There is nothing more heartbreaking than having lost a loved one, a child or a friend to addiction. Lost as in lost due to an overdose death, imprisonment or to the streets.
Many may think of drug users as weak or have an image of drug users from TV crime shows as thugs or criminals.
The truth is much more complicated than that and to solve this nationwide problem is more complex than imagined. Those suffering addictions come from all lines of life, rich and poor. Some addicts are able to keep up the facade for a while, others cease to function or hold a job.
Others fall through the cracks of society, having been abused as children, running away from foster care and becoming homeless. Children or teenagers with addicted parents are seeking another family in the streets and ending up in a gang, in prison or dead.
One small Roswell church, the Christian Outreach Ministries of Roswell, led by pastor Joe Diaz and his wife Alma, is seeking a new way to help those troubled souls.
“We’ve been here 13 years,” Joe Diaz said. “I love Roswell. It is a good place.”
The Diazs have, at the moment, 22 men and women fighting against the curse of addiction. Joe Diaz is also working with the jail system, Sunrise Health Center and hospitals in Roswell, Albuquerque, Carlsbad and Las Cruces.
“In our ministry we believe in giving back and helping those who struggle with drug abuse,” he said.
With the theater piece, “When The Party Is Over,” the church and its members are trying to reach others who have problems and to let them know that there is help. It’s the fourth time COMR is performing this play.
The play is written by the Diazs and is based on their own experiences.
“It’s about two sons and a father,” Alma Diaz said. “The father used to be a gang member. His wife got ill and passed away. The father is giving his gang life up and tries to save his sons.” It’s the fourth time the play is performed.
“We have about 15 (church members) who are participating this year,” Alma Diaz said. “We also have extras, but 15 who have parts.”
The Diazs understand those who are struggling with addictions, which makes it easier for them to approach those who seek help.
“It comes from our (past) lifestyle,” Joe Diaz said. “I am from Los Angeles. I grew up as a gang member and lived in Los Angeles all my life.
“I was into gangs and drugs, everything else. I got saved down the road and I went into a program and a home. It’s kind of what we have here.”
“It helped me out to get my life straight and I found Christ. As I went through all the changes in life and accepted the Lord, I met my wife in church. We surrendered everything that God wanted of us and came up here and started a church,” Joe Diaz said.
Not every story is a success.
“We just lost a young man, they found the body,” Joe Diaz said. “He was a part of our home. It’s terrible and I see that all the time.
“There are a lot of drug overdoses in the last few years,” Joe Diaz said. “It has been terrible. Guys I literally begged, ‘Please don’t leave.’”
The church and its members hope to reach and save those without help with the play’s message.
“This is my life experience,” Alma Diaz said. “I saw a play when I was young and it planted a seed in me. I knew there was a way out. I wasn’t ready at that time but when I was ready I knew that Jesus was the answer, because I saw people that were like me.”
Alma Diaz is straightforward talking about her abuse and several almost-rapes she had to endure as a child.
“I didn’t do drugs,” she said. “I became an alcoholic.”
Joe Diaz remembers his first year in Roswell.
“When I came to Roswell in 2004, there was nothing here to help the drug addicts when it was really bad,” he said. “These guys we have here, a lot of them were chased by cops; they were in shootings. They are now here. You see the difference in their lives.
According to Joe Diaz, the church is receiving help from the community, though most donations come from the outside, not Roswell. They will receive food donations from local grocery stores but not enough to feed the young men seeking help. The men are finding work in the community for donations, which they bring back to support the church.
“It’s hard to feed them, Joe Diaz said. “It cost a lot. Albertsons helps us now and then. They give us a lot of food. Farmers Country (Market) on the south side used to help us before.” Asked how the community can help, Joe Diaz said, “It’s really not my character to say, ‘Hey, I need help.’” He does say that there is always a need.
COMR next goal is to have a safe place for women to recover and overcome addiction.
“At the moment we have only space for the men,” Joe Diaz said.
Rehearsals for the play, “When The Party Is Over” began. Some of the scenes in the play will remind older audience members of the 1961 movie “West Side Story,” in which gangs and their struggles were featured in a softened style typical for Hollywood. The struggles however, were as real as they are today.
“We hope that this play will reach youngsters. We are trying to help the best way we can. That’s our hope, to save their lives, to save their souls,” Joe Diaz said.
The play will be performed at COMR, 101 S. Sunset Ave. on Oct. 7 at 6 p.m.
For more information, visit comor88203.wix.com/christianoutreachnm or call 575-627-5470, cell 575-317-7884.
Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.