‘When they’re ready, we’ll be ready’: What it’s like to be Cambridge’s addiction recovery coach

Meet Jared Stanley.

Jared Stanley
Jared Stanley. –Cambridge Police Department

When family members can’t understand what it feels like to suffer from addiction, Cambridge Police Department’s recovery coach Jared Stanley tells them to hold their breath for 30 seconds.

“I tell them, ‘While you were holding your breath, for someone who is struggling and is addicted, that’s how we feel without the drink or the drug without a program,’” he said. “With a program, it doesn’t have to be like that.”

Meeting with family members is just one of the things Stanley does. Being a recovery coach means he speaks with and reaches out to people at all levels of addiction — from someone who recently overdosed or had a medical episode related to addiction, to keeping in contact with people in recovery programs.

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After a grant brought him onboard part-time in March, Stanley, who became a recovery coach last year, recently became permanent with the department. In just the span of a few months, police say they’re seeing the results.

Roughly 25 people have entered detox after interacting with Stanley, according to the police department.

“We are very pleased to bring Jared on board in a permanent capacity,” Police Commissioner Branville Bard, Jr. said in a statement. “In particular, I appreciate the fact that City Manager [Louis] DePasquale recognizes the importance of the Cambridge Police Department retaining a Recovery Coach as a permanent resource in the community, as we continue our tireless efforts in combatting the opioid epidemic.”

One thing that’s clear in talking with people in Cambridge that are addicted is that most express a desire to recover, Stanley said.

But addiction and treatment for it are not a one-size-fits-all, and finally accepting treatment and getting into it come with challenges, he said.

“My experience, honestly, with most people I’ve interacted with out here is they recognize that they do have a problem,” he said. “And a lot of people, they may not want help right in the moment, but almost everyone I’ve interacted with, they don’t want the rest of their lives to look like active addiction.”

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Most have had times when they’ve been clean, but have relapsed.

Actually getting on a recovery path and maintaining it come with a variety of challenges, too. Part of it has to do with the potency of the drugs on the streets — fentanyl, carfentanil.

Other challenges have to do with the programs themselves, Stanley said.

“One of the main barriers really would be the speed that someone can get into actual treatment,” he said.

Many people enter detox and become stable, according to Stanley. But then many enter a type of holding treatment, “and it’s kind of like just adding up days sober, but it’s not actual treatment,” he said, calling it “surface level.”

Programs covered by insurance have waiting lists, Stanley said, and private treatment isn’t something everyone can afford.

“The main problem we run into is people getting impatient and wanting to leave treatment or wanting to get going faster than they can,” he said.

Each person needs to be able to find the program and method of recovery that works for them, Stanley said.

One recovery story that sticks out in Stanley’s mind, of which there are several, is seeing the results of his interactions with a man in his mid-20s.

Tewksbury Hospital had Stanley speak about recovery within the last few months. Shortly afterward, he ran into the man, who was walking around Cambridge wearing a hospital bracelet.

“We both knew each other, [but] we didn’t know where we knew each other,” he said.

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It turns out the man was in detox when Stanley spoke, but he had left and was actively using. They spoke for a bit, and Stanley gave him his contact information.

Three weeks later, Stanley attended a meeting in Reading in his personal life — the man was there.

“And we ended up catching up, and he was doing well,” Stanley said. “He was in treatment.”

That was about two months ago, and Stanley said he’s kept in contact with the man, who has maintained his recovery and is going through his program.

For Stanley, who has maintained his recovery since 2015, a 12-step program pulled him out of addiction’s depths.

He’d been arrested and entered “many detoxes,” he said, noting that his addiction lasted a couple of years.

“It’s a real tough place to be,” he said. “It’s hard to describe.”

Stanley said he doesn’t make excuses, but said he does believe addiction is a disease.

“I think whenever I crossed that threshold and I became totally addicted, I believe that my willpower really couldn’t muster up the strength not to use,” he said. “I don’t make any excuses for the things I’ve done, but I believe that to be true.”

It was during one of those detoxes that a recovering addict went to speak to patients there, and Stanley said he saw similarities between himself and the speaker.

During his program, Stanley said he “surrendered to the suggestions” provided for recovery. It worked.

Every week, Stanley said he meets with new people. He also maintains an open-door policy and tells the people he meets with that they can get help at any time.

“When they’re ready, we’ll be ready,” he said.