ADDICTED AND DYING: #DoSomething movement uniting the community

Holed up in a hotel room two days after their son’s overdose death, Michelle and Cory Joy turned on the livestream of their church’s Sunday service.

“(Pastor Tim Conboy) was weeping. They had a microphone up there. One person after another would just come up and just pray,” Michelle said.

“Pastor Tim was basically like, ‘I’m really tired of older generations looking down on the younger generation, not being pleased with the music they are listening to or how they choose to do ministry,’” Michelle said.

He singled out a congregation member, Cory Romeiser, who has a skateboard ministry.

“He was like, ‘Do you know what kind of ministry he has? … ‘He has a do-something ministry. He is doing something.’”

Michelle wrote down the phrase — “Do Something.”

In the past five months, that thought has grown and spread throughout Brown County through a T-shirt campaign, a series of events and an active Facebook page with more than 1,200 members — many of whom are fighting addictions themselves or trying to help loved ones break free.

It’s a sentiment the Joy family is keeping close, as they seek to create something positive out of the loss of their eldest son, Caleb, who died last Labor Day weekend at age 28.

“We love this community. We love Brown County. We always have,” said Caleb’s father, Cory Joy, an associate pastor at New Life Community Church. “We have a heart for the youth, we have a heart for the people, and it was like, somewhere along the lines, we have got to be able to convince people it’s time to start doing something.”

Later that evening, friends of the couple arrived in Cincinnati. Cory and a friend began designing “Do Something” shirts. A Scripture reference was included in the design.

“That James 1:22 scripture is, ‘Don’t just be hearers of the words, but be doers of the words.’ We can’t just keep hearing all of these things we need to do or all of these issues we have in our community. We have to do something,” Michelle said.

“The exciting part already is that people are actually doing something. We’re hearing people say, ‘I started volunteering at this,’ or ‘I helped this person.’ I’ve had people reach out to me.”

One of those people was a young man who showed up at Caleb’s funeral.

“Obviously, this was a friend that Caleb did heroin with (whom) we didn’t know. He came to the funeral. As he came in, he and this guy, there was a receiving line. He totally skipped it,” Michelle said.

“I could tell he was about Caleb’s age. I had never seen, never met him. I stepped out of the line and I went and I met him. He was broken. He was just crying. I was like, ‘You have to stop what you’re doing. It is time.’ He’s like, ‘I know, I know.’ Later, I found out he had been trying to check on Caleb that morning. He was supposed to be with Caleb later that day fishing.”

Caleb’s friend immediately went into rehab. “He’s clean. His girlfriend had her baby. He’s getting his life together,” Michelle said. “Through it, people have gotten clean.”

Another woman from New Life started the “Do Something, BC” Facebook page shortly after Caleb’s death. It serves as a source of daily support for those struggling with addiction personally, those who are in recovery or those who have a family member struggling.

That is what the Joys say is the goal of the Do Something movement: “To unite the community and empower people to find their passion or their gifting and their purpose, and start doing something with it,” Cory said.

“We see it really uniting the community as a whole,” Michelle said, “not just this church and that church but all the churches coming together, all of the ministries, like Mother’s Cupboard and Silver Linings … even the schools, everybody coming together in one effort (against) not just drug addiction but any kind of addiction, any kind of struggle, homelessness.”

“It’s not just drugs; we’re talking about life skills,” Cory continued. “Figure out a way to connect people who didn’t have parents raising them, so they don’t know how to do laundry and how to cook outside of making cereal or putting something in the microwave.”

There is so much potential to be harnessed with all the people in Brown County who are willing to help, the couple said. The challenge will be putting it all together.

The couple welcome help in organizing all the available resources and thinking through the possibilities.

One of those ideas is creating a men’s shelter in Brown County. The county’s only shelter, Silver Linings, serves women and children.

The home where the family was living when Caleb died now sits empty. The Joys are looking at making that space into a “place of hope,” where people needing to be kept from their temptations can come in and have a meal and get “just a very family feeling,” Michelle said.

The couple also would love to see an overnight rehab facility be brought to Brown County.

“My hope is Do Something as an entity will bring those two sources together. So if someone says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a building,’ and someone says, ‘Hey, I want to be the person who is there running it and I want to help these young men do that,’ we go, ‘OK, let’s get you two connected,’” Cory said.

The Joys believe that the only way to be free from addiction and struggle is through a relationship with God, but that relationship is based on love for all, they said.

That was a message they believe Caleb heard before he died. He had begun working for a local pastor and alongside another man who was recovering from drug addiction.

“He was like, ‘Oh, you just care about me. You’re not saying I have to be a certain way or do a certain thing. You just care about me,’” she said.

Michelle said people who are struggling with addiction need to hear that someone cares.

“We absolutely don’t want people to feel judged or that they have to believe a certain way to reach out for help. They are welcomed and loved, and they matter no matter what they believe,” she said.

IN THIS SERIES:

Addicted and Dying: An introduction

‘Addiction works when it gets to hide’

‘He wasn’t the addiction’

‘#DoSomething movement uniting the community

The science behind addiction

OPINION: In the midst of addiction, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.