PIQUA — One recovering addict came face-to-face with police officers this week, a number of whom who have arrested him in the past, with a meaningful goal in mind: to make amends.
In an emotional moment standing in front of approximately a dozen police officers, Shawn Poling, a former Piqua resident who has been sober for three years, shared his apologies and expressed his respect for Piqua police officers after recognizing his past actions. “I disrespected every cop there was,” he said.
Poling, a self-professed six-time felon, said that the patrolmen he had run-ins with still treated him with respect, a respect that “I would never give them.”
“I put you guys in my life,” Poling said. “I’m a drug addict. I’ve been a drug addict almost all my life.”
Poling then recognized Piqua Chief of Police Bruce Jamison, who, prior to Poling’s speech, explained how Poling made amends with Jamison during last year’s Hope Over Heroin event. They formed what might seem like an unlikely partnership, but it is one with a common goal.
“It’s about a relationship — a new way of a relationship — with Shawn Poling,” Jamison said.
Poling, who now runs a treatment facility in Florida and recently opened one in Indiana, is working with Jamison as an asset to the Heroin Education and Addiction Recovery Team (HEART). HEART, with Poling’s help, connects addicts with treatment options that get them out of any possible toxic environments in which they might be living.
“He’s like a mentor to me,” Poling said about Jamison. “He’s never judged me.”
Together, they helped approximately 40 people receive treatment for addiction in his facility in Florida last year, some of whom returned to Piqua and passed away. It was a reality that the Piqua native has had to face in his personal life as well.
“I don’t have any friends around here anymore,” Poling said. “They’re all dead.”
Poling said that officers used to warn him that if he did not change his ways, he might end up on a similar path. “You guys were right,” Poling said.
He said that he never loved a drug until he started using heroin, and then after he started using heroin, it consumed his life. After his father passed away, Poling worked to get sober and stay sober. Overall, it took him four tries in three different states to get to where he is now.
“It just eats you alive,” Poling said about heroin. “We’re still human beings, and we just need help.”
While his passion is now to provide that help, Poling added, “My passion used to be to piss you guys off … That was my adrenaline rush.”
Now that Poling has come out the other end of addiction, he sees what the Piqua police officers do for the community along with how he needs their help, too. He told a story of how officers who knew him and his family now check up on his mother, even when it is as small an issue as a garage door being left open.
“The little things like that are the things that make me have pride in my town and the things that I destroyed when I was here,” Poling said. “You guys are the ones that keep me, my family, everybody else safe. Why would I ever have took it out on you guys?”
Poling said that what scares him is the high number of overdoses, particularly the ones that go unreported. It is that reason that his kids all carry Narcan with them and have even used it at times on people overdosing.
“Now I know what I did my parents all these years,” Poling said.
After the 2016 shooting of Dallas police officers, Poling ordered pizza for the Piqua police officers, but he said that he wanted a moment to speak with them up close in a professional manner to take responsibility for his past actions and be appreciative of the officers.
“I respect you guys,” Poling said.
A couple of the officers took a moment to shake Poling’s hand. Jamison recognized that Poling’s continued success in staying sober shows “there’s something on the other end” of the ongoing heroin epidemic. Police officers and first responders witness the brunt of the epidemic, from overdoses to arrests, but might not necessarily get to see if any offenders later overcome their addiction. As one officer put it, “We deal with it when it’s happening.”
Poling reaching out to Jamison and the department provided an opportunity to show the officers that there are people who survive their addictions. As Jamison put it, “There’s a bunch that make up for themselves.”
“You don’t owe an apology, but I think it speaks volumes that you had the courage and the moxie to come in here,” Patrolman Brett Marrs said to Poling.
After Poling spoke to the officers, Jamison said that it meant a lot for the department to be able to be a part of this important part in Poling’s journey in sobriety.
“It’s really cool, especially seeing how meaningful and hard this was for him,” Jamison said.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336