Tag Archives: drugs

War Against Drugs

6 years ago today, I lost my childhood best friend to a heroin overdose. He was the funniest, most caring person, he always treated everyone around him with love. He loved music, the outdoors, and his dog Bruce. We had such a blast together growing up, especially during the summers. He was more of a rebel than me, always causing mischief. I was more of a girl-next-door type, so we were quite opposite of each other but we got along very well (for the most part, lol). I still to this day have his phone number memorized…

I’ll never forgot the day I found out Johnny was gone. I hadn’t spoken to him in about a year because his exgirlfriend had forbid him to see me and we sort of lost touch after that. The funny thing is, I drove by his house a couple of days before and thought to myself that I needed to go see him. In hindsight, I wish I had just stopped by right then and there, because at least I would have gotten to see him one last time.

When I first found out, initially I was in shock and denial, I couldn’t express any emotion and I didn’t believe he was gone. Then my mother and I went to his house and as soon as I saw his sister Allie, it hit me and I broke down in tears. I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I had lost touch with him, because maybe I could have stopped him, maybe I could have done someone about it and saved him. But, one thing I have learned since then is this- a person has to want help and change for themselves. No matter how hard you try, or what you do to help them, it will be useless unless the person actually wants it. And when they want help and change, they will reach for it. Then and only then can anything be done about it.

I sang “Amazing Grace” for Johnny at his funeral. It was probably the most emotional performance of my entire life. Later we went back to his parents’ house and I met all of Johnny’s friends. They knew all about me and told me that Johnny talked about me all the time, which made me happy to hear but at the same time broke my heart.

A woman saw me sing at Johnny’s funeral and hired me to sing at monthly candle light vigils at her church in remembrance of all the kids from the south shore who we lost to heroin overdose. The Patriot Ledger newspaper came to one of these and did a whole news series on the heroin epidemic, including a slideshow on their website featuring a live recording of me singing. Another woman saw this slideshow and hired me to sing at a large political forum on the war against drugs held at Bridgewater State College. Since then, I have also done volunteer work for “The Truth About Drugs” campaign. Also, I personally contacted the superintendent of Abington Public Schools (my hometown) and got the “Truth About Drugs” anti drug program added to the health curriculum at Abington High School.

I wrote a song, which will be on my new EP due to drop early 2013, featuring a verse about Johnny. It’s called “The Butterly Song.”

This past year I had a very close family member become addicted to heroin. For obvious reasons, this made me extremely upset. But what broke my heart even more is that this person is a grown adult who clearly knows better and is so selfish to not care how they are hurting everyone around them who love them. Meanwhile, they are getting high and can’t feel a thing while we are all suffering having to deal with this. And what happens if they overdose? The people who love them will be left here devastated. And, I repeat, this person is a grown adult who clearly knew better… Don’t get me wrong, I still love this person very much and they will always have the opportunity to turn it all around, but it has to come from them.

So, the moral of my story is: don’t do drugs. You will destroy not only your life, but the lives of those around you who love you.

One last thing… Please share this link:

Much Love,
Melissa Jane xoxo


Stephen Wallace To Speak: “REALITY GAP – What Parents Don’t Know And Teens Aren’t Telling

By Abby Gray
Local Parent Debbie Evans, CHAD (Charlestown Against Drugs, a neighborhood in Boston) and CSAC (Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition), along with other community leaders and volunteers, bring renowned scholar, Stephen Wallace, to Charlestown!
What if you, a Parent,  could have better insight into what is really going on with your tween/teen?  What if you could better understand the issues that our youth face on a daily basis as they relate to drugs, alcohol and sex?  Those were some of the thoughts running through my friends head when she started reading “REALITY GAP – WHAT PARENTS DON’T KNOW AND TEENS AREN’T TELLING” by Stephen Wallace. She then thought, “What if we could get Mr. Wallace to come talk to us parents and our community about his book, research and experiences with teens?
Putting together a list in her head of organizations to partner with in Charlestown, Debbie Evans immediately contacted CHAD (Charlestown Against Drugs) and CSAC (Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition) to see if they were interested. They were very interested in bringing Mr. Wallace to Charlestown too. Local Mom & CSAC Board Member, Marjorie Ringrose, brings up a very poignant observation,  “In survey after survey, our teens tell us they want more communication with their parents. More, not less. But when it comes to risky behavior, we parents, often feel at a loss for what to say, how, and when. We hear that times have changed since we were teens. But do we really know how much? Do we know enough about what our kids are experiencing, right now, to have the meaningful conversations our teens tell us they want to have with us?”  On October 11, 2012, at the Knights of Columbus, 545 Medford Street, Charlestown, parents of teens will have the opportunity to hear Stephen Wallace in person speak about the issues we are all concerned about as parents of adolescents; and we will be able to ask him questions to help us better communicate and understand our children.
Mr. Wallace comes to Charlestown with a great deal of experience.  He is the senior advisor for policy, research, and education at SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), where he served as national chairman and CEO for more than fifteen years. He is also associate research professor and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna University and the director of counseling training at the Cape Cod Sea Camps. Mr. Wallace has been honored by the White House, the American Camp Association, SADD, and Susquehanna University for his tireless work on behalf of our nation’s youth.  Stephen has contributed to two books on youth development and is the author of the acclaimed book Reality Gap: Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex—What Parents Don’t Know and Teens Aren’t Telling.

As parents, no matter what socio-economic background, address in town, or ethnicity, we all want to see our children into adulthood safely. Times have changed greatly in the 20-30 years – and they change more every single day. The drugs that appear on the streets, the new ways adolescents communicate via text and code, and the lack of awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy prevention is huge threat to our children. Collectively, we can do something about it. It begins with attending Stephen Wallace’s presentation and Q&A session on October 11th that provides parents with a “behind-the-scenes” look at today’s adolescence experience. Wallace aims to empower parents to play an even more influential role in the choices that their children make, emphasizing key parent-child communication and how to make it work.

The program will be presented at the Knights of Columbus, 545 Medford Street on October 11, 2012. The doors open at 6:30 and Mr Wallace will begin his presentation promptly at 7:00 PM.  For more information, please email Ms. Evans directly at dge@michaelsward.com or call her directly at (617) 306-8631.

Back To School: More Than Just Blues!!


By, Amy M. Voltero

Traffic on 93 and 95 are at a screeching halt, as vacationers attempt to beat the rest of their comrades, back to “home sweet home.”

They pack up yet another car, full of children, bathing suits, flip-flops, beach toys and chairs, and the wonderful memories of summer, 2012, yet one more time, anticipating their return, the following year.

The transition from summer to fall is more difficult to master, as would the change from other seasons. Parents rush to the mall or outlets, for school shopping, retail stores entice shoppers with their, “End of summer sale,” while changing storefronts, displays and merchandise, to welcome the fall season.

True, the end of summer can cause back to school jitters for children, but parents as well. Parents spend three months, filled with backyard barbecues, day trips, and a little r&r on the beach, to reward themselves and their children for a job well done, during the school year.  These lazy days are replaced by, getting kids back on a rigid routine. Parents then juggle their lives at home, work, children’s schedule, and begin to fear the upcoming months.

Back to school, means the anxiety, depending on what grade your child is entering. Each age comes with a different stumbling block. For some, children entering pre-k or kindergarten, separation anxiety, are the most common.

As children enter higher grades, the pressure of not making sports teams, being popular, picking out the right “outfit”, a larger workload, this means, more homework at night, for both parents and kids. Bullying becomes a worry, how to talk to your children about saying “no” to drugs and alcohol, safe sex, and seeing the warning signs of a child or teen, pushed to the limit are all real issues we as parents will encounter.

The important thing to remember is that children will feel our stress, no matter what age they are. Encourage your children to try new things, and always given them praise for a job well done. I cannot stress how important it is to develop an open relationship with your children. Don’t rely on schools, peers or the media to teach your children. As Parents, our job is to educate or children on the dangers and the severity of real life issues. Having an open relationship, and communicating these issues, such as peer pressure, managing anger and stress, substance abuse, safe sex, talking to strangers, can save children from taking the wrong path, later in life and from possibly taking their own lives.

All too often, I read the paper, and some MIT student has committed suicide from the pressure of college, or just life demands and other’s expectations.

Another common read, Ashlynn Connor, a 10 year old from, Ridge Farm, IL, took her own life, by hanging in her own bedroom closet on November 11, 2011. She was considered, “An All American girl,” an honor roll student and cheerleader who had dreams of becoming a veterinarian. (Courtesy of Michael Inbar, Today Show)

The kids at school bullied her, by calling her a slut, and for cutting her hair, saying she looked like a boy. The day prior to her taking her own life, she had told her mother what the kids at school had said to her. In a brief interview on the Today show, Ashlynn’s mother said, “She never talked about killing or hurting herself.”

National Suicide Prevention Week beings September 9th, through September 15th, 2012. With organizations like this, more parents and children are becoming educated on the signs and how to prevent disaster.

I realize that bringing issues such as these, to light can be a sensitive area for some parents. The earlier we, as parents, begin to become educated, and then the probability, of changing statistics regarding our children, becomes greater.

I wish you all, health and happiness for the upcoming school year!













News Flash!! Parents, You Could Save Your Child’s Life

By Amy M. Voltero

I wrote this piece in June, 2012, for a local photographer and dear friend’s self- esteem gallery. The subject of bullying, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide and violence, has been more visible over time. Where does education start? How does self-help play a role amongst the children of our future? How does our upbringing shape our identity as adults?

I can’t stress how important it is today to begin education on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, inappropriate touching, safe sex, strangers and depression. Giving children positive reinforcement and affirmations shapes a child’s self image. Education on the above, starts at home, not in the classroom. Parents, please, please, please, get educated! Learn to talk to your children, and have an open relationship. Most people my age grew up in a home, where the rule of silence was that of the white elephant comparison, and fueled the saying, “The less I know, the better off I am.”

Not true!! Parents, the more you know, regarding proper education and warning signs of depression, low self esteem, substance abuse, ect, the better the odds are, in preventing these issues. Warning signs are, in my opinion are  apparent. The problem is, parents don’t quite know what they are looking for.

Just a little history on how substance abuse and low self esteem has affected my life.Figured it was appropriate to tell you I do  not hold a college degree on these subjects, but I do have life experience! Professors can’t teach my life in a classroom.

Merriam-Webster defines self-esteem as, “A confidence and satisfaction in one’s self.”

As a young child, I struggled with having any self- esteem. I grew up in an alcoholic and dysfunctional household. My father was the best father he knew how to be, considering his upbringing. He was extremely materialistic and superficial. He was absent, emotionally and mentally as early as age five. He wanted his children to be the most attractive, athletic and popular. That meant, pushing me beyond my limits. When he wanted me to go jogging with him, to avoid other children  making fun of me for being slightly overweight.  When dinner was served, he would comment saying, “Are you going to eat ALL that?” In lieu of his comments, I would not eat dinner then proceed to sneak food. I hid my secret eating habits from him, to avoid a conflict and make him happy.

Those learned behaviors carried into my teenage years and into my adulthood. I actually believed that I was unattractive and undesirable by everyone.  So, I picked up drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of my poor self- image. I was co-dependent, which I didn’t learn until many years later. I was attracted to the “bad boy,” and began acting like a caretaker. I was used by every man I dated. These men I dated were criminals, alcoholics and addicts, and had what I thought, more issues than I did. I was attracted to this type of man because of the way I felt about myself. I thought I could save them, in an effort to avoid looking at myself and my own issues.

What I learned after many years of trying to achieve recovery from drugs and alcohol, and therapy is that, I didn’t feel complete without a man. I needed somebody by my side 24 hours a day, because I couldn’t stand the person I had become.

Being over two years clean and having been blessed with open-mindedness, honesty and willingness, I was able to understand that my father was just as sick as I was. Accepting that my childhood was unchangeable, was the beginning of my healing process.  I chose to listen to the voices in my head. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I also learned that body image has nothing to do with self esteem, unless you allow it to shape your thoughts, feelings and actions.  When you make the choice to listen to negative self talk, you are saying, “I am not worth being happy, and embracing life to the fullest.” You are denying yourself the opportunity to grow as a woman, to your full potential.

My self- esteem today is defined by my accomplishments in recovery, being a single mother of an eighteen month old daughter, Mia, and being accountable and responsible. Today, I am not defined by a man, but defined by my ability to take a stand in carrying the message for women struggling with self -esteem issues and drug addiction. I chose to carry the message of hope to ensure that loving yourself is possible. I love myself, flaws and all. Accepting that there is no such thing as perfection, is a true weight lifter.  I never thought I could ever look in the mirror and like the reflection staring back at me. Today I do. I live an honest life and pay it forward whenever possible.

I am a firm believer that our stories have been written for us. There are signs everywhere and detours along the way.  It lies within our strength, knowledge and desire to choose the right path. Usually, it isn’t until we have had enough pain that we make the decision to change our lives and get educated regarding self-esteem, substance abuse and the negative effects it can have on our lives.  As human beings, we are our biggest critics and worst enemy.  I will end with this, “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Get out of your own way, be yourself and love the skin you are in!!!