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Opinion: How many chances do we get?

Harold was in his 80s when I met him back in the early 1980s. My husband was getting his master’s degree in Boston and I was taking care of our young family and working evenings at a local nursing home. Harold was wheelchair- and bed-bound. He wasn’t much for conversation and he seldom had any visitors. I had the opportunity to be with Harold during the last year of his life and sat beside him as he died. My children and I were the only people at his funeral. Harold was an alcoholic. When I knew him those years were past and yet the damage he inflicted upon his family meant that they were not present to say goodbye.
It takes determination and courage to say no to addiction. There are many people we pass by each day who face addiction with every breath they take and yet are sober at the end of the day. “I’ve been given a second chance over a hundred times,” Michael Dadashi says. “People have really believed in me. I’ve let them down. They believed in me again, and I let them down — but it paid off because in 2009 I finally got sober.” Dadashi is the CEO of MHD Enterprises, a multi-million dollar e-waste recycling company.
The linkages between alcohol and poverty are clear. Absenteeism, work accidents and decreased productivity can result in loss of employment and homelessness. At the same time unemployment and homelessness can lead to increased use of alcohol. In this cycle, health deteriorates and trips to the emergency room rise.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States — 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. More than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.
It is the rare individual who moves from addiction to recovery in a single step. Most of us need those “100-plus” chances. Every day we meet those walking the path of this disease. It is essential that we own our own recovery. Like Harold’s family, there are times there is a need to separate from those we love. Amazingly there are other people and groups who step in to offer hope in the struggle. No one person holds the magic key to recovery.
Michael Dadashi’s mission is to help recovering addicts find both treatment and employment. “We give them a second chance, we hire them. These people have totally recreated their lives. Basically we give second chances to machines and second chances to people.”
While we don’t offer treatment, offering people second chances and providing them with choices — that is the mission of Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO). It is the work of bridging gaps and building futures.
Editor’s note: Jan Demers is executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.

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