Talking Points Describing the History and Purpose of the Play:
Working in the arts for over 20 years, I am blessed to have met art lovers from all over the world—people from very different and diverse social, cultural, and racial backgrounds. People appreciate the arts in different ways. We all have different tastes in movies, plays, music, visual art, etc., and the way they make us feel can be pretty emotional. We bond with others over a great movie or a song, and it brings us closer—sometimes to people we think we had nothing in common with. So…people interpret the arts differently, but the commonalities in our enjoyment or our emotional reaction bring us closer. We create community, and within that community, it’s possible to break down walls, and to heal the sore spots that may have sprung up during our earlier lives. In describing the play’s purpose and my own hopes for it in the communities that will be watching it, I thought it might make sense to start out with a statement of our mission for Solomonrain Presents:
Bringing people together to create!Creating art within and across disciplines—and creating more of what makes community so special.
The words and phrases within our mission statement arose from the idea that not only can art bring communities together, but that art is part of the essence of community itself. Every song sung, every flag raised, our buildings and sculptures, and our gardens and parks reflect the creativity, thoughts, and beliefs of the people that live in that community. Art can be a balm to help people and communities heal. Through our art works, Solomonrain Presents seeks to bring messages of inclusion, understanding, acceptance, and faith. We believe that art works can bring people together that would not necessarily come together otherwise.
Having grown up in a family with members who suffered from the disease of addiction, I wanted to write a play that shows what life can be like when dealing with addiciton. I’ve been working on this play, “Only God Can Change Me,” for 15 years. And while it’s morphed over the years, into what it looks like today, it still has that common thread running through it—how the disease of addiction can take over a person’s life, and how faith and personal strength can help ease the burden that the disease casts over the addicted, and their family. Today, the play addresses the situation that is created when one person becomes addicted to heroin. The whole family suffers, and the addicted person does not care at first, because they are consumed by the disease. But the strength of others in the family helps to change things—some changes come expectedly, and some do not. It’s about the miracle of faith, but it’s not a preachy play. I hope that the play can be shared by communities all over the country, and that it can help people, however they need help. Maybe by providing a perspective to those who suffer because someone they love is an alcoholic or addict. Maybe, it will help by showing people that you can draw strength from faith in a higher power, without being a “Bible thumper and introduce God's Grace.” And, maybe showing people who are addicts themselves that there is another way to live, and that giving yourself over to a higher power isn’t a show of weakness, but a show of great strength. So, “Only God Can Change Me” uses art to help bring awareness of the opioid epidemic, which has plagued communities across the country, and really, many places around the world. Over the past decade, the opioid crisis has been called the worst drug crisis in history, rivalling the AIDS epidemic in its death toll. The use of synthetic pain medications, prescription pain killers, and heroin has escalated so much over the past two decades. It has crept from the cores of major cities to affluent suburbs, and even to remote farming communities. There are few places in this country that have not been impacted by this problem. Like no other type of drug, opioid use rips at the fabric of communities, destroying family ties, and cutting young lives short. .
Here are some statistics that are both staggering, and depressing. Here in Ohio, we do not want to be a high-ranking number on some of these lists, but we rank at the top of lists of states that have the worst problems
In 2015, 2.5 million people age 12 and over had a substance abuse disorder involving prescription pain relievers and/or heroin (American Society of Addiction Medicine, ASAM).
·Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 55,405 lethal drug overdoses in 2016 (ASAM).
· Overdose rates in the U.S. quadrupled from 1999 to 2008, and have continued to increase at a similar rate between 2009 and present (ASAM).
· Ohio leads the nation in opioid deaths, with over 2,100 recorded in 2014. Ohio outranks all other states in the country in the number of deaths related to heroin and to synthetic opioids. In all those categories, Ohio easily surpassed states with far larger populations (Kaiser Family Foundation).
· Nationwide, drugs kill more people than motor vehicles. And while cocaine used to be the leading killer drug, opiates have now far surpassed it as number one. According to Medscape, an estimated 44,000 (Kaiser Family Foundation). What is to be done? Our local and national alcohol, drug, mental health, and recovery organizations battle this epidemic every single day. President Obama’s drug czar Michael Botticelli helped to further the idea that addiction is not a crime, but a sickness. More and more, minor drug offenders who are addicts are getting treatment, rather than a prison sentence.
But recognizing the nature of the problem does not eliminate it. Many of those with the severest drug or mental health problems (or both) are still behind bars, another step removed from getting the help they need. The problem is a community issue, and it’s not going away. People have different ways of dealing with problems in their lives, and sometimes sharing our pain with others helps us to deal with it, and allows it to dissipate. Many, many people get comfort from support groups and therapy sessions. As I said, as a writer and theater person, I was drawn to this issue because of my personal experience with addiction, and I have been working on this play for 15 years. It is definitely my way to try and help address the issue of addiction with the community. Some people can relate to numbers, some to music, and some to the written word. The play brings the issue of addiction to audiences through music and drama. I hope that it can help people see how big and destructive opioid addiction is and it helps them to reflect in the power of faith and the forgiveness of the universe, once people start making the right choices.