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Senator Angus King Visits YCSP's Serenity House!
"Here I Am"
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please join us on Shaker Hill Rd in Alfred, at the Spiritual Center, on wednesday, 12/28, from 6pm - 7pm
A message from our Clinical Director, Jen Ouellette:
“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” I recently purchased a magnet with this saying on it. For me personally, my work has been my love and certainly an investment of my life. I have had the pleasure over the last 25 years, while working at YCSP, to meet thousands of individuals who are fighting their own personal battles. Many of them have substance use disorders, many have histories of trauma and mental illness, and all of them live in extreme poverty and homelessness. Through the struggles, the sadness, and the pain, they all have had the courage to get up every day and start again. There are setbacks, barriers, and continued difficulties, but the human spirit, while bruised, is not broken. It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of it all.
I have been fortunate enough in my life to be in a place where I can give and be a provider of care to others. I believe, if you can give, you should. Whatever way you can give is more than enough. It isn’t always money, but your time and your kindness to another person that makes a difference. I have invested my love, and therefore my life, and like to think I have helped a few people along the way.
The opiate crisis in America is huge. I think the media, State, and local agencies and community partners have done a phenomenal job getting the general public educated about how deadly this problem is. We know there is not enough treatment available and that waiting lists are long when people need the help the most. In 2014, close to 30,000 Americans died of an opioid or heroin related overdose (National Institute on Drug Addiction), and this number is projected to continue growing. Simple mathematics demonstrate that figure is 82 people a day! Our kids, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, mother, and fathers, are leaving us, prematurely because of this health crisis. The “face” of this epidemic is our work force, our young kids in college, and babies and toddlers who no longer have their mom or dad. In the last 14 or so years, half a million people in the United States have died due to heroin/opioid overdose. How can anyone ignore the obvious health crisis we are in the midst of?
When 9-11 happened, this Nation rallied and came together to support one another in the aftermath of a senseless tragedy. When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, a similar thing occurred, and more recently, the Florida nightclub shooting. Facebook and other social media outlets were lit up and highlighted by the support of our Nation. No one questioned the individuals who died a senseless and agonizing death, why they went there, who they were with, or what they were doing. And, rightfully so. It was not their fault. They were victims of a horrible and unnecessary tragedy.
This epidemic is no different. It is a senseless tragedy, that we can’t fully understand, that similarly leaves us shocked and angry, and yet, we respond to it so differently. Not often do you see people pulling together with compassion when someone has died of an overdose. Ironically, with a senseless death from an overdose, more often there is outright blaming, a “you get what you deserve” mentality, and judgements I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. How is it we can support one another and come together in response to one kind of tragedy, but limit our compassion in another? Why do we feel badly regarding one type of individuals’ death but appear to lack any empathy for another? We all have troubles, struggles, and difficulties. Some of us can overcome obstacles and others cannot, at least not as soon or as easily as we assume. On a simple scale, it’s no different than the person who learns to tie their shoe after one demonstration compared to the person who takes months and months of practice to master it. We are all unique and different in our approaches and how we handle life. We all struggle from time to time, and I firmly believe how we ultimately make it through is with the help of another. We all need the love and support of those around us, including our communities, to stand by us until we master the skills we need to live a successful life. Sometimes, it is very minimal help that we need, if any, but other times, it is months or even years before we feel secure in where or who we are.
In response to this epidemic, many of us act as if it is a choice, like somehow, an individual who has a medical disease is capable of arresting this disease on their own. No different than cancer, or high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, the illness of chemical dependency requires medical care, support of others, financial resources, a stable living environment, and possibly rehabilitation.
I am often asked “what can I do to help?” and generally, my reply is something like this “you can invest your time, donate if you can to the organizations that help those with no ability to pay, accept this as a health crisis and disease like cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure. If you cannot do that, help stop the judgmental statements and attitudes that push those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol further from the help they desperately need.” Be kind, show your compassion for a fellow human being, stop the hateful words. Remember, these individuals did not just wake up and say “hey, I want to be a heroin addict.” At one point, they were “just like us” with dreams, goals, and the love of others. They had promising futures, desires, and plans that did not include their untimely and desperate spiral into the often black world of addiction.
In the very near future, I will be starting up a support group, on Shaker Hill Road. I am calling it “Here, I am.” If you are concerned about a loved one’s battle, are interested in more information about this deadly disease, or simply need someone who understands what it is like, I welcome you to join me. Stay tuned for further information on that.
If you have read this far, I appreciate your time. Together, we can make a difference. United we must stand.
- Jen Ouellette, YCSP Clinical Director