January 01, 2014 - To Metamora resident Cheri Pfeiffer, the face of drug addiction is not some sinister mugshot in a newspaper or anonymous homeless person on the street.
Tina Dinnan (left) and Cheri Pfeiffer, executive director and executive secretary for the Lapeer Chapter of Families Against Narcotics, are inviting folks to a special screening of "The Anonymous People" at the Oxford 7 Theater on Monday, Jan. 6. Photo by CJC. (click for larger version)
It's the face of her 26-year-old son, who, at the time of this story's publication, has gone 131 days without shooting heroin.
"You have to take it one day at a time," Pfeiffer said. "Nothing's guaranteed here. The chemicals in the drugs change your brain and you're just not yourself anymore. It takes a long time for that to get out of your system."
Pfeiffer, executive secretary for the Lapeer Chapter of Families Against Narcotics (FAN), believes the public needs to see more faces like her son's in order to gain a better understanding of addiction and recovery.
That's why she's hoping for a large turnout when the Oxford 7 Theater (48 S. Washington St.) hosts a special FAN-sponsored screening of "The Anonymous People" on Monday, Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
"I think it's important for people to see this film because (it shows) real people dealing with real addiction and how it's impacted their lives and the lives of their families," Pfeiffer said.
"The Anonymous People" is an 88-minute feature documentary film about the 23.5 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and the emerging public recovery movement.
It features more than 30 interviews with a diverse cross-section of people including an award-winning actress, former professional basketball star, Miss USA 2006, a former congressman, a veteran news anchor and many others. They all have one thing in common – they have bravely chosen to "come out" and publicly share their stories of what life is like now that they're no longer using alcohol and drugs.
Although the anonymity of recovery programs has worked well to protect addicts from stigma and discrimination, it has also prevented the public from seeing just how often people recover and go on to lead productive lives. One of the film's main messages is people can and do recover; there is hope.
Visit www.theanonymouspeople.com to view a film trailer.
Tickets for the Oxford screening are $10 each. They can be obtained by sending an e-mail to CPfeiffer410@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also be purchased on-line by visiting http://bit.ly/18UWEWM
Pfeiffer noted this screening is not a fund-raiser for FAN. "We are not making anything off of it," she said. "The goal is to raise awareness about addiction and break some of the stigma related to it."
Following the film, there will be a candlelight prayer in Centennial Park at approximately 9 p.m.
Because addiction is viewed by many in society as a "shameful thing," Pfeiffer said, "Nobody really wants to talk about it."
She wants to help change that attitude.
"The more that people don't talk about addiction, the more dangerous it becomes," Pfeiffer said. "Our kids are popping prescription pills out of grandma's cupboard and they're getting addicted to opiates. They're getting younger and younger."
She's personally witnessed how drug use can escalate.
Her son starting drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in high school. He graduated to heroin in college to cope with the death of his girlfriend.
"He's in a Three-Quarter House in Port Huron right now," Pfeiffer said. "He's been through several rehabs. He's been through the court system. He's been through a lot. Our life's been pretty much upside down for the past four years."
"It's a roller-coaster ride," she added. "It's such a hard thing to wonder if your child is laying in a ditch in Flint with a needle stuck in his arm."
On the surface, Pfeiffer had one of those picture-perfect families. She and her husband have been married for 28 years. Her son played hockey and her daughter was active in cheerleading. The family owns a nice home and two businesses in Auburn Hills.
All this is contrary to the public perception that kids who get addicted to drugs do so because they're "just bad" or their "parents did something wrong," according to Pfeiffer.
But that perception is a misconception.
"It can happen to anybody," she said.
The problem only gets compounded when parents let their own shame and embarrassment prevent them from dealing honestly and effectively with their child's addiction.
"I have gotten so many phone calls and talked to so many people that are ashamed. There's just such a black cloud over addiction," Pfeiffer said. "They don't want anyone to know what's going on inside their life. That's what makes it hard to get any real help."
As the mother of a recovering drug addict, Pfeiffer wants everyone to know, "It's okay to say you have a problem in your family." She said there's no need for families dealing with addiction to feel alone because they're not.
"I know several moms that have lost kids," Pfeiffer said. "I know several parents that are struggling with addicts right now. And there's lucky ones, like me, who's child is in recovery at the moment and we can breathe a little easier for today. It's a traumatic thing for the family; it really is."
She encourages those who need it to get involved in Nar-Anon, a 12-step program for friends and family members of drug addicts.
"It's a wonderful way to really get good with yourself again," Pfeiffer said. "As a parent, you get sucked into the web (of a drug addict's world) and really don't see very clearly until you take a step back."
For information about FAN, visit www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org or call (810) 728-2033.
"There's support out there," Pfeiffer said. "People don't talk much, but there is support out there."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.