I often get close to the people I photograph, but it’s unusual for me to become deeply involved in a subject connected to my own life.
As a young man I was addicted to heroin. In 1970 I left everything and everyone I knew in Philadelphia and moved to Derby, Vermont. With the help of methadone and new friends, I began the long process of recovery and personal reinvention.
Now, forty seven years later, I volunteer at the Turning Point Center in Brattleboro. When I’m not facilitating group recovery meetings, I make photographs of the people I meet at the center and listen to their stories.
They have lived through childhood trauma, committed crimes, served long prison sentences, or struggled through multiple detox treatments. They have watched friends and loved ones die from overdose, survived overdose themselves after receiving emergency Narcan treatment, or lost children to state agencies because of their addictions.
My friends and I have some history in common. We’d been addicted to drugs or alcohol, had engaged in criminal behavior, and had pretty much been given up on by society.
But now we are in recovery, living productive lives, and working to help others find their own paths to recovery. We are trained recovery coaches, meeting facilitators, or program coordinators.
My friend Ella is passionate about her job helping opioid users get medically assisted treatment. One day I heard her say: “I refuse to give up on her; you just never know when someone will be ready to change. The way I see it, if she has a pulse, she has a chance.”