Letter: We must stop this cycle of addiction

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Editor of the Reformer,

"We Are Coming After You" reads the headline in the Brattleboro Reformer, Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

It is a beginning. It is a valiant effort. It is a hopeful start. It is a commitment.

As I watched and listened to every word of the press conference posted on the Brattleboro Facebook page earlier this morning, I attached myself to many thoughts: beginning gratitude; valiant effort ... keep it up; hopeful start ... change your thinking; commitment ... it is up to us, community-wide.

Taking illegal drugs off the interstate, back roads and local streets by pursuing those who manufacture and distribute heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs is the first step toward change. And as a visionary for change, I believe it will be up to this community, our community, one person at a time to stay committed to this change. As citizens we have a responsibility to make and keep our beloved town and its streets safe and above all for the most vulnerable of our population, our children.

Adults, parents, individuals behaving badly, perhaps first at their own hand; maybe just "a try," then "again," what began as a choice and then what quickly follows this behavior, a disease called addiction. And because of this, I stepped up to become an active parent for three grandchildren over 20 years ago. I can say with experience and great confidence the long-standing effects of addiction are here to stay and will reverberate for generations to come.

How can we individually identify our roles in this community? Here are some ideas.

Learn about addiction and how it affects the family, not just the individual drug abuser. Take a look at the impact on our schools for example. Teachers today will tell you about behaviors in the classroom, so many young children whose lives have been interrupted by the death of a parent due to an overdose or as recently seen, murder. The heartbreak of watching as these young people, our future I might add, who now have to grow up without that individual, that Mom or Dad who has suddenly disappeared from theirs lives either through incarceration or even death. How does that child then figure out who they are, what is to become of them and even, perhaps, are they to blame for what has tragically occurred within their family?

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The idea of education at the elementary school level I believe is paramount to keeping this generation safe and healthy. Remember "Just Say No," the California idea to keep drugs out of the hands of children? How about D.A.R.E.? Youth substance abuse prevention has proven to be effective BUT we have to encourage our educators to spearhead this initiative and now.

Talk with family members to understand how deep the devastation of losing a loved one to addiction can impact your everyday hour. The heartbreak of watching and waiting, the uncertainty of the outcome can violate every sense of your being.

For those friends or family members who don't know where to turn there is support available through Nar-Anon Family Groups, a local fellowship for those whose lives have been or are being affected by someone else's addiction. It is intended to provide new insights to help regain sanity and coping while gaining hope and peace of mind for those suffering right along with their addicted loved one.

Stand up to STIGMA. Addiction and mental illness can affect anyone. In the words of this recent campaign by the Brattleboro Retreat, stigma can cause shame, mistrust, and make it harder for people to get the help they need. Stigma is shame. Shame causes silence. Silence hurts us all.

An information-based approach to tackling this epidemic is an important way to stop the destruction of lives and keeping it from repeating itself thus affecting generations to come. We must stop this cycle. Collaborate and work together, each and every one of us as we participate toward change.

"I can do it alone; but I can't do it all alone." -- Anonymous

Susan Avery

Brattleboro, April 17


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