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If one suffers, we all suffer

I guess it happens to all of us. We read or hear about some tragedy in our town like a shooting and a death, feel concerned about it for a while, maybe even go to a meeting or two clamoring that something must be done about it, looking to professionals and law enforcement providers to solve the problem. And then we move on with our lives.

It’s understandable.  Everyone’s life is busy.  We all have so much going on, and we become overtaken by more immediate responsibilities. Perhaps we even feel overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness over the situation, not knowing how we can make a difference. In many ways, we end up with a perfect climate for the crises of drug and alcohol abuse to prosper.

A number of years ago, when the crisis seemed especially acute, some residents came together and took action. Organizations such as CHAD (Charlestown Against Drugs, 1993) and CSAC (Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition) were formed, and various recovery programs were created and/or strengthened. Educational initiatives in schools, social, and athletic programs were launched. MGH became more involved through the Clinic on High Street and in other ways.

Despite these concerted efforts, the reality is we are still burying our young from substance abuse. Families are being damaged and lives harmed. Parents are mourning their children and grandparents are raising orphaned grandchildren. Where violence is present, inevitably, drugs are the motivation. The statistics are daunting, and Charlestown continues to be a place where residents unanimously consider substance abuse the greatest problem we have in the community.

My experience, like that of other “service providers” in our town, is this disease does not discriminate: no matter one’s education, income, race, ethnic background, language, religion or other variable, all are at risk and suffer from this illness and its secondary effects on the community at large.  And so this epidemic affects us all.

The fundamental issues of substance abuse will not be effectively resolved in one or two meetings or by the rigorous efforts of professionals and a few of our residents.  Something more fundamental is called for. We need a different mentality. By that I mean, we need a conscious and active awareness of the depth and extent of the problem. With that in hand, each of us and all of us together, can change the mindset in our community toward the disease of addiction that plagues us.

Simply to reduce the deaths from opiate overdoses is not enough. We need to stop them. A goal of this magnitude is only possible when a full community puts its mind and heart into making it happen. Eldridge Cleaver once said, “If you are not a part of the solution you are part of the problem.”

So, be part of the solution and join me and many neighbors and friends at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Medford Street on Monday, January 11 at 5:30 p.m. (light dinner) for a very important discussion. And come prepared to learn how to become part of the solution.

Fr. Jim Ronan

Photo: Jochimczyk