It seems pretty rare for Asian and Pacific Islander (API) families and communities to talk openly about substance use (drugs and alcohol) and Substance Use Disorders (addiction). In order to reduce the stigma for those who have an addiction, there needs to be some conversation about this. If we as API continue to hide the problem, those who are addicted and their families are left with very little solutions. Why is this such a difficult conversation to have? Saving face? Is saving face worth losing a life to addiction?
When my parents found out about my addiction, they often told people that I was not around because I was too busy in school and playing golf on my college team. As long as the visible part of my life looked good on the outside, they can deny that a problem existed. I often wondered if I was able to fly under the radar and not cause such a devastation in the aftermath, would they have continued minimizing my addiction as just something I did once a while to relieve stress. They did not have any friends or family they felt they could confide in. They were afraid to be blamed as being bad parents and that my addiction would cause them to lose face. I wonder how many other API families have this same secret that they are holding onto and terrified that others will find out.
What grows in the dark dies in the light…it was not until my parents found the courage to reach out that they started to understand a little more about my addiction. Although at the time, they felt ostracized by some friends, others who were having similar problems or knew someone who could help, started to reach out. Funny thing is that after all that we have gone through as a family, my addiction has truly made us closer. They are proud of the person that I have become and believe that me sharing my story will make difference in the lives of others.
So what does this all have to do with public discourse? Good public discourse is described as integrating “rational argument with narratives, personal experiences, expressions of emotion, and empathetic listening” (Rodin & Steinberg, 2004, p.16). Using this blog is a way that I hope to bring light to the issues of substance use within API communities. Other ways that public discourse could be shaped are through movies/films/TV shows, radio podcasts, and social media campaigns. The beauty of it is that any person can be a voice for those who are disempowered and help them to gain the courage to speak up. Let’s encourage the conversation to start!