The shocking statistics, billboards, news stories and political debates are continual reminders of a very real opioid crisis right here in America. But what can any of us do about it? Most of us are not medical professionals, lawmakers, or trained addiction specialists. Can the average citizen take on “Big Pharma,” fix a broken penal system, or turn the tide in this war on drugs? If the high school students in this video can do something as simple as using their talents to raise awareness, then certainly each of us can do our part! These students come from more than 40 schools across the state to be a part of the Lyceum Philharmonic at American Heritage School. When searching for a story to match the message and music of this unique Amazing Grace arrangement, they came into contact with Lola Zagey and The Other Side Academy.
Lola, portraying herself in the video, became dependent on opioids while recovering from surgery as a teenager. While the prescription ran out, her need for the drugs did not. Over time addiction completely consumed her life and for more than 20 years she suffered both in and out of prison, on and off the street. The sad truth is that often this drug addiction doesn’t start with a bad choice made by a “troubled teen” or an outlier submitting to peer pressure. It can start in a doctor’s office with only the best intentions. This is a drug problem as prevalent in the suburbs as it is downtown.
This crisis is quietly killing a generation. Utah was the seventh-highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths from 2103-15 according to the Utah Department of Health. Data from Centers for Disease Control tell us that in 2016 drug overdoses killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War. Nearly every family is impacted in some way by addiction. It may not be as dramatic as a heroin addiction, but no matter the drug or behavior there are things you can do in your own family and community to address the root causes of addiction. Connect or reconnect – whatever the addiction, it falsely fills a void that could be filled in other ways. Excellent research is being done into how connecting in meaningful ways with those around you is a key step in both addiction prevention and treatment. The rise in addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live. If we can pull ourselves away from our phones long enough to truly connect with those around us, we may just find ourselves in a position to help before an overdose, suicide or addiction occurs.
Providing purpose is a huge part of what helped Lola transition over the course of years (portrayed very quickly in the video) from a “student” at a facility like The Other Side Academy to the director of an institution that is making a humbling difference in the world. Residents of TOSA are learning to be accountable, employable, and contribute to society. With the help of an amazing staff they run businesses, support each other and regain their footing in society.
Remember that this video is about grace. Grace is receiving the unearned, unmerited help we desperately need but do not deserve. When you or I are in the position to provide that grace to one who is truly in need, that can be one of the most difficult and divine services we will ever provide. And when we stand in need of a little grace ourselves, it makes our reception of the same all the more Amazing.