In early December an interested and caring group of people came together to talk about substance abuse and what can be done to help those in need. Those in attendance at the forum “Building a Community of Excellence Through Partnership. Substance Use Disorder: Prevention, Treatment & Recovery,” included police officers, members of the community, and health-care professionals — everyone from nurses, to vice presidents and CEOs, to social workers.
Many people give their time and expertise to bring this topic to light in hopes of ending the stigma of substance abuse. It’s the people who have experienced addiction who deserve special recognition, though. Every brave person who can get up and tell his or her story can make a difference.
That’s exactly what Nick St. Louis of Otis did — and got a standing ovation as a result. The man who went to Ellsworth High School put his story this way at the summit, as reported by the BDN:
“It all started at the age of 13, and by the time I was 16, I started using heroin,” St. Louis said. “I entered my first detox when I was 18. I felt like I was in a really great space, but it wasn’t long before I connected with the same old friends again” and started using drugs again.
St. Louis went in and out of sobriety and along the way broke the law to support his drug habit. He went to jail and paid his dues, but his criminal history follows him around, and he’s been unable to find a job.
“It’s a huge barrier for work,” he said. “It goes downhill after the background check. If I can’t get a job, I can’t be self-sufficient. It’s a terrible place to be in.”
St. Louis also shared his experience in a contributor piece published by the BDN, and encouraged the public to support those with substance use disorders in their recovery.
The community needs to reach out and give these people a chance and support them in becoming better members of society. The community needs to embrace their drive to do better instead of keeping them in this vicious life cycle that only causes higher relapse and incarceration recidivism rates.
We need to recognize these people as people. All we’re asking for is the chance to prove we can do better and become positive contributors to our communities once again.