"Shame Game" harmful or helpful? Former drug addicts speak out

Joshua Dixon (Source: KAIT)
Joshua Dixon (Source: KAIT)
Amber Lewis (Source: KAIT)
Amber Lewis (Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - To have your lowest point exposed on a national level could be devastating for anyone, especially if that point involves an addiction, but some feel that that is what it takes to get someone to change their lives.

Last September, a controversial photo of two parents passed out in their vehicle from a drug overdose with a child in the backseat rocked the nation after an Ohio police officer posted it to the internet.

The officer's intent was to send a message of awareness of a problem they see often, but that message became a hot topic to those who have and have not been down the path of addiction proving something such as that could be both harmful and helpful. Some may see it as a warning.

"What they are seeing is the final results of a series of bad decisions and bad behavior," said Dr. Miguel Casillas, CEO of the Stockton Medical Group, which provides opioid addiction treatment.

Some people agree that shaming is an effective tool.

"Obviously it is a disturbing picture, but it is reality. Drugs and alcohol, they run rampant," said Todd Childers, an instructor with John 3:16 Ministries and a recovering addict. "It takes stuff like that. Shock to get a hold of someone and to make some changes."

Childers, who credits Christ for his addiction recovery, said a picture so extreme could make a difference that many would not realize.

"The people that need to be shocked by that, they will be," said Childers. "The people who need to change, it will get their attention. But the people who have never been there, they will be offended by it. But it becomes a testimony. The same thing the devil meant for evil, God uses for good and who's to say it doesn't change their lives."

Nolan Dill, another instructor with John 3:16 Ministries and a recovering addict, agrees.

"Ain't no telling how many people have gotten saved because of that picture right now and how many people have changed their life," said Dill. "Maybe they didn't get saved but maybe they stopped doing drugs and alcohol, and they are not going drive and kill someone tonight because that picture got put on the internet."

However, some people like Joshua Dixon and Amber Lewis, recovering addicts from Jonesboro, feel that this shaming tactic does not work for everyone.

"As addicts, we have engulfed ourselves with so much shame, we don't need any outside people adding to it," said Lewis. "It only makes it worse."

"Addiction comes in all forms, and it is not prejudice," said Dixon. "It is not racist and it attacks anybody and everyone. It's bad how good people turn to that because of something they are dealing with and it is a downward spiral."

Over the course of their addiction, Dixon and Lewis found themselves homeless, losing custody of their kids, and trying to commit suicide after hitting rock bottom. But for the past few months they have been clean and, like Dill and Childers, they are in recovery.

"It took an act of God," said Dixon. "I was going to be dead or in prison one or the other."

The two believe having a photo exposing the couple in Ohio could have damaging results.

"I'd probably even turn to the deepest darkest hole I could turn to and never come out of it," said Dixon "Or attempt suicide again and do it to where it would succeed."

Though they feel pain for the Ohio couple, they also worry about the lasting effects that picture could have on the child.

"It is going to cause some damage," said Dixon "Ain't no telling where it is going to come from. Especially if any of the kids find out when this kid is old enough to be in school. It is a way to pick on him or make fun of him. It just ain't right."

According to Dill, however, that photo cannot cause any more damage because, unlike those who are looking from the outside in, the kid is living it every day.

"I have seen kids come through here at John 3:16 to visit their family," said Dill. "They have lived where that kid has lived right now. They have been embarrassed."

Dill said the photo will serve as a blessing in disguise to the boy.

"His parents will change," said Dill. "That's what that kid needs are for his parents to change and there won't be no shame or guilt in that. He is young now and doesn't understand, but one day he will be old enough to understand what happened and he will be even more proud of his mom and dad. There couldn't have been anything else better to happen."

Casillas agrees the photo could help but said showing that picture is just not enough to solve the problem of addiction.

"It works for some, but it has to be facilitated through therapists," said Casillas. "It's not just going to happen by you seeing a picture."

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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