As a public librarian in Woodbury, Vermont, Brett Ann Stanciu was faced with an unexpected challenge. A member of the community who was allegedly a drug addict, referred to by the pseudonym John Baker, repeatedly broke into her library after hours. Going to the police yielded no effect and, one day, after breaking in, Baker died by suicide. Stanciu was deeply affected and wondered what else she could have done, what her role was in a community -- and state -- plagued by addiction, and how her own struggles with alcohol fit into her understanding of the opioid epidemic.
Stanciu writes, “This story could have ended here; case closed. But while driving or staring at the library window, my thoughts kept drifting to those final images of Baker sitting at my desk … I began to see, too, evidence of what I had ignored in Vermont when it didn’t directly touch me -- the prison of class, the ugliness of poverty, the ravages of drug addiction. A failing court system, strapped law enforcement.” She started asking questions.
“Unstitched: My journey to understand opioid addiction and how people and communities can heal,” is a different kind of memoir, exploring what Stanciu learned about opioid addiction and coming to terms with her own addiction. She talks to recovering addicts, peer advocates, law enforcement and family members who have been affected by addiction. She attends a Vermont Department of Libraries program to train and provide free Narcan (also known as naloxone, a substance used to revive people who are overdosing on opioids) to librarians. “Keep it on hand so your staff -- God forbid -- will never have to stand there and watch someone die,” the trainer said. This opens Stanciu’s eyes to the pervasiveness of the problem of opioid addiction and addiction in general.
The author begins to understand addiction as a disease with a genetic component such as the predilection towards alcoholism in her own family. The book profiles individuals personally impacted by addiction and Stanciu’s developing understanding of its deep grip on society. A unique love letter to Vermont, its landscapes and peoples, Stanciu’s memoir explores the nature of small, rural communities in our state and their challenges, Vermonters’ resilience and their responsibilities to each other.
This book will open the eyes of readers seeking to understand addiction and how it has impacted their communities. It is predilected on the philosophy that, in order to understand and emphasize others’ struggles, people have to listen, approach without judgment, and even look deeply at themselves. An important read for anyone looking to dive deep into the thorny topic of addiction and what they can do to support their friends, family members, and neighbors.