MDC Receives Phase Two of Trinity Foundation Grant

As our nation continues to seek solutions to the prescription drug abuse epidemic, Tennessee is disproportionately shouldering the effects of this rampant problem. Our state has the second-highest opioid prescribing rate in the nation, and, consequently, more than 69,000 Tennesseans struggle with addiction. Tragically, this number includes pregnant women, giving rise to alarming rates of babies born suffering from withdrawal symptoms, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

According to the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) in 2015, 986 babies were born drug dependent. Of those babies, 116 were from Knox County and were diagnosed with NAS. Currently, it costs an estimated $67,000 to stabilize one TennCare newborn baby withdrawing from in utero drug exposure. To put this in perspective, that is 15 times more than the cost of a healthy birth, estimated at $4,200. In 2014 alone, NAS cost the state more than $51 million (TDH). Data shows that infants born with NAS are 18% more likely to be in child protective custody at some point in their first year of life compared to other TennCare infants at 1% . Not only is the economic impact substantial, but the consequences of opiate addiction for new mothers and their infants are devastating.

The withdrawal process, while hard for adults, is horrific for a NAS baby. They are inconsolable, writhing in pain from sensitivity to light, sound, touch and gastrointestinal cramps. It would be easy to condemn these women for the suffering of their children, but it is imperative that we approach addiction for what it is – a chronic, relapsing disease that requires comprehensive, collaborative treatment.

Too many mothers, especially in East Tennessee – the state’s epicenter for opioid abuse – are falling through the cracks. While we have some treatment facilities that will work with pregnant women, space is very limited, and no one is attempting to reach this demographic the way we intend to. Recently MDC was award Phase II from the Trinity Foundation. With the help of these funds, MDC’s mentoring program will be able walk beside these mothers and provide them the social, emotional and educational support they so desperately need.

As a pregnant, drug-addicted mother, these women are among our community’s most vulnerable. They are at-risk of persecution, judgement and shame. The addicted mothers of these babies are in need of a helping hand to guide them through the first year of life. Metro Drug Coalition (MDC) recognizes a gap in resources to support these mothers and babies. MDC has developed a comprehensive one-on-one mentoring program for first time mothers (mentees) in addiction treatment and/or recovery. The mentees will be matched with other mothers, (mentors) who are stable in their recovery journey, to help them navigate the challenges of maintaining sobriety while parenting a NAS baby. Mentors will commit to a minimum monthly contact with their mentee for a one-year period. The advisory board will consist of Renaissance Preferred Prenatal Outcomes Network, Susannah’s House and Helen Ross McNabb Center’s Great Starts Program. They will provide assistance with training, referrals and evaluation for the Hands of Hope program. MDC’s goal at the end of the commitment period: mentees will have maintained sobriety, created a healthy home environment for their family and be an engaged mother.Hands of Hope Vertical

Just What is Addiction Medicine?

This week we are thankful to have a guest blogger, Mark A. McGrail, M.D., Director of Addiction Medicine, Cherokee Health Systems. 

Addiction Medicine is the specialty of medicine that is focused on treating patients who suffer from the disease of addiction. While that description may sound very limited, treating the disease of addiction means treating everything about the disease. This includes treatment that specifically targets the person’s addiction, such as using methadone or buprenorphine in the treatment of opioid addiction, but also includes addressing and treating the medical and psychological conditions that often accompany addiction and those that affect, or are affected by, addiction. Not only are the targets of addiction treatment broad, so are the types of treatment. Forms of treatment include psychological therapy and counseling; social interventions such as obtaining safe, stable housing and transportation for medical appointments; participation in mutual and self-help groups (for example, Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery); and medications for certain addictive diseases as well as for medical and psychological conditions that may also be present. Every person who suffers from addiction is a unique individual; therefore, treatment for that person is also unique. The practice of Addiction Medicine means developing a treatment plan that is right for that individual and is the product of an honest and trusting partnership between the patient and the treatment team. Addiction Medicine treats the whole person, mind and body.

In 1849, a Swedish physician named Magnus Huss wrote this about alcoholism: “These symptoms are formed in such a particular way that they form a disease group in themselves and thus merit being designated and described as a definite disease….” Despite being written nearly 200 years ago, considering alcoholism and other addictions as diseases has not always been the case. Even today, some people consider addiction nothing more than a weakness or character flaw; if an addicted person wanted to stop using alcohol and/or other drugs, he or she should just simply stop. Thankfully, we now fully understand that is not the truth – just ask anyone who suffers from addiction. Over the last fifty years, extensive research has dramatically improved our knowledge of the complex interaction between genetics, biology, and environment in the development of addiction. We now confidently define addiction as a chronic brain disease that has periods of remission and relapse, and is a disease much like other diseases with which people may be more familiar. For example, many people know that diabetes is a chronic disease that is affected by genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors just like addiction. Diabetes is best treated with behavioral therapy to support lifestyle changes that lead to increasing exercise and weight loss and with medications like insulin; behavioral therapy and medications are also the standards of care for treating addiction. As we have specialists who treat diabetes and all of the conditions that go with it, we also have addiction medicine specialists who provide that same level of comprehensive care to the patient with addiction.

Every patient who suffers from addiction is entitled to compassionate and professional care delivered by a team of expert healthcare providers and Addiction Medicine provides that care. If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, talk to your healthcare provider about finding the right care for this treatable chronic disease.

How A Ray of Sunshine Saved My Life

All this month, MDC will be sharing different individual’s journey in recovery for National Recovery Month. This week, Meghan Denney, shares her journey. Thank you, Meghan, for sharing and all you to do help those in addiction and recovery.

My name is Meghan Denney, I was born and raised here in Knoxville. I grew up a lot like other kids, I went to Farragut from Kindergarten through high school. High school is when things started to get really rocky for me. This was when I sought out to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Never in a million years having any idea where it would all lead me. By the time that I turned 17, I was going to a doctor that I knew prescribed pain pills. He wrote me Oxycontin that very first visit, along with 4 other narcotics. I had been searching for ease and comfort inside my own skin ever since I was young when I started feeling like I did not belong. Immediately after using I felt this belonging. Pain pills were an instant “cure all.” By the time I was in my first year of college it was clear that I had a habit to say the least. During that same year I was invited to be a part of the Debutante Ball. I can remember noticing then how much weight I had lost when I got fitted for my gown. I went to the actual ball high, never to suspect that this same girl was going to end up a heroin junkie. I say all this to emphasize that this is happening to everyone, everyplace. Not just the poor or under privileged. Addiction doesn’t care how much money your family has. It’ll take anyone.

The doctor visits continued for the next ten years. My life had become completely unmanageable. Along the way, I had gotten married to the man that I am still married to today. He had sold drugs before I met him and I was definitely on board. This only led to a greater addiction and more destruction. The darkness left us feeling that there was no way out.

I tried a lot of ways to get clean. Treatment centers, detox after detox, doctors, clinics, methadone, suboxone, and every other plan that I could come up with. Nothing ever worked for long term. Even in sobriety I was miserable. I remember thinking that this cannot be it. If this is sobriety, that I don’t want it. Not for any reason or facing any consequence. I would rather die than be locked inside my own head for one minute more. It was a living hell. I couldn’t use and be happy and I couldn’t live clean either. I cause so much destruction and pain to my family and people that cared about me that I had a hard time living with that too. We lost our children, which is my deepest heart wrenching regret. I would have easily died for our kids, but absolutely could not get sober for them. This is the insanity of the disease of addiction.

Years passed, and I was in and out of jail and institutions. Then I found myself pregnant again and I was in jail, detoxing cold turkey and laying on the floor of Knox county jail. As l look back on this time in my life I am so grateful for my time in jail.

It led me to the desperation that I needed in order for the miracle to happen. I will never forget this. A ray of sunshine came through my window just at the same time that I was looking into the mirror, unable to recognize the little girl that I was- filled with hatred for myself and my life, who I had become, I wanted to die. That’s when I got down on my knees and let that light touch my face. Before God, in prayer, I begged him while I wept to help me. Begging with him to either please just let me die or take this addiction from me. Giving up was a critical step for me. God came into my heart that day, it was not a flash of light and I was better moment, but hope had come into my heart. It was the beginning of a beautiful journey filled with his grace and mercy.

I had been given the gift of desperation; I was willing to try anything other than this. God set in motion a series of events that led me to Susannah’s House after my release. I want ordered to do this, I did it on my own.

At Susannah’s House, I was surrounded by love and support. I was in groups that God was not only welcome, but encouraged. This was something that I still wasn’t sure of at first. I was convinced yet. I felt like I had done way too much damage to my relationship with God to repair. These women gently kept nudging at that and the doors of my heart flew open. I just knew I needed to work on my spiritual condition. I wanted to. During a one on one session, with my therapist, she looked straight into my eyes and my heart and told me that Jesus loves me, he loves me just as I am-broken- and he forgives me. I needed to hear that at that moment, little by little I started to believe it. It wasn’t long after this that I dedicated my life to God during my baptism at Celebrate Recovery. This was one of my first spiritual experiences that I’ve had since I dedicated my life to a higher power- Jesus Christ. I’ve done a lot of work to try to heal and feel whole again. I believe for me I had to be honest with myself and deal with some things that I just didn’t want to even take a peek at, but I did. Also for me, my experience has been this recovery thing, is mind, body, and spirit. I have to address all of them.

I am an active participant in a fellowship of people who are just like me. Combining Susannah’s house and the twelve step fellowship of men and women that have done the work outlined in the big book, uncut and unedited which has taught me how to live a different type of life, it has taught me how to live again all together. Helping others that are still suffering is my mission now. Recovery touches every area of my life. Recovery looks like helping the stranger load their groceries in their car when it’s raining. It looks like being a better wife, a better mother, and getting away from thinking about myself. Recovery, for me, looks like being a better person every single day. Recovery looks like a new way to live, and my experience has been that this new way of living feels like I am awake again. I’m not having to be miserable sober. If I’m not doing the work and actually working a program, then for me just being sober doesn’t work. I become miserable again.

It is only because of God’s mercy and grace. He deserves all the credit. I believe with all of my heart that these amazing women at Susannah’s house were put in my life at exactly the right moment in time, without them I really don’t know if I would still be on this planet. Without the women of my fellowship I don’t know if I would’ve made it. Today I am free and happy. I can hold my head high. Today I live my life and I love hard. I give freely of what has been given to me. I just want to carry the message of hope to those still suffering from any kind of addiction.

How A Ray Of Sunshine Saved My Life

All this month, MDC will be sharing different individual’s journey in recovery for National Recovery Month. This week, Meghan Denney, shares her journey. Thank you, Meghan, for sharing and all you to do help those in addiction and recovery.

My name is Meghan Denney, I was born and raised here in Knoxville. I grew up a lot like other kids, I went to Farragut from Kindergarten through high school. High school is when things started to get really rocky for me. This was when I sought out to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Never in a million years having any idea where it would all lead me. By the time that I turned 17, I was going to a doctor that I knew prescribed pain pills. He wrote me Oxycontin that very first visit, along with 4 other narcotics. I had been searching for ease and comfort inside my own skin ever since I was young when I started feeling like I did not belong. Immediately after using I felt this belonging. Pain pills were an instant “cure all.” By the time I was in my first year of college it was clear that I had a habit to say the least. During that same year I was invited to be a part of the Debutante Ball. I can remember noticing then how much weight I had lost when I got fitted for my gown. I went to the actual ball high, never to suspect that this same girl was going to end up a heroin junkie. I say all this to emphasize that this is happening to everyone, everyplace. Not just the poor or under privileged. Addiction doesn’t care how much money your family has. It’ll take anyone.

The doctor visits continued for the next ten years. My life had become completely unmanageable. Along the way, I had gotten married to the man that I am still married to today. He had sold drugs before I met him and I was definitely on board. This only led to a greater addiction and more destruction. The darkness left us feeling that there was no way out.

I tried a lot of ways to get clean. Treatment centers, detox after detox, doctors, clinics, methadone, suboxone, and every other plan that I could come up with. Nothing ever worked for long term. Even in sobriety I was miserable. I remember thinking that this cannot be it. If this is sobriety, that I don’t want it. Not for any reason or facing any consequence. I would rather die than be locked inside my own head for one minute more. It was a living hell. I couldn’t use and be happy and I couldn’t live clean either. I cause so much destruction and pain to my family and people that cared about me that I had a hard time living with that too. We lost our children, which is my deepest heart wrenching regret. I would have easily died for our kids, but absolutely could not get sober for them. This is the insanity of the disease of addiction.

Years passed, and I was in and out of jail and institutions. Then I found myself pregnant again and I was in jail, detoxing cold turkey and laying on the floor of Knox county jail. As l look back on this time in my life I am so grateful for my time in jail.

It led me to the desperation that I needed in order for the miracle to happen. I will never forget this. A ray of sunshine came through my window just at the same time that I was looking into the mirror, unable to recognize the little girl that I was- filled with hatred for myself and my life, who I had become, I wanted to die. That’s when I got down on my knees and let that light touch my face. Before God, in prayer, I begged him while I wept to help me. Begging with him to either please just let me die or take this addiction from me. Giving up was a critical step for me. God came into my heart that day, it was not a flash of light and I was better moment, but hope had come into my heart. It was the beginning of a beautiful journey filled with his grace and mercy.

I had been given the gift of desperation; I was willing to try anything other than this. God set in motion a series of events that led me to Susannah’s House after my release. I want ordered to do this, I did it on my own.

At Susannah’s House, I was surrounded by love and support. I was in groups that God was not only welcome, but encouraged. This was something that I still wasn’t sure of at first. I was convinced yet. I felt like I had done way too much damage to my relationship with God to repair. These women gently kept nudging at that and the doors of my heart flew open. I just knew I needed to work on my spiritual condition. I wanted to. During a one on one session, with my therapist, she looked straight into my eyes and my heart and told me that Jesus loves me, he loves me just as I am-broken- and he forgives me. I needed to hear that at that moment, little by little I started to believe it. It wasn’t long after this that I dedicated my life to God during my baptism at Celebrate Recovery. This was one of my first spiritual experiences that I’ve had since I dedicated my life to a higher power- Jesus Christ. I’ve done a lot of work to try to heal and feel whole again. I believe for me I had to be honest with myself and deal with some things that I just didn’t want to even take a peek at, but I did. Also for me, my experience has been this recovery thing, is mind, body, and spirit. I have to address all of them.

I am an active participant in a fellowship of people who are just like me. Combining Susannah’s house and the twelve step fellowship of men and women that have done the work outlined in the big book, uncut and unedited which has taught me how to live a different type of life, it has taught me how to live again all together. Helping others that are still suffering is my mission now. Recovery touches every area of my life. Recovery looks like helping the stranger load their groceries in their car when it’s raining. It looks like being a better wife, a better mother, and getting away from thinking about myself. Recovery, for me, looks like being a better person every single day. Recovery looks like a new way to live, and my experience has been that this new way of living feels like I am awake again. I’m not having to be miserable sober. If I’m not doing the work and actually working a program, then for me just being sober doesn’t work. I become miserable again.

It is only because of God’s mercy and grace. He deserves all the credit. I believe with all of my heart that these amazing women at Susannah’s house were put in my life at exactly the right moment in time, without them I really don’t know if I would still be on this planet. Without the women of my fellowship I don’t know if I would’ve made it. Today I am free and happy. I can hold my head high. Today I live my life and I love hard. I give freely of what has been given to me. I just want to carry the message of hope to those still suffering from any kind of addiction.

Step One: Admitting I Am Powerless Over My Addiction

All this month, MDC will be sharing different individual’s journey in recovery for National Recovery Month. This week, Desiree Bowers, shares her journey. Thank you Desiree for sharing and all you to do help those in addiction and recovery.

How many times had I stated my name and was very reluctant in announcing my public secret, “I am Desiree, an addict” to a group of strangers, some whose appearance were vague in my memory. Several months in 1994 passed before I could honestly share my public secret from the pits of my soul and not just from my vocal cords. What a relief to finally participate in step one, part one. “Admitting I am powerless over my addiction.” Wow! This meant I had to own up to being a drug addict? Na, I just liked being numb. It was not until part two of step one, where I had to take a look at my life’s unmanageability. “Pay the rent or my drug of choice?” I take doc for $20 please. Now my mental tape is in rewind mode and I need to share with another addict who is in drug/life recovery, who is living sober. I can’t do this alone; this program was not meant for recovering addicts to do alone.

This monster (disease of addiction) crept like a thief in the night, a predator. I was not innocent. My soul was dancing, dancing in a very dark place. The year was 1980 the first time a glass pipe pressed between my lips while my breath inhaled the contents from it. I had no idea for the next almost 20 years of my life I would give in willingly to the monster. I tried many times not too engage in the dance, everywhere I went the monster was with me waiting on my cravings. And most of the time I would begin just where I left with much more intensity.

I have learned most of our stories are the same, for some the ending is different.

“I owe a Power Greater than myself my life and service today. There was a time I was lost. They sent a search party looking in the hall of respectability and could not find me there. Grace went down to the station of integrity and inquired about me. Grace stopped by the temple of piety and could not find me there. And then Grace went out to the streets of virtue, displayed my picture and nobody recognize me there. Grace concluded He was looking in all the wrong sections of town. He went across the tracks to the dreary ghettos, went down to the morning gardens, hung out with vagabonds, derelicts, and thugs, perverse prostitutes, and hoodlums and Grace found me lying on the streets beaten and bruised, robbed of my dignity, robbed of my pride, suffering from spiritual bankruptcy. It was His Love A Power Greater than myself that lifted me up.”

That night was September 17, 1994; however I celebrate my testimony and sobriety September 18, 1994.

I celebrate life every day I can live it for Him! Today I am a mother of 4 adult children, 4 grandchildren, I love my family and they love me. I have written 2 non fictions based on true stories. God has blessed me to soon open Chance House of East Tennessee Recovery Living for Women.

Prevention is a choice. The tools are positive people, places and things. “Drugs were not my problem; I learned I was my problem.” We have to learn techniques of problem solving without numbing ourselves with mind altering substances. We have to learn to deal with physical pain with the natural substances that is provided by mother earth. I remember sitting in a meeting one day a long, long time ago and I blurted out to the group, “ my man got me started doing drugs.” The counselor looked at me and asked, “Did he put a gun to your head?” I answered no. She then told me to sit back, listen and be quiet. I have always given thanks to her for that day in helping me to take ownership of my drug addiction, and my recovery.

Yours Truly,

Desiree Bowers

Recovery is…

All this month, MDC will be sharing different individual’s journey in recovery for National Recovery Month. This week, Webster Bailey, shares his journey. Thank you Webster for sharing and all you to do help those in addiction and recovery.

Early in my freshman year of high school, I began experimenting with alcohol and pot. My drug and alcohol use quickly became pretty regular and, as you might imagine, I ended up getting into trouble at school over it. My family used the opportunity to educate me about the risks of substance abuse. I remember my mom and dad emphasizing my family’s history with addiction – how my dad was an alcoholic, his dad was an alcoholic, and so on. Unfortunately for me (and my parents), I wasn’t able to grasp the point they were trying to make. What I heard them say was, “You are doing exactly what we expected you to… you are right on track. Keep up the good work!” What they meant was, “This type of behavior is even more dangerous for you than it is for others who don’t have a family history of addiction. You have to stop drinking and drugging now or you will for sure end up in a really bad spot someday because of your alcohol and drug use.” Looking back, it has become clear to me that my drug and alcohol use in high school, coupled with my family history of addiction, put me on a direct path toward destruction and full-blown drug addiction.

I was able to “hold things together” enough to graduate high school and I even went on to college. Because I was focused more on living the “college lifestyle”, it took me 6 years to graduate with a 4 year degree from the University of Tennessee. My focus during college was on partying. I was at the center of social circles, both on campus and off that emphasized the use of alcohol and drugs. I was a regular at many of the bars on Cumberland Avenue and I spent plenty of time in various fraternity houses on campus. My manipulation skills became sharpened and I learned that I would almost always get a decent grade as long as I went to class and got to know my professors. So, I made regular practice of getting to class a few minutes early and striking up small talk with my professors, I’d even go by to see them during office hours to further build the relationships. What they didn’t know was that I actually didn’t need extra help, I was using their goodwill and desire to helps others against them. I also built friendships with students that were committed to doing well in school and they would share study guides and other advantageous materials with me.  I don’t think I consciously knew what I was doing with these manipulative behaviors, I think they almost came natural to me. Like they were ingrained in me. Needless to say, I passed all but one of my classes at UT while completely addicted to drugs and alcohol.

From there, I entered the workforce and got a decent paying job and to the outside world, I seemed to be on the right track. Fast forward a bit, to 28 years old. I’d been hopelessly addicted to pain pills for close to 3 years at that point. I had to snort pills about every 4-5 hours to keep from going into withdrawal. I hated the way my drug use was controlling my life. In fact, I’d tried to stop using several times over the years without success. There were many times when that I remember crying while crushing up a pill because I didn’t want to use anymore, but I had to in order to not get physically sick. Eventually, I’d had enough. I showed up at my parent’s house one afternoon and told them what was going on with me. I told them that I couldn’t go on living that way any longer. They was shocked, but they also knew that something hadn’t been right for quite some time. So, in that sense, they were relieved that I came to them for help. They helped me find a treatment facility that could detox me safely and get me headed toward recovery from addiction.

The details of the beginning of my recovery are too long for this blog post, so I’ll skip over those and focus a bit on what recovery is and what has been like for me…

Recovery is about Action. Recovery is about Change. 

For me, recovery is about becoming the man that I believe God wants me to be, which is ultimately who I want to be. Recovery is about becoming the husband, the father, the brother, the son, and the friend that I always dreamed of being. In active addiction, I wanted the world, everything around me, to change.  I thought that I knew better than everyone else and I tried to fix everybody’s problems. I tried to tell everyone around me what they should be doing and how they could improve but, I never wanted to look at myself or at how I could improve. In recovery, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know what’s best for anyone else. I know now that I can’t change the outside world, I can only change me. And, I can only change me if I’m willing to recognize and accept my need for help from God and his children (other people). When I find myself unwilling to listen to the observations and suggestions of others, that’s a red flag for me. It lets me know that my mind and spirit are closed and I’m operating on self-will, not God’s will.

I came to understand in recovery that one of the major emotional stumbling blocks I had was low self-esteem. I had to learn how to accept myself and feel good about myself, without the use of drugs and alcohol. I needed to develop healthy self-confidence and self-esteem. In early recovery,  “getting clean” gave me a positive sense of self in needed. After a year or so, that feeling wore off and I had to do some more emotional work.  I had to learn how to “live clean”. I figured out the “garbage in, garbage out” rule. I had to change the music I listened to, the movies I watched, the books and magazines I read… literally everything about me had to be cleaned up, not just the drugs, they were “but a symptom”. I believe that, as an addict , my thinking is flawed, and if I’m not in touch with the reality of my disease, those flawed thoughts become the “normal thoughts” rather than the exception. So, that tells me that all of my actions and interests will either fuel my addiction or my fuel my recovery. I had become willing to change anything that might stand in my way. I wanted something new and wonderful out of life. Something told me, deep down, that recovery, and the new way of life I was discovering, would offer me everything I needed to be whole. It has. Recovery has already offered me more in 10 years than I could have ever imagined.

I’m now 10 years clean and sober and the richness and fullness of my life is beyond anything I thought possible. I am a husband, a father, a son, an employee, and a volunteer… I am proud of who I am.

I talk about my recovery nearly everywhere I go as a tool for prevention. I used to be very private about my recovery until I realized that I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. I am responsible for using my story as a tool to reach others who are struggling with substance abuse and give them hope for a better tomorrow. I believe that I am using my recovery to fuel the fire for recovery in others. I believe that by sharing openly, I may be preventing others from having to go as far as I did down the path of addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, talk about it. Ask for help. Don’t be ashamed. There is no shame in helping yourself or someone else.

Yours in Recovery,

Webster Bailey

September Marks National Recovery Month

Did you know that 23 million Americans are living in long-term recovery?

National Recovery Month (Recovery Month) is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life.

Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. The observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.

Addiction affects all walks of life, it does not discriminate. It’s our neighbors, friends, doctors, teachers, soccer moms…. people just like you. MDC is proudly joining the voices for recovery this month because this is OUR community.

Every Tuesday in September, MDC will be having guest bloggers sharing their journey in recovery. Stories can sometimes be a key factor in helping people start their journey. Make sure to check out our blogs each week to see what story is next!

MDC is also hosting a documentary screening of Generation Found on September 19 at West Town Mall, 7:30 pm. For more information on this film and where to purchase your tickets, please visit our Facebook event page at http://bit.ly/2cD0awd.

Are you interested in sharing your journey in recovery in our blog series this month? Please email Deborah Huddleston at *protected email* for more information.

For more information on Recovery Month and how you can get involved, visit recovery month.gov.

My Time at MDC: Shelby Locke

This blog was written by Shelby Locke, MDC’s Media Relations InternIMG_8521

I cannot believe that my internship with MDC has come to an end. After 12 short weeks, I am able to say that I have grown so much as a public relations professional and as a person with this wonderful group of people. I have gained more valuable experience in my time here than I would have ever imagined.

Upon starting my internship in May, I learned quickly that I was going to be treated and valued as part of the team. At first this was intimidating because I have never been allowed to work so independently, but in the end, it grew my work ethic and skills. During my time at MDC, I wrote blog posts and social media, helped with events and worked on many creative and promotional materials. During my last week, I had the opportunity to do an interview with Whitney Kent from Mom’s Everyday on a story I pitched about children and accidental drug overdoses. This project definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but once I was in the studio I became comfortable and confident in my abilities.

One of my favorite parts about this internship was getting to host the U.S. Surgeon General. I have seen events take place with important political personalities before, but I have never been able to work behind the scenes. Getting to sit up front, live tweet the event and meet the Surgeon General was an experience that I may have never be able to do if it weren’t for MDC!

In addition to developing better skills in public relations, I have learned so much about the scope of the drug epidemic in the U.S., and, more specifically, East Tennessee. Going into my next internship, which is another non-profit focused on behavioral health, I feel so much more confident because all of the things I have learned at MDC. More than anything, I am so appreciative of the relationships I have formed with everyone here. I am truly blessed to have worked with such a loving and hard-working group of people.

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Making the Right Call for Student Athletes

Michael Phelps, Johnny Manziel and Lamar Odum are a few of the athletes in professional sports whose careers and lives were tainted by the grips of substance abuse. Many people might think it was the fame, glory or pressure of the game that led these athletes to abuse drugs; however, the prescription drug epidemic is affecting more than just the elite population. The nation’s youth is heavily affected by substance abuse. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids states that there are nearly 2 million adolescents in need of help with a drug problem. According to a survey of students, young athletes are even more likely to abuse drugs.

Of all substances, prescription painkillers were among the most highly abused drugs by student athletes. Many addictions begin unintentionally and stem from medications prescribed for sport-related injuries. The stressors of high school sports have intensified over the years, and many athletes feel pressured to bounce back quickly from an injury. Because of this, some teens will abuse their prescriptions to mask the pain and get back in the game.

Parents should be involved in the academic and athletic lives of their children. It is imperative that parents remain active in the recovery in any injury their teen may encounter, especially sports. Monitoring medication intake and attending doctor’s visits with teens are some of the ways to combat substance abuse early on.

For more information about the warning signs of drug abuse among teens, visit http://www.drugfree.org/the-parent-toolkit/.

Meet Them Where They Are

When parents ask both professionals and friends about what to do about their child who is struggling with addiction they often get the answer, “they have to hit rock bottom.” This means that you cut them off and wait until they see that their life has gotten so bad that the only way out is to ask for help. The idea of hitting rock bottom makes sense if the person you are dealing with has the ability to recognize where bottom is for them.

According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, though the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self-control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs. This means that for many, the brain has changed in such a way that making decisions about what is rock bottom might be impossible. Unfortunately many families, including ours, have learned the hard way that rock bottom for many not be living on the streets or catching diseases, but instead may be death.

Addiction has long been considered a personal choice and a moral failing. It was believed that a person can simply decide to stop using just as we can decide to stop any other bad habit. When my nephew died from his addiction and we shared about it publicly, many people said that his parents had simply failed to raise him right. They said that he made the choice to die.  Fortunately the science of addiction has advanced considerably in the last six years since then. As defined by the NIDA, “addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self-control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs.”

So why do we insist on the all or nothing treatment mentality? Why don’t we have that attitude with other treatable diseases with both genetic and behavioral traits? Why don’t we wait for those suffering with other chronic, treatable diseases to hit rock bottom? The answer is stigma. There is a stigma of shame and embarrassment attached to addiction. Many believe that people who become addicted deserve to wallow in their shame until they pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do the right thing. Many believe that we are better off letting people who are addicted die because they have no value in our society.

Fortunately, the stigma is beginning to fade as more families speak out about their losses to overdose; as more people speak out about their struggle with addiction; as more research is done; as more people openly celebrate their ongoing recovery, however they found it; as fewer parents say “not my kid” and accept that prevention is crucial; as we recognize that every human life deserves dignity and is worth saving.  We have to forget rock bottom, meet them where they are, and guide them, without judgement, back to the surface and the light of hope.

This article was written by Betsy Tant with Henry’s Fund.