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Reckoning with Addiction: The work remains

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By Rev. Dr. John Inscore Essick This is the twelfth and final column in the Reckoning with Addiction series. The Henry County Local is to be commended for taking a chance on this unique monthly column, and I appreciate the journalistic leadership provided by Editors Chris Brooke and Taylor Riley. I am most grateful, though, to all those who have courageously shared their stories and experiences. Hearing and writing up the stories of so many Henry Countians impacted by substance abuse and addiction has been a challenging and transformative experience. There is no going back. Much remains to be learned and accomplished in order to become whole. Towards that end, I leave you with five recommendations that surfaced repeatedly in my conversations with our fellow Henry Countians. First, reckoning with our addiction crisis requires that we take responsibility for our words and actions toward those struggling with addiction and substance abuse. The stigma surrounding addiction and substance abuse is a powerful deterrent to those in desperate need of help. We unwittingly contribute to the problem when we judge, condemn and dehumanize those struggling with destructive substances. Our love and compassion can help those who need help feel more comfortable seeking it. Second, reckoning with our addiction crisis requires that we acknowledge there is no stereotypical addict. Addicts are young and old. Addicts regularly attend church and never attend church. Addicts are friends and neighbors. Addicts are employed and unemployed. Addicts are wealthy and poor. Addiction is not a respecter of persons. Third, reckoning with our addiction crisis requires both long-term and short-term thinking and planning. Intervention and recovery efforts are critical for those in immediate, urgent need of help. Those efforts will need to be increased and improved upon in the days ahead. At the same time, we must continue and expand a diverse menu of proven prevention and education efforts. We can make a difference in the lives of those who need help today while simultaneously acting strategically to close the pipeline of would-be addicts in the future. Fourth, reckoning with our addiction crisis requires that we resist the urge to settle on a single, simple solution. There is no silver bullet for this wound so deep, complex, and stubbornly resistant to remedy. We should, therefore, commit tirelessly to organized, comprehensive, well-funded and collaborative response efforts. There are better and worse ways to educate, prevent, and treat substance abuse and addiction. We must learn the difference and choose the better ways. Finally, reckoning with our addiction crisis requires all hands on deck. Individuals. Families. Schools. Churches. Doctors and nurses. The Health Department. Community groups. Elected officials. Civil servants. Private businesses. Since this addiction crisis threatens our local community and culture, addressing it will continue to require input and sacrifice from us all. What we choose to do in the days ahead matters for who we are and who we might yet become. This Reckoning with Addiction series may be at an end, but the work of reckoning with addiction remains. Rev. Dr. John Inscore Essick is co-pastor of Port Royal Baptist Church and Associate Professor of Church History at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky.