IMG_4979I saw your mug shot online. It took me a few moments to recognize your face, and even then I would have doubted that it was really you, but the news article beneath the picture said your name.

I read through the comment section, strangers talking about you, about your arrest. They discussed your appearance, said you looked crazy, scary, like Charles Manson, and I couldn’t disagree with them. They posted about you being trash, and that you should be locked up for life, called you a tweaker, a druggie, a loser. There were a few who commented who actually knew you and your family, and they expressed their sadness that your life had taken the road it had.

I remember the man before the addict. The one who was a father to three of the greatest kids I have ever had the pleasure to know and love, and a husband to one of my best friends. I remember the man who played Joseph in the church Christmas play, the one who worked full-time, and even overtime to provide for his family. The one who helped teach his kids to love sports and have a good sense of humor.

I also remember the addict. The man who began to withdraw. To spend thousands of dollars on his addiction. The man who lied, and lied, and lied. I remember the night we came to take your family from your home to ours. I remember the tears of your children and your wife in the weeks that followed. The long phone calls. The promises to change. The broken promises to change. I remember the threats, the pleading, and then more threats. And then I remember your life dissolving without her strength to hold you together.

When I looked at your mugshot, I remembered one of the times we had encouraged you to get help and the story you had told us about trying to go to a 12-step recovery program. You said the group was mostly filled with heroin addicts and alcoholics and when you said you were addicted to pot they laughed at you. Marijuana isn’t addictive right? After all no one spends THAT much money on marijuana, right? No one lies to their wife about being under the influence of pot THAT many times. AND no one loses their job, their home and their family just from smoking pot…right?

You did.

Even when your family left, you didn’t stop smoking to get them back, even though you said you couldn’t live without them. Even when your job gave you chance after chance, you didn’t stop smoking to stay employed. And then your addiction escalated and your Gateway Drug wasn’t enough.

And now there you are in prison, and here I am looking at your mugshot, wondering what you would have become if not for drugs. My heart is sad for the man who could have been, but is glad to know that your children and your ex-wife are excelling and happy in a new, safe life they deserve.

SOAP BOX MOMENT- There are so many people who suffer from an addiction. Obviously there are differences in degrees and severity of addictions, but behind the addiction is a person, and usually that person doesn’t want to be an addict. In working at a women’s shelter for so many years I have met hundreds of women who were addicts. I wrote their stories down and got to know them, their hopes, and dreams as well as their fears. I have watched many find freedom and not look back, and I have seen many falter and slip back into the darkness. The common thread that unites them all–not one of them WANTED to be addicted. They all WANTED freedom so they could be better mothers to their children, better daughters, friends, citizens. It’s a frustrating epidemic and it knows no race/socio-economic/religious boundary that it won’t cross. I don’t know the answer to solve this problem, all I know is the friends and families that are affected need love and support, not shame and guilt. The men and women suffering from addiction usually need tough love, boundaries and a good supportive recovery program. If you know someone who needs help with an addiction you can e-mail me at jenharp@comcast.net and I’ll send you some great resources.