The Seeds- For hope and change and healing
Dear Friends and Family,
My family is walking in the annual Lund Mother's Day walk, and I am writing to request your donation to our team. You can read more about Lund's services, as well as my personal reason for deciding to walk and fundraise this year. Its long, ya'll know brevity has never been my strength. But it would mean a lot to me if you could take a minute to read this, even if you are unable to donate.
I am familiar with Lund's message and services because I worked there for two years providing substance abuse and mental health treatment to pregnant and parenting women in their residential treatment program. This program is unique in that it allows mothers to receive treatment for substance use disorders and other mental illnesses, in addition to parenting and life skills education, all while residing with their children (who also receive services). Lund also has an adoption program, an early childhood education program, and a high school completion program for pregnant and parenting adolescent women. You can read more about Lund at lundvt.org
I have been providing counseling to people struggling with substance use disorders for six years now, and have witnessed the pain and suffering that my clients endure as they work to defeat this illness. Part of my job, if I'm doing it well, is providing unconditional positive regard to my clients.This means I respect their value as a person without condition, that I see the humanness in them even when they hurt others or betray others because of their illness. This does not mean I make excuses for them, or "let them off the hook" for those betrayals. But it does mean that I understand that any one of us could find ourselves under the control of the powerful illness of a substance use disorder. And that any one of us is capable of things we cannot imagine. The power of a substance use disorder is one of those things that is hard to understand until you experience it yourself, or until you open yourself up to truly bearing witness.
This spring, I lost my cousin, to a substance use disorder. His name was Simon. The last time I saw him was in November, he came to my house and we cooked Indian food. He told me, with great joy, about his aspirations and the joys of his life, like a new apartment and maybe a new girl, and with sadness, about the loneliness he'd experienced since the death of his mother, my aunt, last winter. Simon was a farmer, an occupation or daydream that seems to run in my bloodline. He was smart. He had a good sense of humor, valued family and hard work. He loved people in an open, vulnerable and selfless way. He was 24. He died from an accidental overdose, likely the result of Fentanyl- a powerful drug that is often mixed with heroin and sold to unsuspecting users.
The permanency of death continues to surprise me. When I first heard about Simon's death my first thoughts were "Oh- no, Simon. Don't do that. Simon- I will come get you, you can stay with us, we will do whatever it takes to help. Simon. Spring is coming, the ground will thaw, there are seeds to be sown. You can beat this."
He could have. But he can't. It just takes the one time. It is simply a tragedy, and any attempt to explain it in any other way is just an effort to compartmentalize the chaos that is life. Any attempt to place blame is an attempt to distance ourselves from the reality that it could be us, it could be our loved one.
There is a lot of stigma attached to an overdose death. Even I will admit that when I first told a few people I felt like I had betrayed Simon in some way- worried that they would now make assumptions about who he was. His addiction to heroin was such a tiny part of who he was. That is true of all people who struggle with substance use disorders. As his cousin, I only know the small part of him that I got to know. I'm grateful for every piece of himself he shared with me.
I've known about Lund's annual fundraiser since I began working for them but haven't ever participated. When I remembered it was coming up, I could think of no better way to spend Mother's Day this year. I will be there with Simon in my heart, and with the hope that as a culture we can move away from punishing and shaming people with substance use disorders, and instead move toward supporting accessible and quality treatment programs.
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