Discussion Questions for Jerome Adams: We Belong To Each Other
1. Kate begins this episode of Everything Happens by sharing how she first met Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States. They were lost, in the dark, wandering around at an event. When has a powerful shared experienced brought you together with a new friend?
2. Kate and Jerome have both experienced cancer firsthand. Kate, as patient. Jerome, as caregiver. What have you learned from a being patient? What have you learned from being a caregiver? How has playing one of these roles grown your empathy for the other role?
3. The best advice Jerome’s wife got from her oncologist was this: “Look, your job is just to be the strongest you can be, mentally and physically, and let us worry about the actual medical treatment.” In what aspect of your life do you need to hear that your job is simply to be the strongest you can be? Who can you give the job of “worrying” on your behalf?
4. Jerome is a big advocate for the importance of support systems, of surrounding yourself with a community who can lift you up and say “We’ve been through it, and we’re praying for you.” What or who lifts you up when you are feeling isolated or completely alone?
5. One of the issues Jerome has taken on, that is especially personal to him, is the opioid epidemic—which kills someone (in the form of an overdose) every 11 minutes in the United States and over 50% of those folks die at home. Does this surprise you? Why or why not?
6. Jerome shares his story of a younger brother serving time in prison for an addiction-related offense. “It’s amazing how insidious and dangerous stigma can be, and if folks understand that the Surgeon General of the United States is going through this and that even our family wasn’t immune, it gives them permission to feel like, ‘It’s not my fault.’” When has someone else’s story eased your shame? When has sharing your own stigma-busting story helped someone else?
7. “If I could accomplish one thing while I’m Surgeon General…it would really be to help folks understand that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing,” Jerome says. What would change in your life or community if addiction were treated this way?
8. For the past three years in a row, life expectancy has gone down in the United States due to what Jerome calls “deaths of despair.” It’s why he’s so focused on sharing stories of hope, like that of a man named Jonathan whose life was saved by an opioid overdose reversal agent; he later became a peer recovery coach. What stories of hope are you called to tell?
9. “If we belong to one another,” Kate believes, “we really can ease each other’s suffering.” Who do you belong to that is suffering? What’s one small thing you can do—casseroles, included—to make them feel less like a loser and more like a human?
10. Kate ends this episode by inviting Kate O’Neill to read an obituary she wrote for her sister Madelyn, so that people would be able to remember her as a person and not just an addiction. What stayed with you about Kate O’Neill’s words?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate and Jerome’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?
Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.