- May 11
Justin Kaufmann spoke to Gateway President and CEO Dr. Thomas Britton and Gateway alum Spencer on WGN’s “The Download” for insights on the opioid crisis, how we can combat it, and Spencer’s journey to recovery.
“A criminal problem rather than a public health problem”
Dr. Britton mentions how more government funding is being allocated to law enforcement compared to treatment options. He says of the estimated 30-60 million people who need treatment, only 3 million get it, and those who do often don’t get enough to be successful. He advocates for a multi-pronged policy approach.
“A bridge to recovery”
Dr. Britton speaks to the importance of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and how it saves lives every day. However, he warns MAT is not the cure for addiction, but one of the methods used to help people with substance use disorders. Other measures still need to be taken.
“All my morals out the window”
In an effort to support his habits, Spencer talks about stealing from his parents, relatives, neighbors, and even kids to pay for drugs and alcohol.
“Mentally in love with the drug”
While in treatment for the first time, Spencer counted down the days until he could use again. This happens again while he is in his hospital bed following his heart attack, counting down the days until he could have a drink.
“The flu on steroids”
Spencer describes the withdrawals every time he tried to quit by himself: the muscle aches, nausea, suicidal thoughts.
“Learn my parents’ names again”
Following his heart attack at age 25, Spencer fell into a coma. After waking up a couple months later, he had to relearn the basics, like how to say his parents’ names, how to use a fork, how to use the bathroom.
“Like trying to swim against the current”
Spencer relates his experiences of quitting by himself to a person drowning. He needed a lifeguard, which in this case was Gateway’s support system, to help him to recovery.
“A silent killer”
Due to the stigma surrounding addiction, many people feel ashamed to ask for help and spend their lives hiding their struggle from their loved ones. Addressing this stigma could change the conversation and increase the number of success stories.
“I wouldn’t say [addiction] defines me; I’d say it definitely has taken a lot out of me… It’s like a soldier that has gone to war. You have the stories but you just gotta keep going forward. Now, I love volleyball. I’d say that defines me. I love my sister, my parents. I love life.”