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.
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.
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.
This blog was written by Shelby Locke, MDC’s Media Relations Intern
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.
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.
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.
If you are selling your home, you are probably planning an open house with your realtor. Many people take precautions when strangers enter their homes by locking up their jewelry and other expensive items, but what about your prescription drugs? People in addiction and dealers commonly target open houses in order to steal prescription drugs.
As the prescription drug epidemic continues to grow, drug dealers and people in active addiction are looking for more easily accessible resources to obtain drugs. Some of these drugs can exceed $50 per pill on the streets, so obtaining drugs for free can create a large profit for dealers. It’s important to talk to your realtor and discuss a plan to safeguard your home during public or private showings. Here are some tips for avoiding drug theft in your home:
Store your prescription drugs in a safe or other secure location. Bathroom drawers, medicine cabinets and bedside tables are places that drug thieves will often look first.
Pay attention to those in your home. Realtors can provide a sign-in sheet to collect contact information.
Never show your home alone. Show your home with two or more people to keep you and your guests safe.
Communicate with your realtor anytime anyone enters your home for a showing.
Contact the police immediately to report a theft from your home.
In addition to these tips, MDC advises any homeowner to properly dispose of expired or unused drugs properly. Doing so can prevent these thefts from occurring. Medication take back events in the area are frequently posted on our website, and a 24/7, permanent dropbox is located in the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building (800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave.).
You have probably already heard your teen complain of boredom as the summer drags on. With so much free time on their hands, teens become likely to experiment with new friends and activities. It should come to no surprise that teens tend to use alcohol and other drugs more during the summer with more free time; however, there are some statistics about teen substance abuse in the summer that may surprise you.
During an average day in June or July, more than 5,000 teens smoke cigarettes for the first time, over 11,000 teens try alcohol and another 4,500 tried smoking marijuana (US News).
It is important to ensure you are having active conversations with your teen about drug and alcohol use. Your teen is probably more aware about alcohol and drugs than you think. Overall, 90 percent of Americans with substance abuse problems started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18 (Above the Influence). As parents, you should build relationships with your children on trust, but you also must be sure you have created preventative measures so that substances cannot be abused in your home. Lock up alcohol and medicine cabinets, and keep count of all prescriptions and alcohol in your home.
Make sure your child is involved in activities this summer. Children are at a higher risk of experimenting with drugs and alcohol if they are at home alone all day. Whenever your child is unsupervised, check in occasionally to confirm their whereabouts and activities.
Lastly, be aware of what you are doing in front of your teens. The legal drinking age is 21 because the brains on teenagers are not developed enough to make rational decisions. Children will mimic what their parents are doing, so be a positive role model to your children.
In early 2014, the Fetal Assault Law was enacted despite heavy opposition from the medical field. Under the law, women who gave birth to a baby that was harmed or born dependent on drugs due to the illegal use of narcotics could be charged with aggravated assault. These charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years. On July 1, 2016, we are pleased to announce that it will finally sunset, and women can no longer be charged.
This law was not as effective in treating this issue as lawmakers originally thought. One issue was that it failed to assist opioid addicted pregnant women in finding treatment. These facilities are hard to find because of the increased liability in treating a health issue with little research as well as lack of beds available. Additionally, this law discouraged many women from obtaining the prenatal care that they desperately needed, and encouraged some to do things such as, deliver babies at home or in other states, possible abortions and more just to avoid jail time.
Under this law, an estimated 100 women were arrested. In the documentary, Reaching Recovery, the issues of this law are discussed. Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin explains in the film how he sees these women that are too scared to seek treatment.
“I am really tired of taking little babies away from their mothers, and destroying that bond that can never be recreated,” Judge Irwin says.
The film discusses how overall, it is difficult to find facilities that will take these women due to a shortage of space and lack of insurance.
Lawmakers attempted to extend the law past the sunset date; however, there were not enough votes for it to pass. Most importantly, we want to emphasize to the community that women cannot be charged after July 1. Women who are using drugs during pregnancy should be actively seeking prenatal care and treatment immediately, and they can now do so without the fear of being arrested.
For more information about NAS and the dangers of using drugs during pregnancy, visit borndrugfreetn.com. If you are looking for help, call the Tennessee Redline at 1-800-889-9789.
Mark your calendars! MDC has several events this week open to the community:
On Tuesday, June 21, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy will be coming to Knoxville to speak with community leaders and visit Behavioral Health Group to discuss the opioid epidemic. This event is a part of a tour that Dr. Murthy has been doing in various cities across the country. On Tuesday, June 21 from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. there will be a Community Town Hall at the Knox County Health Department – 140 Dameron Ave. Dr. Murthy will be discussing the opioid epidemic as well as various other health topics facing our nation. A portion of the Town Hall will be allotted for questions from the audience. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., so come early to reserve your seat!
MDC will be hosting our first faith-based luncheon on Thursday, June 23 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the South Knoxville Community Center. Church leaders from the South Knoxville region will become educated about MDC, the work that we are doing in the community and the scope of the substance abuse epidemic in East Tennessee. In addition, church leaders will be able to collaborate with each other about what they have done and what they can continue to do with their congregations moving forward. Next quarter, we will be hosting a faith-based luncheon for East Knoxville church leaders. For questions or more information, contact Aly Taylor at gro.g1474762376urdor1474762376tem@r1474762376olyat1474762376a1474762376.
If you missed out on our last medication collection event, there will be another event this Saturday, June 25 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Food City in Fountain City – 4805 North Broadway. Bring any old, unused or expired medications you may have in your home to the event. MDC continues to reiterate the importance of proper disposal of your drugs for the safety of those in your home and those entering your home. If you cannot make this medication collection event, there is a permanent drop box located just inside the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building – 800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave. This location is open 24/7.
MDC is excited to be hosting these events and continuing to share our mission with the community. We hope to see everyone at our events this week!