real recovery

Wayne County ‘rethinks stigma’

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 9/16/20

HONESDALE, PA — Conversations about addiction and mental health are often shaped by negativity and tragedy, but to mark National Recovery Month, employees in Wayne County Human Services are …

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real recovery

Wayne County ‘rethinks stigma’

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — Conversations about addiction and mental health are often shaped by negativity and tragedy, but to mark National Recovery Month, employees in Wayne County Human Services are focusing on the stories of success, which don’t seem to garner as much attention.

At their September 10 meeting, the Wayne County Commissioners heard from some of these living success stories: first from recovery specialists at the Drug & Alcohol Commission who are in recovery themselves and helping others maintain their sobriety.

“I am an alcoholic; having said that, I have an amazing life,” said Diana Olivias, a recovery specialist whose sobriety date is May 19, 2015. Before becoming an employee at D&A, Olivias was a client herself. “Everything that I have literally lives inside my recovery... my sobriety has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to work for, but I’ll tell you what, the rest of my life is going to go pretty well if I keep doing what I know to do.”

Olivias’ own counselor, Jim Simpson, spoke next, telling the commissioners about another success story. He noted that it can be difficult to find folks in recovery from addiction to alcohol who are willing to detail their struggles to the public.

“A lot of the younger people who struggle with addiction are used to having their names in the paper in a negative way and being stigmatized that they’ll usually jump on these opportunities because they want people to see them in a different light,” he said. “The alcoholics are different; there’s still a stigma there... even when they get well.”

Simpson shared the story of Tom Conklin, a 56-year-old who began drinking when he was 9 years old. Later, Conklin owned The Limerick—a pub in Honesdale—for eight years. Through his drinking years, he was arrested, accumulated seven DUIs, lost his business and went in and out of treatment facilities. He was eventually admitted into a drug court program from which he graduated last year. He’s currently coming up on three years of sobriety.

“Miracles we get to see every day,” Simpson said. “Some make it and some don’t, but today we celebrate those who made it.”

The commissioners also heard from Jamie Minor, the director of psychological rehabilitation, accompanied by two consumers from her program.

“I knew I needed an army to heal,” said Mary Handler, one of those consumers. “[In psych rehab], even when I was struggling and not being [able] to communicate what I needed, I still felt love and unconditional support—so I have an army now.”

Stephanie Snyder, who is also in the rehab program, acknowledged that recovery is a “bumpy road,” and that she’s a firm believer that it exists on a spectrum.

The commissioners thanked all for coming to share their experiences.

“The best thing about National Recovery Month is we get to talk about recovery,” commissioner Jocelyn Cramer said. “We all talk about addiction, we all talk about the downside, and I’d love to talk more about recovery and that help is here.”

Those struggling with either addiction or mental health can reach Wayne County D&A by calling 570/253-6022 or psych rehab by calling 570/253-9200.

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