Recovery: Summer Safety Tips for Teens and Alcohol

Summer is a great time for outdoor activities with friends and families, but also is peak time for teens to try drugs and alcohol.

In fact, more teens start drinking and smoking both tobacco and marijuana in June and July than any other months. On each of those summer days, more than 11,000 teens across our country use alcohol for the first time, according to SAMHSA.

“Parents need to know summertime is when teens are more likely to start smoking, drinking and using drugs,” said Alexandra Duff, prevention coordinator for Talbot County Health Department. “And when a teen uses alcohol, they can become impaired much faster than someone older – that can lead to poor choices.”

In a county like Talbot, which has more than 600 miles of shoreline, underage drinking can lead to tragic consequences. Nationally, up to 70 percent of water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

And on the roads, nearly twice as many teens die in highway crashes every day in the summer compared to the rest of the year.

To keep summer fun and healthy, talk with your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Research suggests parents are the most important factor in keeping teens safe – and the conversations are most effective before a teen starts drinking.

Here are a few tips for keeping your teen safe and healthy this summer:

Set clear rules about alcohol use and consequences.
Supervise teens as much as possible.
Remind your teen to never ride in a car or boat with a driver who is under the influence.
Lead by example – show that summer fun doesn’t have to include alcohol.

Get more tips and resources online at www.samhsa.gov.

To learn more about how to prevent alcohol and drug abuse in your child, contact Alexandra Duff, Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Coordinator at Talbot County Health Department, at 410-819-5600.

Recovery: Talbot Goes Purple to Fight Substance Abuse July 4

The towns of Easton, Oxford and St. Michaels are including purple fireworks this Independence Day for Talbot Goes Purple, a new program aimed at combatting substance abuse in our community.

The purple fireworks are part of Talbot Goes Purple, an initiative from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and Tidewater Rotary that empowers our youth and our community to ‘Go Purple’ as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse. Anyone who wishes to support the project should wear purple at the Independence Day celebrations.

Talbot Goes Purple promotes education and awareness, including the creation of purple clubs in our high schools, through which students learn that they do not need drugs or alcohol to meet life’s challenges. The project also encourages the ‘new conversation’ between teens and parents, one that includes messages that prescription painkillers aren’t safe to use recreationally.

“We preach to our kids not to text and drive, not to drink and drive – but not many people talk about the dangers of prescription painkillers,” said Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble. “We’re in the middle of the deadliest drug epidemic in our history – and much of our heroin problem is driven by pill use. Talbot Goes Purple helps start a new conversation about this, while empowering our kids to make good choices.”

Talbot Goes Purple is based upon THP Project Purple, an initiative of the Herren Project that helps people struggling with drug dependencies. Former NBA player Chris Herren founded both projects after speaking to a high school about his struggles with drug dependency.

Herren is coming to Talbot County for a community event at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at Easton High School, with two in-school assemblies also set for all county students grades 8 through 12. Leading up to Herren’s visit and throughout September, local businesses and communities will ‘Go Purple’ as a show of support and solidarity in addressing our substance abuse program.

“We are so excited to support this very important – indeed, critical – project in our community,” said Lucie Hughes, president of Tidewater Rotary. “Rotarians work hard to change lives in our communities, and this project will do just that.”

Talbot Goes Purple is in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools, Mid-Shore Community Foundation and Talbot Partnership. Generous support for the project at the ‘purple’ level includes: Mariah’s Mission Fund; Aqua Pools & Spas and The Car Pool; St. John’s Foundation; Bryan Brother’s Foundation; Spring & Associations; West & Callahan; and the Michael & Nancy Klein Foundation.

More information is available at www.talbotgoespurple.org. Find us on Facebook @TalbotGoesPurple or contact us at talbotgoespurple@gmail.com. Anyone wearing purple is encouraged to post pictures and tag us on Facebook.

All support is tax-deductible and made through the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.

“We’d like to give a thank-you to Al Bond at the Avalon Foundation; Ted Doyle and the St. Michael’s Fireworks Committee and Vicky Van Loo and the board at Tred Avon Yacht Club for supporting our project,” said Hughes. “Their generosity helps kick-off this project and shows that the towns support our youth in taking a stand against substance abuse.”

Fireworks this year are scheduled as follows: Easton – Tuesday, July 4; St. Michaels – Saturday July 1; Oxford – Monday, July 3. Please check with each respective town for additional information on scheduled activities and rain dates.

Recovery: Self Care for the Selfless by Erin Hill

Are you a giver?

You know the ones – they spend all day caring for others. Making sure the kids are up and ready, the hubs has his lunch, the dog is walked and fed, and the cat hasn’t left any presents… then they’re off to their job where they provide more care for others, be it nursing, social work, customer service, retail, etc. Once they get home, it’s mail-sorting, homework helping, dinner making, cleaning up, then – finally – bed. If you’re in a relationship that includes a dynamic of addiction, it can be compounded as well.

When does she take some time for herself?

It seems like we live in a world of busy-ness. There’s always more stuff to do and not enough hours in the day. Admittedly, we can bring some of that stress on ourselves by not asking for help, and/or allowing others to not do their part. We can get so busy taking care of others, that we forget to take care of ourselves, and at the end of the day, when we’re exhausted, and all the things are done (or maybe not) we might have a brief realization – “what about me?” – and cue the violin – the sad song of a wife, mother, worker who is running on empty because she gave “it” all away. Then she wonders:

“Why is nobody taking care of me?”… and that includes her.

The frustration that stems from giving too much, without taking some time to recharge can show up in various ways – as unique as each of us: it can look like weight gain, getting ‘stuck’, smoking, wasting time on your phone, bitterness and anger which might = picking fights with the hubby – all of these at the core – are patterns.

Those patterns are what we do when we feel like we aren’t getting enough for ourselves – when we are looking for ways to draw attention to the fact that we need something. For example: I was a smoker, and would say “that’s the only time I have for myself”. Or when playing a game on my phone – “I just needed some time to turn my brain off”.

We can dive so far into everyone else that we lose sight of who WE are.

Breaking down those patterns is one of the most significant ways you can move forward, and get back to the real YOU.

Good news: it’s not as hard as you think!!

First, and arguably most importantly – you have to notice what your patterns are – identify what you’re doing that you’d like to change. Maybe you dump all your stuff on the kitchen table as soon as you walk in the door. Or perhaps your drug of choice is peanut butter m&ms and fritos (ask me how I know!). It could be that you get lost in Facebook land scrolling through everyone else’s ‘perfect life’ and looking at cat videos.

You know yourself best – be realistic, but challenge yourself.

The change you want to make should be a bit of a stretch – not so much that it hurts, but that you feel the tug. Really take an inventory of what happens from the moment you open your eyes, to the time you finally close them again at the end of the day. What thoughts are you thinking? What things are bringing you joy? What things are NOT bringing you joy?

Be sure to spend some time really thinking and feeling how life would change if this pattern was different.

How would your life be better if you changed this pattern? You may find it helpful to write it down – maybe a pros/cons list would help you see the potential changes. You can also use visualization. Get super descriptive and use all of your senses to describe the differences between life if you keep going in the direction you’re headed, versus living the life you’ve always dreamed. Use all of your senses to feel how life would be like if you keep on this path, or make some changes to your trajectory.

You don’t have to be realistic here – you can shoot for the moon!

Using that information, you can use that to identify WHY you want to change your pattern. Maybe your best life looks like a minimalist lifestyle where you wake up with gratitude, do yoga on your porch facing the Caribbean Ocean, then have an organic breakfast in solitude. Or – you wake up to children who don’t have to be told a million times to put their shoes on or they’ll be going to school barefoot. Using your “dream life” as a guide, you can start to see how you can begin to make small changes today.

Remember – baby steps are OK!

Maybe instead of fuming about all the dishes piled up, you ask for your kids or hubby to give you a hand (Hint: could be a good connection/communication moment). If it helps you to feel less like a maid – take 5 or 10 minutes every evening to be sure that you (or the kids) put their shoes, books, etc. where they will be easily accessed. On the weekends, have everyone pitch in and whip out the cleaning in a fraction of the time it would take you alone. Give yourself some space to make a different choice versus following the habitual path, and ask for those around you to support you. *It will probably be uncomfortable at first – but it will get better! Keep at it!

It’s really about progress.

You’ll learn quickly what works for you – what feels good – but you have to give it a try (and not just poo poo it because it seems (or is) uncomfortable!). Remember – nothing changes if nothing changes – and although I hate to break it to you – there’s no magic wand that makes doing the work easy. Support can definitely make it easier though.

When you share the load, it’s not quite so heavy.

Even I have to remind myself – “I can’t pour from an empty cup”. As givers, it feels funny to start taking care of ourselves, but I can promise – as you take better care of YOU – then you are prepared to give even more, and from a place of fullness.

Interested in ‘trying on’ a few different self care practices? I’m hosting an online, virtual sisterhood in July that I’d love you to be a part of! You can get all the information by clicking here. This opportunity is valued at over $1,000 but the registration fee is only $31 – that’s only a dollar a day! If you have a group of 5, registration per person is only $25 each, and 10 people can be part of the group for just $20 each. *Email me for registration for groups (and if you have any questions) at erin@beautiulmesslife.com

A Beautiful Mess was created by Erin Hill to educate and inspire women to Care for themselves, Communicate their needs, and Connect with their tribe of women who “get it”. Erin is a coach for women and blogger about life. She lives in Cambridge Maryland with her husband and 3 children. More information can be found at www.beautifulmesslife.com

Recovery: Maryland Approves Pharmacies Dispensing Naloxone

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently announced that Dr. Howard Haft, the agency’s Deputy Secretary for Public Health, issued a new statewide standing order that allows pharmacies to dispense naloxone, the non-addictive lifesaving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, to all Maryland citizens. The order follows legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan that included a Hogan administration proposal to enable all citizens to access naloxone. Previously, naloxone was available only to those trained and certified under the Maryland Overdose Response Program.

“As the opioid epidemic has evolved, we have worked steadily to expand access to naloxone,” said Dr. Haft. “Pharmacies play an important role in providing access to naloxone and counseling on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose. This order is yet another tool to fight this crisis and to provide immediate assistance to overdose victims.”

The Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act, a bipartisan omnibus bill passed during the 2017 legislative session that contains provisions to improve patient education and increase treatment services, included the Hogan administration’s proposed Overdose Prevention Act. This updated standing order resulting from the new law further eliminates barriers to naloxone access for anyone who may be at risk of opioid overdose or in a position to assist someone experiencing an opioid overdose.

“By allowing even more people access to naloxone, we’re helping to save lives,” said Clay Stamp, executive director of the Opioid Operational Command Center. “We must remember though, that ultimately, those suffering from the disease of addiction or substance use disorder must be linked to additional treatment to aid in their recovery.”

Single doses of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, have been demonstrated as effective in reversing a heroin overdose. However, more potent drugs such as fentanyl tend to require multiple doses to reverse an overdose. Emergency services—calling 911 or taking someone to a hospital’s emergency department—should always be sought in an overdose situation.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s 2016 Drug-and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland Report, released earlier this month, revealed that 2,089 individuals died from overdoses last year, a 66 percent increase from 2015’s data. For more information on opioid overdose recognition and response, click here.

In March, Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency in response to the heroin and opioid crisis ravaging communities in Maryland and across the country. This declaration activated the governor’s emergency management authority and enables increased and more rapid coordination between the state and local jurisdictions. The Opioid Operational Command Center, established by Governor Hogan in January through an Executive Order, facilitates collaboration between state and local public health, human services, education, and public safety entities to combat the heroin and opioid crisis and its effects on Maryland communities.

Before It’s Too Late is the state’s effort to bring awareness to this epidemic—and to mobilize resources for effective prevention, treatment, and recovery. Marylanders grappling with a substance use disorder can find help at BeforeItsTooLateMD.org and 1-800-422-0009, the state crisis hotline. 

Rally for Recovery Draws Strong Showing

Recovery for Shore’s Rally for Recovery, held Saturday June 3 in downtown Easton, drew a diverse crowd of those in recovery and their family and friends along with many treatment providers and representatives of other recovery support organizations. The event began at 3:30 p.m. with a march from Christ Church Easton on South Street, up Washington Street to the Talbot County Courthouse. The block between Dover and Goldsborough was closed to traffic from 4-4:30 p.m. so that the rally, which included cheers, speakers and prize presentations for the best rally sign, could take place. The event continued with the group’s return to Christ Church for the Alive at Five service followed by fellowship and refreshments on the lawn.

Bonnie Scott, founder of Rising Above Disease, addressing the Rally crowd. To her left is Keith Richards, Rally for Recovery emcee.

According to Sharon Dundon, program specialist for Shore Behavioral Health’s Addictions Program and ad hoc coordinator for Recovery for Shore, crowd estimates varied from 150 to 180. “The exact number was hard to gauge as many people floated in and out over the course of the event, but there was no doubt about the enthusiasm of those who were there,” says Dundon.

Rally participants brought creative, colorful homemade signs with positive messages about recovery.

The recovery cheers at the Courthouse — along the lines of “We cheer, we lead, we know there’s a need!” and “Say it loud, say it clear – Recovery helps, recovery’s here!” — brought onlookers out of shops and restaurants. Remarks offered by emcee Keith Richardson, of Warwick Manor, and the event’s keynote speaker, Bonnie Scott, founder of the Rising Against Disease recovery house for women in Talbot County, drew enthusiastic applause and shout-outs from rally participants.

“Bonnie’s talk, including her description of losing a son to heroin overdose, was equal parts moving, informative and inspiring,” Dundon said. “During the walk back to Christ Church, rally goers were talking about how heartfelt it was and how grateful they were for the information she offered about finding help for those who still suffer and the hope she offered by sharing her experiences as an advocate.”

The Alive at Five Service featured the inspirational music of the Alive at Five band and guest speaker Cindy Keefe, who talked about her 20-year journey in recovery and the support she has received from the local recovery community. Fellowship on the lawn, including tables offering information about recovery resources and a wide menu of donated refreshments — from pizza to crab dip and dessert and Rise Up Coffee — lasted until 7:30 p.m.

“We had great support from the Town of Easton, the Easton police and dozens of volunteers who brought food and recovery resource information and also helped with set up and clean up,” Dundon says. “All of us in Recovery for Shore are very grateful for the outpouring of support and enthusiasm, and for Christ Church’s generosity in hosting the celebration after the Rally. Our hope is that those willing to ‘recover out loud’ will do so as it can help decrease the stigma associated with addiction, inspire others to seek help earlier and brings awareness to the vast recovery happening in our community.”

Opioid Crisis Rural Maryland’s Worst Problem

DENTON — If there is one hopeful thing about Maryland’s opioid crisis, it’s that no one is denying the obvious.

“Very honestly nothing is working,” said Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins. “It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

For rural areas where communities are small and the stigma is large, opioids can be particularly insidious. The guy who jumped out of the moving ambulance after getting revived by naloxone might be an old high school classmate. The woman selling drugs at the hospital to fellow addicts could be the little sister of a good friend.

The epidemic is also a serious drag on government and medical resources in places where budgets are already stretched. Then there’s the psychic toll, especially on police, ambulance and hospital workers who slug it out on the front lines, often with the same addicts, day after day.

But while the opioid crisis appears to be kicking Maryland’s rural populations while they’re down, the silver lining might be in the size and inherent closeness of those communities, which are beginning to coordinate efforts to combat opioids in ways that simply aren’t possible in the state’s more populated counties.

Localizing the problem

“In our small area, opioids affect pretty much every family one way or another,” said Tommy Conneely, who runs the Lost Sheep Recovery Mission in Caroline County and said he has been seven years sober from alcohol.

Caroline, like other rural counties, is beginning to harmonize their anti-opioid efforts across a wide range of public, private and faith-based groups. The county’s drug and alcohol abuse council includes a diverse collection of law enforcement, education, substance abuse and mental health officials.

And people like Conneely, who, as an ex-cop now involved in faith-based recovery efforts, brings a wholly unique perspective.

The Caroline drug council is in the midst of a series of events hosted at volunteer fire departments, where the FBI documentary “Chasing the Dragon” is being shown, followed by a discussion initiated by former addicts and their parents.

“We found that we had a lot of family members (attend) who had loved ones in active addiction who needed support,” said Holly Ireland, executive director of Mid-Shore Behavioral Health, a referral and planning agency that receives some state funding and operates in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.

“What we haven’t quite figured out is how to tackle engaging the community that is addicted,” Ireland added.

In Harford County, which has one of the highest opioid-related per capita death rates in Maryland, the approach is also multifaceted. They’ve got drug education happening in elementary schools, a prescription return program, rehab for opioid-addicted mothers, a special opiate court and a host of other initiatives.

“We broke down barriers between the sheriff, the board of education, the health department and worked together to go into schools,” said County Executive Barry Glassman, R-Harford. “Our program was recognized by the National Association of Counties for the way it was opened up to the whole county to be part of it.”


And yet Harford’s opioid-related death rates have gone up in almost every category since 2014.

“We’re not gonna give up, but it’s gonna be one of those long-term struggles,” Glassman said. “It’s a generational thing that might take 20 years before we get a grip on it.”

Last August, Barry Ronan, president and CEO of Western Maryland Health System, joined an opioid task force that brought together a similarly wide cross-section of people in Allegany County.

It happened after Ronan was forced to ask that a police officer be stationed in Western Maryland’s emergency room from 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day to deal with the surge of sometimes violent addicts arriving for treatment.

“Our staff was being spit upon, assaulted, equipment was being broken,” he said.

In the past two years, Western Maryland Health has spent nearly $1.5 million in additional costs from opioid-related patient treatment.

“(The opioid crisis) eats up a lot of resources,” said Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson. “It takes away the ability for us to do normal law enforcement functions like checks on high-crime areas and speeding enforcement.”

The Allegany task force that includes Ronan and Robertson now meets monthly to coordinate efforts and share ideas.

“Trying to address this from a community perspective has paid off,” said Ronan, at least in terms of unifying the county’s approach. Ronan mentioned things like putting mental health professionals in ambulances as one of the efforts the group is now trying.

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a slight decline in the OD numbers, which is encouraging,” Ronan said.

Emergency state

In 2016, there were 918 heroin-related deaths in Maryland through September according to the state’s health department, up 23 percent from the total in 2015 and up nearly 60 percent from 2014’s total.

Scarier still is the sudden rise in the use of fentanyl and carfentanil, synthetic opioids that can be more than 1,000 times stronger than morphine and are often mixed with heroin, to fatal effect. Fentanyl-related deaths increased nearly 120 percent between 2015 and the first nine months of 2016, to 738 statewide.

On March 1, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency around the state’s opioid epidemic, committing $50 million over five years to the problem. It was the latest escalation in a series of his administration’s efforts to slow the state’s opioid death toll, which continued to rise in 2016, according to the latest reporting.

What Hogan’s emergency edict calls for is an action plan to be made and then implemented across a slew of state and local agencies throughout Maryland.

The effort is being led by Clay Stamp, the governor’s senior adviser for emergency management and the former director of emergency services for Talbot County, a rural area on the Eastern Shore.

“Education and prevention will move the needle,” said Stamp. “What it does is remove the demand from supply and demand.”

Stamp also said that public health will be the focus of the state’s plan, and likened the scale and approach of forthcoming efforts to those that were used for anti-smoking and HIV education in the past.

Some argue the state’s entire approach is misguided and destined to fail.

“The governor created a task force for heroin and it didn’t have a person in recovery on the task force,” said Mike Gimbel, the director of substance abuse for Baltimore County from 1980 to 2003. “They don’t understand heroin. They really think it’s like teen smoking. This isn’t drug prevention 101.”

According to Gimbel, there’s unlikely to be any headway made against the problem without a primary focus on long-term treatment and rehabilitation, not on naloxone, an anti-overdose drug, and vivitrol, which blocks opioid receptors in the brain for up to a month.

“We’re not going to medicate our way out of it. You don’t solve a drug problem with more drugs,” Gimbel said. “The model should be treatment on demand.”

Funding for Hogan’s state of emergency effort is authorized under the recently passed HOPE Act, which calls for a series of initiatives that revolve around reforming drug courts, naloxone distribution and hospital discharge procedures. The bill also calls for the establishment of “crisis treatment centers,” but requires only one to be up and running before June 2018 and mandates no others.

“It’s important that on the back side, there’s treatment,” said Stamp. “We have to beef up our ability to help people fighting addictions.”

A matter of faith

The inclusion of faith-based organizations on local drug councils is indicative of the all-hands approach in rural areas. What religious groups can bring to the opioid fight is significant in terms of manpower and a direct connection to the community.

“We’re a microcosm of what’s going on in the street,” said Pastor David Ziler of the Union Rescue Mission in Cumberland, a homeless shelter with 62 beds that serves about 200 meals a day. “If it’s happening, we’re going to see it before anyone else is seeing it.”

Ziler believes churches and religious organizations can provide what the government can’t.

“We’re throwing money at the problem, but we haven’t thrown people at the problem,” Ziler said. “(Religious organizations) are the biggest volunteer group in the world and we can offer more man hours than anyone.”

by J.F. Meils

Bonnie Scott to Speak at Rally for Recovery on June 3

Recovery for Shore’s Rally for Recovery, set for June 3, 2017 in downtown Easton, will feature a special guest speaker, Bonnie Scott, in front of the Talbot County Courthouse at 4 p.m., Sharon Dundon, ad hoc coordinator for Recovery for Shore and program specialist for UM Shore Regional Health’s Substance Use Disorders Program, has announced.

Scott is founder of Rising Above Disease (RAD), a six-bed women’s recovery house in Easton that opened in November, 2016. In recovery herself for more than 12 years, Scott was inspired to take action as a positive force in the local recovery community after the death of her son in 2012 due to a heroin overdose. At the time, there were few residential recovery options locally and she disliked the prevailing model of recovery facilities on the western shore. “It seemed to me that people are warehoused, sometimes four to six people in a room, their phones are taken away and they are isolated in an unfamiliar location. That does not promote real rehabilitation,” she says.

With six other women, Scott began working on a plan for a recovery house where women could remain on the Eastern Shore near their jobs and their families. As she explains, “Our goal was to create a home-like, healing environment where we could help bring women out of the darkness and into the light. God sent me a wonderful committee and there was so much support that within 90 days, we had found, opened and furnished the house, and welcomed our first residents.”

In addition to recovery support and resources, RAD residents benefit from special activities including equine therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy. As a nonprofit organization, RAD is now under the umbrella of the Mid Shore Community Foundation and has received special support from The Women’s and Girls’ Fund.

The Rally for Recovery on June 3 begins at 3:30 p.m. with a walk from Christ Church to the Courthouse. Washington Street between Dover and Goldsborough Streets will be closed to traffic,4-4:30 p.m., while the rally is in progress.The group will return to Christ Church by 5 p.m. for the “Alive at Five” Service celebrating recovery, followed by fellowship and refreshments on the Church lawn.

According to Dundon, rally organizers are seeking volunteers to bring ‘finger food’ donations – anything that does not have to be heated or refrigerated and can be consumed without utensils – for participants to enjoy after the service. Anyone interested in donating food or volunteering to assist with the event may call the UM Shore Regional Health Substance Used Disorders Program, 410-822-1000, ext. 5469 or email recoveryforshore@gmail.com.

The Rally for Recovery is open to persons in recovery as well as community advocates, individuals, families and friends whose lives have been touched by addiction and mental health issues, and other interested parties.

As part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the principal provider of comprehensive health care services for more than 170,000 residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UM Shore Regional Health’s team of more than 2,500 employees, medical staff, board members, and volunteers works with various community partners to fulfill the organization’s mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together.

Recovery: Should I Stay or Go by Erin Hill

When you’re married to an addict, there’s a school of thought that makes it sound so easy to “just leave”. In my last post here, I discussed why sometimes you can’t just leave. And there are also those who are staunch in their beliefs of “till death do you part”. I have been in both situations. The first addict marriage – I left. The second – I stayed. So I have this point of view that is pretty unique. There is a difficulty in both decisions. Especially when children are involved.

In many of the groups for addict wives, or loving alcoholics/addicts, even when I was in Alanon – one of the first questions was “Do I stay or do I go?” – and I believe that the only one that can make that choice – is YOU. It’s an extremely personal decision and there are tons of variables that no one other than someone in your shoes is privy to. There are well meaning folks that are truly only wanting you to be happy, but they are not understanding of all of the nuances involved in being married to an addict or alcoholic. (And that goes for any addiction – drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.)

There are a few questions that I’ve come to believe are paramount to making the decision to stay or go.

1)  Are you/your children safe?

Only you can determine what “safe” means. There have been times in the land of “should” that “those people” would have judged what safe meant for me and mine. Please know that those close to you – are saying things out of love and concern. Those in positions of authority (Social Services personnel, etc) may be acting under the expectations of their job, and not necessarily out of malice. However, when you ask ‘what should I do?’ you are deliberately relieving yourself of the responsibility to choose.

2) Are you in a position to leave if you choose that option?

There can be financial, physical, and/or legal obstacles to navigate. You may not be able to afford to leave right away – while I’d like to believe that there are systems and programs available for those who choose to leave, I also know that there are many broken systems. Do your research. Sometimes the programs and systems meant to assist, may not be available or appropriate for your situation.

3) Which choice will be to your benefit?

You may need to make a good ole pros and cons chart to help you decide. Play that “what if” game and feel into each choice – like a choose your own adventure book. Really spend some time with the realities of each choice. Your intuition will assist you here – if you can still hear it. I’ve found that many times we’ve had many ‘red flags’ (our intuition) that we’ve ignored – you may have to apologize and coax her back out. She’s there – I promise. The best choices aren’t always easy or simple.

4) Are you willing to work on YOU?

I’ve done it, and I’ve seen it – we leave one relationship and hop into another – and before we know it, there’s a string of broken promises, hearts, and unfortunately sometimes bones. You have (and need) the ability to work on YOU – I know it’s hard to believe, or admit, but we all bring with us some baggage. If we don’t work on unpacking and sorting through that baggage before we enter another relationship, it’s bound to be an eerily similar situation. Think of it like weeds – if you don’t get to the root of it, they’ll keep coming back.

Finally, do you feel like you can change your mind? (You can.) There are few choices that are final. You can usually choose differently if need be. (Again, if safety is an issue, you need to take that into consideration – if domestic violence is a pattern in your relationship, please consider working with a DV support!) When you feel like you need support, please seek it – find a 12 step group, a friend, your church family, a coach, or online peers.

The MRS (Marriage and Recovery Support) group may be helpful to you – and you can consider this your personal invitation. Search TheMRSGroup on Facebook or click here to join. I’m also organizing in person ‘The MRS’ groups to be held in Easton and Cambridge starting this summer. If you would like more information on those as the details come to fruition, you can sign up for weekly newsletters at www.beautifulmesslife.com

Recovery: State of Maryland Launches Special Web Portal on Drug Epidemic

The Hogan-Rutherford administration today launched “Before It’s Too Late,” a new web portal designed to provide resources and raise public awareness of the rapid escalation of the evolving heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis in Maryland.

“For nearly three years, our administration has been focused on combating the heroin and opioid crisis from every angle, including prevention, treatment, and recovery,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “This new web portal is another tool to raise awareness and provide critical resources to all Marylanders so that we can save thousands of lives, before it’s too late.”

The new website, BeforeItsTooLateMD.org, is a one-stop shop for individuals, families, educators, and health care professionals to get the educational resources they need to prevent this epidemic from spreading—because education goes hand-in-hand with prevention. This public awareness effort also includes a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.

“Education and public awareness go hand-in-hand with prevention, and are an essential component of our efforts to turn the tide in this heroin and opioid crisis,” said Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. “The Before It’s Too Late portal will provide addicts, family members, educators, and health professionals with the resources they need to get help, understand the disease of addiction, and reduce stigma, in order to save lives.”

The “Before It’s Too Late” tagline is derived from a PSA the governor released featuring actor Michael Kelly in March. The launch follows the Regional Opioid and Substance Abuse Summit, which featured Governor Hogan, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe as speakers, and the first-ever Maryland Heroin and Opioid Educational Forum for students at Westminster High School in Carroll County, hosted by Lt. Governor Rutherford.

In March, Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency in response to the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis ravaging communities in Maryland and across the country. This declaration activated the governor’s emergency management authority and enables increased and more rapid coordination between the state and local jurisdictions. The governor also announced $50 million in new funding to address the crisis, as well as the appointment of the governor’s senior emergency management advisor Clay Stamp to lead the Opioid Operational Command Center, which is mobilizing all available resources for effective prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Tony Hoffman Shares His Experience at Opioid Conference

The Talbot County Department of Social Services recently sponsored a free Opioid Conference at the Talbot Community Center in Easton, Maryland. There were approximately 80 community members in attendance for the daylong event. The conference featured former BMX pro and recovering addict, Tony Hoffman, who told a powerful story of redemption.

The staff of the Talbot County Department of Social Services with Tony Hoffman, BMX Competitor and Recovering Addict. L-R are Katie Pederson, Child Welfare Supervisor; Christine Abbatiello, Adoption/Foster Care Supervisor; Lindsay Newcomb, Parent Education Coordinator; Tony Hoffman, Debbe Faribank, Adult Services Supervisor, Chrissy Montague, Option Respite Coordinator; Shari Blades, Assistant Director, and Linda Webb.

Hoffman shared a detailed account of his experience as a BMX pro featured on the cover of a magazine in high school to his experimentation with drugs that ultimately led him to robbing someone at gun point to fuel his addiction.  Having experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during his battle with addiction, he has dedicated his life to bringing awareness around the country through motivational speaking.

Hoffman commented about first becoming a successful athlete in middle school, stating, “I began looking up to athletes on television and started mimicking how they acted – entitled.”

After giving up on BMX racing after high school, Hoffman no longer had an outlet to keep him involved and he began going to house parties. He told himself he was only going to use drugs one time, but that led to more frequent use. He stated, “One pill made me an addict. There is a doorway that exists. I had opened up the door the first day I tried drugs. Most people who have walked through that door are dead.”

Pictured L-R are panelists Charlie Roe, Dry Dock Recovery and Wellness Center; Jayne Fitzgerald, Talbot Partnership; and Lt. John Bollinger, Talbot County Sheriff’s Office.

Hoffman added, “I didn’t realize how much I was going to have to change to get to the other side of the door. Every day of my life now is working to stay on the other side of that door.”

He tried to get back into BMX racing in 2011, but it didn’t work out due to a severe knee injury. He founded the Freewheel Project in 2012, which has brought access to action sports to kids in the community in effort for youth to develop healthy life choices. About his new nonprofit, Hoffman said, “My calling wasn’t for me to be a selfish athlete. God told me I had a bike and to use it. The bike also gave me the microphone I use today.”

Following Hoffman’s speech, he spent time thoroughly answering people’s questions and providing motivational feedback.  Lindsay Newcomb, LGSW, Parent Education Coordinator for the Talbot County Department of Social Services, comments, “Listening to Hoffman recount his experiences provided a sense of hope and inspiration to the audience, recovery is possible.”

Pictured L-R are panelists Bruce Strazza, Val Albee, Mariah’s Mission Fund; and Tina Brown, Eastern Shore Crisis Response.

The conference also presented two panel presentations from local residents sharing personal stories, law enforcement, parent education, peer support, and local resources. In addition to the presentations, many local agencies brought resources to share through informational tables.  At the end of the day, the Talbot County Health Department offered an opportunity for NARCAN (Naloxone) training and certification. NARCAN is used to treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation.  Approximately 25 community members were certified and distributed a NARCAN kit.

Partners participating in the Conference included the Talbot County Health Department, Dri-Dock Recovery, Talbot Partnership, Mariah’s Mission, Rising Above Disease, Maryland Coalition of Families, Eastern Shore Crisis Response, Recovery for Shore, Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, Shore Regional, Corsica River Mental Health Services, and Chesapeake Voyagers.