The many deaths of addiction.

Aaron Matthew Laxton, LCSW
12 min readDec 30, 2020
Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

John Doe, age 26, born on 3/16/94, died alone on 11/15/19. He was not surrounded by family or friends. He died in agony and pain. He struggled until the end to be the person that others wanted him to be, what society told him he had to be, and in the end, he determined that he could never be that person. He did not leave a note, who would read it anyway? To him, no one cared. He was all alone.

Although I have changed the name, the information is real. Another person lost. By now, I should be desensitized to it but the truth is that it never gets easier; it gets harder. It always gets harder. Every one of these deaths is preventable and every death stabs you in the chest with the realization that we, as a society, failed the person lost. This weight is especially difficult for those of us that have been able to find a way to treat or stop our substance use. Many of us find our way to service or social work after we treat our substance abuse, and this can send us to reach out for those still using or keep us close to the front lines with those who need our help the most.

As I pitched this piece to Beth Weise, she shared her personal experience with the love and loss caused by addiction. She shared with me, during my time in treatment, my cousin also entered into treatment. We became close, as happens with people who use and have used substances, you relate to each other, and even if the words are never spoken out loud, you know things about each other that no one else will ever know about you because they have never been through what you have been through. We built new hobbies together and explored new things to fill our time now that we were no longer using substances. She was quite younger than I was but mature beyond her years. I always told her I’d wished I could have found treatment at her age because I felt like she had so much life ahead of her and I had lost most of mine to using and was facing many more barriers to reintegrating into society than she was. But then one day she relapsed, and she didn’t survive. Her death was tragic, it was unnecessary, and it rocked me to my core. She was so young, so much life left, so many dreams she had yet to reach for. Why her? Why was it not me? Why did I get to survive, and she didn’t? Who makes these decisions? And who is going to understand how guilty I feel for not being able to save her? Even now…

Aaron Matthew Laxton, LCSW

I am a psychotherapist who writes about mental health, addiction, recovery and the impact of substance use from personal experience. Views are my own.