It’s well past 10am and I’m not writing.
I’m in the starfish pose on the floor of my office, attempting to do a Tibetan mediation that promises to get me out of my head and into my body where I keep the memories of what I need to write. But I’m not meditating or writing yet. I’m on the floor looking up, thinking of how I kind of like the view from here.
I work in a kaliadascope of color and light, with five large windows streaming sunlight into my workspace all day long, a rainbow lantern on the ceiling for light at night, and colorful bins of confetti stacked high in the corner. A multicolored rug spreads out on the floor while vibrant posters, art, and affirmations line the walls. It’s an incredibly cheerful and evidently distracting space.
I spend my time enveloped in the brightness of light and color because the outside world can be dark, cold and unfeeling. Here in my curated rainbow I can close the french doors to my office — they even lock — and carry on as if the rest of the world is just as vibrant as my office.
So here I am on the floor where I desire to float through this meditation, sending invading thoughts away like clouds from the blue sky of my stilled mind.
I am moving from my head to my body, almost ready to write, when one last assailing thought comes through:
Another family friend just passed away from a drug overdose.
This is heartbreaking for countless reasons. One, because this friend was so special to my mom, with her quick wit and charm and a beautiful smile that made her the life of every party. They had just reconnected after a length of time apart.
Another light, dimmed by addiction and extinguished too soon.
It’s extra sad, because it’s no surprise at all.
Since the pandemic began 11.5 months ago, alcohol consumption is on the rise; drug overdoses are up, too, as well as reports of anxiety and depression. Those last two hog the societal spotlight, while the stigma around drug and alcohol addiction surges on.
My mom wishes she could have helped her. “Whenever someone overdoses, we don’t have answers. Was it accidental? Was it suicide? And all the why’s and what if’s.”
From the obituary: “She had a zest for life and deep concern for others.” How many people with a zest for life lose everything to addiction, and we don’t get any answers?
Addiction is a thief, stealing time and relationships. A close family member continues in his addiction even as I write these words. He once told me heroin is better than any relationship he’s ever been in, better than any possession he’s ever owned, better than love. When he overdosed in 2015 it broke my heart not to be able to help him out of the love affair – but he has to help himself. If you are related to someone actively living in addiction, you may understand that difficult choice. You have to keep up your boundaries.
I’m on the floor of my office when it clicks.
All of this is why I went into this.
At a time when it felt like there was nothing else to do, Leonetti Confetti was born so that I could be of service in some way.
I kept my boundaries but started this company hiring women in recovery to make confetti in order to celebrate the hard work it takes to come clean. It felt important to acknowledge the real lack of monetary support being offered to recovering addicts, many who may have felonies and transportation barriers that make it hard to secure employent. I wanted to help women who are helping themselves.
I leave this colorful world of my curation to bring some color out into the real world, but it’s given my own relationships a new depth as my people learn I’m a safe person to talk with about their struggles with addiction, or those of their family’s. The friend who confided she had to cut ties with her mom who won’t put down the bottle and is never sober when they speak. The friend whose brother stood in the middle of traffic on the busiest highway in the city, bombed out of his mind, before finally giving up and entering a treatment program. These are heavy burdens for the addiction-adjacent to lift, but we don’t have to carry the load alone.
Community is the enemy of addiction, as anyone in recovery will tell you: you cannot be a part of community and keep secrets. But secrets are the bedrock of addiction, aren’t they? Community beckons us to higher ground.
I wish very much I would have been able to reach out to my mother’s sweet friend and connect her to community before it was too late. But the good news is that for every addiction tragedy, countless people are getting clean every single day, even in the midst of a pandemic. Our partners at Wayside have never been busier. Teletherapy has never been more accessible. Sobriety can be an act of self-care; in a world moving fast enough to give innocent bystanders whiplash, the case for recovery has never been more compelling.
Because the invisible line between okay and not okay is thread-thin, and many people who were okay before the pandemic are very much not okay now.
Everybody needs help sometimes. Everyone evenutally reaches a breaking point in their lives, and my prayer is that whenever anyone breaks down they would have people around them to lift them back up, to support – NOT ENABLE – them into making a better way for themselves. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to get there.
The consequences of unchecked addiction are sobering: Most of the women I hire to make confetti have lost their kids to the state, due to addiction. Do I need to say it again? Addiciton is a thief.
This is one reason why recovery is so important to me: to see people repair their lives and reunite with their families before it’s too late.
One story from right when we started Leonetti Confetti haunts me to this day.
I was asked to speak on a panel of women & participate in a speed-dating style mentoring event put on by YMCA for foster girls called The Beyoncés of Business; even though I felt utterly unworthy to be called a Bey, I was more than happy to eat tacos and share some start-up insight with my new friends. We all decorated our name tags with colorful sharpies before the timer was set and we settled into our stations. I was spreading out stickers from each of my companies, business cards, and of course confetti, when the first mentee sat down to question me.
She asked what I do for work, and as I got to the part where women in recovery make confetti we locked eyes – “you hire women in treatment? What kind of treatment?” I told her, “drugs and alcohol“, and at those words she hung her head.
Big tears fell from her face as she said, “My mama would have loved this. She overdosed last year in a sober house and I think if she were alive? She’d love making this confetti.” Time stood still and my heart tore in two being so close to such a tender, open wound. We hugged when our timer was up, and tossed a fistful of confetti in honor of her mom.
The story she told me is reason one of a million why I’m not giving up on this confetti dream, not a chance. I truly believe we can help people and make the world a brighter place by filling it with confetti made by resilient women in recovery, empowering them to make a better way for their own selves and for their families. And if that makes me a Beyoncé of Business, well, so bey it.
Every single one of us is addiction-adjacent. Every single one of us knows someone who is struggling, whether they’ve confided in us or not. The stigma around substance abuse is so thick, it’s hard to see anything when you’re in it. We need to break down those stigmas – around addiction, around treatment, and around recovery – because recovering people heal communities. It’s going to take all of us doing our part.
The stigma around recovery is SO thick, only love can penetrate it.
Which is why this year for lent I am asking you to give up your judgement of people in addiction, and to pick up the habit of supporting people in recovery. Wherever you are, there’s a 100% chance you have someone in your community who’s struggling and may feel alone in their addiction. Perhaps you could put a simple note in your Facebook status or Instagram stories to say, “You know what? A lot of us are struggling right now and maybe you’ve picked up some habits in quarantine that have spiraled beyond your control. Due to the pandemic, alcoholism and drug addiction are on the rise. If you need to talk I’m here, and if you need help to get sober know you are not alone.”
I’m asking for you to see the stories of addiction as redemptions-in-progress, and to pray the love of Jesus comes through the hands of willing helpers. Maybe that’s you! Or maybe you’re the one who gets to connect someone in your community to another someone who can help. Glory to God, we’re going to need all hands on deck for this to work.
Maybe you already have a friend in mind who you know is struggling, and this call to love looks like reaching out to them specifically and letting them know you care, you are there, and that they’ll never be alone. I don’t know your exact situation. I just know the only way we’ll reach into the darkness of addiction and pull people toward the light is by taking the initiative and the bold first steps to cut through the stigmas that keep people in darkness to begin with. Only love can light the way.
It reminds me that darkness and light are all the same to Jesus, who wasn’t afraid of the dark.
12 Even darkness is not dark [a]to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
Psalm 139:12 New American Standard Bible
Being God and fully human, Jesus reached into the darkest places to reconcile all people to himself. He offered redemption, and a reclaiming of ourselves to the very God who made us all to be bearers of light.
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12 New International Version
I sometimes wish I could hide in my colorful office and pretend all the world’s a rainbow, light-filled, no darkness to be seen. But we need more people who aren’t afraid of the dark to follow Jesus into the places where addiction lives, and be a friend to the people who desperately need to see the light.
The cool of the hardwood floors beaneath my body ground me effortlessly back to the present. I am aware of this moment in time, the sharply cold day out my windows and the thick layer of frost that glistens even as it restricts the suns warming impact. Still I feel the brightness. The light is always there.
Even in the cold, dark world, there is a love that goes the distance and a light which will never be extinguished.
Thanks be to God.
IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTION, PLEASE REACH OUT. Our email is always answered at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we would love to connect you with a resource in your area that can help.