From Pastor Pat Kriss: Addiction
(Posted October 21, 2017)
She came recommended through a church member when I needed someone to help prepare the small house I was renting for monthly church events. This took place when I was pastoring up in the northern Berkshires. She needed the work and had cleaned houses before, I was told.
So “Emily” started cleaning my home once a month. She was very thin and always on the move, so I always shared my lunch with her to help her a little. She was personable, affable, and did what I asked her, until the day she broke the cardinal rule of living in the Berkshires: You always put your trash in the cellar until trash day, because there are bears everywhere. You never take it outside.
The last time I saw Emily was the day I shared my sushi lunch with her at my kitchen. A little later on, I heard her boyfriend beeping his car horn for her, as she rushed for the front door, with one of the upstairs white trash bags in her hand. I told her not to take it outside, but put it as usual in the cellar. I heard the door close as she left. She was scheduled to return the next day and prepare for a church party. I never saw the bag go out the door.
Service begins at 10 a.m.; panel discussion follows.
It wasn’t until that night when I reached for the sleeping medication I needed not just for sleep but for back pain that I realized it was gone. I then went to the drawer in the bathroom where I had stored our pharmaceuticals when we moved to the Berkshires. It apparently had been rifled through, and I’m sure that some things were missing, some medications we never really used but brought with us “just in case.” Emily never returned the next day. Frankly I don’t know if she is still alive, but the sense of betrayal of trust lives on for me to this day, as well of the personal cost of the abuse of prescription drugs that makes them so valuable on the street. The heroin epidemic exploded there the next year, as it has where we live. For so many prescription pharmaceuticals, particularly opioids, are the gateway to much stronger, potentially lethal “fixes” like heroin. But it fixes nothing, and leads to tragedy and grief for families all over our region.
What can we do? Why do people become addicted anyway, to any form of substances, whether it’s liquor or meth or oxycontin? There is scarcely a family in our church that hasn’t been affected by addiction of one sort or another. How do we comfort those who are grieving the impact of addiction or of the epidemic on their families? Jesus healed the man howling in the cemetery outside the city, calling out his personal demons and sending them into a convenient swine herd. Can we individual Christians help those silently howling in our community?
This weekend we have a special opportunity to not only pray for those in such need, but to learn from professionals and also those in our congregation who have lost a young person to overdose. We will be joined during our 10 a.m. Real Theology Sunday service by Dr. Charles Herrick of Danbury Hospital to first learn about the nature of addiction, and then in Annie Hall during Coffee Hour for a panel discussion including Dr. Herrick and Allison Fulton, Executive Director of the Housatonic Valley Coalition Against Substance Abuse. Most moving to us of all, we will have Anita and Pete Lucsky on the panel, our own former members, who lost their granddaughter Kaitlyn Knapp to a heroin overdose last December 29. It is to Kaitlyn’s memory that I dedicate this Sunday’s service and talk. Please join us at 10 and after services in support of the family, and to learn what we can do to heal this world of ours. It can be done. We may also hear from others who are in recovery at the present time. -- Pastor Pat Kriss