GUEST BLOGGER: Laura Cannon
"I was so proud of my cousin. We all were. After many years of battling an addiction to opiates, he was in recovery. He was feeling good about life and looking forward to his future. Our family’s prayers had been answered.
One day, I drove him to work, which included a stop at the pharmacy to get his medication. I decided to go in with him. What I witnessed broke my heart.
As he waited in line to get his medication, I stood off to the side. When his turn came around, he was told to “stand over there until I get a chance to get to you.” I was a bit surprised by that, but he turned around and smiled at me so I didn't say anything.
After about 20 minutes, he was finally waited on (in that time only 2 or 3 people were waited on.....not sure why he was kept waiting). The pharmacist gave him the medication over the counter in plain view of anyone walking by. He was then required to open his mouth and move around his tongue to prove the medication was all gone (again, in full view of anyone walking by). I was horrified.
It seemed so inhumane to me. Why was he not afforded any type of privacy, especially when his disease carries so much stigma and we live in a small community?
I wanted to say something. To stand up for him. My cousin said, “Don’t bother, Laura. It will only make it worse the next day. I am okay. Let’s go now. I have to get to work. I’m running late.”
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was walk out of there without standing up for the rights of someone I love who was just disrespected and, in reality, bullied.
My cousin was trying so hard to rebuild his life. He was now a productive member of society with a job. He was healthy again. Yet, it wasn’t good enough. Instead, at least at that pharmacy, he was treated like a second-class citizen because he is on Methadone, which is a doctor-prescribed medication I might add! There is something very wrong with that.
I honestly don’t know how he does it. It seems to me that people battling addiction are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They are looked down on when they are in active addiction battling a disease that few understand, and now they are looked down on if they are in a treatment program that few understand.
The stigma attached to his Methadone treatment program is unreal. Yet, he keeps his head up and goes through life doing the very best that he can to rebuild it. That takes guts and courage. I’m not sure that I could handle it so gracefully.
It has been 2 years since I witnessed that at the pharmacy, and I still get sick to my stomach thinking about him, and so many others, being treated this way. These people have decided to try to improve their lives. They are on a doctor-prescribed treatment plan, yet they are treated like second-class citizens. Why is this OK? Shouldn't they be applauded for trying?
I know if I was treated like that on a daily basis I would have no self-esteem, no self-worth and after a while, no will to continue. In my cousin's words, “It's a lot easier to just get high!!" After what I witnessed, I can understand that thinking. The stigma is crippling, but it doesn’t have to be. We can change that. We, the people, can decide to stop judging others and support them instead."
This story from Laura represents the experiences of many people who are in recovery with the help of medications like Methadone. I am grateful that my son goes to a wonderful pharmacy where he is given some privacy and treated with dignity and respect. He’s also gotten to know the staff who all say hi to him each morning and ask how he is doing. They seem to really care.
The kindness shown to people in recovery (by all of us) can make all the difference on whether or not they succeed. I hope other pharmacies (if not already doing so) will follow the lead of our son’s pharmacy and become part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Thank you to Laura for sharing her powerful story.