A special community performance of “An Introduction to the Enemy” will put addiction center stage as Frederick County remains in the grips of a national heroin epidemic.
Ed and Karen Schildt, of Thurmont, are sponsoring the event as part of their public outreach, since losing their son to a heroin overdose in June 2016. The 30-minute show will be in the Catoctin High School auditorium on April 12 at 7 p.m.
“An Introduction to the Enemy” — produced by Shannon Garrett — has been performed in treatment facilities for several years, and will now be shown in the community. The performance differs from past events hosted in Frederick County that have focused on personal stories of addiction and recovery, Ed Schildt said.
“Our purpose is to understand more and more what [addiction] is,” Ed Schildt said.
The Schildts know Garrett through their support group: CHRIS (Caring, Healing, Recovery Is Support) for Family Support in Recovery. The Schildts host a support group for families with addicts and a bereavement group at the Austin Addiction and Mental Health Center in Frederick.
This will be their first time seeing the show performed live.
Their son, Chris, went back and forth between addiction and treatment. He died on June 30, 2016, at age 25, the second time he overdosed.
“The addict, when they’re in active addiction, they don’t realize the whole family is going through that,” Karen Schildt said.
Chris attended Catoctin High School, where he played football and baseball and wrestled. He dislocated and fractured his elbow wrestling and was prescribed prescription painkillers before graduating in 2009. Ed Schildt believes this first introduction was the trigger for Chris’ later abuse of opioids.
During his sophomore or junior year at Shepherd University, Chris became addicted to opioids. He first bought prescription drugs, and turned to heroin when the pills became too expensive. Ed and Karen Schildt became suspicious that Chris was using drugs when he began asking for money and missing work and family events.
The Schildts had an intervention in 2012 or 2013, and Chris agreed to do an outpatient detox treatment and outpatient therapy, Ed Schildt said.
Chris relapsed and tried a round of detox and 30 days of inpatient treatment in Bel Air, Maryland. He stayed sober for roughly six months before relapsing again.
“It’s hard to understand it until you’re thrown in it,” Ed Schildt said.
After another six months of sobriety, Chris overdosed for the first time. He tried living in a sober living group home, and eventually moved to an apartment with friends and his sponsor.
Chris sent his mom a photo of the sunrise each morning, but one day there was no photo. Karen Schildt knew something was wrong.
Ed and Karen Schildt had spoken to Chris at 9:30 p.m. the night before, and his last three words were, “I love you.”
Karen Schildt’s gut told her something was wrong. She found Chris unconscious at his apartment, and he could not be revived. The death certificate said he died of an overdose of heroin and fentanyl, Ed Schildt said.
Now, the Schildts are trying to bring a new immersive experience to the county that puts a face and body to addiction. Both have heard the audio of the show and that alone was stirring, Ed Schildt said.
Their goal is to show that addiction is a disease and not a weakness.
Ed Schildt has made it his mission to help addicts, addicts families and educate others do the same, he said. Education comes in knowing the signs and where to go for help.
Ed and Karen Schildt didn’t seek help while Chris was in the throes of his addiction and consider themselves lucky to have had a strong household and marriage. They want to help families facing the same struggle.
Additional resources will be available for families and addicts at the event on April 12, including Frederick County Workforce Services, Mackenzie’s Light Bereavement and Drug Addiction Education Program, Up and Out Foundation, and Frederick County Health Department, Karen Schildt said.
The performance will be at Catoctin High School, but it is not specifically targeting high school-aged students. Ed Schildt said he hoped the performance would be a cautionary message to people before they try opioids and other addictive substances.
“That generation of 18- to 30-year-olds are the ones in the cross hairs of this,” Ed Schildt said.
The vision is for the event to involve the entire community in preventing future addictions. Families of addicts, interested community members and addicts are all welcome to attend. The performance is not recommended for children younger than 13.
“My hope, my prayer, is it’s all encompassing,” Ed Schildt said.