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Hating Heroin, loving the addict, supporting the families

There are countless good souls among us who so desperately need to tell their stories. I choose to believe that God puts me in the paths of such folks, but then, I believe She does that with all of us. All we have to do is show a genuine interest and care enough to really listen.

Casinos, hair salons and waiting rooms function in much the same way that bars do. People open up and talk without even realizing they’re doing it. Smoking areas everywhere operate the same way.

If you’re a nonsmoker, you likely have no idea the quality of conversations that occur amongs folks feeding our nicotine addictions. Idle conversation easily becomes heartfelt sharing. Maybe it’s the shared stigma we face from incredulous onlookers who can’t believe we’re inhaling poison.

I ran into a casual acquaintance today while smoking. We were approached by a very haggard homeless man with an oddly specific request. “Hey brother, can you spare 71 cents?”  Sure, I can.

My homeless brother showed clear physical signs of addiction and chatting with him briefly showed strong evidence of major mental illness.

My companion shot me a questioning look for the money I handed over. I shrugged, “his life is much harder than mine.” He readily agreed but then asked, “is there hope for someone like that? Can’t they get help?”

The story that follows is just too familiar. I hate it. I hate explaining Medicaid eligibility in Maine. I hate seeing the look on people’s faces when their illusion is shattered.

No, not everyone who wants or needs help can get it. To tens of thousands in our state help is not available professionally, medically, or in the forms of housing and other basic human needs.

The best help in addiction recovery is free. My brothers and sisters in 12 step programs are a million times more important than a professional like me. The problem is that there are a myriad of things that are foundational to life and recovery. The more of those you’re missing, the harder it is to reclaim your life.

My friend and I spoke about addiction for a few minutes. He asked smart questions. When I answered them all, he touched my shoulder and brokenly replied, ” I wish my son had gotten help from someone like you.”

I have a love/hate relationship with what comes next. What comes next will be an incredibly painful tale from a grieving parent/grandparent/loved one that inevitably starts with, “S/he was such a good kid… “

The story will move to what changed and speculation as to why heroin became part of it.

Too often, the story ends with some variation of, “I’m not sure where we went wrong.”

And tomorrow is the anniversary of his boy’s death. I asked my friend to honor his son by not carrying that guilt further.  I’m asking everyone else to honor all our fallen loved ones by acknowledging and acting upon a very simple but unpopular truth:

We’re not even scratching the surface of the problem of addiction. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. Please come together. Please support every grass roots effort, every person in active addiction, and every person in recovery.

If you’re not sure what you can do, please contact some of my heroes at the Bangor Area Recovery Network 142 Center Street Brewer 561-9444

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