SHELBURNE FALLS — Standing in front of a group gathered at the Senior Center for an Opioid Task Force community meeting, Eric Fahey talked about how he dropped out of school at the age of 16 and later battled addiction.
It is in that life that Fahey learned to repair things. He became sober in November of 1989. Shortly thereafter the carpenter by trade was asked to help out with a theater program.
“You grow up in a situation where you have to figure out how to survive you become a fixer,” Fahey said. “Unfortunately that’s what addicts bring to the table.”
It is at that theater program where he eventually turned to performing to help him manage his recovery.
“Once you have that experience of doing that,” Fahey said about acting. “It is all about the continuing support of building self esteem and self worth.”
Now 28 years sober Fahey has helped the community in Greenfield turn to theater as a means to help them with their recovery too. A couple years ago he formed the Mustard Seed Theater at The RECOVER Project, a two hour, self-produced production that invited people in the community to sing and perform spoken word among other acts.
“I was really blessed that I was able to stay sober and part of that experience was in my third year of sobriety, getting involved in theater.”
At the second of four town meetings the Opioid Task Force is holding, members of the community gathered to share stories of how the task force can continue to fight the ever-present opioid epidemic.
Last week in Deerfield some of the conversation was focused on the potential strengths in medically assisted treatment, like with suboxone or methadone.
Once again a panel of representatives from the region were present, including Northwest District Attorney David Sullivan, Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Cindy Russo, Register Probate and co-founder of the task force John Merrigan and Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura, among others.
Both Fahey and, to his surprise, another advocate for theater to help fight the epidemic came forward Tuesday evening.
Jonathan Diamond, the founder of the Recovery Theater, spoke about his project that helps young people with a range of issues including addiction, anxiety and depression.
Diamond, also the co-founder of Hilltown Youth Theater, has helped students from across the county feel comfortable in their own skin in various seasonal programs.
With young adults, substance abuse doesn’t come in neat, little categories and boxes,” Diamond said. “It comes with trauma and addiction.”
The program combines theater with trapeze arts too.
Arlie Hart, who leads the trapeze part of the program, discussed his own journey: from a household of alcoholics to a builder of trapeze to a teacher of it to kids battling various mental health and addiction issues.
“If you teach someone to fly on the flying trapeze,” Hart said. “You learn that you can do something when you’re afraid and you can make a choice and function even when you’re afraid.”
Hart added: “Recovery just doesn’t start and stop; recovery is a process. It’s continuous. We have to work as a community from the perspective that funding and support and education has to be continuous. We can’t just throw money at a program and say ‘ok, this is going to be it.’”
Next meetingThe next Opioid Task Force town meeting will be June 1 at Athol Hospital.