April is National Alcohol Awareness Month
What better time to share my story with you and introduce my plan to help Iowans struggling with alcohol and drug dependency.
I am C.J. Petersen, Democratic candidate for Iowa State Senate District Six, and I am an alcoholic.
Everyone is shaped by their journey through life. Like Governor Kim Reynolds, mine has included a struggle with alcoholism. It’s not been an easy road, and there were stops along the way I am not proud of and do not condone. Still, the process of recovery has made me a better person, and I am proud of the happy, productive, and sober life I live today. And I am grateful mine was a path that led me back to faith in God and strengthened my resolve to help others.
In fact, one of the primary reasons I am in this race is because of my experience with addiction and my subsequent journey to sobriety.
Our state has made some progress towards addressing substance abuse, but Iowa remains among the worst in the nation for excessive drinking. According to the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 20 percent of adult Iowans binge drink. And although alcohol is the most prevalent addictive substance in our state, the continued use and misuse of opioids, meth, and other drugs are also gravely concerning. Our law enforcement agencies have told us a lack of substance abuse treatment and mental health services are overcrowding our correctional facilities and fueling a rise in violent crime even in our most rural communities. It is clear we need leaders in Des Moines to do more.
As your State Senator, I will use evidence to guide my policymaking so that it is effective and fiscally responsible, and I will work hard to ensure all Iowans can access the treatment they need.
We must work closely with law enforcement to keep our communities safe while reducing the burden on our police and correctional officers to manage substance abuse.
We need to follow the recommendations of public health experts and remove barriers to life-saving resources like syringe services, naloxone, and medication for Hepatitis C.
We have to expand access to affordable rehabilitative treatment for individuals who are motivated to break the cycle of addiction.
My journey to sobriety included both inpatient and outpatient programming. At the time, like 148,000 other Iowans, I was uninsured. It cost me $20,000, or $324 a month for five years. I am fortunate my treatment worked. Others in my group were not so lucky. Many people in recovery relapse and require additional treatment, and that means accumulating more debt. No Iowan should be forced into bankruptcy because they want to be a better person.
And the research is clear: Substance abuse is an expensive problem not to address - for all of us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking alone leads to major losses in economic productivity and has cost Iowa $1.9 billion. We must invest in solutions that work. Our state budget is a moral document, and it needs to reflect our belief in the resilience, dignity, and worth of all people.
Do I regret my past mistakes? Yes, and I strive every day to make amends for them.
Will I hide from my record? Absolutely, unequivocally no.
This is a part of who I am and a part of why I want to be your State Senator. The best leaders are those with experience. And whether you or someone you love has struggled with addiction or you are one of the fortunate few whose life has not been touched by this disease, please know it has given me the perspective, the wisdom, and the drive to fight for others - no matter their struggle.