Hear Their Voices: Plymouth County Finds Creative Recovery Outlets

Steve Mahon recently lost his friend to an overdose. He got this tatoo in rememberence of his friend. Photo by Ashley Barrow

By Ashley Barrow

Finding the light at the end of the tunnel can be difficult for those in recovery. A few Plymouth County residents and neighbors in Norfolk County share their stories.

It’s different for everyone. There is always a way out of any dark situation or mindset.

Steve Mahon recently lost his friend to an overdose. He got this tattoo in rememberence of his friend; Photo by Ashley Barrow.

Steve Mahon is in active recovery and describes a time when he was in the bathroom using heroin while his son, Stevie was on the other side of the bathroom banging on the door. Now – Mahon opens the door of a recovery home to 16 other men also in recovery.

“He is an absolute mad man. Sometimes I get texts from my mother saying he is 100 percent your son. He brings so much light to the world,” said Mahon.

Mahon is the house manager of a recovery home in Weymouth and also works as a supervisor at a landscaping company. For him, working outside and being around his two kids – Stevie and Lilly are a way for him to find peace in his recovery. Spending his time as a house manager at The Brook Retreat is also a way for him to find motive.

Susan Lordi struggled with addiction about 26 years ago. Now – she wants to be a helping hand to kids in recovery. She does this through recovery graffiti.

According to Massachusetts law, graffiti is punishable by up to three years in state prison for a prison for a felony charge and up to two years in a house of correction for a misdemeanor. A fine of $1,500 or three times the value of the property marked may also be assessed in both cases.

“It’s just not safe to use drugs anymore. It’s just not. We look at the kids today doing it so young – I don’t know how they do it. If someone told me when I was 18 years old that you can never do drugs again I would be like that’s never going to happen. I would have signed my own death warrant, but fentanyl wasn’t around back then, so now an overwhelmingly amount of kids are experimenting with drugs and dying, and others are getting hooked.”

Opioids could kill nearly 500,000 Americans in the next decade. “I see that we have an awful lot of overdose deaths here. Fentanyl is in pills, it’s in cocaine, it’s even in marijuana. A lot of people think they are safe doing cocaine, but it’s laced with fentanyl. It’s a whole different ballpark than when I was younger,” said Lordi.

She wants recovery graffiti to not only benefit kids, but everyone struggling with addiction. She has noticed the overdose deaths are relatively high in the Wareham and Rockland area and wants people to be aware that there are resources. There was recently a spike in overdose deaths in Plymouth, Carver, and Wareham with 10 overdoses and five being fatal.

Independence Academy is a recovery high school in Brockton. Lordi brought recovery graffiti to the high school which was funded by the District Attorney’s office. “It’s about meeting the kids where they’re at and turning it into a positive,” said Lordi.

She is very happy with how cooperative the DA’s office and others have been with funding but could always wish for more to help those in recovery. “We really just need a lot of support,” she said.

A couple in recovery enjoying a meal at The Beanstalk Festival; photo by Ashley Barrow

The Beanstalk Festival is an annual festival at French’s Common Braintree that remembers the life of Nick Bean and all those who have lost the battle to addiction and substance use disorder. It also serves the purpose of celebrating recovery. Morgan Brown added excitement and celebrated with the audience by performing as a musician on stage, but he took a step back to remember his friend Nick who lost the battle to addiction.

He’s been playing music since age 14 and has done call shoes since then and has organized concerts. He used to perform music with Nick in their orchestra class and Braintree Highschool. Once Nick passed away he and another friend decided that they wanted to honor Nick in some way because they were both devastated.

Karen Linsky was dating Nick Bean for a year before he passed away. She reflected on her time spent with him. “I think the first word to describe him is goofy. He was very goofy and very vibrant. He loved everyone and anyone.” She tilted her head back and smiled: “He loved final fantasy. I remember the last game he bought. He did a lot of butterfly knife tricks. I bought one for myself. He’s been to the hospital way too many times for that though,” she laughed.

Linsky wants people to know that he had good intentions.

This was the fourth year of putting on the festival. “We’re really happy with how the festival turned out and how the festival benefited so many people who are dealing with opioid abuse all over the South Shore and for being a resource on how they can get help or help the community they are involved in,” said Brown.

Brown is happy to be involved in the festival and he remarked Bean as such a creative and artistic person. “We wouldn’t know how to honor him in any other way than by doing music,” he said.

The festival is meant to foster a connection for people to engage in the dangers of addiction and to lend resources. “It’s a very beautiful way in that we focus on the pros of people instead of just the idea of addiction because it’s one of those things that addiction can happen to literally anyone and we want to make sure that even if you’re an addict for years or for however long – we want to be able to provide a creative outlet to anyone who needs it,” said Brown.

“There are people from towns all over who want to work through this opioid epidemic that we’re going through and I just want people to be able to do it the most creative way possible,” said Brown.

Brown thinks that it isn’t an end by any means but we’re trying to find things to make people feel resolved and to make people feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I think there’s a way that everyone’s coming together to make sure that we’re doing everything possible and that every idea is being thought about and used. I think the stigma is kind of going away – slowly but surely, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Brown.

Joe Diaz resides in Weymouth, Mass who prides himself as a huge sports fanatic. He has battled with heroin addiction for the past 10 years. “I used to go away for treatment whether it be for two weeks or four months. I wouldn’t really think of myself as someone in recovery. I would just think of myself as someone going through a phase,” said Diez.

This time around he’s decided to take his recovery process seriously.

He is newly in recovery and feels grateful that he has the opportunity to become the person he’s always wanted to be. He creates and manages graphics for a media business called Square One and a few other small businesses. Currently, he’s involved in a documentary about the transition from prison to society.

“If I want to achieve what I want to achieve then I need to do it through sobriety and recovery,” said Diaz.

He has established creative ways to keep him busy and positively focused on his recovery through sports, community events and his current work. “I never really thought that I would be able to be involved in such cool stuff, but I really think it’s because of doing the right thing and having the right motives.”  It hasn’t been all fun and games for Diaz though. Just like many people in recovery, it’s been a long journey to get to where he is today.

Joe Diaz has a tattoo titled long live to symbolize his recovery; photo by Ashley Barrow

“The 12 steps have been a road map of how to be a better person, a good brother, eventually a good father, a good husband. It’s been a process of facing the music and dealing with the consequences,” said Diaz.

He has also worked with many little kids and youth in getting on the right path and finding their passion whether that be with sports or another outlet. Recently, he attended the 17th Annual Teen Challenge Massachusetts Golf Tournament. Golf has been a way for Diaz to see the parallel between improving in the sport and improving and staying consistent in his recovery.

His message to those in Plymouth County: “I think we should teach kids life management skills during the day and not just about how doing drugs are bad, but about how to deal with certain aspects.”