Kat's Speech for Taking Haverhill Back Opiate addiction awareness rally
This was a speech I wrote for the July 12th Taking Haverhill Back Awareness Rally and Picnic.
It's long, but I feel it's with worth the read.
"Greetings; my name is Katrina Hobbs-Everett and I am running for city council. When asked to come here today. I was told I could say whatever I wanted. I’ll admit I was not sure what I wanted to say. Let me follow that up by saying my background is not in politics. My running for council has no bearing on my career or wishes for political gain. I am running because this is my city and I see that it needs help, I feel a responsibility to do my part to help in whatever way that I can. However I’m not here to talk about my campaign. I’m here like many of you because this issue has affected people I love. It’s interesting the range of emotions one goes through when they lose someone they care about. For me I went from shock and disbelief, to being angry, to feeling responsible. Could I have been a better friend, should we have talked more, should we have talked more about different options and choices we make in life?Responsibility is hard to deal with because I honestly didn't know my friend was using drugs, so how could I have helped her? After struggling with that I realized I could have helped her because I DID know my friend was hurting. I did know she struggled everyday of her life to put a smile on her face, and what a smile she had. I’ve been struggling all week with what to say and if you get nothing else out of what I’m saying hear this. We need to do better. If your asking yourself how? Let me continue. Addiction holds no regard to race, religion, creed, gender, how much money one has, how many degrees one has. It does not discriminate. I recently watched a Ted talk video with Johann Hari and he suggested a powerful idea. That the opposite of addiction is not sobriety - so I’m not here to talk about sobriety either. He suggests that the opposite of addiction is connection! Yes human connection. He states an obvious fact that all humans have an innate need to bond. We as a society are learning this in the medical field with children and child development. I have birthed 6 kids and my oldest is 14 my youngest is just 7 weeks old. When I had my newest daughter they did something different. They handed her to me fresh out, still covered in all her many layers of amniotic messiness and still connected to me by her umbilical cord. This was slightly shocking and I’ll admit initially odd for me. My first thought was, "she’s still messy", but then I remembered all the great research done on skin to skin contact and the importance of first contact. So I put her to my skin and snuggled and loved on my sweet little messy baby. Why am I saying all that. Because it’s about Human connection across all spectrums of life. What Hari suggests is that the way we have been dealing with addiction to punish, to separate, to make it hard to beat the stigma, is not working. Not for the addict and hear me out -but not for the seller either. I remember in taking a class on the war on drugs I learned that if you go to jail for drug sales you cannot ever get federal funds for college. No other crime holds this penalty. How then can the dealer find a new trade? This might seem like not an important issue but let me tell you jail does not stop dealers from selling. It does not hurt the larger drug systems and while I’m not saying we do not need to still pursue following that law. Police that know will admit to you jail is not a solution. Again we have to do better.
If your still listening just follow along with me. What I’m saying is that we as a community, as a society need to take a deeper look at the facts and trends and reassess this thing. We cannot look at just addiction, just gang activity, just drug sales. When I look at this issue in regards to Haverhill I see trends, my solution may seem simplistic but in reality it’s quite complex. It means unlearning 100 years of wrong thinking. Hari talks about the difference of when one is happy and connected and when one struggles to handle the pressures of life, due to trauma, or hurt, or inability to manage relationship for many reasons. The bonding happens, but with the drug. We as a society, as a community do pay for those outcomes. So as a community what messages are we sending out? Instead of thinking how we can make drugs less available, or make harsher restrictions, we should be asking ourselves how are WE contributing to the problem? How are we responsible? Behind the behavior is hurt, and the same need for connection that you and I have. What I feel is needed is exactly what Hari suggests, adopting a love mentality across the board. Holding the messy child and saying we love you, we’re here for you. Being able to look at the mess and help love them out of it. I have a certificate in alcohol and drug abuse counseling from NECC and have spent years working in addictions group homes for both youth and adults. One thing addictions counselors are taught in motivational interviewing is this thing called “unconditional positive regard” separating the negative behavior and unwanted outcomes from the individual as a person and choosing to model love and neutrality no matter what. This is a hard thing to put into practice but it’s also the reason why so many leave treatment and come back home and use. They are not coming into a community of unconditional positive regard, in fact it’s exactly the opposite. This will not be a quick fix but the only way to truly take back Haverhill is to take an honest look at our part in this epidemic as individuals, and on a city wide level. Take ownership and make some drastic changes. I thank you for your time.
Be well and God bless
Photo credit: Don Toothaker