“Do not let the shame and stigma of this disease win”

This morning, Nick Yacoub, an addiction survivor and a regional supervisor with the Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance of Virginia, joined Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA)  and House Republican leadership in a press conference on Capitol Hill and shared his addiction recovery story.  Nick’s account is a stark reminder of how the opioid epidemic is indiscriminately wreaking havoc all across America.  This epidemic demands action now, which is why the House is continuing its work in the days and weeks ahead.

Following are Mr. Yacoub’s full remarks from today’s press conference:

“My name is Nick Yacoub and I am a person in long-term recovery from a long time addiction, which means I haven’t had a drink or any other drug in over eight years. I’m also a certified peer specialist in the region, a regional supervisor with the Substance Abuse Addiction and Recovery Alliance of Virginia, just as Congresswoman Comstock said.  

“I started using alcohol and marijuana at the age of 10 and prescription uppers and downers in high school, added heroin and cocaine from the ages of 18 and 19, and it all funneled back into alcohol by the time I was 21. By the time I was 21, I was arrested yet again and entered recovery. Getting arrested saved my life, but recovery made it a life worth living.
“Over the past decade, I have watched people in this country panic over avian flu, SARS, Ebola, and now the Zika virus, yet addiction through alcoholism through extension has been recognized as a disease by the American medical association since 1956 and in 2016, 16 years later, society is still treating it as a moral failing on the part of the individual. The layman sees an addict lie, cheat, steal without realizing it’s symptomatic and diagnostic and thinks it’s a choice to do evil. And of course, no one wants to admit that it might be in their family or in their community.
“As of 2013, an estimated 22.7 million Americans suffer actively from the disease of addiction. It’s in your family, it is in your community, whether you’re in the city or suburbs or rural America. This disease has plagued humanity since its beginnings. It is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives and doesn’t care about skin color, religious convictions, sexual preference, or identity, or your bank account, your job, intelligence, cultural background, your politics, legal status of your drug of choice, or any other aspect of our lives that we identify ourselves with.
“As a disease, it is chronic, which means it’s lifelong, progressive, meaning it only gets worse with time and potentially fatal. People think we choose to have this. It’s been demonstrated repeatedly over decades that this disease affects the areas of the brain responsible for making choices. Public policy should reflect that addiction recovery is not about bad people trying to be good but sick people trying to get well.
“Here’s the upshot: The recovery community in America as of 2012 consists of 23.5 million people. That’s over 46 million people in this country that have this disease with only half of them having found a solution. If you are struggling, you are not alone. Go out and seek the recovery community wherever you are. They continue to save my life on a daily basis, the recovery community does. Go to detox —  go to detox, go to outpatient, call your local 211. I could not do this alone and I don’t know of anyone who can do this alone.
“For the family members and loved ones of the addicts, there’s help and support for you in the community as well. Talk openly and honestly about your struggles, whoever and wherever you are. Do not let the shame and stigma of this disease win. Thank you all for your time.” 

For Rep. Barbara Comstock, and many others, the opioid epidemic is a growing problem in her own community. “In 2014 alone, the 728 deaths from heroin in the Commonwealth of  Virginia were larger than the deaths from traffic accidents,” she said. “This needs to be worked on from every level — from the schools to support systems…”

For a link to the full press conference, click here.