I have just "defriended" a friend on Facebook. When someone did this to me sometime ago I remember that it seemed to hurt more than having an argument over the phone or being confronted in person. So it was with some hesitation that I "defriended" the friend but I did. The person that I am no longer friends with on Facebook has been told that he has the beginnings of cryosis of the liver as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. I have known him for 36 years and we are part of a small group that has remained friends for all these years. Everyone knows that he is an addict and over the years he has had enough warnings and troubles in his life to give him the impetus to stop drinking but he has chosen not to.
Lately on Facebook he has been leaving offensive and random comments obviously written when he is onto his third or fourth bottle of red in the wee hours of the morning in Australia. At first I turned off his posts so that I would not have to read his rants and raves but yesterday I could not simply ignore what he said so I decided to email him and then press "defriend". The final straw was the fact that he wrote something offensive about two young people from the community in Italy that I work at - San Patrignano. The young guys spent 5 years at San Patrigano learning how to rid themselves of their addictions forever. Part of the work that I do at San Patrignano is to help the young people who want to move to the UK to find work. The two young lads who I wrote about on Facebook are doing brilliantly and adapting to life here in the UK very well.
The other very important aspect of my job is to help anyone in this country who is addicted to drugs and is looking for a long term solution like the programme that is offered at San Patrignano. You would think that I would have people lining up at my door and calling me every 5 minutes to find out how this FREE, yes FREE long term drug rehab community operates and how anyone from this country who is addicted to drugs can go. This sadly is not the case and the only referrals or enquiries that I am getting are from when someone happens to see an episode of a BBC series called the Two Greedy Italians. I helped my friends Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio to visit San Patrignano when they were filming the series and both of them came away very moved and motivated to help the young people who are living at the community. For those of you who missed it you can watch the episode here.
Every time the phone rings from another parent, friend, brother or sister of an addict desperate to help the person that they love rid themselves of drugs I am grateful to the 2 lovely Italians for visiting the community. You see I am having a rather challenging time convincing various charities and so called experts in this country that the answer to drug addiction is simple and it is available to anyone in the UK at any time. This countries solution to drug rehabilitation is medical whilst at San Patrignano it is social and very much focused on the individual. San Patrignano offers the addict a chance to confront the reason why they took the drug in the first place and then the opportunity to re build their lives. The solution here seems to be that we don't care about the addict really - all we seem to want to do is to offer a band aid solution that does not get to the heart of why the addict took drugs in the first place. I am learning that in this country often the addict is seen like a second class citizen and so many times I hear people say "well, you chose to take the drug in the first place so why should I help you?" At the moment I am working with three incredible people who are all addicted to heroin and who have come to me to start the process of entering San Patrignano. My respect and admiration for them is vast and through the process of getting them help I am learning how difficult it is in this country to get the right kind of support that the addict needs. I believe that many well meaning charities and people in this country who offer rehab services are only interested in number crunching and bums on sits within their clinics so that they can continue to receive much needed funding. Why can't we work together to demonstrate that at the end of the day the one that really matters is the person, the individual not the statistic and the number?
So here I am writing to you all whoever you may be to ask for your help. Aside from the work that we are doing to promote San Patrignano in this country and the calls that I am getting as a result of Gennaro and Antonio's visit where else can I go to offer my services to help addicts enter the community in Italy? Forever the eternal optimist I know in my heart that one day my phone will be ringing off the hook with enquiries but for the moment I need your help.
So it was with a great deal of hesitation that I sent that email to my friend back in Australia but I did. Since starting this blog he has written back to me telling me to go f...k myself. He said that I am cruel because he has a disease and he has no choice to stop drinking. I believe that this is a cop out and a pathetic excuse to continue drinking and not take any responsibility at all. Aside from the fact that he is destroying his relationship with his family his liver is also packing it in and it frustrates me to think that if he really wanted to he could stop drinking. I have offered to take him to San Patrignano at any time - let's see if he will go.
The 26th of June is the UN's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. To celebrate this we are officially launching the UK San Patrignano Association and running a number of events during the week. For more information check out our Facebook page
Please email me if you know of anyone who is addicted to drugs and wants to find out more about San Patrignano: firstname.lastname@example.org