Gail McConechy brandished a knife at first responders and was tasered because of it in late July.
“It was totally, no doubt about it, not my finest hour,” she said.
The weekend before the incident, McConechy’s nephew, who is living with her after being released from prison, almost died from a drug overdose.
After getting him to the hospital and then into Second Chance Recovery Home she said she felt anger and frustration building in her as if she was “a volcano.”
“I swear to God, I don’t know if you have ever been impacted by someone who uses opiate drugs, but it ain’t pretty,” she said. “What they do to you and what they do to themselves is the most horrific thing I have ever seen in my life.”
Tessera Brooks, executive director of the North Island Supportive Recovery Society, said every family who has an addict is affected by their loved one’s dependency.
“Families really struggle mentally and emotionally, feeling if they have given the right support, made the right decisions, it is a very painful place to sit,” she said. “And it is very hard setting boundaries and limits with someone that’s in addiction, even if it’s for their best outcome. It’s very painful.”
McConechy and her sister decided to cope with the stress by indulging in pot brownies as well as wine the day of the tasering incident.
“That is not something I would normally do, but we were at our wits end,” she said.
McConechy isn’t alone.
Brooks meets with families on a weekly basis that are burned out. She often hears people say things like, “I just can’t do this anymore,” or, “I don’t know what to do, he’s always borrowing money.”
There is a huge range of emotions, she said.
They feel guilty thoughts asking themselves where they went wrong to cause the issue in their loved one.
They feel angry at their loved one, asking, “why are they doing this to me?”
Sometimes they feel shame, not wanting anyone to know that there is addiction in their family.
McConechy, herself, is frustrated with the system, claiming she even called the crisis line the night in question, but didn’t receive the help she was hoping for.
Her heart was racing and pounding and she felt like she couldn’t wait so she called the ambulance.
When they arrived on scene, McConechy admits she was belligerent and had a knife in hand, saying, upon looking back at how events transpired, that in her drunken state, she felt it was the only way to get them to listen.
“Drugs and alcohol are impacting this community terribly,” she said.
“I don’t think we can just hide it and sweep it under the carpet, I really don’t think we can, we need to make people aware, the citizens, the taxpayers need to know that it’s a frustrating system that doesn’t have enough resources to handle it.”
McConechy also struggles with the fact that her nephew has to take charge of his own recovery.
“With cancer you think ‘if I had a cure I could save somebody,’ and with drugs I think ‘if I could save him,’ but I can’t,” she said.
Brooks said this is a common line of thought.
“It’s also hard for families to understand that they personally can’t make somebody well in recovery, that the person with the addiction has to do the work themselves. That’s very difficult,” she explained.
Brooks advises the families who come to see her to seek support and resources at places like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, or Mental Health and Substance Use.
“But I find most people, even though that advice is given, don’t end up going to see what is out there for them for supports,” she said.
She thinks it is because of the stigma that goes along with substance abuse and both she and McConechy want to raise awareness in order to fight that stigma.
McConechy was taken to the hospital after she was tasered and transferred to St. Joseph’s for psychiatric evaluation. She was released a few days later.
No charges were laid. Now she is more determined than ever to increase drug awareness and support systems within the community.
“I just want to make a difference, I want someone to listen, it’s the only way to make a change,” she said. “I’m sick and tired of turning on the TV and hearing about another overdose.”
Crisis line: 1-888-494-3888.