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The First Memo I Received—From A Chief of Police

March 22, 2024

In the lead-up to my book releasing soon (we’re aiming for the end of April, if everything goes smoothly 🤞), I’m going to tell the origin of how Tipping Point Recovery and this work came to be. I’ll do it by sharing the five “memos” that I got from Universe.

These memos came to me during a two-year period when I was working on call in an emergency room in Massachusetts doing overdose intervention. It was a grant-funded position that was part of a collaboration between the police department, a hospital, a treatment center, and the district attorney. For two years, every time there was a non-fatal overdose, I would go into the emergency room to meet the individual who had just experienced a non-fatal overdose with the goal of getting them in treatment.

Today I’m going to share the story of the first memo that came to me during this time. It came from the chief of police of this busy city in Massachusetts.

The First Memo

This city was experiencing a really high rate of overdoses, and the chief of police knew what they were doing wasn’t working. He wanted to offer people help. 

He wanted to do something different.

While I was still getting authorization from the hospital to begin working on site and I was finishing up HIPAA stuff, the Chief asked me to ride along with officers on duty to do “knock and talk” wellness checks on people and to speak to people around the community. 

I had never been in a police car before. When I was drinking, one of my greatest fears was that I’d end up in the back of one. Now, here I was riding around in the front with a fully dressed police officer, cruising through town.

Here’s what we’d do: 

He would pull over into this big park where people were standing around, and as soon as they spotted the police car, they would start to scatter. He never turned on the siren or the lights, but just the sight of the police was enough to make them run.

The officer would get on his megaphone and say, “I don’t want to talk to you. She does.” He’d point to me in my plain clothes, and most of the people running from the cops would stop. He went on, “I’m getting back in the car. She’s gonna come over and talk to you.”

And that’s what happened. The officer got back in his car, and I would walk over and start talking to these people about being sober.

We did it for weeks, and people were blown away with this kind of outreach. We’d stand around the police car, talking, and a barrier that had once existed was broken.

It really opened my eyes, riding along in that police car. 

It taught me that the way we were doing things wasn’t working, and if we wanted to get a different result, we needed a different approach. That was the memo the police chief gave me—deciding to do things differently.

Sure, if people are doing things that are against the law, they need to be held accountable and arrested. But for people who are using and addicted, they need help, not jail.

I remember one guy I talked with saying, “Yeah, I definitely need to go to treatment.” 

I was like, “Alright, OK, let’s go, let’s go.” 

And he goes, “Wait, now?” 

That was the famous line. If you ever offer people help, even when they really want it, they often say, “Well, not RIGHT now. Like maybe tomorrow.” 

Why do you think that is? 

If someone wanted help and I told them I could get it for them right then, why do you think they would not go right away? Why tomorrow and not today?

Share with me why you think that might be in the comments.

And click here to read about the second memo I got from the chief of physicians.

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2 Comments

  1. Lisa Parsons

    When your comfort zone is disturbed, and you are faced with the unknown it can be pretty scary. You will cling to what you know – what is familiar even when it is not working for you. It’s like the story of the horses running back in to the burning barn. It may be on fire but it’s the only home they know. We tend to cling to what is familiar because it feels like more of a risk to venture outside your comfort zone. The idea of change can be very anxiety provoking. I would guess that may be why some people are initially wary when help is offered.

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  2. Lynne Baron

    As humans we are all creatures of habit. Each one of us is guilty of holding onto routines and habits that we know are not serving us well. We are resistant to change, even when someone offers help or advice, because the very idea challenges us and makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes these habits may be unhealthy physically, emotionally, or impact productivity, yet we stay in that loop. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be for someone who has become physically and mentally dependent on a substance. The fear of the unknown must be paralyzing. There is that part of them that wants help and then there’s the opposing factor of their addiction that’s telling them the opposite.

    Reply

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