Real Solutions in Combating Addiction

In case anyone’s unclear…what we’re doing to combat drug addiction in greater Bangor still isn’t working. It’s time for radical change and to recognize that political and legal responses are insufficient. Most of all, it’s time to move out of our collective mindset that abusers and addicts cannot be held accountable and cannot be part of the solution.

Facts

– All across the world there are demented chemists trying to create the next designer drug. They are chasing riches and as sick as it is; they have a dream. These assholes are way  more motivated than most people.

– All across our country right now there are thousands upon thousands of drug dealers profiting off the misery of others. They lead high risk, adrenaline filled lives. They have horrible retirement plans but they’re working hard to get rich and get out. They’re more motivated than most people.

– Throughout Bangor, Maine and the U.S., those who profit off dispensing Methadone are more powerful and more motivated than those of us who know it’s primarily legalized and free or low cost addiction. Those people are more motivated than most.

Uncomfortable Truths

Systemically, we’re outmatched. Addicts are the single most resourceful group of people in the world. There does not exist a more motivated person anywhere to do anything than an addict who needs a fix. Now imagine a group of addicts working together to ensure that everyone gets what they need (this happens in very small groups everywhere). Now, what if these same groups of people were working collectively toward positive goals? I’ve seen it and it’ll take your breath away.

When we start meaningfully involving recovering addicts and alcoholics in systemic responses we will see improved outcomes. It’s business management 101 – when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, find an expert in the field and consult with them. If you haven’t been closely involved with addiction and/or loving and/or working with addicts then don’t presume you know anything about it.

Bangor, Maine has become known nationwide for bath salts. That’s humiliating. Let’s make Bangor famous for solutions to addiction but let’s do it profitably.

Solutions

Business 202 – whatever the government tries to do, private industry can do cheaper, more efficiently, and with vastly better results. I don’t want government to pay for solutions. I want smart investors.

Here’s what combats addiction effectively:

–  A sense of Belonging to something greater (Ultimately those of us who “make it” make our own   families.)

– Jobs, damn it – JOBS

– A safe place to live.

– Someone who believes in us. Really, truly believes in us.

– Someone who holds us accountable. We are not without integrity. We are without opportunities. –

– We especially need opportunities to grow, learn, and become independent of political and professional systems.

In Bangor, Maine, Labor Ready has more applicants than positions. That’s insane. If someone has the tenacity to get up at 4am and get themselves out to work for minimum wage then how can there not be opportunities for them to work?

I’m a lousy businessman but I’m a helluva judge of character and I know where someone’s at in fighting and overcoming addiction. Here’s a line I stole and encourage others to embrace, “I’m a big believer in first impressions and second chances.” To those with money, power, influence I say:

I know people who will work circles around your employees. I know people who will outwork, outlast, and have a better attitude about it than any TWO of your best people.

Here’s the part that’ll scare you: They’re convicted felons, recovering junkies, recovering alcoholics, and single moms currently depending on TANF. You deny them because you don’t know how to sort out who is worth investing in and who isn’t.

All you need is a gatekeeper you can count on. Systemically, government systems prevent good clinicians from being  direct middle men/women for business opportunity (well meaning stupidity). You want to know who the best judges of character are? Recovering addicts, alcoholics, and survivors of trauma and abuse. NO ONE is better at sniffing out bullshit. No one is better at telling you whether you can take a chance and have it pay off big time.

If ever I have the money, I’ll have a bunch of companies that employ ONLY convicted felons, addicts and alcoholics (at every stage of recovery as long as it involves even brief abstinence) and single mothers who depend on the pittance of TANF. I will then laugh as you try to compete with my people. I’ll take my profits and build basic apartments for my employees with leases that have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol and we’ll test frequently. Everything I do will inspire a sense of community and belonging. Mentoring, collaboration, and training will exist at every level.

Feel free to take any part of this and profit from it. I urge those in power to collaborate with the real experts (those in Recovery). I believe in treatment and I believe there must be more accountability for those receiving it. What I know is that government will never win the war on drugs nor will it overcome any other social problem. Those responsibilities lie with ordinary citizens, communities and private enterprise.  I remain forever grateful for what Recovering Communities have taught me.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.