No more numbers. Give me names, faces and stories

Record number of overdose deaths. Disturbing number of incarcerations caused by addiction. The growing number of lives saved by Narcan. The number of those entering treatment for the first time, the relapses, and those who never make it back.

All of these numbers matter but they don’t scratch the surface.

Numbers don’t make me feel.

Faces, voices, and stories make me feel. Crying fathers make me feel. Hugging people who are burying their children and grandchildren makes me feel. These things overwhelm me and compel me.

Help the next one. Help the next one. Help the next one.

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

Anyone who still lacks empathy for those active in addiction and their loved ones should spend some time with the grieving mothers I’ve met who want to change the world in order to save someone else’s child.

I went to the grocery store today. Quick errand. I connected with two struggling families in the time it took me to buy 4 items. That’s how much our communities are being affected.

If you want to understand what addiction is like for families, it looks like standing in the checkout line of Hannaford holding back tears and encouraging the mother who hates her daughter’s disease to take care of herself while she waits for her baby to come back to her.

Cuz when you live on the edge of your seat waiting for that call, you’re not thinking about yourself.

It’s a very strange thing to hate a disease. It’s infuriating and it hurts and there’s nothing to put your hatred onto. It’s injustice that often can’t be corrected and a pain that never fully goes away. There’s a profound powerlessness and only two good options:

There’s the next person who needs support, the next newcomer, the next person who’s standing on the knife’s edge of relapse and hugging them until the cravings pass. There’s the person whose demons are memories of terrible things and recovery from PTSD.  There’s the next person who needs a second chance and someone who believes in them. Each of us has the opportunity and honor to be that person.

Then there’s you. The person you’re paying the least amount of attention to. The person whose heart is overflowing and breaking. There’s an adage about how we can’t pour from an empty cup and too often, we don’t allow others to pour into ours.

We must come together. It’s just too hard alone. Not just for the sick and suffering – for all of us.

Now more than ever, we need to be a community that looks after one another.

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.