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I Thought I Knew

I Thought I Knew: Six Minutes of Hope

Last year, the Partnership at Drugfree.org garnered an award for its short documentary called I Thought I Knew, presented at the Association of Independent Commercial Producers’ annual competition. Best documentary winner in the Public Service category, this brief film addresses the fact that we never expect to find ourselves confronted by addiction in the family. We never think that someone we know will need drug abuse treatment.

The Partnership’s primary focus is educating parents about the epidemic of teen alcohol and drug abuse, but the content in this film has relevance for people of any age. This documentary talks about people who look like you and me, standing in front of a camera and admitting they use cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, speedballs, or whatever.

“It was my love affair,” says one young man of his drug use. “It made me feel normal,” says another.  One young woman talks about how successful her life was, yet she never really felt comfortable in her own skin.

We are always taken by surprise when some kind of incontrovertible evidence raises up to smack us in the face that someone close to us is using. We avoid looking at the clues around us. When a person’s attitude or wardrobe or hygiene changes, we brush it off to the possibility that whatever is bothering them will soon pass. If we think that money may be missing from our wallets, we believe that we miscounted or maybe spent more than we thought.

If you question the person about his appearance or missed work or increased episodes of anger, he puts you on the defensive. Why are you picking on me? What do you expect from me?

When you actually begin to suspect the truth, it’s terrifying. People want to pretend that addiction doesn’t exist—at least, not in their family.  Addiction has been analogized to having an elephant in the living room: Everybody in the family walks around this huge creature to avoid it, yet each person takes some part in feeding it and in caring for it, even as they all pretend that it’s not there.

Nobody really thinks that bad things will happen to them. Nobody thinks they will become part of a frightening statistic, like the one that tells us 23.5 million Americans have addiction issues. Nobody thinks they will open the door on Mother’s Day, like one person on this tape, and find a detective standing there to say that their son or father or sister has died.

People remain wary of the stigma of drug abuse. If you’re the one using drugs, you may hesitate to reach out for help because it’s just too difficult to admit that you’ve reached the end of your rope. Family members of addicts want to keep that secret enclosed in a dark, safe place to keep shame away from the family.

One of the great barriers to getting effective treatment is a lack of knowledge about how to seek help. Treatment providers cannot reach into someone’s home and pull an addict into treatment. Someone in the home, a family member or the person himself, has to make a call so that they can learn how to move forward. Ideally, the addict should call, because he or she is the one who has to be ready for alcohol or drug abuse treatment. Family members, however, can also call and become educated about ways they can bring about change.

Watch this 5-minute, 43-second video called I Thought I Knew. (http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/aicp-award) It might change your life. 

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