Dr. Gabor Maté speaks at On The Rise Dinner

Dr. Gabor Maté speaks at On The Rise Dinner

  • Posted on: 4 October 2010
  • By: mholbrow

Photo: Keynote Speaker Dr. Gabor Maté signed copies of his recent book at the annual On The Rise "Prepare for Winter" dinner. With him around the table (l to r): volunteer Adam Light-Sergott; Darrell Byers, a former member of the OTR Board of Directors; Kim O’Loughlin.

When we talk about addiction, we often say that addicts have “made bad choices,” or we say that the problem is “in their genes,” according to Dr. Gabor Maté. He doesn’t accept those explanations.
“Both those answers have something in common—they both take society off the hook,” Dr. Maté told some 400 supporters of On The Rise (http://www.ontherise.org) at its annual benefit dinner, "Prepare for Winter," on September 23. On The Rise (OTR), 341 Broadway, aids women in Cambridge-Somerville and Greater Boston who face issues such as addiction, homelessness, hunger, unemployment, and abuse.

Maté was the keynote speaker at the benefit on September 23 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. He is staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a non-profit housing and treatment facility in Vancouver's seedy, dangerous Downtown Eastside. He is a well-known advocate for today’s addicted populations, which he sees as including people like himself—workaholics, shopaholics—along with users of coke and heroin. He explores the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual bases of addiction in a recent book, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Canada. It is titled In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.

Interaction with a compassionate, nurturing environment is essential to development of the healthy brain chemistry and circuitry that form natural defenses against addiction, according to the Hungarian-born author-physician. He said that the lack of such an environment is associated with a dramatic rise in susceptibility to addiction in humans just as it is in laboratory animals.

He noted that virtually all his addicted patients have been abused in some way. He described how addiction maintains its grip on them even as they sink into a spiral of physical ruin, suffering, and death.

“My patients die young,” he said.

Dr. Maté celebrated On The Rise’s commitment to long-term help for women who are trying to move on to better lives. He said OTR’s programs and community support help them see their own possibilities and gain a sense of victory over the past.

Dr. Alexander Walley  9-23-2010

OTR Board member Dr. Alex Walley introduced the speaker. Walley is Medical Director of the Narcotic Addiction Clinic at the Boston Public Health Commission and an Assistant Professor at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Walley said Maté and his patients confront a “pile of problems” similar to those facing the staff and women of On The Rise. He told attendees that dealing with this tangled pile requires a sustained, committed effort rooted in individual relations and community support. Photo, left.

“The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists,” he said.

The dinner and talk were followed by a reception and book signing with Dr. Maté.

Event Chair Gail Roberts opened the program. She is a long-time Cambridge resident and a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Carol Goss, President of OTR’s Board of Directors, spoke briefly about the theme of the event, “Prepare for Winter,” noting that supporters can help by contributing food, clothing and other essentials as well as volunteer services and money. The program included video interviews featuring the intense personal recovery stories of Vicky, Christine and Cheryl—three women who have moved into housing of their own with help from On The Rise programs.

Photo: Councillor Leland Cheung presented Executive Director Martha Sandler with a formal resolution of best wishes from the Cambridge City Council in honor of the annual occasion.

OTR Director Martha Sandler thanked attendees and guests for their support. She announced an anonymous $30,000 challenge that would match gifts made during the evening 2 to 1. Last year’s dinner yielded about 10% of OTR’s annual $1-million budget. The program assists more than 300 women per year.

Major sponsors for the event included Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge Savings Bank, Irving House at Harvard, 1369 Coffee Houses, J. Calnan & Associates, Boston Private Bank & Trust Company, Pioneer Investments, Cambridge Health Alliance, and Harvard University.

Sponsors also included Charles R. Myer & Partners, Ltd., Cambridge Trust Company, Alexander Aronson Finning Certified Public Accountants and Business Advisors, East Cambridge Savings Bank, S + H Construction, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, Fresh Pond Market, Harvard Street Dental, L. C. Anderson, Inc., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CGR Corporation, YT Drywall, and Sylvia & Washburn Electrical Contractors.

More than 50 donors contributed silent auction items, among them Didrik’s, JetBlue Airways, Kripalu Yoga Center, The Liberty Hotel, East Meets West, here & NOW, The Ridge Club, Phantom Gourmet, Southwest Airlines, The Lombardy Hotel, Elie Tahari, and Drink.