Accountability solves the epidemic

By Andy Winemiller -

Seldom do I watch television. In fact, I don’t even subscribe to any cable or satellite television service.

We used to, but then we realized the television was always on cartoons. It became apparent that we weren’t getting our money’s worth out of that Direct TV subscription. A toddler is just as happy watching Handy Manny or Strawberry Shortcake on Netflix or Hulu.

Come football season, it gets a little rough. We might have to grab lunch at a sports bar so I can see my Buckeyes play on Saturday afternoon.

I also had to subscribe to another service in an effort to watch the Indians play in the World Series.

Since I don’t watch much television, I am a bit secluded from the world. I never know what was on the evening news the night prior, and I sort of like it.

I read a decent amount of news, and I’ve found written reports to be more enlightening than what one might view on the evening news.

However, when I was vacationing in the Outer Banks this month, I had access to television. Thus, I turned it on a couple of times. I watched a re-run of In the Heat of the Night, an old show I love, but I also flipped over to CSPAN.

I realized how cut-off from the reality of our society I really am.

I sit through many meetings in which the “opioid crisis” is discussed here in Surry County.

I’ve come to the conclusion opioid addiction drives a lot of our problems in this neck of the woods. I’ve never seen a place ridden with so much petty theft and larceny.

Former Sheriff Graham Atkinson once told me, “Those people eventually have to find a way to fund their habits.”

Opioids affect schools too. Creating a solid educational environment in the schools starts at home. If mom and dad are more worried about fueling their addiction than putting food on the table or helping Billy with his homework, the school systems already have an uphill battle.

I guess I thought it was just a North Carolina problem, or even a Surry County problem, as all conversation I had heard was in the context of how this crisis affected Surry County and its residents.

According to that panel of folks on CSPAN, I was very wrong about where the problem exists, but I don’t think I’m wrong about how to combat it.

As humans, we like to blame other people or things for our problems. It’s a defense mechanism. “Those greens were a mess,” we might say when we three-putt our way to double-bogies on every hole.

I think there’s a lot of that going on in society’s efforts to to wrap its arms around the opioid epidemic.

“Poor Jimmy fell victim to the opioid epidemic,” doesn’t appropriately assign blame for Jimmy’s demise.

At some point Jimmy probably made the decision to take the pills in a manner other than what was prescribed or sought pills illegally after it was time to halt the use of them.

I’m a strong believer in personal accountability. We all make mistakes. We all do things of which we aren’t proud, but owning those mistakes is the first step on the road to recovery. One must come to terms with the fact that he has messed up, before he can start fixing what he has broken.

That’s why some of the dialogue regarding opioids drives me up a wall.

“We have to cut off the supply,” say some experts and public officials. Where is the personal accountability in that?

It’s like blaming the ABC store when one gets a DWI, or like blaming the lottery when one gambles away the money to pay the mortgage.

What needs to happen is people need to hold themselves accountable for their own actions.

I’ve had surgeries, and I’ve been prescribed opioids for my recoveries from those. I take them as prescribed, and quit taking them when it’s time. I think that’s the way most people recover from a surgery or injury — with a little help from Dr. Percocet.

However, responsible individuals are more than ready and willing to quit using opioids when the real doctor says its time to lay off them or when pain becomes manageable without medication.

Responsible people are ready to get back to life, and one can’t possibly get back to life while floating a few feet or more off the ground.

Irresponsible people go to somebody else and ask for a pill or two when the doc says, “It’s time to get off the pain pills.” I imagine the road to addiction starts as innocently as that.

I believed there is an opioid epidemic here in Surry County, and now I know it extends far beyond North Carolina. I just disagree with where we point the finger of blame.

Loads of naloxone and vilifying pain management clinics and doctors won’t solve the problem.

Education will help, but the opioid epidemic will end only when people decide they are willing to hold themselves accountable for their misuse of the drugs.

People have to be willing to fix themselves — even if it’s with the help of a recovery program — before society can fix the opioid problem.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.