Community leaders host public discussion about addiction

Community leaders hold a public discussion on addiction.
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 12:03 AM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Drugs have had a devastating impact on lives across America including in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

On Thursday night, community leaders in the fight against addiction led a discussion on the issue. They shared personal stories and answered locals’ hard-hitting questions.

One of the first points lead facilitator of the discussion, Andrew Bell, brought up was the power of story.

“The way to make something traumatic healed is to have a story for it and to be able to find that way to integrate it into our experience so this is the very first step,” he said.

It’s something each panelist brought to the table.

Reed Byers, a lead organizer of the event, was one of them.

He said, “..., institutionalized a number of times due to mental illness, spent many years in my early adulthood in my early 20s sedated, lethargic, unable to work, unable to socialize, in rampant substance use this entire time.”

Samantha Winland was another panelist.

She remembered a low during her time in active addiction, “Here I am again in the exact same bed, feeling lost, broken, and even more terrified.”

But they weren’t just tales of trauma. The stories were about hope.

Byers talked about his journey from active addiction to recovery to helping others on their journey.

He said, “I chose my health at 250 pounds at Noble Correctional Institution, and I chose my health and I began walking, and I began running, and I began attending programs, 12 Step, NA, AA, chapel, plumbing, horticulture, all of it because I knew I wanted my life back.”

Winland’s story, while different, had a similar arc, leading her to helping others with substance use disorder.

She said, “I accepted who I was. I didn’t have that mask on that I was pretending to be - everything was perfect and following that acceptance came a higher power, something that took over me, an awakening that true awakening of change. I’ve never looked back since.”

The stories reflect a reality many have faced.

Bell broke down the history of that reality.

He said, “When pills became less available and more expensive, folks moved to heroin, and then to fentanyl and fentanyl is the substance that has been driving this rise in overdose death.”

Bell pointed to statistics showing that, while nationwide rates of addiction have remained steady over the last 20 years, overdose deaths have shot up dramatically.

It’s an issue our community is working to address day by day.

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