This article is by Jamie Vansickle, our Director of Operations since 2019 and an active-duty Air Force Captain. When she's not hard at work on base in Georgia she likes being around her friends and her dogs.
We have a drug epidemic in this country. Drug addiction is a serious condition that kills
millions each year. It is incredibly scary to watch someone you love become addicted to
terrifying substances like methamphetamines and opioids. Watching someone you deeply care about wasting away to nothing in front of your very eyes is awful. And so, I didn’t.
Nearly a decade ago, my little sister and only sibling, six years my junior, started using
and abusing methamphetamines. I had enlisted in the Air Force several years prior and was
stationed in Georgia while she was living in Ohio. Many states in the Midwest are known for
severe drug problems, especially methamphetamines and opioids. When I visited my sister
during that time I could see how much weight she’d lost and how manic she seemed but I
Several years later, she got pregnant and had a son. She seemed to be doing better but
when he was less than a year old, she started nodding off randomly and could barely keep her eyes open when I visited. I soon learned that after the birth of her son she had turned to heroin. I tried to talk to her about it, but she denied any problems. Again, I ignored it...
Eventually, things got so bad my mom had to convince my sister to sign over temporary
parental rights because my sister was not able to raise her son in her condition. My mother ended up with custody of my nephew for four years. During that time, my sister was relatively
homeless. She was arrested several times, served several months in jail, and was sentenced to rehab. Still, I did nothing.
Unfortunately, while my sister was in rehab for over a year we learned how poor the
rehabilitative system in our state is. There is very little required government certification, very
little government oversight, few rules on recovery, and minimal licensing needed for those
running ‘rehabilitation centers’ here. We learned that, essentially, one can just rent several
mobile homes, place three beds in each room, charge each individual working towards recovery rent each month, and call the place a rehabilitation center. The required classes were taught by others in the program; no psychologists or drug addiction specialists were involved. Although it is extremely valuable to have those further into recovery teaching those newer to it and battling towards sobriety, specialists should always be involved. Graduation from these programs merely meant you had stayed for a year and were free to leave. Sadly, my sister said there were more drugs inside the rehab than there were outside of it.
Fortunately, because of my sister’s experience in rehabilitation, my mother, sister, and I
have decided to open our own rehabilitation center when I retire from the Air Force. We plan to run our organization differently, working hard to truly help people. We will have a psychologist who specializes in drug addiction on staff full time and my sister will be the face of the organization, showing that people CAN recover from detrimental addiction and using her expertise to help those in need of our care. We will approach recovery from a place of
compassion and empathy, just like I should have done for my sister.
Thankfully, my sister has recovered, and she’s been sober for almost four years now.
Unfortunately, I played no part in her recovery. I did not know how to help her, so I just ignored the problem. Over and over again, I ignored the problem. I should have been the leader my family needed and stepped in to help, no matter what it took. I should have done SOMETHING, ANYTHING. But I didn’t. And that lack of empathy, compassion, dedication, and leadership my family needed will always be one of my biggest regrets in life.
No matter what we and those we love experience in this life, it is ALWAYS better to do
SOMETHING than it is to do nothing.