Opportunity binge

Recovery works for everyone | Newberry Observer

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Even the brave can struggle. Britton, a U.S. Army Veteran, began taking opioids prescribed by his doctor at age 19 after sustaining a severe shoulder injury while serving in the Army.

“One day you’re serving in the military. [Then] You come home, and you’re dealing with an injury,” he shared.

By age 22, Britton struggled with opioid use disorder, which was compounded by his wife’s substance use disorder and his relationships with fellow veterans who misused prescription opioids. During the 11 years that Britton battled opioid use disorder, he separated from his wife, who ultimately passed away due to complications from her drug use, and lost custody of his children.

“My opioid misuse and need got so strong,” he said. “Addiction is hard.”

In 2018, Britton was arrested, jailed, and referred to the justice system. He credits his structured therapy program with helping him get into and stay in recovery. Britton is now re-married, raising his children, and aspiring to accomplish his personal and professional goals. Britton hopes that his story can help illustrate the fact that opioid addiction can happen to anyone. He wants others facing this disease to know that help is out there and that there is a “light is at the end of the tunnel.”

“You have to reach out for help. The recovery side of it is amazing. You get to a place where you’re proud of yourself again.”

Britton’s story could play out in anyone’s life. An injury leads to use of painkillers. Painkillers lead to addiction.

Or maybe it’s recreational use that requires increasing dosages to get the “high.” And then comes the addiction.

And addiction, like Britton said, is hard. It’s hard to overcome, but it’s also hard to live with. Addiction destroys dreams, ruins careers, breaks families, and kills. The consequences of addiction have been amplified during this pandemic.

While Britton’s story isn’t local, stories like his are. Problems associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs affect all of Newberry’s people. They cross all social and geographic boundaries, extending from Little Mountain to Chappells to Kinards to Whitmire. These problems impact people of all ages and both genders, as well as from all ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.

The month of September is observed as National Recovery Month.

This year’s theme, “Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community” reminds people in recovery and those who support them, that recovery belongs to all of us. We are all called to end gatekeeping and welcome everyone to recovery by lowering barriers to recovery support, creating inclusive spaces and programs, and broadening our understanding of what recovery means for people with different experiences.

The month gives us the opportunity to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, build a strong and proud recovery community, and acknowledge service providers and community members across the county who make recovery in all its forms possible.

As part of Recovery Month, Westview is holding several events to help underscore the importance of recovery from Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in our community. Mental health and substance use disorders and the societal benefits of recovery must be addressed immediately, both for the individual’s sake and for our community’s sake.

To promote the widespread national observance, Westview has led recovery events throughout the month, which featured guest speakers and was intended to support people in recovery and draw attention to critical prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. One final event is an Interactive Recovery Walk on September 29 at 5:30 p.m. in Westview’s office, 800 Main Street, Newberry.

“It is critical that people experiencing mental health and substance use disorders receive the support they need,” said Jill Longshore, director of treatment services at Westview. “The reality is that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.”

In 2020, data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed that the ratio of citizens to mental health and substance abuse counselors in Newberry was three times the rate of the state. Couple that with the data from the State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup that shows Newberry among the highest in the state for its rates of binge drinking among adults and DUI crashes.

“It is important that the momentum we’ve established throughout this month is carried over to tomorrow, and the next day, week, and year,” said Ashleigh Thompson, peer support specialist at Westview. “We all have the potential to make a difference and be visible, vocal, and valuable to help spread the message that recovery is possible.”

Hugh Gray is the executive director at Westview Behavioral Health Services and can be reached at 803-276-5690.

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