Last week, yet another famous celebrity succumbed to the disease of alcoholism. One of the stars of the hit show, True Blood, Nelson Ellis, died of heart failure, which caused by his addiction At the young age of 39, this is truly a tragedy. In recent years, Phillip Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and Amy Winehouse are only a few famous people who have publicly suffered and passed away from drug and alcohol addiction.
While many of these celebrities struggled with drugs, including opiate and prescription pill addiction, the death of Ellis zeroes in on alcoholism alone and it’s deadly impact on the body, spirit, and mind. According to a statement put out by his family, Nelson was “ashamed of his addiction and thus reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family believes that in death, he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”
Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a death in order to have an honest discussion about the deadly nature of addiction, and in particular, alcoholism. Alcoholism is still the biggest killer in our country, regardless of the opiate addiction crisis. According to the CDC, alcohol related deaths contributed to 88,000 deaths last year alone, which is more than 52, 000 who died of drug overdose in 2015.
These numbers are troubling, and quite frankly, outrageous. And yet, we almost look at alcoholism as a constant, something that will always be there and has no chance to ever be cured. We view drug addiction as new, worse, and crisis-related, but alcoholism is expected, and almost taken lightheartedly. Perhaps this is due to the fact that alcohol is legal, and the line between addiction and binge drinking is often blurred. But when one person passes away solely from the disease of alcoholism, it takes society time to reflect and think about where we are in terms of treating the disease. Alcohol deaths are only a part of the problem. It also results in yearly hospitalizations, and contributes to crime and violence.
According to an article in Vox, treatment for alcoholism in the United States is woefully inadequate. They explain that, “according to a recent report, only 10% of Americans suffering from a drug abuse disorder get specialty treatment.” They go on to rightfully correlate that the way we treat alcoholism in relation to other diseases is a national disgrace. In other words, if only 10% of those who had cancer were receiving treatment, we would treat it as a national crisis.
So why do so few people get the treatment they need? Much of this was discussed at a local conference that Footprints attended, which went over in detail the exact reasons. These include expense, a shortage of drug counselors, a shortage of available drug treatments, and a lack of available hospital/rehab spaces. However, a lot of it has to do with the stigma and shame that alcohol addiction has in general. As the statement by Nelson’s family concluded, his shame led him to hide his addiction. There are those with jobs who worry about losing their reputation, such as famous celebrities like Ellis, or just regular everyday businessmen and women who are concerned that a trip to rehab could be the end of their career. Many times family members are unsupportive of those who suffer from addiction and do not understand the disease itself, so the sufferer feels forced to hide the problem or try to resolve it alone. As we all know, a large support system is the only true way towards finding recovery. Shame is usually a self-induced emotion that is based on fear. Had Nelson Ellis let go of his shame, he may still be alive today.
His death, however tragic, allows us to start talking about more solutions. Vox lays out quite a few that may or may not assist those suffering from alcoholism, but at least gets us as a society to have an honest discussion about the disease. These solutions include upping the alcohol tax, reducing the number of alcohol outlets or places to buy alcohol, revoking one’s legal right to drink if chronic offenders continue to abuse alcohol, and putting state governments in charge of alcohol.
While these may be helpful to a degree, and are definitely well meaning in nature, at the end of the day, we as addicts know that the disease will disregard laws and they only will serve to slow us down for a short time from using the drug of our choice. In other words, the laws stated above will serve as an annoyance to addicts, but not as a deterrent. The true solution, according to proven research, and the principles set out at Footprints Behavioral Health, is a holistic approach which focuses on spiritual recovery and the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is sad that Ellis, like so many others, did not feel empowered to take the necessary steps to get the help he and so many like him desperately need.
Are you ashamed of your addiction to alcohol or drugs and don’t know who to turn to? Do you want to enter a treatment facility or apply for outpatient therapy but you still aren’t sure what your friends, family, and co-workers will think? Nothing is worth losing yourself to an addiction! Contact Linda Rose today at 949-558-4723 today and start your roadmap towards recovery.