I was recently talking to a friend of mine who's 24 year old daughter is gravely ill. My friend is understandably very distraught. His beautiful daughter, with so much potential, with her whole life in front of her, has developed a progressive, fatal disease.
The problem is, even though her disease is treatable, there is no help available to her. Even though she lives in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, a nation that has one of the most sought-after healthcare systems, she still cannot get help.
His daughter suffers from a disease that kills around 88,000 Americans each year, yet there is no help available to her. She does not work for an American company that might offer health insurance, and even if she did, her company healthcare would not fund enough long-term, comprehensive treatment to give her a good chance at recovery. Even if she signed up for Medi-cal, (government sponsored healthcare,) her disease would not be covered. Even if she or her father had, say, $50,000 to spend on her treatment, or private insurance that would cover it, the success rate for eradicating her disease here in the U.S. would only be about 9%.
Perhaps if she lived in a country like Denmark she'd have a chance. There they offer socialized medicine, and a person suffering from her disease would be treated in a year-long program that would offer her excellent treatment and aftercare. In a program like this, she might have a chance. Her success rate would go up significantly.
But she's not Danish, she's American. So even though she lives in a wealthy nation, is from an average family, and has her whole life ahead of her, no one is going to come to her rescue with treatment for her disease. In fact, we are going to blame her for it and treat her like it is her fault. We are going to treat her disease like a character flaw.
$740 billion per year. That's how much this disease costs our country. $740 billion and an average of 88,000 lives per year. Yet we spend only about $81 billion annually in a half-ass attempt to treat it. Our efforts are a joke and have been failing miserably for decades.
The disease I'm talking about is addiction. In the case of my friend's daughter, it is the most common one: alcoholism. This disease is not her fault. She didn't choose to be an alcoholic any more than someone would choose to get breast cancer or MS.
I so wish with all of my heart.
I wish, when her father calls me in desperation as he watches his baby girl's disease rapidly progress, I could offer him some hope.
I wish there was an affordable treatment program that could have saved the life of my nephew, who died of this disease homeless and alone four years ago.
I wish there was a glimmer of hope for the dozens of people I know right now who are dying of this disease.
I wish Americans would wake up to this devastating killer and be willing to fund prevention and treatment.
I wish I could personally help. That is why I told my story in my book, "The Fentanyl Warrior." That is why I wrote "The Teen Warrior" in an effort to prevent more young ones from falling victim to this horrific disease. But it's just not enough. I so wish I could do a thousand times more.
I wish I could save these precious lives instead of watching so many suffer and die.
I wish. With all of my heart and soul.
Elisa Christensen is an American author, poet and public speaker who writes and speaks on addiction and parenting. Elisa shares her knowledge through speaking engagements on how to transform from victim to warrior, overcome our addictions, and raise addiction-resistant kids.
She lives with her two sons, a Boxer and a yellow lab in Pine Mountain Club, CA.