Charlestown People: Shannon LundinIn Honor of September As National Recovery Month

By Tracy Iannelli

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon, sipping a coffee and listening to Shannon Lundin’s life story is as shocking as it is mesmerizing.  Shannon was born and raised in Charlestown, into a third generation Irish family. Because of her lived experience of addiction and redemption, I would call her a neighborhood hero. She’d have none of that. A self-proclaimed open book, her honesty seeks to banish stigma from any substance use discussion. With intense blue eyes and a direct gaze, she shared her journey from living with drugs and alcohol, to hard-fought recovery.

 Back in the 80s, Charlestown was a neighborhood populated by working class, tough and private families who battled within their four walls and then went to church.  Charlestown people never told on their neighbors, but were quick to take care of them. Even the idea of coping skills was foreign, and to be vulnerable was unheard of.

Shannon and her three siblings grew up on Allston Street, in a 1 and ½ bedroom apartment. Her Mother, Claire Sullivan Lundin, was a single parentcaring for four children.  Charlestown adored Claire. So did her kids. Shannon’s father, Kevin Lundin, was an alcoholic and active substance user, who abused her mother. He left his family when Shannon was 10, although prior to that time he was absent more than he was present. He died from the AIDS virus in 1999.  It was five years before Shannon knew he had passed away.

 Mom poured love into her four children.  At five years old, Shannon remembers holding her hand, to comfort her.  Childhood trauma became the gateway to Shannon’s substance use; leading to alcohol, cocaine, OxyContin and– when she opened that gate—intravenous heroin use.

 It began innocently enough. When Shannon was 12, she stole some coffee brandy—which no one at home would drink—and took it to a local kids’ hangout called “the Pit.” Drinking it boosted her confidence. It made her feel relaxed, not so angry, not so sad. Then came the eating disorder, pills purchased on the street, and lessons in how to steal cars. But her real love was cocaine, and her high school boyfriend, Timmy. He and Shannon grew up together, and began dating at 15. They used together, bonded by trauma. After the cocaine, there was OxyContin.  It was easy to get on the street, and users thought it was safe because doctors were prescribing it. But it was expensive. Heroin was cheaper.

She half-heartedly attempted to detox in 2001; living in and out of shelters, and other facilities. By that time, she and Timmy had their first daughter of two.  Shannon was exhausted by the on- again- off- again drug use, but not enough to stop. The police and Department of Children and Families had her on their radar, and her Mother was desperate to help her—so desperate that she called them. Still, Shannon could not imagine living without alcohol and drugs.

  In 2004, Shannon reluctantly entered the Fran Rowan Meridian House in East Boston; an established, structured, therapeutic community with required treatment based upon behavior modification.  Her stay began with fierce rebellion and defiance, as she never planned on getting clean, just on “checking the boxes” so she could leave. She was always in trouble, and had to abstain from  all mind-altering substances.  Slowly, under their 24 hour a day program and the guidance of skilled counselors, Shannon increasingly became self-aware. Her program manager, Tony, was tough and supportive, demanding accountability. There were consequences for harmful behavior.  She had 80 “time-outs” where she considered her failings, explored her feelings, and began to take responsibility for her life.  She credits Tony for transforming her from the most challenging, manipulative, and rebellious client to the person she is today.

 In 2005 after 15 months, Shannon graduated into a life of recovery. It was the first time in over ten years.

 Her resolve was tested repeatedly as she grieved friends, family, and her former boyfriend Timmy who overdosed in 2016. Attending funerals and giving eulogies became more frequent than baby showers or weddings.  In response, Shannon wrapped her arms around families who lost loved ones. The Charlestown Peace Park on Warren Street features painted rocks with their names– a place for families to reflect and connect. On September 30th there will be the 15th annual candlelight vigil with 300 pictures of those who have passed away. Shannon will be there, offering strength, faith, love and comfort.

 Determined to be a leader in Charlestown’s recovery, in 2008 Shannon became the Community Health Navigator, connecting those in need to appropriate services; then Program Manager of the Addiction and Recovery Services for the Charlestown Coalition until 2022. She’s been a part of the Charlestown Trauma Response Team member since inception in 2016 to present. In spite of pressure, grief and stress, she never relapsed. Now she is the Director of Recovery and Community Engagement at Chapters Recovery Center in Danvers.

While in recovery, she met her future husband, Mark White, who she married in November of 2017.  At their wedding, Mark said commitment vows to Shannon’s two older daughters. He’s a self-made man, someone who you can count on, and her support system during the tough times. They have five-year-old twin girls. Faith and love of family have delivered her. In her words. “Everything I have been through…has shaped who I am and I love who I am today.”

 Shannon’s purpose lives in Charlestown, committed to helping those who are living with substance use disorder achieve the recovery they deserve.   At 44 years of age, she possesses a “servant’s heart.”  She shared a photo of herself—and in it, she’s standing. There is a quote underneath: “I was made for more.”

 Yes, you are Shannon. Yes, you are. Claire Sullivan Lundin would be proud.

August 31st is Overdose Awareness Day: a time to bring attention to substance abuse disorders with the goal of ending them, and to experience grief without shame.

September is National Recovery Month: a national observance which began in 1989. The goal is to spread awareness of new evidence-based recovery practices, and celebrate the strong and resilient recovery community.

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