The Pandemic, Mental Health, and Addiction

My house is on the corner of a cut-through street. People use it to avoid traffic lights and speed traps. I don’t mind it so much. We have a four-way stop sign and a wide ditch protecting our yard from the madness.

The ditch, unfortunately, is often a prime place for trash. Teenagers messing around carelessly flick water bottles and fast food wrappers into it. Our neighborhood is older and the houses take a lot of work, so it’s not as clean as the pristine new home sites a few miles away. Drunks who have had their driver’s licenses revoked sometimes walk down our street and toss mini liquor bottles into our ditch.

When we moved in three years ago, I didn’t consider the ditch “mine.” It was supposed to be cared for by the city, but we’re in an unincorporated area, so the county and city like to pretend it’s the other one’s job.

My husband and I don’t care who picks it up, we just want it to get done, so we clean it out at least once a month.

During the height of the pandemic the mini alcohol bottles grew into the full-sized variety. I was thankfully pregnant, so though alcoholism runs in my family, and addiction issues are prominent in my husband’s, we both remained sober and healthy. It wasn’t easy, but highly necessary.

The stress of uncertainty, job loss, strained custody issues, and schooling plans for families has been so difficult for everyone that I don’t blame anyone who falls off any wagon. But recently a new type of garbage appeared in “our” ditch.

Just a few days ago, my husband discovered dirty needles lying with the usual garbage. One of these syringes still had something at the bottom.

His first thought was, “What if the children found this?”

I didn’t know how to answer that question. I don’t think anyone does.

We called the police. They told us to just carefully throw it away. We called the city. Their line was busy. We are on our own and concerns keep mounting.

I joked, “At least we didn’t find a body.”

And my husband quickly replied, “Not yet.”

That answer just reminded me that how officials have handled the pandemic isn’t working. Economic hardship doesn’t just “kill jobs,” it kills people. Even in an open state I see evidence of this every day.

Just this weekend a beggar came by my house looking for money. She told me she was saving up to buy some soap, so I gave her a couple of bars instead.

Panhandlers are now positioned on every overpass in my area. This used to be only expected in the city, not the cute little old neighborhood we moved to out in the suburbs. It’s a sign of the times; a constant reminder of how badly the economy has been broken by overreactions to COVID-19.

People who are unable to support themselves are more susceptible to mental breakdowns. When mental health offices and shelters are closed or operate at limited capacity, people turn to substance abuse, not because they give up, but because they need something to help them through, and we all know that the opioid crisis is raging on.

Plenty of us know that most addicts are victims who never learned to properly cope and overcome their issues. Mental health issues perpetuate addiction. Mental health is often less sustained when conditions are unstable. That’s why holding a job is an important aspect of recovery. That’s why permanent housing matters. A solid job and home offer the stability needed to better one’s self.  

An addict can overcome their battle when they have something to fight for: a home, a job; a purpose. Instead of emphasizing this during the lockdowns, we’ve shamed people into giving up their stability and destroyed their sense of purpose.

We’ve also attacked their ties to each other. My husband and I need each other. Our children need us, but they also need the wisdom of their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Neighbors and friends enrich not just our lives, but our mental state. Without those connections we quickly deteriorate.

I have a big family. With four children, our house is full of love and laughter. That makes all the difference.

For those who live alone, don’t have strong familial bonds, have lost their jobs, and/or don’t see friends, life is only darkening. The struggle is far from over. They deserve our support and our help despite the obstacles that have worsened the situation.

The lockdowns and government overreach meant to “help” people has only harmed them. It’s time to admit that these methods aren’t working. It’s time for our elected officials to step up and shift the narrative to focus on the growing evidence that our mental health crisis and addiction issues are far worse than COVID-19.

Closing facilities and cutting off jobs has done nothing to save us. Our society is hurting. People are desperate. It is time to reopen, get back to work, and once more offer purpose and stability to everyone, especially those most vulnerable to substance abuse.

Jessica is a homeschooling mother of 4. Her work has been featured by: The New American, The Epoch TimesEvie Magazine, and many more. 

Image: Pixabay