Pennsylvania is no stranger to the opioid crisis. We’ve read the devastating headlines and numbers of those who have succumbed to an overdose. We’ve seen the viral videos of young people passed out in cars from drugs. Even First Lady Melania Trump recently Philadelphia to tour a neonatal care unit on Wednesday to learn about the treatment given to newborns experiencing opioid withdrawal.
The 170th District of Pennsylvania
Commenting on the crisis is Mike Doyle. “The opioid crisis doesn’t care if you’re black white, democratic, republican. It will get you and it wants you dead.”
Mike Doyle is a candidate in the race for State Representative in the 170th District of Pennsylvania. While Mike may not be the most ordinary political candidate running for the position, he certainly needs no education on the subject of the opioid crisis, as he once lived it.
Mike grew up in an alcoholic family, and at an early age identified himself as an alcoholic.
“I had a run in with the law from underage drinking, and by the time I went to college, I could have qualified myself as someone who drank as an alcoholic. I always knew in the back of my head that one day I would have to stop, and I just didn’t know how to stop.” he noted.
Continuing on, he added, “I struggled here and there and in February 2013 I had one more weekend before I knew I had to get sober. That weekend I went out and tried controlled drinking and broke my ankle. After that I was in the hospital; I got a taste of dilaudid and that was it. I was prescribed percocet from that injury. Being an active alcoholic and recovering from that injury, I thought I could stop living and live on my couch for the rest of my life.”
Service At A Greater Level
Doyle eventually got sober in November of 2013 after multiple attempts at sobriety. He entered a medication assisted treatment (MAT) program for a duration, and eventually found long-term sobriety in a 12-step program. From there he learned the importance of living by spiritual principles and the duty of service to others. It was through his experience in recovery that Mike felt called to be of service at a greater level – particularly in his home state.
“I got involved with different advocacy groups and helping the homeless and doing things that I didn’t want to do. But I learned that service is most important,” he said.
Mike has been involved in Philadelphia‘s harm-reduction coalition with syringe exchange programs and an advocate of increased access to Narcan and medication assisted treatment such as vivitrol and suboxone. He additionally continues to support medically supervised Overdose Prevention sites in order to have counselors available for those suffering and are ready to seek treatment.
The Crux Of The Problem
He also continues address the importance of mental health access all across the board, which comes from his own personal experience.
“I had access to mental health treatment from day one, which was a privilege for me. I want to tell legislature that our commonwealth doesn’t advocate for it. We don’t do enough to fund mental health treatment, which is the crux of the problem, and so important.”
As an activist at heart, Mike continues to take part in social justice issues and continues to put himself on the line for what he believes in, to the point where he was even arrested for his activism.
“When the 2016 election happened I felt morally responsible to stand up and have a voice. When they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I was willing to risk arrest and was arrested several times fighting against the GOP tax bill. We have to get our hands dirty and have to be willing to hit the streets and partake in non-violent civil disobedience.”
As Mike started to partake in these events, he noticed a spark igniting to stand up for those who couldn’t, and decided to partake in this level of service on a public level by running for office.
“When I started doing these things, something happened. When I saw what was happening in the nation, I truly felt the country was spiritually bankrupt and our community was spiritually sick. For me, if I didn’t do something about it, then what was my recovery? For me to thrive, I can’t just sit here. Doing something about it is necessary,” he noted.
Breaking The Stigma
As a State Representative, Doyle will be able to introduce and vote on bills that represent the interests of their constituents – meaning, he’ll be able to speak and represent the people of his district. He’ll be able to create new laws, modify or update old laws, and serve on research committees within the legislative branch.
“The reason I’m running is because it all starts locally. I said, if someone like Donald Trump can get elected, someone like me can get elected. I was never really active in a local level, but realized that we are responsible. I got to the point where I wanted to shed that shame, and break the stigma of being in recovery.”
While there’s no doubt that Mike has faced the stigma, he continues to bore the brunt in which alcoholics an addicts face. While continuing to gain support from the recovery community Doyle has taken a knock for it as well.
“My opponent tagged my protest arrest and photo shopped what was said on my shirt. They didn’t say why I was actually arrested [for my protest] and pegged me to be a career-criminal. They sent a mailer to all the residents in my district which said, ‘We don’t need a criminal like Mike.’ That was detrimental to all people in recovery, it pushes people back into a corner, but we’re here to fight that and continue to change it.”
“Fear Continues To Drive The Political Discussion”
While noting that he continues to stand on his spiritual principles, Mike continues to take a non-traditional approach to the political landscape he finds himself in, and for those in recovery, it comes as a breath of fresh air.
He stated, “fear continues to drive a lot of the political discussion. Whether it’s immigration of drug policy, we learn in recovery that fear drives us to drink, and it’s all of these things we have to learn to overcome. Politics is a nasty world that doesn’t operate in the spiritual principles that we talk about in sobriety.”
While Mike continues to be a force to be reckoned with, it’s clear he’s doing something right by continuing to talk about the issues at hand.
“The state is talking about recovery house regulation in the general assembly right now. We’re talking about the motives behind people having these homes, which has been a big problem in other states. Not enough people are talking about this, but those in recovery need someone to do it – especially to legislature. Stigma is a huge part of that,” he said.
“Bless Them, Change Me”
With election day merely two weeks away, Doyle continues to see the silver lining in his downfalls. As a forced to be reckoned with, he noted, “if someone is going to use my sobriety as a reason to bring me down, then I’m doing something right. If I don’t win, I’m still going to advocate for harm-reduction. Let them be hateful because at the end of the day, I’m able to say ‘bless them, change me.’
While Doyle continues to advocate for harm reduction, he suggests that there needs to be multiple different approaches to the opioid crisis to end it.
“If someone can go into a 12-step program and stop drinking by making meetings, that’s great, but not everyone is that way. In my early recovery I found a lot of strength in 12-steps. but I had a brief relapse and I went back into the rooms and I realized over time not everyone is the same. Whatever program you subscribe to, you are a community of survivors.”
If we’re going to change the narrative for worst health crisis of our generation, we need a radical approach and Mike Doyle is here to bring it.
To learn more about Mike Doyle or join his campaign you can visit his website, here.