OPINION: Chris Kelly Opinion: Raising the flag of recovery

·4 min read

Jun. 15—Flags fly. Flagpoles are why.

Without support to raise them up, flags fall flat. Addicts do, too.

Tuesday was Flag Day. Also the 247th birthday of the U.S. Army, established June 14, 1775, as the Continental Army. Neither observance is a federal holiday, but both are good reasons for the grateful to gather on a beautiful June afternoon.

On the sunny sidewalk in front of the Recovery Bank at 120 Wyoming Ave., guests filled rows of folding chairs as patriotic music battled with the blare of honking horns and the angry bangs of trucks pounding pavement.

Atop the building, a quintessential symbol of American identity rose on the support of a symbol of recovery — a ruined flagpole restored to its former glory.

"It's symbolic of what we do here," said attorney Frank Bolock Jr., president and CEO of the Recovery Bank.

"We are all about recovery and helping people who have been broken by substance abuse to recover and rebuild their lives."

Bolock said Recovery Bank leaders considered replacing the flagpole — which has topped the building since 1917 — but opted instead to restore it. The work was funded by the Spitz Foundation, established in 2015 by the estate of the late Robert H. Spitz, a Scranton native and Scranton Central High School graduate who owned several local Arby's franchises. Veterans affairs are among the foundation's priorities.

"I'm glad we decided to refurbish it," Bolock said of the flagpole. "I'm glad we didn't give up on it."

The Recovery Bank doesn't give up on people, either. It's part of a strong regional network of treatment centers, support groups and individuals dedicated to sobriety and helping others achieve it. Help is available. I'm living proof. It works if you work it.

The Recovery Bank grew out of the Lackawanna County Treatment Court. Pioneered by Judge Michael Barrasse, the court has helped thousands of addicts find and stay on a path to sobriety and recovery.

Barrasse was at Tuesday's ceremony, as was Sandra Opshinsky, president of the Veterans Resource Coalition of NEPA. The nonprofit will host a "Veterans Stand Down" Saturday at 1 p.m. at Lackawanna College, 501 Vine St. in Scranton.

The event will offer everything from clothing, basic hygiene products and barbers to help filing benefits claims, finding jobs and drug and alcohol treatment services. Sandra is a longtime friend. Veterans couldn't ask for a better advocate.

Veterans like Solomon Lindsey, a 39-year-old Army veteran from Scranton who spent a tour "kicking in doors and blowing stuff up" in Iraq. He came home with PTSD and tried to drown his demons in alcohol and drugs.

Lindsey knew Tuesday was the Army's birthday. He's 2 1/2 years sober, a victory story of the county Veterans Treatment Court, also overseen by Barrasse. He's about to graduate and put his legal troubles behind him. Lindsey credits the Recovery Bank for giving him a practical path to a better life.

"Here, it's like the fellowship of everything," he said. "We have meetings, we have different classes, different activities, so it's not like before where we were just partying in bars or clubs or drinking and drugging. Being here helps us get more involved with sober stuff, how to live sober.

"And you get insights because, you know, we (addicts) all go down the same journey, but just different paths. And it's that downward slope. And then sometimes you wind up getting on a path where everything converges and you meet other people and you start learning how to live."

Amen. And congratulations to Lindsey, whose volunteer post teaching a cooking class at the Recovery Bank will soon be a paid gig. He's always wanted to be a chef. Now he has a sponsor to show him the way.

"From the day I met him to today, he's a different guy," said the Rev. Jim Noone, an Air Force veteran and retired chef who founded "The Way 2 Recovery" ministry in 2002.

"He's where he belongs."

On the sidewalk, the grateful said their goodbyes and moved on with the day. High above, a quintessential symbol of freedom flew in the sun, a sobering reminder that recovery is always better than giving up.

CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, is a grateful recovering alcoholic. Contact the writer: kellysworld@timesshamrock.com. Read his award-winning blog at timestribuneblogs.com/kelly, @cjkink on Twitter, Chris Kelly, The Times-Tribune on Facebook