Public session shares stories of addiction

WVWC group working with Opportunity House

The Inter-Mountain photo by Sarah Goodrich Randall Brown, recovery coach for Opportunity House, listens as 12 participants openly discuss their individual struggles and experiences with addiction during a community event in Buckhannon.

BUCKHANNON — To spread awareness and break the stigma associated with substance abuse, Opportunity House and West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Enactus Team joined together recently to present a powerful production for students and community members.

Buckhannon Mayor David McCauley greeted attendees to the event, which took place Thursday and featured 12 participants who shared personal, first-hand accounts of struggles with addiction.

“Our community has not been immune from the scourge of the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our nation,” McCauley said. “We have lost many of our residents to drug overdose, and many more battle through addictions daily.”

As someone who is living in long-term recovery and serves as executive director for Opportunity House, Matt Kerner said recovery has “taken the darkest parts of my life and turned them into my greatest assets.”

Kerner discussed one of the sad truths associated with addiction.

“There is a tragic shortage of treatment and recovery services available in our a state. It’s a national problem, but it’s (particularly) severe in our state,” he said. “We feel that a large part of that is because addiction is a shame-based disease.”

He added there are large hurdles facing proper funding for addiction programs, and it’s discouraging that some people think it is a struggling addict’s personal choice to live in addiction.

“Those of us here know that that’s not the case. No one chose this life,” he said before the open session began. “But that’s not the perception to the larger community.”

Kerner stated, “Up until now, we didn’t have much of a voice because of the shame and guilt associated with addictions. We’ve hidden behind the anonymity of a 12-step program, and we’ve allowed shame and guilt to keep us from reaching out and helping other people, because we didn’t want to get identified as one of those people, and that is starting to change.”

During the event, Lacey, Debbie, Lee Lee, Michele, Leroy, Ryan, Chris, Andrew, James, Scott, Clay and Bronson bravely and candidly discussed their individual struggles with addiction.

Randall Brown, referred to as the “best recovery coach” by Kerner, facilitated the open recovery-based meeting.

Brown’s recovery sessions, which take place three times a week at the Opportunity House, focus on manipulation, irresponsibility, apathetic attitude and low or high self-esteem.

During the public session, Brown asked each participant sensitive questions regarding the “fun” acquired during the beginning of using drugs and/or alcohol, and the problems that followed during the battle of addiction.

The idea for a public session was based on bringing more community awareness of addiction. WVWC’s Enactus team “listens in” on what is typically a private session once a week, and team members provide those in the Opportunity House tips on resume writing, building credit and budgeting.

“We sit in on some of the ends of these (meetings), and so we felt that other people should be able to hear some of this and how great it would be if they could,” explained Dr. Tracie Dodson, associate professor of business.

For Brown, the main purpose of opening a recovery session to students and community members is to bring awareness to addiction.

Dodson agreed, and said, “Our mission for this is very simple as well, we just want to be able to share.”

Sam Brody, president of WVWC’s Enactus team, said the open meeting is a way for community members and Wesleyan students to learn about the options available Opportunity House and the purpose of the organization.

Because the session was not formulated like AA or Celebrate Recovery, Brown said attendees got a “snapshot of what we discuss” during Opportunity House sessions.