I spend my days in the streets of the poorest neighborhoods where I see substances stealing the lives of people on every corner. While some are still breathing, their life is no longer their own. I guess in some ways I have rationalized the insanity of substance abuse in impoverished communities by seeing it as an escape from the hopelessness that is so pervasive in these neighborhoods. However, the events of this past week, the loss of a young man who had everything to live for, have sent me reeling. I am on a quest for answers to this epidemic that extends into every corner of our society.
We are in the process of conducting a survey in our Hillside community and one of the questions that we are asking residents is, “If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your community in the next year, what would you change?” I am crystal clear on what I would change. I would eliminate all substances from the face of the earth. In my world 90% of the pain and suffering I see is caused by substance abuse. The thing that is hardest for me to deal with is just how insane it all is: people losing their lives senselessly. While I am dealing with emotions of grief this morning, I am also wrestling with a lot of anger.
Through my work at Embrace, I tend to encounter people who have lost years of their lives to substances and countless family members. Our team helps people put their lives back together. But if we could stop young people from falling into this hellish pit in the first place, we would save lives and prevent so much suffering. In lieu of flowers, my sister asked me to find a program that was effectively preventing substance abuse in her area. I did some research and could only find drug treatment programs. I started thinking about Richmond and could only think of effective drug treatment programs. I am sure there are great prevention programs out there, but I am not aware of them.
I apologize for the random nature of this post. I am sleep deprived, distraught, discouraged, angry, and confused today. Can you help me make some sense out of any of this? Below are the questions I would love answers to.
1.) Why are so many people in our society abusing substances?
2.) Are there effective programs out there that prevent substance abuse?
3.) If you were to design a substance abuse prevention program, what would it look like?
Please keep my sister and her family in your prayers. She has vowed to use her pain to help save other young people and I want to support her in that quest.