Faith Works 3-25-17
Starting Conversations, Sharing Stories
I would greatly appreciate it if you could put Wednesday, April 26 on your calendar for 6:30 pm at Newark High School.
It doesn't matter if you live elsewhere in the county, this is for all of us, and the auditorium at NHS is big enough we can fit quite a few in, centrally located. There's a speaker and a program that night which is not for my church – in fact, I'm cancelling our usual Wednesday night Bible study to ask our people to attend – or for any religious body, but I hope clergy and leaders and workers and members and friends of faith communities all across Licking County can come be a part of starting some conversations that night.
Have you ever heard of Xalisco, Mexico? Well, they've heard of Ohio. We've been a wonderful market for their products. They make black tar heroin down there, and they've figured out how to make it cheap, and market it well.
But this isn't about the drug trade. Not just about the sale of illegal substances, anyhow. It has to do with legal but dangerous substances, and about our communities, and about you and me.
And addiction. I was sorry to miss the program Bishop Frederick Campbell brought to St. Francis de Sales parish last week; the Catholic Church long has done good week in building community and facing addiction, and our Newark parish has been a good neighbor to a big part of our community response to addiction.
What really caught my eye was seeing that the Bishop focused on how we have created for ourselves "an addictive culture." I think he's right about that. We're accustomed to abusing things that can be good in and of themselves, that are healthy and even healing at the right time, in the right way.
But fast food, eaten too often, becomes a craving. Boxed snacks in cellophane wrappers, consumed regularly, become a master of our emotions, not the relief we were seeking. Prescription drugs, misused and abused, can be desperately hard to shake off, and invite users into criminality; prescription drug companies, mindlessly seeking profit regardless of proper use, can criminally exploit hard-working people with aches and pains and needs.
Opiates have a place. I spend too much time in hospice units not to know that. And I hate it when an elderly person hesitates to push their pain management button "because I don't want to get addicted." We're muddled, we're confused about addiction: as a society. Addiction isn't a thing, it's a series of choices complicated by our own biochemical tendencies. Some people have more or less resistance to sugars, but we don't blame them for getting diabetes and tell them they're on their own. There is a genetic predisposition, it seems, to alcoholism, and some can drink and not drink at will, and others take one and can't stop. Diabetics have episodes when they aren't as careful as they could be with sugars, but we don't call it a relapse and say they don't deserve help because of their choices. How do we look at cigarette or alcohol or drug abuse? I'm still wrestling with the words and concepts.
Sam Quinones is one name you should know for April 26. He's the main speaker. He's written a highly regarded book titled "Dreamland" whose title comes from a now lost location in Portsmouth, Ohio; his wrestling took him tumbling through the world of big pharma, into Oklahoma and New Mexico as well as into Mexican drug cartels themselves, but he kept coming back to Ohio. To Portsmouth, and Chillicothe, and to Columbus, and to . . .
He doesn't mention Newark. Marion gets a moment on stage, and "other places in Ohio." But trust me when I say "Dreamland" is a book about us, both here and now. You really should read it, whether you can come Apr. 26 or not.
The other name you should know is Doug Ute. Our superintendent at Newark City Schools has pulled together a panel of community leaders, of which I'm proud to be a part, but the idea and the effort and the hardest work to pull this all together is Doug. I mean, Mr. Ute. The Big Guy. I salute what he's trying to help us do, in Newark and in Licking County, which is to start a conversation, to get us to share our stories.
Because as Bishop Campbell said, we've got an addictive culture on our hands. We all know addicts, sometimes very closely indeed. Sharing stories starting with Sam's is how we're going to get somewhere from the talking to the right action.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about where you see the faces and reality of addiction around us at email@example.com or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.