During my son’s twenty-two years battling the disease of addiction, my focus was on keeping him alive. Where there is life there is hope. This was my prayerful mantra each and every day. For Jim, there were multiple rehabs, sobering up in jail; there were esteem building endeavors in education, training and employment. For me, it was constant learning, relentless research and a great deal of self reflection. After a healthy period of sobriety, Jim overdosed on heroin and alcohol in 2003. In the years immediately following his death, I struggled with deep grief and often overwhelming feelings of guilt and failure.

In time, several things conspired to move me to a new space of inquiry. What I learned stoked a new fire in my heart and belly. Suddenly I needed to learn more about the history of the disease; the development of policy and laws; and I needed to understand the arc of research into this disease. Everywhere there was stigma and shame – in medicine, in policy, in the legal system, in news reporting and in general public ignorance and fear.

Through tragedy many do great works in honor and memory of the loved one(s) lost. Joining with other parents who are on this path, the work ahead is daunting. Our goal is to carve away the ignorance and judgment that has established a deeply ingrained stigma against those who suffer addiction. We believe there is little hope for recovery without human dignity and respect. And, so our intentions are:

  • to educate, inspire, encourage hope
  • to stimulate non-violent conversations at every level
  • to offer practices for personal introspection and change

Our goal is to expose debilitating stigma in every aspect of this in order to establish a permanent place at the table of hope and compassion. We dedicate this effort to those living with the disease of addiction, those who have died, and to all who love them. The world is a lesser place for their gifts lost to this disease.

The issues surrounding substance addiction are complex. What is not complex is the growing agreement that the war on drugs is a failed 40-year effort costing the U.S. $1Trillion. The war’s primary focus has been towards reducing supply, plugging our borders, increasing prison populations and arming law enforcement with weapons and laws. Reducing demand and providing adequate, accessible treatment has taken a distant back seat. See Historical Tidbits and Headline News for details.

Together we can reduce the stranglehold stigma has on respect and services which, when redirected, can keep our loved ones alive and productive – here and now. This is my personal pledge and promise.

-Barbara Allen
Jim’s mother, Bill’s sister, Amanda’s aunt

Shatter the StigmaSupporting an exit strategy from the failed war on drugs — a parent’s hope for future generations.