In the midst of tragedies in the ongoing drug epidemic, the Mashpee High School Family Wellness Conference on Tuesday offered messages of hope and community support.
The event began with a spaghetti dinner provided by the cafeteria staff with a jazz ensemble softly playing in the background. Students in the high school’s chapter of Project Purple wearing purple shirts volunteered by clearing tables, and later, introducing speakers.
Selectman Michael R. Richardson began his comments with a description of Mashpee Cares, a town-wide initiative focused on tackling substance abuse issues with resources such as the drug return kiosk in the police station.
“It’s probably saved lives already, and it can probably save many, many more lives,” he said.
After the kiosk is filled, Mr. Richardson said, the drugs are transported to a U-Haul in Brewster that brings them to Haverhill for incineration.
“A U-Haul that you use to move your furniture from one house to the next is full of drugs. If you don’t think that’s serious then you’re missing something, folks,” said Mr. Richardson.
He ended with a message about drug abuse to the audience from Mashpee Cares, setting the tone for the night: “It’s not going to start at my house.” The audience of over 100 attendees repeated it.
Michael P. Jackman, a district representative for Congressman William R. Keating, emphasized the widespread nature of the drug crisis.
“There is no one community that is affected more or less by the opiate epidemic,” he said, describing a Drug-Free Communities Grant that Falmouth Prevention Partnership has used in the past to benefit the Town of Mashpee. Also on the federal level, a bill filed by Congressman Keating would require pharmaceutical companies to market only tamper-resistant painkillers, making them more difficult to crush, sniff and shoot.
State representative Randy Hunt of Sandwich addressed the drug market that has been supported by the US Food and Drug Administration. The approval of dangerous drugs and their over-prescription, he said, has led to addiction and widespread demand for less expensive heroin.
“If you demand it, someone will find a way to get it to you,” Mr. Hunt said.
President and CEO of Gosnold on Cape Cod Raymond V. Tamasi presented new treatment options for addiction, which he said is a chronic condition.
The prevailing view, he said, is that recovery from addiction is very difficult, challenging and hopeless. He described a multitude of programs that Gosnold has established to assist patients in recovery after they leave and that have resulted in longer periods of remission.
“What is success in treating a person who has a condition for their entire life?” he said.
The highlight of the event was a success story.
Kristoph H. Pydynkowski, an interventionist, drug and alcohol counselor and recovery specialist at Gosnold, said that he woke up that morning looking at his beautiful wife and feeling lucky. In an accent straight from Boston, he began to describe a past of drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness in which he was not so lucky.
It did not start with a broken home, as society often believes. “I can tell you that I grew up in such a loving, caring, beautiful home,” he said, explaining that he was adopted and his addiction was the result of a genetic predisposition. “I was taught right from wrong. I love my family, they’re beautiful people.”
Prior to his addiction, he recalled feeling happiest stepping out of a “God-awful” station wagon and onto the sand during beach trips with his mother. After experimenting with alcohol and marijuana to fit in with his peers, his feeling of connection to his environment grew more distant, as did his dream to buy his mother a house with a picket fence.
He turned to heroin and his addiction led to a life on the streets, spiraling out of control until he arrived at Gosnold as a patient.
“I feel so blessed that I work for a company that changed my life,” Mr. Pydynkowski said.
Today, he is able to provide support for patients in recovery and their families—and for his own family.
“Recovery has given me the ability to be present and available for the people I love,” he said.