Valley Voices: Take addiction out of Vail’s closet |

Valley Voices: Take addiction out of Vail’s closet

Carlos Abel
Vail CO, Coloado

There is a terrible reference to the closet as a place to hide family members with health problems.

One hundred years ago that was a very crowded place, filled with family members with one or more of the following challenges: disabilities, mental illness, addiction, and violent behavior.

The image of having a perfect life, a perfect family and a perfect home taught us to be ashamed of natural things and to hide our emotions and feelings, making any challenge we face worse. We used to say, let’s keep the dirty laundry inside of the house, meaning don’t let our friends or neighbors know that we have problems because we will lose the status of a perfect family.

How we can get help if we don’t ask for it?

How we can get help if we think that our sicknesses are a shame or that our sickness is our fault? If we are trying to project a false image of our life, that is pathetic. There are people doing that everyday because of our destructive pride.

Through the times, that closet has been opened partially, on different occasions.

Like about 25 years ago, the first people that our ashamed society let out of the closet were people with different needs ” disabilities. Now in 2008 we can say that there is not a taboo any more about that. Nevertheless, there are newspaper stories every year about a kid that has been held hostage by the ignorance of the family that doesn’t know what to do, and/or cannot deal with the shame, guilt and fear, which are mistaken feelings.

Then about 20 years ago, our society learned to let the mental health patients out of the closet to receive appropriate treatment.

There is a big group of ill people that we keep in the closet. For God’s sake it is the middle of 2008 and we still think that addiction of any kind is a shame and a sin ” something that we don’t want to talk about.

Addiction is a terrible sickness that needs to be treated properly. It is not the ill person’s fault, and playing games of culpability will drive us insane and will not fix a thing.

The only way to treat this very serious illness in our community is by facing the truth and opening the door of the closet once and for all, and to provide real assistance to people with addiction disorders.

You will be asking yourself right now, “What I can do to help?” First please, please take the stigma out the problem and learn and research more about it. If we open our doors, the people with an addiction syndrome will be able to talk openly about this terrible disease and search for help.

We can help. There are new programs in Colorado to treat addictive illness.

But is time to take the veil out of Vail to let it bloom in a more beautiful and human environment.

Carlos Abel is a health educator at Vail Valley Medical Center. Contact him at Submit your guest column to

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