By Jeff Keeling
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. (Matthew 18:12-14)
Upon first learning about the early successes of Washington County’s Recovery Drug Court, my thoughts turned to statistics. The annual cost to society of incarcerating people, the risks to our region’s current and future prosperity if too many working-age adults can’t be productive employees because drugs rule their lives – those 30,000-foot-view matters pretty much summed up my line of thinking.
But in considering an article about the program (see page 1), I reached out to its director, Karen Hulsey, hoping I could interview a pending graduate. Then I spent some time Thursday with Alvis, Holly and Cooper Lowe, and boy did my thoughts turn.
Sure, Alvis Lowe’s recovery from drug addiction should help assure a productive future for the bright young man. Likewise for the court’s two other Friday graduates, Joshua Hammer and Dylan Greene. Had the men continued on their pre-Recovery Court trajectories, it’s unlikely they would have continued contributing to the tax base and helping make our community an attractive place for employers to do business.
Rather, their drug dependency had them on a path to prison. They had already committed non-violent misdemeanors. As the Recovery Court’s Karen Hulsey noted Friday, the evidence shows that without help the Lowes, Hammers and Greenes of the world end up escalating in their drug use, and escalating criminally along with that.
More than likely, the misdemeanors would have turned to felonies, and in addition to the property or physical damage they inflicted on the victims of their crimes, the men would have been a financial burden on our society as they sat in overcrowded jails and prisons.
Those are some of the societal costs that our area’s drug addiction problem creates. It is easy, for me at least, to limit my thinking to these more impersonal elements of the problem without taking stock of its more intimate nuances.
Take Alvis Lowe. From everything I could tell spending time around him and his wife, he’s a super nice guy, a hard-working father and husband who would give you the shirt off his back. But as you can read in some detail in this week’s paper, drug addiction threatened to rob from him and his wife a full and meaningful life.
The holidays and other special occasions are often when grief, from whatever source, becomes most painful. Holly Lowe had this to say about the couple’s life before Lowe’s so-far successful journey to sobriety:
“Now we can make plans, and we can have holidays and I don’t have to worry if there’s going to be a downfall. That sounds so small to people who don’t deal with it. They’re like, ‘of course there’s not going to be a big downfall at Christmas, or if we go to this outing or somebody’s wedding,’ so people take that for granted.
“I never knew what was going to happen and I was always terrified.”
So praise the Lord – and the Lowes do – for his limitless mercy. And remember, if you choose to share my worldview, that each of us is a sheep, prone to wander to places that put us, and often our loved ones, in harm’s way and away from the fullness of living under the shepherd’s protection and love.
I hope the local Recovery Court continues to be a place of love and healing, and to lead its participants from self-inflicted pain and danger to fullness and flourishing. For as frustrating as dealing with addicted people may be, it’s good to remember our own weaknesses and to know that, as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, love “always hopes, always perseveres.”
Much joy was shared Friday. It brought to mind a passage from one of my favorite Psalms, 107 (17-22):
Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.