Deep within the bowels of a New York Times article from July 2014, on Tasmanian poppy crop production, is a wonderful sentence.
Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of Australia, down near Melbourne, and about the size of West Virginia, has a monopoly on a certain strain of poppy production. Different poppy plants contain different alkaloids which net different narcotics.
“Tasmania…….grows about 85 percent of the world’s thebaine (74,000 acres), an opium poppy extract used to make OxyContin and a family of similarly powerful prescription drugs that have transformed pain management over the last two decades. It produces all of the world’s oripavine, another extract, which is used to treat heroin overdoses and shows promise in controlling other addictions. Tasmania also accounts for a quarter of the world’s morphine and codeine, two older painkillers from opium poppies that are still widely used, particularly outside North America.”
While reading the article, it idly crossed my mind, “With all that poppy right there, what is the addiction problem like on Tasmania?”. Then I read this section:
“Towns like Launceston, Longford, Evandale and other current-day hubs of poppy production in north and central Tasmania had been settled by tens of thousands of British and Irish convicts transported here in the early 19th century as a cheap alternative to prisons in the British Isles. They were followed by thousands of so-called free settlers, who built communities with main streets still lined by two- and three-story pink sandstone buildings.
Then people largely stopped moving there. With 500,000 people, Tasmania now rivals Iceland in having one of the world’s least mobile populations, with little immigration or emigration. Particularly in rural Tasmania, people do not just know everyone in their towns — their families tend to have known one another for at least four generations, and often five or six. Secrets are few, helping to keep drug use in check.” (emphasis mine)
What a beautiful piece of poetry that sentence is!
That “tip” represents an iceberg of wisdom that could lead us back to the Promised Land, people! It is a universal snapshot of what is meant by Recovery Supports and Recovery Community Centers. It’s about what healthy human communities look like.
Addiction is a disease of isolation. Disappearing from sight, from view, greatly enables those going down the road to addiction. Visibility greatly enables those going down the road to recovery. That sentence is referring to the nature of small towns, villages, tribes, families knowing each other’s business. Implied is that if someone, a person in the community, is developing a problem, someone will notice and bring it up!
Where we stand on this concept, this way of living is truly instructive. There is no recovery that does not embrace community, so if we want the whole nation to recover we want the whole nation to become community. That conflicts with various ideas we have about freedom. It also deeply conflicts with the way of the world currently. Studies show that communal activities, from attendance at sporting events to civic organizations, have plummeted. We are increasingly isolated.
The fact is: “…..it is not just sporting events. Public lectures, church services, labor unions, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, Masonic halls, Rotary clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Grange Hall meetings, the League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies, town halls, bowling leagues, bridge clubs, movie theater attendance (at a 20-year low), advocacy groups such as the NAACP and professional and amateur theatrical and musical performances cater to a dwindling and graying population.”
“A generation has fallen down the rabbit hole of electronic hallucinations—with images often dominated by violence and pornography. They have become, in the words of the philosopher Hannah Arendt, “atomized,” sucked alone into systems of information and entertainment that cater to America’s prurient fascination with the tawdry, the cruel and the deadening cult of the self.”
My experience in the world shows this to be true yet there are multiple solutions. This is not doom and gloom though we can dig a hole so deep it seems overwhelming to climb out. There is always hope.
Something you learn going to treatment and learn to model working in treatment is how showing care and concern within our community looks. It is not about nosy snooping, or vindictive tattling or constant surveillance. It’s about speaking up when something is becoming apparent. It’s speaking up about the proverbial elephants that haunt our living rooms. Getting it out in the open is a prime step in bringing visibility to recovery. And the benefits are proven in Tasmania. That much poppy right across the street in some places would lead to rampant addiction. They have the answer to avoid such pitfalls.
In that vein, the Times article also points out that: “The bulk of the opium poppy extract produced in Tasmania is shipped to pharmaceutical factories in the Northeastern United States. With its wealth and a largely private health care system willing to pay up for drugs, the United States accounts for three-quarters of global opiate painkiller sales by tonnage and five-sixths by value.”
There’s an elephant we could begin with. The numerous players and factors that create a situation where we- about four and a half percent of the world’s population–consume 3/4’s of all the narcotic pain killers manufactured. Holy Schnikes! That’s an awful a lot of untreated pain, much of it emotional or psychic. It’s the secrets that keep the bulk of that pain alive rather than resolved.