September is Recovery Month and these thirty days are dedicated to celebrating people who are in recovery and also raising awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders.
Team members at a local treatment center, Aspire Counseling Services, are sharing their stories in hopes of reaching people in pain and help guide them towards recovery.
On August 17, 2018, program director at Aspire Counseling Services, Jessica Patterson-Bryd celebrated her seventh year in recovery. She says it's been a challenging journey since getting sober at 22-years-old. She says she kept her sobriety by putting the work in and is proud to be where she is today.
Patterson-Byrd was first exposed to alcohol when her mother would ask her at eight-years-old to make her screwdrivers, and she would take a sip before giving it to her mom. It wasn't until 12-years-old, when she really started to drink.
Patterson-Byrd still carries around her golden 24 hour recovery token. "To remind me that it's 24 hours at a time, to remind me that I don't have to worry about what's going on next week, or next month or next year, to just stay in the now and just get through these 24 hours," says Patterson-Byrd.
Another team member Evan Cason, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC-II, ICADC) celebrated his eight and half years in recovery. "I can't believe it's been eight and a half years; every day is a blessing," he said.
It's been a long journey for Carson. He says he started abusing alcohol at 12-years-old, "I would save up my lunch money and then go to the park and ask the homeless gentleman there to go buy alcohol. He would get us a 40 ounce of something and then we would drink until we passed out," said Carson.
"When I was 16, I remember walking around the street and saying 'wow I'm a drug addict,' I'm sticking a needle in my arm at 16 and I need drugs to function," said Carson.
"I knew I wanted help, but I didn't know how to ask my parents for help," said Carson.
Carson said he was looking for a family after being taken away from his parents by the state and says when he joined a gang the drug troubles followed. He shares a picture from the 90s with his friends, "I'm the only alive in the picture, even the person who took the picture is gone," said Carson "a lot of them were really good friends, and it's really sad, it takes, it'll keep taking loved ones from you."
Both Patterson-Byrd and Carson are dedicated to helping families and individuals struggling with addiction, especially teens and young adults. Since they both started drinking at age 12, they understand the importance to talk to youth about the risks.
"Kids are starting to drink younger and younger, for me I started drinking when I was 12, and that's been my experimentation began, and it only progressed. When I was 12 it was drinking and then taking things out of my parents' fridge, and then experimenting at school with some marijuana. Then when I got into high school, there was some cocaine use," said Patterson-Byrd.
"Alcohol and drugs are everywhere. It doesn't matter where you take your kids or what school you put them in, drugs are a part of our society," said Patterson-Byrd.
Patterson-Byrd, a mom of three, said the best way to talk to teens about drugs and alcohol is to talk about the risks, "and if you talk about those things it kind of takes the mysterious aspect out of it, and they're probably going to be a little less curious."
"Have an open communication with your kids, and delivery is super important how you communicate with them. Have a conversation they can participate in, verses lecturing them or accusing them, 'Have you ever done this?' or 'Do you have friends that do this?' kind of like an interrogation, they are going to shut down," she said.
Patterson-Bryd also says that it's essential to create a safe environment for open communication, "if my kids confided in me I would want them to know that they are not going to get in trouble."
"I know so many adolescents, and teens that are doing spice, heroin and pain pills and a lot of them I've talked to they want help, and they don't want to tell their parents they are doing the hard stuff, instead of smoking weed. They don't want to feel judged or ashamed, and on the flip side they probably don't know is that their parents are probably going to be supportive of them," said Carson.
"That's what we are here for, you don't have to do it on your own," said Carson, "you can have someone here be a third-party facilitator and help the healing and the growth."
For families the best time to address the issue of addiction is when both parties are sober. "When your husband comes home intoxicated, and you come home from work, and your wife is passed out on the couch because she took to many prescription pills, that is not the time to argue. There is not going to be any solution from that," said Patterson-Byrd.
Asking for Help
"Drug addiction and alcoholism are a lot more common than we think. Everyone knows somebody who is addicted to either drugs and alcohol," said Carson.
The team at Aspire Counseling Services wants the community to know that they are here to help and there is no shame in asking for help.
Scott Huhn, President of Aspire Counseling Services, said he will not give up, "I don't care if you've been to one meeting or you've been to five treatment centers if you're still breathing there's hope, let's get you in here and let's get you better."
"I feel like a lot of people that suffer from drug and alcohol addictions are really good people and have a big heart and they are, and they beat themselves up so much more than society can beat them up. I would ask them to please don't be too hard on yourself know that there is hope and there's help, and there have been so many people who have been down that path."
If you feel like you or a loved one is battling with addition contact:
"First of all when a family member calls they are scared and their nervous and asking questions and we do our very best to answer those questions in a non-judgemental, non-blaming way. If we asses over the phone that there is a problem and we can take it to the next step," said Huhn.