By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
May and June are the months of the year when we celebrate our mothers, our fathers and our graduates. It is a time of year to pause in the midst of all the chaos, despite a world filled with hate and discrimination.
So often I have filled this space with stories of those who have been suffering. These stories have challenged me to stay the course, helping others for over 30 years to reclaim their lives.
It is no secret that our county is being ravaged by the reckless use of heroin. What is equally frustrating is the growing denial among so many people about the seriousness of this epidemic health crisis. Every quarter of our community is showing resistance, from the government, to our schools and most painfully from our parents.
How many young adults have to lose their lives before people stand up and shout “no more!” Are you willing to commit yourself to positive action, even if it makes you uncomfortable? Every parent’s nightmare is burying a child. To lose a child because of reckless decision making and behavior is even more tragic.
There are not enough easily accessible beds for those who seek long-term treatment. Opiate addiction cannot be effectively treated with a 28-day model. Too many insurance companies will only pay for residential care, if one fails at outpatient treatment. If one knows anything about opiate addiction, one knows that approach is a sure death sentence.
In our own community, too many have lost their lives while doing outpatient treatment. The few residential programs that are accessible in our community are short-term at best — and that is if insurance will cover it. Too many health care plans will only pay for five or six days — maybe 12 days max! How do you focus on recovery if you think you might be homeless in a few days — starting all over again?
Despite these horror stories, people are getting better, entering recovery and learning how to live productive lives.
A story of hope:
TJ is a young man who was born into privilege. His parents are well educated and successful, materially speaking. While he was in high school, he developed a serious opiate addiction and was able to effectively hide it from his parents and his teachers. He was out of control and almost died on numerous occasions.
TJ is a smart, articulate, engaging and talented young man. When he was confronted about his addiction and his out-of-control behavior, he denied he had a problem and refused any kind of treatment. Only when he was in the bowels of dysfunction and depression did he finally agree to treatment. He agreed to long-term treatment and signed a contract for a year to 18 months.
It was not an easy road for TJ, but today he has four years of healthy recovery.He recently graduated from a local liberal arts college and will begin Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, pursing a master’s degree in clinical social work so he can help others not walk the road that almost cost him his life.
He will be the first to admit that he is where he is today because his parents stopped enabling and rescuing him. Instead, they empowered him to reclaim his life and walk the road less traveled and live!
Fr. Pizzarelli is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.