Mark Twain may have only lived at what is now Wave Hill for a couple years at the turn of the 20th century, but he is by far one of Riverdale’s most legendary figures — to the point even the words he (supposedly) shared also are something of folklore.
“Quitting smoking is easy,” it’s claimed he once said. “I’ve done it hundreds of times.”
Whether Twain made that joke or not, the fact was, he rarely was photographed without his trusted pipe. And we’re quite sure that it was always lit.
But there’s another quote reportedly from Twain that isn’t shared so often: “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”
We can’t fully interchange “habit” with “addiction,” but that’s only because habits are far easier to overcome. Yet, we as a society tend to treat addiction as something that should never happen in the first place, a product of weakness, or simply a condition we can overcome if we really want to.
But that’s not the case. According to a 2011 Harvard Medical School publication, addiction is a “chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain.”
Recovering from addiction requires willpower, the Harvard team said, but it takes far more than Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” slogan of the 1980s.
“Instead, people typically use multiple strategies — including psychotherapy, medication and self-care — as they try to break the grip of an addiction.”
Many of us grew up hearing a lot about cocaine and marijuana. But in recent years, a lot more attention has focused on the opioid epidemic — drugs like heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone — because deaths associated with its abuse are on a drastic rise.
More than 70,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse — double the number of people just a decade before. That’s more than suicide. That’s more than the flu and pneumonia. It’s almost more than the number of people who died from diabetes complications.
Curing addictions like this is not easy. In fact, opioid addiction can’t be flung out the window at all, and Twain’s staircase is very long, requiring very slow steps.
We want people to get better. But to get better, they need help. They need professionals. They need counseling. They need treatment.
And they need a space to do it.
The fear of allowing a treatment clinic to open on Broadway makes sense, but only when we don’t educate ourselves on the importance of such clinics, and when we fail to remind ourselves of the role we play as human beings.
Sure, chances are you have not faced addiction or been touched by addiction with someone you love. But if you were not so lucky, you would want others to help you, right? So why, then, would we not want to help others.
We don’t do good deeds with the hope of having that nice thing returned someday. We do good deeds because if the situation was reversed, we hope someone would do a good deed for us.
Helping those with addiction is a good deed. And we need to keep that in mind when we speak up about the proposed Broadway clinic.