John Jerry Lopez taught me how to dig a ditch when I was 14 years old. My father put us both to the task and told me to do what John said. That ditch was a work of art, with 90 degree corners and a level floor.
When my mother died during a cold Interior winter, John went to the cemetery and worked for hours to thaw the earth with fire as he dug into the permafrost to prepare her grave.
John Jerry Lopez, a man of my father's generation, was a good man and a slave to alcohol. He was taunted by children and scorned by adults. During the time I knew him, he was rarely sober and often in jail. Alcoholism was considered a deficiency of character and often just a social norm in the 1960s. He was often jailed, which kept him sober for awhile.
September is Recovery Month in Juneau. Through research, we recognize that alcoholism and drug addiction are facets of inheritance and experience. We also know that they need not be lifestyles. Sometimes we can recognize a predilection. For those already addicted, there are many roads to recovery. We also know it is not easy.
John died due to his addictions. More frighteningly, he was often robbed of his humanity. But, he was a good, kind and generous man though subject to demons.
I ask that you celebrate Juneau's Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month with me for the humanity of John Jerry Lopez.