WRITER | NICOLETTE CHAMBERY
PHOTOS | FOR A BRIGHTER TOMORROW
Combating Addiction with Action and Compassion
Addiction is not an easy topic to broach in any community, but especially in tight-knit communities where stigma and shame can be difficult to overcome. There are also various opinions as to the origin and proper treatment of this disease, which presents another challenge in communities striving to provide support.
Lori Wood is one such champion, willing to lead these controversial conversations about community response and support when it comes to addressing addiction. Her story is one of both triumph and tragedy, and what is most compelling is simply who she has chosen to become in the wake of deep loss. Rather than succumb to her grief, she channeled it into action, with grace.
Wood and her husband had two daughters who both struggled with addiction. For a time, they were living paycheck to paycheck while covering counseling bills. In 2012, Wood and her husband lost their 28-year-old daughter Ashley to a heroin overdose.
“No one talked about how many people were overdosing. I didn’t even know how to talk about it because there was no understanding around it.”
When I asked Wood why small communities would turn a blind eye to rampant addiction taking the lives of its youth, Wood shared her insight. “It’s a town’s reputation on the line. I think as far as parents go, it’s the humiliation that your child is doing awful things, so it’s easier to avoid the topic. I can’t tell you how many funerals I have gone to, how many of my kids’ friends are dead; we’ve lost so many people we didn’t have to lose. It’s called self-preservation.”
In response to this gap in community awareness, Wood, with the help of her two best friends Jackie Maxwell and Mary Knowlton, opened Midland’s For a Brighter Tomorrow in 2015 to help parents and those struggling with addiction.
Since its inception, For a Brighter Tomorrow has assisted 333 clients, including reuniting five mothers with their children, all with a volunteer staff of just three. Their purpose is to connect individuals with the resources they need to overcome addiction, which often includes funds for transportation, clothing, court fees, gas, and so on.
“One of the first things we did was rally in front of the court to publicize that addiction is a problem. We’ve done recovery fairs to showcase the help you can find in Midland; we host an annual vigil and recovery walk for the community members.”
Wood’s comprehensive approach of merging recovery services with familial support services addresses the widespread impact that addiction can have on all those in its proximity.
“Every year, my husband and I told each other that our daughters’ struggle with addiction would not end our marriage. It breaks up a lot of partnerships, because people grieve differently. We gave each other permission to grieve differently and to stop blaming ourselves. You have to remember, you didn’t cause it, you can’t fix it, and it’s not yours to fix.”
Alyssa, the Woods’ younger daughter, has been in recovery for ten years and is now the coordinator at an organization that collaborates on behalf of the Families Against Narcotics (FAN) and Peer 360 in Midland. While the Woods are grateful for their daughter’s recovery, they know that it takes effective resources to get to that point, which is what For a Better Tomorrow thoughtfully provides.
Wood refuses to accept state money and is instead entirely reliant on donations so that they can accept everyone who walks through the FABT door for help.
The only requirement to receive help from the organization is that you must be a Midland resident. Beyond that, Wood says she’s willing to take a chance on anyone who comes through her door.
There will always be new and recurring challenges that face our communities, and the choice will always be ours to find unprecedented paths through. The alternative is to let those weakest among us deal with the ramifications of our silence, which is inevitably most costly to them.
We need more people in our communities like Lori Wood, who pushes past stigma and shame and offers a second chance to those who need it most.
For a Brighter Tomorrow
1543 Washington Street, Midland MI 48640