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Small acts of kindness can change lives

Commentary

Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts.

So it went down like this. When Caz opened in 1991, rocks were thrown at our house, garbage dumped on our front lawn, a drive by firing two shots into the porch. But more than that was how eight African Americans, four Puerto Ricans, two native Americans and four whites were treated. One of my clients Herman, was 6-foot-11 375 pounds. He had started at Michigan State University and had been drafted by the Green Bay Packers.

Obviously he could do some damage if he retaliated against the mental and physical abuse that the guys endured for the first year. We instructed them to go about their business when they went to meetings, treatment at the downtown clinic or work. This house was made up of 18 members as a chain, and a chain is always as strong as its weakest link. Luckily we had a great group of guys, multi-talented, who wanted to get better and would go to any length to do it. They endured racial slurs, having things thrown at them and just plain prejudice based on irrationality.

If any of you in this city thought you were tough, South Buffalo Irish in the ’90s would put you to shame, but then something wonderful happened. After a year, I was working 4:30 to 12:30 one night and there as a knock on the front door. Standing there was a mother and her beautiful little daughter with a bag of groceries and a pot of Irish stew.

She stated, “We would like you men to have this food as they have walked by our house this past year and smiled at me and my family and been gentlemen. My husband and I have been aware of some of the negativity of our neighbors and are appalled at their thinking and behavior.”

Needless to say, this was the catalyst that changed our guys’ lives on Legion Drive in South Buffalo. Some would be moving on, some going to supportive living, others to the workforce. Out of those first 18 residents, we produced lawyers, teachers, counselors, coaches and businessmen. Many of them achieved long-term sobriety. Some didn’t and were in and out the rest of their lives. But the point is, they were given the chance to achieve a sober way of living by strict discipline and excellent counseling.

The fact the lady in South Buffalo was able to change her thinking about our guys based upon their behaviors was rational. In speaking with Gino from Hispanic United, he stated, “No matter where a clinic for chemical dependency is located, there will always be those who are against it for whatever reason. If it was put in Lake Erie, the fishes would probably object.”

To those of you in Dunkirk who think that a clinic would be set up and then clients would be able to use drugs in front of it, or sell drugs without any proof that this is what drug clinics do, is totally irrational. These treatment centers are based on confidentiality and anonymity, and rigid rules for recovery. This happens to be a clinic that dispenses Methadone. In addition to the Methadone, clients receive counseling, both group and individual, mental health treatment, regular check-ups from a doctor to monitor their progress.

It has been almost three years since Mayor Wilfred Rosas called me to meet with him in his office about the possibility of bringing a Methadone Clinic to Dunkirk. I told him because of the nature of addiction with Fentanyl and heroin and that there was no Methadone Clinic in Chautauqua County, that it would be a fabulous idea to help people in recovery. I will never forget his words, “I think it is the right thing to do.” Knowing Willie all these years, he has never wavered in his pursuit to bring this clinic to Dunkirk.

Over the past three years, we have had many overdose deaths in this city. The question is “would a Methadone Clinic have helped these people, especially those between 19 to 28 to still be here?”

If you are a parent of a young woman or man that a clinic might have helped, I’d like your letter. I will print all of them, respecting your anonymity. These are facts, not emotional reasoning or over-generalization about recovery. Having over 100 people go back and forth to Buffalo seven days a week to get Methadone definitely is not the answer. That will be another article.

I’ll leave by stating that “contempt before investigation” keeps all of us in irrational thinking and irrational places. I hope I’ve given you, the community, another thinking pattern to ponder.

Mike Tramuta has been a CASAC counselor for more than 30 years and currently runs the REBT program on Thursday nights at the Holy Trinity Parish Center from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Call 983-1592 for more information.

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