Close to 1,000 community members celebrated and shared successful addiction recovery stories Friday at Recovery Point’s eighth annual Rally for Recovery in Huntington.
“I’m a recovering addict. I’ve done it all, and I’ve seen it all,” Herbert Dickerson, a Recovery Point program participant, said. “Two months ago, I was under a bridge with a needle in my arm and a .38 to my head ready to kill myself. I was beaten and broken, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Today, I’m vibrant, and I’m ready to take on the world and tell it like it is.”
Dickerson said he believes many people have misconceptions about those suffering from drug addiction and their abilities to recover and go on to live regular lives as productive members of their communities. He said a lack of available jobs for poor and underprivileged individuals is likely the most influential factor contributing to the state’s, and the country’s, addiction epidemic.
“Everyone you see here today, at one time or another, had a good job and was able to support their family. Probably about 80% of them lost their jobs,” Dickerson said. “We’re not all just bad people, but if you aren’t making money to feed your family, then you would steal and do what you need to, too.”
Attempting to deal with constant trauma from such realities is the way so many suffering today are sucked into the seemingly unconquerable cycle of addiction, but it is essential to understand addiction recovery is not impossible, Dickerson said.
This was a sentiment echoed by many Recovery Point program participants in attendance at the rally.
“Addiction is a huge problem around here because so many people are stressed, depressed and financially unstable. If you’re hopelessly in debt, the last thing you can turn to is using substances to kill the pain, but killing the pain isn’t the same as solving the problem,” James Nicodemun, who has been in recovery for over a year, said.
Lezlie Henderson, a former Recovery Point program participant and current case worker at Harmony House, said while her addiction was likely a product of her parents suffering from addiction and her being prescribed too many pain pills following a four-wheeling accident in 2008, mental health issues resulting from rampant trauma are a significant factor as well.
“Sometimes the trauma is so bad you can’t face it anymore. You feel like you have to get high to not feel that pain for a while. I never thought it was possible to get clean, but now I know that’s ridiculous because I’ve recovered myself,” Henderson said. “I thought it was impossible for me to have a normal life, you know—go to work, come home, spend time with my family and take care of my kids. But look around out here today. There are hundreds of people out here right now who have been in the same place and have recovered from it, too.”
Henderson said it is important to share the stories of those who have successfully recovered from addiction because plenty of people, especially those suffering, still believe recovering is impossible.
“Believe it or not, people out here living that life don’t know about recovery. I didn’t know about recovery until I went to jail, and they made me choose between recovery or going behind bars,” Henderson said. “Thank God I chose recovery, or I never would have found out who I really was. I was stuck in that life, but recovery is always possible.”
Dickerson, Nicodemun and Henderson each expressed their gratitude toward Recovery Point’s addiction recovery programs for always helping them along their journeys to sustained sobriety.
“Recovery Point teaches you how to re-learn basic life skills, because, believe it or not, as an addict, you forget,” Dickerson said. “You forget how to pay bills; you forget how to interact with your wife and children. They teach you all these things.”
Dickerson said Recovery Point also helps its program participants find potential job opportunities for themselves. He said he would like to find work helping others suffering from addiction after graduating from Marshall University, where he plans to begin later this month studying addiction and substance abuse.
Even if people who do not believe recovery is possible would feign compassion toward those feeling lost, hopeless, abandoned and alone suffering from addiction, their caring could help save many peoples’ lives, Dickerson said.
“These programs save lives. Do not give up on our people. Just because we’ve been down-and-out doesn’t mean we have to stay that way,” he said. “All we need is a helping hand, not a handout, because we’re really dying out here. This isn’t a game; we are dying.”
Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected]