Last week I spoke at the funeral of Christopher Stewart, a recent
victim of the Opioid Epidemic. This story is in remembrance of
Chris and to express our love and condolences to his family.
I first met Chris in 2016 when he came into treatment for the first time. Chris was a typical young 21-year old Caucasian male like the ones I had seen time and time again. He was worn and unshaven as he walked into the office. Chris’ first words were, “I need help.” His mother and father were with him, very concerned and somewhat angry that their son is addicted to drugs and has created legal problems for the family. They are a typical family experiencing a family member going through addiction with no explanation or reason. Christopher went through the program and gained almost a year of sobriety before getting discharged from the program and relapsing. He returned to the treatment program a few months later a bit more worn and with additional legal problems. He stayed in the program and demonstrated working with his sponsor and participating in counseling sessions weekly. Christopher showed willingness to get involved in his recovery, chairing 12-step support meetings and helping others. He gained many friends in recovery as they referred to him as “The Greek.” Chris remained abstinent for 29-months before relapsing again on opiates. The next time I saw Christopher, he and his family walked back into my office and stated he needs to come back to the program. They agreed to follow all recommendations including attending the family day to gain some understanding of Substance Use Disorder. Christopher’s mother, father, and sister attended the family day and participated in all the sessions. After the end of the Family Day, Christopher’s family thanked us for the sessions because they finally understood more than they had before. Christopher stayed in the program two more months before getting discharged for rule violations. He was able to stay clean for the next 9-months before relapsing again, but Chris did not make it through this relapse. Christopher died from an apparent overdose of opioids.
I write about Christopher because he is one among thousands of young men to succumb to this crisis of opioid dependency. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands in this country, so has the opioid epidemic.
We must understand the need for more affordable and effective treatment. “Treatment Works.” Without treatment, thousands like Christopher may not get to experience the freedom from active addiction and hopefully long-term recovery. Christopher did experience recovery and during his sobriety he lived and touched many lives.
I am the Founder, President and CEO of Arise Recovery Residences and Counseling Services. With over 20 years of experience in working within the industry, I am keenly aware of the devastation that substance abuse can have on individuals and families. It is my calling and a passion to dedicate my life to helping as many addicts along their journey to recovery, and providing support for families who are often lost as what to do and how to cope and support their family member(s).