Vice President of Student Affairs Joy Moore was the second speaker in Nov. 20’s Agape Latte series. Moore shared the story of her older brother, who has struggled with addiction for most of his life—the first time she shared this story outside of her immediate family, she said.
Moore began her talk by providing some backstory of her family. She is the middle of three children, born sandwiched five years after an older brother and five years before a younger sister.
Her brother first began taking drugs while at boarding school at Lawrence Academy, where he played football. Her family realized something was going on when he stopped going to class and started getting in trouble and smoking marijuana, she said. He eventually got expelled and never finished high school—years passed, and he began to use harder drugs, eventually stealing to support his habit, Moore said.
Moore recalled when she overheard her parents discussing getting money to drug dealers who had threatened her brother over his debt. She recounted the almost surreal situation of her parents driving to a drug drop and delivering money to the dealers.
One of the most striking moments of her brother’s addiction was after Moore got married and moved to California, according to Moore. Her brother had also moved to California and was living in a garage at the time.
One day—after a long period of noncommunication—he called Moore and said she needed to get him because people who he owed money to were after him. After she arrived, Moore started to become worried when her brother, who was high, could not focus on leaving quickly.
“So in any event, I’m able to get all of his stuff, whatever we could take, and get in the car, and we were able to get out. And when I think back about it now, it surely was only by the grace of God that gave us the time that we were able to get out before they probably arrived, looking for him, but more looking for what he owed them,” Moore said.
Moore called her parents, and a few days later he flew back to Massachusetts. At the airport, the Massachusetts State Police were waiting to arrest him for several outstanding warrants. Her father, a police officer, had arranged to have him arrested upon his return.
In hindsight, Moore reflected that this was probably the best thing for her brother.
“When you’re a drug addict, when you have too much freedom, you get yourself in more and more trouble because you can’t control what the addiction is,” Moore said. “And so, not that anyone wants to go and spend any time in jail, but I must tell you, for my brother, it tended to be one of the best places for him because he couldn’t get the drugs, and it was a very structured environment, and he really thrived in structure.”
Moore then turned to discuss how she believes that mental health is often a key component of addiction—her brother struggled with unaddressed mental health problems when he was younger, she said.
Moore advised the audience to reach out to those facing mental health issues or addiction, rather than ostracize them.
“You really need to do the best you can with a person in that situation of being as compassionate as you can, as empathetic and understanding and caring, and have that unconditional love,” Moore said. “I think that one of the things that we all have to do is be a bit more caring to those who are struggling. … It’s really challenging to do that when someone is continuing to use drugs and to steal from you and to treat you in ways that [don’t] feel very reciprocal.”
Moore said that she still works to support her brother, who is now 65—she frequently tells him to take it “one day at a time.” She said that the saying is particularly applicable for drug addicts, as it can often take just one misstep to put them back on the path to addiction.
Moore shared the story of her brother in the hopes that anyone who knows someone who is struggling will show that person compassion and love, even when it is difficult, she said. Moore also hoped that by sharing her story people can realize that despite her title, she is also just a person who has struggles like anyone else.
“Part of this is just to let you know I’m just a regular human like everybody else out there,” she said. “Even though I have this title that says ‘Vice President for Student Affairs,’ it doesn’t mean that I don’t have challenges—some in my life and with my family and the world that I’m part of, so some things I can relate to that you might be going through.”
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Senior Staff