We have a problem.
There is an alarming number of our fellow citizens who have a hopeless addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. They are our sons and daughters, our friends, neighbors, coworkers and employees. Sometimes their troubles are exposed on these pages as criminal activity or laments of relatives crying out for someone to help. Often their self-destruction is more private.
The problem is a costly one. Law enforcement efforts and subsequent incarceration is expensive. Caring for children of addicts is expensive. Lost productivity at our local businesses, both large and small, is costing a fortune. The value of the shattered lives of men, women, and children is incalculable.
So what can we do? First, we have to admit there is a problem. Sometimes solid communities like ours are afraid to do that. We are afraid that the quality of life in our community will be measured based upon whether or not there is evidence of substance abuse and addictive behavior. It's too late to worry about that now. Those problems are interwoven into the fabric of life everywhere. Perhaps it is more fair to measure a community by what efforts are being made to eradicate addiction problems and rescue those who have been overtaken by them. I suspect we are not doing enough.
I applaud those who are way ahead of the rest of us and are already involved in so many ways trying to make things better here. They should be commended. I am making plans to join them in the fight, and I'm going to need help from a lot of you.
I am a lawyer here in town — at least I will be for a few more days. My eyes have been almost completely closed to those suffering from addiction even as their stories played out all around me. They were just something I read about. They were never my problems. They were never my responsibility. Shame on me.
Everything changed for me a few months ago when a witness in a case of mine turned out to be a meth addict. That posed a problem for me and my client. We needed her. How would we manage getting reliable testimony from her? From the day I took her deposition at the county jail I began to struggle. What could I do for her? What should I do for her? (Let's call her Julie.)
As the weeks and months went by I got more involved in Julie's life. She began to open up to me. She told me I was the only “normal” person she had ever spent time with; that she didn't know anyone who didn't cook and/or use meth. One day at the jail Julie said that she was praying that God would send someone into her life who could help her start over. On another occasion as she sat on the couch in her friend's apartment she looked up at me in the middle of my legal questions, and through her tears, said that she desperately wanted things to be different. She wanted to change but she didn't know how.
As I watched her on the couch my mind was racing. I began to click off her needs: She needed addiction rehab services. She needed housing. She needed food. She needed clothing. She needed counseling. She needed healthcare and dental care. She needed transportation. She needed money. She needed help getting her GED. She needed help with visitation/custody issues regarding her children. She needed parenting classes. She needed someone to teach her to dress and speak appropriately. She needed hope. She needed someone to love her. Lots of someones.
Most of us are not capable individually of providing much assistance to Julie and others like her who need our help, but if we work together we could make a difference in their lives. I am committed to bringing together those in our community who have the resources and the resolve to join this battle.
I just formed a not-for-profit corporation named All Things New for the purpose of providing faith-based residential addiction rehab services for women (and maybe someday for men too). An initial board has been assembled. Recruitment of staff and volunteers is in its early stages. I have been meeting with treatment facilities, judges, probation departments, Grace College, church and community leaders, etc., as part of an effort to more accurately define the needs and gather ideas about how to meet them. Property that would suit our needs, at least initially, has been made available for purchase.
All Things New will open up for residents as soon as resources can be acquired to make it happen. I hope to provide more information in the very near future. If you want additional details now or if you already know how you can help, please contact me at fawleybj@gmail.com