organizations.