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The War Isn't Lost

I am DACI’s Executive Director. I’ve been a local church minister. I’ve been a chaplain. I worked in fundraising, sales, and education. If you ask me about my favorite job, and if I can be honest, I might just say “coach.” For the last 12 years, I’ve been involved with coaching high school athletics. I am currently the head coach of a men’s high school tennis team.

The thing about coaching is this. It is simple. It fans the flames of my competitive fire for sure. I get to be a teammate, which is one of my favorite things. But really, I dig the simplicity of it. You see, I like things that are simple. And while I can argue that molding high school student-athletes into better tennis players and better young men is anything but simple, there is a simplicity to coaching that I like. Well, I love it really. You see at some level it is binary. Coaches and teams either win or lose, every time. (And yes, a tie is losing!) It is all about one of two outcomes. You win or you lose, it is that simple.

Recently I was at a conference where they talked about the fabled US “war on drugs.” The specifics of the conversation were that the war is over and we lost. Now there was quite a bit of conversation about the battles in the war, about who the “we” that lost is, and much more. At the surface though, this presentation was about the drug war being over and America’s Communities having lost.

Now, I’ve already told you I like a good “win or lose” situation, and I have stated my love for all things simple. In this case, though, I am not sure the outcome is binary at all.

First, and this one I am sure of, the war on drugs is not over. At DACI, we are fighting this battle every day. There is no quitting, no cease-fire, no treaty of peace. This is a fight, even a war, and we are still battling.

I am also not sure that we have “lost.” I think it is fair to acknowledge that there have been losses. I could give you statistics, but the real losses come on a personal level. So many people in our county and in our communities “lose” to substance misuse every day. The losses are too many to count, the statistics don’t tell the tale. But I am not ready yet to say we have lost, heck I won’t even say we are losing, not overall!

Babe Ruth is a name you don’t have to be a baseball (or even a sports) fan to know. For more than 75 years he was baseball’s home run king. He was also, for longer than that, baseball’s strike-out king. Ruth, who “lost” (struck out) 1330 times at the plate, once said that it is hard to beat the guy who never gives up.

That is what I mean here. DACI isn’t giving up! And so, we haven’t lost, we won’t, ultimately lose. We’ll just keep fighting.

I do fully understand why people, agencies, and even governments might see the drug war as one that is over, and one that no one won. Heck in some ways no one could win it. I understand. The war on drugs, for all its fitting nicely into the battlefield cliches, really doesn’t fit at all. Except that it is a fight, a real, ugly fight.

As a coach, I sell to my players that as long as we have any chance to win, we have a chance to win! DACI is still in the fight of flattening the line of substance misuse in Iredell County.

Right now, we will call that a win!


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