EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories concerning the opioid crisis that our communities are facing. Today’s story deals with perhaps the group most affected — our young people who will be left to deal with the residue from this crisis. This is one way they are coping .. and learning from someone who has been there.)
FLEMINGSBURG – Students in Flemingsburg looked to fight back against the opioid epidemic through awareness.
On Feb. 8, students from Fleming County High School conducted a play regarding the effects drugs can have on young lives.
The play, titled “Operation Help,” was a collaboration between students in Fleming County STLP, FBLA, student council, FFA, FCCLA and HOSA. It followed the story of Zeke, a fictional FCHS student who is introduced to drugs at a party. The play follows Zeke as he tries heroin for the first time and overdoses after being admonished by his parents.
After Zeke’s death, the audience is given a detailed look at the fallout of drug use. A funeral is seen in which family and friends are bereaved as a preacher delivers his eulogy. Abby, the girl who gives Zeke his first dose of heroin, screams at Zeke’s parents that he did it to himself and no one else is to blame.
After the funeral scene, a court scene was shown depicting Abby on trial for Zeke’s death. The trial ends with Abby being found guilty of manslaughter. She is sentenced to eight years in prison.
“The life and death of Zeke was very tragic,” the narrator says. “The only way to prevent this from happening again is simple – be a part of Operation Help and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many people who you have a relationship with who are available to help you.”
A parade of individuals entered the stage displaying signs that read “Principal,” “Teacher,” “Doctor” and one that simply said “Friend.”
“We can help,” the group echoed as one before walking off.
Fleming County freshmen Peyton Hall and Emily Sapp were the brains behind the idea for this play.
“We noticed that it was a big problem,” Hall said. “I know within my family and within the community it is a problem.”
According to Sapp, the two freshmen looked to get as many clubs in the school involved as possible.
“We planned meetings and held practices,” Sapp said. “We contacted members of the community and our teachers to help put it all together.”
After the play, Nathan Lewis, a graduate of Fleming County High School, preacher at New Creation Praise and Worship and the center director of Belle Grove Springs Recovery Center and addict in recovery spoke to those in attendance.
“I think we have a hard time understanding the mind of addiction,” Lewis said.
Lewis said that addiction always starts with one choice.
“It starts with the one instance when you say ‘I’m just going to try it,’” Lewis said. “I know that because that’s how it started with me.”
Lewis said one thing that kept him in his addiction for so long was fear.
“I was scared. I was scared of who I was,” Lewis said. “I was scared people wouldn’t like me. I was scared I wouldn’t find success. I was scared of my identity. Scared I wasn’t good enough.”
Lewis said that he hid from his fears.
“Let me tell you something about your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. This is a scary world they’re growing up in,” Lewis said. “There’s so much information out there for them. They know so much more than we did at that age but they don’t have the wisdom to use that knowledge. That’s why we can’t be afraid to have these conversations with them.”
Lewis said the path of drug addiction only leads to a few placess.
“It leads to the grave, the jail cell,” Lewis said.
He said the play was fiction, but that the events happen every single day.
“I’ve preached that funeral for my friend who made that one last bad decision,” Lewis said. “It’s horrific, man. I don’t want anyone to have to go through that, so we have to have those conversations.”
Lewis said he came from what could be called a broken home. He said he started taking drugs as a way to feel good and only occasionally used.
“But that turned into an every weekend thing, which soon turned into an everyday thing,” Lewis said. “I think about 98 percent of the days I walked through this building I was under the influence of some kind of drug.”
Lewis said smoking marijuana and drinking escalated into doing cocaine and LSD. He said he graduated, went to college and decided to major in elementary education.
“I had a revelation in my junior year of college,” Lewis said. “I realized I couldn’t be high every day if I was going to be teaching little kids.”
Lewis said that he chose not to give up drugs, but to instead change his major to find a career path that would better accommodate his lifestyle.
“I quit college and I went off to become a rock star,” Lewis said. “I hit the road and left my wife and my kid at home.”
Lewis said the drugs only made him more miserable. He said he was tired of the direction his life was going in.
“I got tired of sleeping in nasty hotel room. I got tired of driving from place to place every night,” Lewis said. “I told myself I’d move home and get a good job and be a good husband and a good father, but it was all just a delusion.”
Lewis said he and his wife, who also had been getting into drugs, had been falling apart. They agreed to work on their problems, but Lewis said it still wasn’t enough.
“You’ve got to experience enough pain to decide you want something different,” Lewis said. “I just hadn’t experienced enough pain yet.”
Lewis said that God had given him a million wake up calls before he finally had one experience that made him listen.
He said he was on his lunch break at a night job he was working on a strip mine using drugs in his car when blue lights pull him over from his car.
“I know what’s coming,” Lewis said. “I’m getting searched, I’m going to jail, I’m getting fired, my wife is going to leave me.”
Lewis said the officer only pulled him over to ask him about some teenagers who had been reportedly fooling around in the area.
“That wasn’t lucky,” Lewis said. “That was God telling me that was my last chance. So what did I do? Same thing I always did.”
Lewis said that still wasn’t enough. He said his life was built on a sticky mess and he had to find out how to make the sticky mess into something good.
“It made me think of coffee,” Lewis said. “I love coffee. And I bet some of these teachers here, no matter how much they love their children, I bet some days the only thing getting them through the day is a strong cup of coffee.”
Lewis said he thought of the most expensive coffee in the world, which is made from coffee beans which have been partially digested by cats.
“If these people can turn cat doody into the most expensive drink in the world, then why can’t I take my life full of mess and turn it into something amazing?” Lewis said.
He said he couldn’t do it on his own though.
“It took spending time with my preacher, with my church, with people who loved me and were positive influences,” Lewis said. “It took reaching out for help.”
Lewis said every family in the county has or will be affected by addiction in some way, but he wants to be an example of hope. He wants to encourage the public.
“Maybe you know that person that’s struggling,” Lewis said. “Maybe you are that person who’s struggling. I ain’t here to judge. What I am here to do it to tell you there’s hope. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lewis said if anyone is struggling or knows someone who is struggling they should call 606-638-0938 for help.
He also mentioned Casey’s Law, a law that would allow a close relation to an addict to go before a judge and get an order for a person to get treatment or go to jail.
“This is real and it’s hitting here in our hometown,” Lewis said. “Don’t be afraid to have these conversations.”