Chuck Blair said he grew up in an alcoholic household. Now, he is a pastor for New Church Live, a Christian church that helps people in recovery and people still currently struggling with an addiction.
Rob Nash and Mary Haney accompanied Blair on his visit to our classroom. Nash and Haney found support within New Church Live while they were dealing with issues surrounding addiction. Nash has been sober for almost 34 years, and Haney lost her son to a heroin overdose about four years ago.
“My morning routine was to snort coke to wake me up, pour Khalua in my coffee and smoke a joint so I’d be hungry enough to eat something,” Nash said.
Nash attended a church school as a child, where he said he was taught about a “punishing” God, rather than a loving and forgiving one. This experience caused Nash to develop a tremendous amount of guilt and shame for the things he did while he was using. However, now Nash has a strong relationship with God thanks to New Church Live.
Before Haney lost her son, she said she often wondered, “where can I be of help without crippling or enabling?”
When Mary posed this question to our class, I felt my heart sink. This is a question I am all too familiar with.
My best friends both struggle with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. I had spent the night before Blair, Nash and Haney came to our class with my friend while she was having a hypomanic episode. I awoke the next day, after only two hours of sleep, wondering if I was really helping my friend by staying up with her all night.
I wondered if I was enabling her by always being around to reassure her when she is manic or depressed. Maybe I need to give her space, so she could learn how to feel confident on her own? However, leaving her alone to deal with her demons feels like too much of a risk to me.
I also lost a friend three years ago to drug and mental health problems. While Haney talked about losing her son, I couldn’t help but remember my friends funeral, and the painful look on his moms face throughout the whole service. Listening to Haney’s story without experiencing a wide range of familiar emotions was next to impossible.
However, this rush of emotions I felt while Blair, Nash and Haney spoke only reinforced my belief that this is the kind of journalism I want to pursue, these are the kind of people I want to help and these are the kind of stories I want to tell. Knowing I have the ability to help the people I love through my reporting is a very empowering feeling.
Even though addiction reporting can seem emotionally draining at times, the finished product of this type of work can be extremely rewarding. Throughout the ups and downs of my career (and my life), I will always remember the last piece of advice Chuck Blair offered to our class: “Life is always these three things: Blessed, Broken and shared.”