An angel of hope for addicts

Three years ago, life was completely different for Randi Novak. The Flint native, like most others, never thought it could happen to her, but she suddenly found her life turned completely upside down by an opioid addiction.

In Randi’s case, heroin had put a stranglehold on her then 19-year-old son. “I thought I was going to bury my son,” says Novak, who now serves as the online coordinator of Hope Not Handcuffs of Genesee and Lapeer Counties.  

Novak’s around-the-clock worrying and efforts to keep constant tabs on her son started to take a toll on her emotionally, physically and mentally. As she began looking for answers and for solutions, Novak found few local resources and support available. “When I was reaching out for help, I quickly found out there wasn’t much out there for people like me,” she stated.

Then she found out about Hope Not Handcuffs, operating in Macomb County as part of the local Families Against Narcotics organization. Hope Not Handcuffs provides volunteer “angels” who provide resources and help for families of addicts. “I thought to myself that this is exactly what we needed here,” Novak says. 

Within days, she coordinated with Flint Area Families Against Narcotics to begin a local chapter. Over the last year, Novak and her group of angels have helped put about 180 addicts into treatment. Statewide, Hope Not Handcuffs has helped 1,808 addicts since February 2017.

“I can tell you that 95 percent of the addicts I have encountered are the most intelligent, resilient, kind, loving … just the most amazing people — who have an awful disease,” Novak says.

With a simple phone call, addicts can find a treatment center and get transportation there. Novak’s goal is to get them there within 24 hours.

Hope Not Handcuffs also works directly with local police to create safe zones where addicts can walk in, get water and a granola bar, and ask for help. There are 11 participating agencies in Genesee and Lapeer counties including the Flint Police Department and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. 

Novak spends countless hours on this labor of love and hate of sorts. She sees her son in each addict and meets each with unconditional love filled with sorrow for those who don’t win the battle and pride for those who reach sobriety milestones — including her own Caleb who celebrated 22 months drug-free in September. 

For more information on Hope Not Handcuffs, check out its website. Help is also available by calling 833-202-HOPE (4673).
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