Tuesday, April 05, 2011

“You are on the right path”- A tribute to Carolyn Hadge

Many of us are saddened to hear of the recent passing of an amazing friend and advocate, Carolyn Hadge of Tom’s River NJ. Carolyn was part of NCADD-NJ’s inaugural leadership class and participated in the program as recently as a week before her passing.

Carolyn was the one of the best natural advocates I have ever met in terms of speaking out to better assist others in need of supports for their addiction. I say this because when she spoke, it was from the heart and the genuineness of her words was impossible to miss.

When I heard the news of her passing, naturally I began thinking of the impact she had made in my life over a relatively short amount of time. I offer a number of recent conversations I had with Carolyn so we may remember her work and be reminded of why we continue to help others as advocacy leaders. I called Carolyn on the phone three weeks ago. Always willing to help others, she would often begin our conversations with the same statement.

Carolyn: “Aaron! What can I do for you!?”

Aaron: “First, you can turn your music down! What’s all that racket in the background?” I joked.

Carolyn: “Oh Aaron, It’s my Jazz!”

Aaron: “Are you hosting the Great Gatsby tonight?”

Carolyn: “I’m not that old!”

It is true. Carolyn was the youngest 75 year old woman I had ever met. She was as encouraged and motivated by seeing younger people get involved in advocacy (as well as teaching her students) as I was by her own passion and drive to continue to fight for what she knew in her heart to be right at the age of 75.

She was always willing to help.

Just a few weeks ago I sat on a bench with Carolyn in the State House halls as she waited to tell her story to the General Assembly. Over 50 young people in treatment were there at the State House that day to visually show solidarity and relay a simple message. That people in recovery give back to their communities, families and others when given the support they need.

Carolyn: “I get so excited to see you younger folks get involved.” She said. “Riley Regan and I, we are part of the old school, so I get happy when I see you and all these people on the right path”

Aaron: “Don’t worry Carolyn, they still make them like they used to”

We talked briefly about treating addiction as a chronic disease and how recovery is a process that should be supported over time, and ultimately allows people the opportunity to give back in full to others.

Carolyn: “It is the way it should be isn’t it? But people are afraid of change sometimes. Don’t you find that to be true?”

Aaron: “I do. We need to build each individual’s recovery capital, everyone is so different. It is so hard to measure and I think people underestimate just how much people can give back once they are in recovery. That’s why we do what we do isn’t it?”

Carolyn: “I like how you talk”

Shortly after, while the elevator doors were closing, Carolyn gave me a wink and instead of saying good bye she simply repeated

“You are on the right path!”

Those were the last words I heard Carolyn say. How fitting.

Six simple words that offer the reassurance and hope that we all need to hear once in a while.

I share this story because I know a number of the NCADD-NJ leaders work tirelessly, and advocate even though they have busy lives. It is understood, and sometimes, we just need to be reminded that we are on the right path, and there will always be something to fight for as long as there is that feeling that something just isn’t right, and we are able to help.

You know that someone is leaving a legacy behind when their sudden passing motivates you to want to do more for others, and that is exactly what I think we will remember Carolyn for.

Aaron: “Thank you Carolyn.”

Aaron Kucharski is NCADD-NJ’s Advocacy Trainer