By Carol Stiffler
The meth situation in Newberry is serious. We knew that, but most of us wouldn’t have known as much as we do if one local man hadn’t recently started making a stir.
Newberry resident Chris Linhart published his phone number a few weeks ago, offering to help any meth user escape from the drug. In the meantime, he is giving real-time updates to the whole town using Facebook to communicate. People can find out here if they need the best addiction treatment solution.
He lives near people who are on meth, a drug that keeps them up all night. During those quiet hours, when the rest of Newberry sleeps, the meth community is energized. Lately, they’ve been caught stealing a lot.
Linhart, a former meth user, is putting his heart on his sleeve and, quite frankly, his life on the line. He reclaims stolen items and helps others find their missing property. A few nights ago, he confronted a woman in the dead of night as she stole from a seasonal home.
Linhart called police when he caught the woman, but the Michigan State Police had to dispatch a cop from the Soo and more than an hour later, no one had arrived. We are vulnerable at night.
And the meth problem belongs to all of us.
Linhart is making our town’s heartache visible. But he also understands, as we need to, that people who are currently in the grips of meth don’t recognize themselves. Meth makes life feel unreal, Linhart says. It makes life feel like a movie. Consequences aren’t scary. People on meth willingly do things they’d never dare to if they weren’t high.
Yes, those people are responsible for stepping into the world of drugs. But it may only have been a choice once or twice, and after that, addiction makes the choices. In sober moments, their minds are still hijacked by the need to use again.
Linhart spent time in jail for his meth use, but it didn’t inspire him to quit. He was evicted multiple times per year, lost dozens of vehicles, and ran his body down severely. But nothing gave him a reality check until he and his wife, Mellissa, delivered a baby who was born with drugs in his system. The baby was taken away.
That’s the situation that led him to rehab, which led him to church. The Linharts got clean to get their baby back, and they’ve been clean since.
Their success proves that it’s possible.
If you love Newberry, or you ever have, take heart as we navigate this challenge. Newberry is still home. It still has very good people and wonderful places. Think of the names and faces of the people who do so much good here. Beautiful souls live in Newberry.
What else can we do?
Lock up your house at night. Take your keys out of your car. You need to protect your home and your belongings.
Check on your neighbors, and keep an eye on their property when they’re not home. Make a neighborhood watch, even an informal one. Take pictures of things that don’t seem right. Talk with the Luce County Sheriff Department (906-293-8431), or call UPSET (906-228-1002) when you suspect drug activity. They’re actively working on the drug scene even when you can’t see what they’re doing. Tuesday’s circuit court docket was full of meth-related sentencings, and some local people just went to prison for it. More is coming.
Don’t loan out your vehicle. Many meth users don’t manage to retain ownership of a vehicle and might ask to borrow yours for drug runs, which can include selling and transporting drugs. This isn’t hypothetical; it happened here recently. Don’t make it easier for people to find and spread meth. Make it easier for them to get help.
On that note, all zones in our community need to be involved. Churches, schools, law enforcement, and the public. All of us need to lock arms to disallow drug use while simultaneously supporting people who want help getting and staying clean.
Newberry is a good town, with kind people, and a big meth issue. But it’s not bigger than us. We took a punch to the jaw when the state hospital closed, but we have been managing ever since. We can do this, too.