Recovery: When You Can’t Just Leave by Erin Hill

It’s a special kind of lonely hell when you love an addict.

Your relationship is teetering on disaster – you’re barely surviving – you’re in a hole so deep the sky looks like a pinhole – you’re ashamed of what you and your life has become. You are afraid that if you let go, the world as you know it will crumble around you. Those around you encourage you to leave. But they don’t understand that you can’t “Just Leave”.

It’s complicated. It’s messy. It hurts.

They don’t understand that just like an addict starts with their drug – we are addicted to our addict. We didn’t get into these relationships thinking “Gee, I think I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to control someone else’s crap” – just like they didn’t wake up one day deciding to be an addict. It evolves.

The dark, sticky, snake-like fingers of the disease constricts every aspect of our lives.

The finances, the employment, the physical health and the mental well-being of everyone in the home is compromised. Before you know it – you’re so entwined in the madness that getting out feels like death. Because it would be. You had hopes and dreams of a happily ever after, and if you leave, that dies.
But just as addiction can wrap itself around your relationship, so too can recovery.

My husband and I have been together 12 years, married for 10 – and he recently celebrated 5 years clean and sober. It’s still not perfect – it’s like that illusive “normal” you hear about – or unicorns and leprechauns. But it’s definitely better than it was.

It takes both of you to work on it.

I thought for sure that if he just quit the drug, things would get better. That if he would just quit drinking. Or get a job. Or spend more time with me and the kids… that it would be OK. I didn’t have the problem – he did. I could run the household, raise the kids, go to work, AND deal with him and his crap –

I was superwoman – right?! Wrong.

I brought a few suitcases worth of my own crap to this party.

It wasn’t until I was willing to take a hard look at my part in our relationship that I was ready to get really honest with myself. I was attracted to him because I thought I could fix him. That if I fixed him, he’d owe me – and never leave. And most of all – because I thought that was the kind of man I deserved – I wasn’t going to do any better. It was disguised as a noble attempt at fixing his problems, saving him from himself, and making everything alright with the world. It was just a thin cloak over the ability to distract myself from my own problems.

When you start looking at your stuff – unpacking those suitcases of stuff from your own history, and tossing what you don’t use or love (The Art of Tidying Up style) and repacking in a loving way what you want to keep, you make room for the stuff you really want. Like recovery. For you.

They don’t have to get sober for you to be happy.

Once you start seeing what it is you want for your own life, you can detach and work on YOU. I found that in our relationship it comes in spurts. He’ll work on himself, then I’ll work on my stuff. It’s a partnership like it’s never been before.

As we know better, we do better.

Getting clean and sober was just the beginning for us. There’s been times that have been more difficult in the last 5 years in recovery that were harder than the drunken rages or nights of fear, tears and despair. It doesn’t get easier, but you get stronger. And just like any other muscle, the more you use it, the stronger you get.

Start small.

Go for a walk, sit in silence with your breath for a few moments every day. Journal, write, sing, speak, or scream. Do something that’s just for YOU. As you come back to yourself, you develop your sense of strength and hope. You know that regardless, you’re going to be OK. And OK is good enough. YOU are good enough.

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

Recovery: Tony Hoffman, Pro BMX Competitor and Recovering Addict, on Opioids April 8

Did you know over the past 3 years that 272 Mid-Shore opioid overdoses were reported by Shore Regional Health-Memorial Hospital at Easton.

Mid-Shore communities are increasingly facing new risks from marijuana, heroin, and prescription drug abuse.  The report adds that prescription drugs have become established as significant substances of abuse, alongside illicit drugs among young adults, with prescription opioids being the second most commonly misused illegal drug after marijuana among persons aged 16 to 25 years old in Talbot County. Between 2010 and 2014 clients in Talbot County reported heroin as their drug of choice has grown 927%. Users cut across all income levels, but for Talbot County, most of the users are young.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.31.50 AM

Pictured is Tony Hoffman, Pro BMX Competitor and Recovering Addict

On April 8, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Talbot County Department of Social Services will host a free conference, “Opioid Use Across the Lifespan,” featuring nationally-known guest speaker Tony Hoffman, Pro BMX Competitor and Recovering Addict. The day-long event will be held at the Talbot County Community Center, Easton, MD. Parents, teens, teachers, coaches, medical providers and anyone dealing with youth in our community are encouraged to attend.  Some of the conference topics will include safe disposal of prescription drugs, drug abuse trends and prevention strategies, the use of NARCAN, available resources, and personal stories by local residents.

Tony Hoffman’s story is full of redemption as he has seen some of the highest highs, and the lowest lows.  His BMX career started in high school, as he was a top-ranked BMX amateur with multiple endorsements. As a native of Clovis, CA, where he attended Clovis High School, Hoffman started drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and using prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin by his senior year. His life took a turn for the worse as he became addicted at such a young age, losing everything. In 2004 he committed a home invasion armed robbery, and was ultimately sent to prison for two years in 2007.  Hoffman began rebuilding his life’s purpose while he spent two years in prison.

Hoffman has dedicated his life, to bringing awareness around the country, describing how dangerous prescription pill and heroin abuse are, as well as advocating a shift in thinking towards current addiction-recovery processes. He has been sober since May 17th, 2007 and is the Founder and Director of The Freewheel Project, a non-profit organization that mentors thousands of youth through action sports: BMX, skateboarding and after-school programs. The Freewheel Project focuses on teaching kids leadership skills, and making healthy life choices, including substance abuse prevention, each year. In 2016 he also began writing his first book, titled, “Coming Clean.” He is a Former BMX Elite Pro and is currently ranked #2 in Masters Pro class, coaching in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with Women’s BMX PRO, Brooke Crain, in his lineup.

Space is limited for the free conference and pre-registration is required by March 24, 2017. Call 410-770-5750 or email

Recovery: Hogan Announces new Measures to Address Opioid Addiction

Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford announced Tuesday they are rolling out new legislation that would counter Maryland’s growing opioid addiction crisis.
The Prescriber Limits Act would prevent doctors from prescribing more than seven days worth of opioid painkillers during a patient’s first visit or consultation. The law exempts patients going through cancer treatment and those diagnosed with a terminal illness. 
The Distribution of Opioids Resulting in Death Act would introduce a new felony charge carrying up to 30 years in prison for people convicted of illegally selling opioids or opioid analogues that result in the death of a user. Rutherford said the law would carry protections for people who were selling to support their addiction.
And the Overdose Prevention Act authorizes the collection of and review of non-fatal overdose data and would make it easier for people to fill prescriptions for naloxone, a drug that can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. 
Hogan and Rutherford, whom the governor has directed to focus on opioid addiction, announced the legislation in a press conference at Anne Arundel Medical Center on Tuesday
Rutherford also announced that the governor would sign an executive order that will create an Opioid Operations Command Center — a “virtual” task force charged with organizing training and funding for local anti-addiction teams as well as collecting data on opioid use and abuse. 
Hogan said that he did not fully appreciate the scope of the opioid epidemic until he began crisscrossing Maryland during the early phases of his gubernatorial campaign. He said he asked people in different parts of the state what their community’s biggest problem was and that, regardless of whether they were from a rural, urban, wealthy, or poor community, “the answer was always the same: heroin.”
Both Hogan and Rutherford appeared optimistic but acknowledged that the problem of opioid addiction is worsening in Maryland. Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said that, at the start of his tenure a couple years ago, there was one overdose per day and one death per week from opioid abuse in his county. He said those figures have risen to two overdoses per day and two and a half deaths per week.
At the press conference, State’s Attorney Wes Adams, R-Anne Arundel, spoke about the recent death of his brother-in-law, who he said died of an opioid overdose.
Adams said his brother-in-law became addicted to opioids after being prescribed them following a surgery about eight years ago. He said he moved in and out of rehab centers and periodically became clean, only to relapse later. 
Adams lamented the obstacles from the medical and insurance industries that he and his family faced as they tried to keep his brother-in-law in treatment. 
He also expressed consternation over recently being prescribed a substantial supply of Oxycontin, an opioid pain-killer, following a medical procedure, despite telling his doctor that he was only experiencing moderate pain. 
He said angrily that the only major side-effect his pharmacist warned him of was constipation, despite the well-documented risk of addiction that use of the drug carries. 

State Analyst: Maryland Might Lose $1.4 billion under Health Care Repeal

A federal repeal of the national health care law could cost Maryland $1.4 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, state budget analysts said Tuesday.

Funds issued to Maryland through the Affordable Care Act include $1.2 billion of enhanced federal funding to cover Medicaid, David Romans, fiscal and policy analysis deputy director for the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, told the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee.

“Roughly 312,000 people (in Maryland) will receive coverage in fiscal (year 2018) through that ACA expansion,” Romans said. Maryland’s Affordable Care Act expansion widens the range of income levels to help cover more adults.

Romans said if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, the state would need to decide to either drop the coverage or to make up the $1.2 billion for Medicaid and an additional $200 million for other related services.

The federal government now covers about 95 percent of funding for Medicaid, but if the federal health care law is repealed, it could be reduced to 50 percent, Romans said.

“There is a lot of unknowns around federal spending in Maryland,” he added.

“The 2018 (proposed) budget assumes 312,000 individuals enrolled under the ACA Medicaid expansion provision will receive full physical and behavioral health care coverage benefits at a total cost of care of $2.8 billion,” according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Included in the estimated $1.4 billion in cuts, the state could lose $200 million allocated for the Maryland Children’s Health Program, additional pharmacy rebates, and waivers for the all-payer rate-setting hospital system, which creates a consistent price for all insurers for specific procedures.

Romans told lawmakers that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is the state’s “greatest vulnerability in terms of loss in federal dollars.”

The committee’s vice chair, Delegate Frank Turner, D-Howard, said he hopes Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is looking carefully at the impact losing that amount of money would have on the state.

Hogan met with the state’s federal delegation Monday hoping to “put politics aside and find a solution to the (Affordable Care Act) issue,” according to Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor.

“We’re not going to speculate on what may happen,” Mayer said. Mayer specified there are aspects of the federal health care law the governor agrees with and aspects he doesn’t.

“Keep the good and get rid of the bad,” he said. The good including young adults being able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans longer and the bad including skyrocketing rates, according to Mayer.

Aside from the estimated $1.4 billion, Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange, which covers about 60,000 households, could also lose funding if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, according to Romans. The Department of Legislative Services estimates program’s federal support to be about $225 million.

The state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also referred to as SNAP, which currently receives about $1 billion in federal dollars, is also at risk of losing funding if the health care law is repealed, according to Romans.

Warren Deschenaux, executive director of the Department of Legislative Services, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service that “the biggest concern (in the budget) is that it does very little to resolve the problems for the future.”

Deschenaux said he anticipates a $400 million to $500 million budget gap that will continue to increase in the future, despite the consideration of the Affordable Care Act repeal.

By Cara Newcomer

Recovery: Barriers discourage Doctors from providing Suboxone to Opioid Addicts

The Spy took note of a report a few days ago from Maine highlighting a number of state doctor groups having little effect in convincing physicians to become Suboxone providers.

“Boosting the low supply of doctors who prescribe Suboxone is a crucial piece of the puzzle that if solved would help to meet the treatment demand for the thousands of Mainers in the throes of an opioid addiction.

Those efforts haven’t worked yet. Among the barriers are cultural stigmas to treating patients with addictions, financial disincentives, bureaucratic red tape and doctors believing that opening their doors for drug treatment would overwhelm their practices”

Maryland’s Heroin and Opioid Crisis Reaches an All-time High

Barbara Allen signs her emails with the names of her family members she has lost to addiction.

Jim’s mom, Bill’s sister, Amanda’s aunt.

Her son, Jim, died from a heroin and alcohol overdose in 2003 after battling substance abuse disorder for 22 years.

“What I found really annoyed me and made me angry was there was so little support, and in fact people didn’t have to continue to to die,” said Barbara, who lives in Howard County, Maryland.

In Maryland, heroin-related deaths tripled from 2011 to 2015, rising from 247 to 748, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The death rate from drug overdoses in the state is the fifth-worst in the country, and it’s only likely to get worse, experts say.

The rise of heroin and opioids

In the early 2000s, the popularity of heroin and opioids as illegal narcotics soared in Maryland around the same time as overdose deaths due to drugs or alcohol began to increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If you go back to 2006 and 2007, it was most notable here where the conversation internally to the (sheriff’s department) really began because of overdose deaths from opiate painkillers,” said Tim Cameron, the sheriff in St. Mary’s County and a member of the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force in 2015.

When the epidemic first began, most of the people dying from overdoses were young, white and in the middle and upper classes, but that trend soon gave way to include almost all demographic and socioeconomic groups, Cameron said.

“It pretty much affects everyone,” said Sgt. Johnny Murray with the Hagerstown Police Department. “It’s just (a result of) the pill epidemic, when that was uncontrolled and people were being able to ‘doctor shop’ and go to 4 or 5 different doctors and get these powerful narcotics.”

Often after people get addicted to prescription opioid painkillers, they turn to heroin, which is cheaper and provides a similar high, said Murray.

In Washington County, Maryland, Delegate Brett Wilson, R-Hagerstown, who also served on the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, said people in almost all demographic groups are dying from heroin and opioid overdoses.

“With our patients, they were often completely unaware that the heroin or sometimes even just the pills that they were using had fentanyl in it,” said Dr. Olsen, who is also medical director of an outpatient program in Baltimore.

Because of its potency, users require less of the drug to get the same effect as heroin, which makes people who inject fentanyl more susceptible to overdoses. Fentanyl-related deaths have doubled during the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Race, gender changes

Arrest trends in Maryland have shown that for at least the last five years, at least 4,000 to 5,000 more people between the ages of 20 and 24 were arrested for drug abuse violations than those in the next oldest age group — people aged 25-29.

However, the vast majority of people who have been hospitalized for opioid-related disorders are between 45 and 64. According to a Capital News Service analysis, 14,843 people aged 50 to 54 were hospitalized from 2013 to the beginning of 2016 for opioid-related disorders in Maryland — more than any other age group during the same time period,

There is also data to suggest that drug use in middle and high school is declining, perhaps due to renewed drug education efforts, according to Harford County’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

There may also be a disparity between whites and blacks using heroin or opioids.

Between 2012 and 2014, 88,043 blacks were arrested for drug abuse violations while 53,125 whites were arrested for the same crimes during the same time period in Maryland, according to the Maryland State Police.

However, between 2013 and the beginning of 2016, 60,462 whites were hospitalized for opioid-related disorders in Maryland while just 41,918 blacks were hospitalized, according to a Capital News Service analysis of Maryland hospital data.

Even as opioid and heroin use and overdoses have increased across many demographics in Maryland, arrest rates have declined steadily since 2010. While 12,551 people were arrested in 2010 for possession of opium, cocaine or derivatives, just 9,618 people were arrested in 2014.

The Maryland State Police collect arrest data according to the National Uniform Crime Reporting Program guidelines, which consolidates opium, cocaine and like drugs into one category.

Though men are hospitalized more for opioid-related disorders in Maryland, there is evidence to suggest that women may be using heroin and opioids at a higher rate than other drugs.

Between 2012 and 2014, men were arrested at almost five times the rate for drug abuse violations than women.

However, hospitalizations for opioid-related disorders for men have increased 16 percent from 2013 to 2016, while those for women have increased by 15 percent.

“In looking at our numbers, we see that in some categories women are outpacing men related to this problem, and when it comes to (number of deaths), it’s even,” said Dan Aliato, the commander of vice narcotics for St. Mary’s County.

So far this year, the county has had 118 cases where someone was sent to the emergency room for a drug-related condition. Of those 118, 65 were women and 53 were men, said Aliato.

“It’s something that’s different and something that’s evolving,” he told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “We’re not used to seeing those kinds of numbers and our jail is not used to seeing those numbers and not equipped to handle those numbers.”

Loss of Affordable Care Act

President-elect Donald Trump began discussing the issue about a month before Election Day.

“A wall will not only keep out dangerous cartels and criminals, but it will also keep out the drugs and heroin poisoning our youth,” he said during an Oct. 15 New Hampshire campaign stop.

In this speech, he detailed a three-pronged plan for combating the addiction epidemic, which included aggressively prosecuting illegal drug traffickers, closing shipping loopholes for drugs and encouraging the approval of drugs to fight addiction such as Suboxone and Narcan.

President Barack Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act — also known as CARA — into law July 2016. It is considered the most extensive effort taken thus far to address the opioid epidemic and covers prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform and overdose reversal.

“It would be really a major step backwards to something that would cost even more lives if the Trump administration did not continue and really build on and implement the pieces of both CARA and with the appropriate funding and other steps that will likely be needed to really address this epidemic,” said Olsen.

If Trump repeals the Affordable Care Act — which he promised to do while on the campaign trail — the coverage for many Americans in recovery and treatment who were previously uninsured could disappear, unless he institutes an alternative program.

Even so, Trump actually over-performed the most in counties with the highest drug mortality rates, according to a Pennsylvania State University study. He was even more successful than 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 81.7 percent of these counties.

In rural Somerset County, Maryland, the number of people hospitalized for opioid-related disorders has increased by 91 percent from 2013 to 2016, according to Maryland hospital-patient data.

Trump won Somerset County with 57 percent of the vote, while Obama won the county with 50 percent of the vote in 2012.

The two Maryland counties with the highest increases in hospitalizations — Garrett County with 161 percent and Worcester with 128 percent over the past three years — also voted in the majority for Trump.

The ‘national emergency’

On Dec. 7, the United States Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act, sending the bill to President Barack Obama, who signed it into law Tuesday.

The $1 billion bill includes $500 million a year to assist states in treating people addicted to opioids and preventing misuse of drugs.

Allen called the act a “huge step forward.”

“Every senator is being pressured because their constituents’ kids are dying, so I feel like we’ve begun to tip the balance of attention that we have this true epidemic,” said Allen, who founded the organization James’ Place to raise money for recovery services after her son’s death.

In Maryland, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was started in 2011, but it wasn’t widely adopted up until this year. Starting Oct. 1, doctors authorized to prescribe controlled substances had to register with the program, which analyzes the number of prescriptions coming from medical professionals.

“There’s a lot of value and accountability, to be quite honest, in counting the medication and doing that and sharing that information with others,” said Alioto.

Counties have also begun using state money to hire heroin coordinators within police departments to analyze data, which could help government officials develop a better response to the threat of heroin and opioid abuse, said Glenn Fueston, the executive director of the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention.

“What we hope to do is continue that process of looking at the data that’s available in the community, looking at ways we can share that data (and) analyze that data, while protecting the privacy and civil liberties of people that the data is involved with,” he said at the legislature’s Nov. 2 meeting of the Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders.

However, the government needs to do more to address the addiction epidemic, said Carin Miller, the founder of Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates.

“It needs to be declared a national emergency,” said Miller, whose son is recovering from a heroin addiction and husband is battling an addiction to opioids.

If addiction was properly seen as a disease, Allen said, advocates would get their “fair share of those donor dollars.”

“I’m going to do this anyway,” she said. “I’m going to do this work no matter what, and we’ll do what we can because I don’t have any other choice.”

By Hannah Lang

Profiles in Recovery: The Damon West Story

It is very hard to imagine the kind of celebrity that is created in the state of Texas for a winning high school quarterback. While Hollywood has attempted this with movies like Friday Night Lights, and the television series by the same name, that state’s high school football culture remains one of the most extraordinarily American phenomenons in the history of sports.

And that is one of the reasons that Damon West story about addiction recovery is so compelling because he was one of those superstars.

With the entire city of Port Arthur, TX (population 40,000) behind his back, Damon led his high school team to championships as well as a starting position with the North Texas University football team. He was adored by that community, and had the good fortune of being the son of one of the most respected sports reporters in the state. In short, very few people have are blessed with such extraordinary gifts and opportunities, And yet, fate and biochemistry had another plan for West.

Fast-forward in 2008 and Damon West is arrested in one of the biggest busts in Dallas history for organized criminal activity for his role in the burglaries to fund his Meth addiction.

The consequences of his drug addiction and dealing led to a severe prison sentence, resulting in a 65-year prison term with very little chance of early parole. He would reentry society as a 93 years-old.

It was under these circumstances the Damon, against these seemingly terminal conditions, began his recovery with the full knowledge that he may be experiencing this new life only within a prison for the rest of his life.

The Spy caught up with Damon at the Bullitt House as he and Jefferson County criminal investigator Marcelo “Mo” Molfino were in the middle of a two-day tour of Talbot County schools to tell local students this remarkable story of recovery. The program was sponsored by Baird, St. John Foundation, and Best Western Plus.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. Damon West does not represent AA in this interview. For more information about recovery programs on the Mid-Shore, please go to the Spy Recovery section here


Recovery: “Flashlight Tag” Ready for Prime Time with Director Talley Wilford

Over the year or so, the Spy has taken a significant interest in the development of a film being made locally that chronicles the real and very tragic story of Matt Schilling who fell victim to drug abuse. Talley Wilford, a friend and former classmate of Matt’s, has shared with us through several interviews his personal journey and experience to somehow making sense and purpose out of Matt’s short life.

The film “Flashlight Tag” is one of the end results of that journey. Produced and directed by Talley and his partner, Jen Wagner, it tells a fictional story that closely relates to the devastation of losing a close friend to a drug overdose.

It is no small undertaking to produce a two-hour film, but through the resources of local sponsors, advocates, family and friends, what has emerged in Flashlight Tag is a convergence of local interest and art coming together into a story that is both personal and instructive.

In our third interview with Talley, we talk about the film, the experience making it, and what the future holds for him as a director after the completion of his first major production.


This video is approximately five minutes in length. A special screening of Flashlight Tag will take place as the Avalon Theater on November 19th at 7:30 pm. For more information, please go here

Episcopal Diocese’s Recovery Ministry Committee Offers Hope

“Spirituality is important in recovery because addiction can take away one’s ability to be spiritual.  One’s only concern becomes oneself — there is a “disconnect” from everything else. When recovering from an addiction, spirituality helps us to change, to be able to have honest, compassionate and loving relationships with others.”Suzanne Fisher, Clinical Addiction Counselor, member of Recovery Ministries

The Episcopal Diocese of Easton established the Recovery Ministry Committee in 2011. This ministry grew out of the work of the national organization Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church (RMEC). The formation of this local ministry was under the leadership of Father Kevin Cross, Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity, Oxford and who was then president of RMEC. The initial focus of this ministry was to spread the Good News of God’s compassion and healing to communities.

At the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Fr. Kevin Cross represented Recovery Ministries and successfully advocated for major changes in church policies on healthier church practices around the use/non-use of alcohol at church events and creating a safe, welcoming environment at our churches for those in recovery.

At the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Fr. Kevin Cross represented Recovery Ministries and successfully advocated for major changes in church policies on healthier church practices around the use/non-use of alcohol at church events and creating a safe, welcoming environment at our churches for those in recovery.

This ministry began by offering monthly Eucharist celebration services that incorporated the use of 12-step programs into the Eucharist service central to their faith. This work has its historical roots in the ministry of the Episcopal priest, Father Sam Shoemaker, who was the spiritual director of Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Step tradition. The 12-Step Eucharist service was originally developed by RMEC. These services draw a wide circle welcoming all members of the community suffering from the disease of addiction — believers and non-believers alike — who seek healing, compassion and understanding.

The Recovery Ministry Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton grew to include laity and clergy from around the Eastern Shore composed of professionals in the field of addiction treatment, individuals personally impacted by this disease and others who felt called to ministry. As the committee and its mission grew, the focus turned to addressing issues surrounding alcoholism and drug dependency and the use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs in relation to the church’s mission. According to Jim Proctor, committee member and president of Health Enhancements Center, the message is that “the addict is a very precious human resource who is worthy of compassion and support in his or her recovery.”

Whether in the workplace, which is Proctor’s area of expertise, or anywhere else in society, “we have a mission to those suffering and ourselves to help them reach their full potential.”

The Recovery Ministry offered a conference, Spirituality, Addiction and Recovery, in the fall of 2014, featuring the Rev. Dr. John MacDougall, Spiritual Director of Hazelden and author of the book, Being Sober and Becoming Happy. It also included members of the local recovery community who affirmed the importance of a strong spiritual foundation to support the work of recovery. This ministry has also facilitated the introduction of education on addiction to the diocesan youth retreat.

Upcoming Recovery Ministry Events

The Diocesan Retreat House in Hillsboro, Maryland is launching a series, Recovering a Spirit Filled Life: Freeing Ourselves Saturdays, October 22, 2016, February 11, 2017 and April 22, 2017.  Each session will focus on specific steps of the 12-Step program. This series is built around the touchstone that a life recovering from addiction is a healthy and active spiritual life.

In the coming year, the Recovery Ministry will offer a conference, Recovery and Co-Dependence March 25, 2017 and Bishop Chilton Knudsen, a well-known speaker and author on recovery, will be the keynote speaker.

In 2016, the Recovery Ministry Committee offered a retreat in partnership with the Diocese of Maryland. This diocesan partnership has continued. The Second Annual Recovery Retreat, April 28 – 30, 2017 will take place at the Claggett Retreat Center in Adamstown, Maryland. The retreat facilitator will be The Rev. Stuart Hoke, an Episcopal priest who pioneered a course of study on the Church’s role in the treatment of alcoholism and addictive illness. Stuart is a well-known national speaker and retreat leader.

The Recovery Ministry Committee’s other purposes are:

  1. Developing and implementing an effective diocesan policy on substance abuse and addiction
  2. Assisting the Bishop of Easton and staff in education of and interventions for diocesan clergy and employees who face alcoholism or other chemical addiction.
  3. Raising awareness about the disease of addiction and the redemption and grace found in recovery
  4. Strengthening those in recovery in the work of their recovery, helping proclaim the Gospel in the world, and carrying their recovery into the Church.

The committee commends and encourages the many programs offering treatment and support to persons suffering from the illnesses of alcoholism and drug addiction. Included among these programs are: Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, AlaTeen, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Narcotics Anonymous and various chemical dependency treatment programs and halfway houses. Most of the churches in our diocese host regular 12 Step meetings.

The Recovery Ministry Committee encourages parish and diocesan clergy, employees and leaders to become knowledgeable concerning local resources that offer education, intervention, treatment and continuing care for alcoholism and other chemical addictions.  For more information about this ministry and programs, please visit

Recovery: Celebration at Christ-Church Easton Draws 250 to Service, Picnic

Christ Church-Easton hosted Recovery for Shore's "Message of Hope - Recovery Happens" service and picnic celebration on September 17.

Christ Church-Easton hosted Recovery for Shore’s “Message of Hope – Recovery Happens” service and picnic celebration on September 17.

Christ Church Easton–Easton always enjoys solid attendance at its “Alive at Five” service on Saturdays at 5 p.m., but on September 17 it was a packed house as the church hosted Recovery for Shore’s “A Message of Hope – Recovery Happens!” celebration of National Recovery Month with a special service and free picnic supper.

The event began with the Alive at Five service, led by Christ Church Easton Rector Father Bill Ortt, which featured special testimony by Bruce Strazza, a member of Christ Church and leading figure in the local recovery community. Strazza’s testimony, presented on video on the two large screens in the front of the church, told the moving story of his journey through addiction, the loss of his older brother from a heroin overdose, his new life of service to others and his ongoing recovery. It received a standing ovation from the large and diverse crowd of individuals, couples and families as well as many treatment providers from around the Mid-Shore region.

Strazza also led Alive at Five Band in the soul-stirring, uplifting music for the service.

“It was a beautiful, standing room only event,” commented Dr. David Hill, of Chesapeake Treatment Services. “Bruce Strazza’s testimony was quite moving and showed that no matter how great the addiction has become, there is a road to health through recovery.”

Bruce Strazza (center) with local residents Brad Frost (left) and Larry Chapman (right).

Bruce Strazza (center) with local residents Brad Frost (left) and Larry Chapman (right).

“Here was an opportunity to show those individuals doing the hard work of recovery that ours is a caring and supportive community — and that even in the midst of what might appear as failure to some, there always remains hope for those still struggling within the process of recovery from the disease of addiction,” noted Joe Kettinger, a member of Christ Church-Easton’s Recovery Ministry. “The video of Bruce openly discussing the compelling story of his transition through the worst elements of the disease to finally discovering his recovery in the joy of spiritual peace and service to those still suffering was a message of hope.”

After the service, parishioners and community members convened on the church lawn for the picnic supper provided by Recovery for Shore members and a number of local businesses, including the Washington Street Pub, Rise Up Coffee, Earth Data, Inc., and the Inn at Bartlett Pear. Several recovery resources including Dri-Dock Recovery, Mariah’s Mission Fund, Narcotics Anonymous, Chesapeake Voyagers and Rising Above Disease were on hand with literature and other promotional items to share with those in attendance.

Event sponsors were NCADD of MD, Cigarette Restitution Fund of the Talbot County Health Department, Shore Behavioral Health, Queen Anne’s and Talbot County Health Departments, Warwick Manor, Christ Church of Easton and Chesapeake Treatment Services.

“We came away with a really great feeling about the sense of solidarity and support our community demonstrates toward those in recovery and the need for greater public awareness and funding for recovery initiatives,” says Sharon Dundon, substance disorders program specialist, Shore Behavioral Health and coordinator for Recovery for Shore. “We are so grateful to our sponsors, our food donors and our many volunteers as well as to Christ Church-Easton for helping make the Message of Hope such a wonderful evening. Our task now is to keep up the momentum and hopefully get more people informed about the escalating problem of addiction and involved in advocating for recovery resources.”

A free picnic on the church lawn lasted until sundown.

A free picnic on the church lawn lasted until sundown.

For more information about Recovery for Shore, email or visit the Recovery for Shore Facebook page.