Nashua church offers spiritual response to drug crisis
by Laurie Toupin, First Church of Christ, Scientist
Published in the Nashua Telegraph, May 28, 2016
“Faith communities have an important role to play” in the battle against drug addiction, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told attendees in introductory remarks at the “The Drug Crisis: A Spiritual Response” Interfaith Panel Discussion on May 14. The event, sponsored by the First Church of Christ Scientist, Nashua, was held at the Harbor Care Health and Wellness Center.
Overdoses resulted in 438 deaths last year in New Hampshire, Ayotte said.
Four out of five people start by misusing opiates. But people won’t seek help because they see it as a stigma, she noted.
The religious community has a special voice that can save lives, she said. This role can’t be filled by government.
Four speakers talked about that special voice by presenting solutions to the drug situation based on their job and journey where God and prayer often took center stage.
Lock it up
Janet Valuk, director of the Nashua Prevention Coalition echoed Ayotte’s dire description saying that New Hampshire is ranked first in the nation for the number of drug overdoses and 48th in the nation for treatment facilities.
Her solution? Prevent drug use in school age children.
As a teacher, Valuk has seen the easy access many children have to everyday medications at home. The number one way youth are getting access to these drugs is through parents and grandparents who leave drugs in accessible places, she said.
To confront this, her group’s latest initiative is the Lock It Up! Campaign. The group promotes using a Prescription Lock Box sold at some Walgreen Pharmacies and online. In addition, they stress the importance of disposing unneeded medications quickly. Many communities have Medicine Drop Boxes in their Police Departments that are accessible 24/7. The DEA also sponsors a Drug Take-Back Day in the spring and fall.
An internal solution
“Substance abuse disorder is a internal problem,” said Ryan Gagne, founder of Live Free Structured Sober Living in Manchester. “People don’t fail. They simply try treating the internal problem with an external solution.”
Gagne shared his journey of how he overcame his cocaine and alcohol addiction. As a teen, Gagne felt like he didn’t fit in. He had a good home, but said jokingly “I kept waiting for the alien ship to come back for me.”
He started hanging out with others who felt isolated like himself, and who filled this void with drugs and alcohol.
To truly heal, Gagne said he had to fill that void with something else. For him, recovery and spirituality go hand in hand.
He went through a 12-step program and felt, for the first time, that he had a purpose.
On November 22 2015, Gagne opened his facility for men such as himself – who needed a place to transition from treatment to recovery.
“If you are not treating the internal problem with an internal solution, people are at risk for the cycle of abuse to continue,” he said.
A spiritual connection
Ann McIntyre, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, agreed that a spiritual connection needs to be made. McIntyre and her husband run an addiction recovery weekly support group, meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesdays at 110 Concord St., in Nashua.
The program, based on the 12-step program from AA, has a deeply spiritual foundation. McIntyre said, “With the Savior’s help, we can overcome our addictions and find new meaning to life.”
The program is also open to family and friends. “Family and friends can learn to rely on the Savior for healing and to help them support their loved ones through recovery,” she said.
Support groups are held in Nashua, as well as other towns throughout New Hampshire.
A vertical approach
John Adams, CSB, a teacher and practitioner of Christian Science, summed up the underlying message of all the speakers. “This is not only a horizontal (human) effort, but a vertical (spiritual) effort to lift up one’s thought to the understanding that he or she is created in the image of God,” he said.
At 15, Adams began drinking with boys older than him. It wasn’t long after that he began smoking pot which led to indulging other drugs.
In his mid-20s, he visited his grandmother. She was a Christian Science practitioner, one who devotes his or her life to helping others through prayer. She gave Adams her copy of a book titled “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy. “Read this,” she said. “It will change your life.”
Adams was not inclined to read the book and struggled with his grandmother’s request.
But soon after he read it, “It totally altered my course of reasoning.” He read the book three times. By the third time, Adams completely lost his desire to do drugs and was fully healed.
This led him to look beyond himself, asking instead, “Who or what can I bless today?” This gave him a sense of purpose, integrity, and dignity.
“The people doing this work are motivated by love and a strong desire to help others struggling with a drug problem,” Adams said. And together, we can solve this.