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Pandemic adds to struggles of addiction

To say that we have faced a difficult year would be an understatement. Death, illnesses, loss of income, opposition to political parties, refusal to follow guidelines for healthcare, social and racial injustice have influenced our thinking and feeling states, creating fear, anxiety and depression.

I was asked by one of my younger customers, the question of, “Mr. Tramuta, in you lifetime have you ever seen anything like what we are going through?”

My answer was simple: “Never.”

I wasn’t here when the 1928 Depression, hit, and I’m sure that was traumatic for everyone in the country. However, when nearly 285,000 Americans die from this virus, no, I have never witnessed that before.

When we grew up in the ’60s, the expectations of the country, families, and the government appeared different than today. It seemed like more people fended for themselves and were less demanding what the county, state and government needed to do for them.

Dunkirk was the hub of activity with businesses like Buffalo Press, True Temper, Alco, Allegany Ludlum Steel, Kraft Foods, Koch’s Brewery and so on. Most of the people of this city were working and the attitude appeared to be solidified in hard work.

Besides people taking care of their families, they often found time to “give back” to others less fortunate. It was simple, “help those who are less fortunate and having difficulty helping themselves.” People were “busy” with their daily lives and had little effort to waste on frivolous things.

Over the years in this city, as things began to change, many of the industries that I mentioned began to disappear due to the economy.

Many residents moved to greener pastures, but there were still people in our city “trying to figure it out.” As a kid, who needed a job, the city provided a number of choices, so many of us were never out of work. We did not demand that they hire us, only, “give us a shot.”

The attitude was, “if I don’t get this job, I’ll get the next one.” That was our mindset, and it worked.

My point up to now in this article, is that we were never promised anything, only the opportunity that the jobs provided.

So, here we are today, many depressed, lacking things like money, jobs, access to healthcare and each event creating more anxiety. The violation of rights, especially when dictates occur from government officials, result in episodes of “civil disobedience.” In our day, if we were told to wear masks, social distance and wash hands, that’s what we did without question, because it was for the good of the group.

My point is people were less demanding, didn’t awfulize as much, had higher frustration tolerance to handle bad times, events and setbacks and tended not to rate others’ character as we do today. People sitting at home, demanding that the government give them more, were in the minority. If we didn’t have money to go to the movies, we didn’t go to the movies. It was a lot simpler. Most of us that went to college worked our way through, with many part-time jobs. I would show up at Kraft Foods every other Friday night to clean the sugar system out. We would start at 10:30 and have to be done by 7 a.m. the next morning. We would enter at one end of the plant with a hose, brush and articles to separate caked-on sugar. It was back-breaking, pressure-packed, but rewarding. We got $50 for the night or $100 a month.

Thus when I read, or observe some of the demandingness going on today, I begin to wonder, “where do they get these attitudes and feelings from?” Many of them are self-created, and have little proof to offer, other than this is what someone wants and may not necessarily need, even though they keep griping about it.

So after explaining a small part of where we came from and what attitudes and thinking patterns we adhered to, this is what I suggest: for you to move forward. Volunteer at a food kitchen, clean out your closet and give what you don’t need away. Spend time in a senior citizens’ home, visit the kids in the cancer ward in Roswell. Spend less time finding fault with what doesn’t work and more time just doing what needs to be done. Many of you need to come out of yourselves and start treating others like you would want to be treated. This pandemic will end and we will move on as we usually do. For many of us, this was shocking and humbling. For others, it was an opportunity to help without asking for anything back.

To all the chemical dependent people out there, we are praying for you and wish you peace and happiness in the next year.

Mike Tramuta has been a counselor for more than 30 years. Call 983-1592 for more information.

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