Where Ya Been?

Where Ya Been

            Dedicated to Luke Bell, country singer 1990-2022

Where ya been? How many times have I asked myself that question? I still get lost at times, which is as frightening as it has ever been because it sneaks up on me now. I am too often unaware that I have slipped until days later when my clarity returns. Not that I don’t think I am attuned every day but sometimes my list of things to do gets lost and I lose track of my days. I am so afraid that one day I won’t come back but I work really hard to avoid that. I hope that I always have the option.

One of my go to meditations when I get depressed is to remind myself that I am so fortunate not to wake up every day feeling like I can’t go forward. My worst days are few and far between and almost only just that, a worst day, and the following one is almost always better than the last. In my mind I feel that I am a lucky girl because I am almost always, at the very least these days, content with my life. Mental illness is a state of mind when we are not okay and in Luke Bell’s case, as in so many others, wellness is a difficult option. Now, I had never heard of Luke Bell before he went missing as I don’t listen to mainstream anything anymore. I would not have heard of him at all except that his story popped up on my Google feed and I was curious enough to click on the link. Curiosity led me to read further and his story of mental illness and addiction touched home as I have lost many friends along the way. I have fought my own battles with addictions also so I can relate to his struggle in ways that others may not. I know how it feels to feel like I had to get high rather than just wanting to, or had to have something or someone instead of just desiring that. There is a big difference and sometimes you just can’t say no. I’ve been clean for years but sometimes that feeling still comes over me!

Luke Bell, a man younger than my oldest son, who still seems so young to me. I think of Luke’s struggle with mental illness and addiction, which at their worst are one and the same. Where Ya Been? If you read and listen to the words of that song, it was a tragic self-portrait that every drinker and addict could write about themselves. Where ya been, when the person you speak of is your very own self who somehow got lost in the shuffle of life, of alcohol, of some pervasive drug or even in the mindless fog of living where one simply loses sight of all the things that might somehow root them in some sense of normalcy. What a frightening place that is to be and there are so very few of us who haven’t experienced some sense of that feeling at a given moment. We must then consider how many of us experience that feeling on a routine basis and we have to ask what the remedy is. We fail to empathize at times because it is too damned personal, too frightening to consider that ‘there for the grace of God go I”. Well, there for the grace of God go I but I am blessed with the strength and determination to have overcome my weaknesses to some great extent though I will never, it seems, overcome them all. My mind and good sense still slip away from me on occasion but I am fortunate enough to have the strength and the faith to find my way back. I am also not at all afraid to share that because if we all felt free to discuss these things we would be a lot more aware of how prevalent they are and less afraid to talk, share and assist each other in our moments of need. We might even by chance save someone’s life, or possibly our own.

Here’s my point. We all struggle sometimes and we have all asked the same question of each other and ourselves at a given moment. “Where Ya Been? Hey, mister in the mirror, where’s my friend. I went out on the town and I ain’t seen him since. Hey, hey, where ya been?” It really doesn’t matter what killed Luke Bell, it’s all the same in the end BUT Fentanyl is probably the worst crisis we have ever seen. Last year there were 41,000 deaths directly connected to this one drug and it was a part of half of the drug deaths out of 100,000 cases. Fentanyl is currently the Number One cause of death for people ages 18 to 45 in the United States as of 2022. What this country lacks is a process where people can seek help and access it without having the funds to cover their treatment. We have a system that hands out a lot of services to a lot of people, including many addicts and alcoholics, but cannot and will not provide the treatment options that might save their lives. It seems that that would be money well spent for all of the above reasons.

I don’t have all the answers but perhaps I have a few. I know that those of us who are blessed with good health and freedom from addictions can teach by example. I am not afraid to discuss my past and I hope that I will always be an inspiration to those who need one. We can all reach out when and where we think we can help while not being enablers but instead supporters of positive efforts. Sometimes just lending an ear can go a long way. We can also speak out and hope and pray that our voices will be heard. Our ‘Welfare’ system is terribly broken needs to be fixed. Well fare, fare well, no more handouts but instead support. Let the Medicaid incentives include true wellness perhaps? Mental health has as much influence on physical health as anything else, as everything else. Where ya been?

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