Op-ed: Personal stories break stigma of addiction

Kate Lamphere

By Kate Lamphere, LICSW

Earlier this year, I attended the National Opiate and Prescription Drug Conference. I was inspired by  U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH,  who shared his personal story of how addiction touched his family, resulting in a family member being incarcerated due to involvement with opiates.

What made such a strong impression on me was how he shared his personal story from such a loving and compassionate place, deep from within, and with such bravery in the hope that those listening would hear his message, relate and connect.

His story awakened in me a desire to share a story from my family in the hope it will help others find help through recovery.

As the Division Director of Adult Mental Health and Addiction Services at HCRS, that presentation moved me to action and inspired me to share a story about the cost of addiction and, more importantly, what can and must become a more common path for families seeking help.

Like so many others, our family member struggled with drug use in his adolescent years. There were many choices along his journey. The end result was an addiction to heroin and, ultimately, incarceration. While he always had the love and support of his family, which is critically important, he was unable to overcome his battle with addiction.

In 2005, my mother called and shared the news he was in jail. There was a sense of some relief in her voice. She hoped that maybe he would get the help he needed. Maybe this would be the opportunity to break the cycle. At least she knew he was not on the street and he was safe.

Two days later, she called again, completely devastated. He died while he was in jail, likely due to withdrawal complications.

One has to wonder: How many times is a message unwittingly sent that society no longer cares for our most vulnerable? I hope that is untrue. I imagine that we can and should be a community that is compassionate and supportive of all people who struggle with addiction.

Stigma is something that a person experiences in response to discrimination and oppression that someone else puts on them. As a caring community, we need to create space where people feel welcome and encouraged to ask for help and find the services they need when they need them.

I’m sharing my story in the hopes it will inspire others to also share. We need open dialogue. Story telling is a powerful way to help reduce stigma and increase connection — and will result in compassion and support for those in need.

I encourage the public to attend the Help for Recovery  event being held at Riverside Gymnasium in Springfield from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13.

This event is sponsored by Turning Point Recovery Center HCRS, Springfield Medical Care Systems, and Springfield Rotary Club. Please come listen to the personal stories of your neighbors, and learn how you can find Help for Recovery for family and friends in need.

For more information, please contact Mike Johnson at Turning Point Recovery Center, 802-885-4668 or email spfldturningpoint@gmail.com.

Kate Lamphere is a resident of Cavendish.

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  1. Courtney Hillhouse says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Kate. Unfortunately, there are many of these stories and it’s when we begin to share them with one another, that we can start to chip away at the stigma that is attached to the disease of addiction.

  2. Sue Pollard says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Kate. I totally agree with you. Opening the door and removing the stigma associated with addiction needs to happen before any real type of healing can happen. Also, educating the public that addiction is a disease and not a choice is a must. The ignorant feel that the person’s initial choice to indulge in the addictive agent is the same as their choice to become addicted to it. Two very different things. I will not be able to attend the Help For Recovery session, but I hope that it will be well attended, and the stories shared will help someone else going through the struggle.
    Thank you, again!