Earlier in May, former NBA player and recovering addict Chris Herren spoke at an assembly at Suffield High School. It wasn’t the first time he spoke there, but this time, in the parlance of our youth, it just got real. I wasn’t there, but I heard about it.
Dozens left in tears. One sophomore, unprompted, stood in front of her classmates and gave her testimony on the collateral damage addiction inflicts. Herren told the audience that this visit to Suffield was one of the most emotional he’s witnessed.
Do we need any more evidence that the plague of addiction has reached Suffield?
Regardless of what you believe about addiction, whether it is a genuine epidemic or the coincidental and uncanny moral failing of millions of Americans, no one can deny the toll it takes on those who love an addict. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center finding, nearly half of Americans has a family member or close friend addicted to drugs. That’s 150 million broken hearts, approximately 7,000 of which live in Suffield.
For the fortunate half untouched by addiction and wondering who these people are, they’re your neighbors. They’re your co-workers. They may even be your friends. They’re the ones who pray for a miracle cure, who stay awake at night with worry anger and dread, and who strategize plan after plan in a desperate hope to end the nightmare.
If that’s you, you are not alone.
There are people who know what you are going through because they’re living it too. They meet in groups semi-secretly every week. There’s Families Anonymous, which meets in Suffield and Bloomfield; Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, both of which meet in Enfield; Learn to Cope, which meets in Massachusetts; and Smart Recovery, which meets in Hartford, Springfield and Manchester. In these groups, they just talk, providing not only empathy, but also a reservoir of collective wisdom.
To be clear, the subject of addiction is incidental to the real focus of these groups, which is assisting those who care about addicts. Given addiction’s insatiable nature in draining the lives of those connected to addicts, the aims of these groups are not unlike the directions given by flight attendants to passengers before takeoff: In the event of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself before putting one on your child.
Now, maybe you’re not the sharing type, and maybe you prefer to go this alone. Deep down, you know the best and worst life has to offer are better experienced collectively, and as burdens go, living with an addict is heavy.
You have born this weight alone for long enough. It’s time to let others help you carry it.