Our special guest speaker this evening was Ben Barras. He was representing the Mayor’s Substance Misuse Task Force. And he has first-hand experience in the subject as a recovering alcoholic. So Ben shared some of his own personal story and shared some perspectives and information that many of us were not aware of.
The statistics and numbers of people who die from addiction each year are absolutely staggering. But most of those people never ask for help. The question is: Why? The barriers that prevent people from seeking help are what the task force is focusing on now.
The three main barriers are: Denial, Shame and Fear. Denial happens when the addition is so strong that the person just does not want to stop. Shame comes when they realize that they have to admit they actually have a problem and it needs to be dealt with. And Fear is the realization that admitting there is a problem could cause significant loss in terms of employment, family, friends or status, for example.
Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on perceivable or perceived social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. It may also be described as a label that associates a person to a set of unwanted characteristics that form a negative stereotype. And Ben quoted Herbert Spencer: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation”. We would all do well to investigate everything we do not understand before deciding it should be condemned.
The mission is to provide education, resources and hope for those affected by substance misuse. To accomplish this they strive to create awareness, provide resources and promote on-going education, and prevention strategies. And they are getting results! Numerous publications in the media about their work have raised awareness not just in Apex but nationally as well. And they are providing resources and on-going education, too. But most importantly they are having an impact with the individuals and families affected.
So what can we do to help?
- Be “objectively, universally” compassionate
- Seek to understand
- Encourage others to do the same
- Create Awareness (other Lions Clubs, other clubs, churches…)
- Be Present for those in need
- Provide hope for the hopeless
- Tell people about the Apex Mayor’s Task Force
Ben is a very brave man and has an extremely compelling story of overcoming not just his addiction but also overcoming the stigma associated with it. He has a powerful message and is an inspiration to those around him.
If you struggle with addiction or know someone who does please reach out to the Mayor’s Substance Misuse Task Force immediately!