I received a letter from the head of the Rotary Club to which I joined as a means of getting better insights into the work I am doing. I was sitting at the table and someone was talking about Seattle, where they spoke about the way the city was dealing with the addiction problem. Seattle has struggled with Meth addiction for years, since the trend started in the 90s. Right now they have a full-blown crisis on their hands, and this has resulted in the dangerous social experiment: addict encampments, or tent cities.
This is not the solution. People who are making these decisions are not addicts, and clearly do not understand the nature of addiction. They do not know that recovery is possible, and that people have been able to recover from even drugs like Meth and Fentanyl with the right supports.
Creating encampments is not a support for recovery, it is support for drug addicts to remain in their hopeless state of addiction. These are not humanitarian spaces of compassion and care, they are death sentences for so many. They may as well be the death camps from the holocaust, for how much misery they house. To recover the addict must completely change; "people, places and things" is the catch phrase in the recovery community. By creating encampments, not only is the issue of addiction not being addressed, we are normalizing the act of living to use drugs. We are enabling this behavior, and saying it is a fine life-choice. But the truth is, it is not a choice for the addict. This is not about saying that drug addicts are bad people, but about acknowledging what the drugs do to the human being.
Meth and fentanyl are so powerful, they rob a person of their ability to do anything but take those drugs. How is it doing a favor to someone to allow them to sit in the prison of addiction. God gave us free-will, but the devil gave us drugs which took away free will.
A life of drug addiction is one filled with violence, degradation, and humiliation. It is one filled with crime and a desperate need to survive. It is one that robs the individual of their gifts, their reason, and their family. It is the source of a breakdown of our social structures as we are no longer receiving the benefits and gifts each of the lost individuals were here to share. When a single person is lost to drug addiction, the effect ripples out for generations.
How can we have lost our sense of values? How can we care so much about a fetus, and be so callous and uncaring to a fully grown human being? Clearly, there is a God given potential in the fetus is to become someone beautiful, and to contribute to the world in a unique and precious way. We can see that truth in the unborn child, and so why is it lost when the child grows up and struggles to find a way in the world? Why are we giving up on all of these souls? They are also here to share their unique gifts with the world. And beautiful gifts they hold indeed.
When a person is simply living a life to get drugs, and for no other reason, they have lost their way. They have lost their purpose. They have lost touch with their soul. They are hopeless. They are living in a hell on earth.
That is not what we are here for. We are here for so much more, and recovery is possible, no matter how old or far-gone you think someone has gone. Recovery is possible. Believe it and know that each of these people has a life worth living on the other side of recovery, but not in addiction.
I feel so strongly that I was driven to share these insights with the Rotary Club president.
He shared about a member dying, and her husband being assaulted in the parking lot of the hospital. So this poor man, while in such a vulnerable state was assaulted and had his car stolen. This type of lack of humanity is a product of drug use.
LETTER TO THE ROTARY:
Thank you for sharing this, especially regarding the assault. That is a horrible experience for anyone to have, but especially someone who is grieving and vulnerable.
It is important that we recognize the dangerous path this world is on, especially with respect to the drug situation in the world, and Peoria is no exception. The meth epidemic in Peoria is impacting businesses, families, and communities. However, there is hope here.
There is a real potential here to do something about the addiction crisis. We cannot isolate the addicts from the community, that will just breed more problems. My belief is the values in Peoria, and of the Rotary, reflect a much more evolved sense of humanity.
I am grateful to be here, and out of Chicago, or other big cities that are trying to fix the problem by isolating addicts in sectioned off areas of the city. These encampments are dangerous breeding grounds for crime and drug addiction. They are places where people have lost their sense of self, and their purpose and direction. We can do better.
I came here from Chicago in part because of the recovery community here. Recovery from meth addiction is possible, but it won't be served by creating tent cities, or giving people clean needles. This problem requires a concerted effort on the part of many individuals who understand the struggle. We need to provide a message of hope for those who are out there struggling every day, and to help them find the rooms of recovery.
This message was timely as it reached my inbox on the day of our first Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting in over 6 months. We have struggled to get this meeting started, like many other areas of the country that I have had the chance to visit. This drug is so powerful that it is hard to maintain enough sobriety in the community to sustain the meeting. However, we have hope at the Community House. We have two of our residents who have been able to maintain almost 2 years of solid sobriety off of meth, and heroin. They are the examples that the community needs to start to believe recovery is possible.
I am grateful to be a part of Rotary, and to engage in the mission of your organization.
I am hoping that there is a way to share more about this project of recovery, or to find like-minded individuals who are touched by the issues and want to support a transformation from crime, and encampments to responsible, reliable and productive members of our community.
This is a task that seems unattainable, but Peoria is the place where we can begin to come together on this goal.
During this period of bringing in the new year, we can reflect on all we have been through, collectively, and globally. Peoria is a great city. It has multigenerational families, businesses, and is truly a representative sample of the United States.
What a wonderful place to live, and yet it is a shadow of what it used to be, and it is not what it could be, or should be. Neighborhoods are infested with drugs, and houses and buildings that are in disrepair do a disservice to the beauty of Peoria, or what it should be.
I hope that this message finds you well, and that I can participate in the Rotary as a source for positive change in our community.
Thank you for letting me be a selfless servant to this town that I have grown to love with all of my heart.
Abigail Larrison, PhD, EdD
Founder & Director: The Community House Network, NFP
An Idealist-Realist. Striving to Bring those Idealistic Dreams into Reality.