How Maine can lower addiction rates in 2017

I’m a recovery ally. I support recovery from addiction through all known pathways. My efforts are personal and professional. Experience has shown me countless times that grassroots efforts are our greatest hope for reducing rates of addiction, but we’re not yet sufficiently coming together.

I quickly tire of rhetoric from politicians and self-appointed experts. (can someone look in on the Community Health Leadership Board and tell us what’s going on with the $15,460 y’all raised months ago, and what the plan is to involve folks who aren’t CEOs?)

Their “circle of caring” died as a feel-good measure that accomplished almost nothing. As my friends in recovery say, at some point, “You have to get out of the problem and into the solution.”

I want to be a catalyst for change and so I promote what I see as solutions, pragmatically, spiritually, and morally.

I propose starting with this: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It’s an ancient adage that dictates that despite our differences, we can easily come together against a common foe.

There is no greater threat to our communities than the disease of addiction. There is no better solution than for us to start being communities again. We’ve all heard our elders bemoan the loss of neighborhoods. We blame electronics and social media but regardless of what the cause is, the solution is the same: Let’s get together.

Solution: The best way to reduce addiction is to invest in every child you meet. That means mentoring. That means offering more rec opportunities and more in the arts (more of everything that ISN’T sports). That means we check on our kids (Hint: they’re ALL our kids, especially the ones who seem tougher to love) and provide what they need locally. Truer words than these were never written:

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” –  Frederick Douglass

Spiritually we need to come together. You’ll sooner see me in the basement of a church than a congregation but I wanna talk about connection and peace and all that good stuff because I’m convinced of this:

We’re here to love one another. And in the end, relationships and experiences are all that matter. Truer words than these were never sung:

“You don’t know me but I’m your brother.” – The Doobie Brothers

I’ve been watching and waiting for our religious leaders to join us in the trenches. I know a lot of you are out there doing what you can within your parish to help your own and maybe some neighbors. Your efforts are beautiful, but what if we come together with other churches and even include the spiritual heathens like me?

Solutions: Google “Inter faith coalitions” That’s political, social, and economic power that creates lasting positive change.

Moral Solutions: My friend Bob Fickett was publicly asked “What do people in active addiction need most?” His answer was simple brilliance. Bob summed it up in one word, “Empathy.”

Even if you’ve never experienced or had a close up view of addiction, if you’ve been through any version of hell, then you have the capacity for empathy. If you’ve ever felt pain to the core of your being, or carried grief so deep you can feel it in your bones, then you have a lot to give.

Simple solutions: Check on your neighbor. Make eye contact with folks. Ask your coworkers how they’re doing and really, really listen. Can we give some time and some hugs? If you need one, come by my place (235 Center Street Brewer business hours Monday through Friday). Catch me on the hour between clients and I’ll hug you (hugs are hugely under rated).

Education: We’re not even scratching the surface of telling kids the truth about what’s out there and what it leads to. I’ve been thrilled to see some local efforts initiated by teens who know that what they don’t know can and will hurt them.

Each of us have the capacity and opportunities to be catalysts for change. Let’s share our ideas and resources. Let’s play match maker for social problems by talking about what we have to give and what we need. My brothers and sisters at the Bangor Area Recovery Network (B.A.R.N.) are leading some pretty great efforts in that direction and my heroes in the halls of AA and NA are the foremost experts.

Connect with BARN here and attend an open meeting of AA or NA by googling “AA/NA meeting (your town)” attend an “open meeting” and learn more about recovery and what works.

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.