CHESTER — September is observed as National Recovery Month. On Saturday evening, Sept. 10, Kent Island United Methodist Church’s Celebrate Recovery program hosted a Lights of Hope meeting, attempting to enlighten the public about hardships of drug and alcohol addictions and the challenges to overcome them.

The Lights of Hope session was organized by The Addict’s Mom local volunteer administrator Barb Hunter.

She boldly said, “Incarceration is not the answer!”

As a parent with a family member who is a recovering addict, she added, “When my relative was incarcerated, he did nothing while he was locked up. He just sat there. They had no treatment, no education, no rehabilitation for him while he was locked up, nothing.”

She said she didn’t mean incarceration shouldn’t be a step in the recovery process, however, “just locking people up isn’t a cure.”

Lights of Hope is an attempt to put a national spotlight on addictions, particularly heroin, which has been an epidemic ravaging the nation the past several years.

“This is not the same heroin that was distributed 20 years ago,” Hunter said. “It’s now laced with other things that can kill people with the very first use,” and in many cases that’s what’s happening.

Eight different speakers addressed the audience: Sally Eisel, Lorelie Rozzano, Anna Fox, Maureen Fitzpatrick, Alan H. Anthony, Dr. Gary Sprouse, Ms. Lou Diviney, and Joseph “Joe Brat” McBratney. The event was held outside on the front lawn of the church. Each speaker shared personal experiences from either their own addictions or as parents of children who had been addicted.

Lorelie Rozzano was the first to speak at length about how she became addicted and how heroin addiction changed her from a child who once dreamed of becoming a loving mother to a person who was totally self-absorbed and blaming the world for her own self-inflicted problems from drug abuse.

“I couldn’t stop,” she said. “Logic was not part of the equation for me to break the habit.”

She added, “I began drinking and smoking pot when I was 13.”

She said she came from a home with an alcoholic parent. While many addicts may have above average IQ’s, that doesn’t help the problem when you’re addicted, she added.

“Mine is not an unusual story,” Rozzano said.”Heroin doesn’t care what your problems are, and the problem isn’t going to stop for any addict until you decide ‘I’m ready to make it stop’ — and that can’t happen alone.”

Anna Fox said, “Heroin changed me. I stole from my parents to feed my addiction.”

“I shared with my best friend her first line of heroin,” she said. “One month later, my friend was dead. We went to her funeral, and immediately afterwards, used her death as an excuse to use more heroin. I felt helpless. When I told my parents I needed help, they didn’t know what to do.”

Eventually, Fox was arrested. Through much effort and a number of programs, one being the Celebrate Recovery program at KIUMC that meets every Wednesday evening at 7 p.m., Anna has been clean for the past 10 years. But, she said, “A small piece of me has an addict’s mentality. When I came here to the church, I was a mess. I’m grateful for Celebrate Recovery.”

Several parents spoke about the nightmare of dealing with their children’s addictions, including stories of children who died. A common theme among the parents was the use of what’s called “tough love.” Addicts develop a “don’t care attitude” about anything except feeding and preserving their addictions, they said.

One speaker said, “Tough love is still love! If you discover drugs in your child’s room, call the police and tell the child, don’t call me for anything until you’ve completed rehab, and then after you’ve completed it, call and tell me you’re ready to come home”. If that sounds tough, it’s much more difficult to be told your child is dead from overdosing on heroin.”

Dr. Gary Sprouse mentioned a number of his patients discuss their drug addictions with him personally. He did not mention anyone’s name, but quoted an alarming statistic, “Only about 20 percent of all addicts who go through rehab, actually succeed the first go through. I don’t think we’re looking at addictions the right way.” He referred to addictions coming about from stress and using a drug as an attempt to deal with that stress.

The final speaker, Joe McBratney, who flew in from New York, said, “If you know someone who is using drugs, don’t give them a choice about getting treatment. Don’t listen to them say ‘I’ll go after the weekend, I just want to get high one more time’ — Have you ever heard someone say that? If you do that, they’ll probably be dead. Giving them a choice is like asking a full-grown tree to relocate on the other side of a parking lot — it isn’t going to happen. Remember actor Carroll O’Connor, played Archie Bunker? His grown son died from drug addiction. O’Connor said, ‘Do whatever you have to do to get between your child and drugs!’ Call 911, and tell your child you’ll come and get them after they’ve completed rehab.”

Hunter said, “We need to let people, especially parents, know there is help out here. Many people are simply unaware what to do or where to go. People are ashamed, but that’s not going to stop the problem. We just lost another local girl last weekend who overdosed. Get out of the shadows and do something.”

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