Community Turns Out for Heroin Alert Presentation
As pictures flashed on a screen of a happy, beautiful girl, we sat and listened to her mother tell the tale of her daughter's heroin addiction, choking on her tears as she explained how that pretty girl had died at the age of 21.
This was how I spent Wednesday evening. Listening to the startling statistics of how heroin is destroying lives. Watching pictures of young people lying dead with needles still in their arms. And a baby, born addicted from a mother who used during the pregnancy and then died in childbirth. The baby also passed away a short time later.
But the most powerful part of the evening was definitely the story told by that mother, Marie Allen, about her daughter Erin. You can see in the picture above what Erin looked like when she was deep in her addiction. An alcohol and marijuana addict in high school, she had kicked her substances and was in recovery when someone offered her heroin at an AA meeting, of all places. She told her mother later that she was hooked from the first time she used. As Marie started to choke up and her tears fell, so did mine. I don't like crying in front of people but I couldn't stop them. My heart broke for Marie and for Erin.
Marie said Erin was cleaning herself up, living at a rehab facility and working during the day, when she had to have a blood test. Erin told her Mom that the needle going into her arm brought flashbacks to her addiction. Even though she called counselors and talked with them, she knew. Erin asked her mother to play Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' at her funeral, hugged her, said good-bye, and went to work. That was Marie's last conversation with her daughter.
The presentation was a call to action. A bid to encourage community members to ask 'how can I help?' So I'm doing what I can by sharing Marie and Erin's story and hoping that it makes you think. Makes you want to help. Compels parents to talk to their kids and pay attention to where they're going, what they're doing, and whether their behavior has changed. Don't be afraid of your kids. If you suspect something is going on, ask. And check up on them. Do whatever you have to do to keep them safe.
The most surprising fact that came out of the evening, for me, is the lack of facilities in our area for addicts. There are a few, to be certain. The BARN, The FARM in Fairfield, Manna in Bangor, and Wellspring. But they're overcrowded with long waiting lists for beds. So I would challenge our communities to take action. Start working now to offer solutions for addicts when they're ready to get help, not six months later when a bed finally becomes available.
It takes a community to deal with the drug problem. Support has to come from all avenues, from law enforcement, to detox, rehab to recovery. I think the Brewer Police Department started a valuable conversation in the community with tonight's presentation. Let's do what we can to keep everyone talking until they find some answers.
Are you or someone you know dealing with addiction? 211 Maine is a great resource for finding help in your area. Call today and take the first step toward a better life.