Opioid addiction ravaged Franklin Holmes.
He lost jobs because of it, became homeless because of it, and watched friends die because of their own addictions.
“Opioid addiction is the darkest, loneliest tunnel I’ve ever been in,” Holmes says. “I didn’t see hope; someone had to bring me that hope, and then I followed it until I was out of the darkness.”
As a recovering addict of several years who struggles with a disease that has no cure and must be managed daily, Holmes is devoting his life to bringing that “spark of hope” to others in that same struggle.
In 2013, a year after getting sober, he founded Fuck Heroin Foundation with his mom, Lesha Cuttaia (aka Mame Dukes).
And he is the co-host of the Viceland series Dopesick Nation that premiered in September and airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays.
The series, based in Florida, chronicles Holmes and Allie, his co-host and a recovering opioid addict, in their desperate attempts to get addicts help. Allie’s boyfriend helped Holmes get sober.
Holmes was born and raised in Port Clinton and later lived in Toledo for several years, where his addiction flourished. He moved to Florida to get sober. And that’s when he noticed another problem: Opioid addiction as a national crisis also meant opioid addiction recovery was becoming a big business, particularly in Florida, he says, where recovery centers were charging $30,000 per patient. The boom in recovery centers also increased the number of shady operations.
“I would see kids making money off of kids. Not helping them, just making money,” Holmes says.
Holmes wanted to fight back against those who would profit off of misery, but after nearly getting into a fistfight in the parking lot of a Starbucks with an owner of one such sham recovery center, a friend and sobriety sponsor suggested that Holmes find a positive way to help.
Just after his year anniversary of recovery, Holmes came up with an idea of how he could help.
“I got sick of friends dying, I got sick of people taking advantage, so I made a Facebook page” to offer support to addicts and their families, F— Heroin.” The site was shutdown overnight, leading Holmes to conclude the name’s expletive got the page banned. Far from it.
“There were so many people trying to log on that it shut down.”
The program grew and others noticed, including film producers who wanted to document the work of Holmes and Allie.
That led to the documentary American Relapse, which is playing film festivals nationwide, and a deal with Viceland for the 10-episode series, which is likely to be renewed for a second season.
“My passion is finding help for addicts who can’t find help for themselves,” Holmes says, particularly because of the expensive treatment. Some recovery programs offer free treatment to addicts, what’s referred to as a “scholarship” in the show, “but it’s really hard to find.”
In the first episode of Dopesick Nation, Holmes helped an addict named Nate, who is from Toledo but moved to Florida to get help. Gaunt and helpless in the power of addiction, Nate was keenly aware of his fate. Still, Holmes struggled with whether he could be helped.
“Is he ready to get go to this treatment center,” Holmes says on the show, “or am I wasting somebody else’s bed [who] could be literally dying for it?”
Dopesick Nation is a gritty show that doesn’t avoid the grim realities of addiction: Not everyone can be saved. A future episode will also remind us that those who are saved are always one misstep from becoming lost again.
For those struggling with opioid addiction or even for those who know someone who is, Holmes encourages individuals to reach out to the foundation through its website, or by calling 419-971-KICK.
Whether it’s from family or friends who care, or even from Dopesick Nation, help is there for those in the darkness of opioid addiction, he says.
“Just look for that spark of hope.”