Let’s Keep Talking about Heroin

heroin spoonWhen an individual becomes an addict, they aren’t who they once were. A formerly honest person will lie, cheat, or steal to get their next fix. As a society we must be aware of how desperate this chain of deception can be, and how we can become ensnared in its web, despite our good intentions. For example, recently I was in a local drugstore when a seemingly frantic male approached me holding his cell phone in his hand. He told me that he had just spoken with his grandmother and was terribly embarrassed to ask, but he needed an additional $10.00 to buy a prescription for a loved one. His request tugged at my heartstrings. The young man dressed in a plaid cowboy shirt could sense my ardent desire to help, but what he couldn’t sense is that my compassion was checked by a painful past experience.

Years ago, this same story had caused me to give another stranger $20 to buy medicine for a non-existent sick child. I was a single mom back then, and that $20 was a large portion of our meager grocery budget. I found out later through a reputable source that my hard-earned money was used to buy drugs. My intentions were right, because the Bible says, “…if anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Still, I vowed to use greater wisdom. prescription pillsThat’s why I went to the pharmacy counter inquiring if there was a young man unable to pay for a prescription. I wanted to help anonymously, if the need was authentic. The drugstore clerk informed me that no one matching his description or situation had been there.

We have to use great caution continually, since headlines report fatal overdoses in area motel rooms, murders in nearby sleepy villages, and rampant crime everywhere. Most of it is heroin-related. Yet it’s easy to believe that heroin addiction will never affect someone you care about, until it does.

The trouble is that very few of us remain unscathed by this deadly epidemic. According to the most recent statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 5,927 deaths in 2012 compared to 8,260 in 2013. That’s an alarming 39% increase. Over a decade ago, I experienced the loss of a close acquaintance to heroin. Back then, little was known about this cunning culprit. I was confused that its victim, a middle-aged mom who had spent much of her life as a professional woman, had been trapped in heroin’s clutches. Her funeral left many folks searching for answers. It seemed shocking that she had pulled off a double life, but it was not a shock to those close to her. They had lived with the chaos, fear, and unpredictability that loving an addict creates. No one could have forecast this treacherous path strewn with tears and hopelessness. After all, no little girl or boy says, “When I grow up, I want to be a heroin addict.” It must be a parent’s worst nightmare, and it’s definitely an extended family member and friend’s frustrating role. Often, we don’t speak of heroin addiction in our inner circle, lest we shame those already heaped with guilt. We are further silenced by our inability to provide answers.

angel grave marker'That’s why I started reading everything I could about the subject. I even found myself studying the local obituaries of those whose deaths seem to be heroin-related. Of course, it can be difficult to tell. A few months ago, I didn’t have to wonder if the young man with an engaging smile died of an overdose. His obituary read, “… [He] was taken away from us far too soon after fighting a battle for his life against heroin addiction.” My heart broke for his family, but it also swelled with pride that they had the courage to confront heroin head on. Not to bury the tragic truth with their loved one, instead to say that he fought valiantly, but lost the battle.

What that family did was of groundbreaking importance. They called the enemy out, and we need to have that same courage. To keep talking about the existence of heroin in our communities, and to be honest that as a relative, neighbor, churchgoer, or friend, our lives have probably already been personally impacted in some way. The first step in finding a solution is to accept that the problem is closer to home than we care to admit.

Christina at The CarolineChristina Ryan Claypool is an Ohio AP and national Amy award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her though her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV programs.

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Parents warn your kids about Acquaintance Rape

Two female college students studying togetherSteubenville football players, Bill Cosby, and now a former Stanford swimmer, have made headlines over accusations of rape. Since in our country, we’re innocent until proven guilty, this column isn’t about prematurely convicting the accused, or even further chastising the guilty. Rather, it’s about exposing the ongoing and often silent threat of acquaintance rape. The www.freedictionary.com defines acquaintance rape as a, “Rape committed by someone with whom the victim is acquainted.” Originally, this crime was commonly identified as, “date rape,” but that terminology is too specific. Although in college rapes, the perpetrator is known to the victim 90 percent of the time, they are not necessarily a dating partner.

Tragically, rape and sexual assault happen both to women and men, and can occur anywhere. Yet RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network reports, “9 out of 10 rape victims were female in 2003.” So, for space, let’s talk about young women on college campuses only. Alarmingly, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80 percent of sexual assaults of college females are likely to go unreported. Why wouldn’t you tell someone if you had been raped or sexually assaulted? Maybe, because in some cases, there are extenuating circumstances causing a victim to blame herself. For example, a 2004 study conducted at 119 colleges found that one in 20 college women reported being raped during the school year…[while almost] 75 percent of the victims said they were intoxicated when the assault occurred.” Additional statistics indicate that “75 percent of male students and 55 percent of female students involved in acquaintance rape had been drinking or using drugs.”Bar shot

Campus sexual assault surveys indicate that about 1 in 5 female students will be a victim of sexual assault. These statistics, however accurate are not the point says writer, Tyler Kingkade in his December 2014 Huffington Post column. Kingkade says the point is that victims are finally speaking up and saying that once they did report, their cases were handled poorly by campus hierarchy. Here’s the dilemma: often a university is hesitant to admit that they have a problem with rape on their campus. It’s not exactly a PR selling point for parents, “Have your daughter come to our college and then take your chances.” A victim can also be revictimized by the reporting process, and the inability to successfully prosecute the crime. Although some universities are aggressively addressing this tragic phenomenon through preventive education. Yet this knowledge can come too late for acquaintance rape victims, since freshmen and sophomore students are at the highest risk of violation.

That’s why, it’s paramount for parents to speak candidly with their college-bound kids. Warning their daughters to not go to a party alone but with other females, and never leave with a male she doesn’t know well. Tell her to guard her drink [even if it is water or soda] and never drink from a punch bowl or open container, because drug facilitated rapes are an ongoing issue. “Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assualt, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBl, etc.,” according to the RAINN Website. Their national sexual assault hotline is 800-656-HOPE.

Tell your sons that, “No,” means, “No.” No matter how far the sexual activity has gone, and if a young woman is incapicitated, she’s just not fair game because she is unable to legally consent. Don’t assume that your child will not drink, attend parties, or make poor choices, even if they are a church-goer or homeschooled since these can be the most vulnerable youth due to naivety. Remember a teenager’s newfound freedom can be a dangerous gift with deadly consequences. Lastly, don’t expect public high schools to be solely responsible for prevention. They are inundated with a multitude of prevention issues like: bullying, teen dating violence, prescription drug abuse, nutrition, etc. It’s time for parents to step up to the plate, do a little research, and start this difficult conversation.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist, who is a past two term board member for the Ohio Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She is the author of the book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors, which includes the chapter, “The Reality of Acquaintance Rape,” available through www.amazon.com or her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Ryan Claypool has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life program.

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Poverty Simulation and the Banana Nut Bread Christmas

Christmas Tiny TimThat holiday season three decades ago, “…was the best of times, [and] it was the worst of times…” as Charles Dickens once wrote. The best of times, because we were healthy, the worst, because as a single mom I found myself part of the U.S. poverty statistic.

This memory came flooding back on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, when I participated in the C.O.P.E. (Cost of Poverty Experience) hosted by Edison Community College’s Academy for Community Leadership on the Piqua campus. According to the college’s Website, “C.O.P.E. is a powerful simulation that has been used to help many organizations and communities across the nation work more effectively with low-income families and understand the issues of poverty more comprehensively.”

The U.S. Census Bureau now estimates that “over fifteen percent of the American population lives below the poverty line.”  Since I was once part of this statistic, I was unsure that the simulation would result in a greater personal understanding of the tragic plight of millions of Americans. However, it reminded me that poverty can be really tricky, because the destitution and shame it produces silence you. Once your voice is gone, you can give in to apathy and hopelessness.

I was also wrong about not needing a refresher course on what scarcity feels like. Through the years, I have been blessed with financial stability, and had forgotten the frantic tension that not having enough money for monthly bills, rent, food, or even diapers can produce within a family unit. It all came rushing back that icy morning, while engaged in the free event which was funded through the CareSource Foundation and conducted by the Think Tank.

I also remembered the daunting challenge of finding sufficient employment, which countless Americans continue to face. Unemployment statistics can be misleading, because there are individuals of all ages who have fallen off the unemployment rolls and are no longer accounted for. In addition, the underemployed are another marginalized group trying to make ends meet on a less than livable income.

Besides, the daily struggle, Christmas is coming for this economically endangered population. Thankfully, many communities take note of the needs of those less fortunate during this season believing the Biblical viewpoint that, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” especially where children are concerned.Christmas Single Mom

Yet even when your financial situation is rocky, Christmas comes with the human expectation that one should celebrate by giving to others. That’s when my mind recalled my own plight as a young single mother on welfare living in a government-subsidized apartment, despite a newly acquired college degree. I was ashamed of betraying my hard-fought dream of becoming a middle-class citizen through higher education. After months of sending out resume after resume during the recession of the early eighties, there was still no career prospect on the horizon.

Wanting to give presents to my loved ones is how the banana nut bread Christmas came to be. Not blessed with much domestic talent, I surprised myself that winter by mastering a recipe for banana nut bread.

I got a couple boxes of Bisquick, nuts, some reduced over-ripe bananas perfect for baking, and a dented box of foil from a food salvage store. Loaf after loaf of golden brown bread baked in my little apartment oven in borrowed loaf pans. Then once the delicious smelling bread cooled, I wrapped it in seasonally appropriate, silver (aluminum) foil and tied a festive red bow around it. Admittedly, the nuts in the nut bread were quite sparse, due to my budget.

Since, “It [really] is more blessed to give than to receive,” giving homemade banana nut bread as presents to family and friends gave me special joy. I had beaten the recession Grinch who had tried to steal Christmas.

When one is able to give something – anything – hope arises in the midst of lack. Hope for a brighter future and better life!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com . This column was originally published in the Sidney Daily News and the Piqua Daily Call.

 

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