If a story is in you, it has got to come out.
I haven't truly thought about writing until recently.
It wasn't until I stepped out of my comfort zone that I realized how much I missed writing. I stopped writing because the Chef and I were going through a pretty horrific legal/business/shady/greedy battle with his brother and I just couldn't bring myself to write anything good. Plus his brother, who was actively trying to fire the Chef and steal his restaurant, threatened me with legal action if I blogged, which he eventually did, soooooooo.....the chef's brother, totally not evil. Ha.
The battle lasted for almost 5 years. Yes 5 YEARS. It was hard and it was hell, we lost friends, we lost family, we made bad choices and we made good choices but eventually we won. We walked away with the restaurants and the ability to sleep at night peacefully. Not sure if I can say the same about the other side...
So that yearning to write came back recently. It started when I was perusing Facebook late at night and saw a call for Idea Pitches through the Cleveland Leadership Center. I have always had this idea in the back of my head and maybe because I was two martinis in I decided to fill out the application. Low and behold, a few months later, an email arrived that said my idea was chosen as one of the top five ideas for their Accelerate for Change event. I would present in the community change category, in front of judges and they would give me feedback. There was a cash prize that I briefly skimmed over and then had a prompt freak out. What I hadn't realized when filling out the application was that there was public speaking involved. I DESPISE public speaking. Shocking I know. In person I am pretty comfortable with just about anyone. I can talk to the best of 'em. But getting up in front of a crowd? Ummm, not so much.
But the idea that I pitched was an idea that I am passionate about. So I grabbed my laptop and started to type my presentation.
Here it is:
My name is Amelia and I am here to talk to you about a Sanctuary for Addicts and Animals.
This is my brother Andy. Andy is a heroin addict.
In 2006 on Thanksgiving Day my family’s life changed forever. My brother, a handsome, athletic, intelligent college student, came to my dad’s house and announced he was flying to Florida because “he need a break.” He looked skinny, sickly, and grey. Our family was confused and angry, why would he be so brash to leave on a holiday about being grateful for your family? We would later find out her name was was heroin.
After a soccer injury, my brother was prescribed Oxycontin for pain associated with a broken collar bone. We've all heard this story before. Within months, the oxycontin addiction he developed became too expensive, heroin was cheaper, and he quickly became a full blown heroin addict. The past 10 years watching my brother suffer with the disease of addiction has forever changed my family. Addiction is the most devastating disease I have ever witnessed. Watching someone you love lose their self to addiction is harder than watching someone you love die of cancer.
My brother has seen bright days and he has seen many bad days. In 10 years I have learned so much about heroin addiction. I have learned how far family will go for someone they love. I have learned that heroin steals the person you once knew and replaces them with a complete stranger. I have learned that addiction is actually a disease and should be treated as one. I have learned to value the time my brother is sober but keep my distance enough to know that at any moment the call of the needle could entice him back. I have learned that heroin not only steals someones soul, but it also steals their self worth. This is where the Sanctuary comes in.
This is Ladybug. Ladybug is an abused pig who was found in a home that had 49 other animals all living in unsanitary conditions while being neglected. Ladybug was rescued by Happy Trails Animal Sanctuary and is the first smiling pig face you will see when you walk through the doors.
What does my brother and Ladybug have to do with each other? Last summer my family and I visited the Happy Trails Animal Sanctuary. We were appalled by the abuse stories of the animals but at peace seeing them thrive at the sanctuary. Over the past 10 years I have watched my brother’s addiction consume his life wishing, praying, and hoping I could stop it. He has spent time clean and sober but has always gone back to the needle. Why is this? I believe that his purpose is lost on him. Heroin stole his self worth the first time he put a needle in his arm. Even when he finds sobriety his purpose in this life is still lost. He cannot find a job. Most of his friends, if not all, have moved on. His guilt over his addiction is all consuming and his confidence in himself is virtually non existent. The disease takes everything. But what if something could give him his life back? What if Ladybug could give him a purpose?
My pitch for Citizens make Community Change is a Sanctuary for animals and addicts. The sanctuary would be a non profit recovery farm for both addicts and animals located in Northeast Ohio. Like a traditional animal sanctuary, abused animals would find a new home. Unlike the traditional animal sanctuary, the recovering addict would find themselves the caretaker of these abused and neglected animals. They would find a purpose in themselves by working on the farm, growing their own food, and taking care of the abused animals while simultaneously working on their own recovery. The results of their hard work would be seen in the rehabilitated animals which in turn would give back their sense of self that heroin stole from them.
In between the time an addict gets out rehab, detox, or even prison, the addict often goes to a sober house. A sober is house is usually just a landlord who is supposed to make sure that the people who rent rooms are sober. The problem is this rarely happens. The houses are usually in underprivileged areas where drugs can easily be found and are often filled entirely of addicts. If one person in the house falls, they all fall. My brother has lived and relapsed in many sober houses over the past 10 years. Recently my brother found sobriety for the longest he has ever been sober. For 12 months he was clean. We had him back in our lives. My kids played with him, I laughed with him, and our family shared joy with him. And then he was gone again. Heroin found him through his roommate at the sober house where he lived. No more job, no more house, no more laughter.
Sanctuary would replace the Sober House and could not only help my brother but all people suffering from the terrible disease of heroin addiction. Sanctuary would give addicts a place to live, an inspiring fulfilling job, and the opportunity to work on their own recovery alongside some of nature’s most damaged creatures. They could find their own value again through saving the lives of animals. Living at Sanctuary an addict will learn skills and tools in both the veterinary field and agriculture field. Sanctuary will help the addict find responsibility and value in themselves. Sanctuary is a place that an addict and an abused animal can find their purpose in life again. I believe that a heroin wildfire is spreading through our country and no one knows what to do about it. I believe that Sanctuary could play an active role in an addict’s journey to recovery both in Northeast Ohio and nationally and is part of answer to this epidemic that is very much needed.
Thank you for listening.
The day of the pitch I was ready...or so I thought. I had it memorized, I was ready for questions. My squad was attending the event. I had my favorite black boots on. I was good to go. And then it was my turn. And then there were 40 people in front of me and I was about to talk about my brother's heroin addiction. I barely made it through. When I opened my mouth to speak, a flashback of everything our family has been through for the past 10 years hit me and my emotions and fear took over. What felt like 40 minutes was actually 9 and before I knew it my kids were giving me hugs and kisses and telling me how great I did. I didn't win 1st place (a judge did tell me I was the runner-up tho) but I did win something else. I won back the confidence in myself to write again and to share my ideas. That's always been my passion and unfortunately for me I let an unhappy sad man temporarily take it away from me. Not anymore.
Silenced no longer, I feelzzzzz good.