By Mark Powell
Crushing Heroin Addiction
Rod Courtney came to CRUSH out of a parent’s crushing pain. His son Chad died of a fentanyl overdose in November 2016. A few months later, while he was still, in his own words, “walking wounded,” he listened to CRUSH founder Officer Al Fear speak at a town hall meeting. With Chad’s death still fresh, Courtney couldn’t accept the thought of his son being just another statistic.
He later heard Mr. Fear talk again at another town hall and was surprised by how much he learned. He discovered addiction is a multifaceted issue, a disease and not a moral failing. “You can do grief counseling,” he says, “But there’s something different about finding people with similar experiences.”
Courtney now runs those meetings in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Anyone can attend, and between 20 and 30 people do. They sit in a circle: parents, people in recovery, those who want to be in recovery, therapists, clergy and support workers. Together, they share what Courtney calls collective wisdom. “None of us has the answer,” he says. “No one person has the answer but as a community, we do. We have one job and that’s to lift each other up. I don’t know how it works, but it does. Our mantra is no judgment.”
Meetings happen twice every month in Cedar Rapids and once in nearby Iowa City. CRUSH is a grassroots, community-based organization that’s focused on helping those who’ve fallen victim to opioid addiction. Its mission is educating communities statewide and working to prevent additional loss of life. CRUSH of Iowa does that by making public presentations, offering family support, providing information on treatment resources, and sharing personal stories.
Courtney shares Chad’s story; how he had a lot of barriers to treatment and was unsuccessful on his own. There were periods of sobriety during which his parents repeatedly hoped, “Maybe this time; maybe this time will be different.” He recalls the conversations father and son shared with Chad saying, “You know dad, I want to do what you do. I want to help people.” Courtney even dreamed of father and son teaming up and taking on the opioid epidemic together. “Every day, I hoped the phone wouldn’t ring. But when the call finally came, I couldn’t recognize my wife’s voice. We both fell apart; it was a stunning blow.”
Now Chad’s story gives extra meaning to CRUSH’s efforts. And it gives it purpose, too. “We want to provide training and get more recovery coaches on the street,” Courtney concludes. “As long as my health allows, I’m going to stay in this and get as many boots on the ground as I can. I can’t stand the thought of Chad’s death being in vain.”
CRUSH of Iowa was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.