by Steve Ward
The little girl was as cute as they come. About 2 years old, she sat up in her stroller laughing and waving at everyone in sight.
Her carriage was decorated with bright ribbons and a balloon, and on the front was a homemade sign dedicated to “Daddy.” Everyone who saw her couldn’t help but smile.
Until they read the words “In Memory” and “We miss you.” Or saw the Mom struggling to control her emotions. And realized the girl was too young to understand what happened to Daddy.
Each Life Is a Story
On February 23rd, STEPS Ministries was a table sponsor at the End Heroin Bham walk organized by the Addiction Prevention Coalition. My wife and I spent the morning at our ministry table at the event and heard lots of stories, some inspiring, and others heart-breaking.
Tori is a middle-aged Mom, and she was there with her 2 sons. She is 8 years clean and desperately wants her boys to remain safe from addiction. The older son is in recovery himself, but his little brother has not gotten into drugs. When Tori talked about addiction, you could see the fear in her eyes. But she soaked up the words of advice and encouragement, because she was there to fight for her family.
Adam looks like the prosperous, up-and-coming Millennial he is. From an upper class family, he was smart and a good athlete. He had everything going for him. But, as a teenager, he began to encounter an inner need, a yearning for something. Until he found the solution: heroin. It took Adam 6 rehabs and several hospital trips before he finally surrendered to God and recoveryand got better. Adam now wants everyone to know the danger is real, and it can happen to anyone.
Lauren Sisler is a national award-winning sports broadcaster with ESPN and SEC Network. But, as a college freshman in 2003, she unexpectedly lost both her parents to prescription drug abuse. Within 5 hours of each other! Now, she is dedicated to spreading awareness of the dangers of addiction and the promise of prevention. And to calling each of us to play a part because, together, we can make a difference.
And we lift up the many other people whose stories we heard at the event such as Lindsay, Georgianna, Jack, Cyndi, Lisa, Nicole, Kathleen, Lucas, Jay, Jodi, Damon, Autumn, Shanika, Gary, Carolyn, Jama, Vince, Kenneth, Kirstin, Kim, Tina, George, Rachel, and Rebecca.
May God be with each of you for the rest of your journey.
We All Have a Story
We all have our story, and they are not yet finished. Each of the thousands of people at the walk had their own story as well.
Many were dramas of broken lives and shattered families, and sometimes people died. Any death is tragic, but the passing of someone ahead of their time for reasons which are preventable is especially agonizing. But the people we met at the event were positively drawn toward the promise of prevention. Not as part of a dark re-living of what could have been, but with an optimistic yearning to help others avoid what can happen.
But many more of the stories were victories! With inspiring heroes who fought with courage and perseverance to beat one of the worst dangers in the world today. Sometimes, the hero was also the victim, a normal person who had issues and problems—just like you and me. Other times, the hero was a parent or spouse or friend who demonstrated the love and strength to hang in there and make the tough decisions that are sometimes necessary. But which can save people’s lives.
For any of us, comfort and routine can turn days into years such that we strain to see purpose in what we contributed. We lose sight of the reality that life-and-death drama is going on all around us, every day. But it’s impossible to ignore that fact when you’re looking at a wall with dozens of hand-written testimonials to loved ones lost to addiction. And seeing people carrying pictures of their son, daughter, brother, sister, wife, husband, or friend who has died from substance abuse.
Writing a New Story
We heard of too many people whose stories ended too soon. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In the United States, 90% of the tens of millions of people with substance abuse issues will not get treatment. And there are many more who are somewhere along the road toward addiction. Why do we wait until those people crash and burn—overdose, accident, injury, divorce, losing a job, DUI—before sharing with them the life-transforming benefits of recovery?
There is no magic formula or quick fix to prevent addiction. But by increasing awareness, providing education, and encouraging connection, we can make a difference. By writing a new story.
The challenge may seem daunting, because there are so many who are hurting. But that also means there are that many people who can be helped.
It’s like the story of the little girl on the beach after a storm has stranded starfish on the sand. An old man questions what she is accomplishing by throwing them back into the sea by saying, “There are many thousands of starfish here, you can’t possibly make a difference.”
The girl pauses to return another one to the ocean and says, “I made a difference for that one.”
Question: Are you willing to help in writing a new story of prevention?
Action: Write down your own life story and think about how it will end.