MILWAUKEE — Narcan nasal spray and fentanyl testing strips were some of the items being given out at Mitchell Park Pavilion on Thursday. Behind the iconic Mitchell Park Domes, the City of Milwaukee Health Department and Rise Drug Free MKE partnered with multiple other organizations to host an event honoring the lives lost to overdoses.
Overdoses can happen anywhere and Milwaukee is no different. According to data from Milwaukee County, the City of Milwaukee saw over 600 confirmed overdose deaths in 2021 and 2022 with more deaths suspected to have been from overdoses. It begs the question: what drives a person to addiction?
“That’s the million dollar question… it could be hereditary, it could be environmental. But ultimately it has to do with the chemicals in your brain. As far as treatment goes, it is very individualized. It could be motivated by family or loved ones. But ultimately it has to be when the person is ready for it,” said Danielle Wegman of Clean Slate Outpatient Addiction Services.
Wegman went on to say that becoming addicted is completely out of the hands of addicts, and said it is a condition they are born with.
A few steps away from the table Danielle was sitting at was a table for the group Nar-Anon, a support group for those affected by addiction. Kathy is a Nar-Anon member who’s son Dan was an addict for nearly 20 years. She said parenting an addict was difficult from having put in the effort to be a good parent.
“We found out he (Dan) was doing heroin and then cocaine. He was hanging out with people we did not know. Then he moved to Minneapolis so we really did not know… How do you get out when all your friends are in?”
While Minneapolis was originally the town Kathy’s son was doing drugs, Dan is now seven years clean and helping other addicts.
“He came back for a visit here… on the way back to Minneapolis he started having a withdrawal. They took him to the hospital and that was the end of his drug use. Now he lives in a sober living house and three times a week he goes into downtown Minneapolis and sits with addicts,” said Kathy.
A few tables away from Kathy was Ethan Grube with Roots Counseling Services, a drug and alcohol rehab center in Milwaukee. Grube likened a diabetic person taking Insulin to a recovering addict having a sponsor and support group. Grube said his work at Roots Counseling comes from personal experiences.
“I was in active addiction for ten years and I am six years sober now. Getting high and drunk was fun for awhile and then it was a chore. It wasn’t fun anymore. I went to treatment and sober living. I did the twelve steps. You learn to rely on something other than drugs and alcohol; like God and the universe. You learn to realize the decisions you made were based on self,” said Grube.
A mix of perspectives on how addiction and overdoses affect everyone around them. Aaron Clayborn with Wisconsin Voices for Recovery urged anyone with a loved one going through addiction or recovery to have kindness and patience.
“Be supportive, be empathetic. Help them find the thing they once enjoyed and get back to that kind of life. Enjoy nature. Keep connection, you have to connect with people to create change.”
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