Are We Desensitized to Overdose?
“You will have to walk over bodies in recovery.” We have all heard something along these lines in treatment or in the rooms of AA or NA. At first, we might not think much of it. Like, we get it, people are dying by the thousands- but not me, not my friends. Eventually, it will be someone you really knew. A friend, someone who deserves more than the RIP posts, more than a one time thought. Recovery is so filled with life, but it is also filled with death. Over 100 people die everyday due to accidental drug overdose.
Once you’ve entered treatment and made friends with a bunch of other people your age struggling with the same disease, you will see and hear about death more and more. Before you may not have had that many friends who use- but now a lot of the friends you make will be either in recovery or in relapse. Maybe you will begin by brushing it off as someone you weren’t “close” with, maybe you won’t feel too much, maybe you will think about the family they left behind and write RIP on social media. All in all, though, you continue to move through life without thinking about it again.
As time goes on, we may see more and more people succumb to their addiction, but the impact it has on us will continue to lessen and lessen. This weird phenomenon is called desensitization, and it happens when we are so overexposed to something that we become less likely to feel shock or distress. Desensitization is sort of like going numb to a situation, however, does that mean you really don’t feel anything. Probably not. We all have emotions and that is okay.
One of the theories about why this happens to people is that it is a feeling that you have never experienced before, so instead of letting yourself go through the process of grief- you just shake it off. This would make a lot of sense for many people who have dealt with substance abuse, since many of us have been trying to mask our emotions with drugs and alcohol. Another reason you may not be feeling anything could be because you have more than one feeling- maybe anger, regret, frustration and sadness, all at once. Regardless of if you have been through this, if you feel nothing, or if you feel everything, dealing with grief can be triggering and difficult for people in recovery (and people not in recovery). Nobody wants to hear that people are dying, but they are. It could be you; it could be someone you care about. If someone you know is struggling, don’t let them become the next RIP post, help is available, and recovery is possible.