Did you know that in America, more than 100 people die every day from opioid addiction?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, an estimated four out of 100 people 12 years old and older reported they had used heroin in the past year.
That is nearly 950,000 people across this country.
The center reports that opioids are a cause in two-thirds of the country’s accidental overdose deaths each year.
The state with the highest number of opioid-related deaths? West Virginia, with 43 people per 100,000. Next, New Hampshire, then the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.
Those are the numbers. These are the statistics. But they are much more than numbers. They are much more than statistics.
Each of these, every single digit, represents a person. Each number was someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s father, someone’s mother. It was a grandfather, a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin. A best friend.
These are black people, white people, rich people, poor people. They are educated. They are uneducated. They are in between. Maybe they worked as the receptionist at your dentist’s office, the one who was always smiling. Or maybe it was the loan officer at the local bank or your favorite server at your favorite restaurant, the one who was always so happy to see you.
In the end, these are people. Heroin addiction doesn’t discriminate. Most times, you can’t tell that a person is suffering – especially when they are in denial about their addiction.
But just as there are thousands of people living with heroin addiction, there are just as many who are recovering and want to help others. They have lived through it and survived, which is an incredible feat and something to be immensely proud of. Two such people are Matthew Miller and Greg Morrison, high school friends who started with pills and ultimately ended up addicted to heroin.
“There’s a lot of stories out there where you hear people went through addiction, they got clean, they’re now successful,” Morrison said. “But what did they do along the way? What about all the little things they did? Parents of addicts, what do you need to look out for? What are signs you can look for? What can you do to help an addict? What did we hide from our parents? We want to talk about the topics that aren’t being talked about by addicts.”
Last year, Miller and Morrison created Project Unbroken, an organization dedicated to helping people with drug addiction. On their website, Greg Morrison, and Miller frequently post videos to inspire addicts and recovering addicts on their journey to recovery. Their videos are titled “Why is heroin so addictive?”, “How bad days can fuel addiction?”, “How shame fuels addiction,” and “What does a heroin addict look and act like?”, and there are many others.
On their site, Miller and Morrison share all that they did for themselves to overcome their addictions. They are happy now, and healthy. Their site, they say, is for anyone who wants to make a positive change and be happy, too.
When discussing what a heroin addict looks and acts like, Miller said “I think anybody that’s been through addiction, or anyone that’s had somebody that they care about go through addiction, you see that addicts become really good at acting. They become really good at manipulating people to think what they want them to think and believe anything, to allow them to continue in their addiction.”
“It’s everything from the person you wouldn’t expect, all the way down to the person you would expect, and everything in between,” Morrison said. “I think that’s really important to understand that.”
Their most recent video is titled “How I got through heroin addiction and alcohol abuse,” and in it, Miller shares his story of trying to make his way out of heroin addiction.
“Really, the issue was never going away, I wasn’t making anything better, I was just pretending it wasn’t there. This kind of kept me in that circle of, I’ll call it just negativity. So while for a long time I wasn’t using dope, or maybe not even necessarily drinking all the time, I was really avoiding any situations that needed to be dealt with. This was with relationships, this was with finances, this was with my job. This was basically with anything that relied on me being responsible, I would really push it away out of sight, out of mind, and try not to deal with it. And I was like this for a long time.”
Their advice is real. It is from the heart. It is not always easy to hear, but that is what is necessary. Sugar-coating the facts will not help an addict on their road to recovery; in fact, it can have the opposite effect. In these cases, when people truly need help – help that can save their life – truth is absolutely necessary. And hearing it from someone who has lived it is powerful.
Morrison and Miller are clear and up front that they are not medical professionals. Their efforts, they say, are gleaned from their experiences and are not meant to replace the advice or guidance of a doctor.
“We are not licensed medical professionals and all of the advice we give is what we have learned from our own experiences with addiction and life. We are not responsible for any actions that may occur as a result of you listening to and implementing the advice we give. Use all of the information that we give at your own risk.”