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Celebrating Recovery

Event marks National Recovery Month

Celebrating Recovery

Celebrating Recovery

Heather Carr, 24, center, celebrates ...

September is National Recovery Month, and on Friday, Statesboro celebrated.

Together, Willingway Hospital and Pineland Mental Health Services hosted an event at Mill Creek Regional Park to commemorate local individuals who have worked to shed their addiction to drugs and alcohol.

More than 100 men, women and children filled the park for a day that was both a festive celebration and an integral step toward healing.

"This kind of event is important because we can get everyone out here together to learn that you can have a good time and be out in the community, while still being sober," said Reagan Daly, Willingway's public relations coordinator. "People participating can see that life is wonderful and that you don't need chemicals to feel a certain way."

Individuals still overcoming addiction, former patients who have been clean for years, and families affected by drug or alcohol use, all took part.

The daylong event — it ran from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. — included several recovery meetings and featured various games, activities and food.

All of the merriment, in addition to being a reward for their efforts, was a way to show recovering addicts that joy can exist in the absence of drugs or alcohol, said Janet Scott, representing Pineland Mental Health.

"This is a day of gratitude and a day to celebrate men and women in the community who suffered from alcohol or drug addiction, but have turned their life around," said Wayne Cooper, a Willingway outpatient counselor who once battled addiction and is now 19 years sober. "It is a day we can all come together and have a good time. One thing you constantly hear people say is that they're enjoying themselves without the use of alcohol or drugs. This event helps them understand that it is all right to be sober and drug-free — that their life is not over, that they can still have fun."

For the event, hamburgers, hot dogs and cotton candy were on the menu; music — live music, at one point — was provided throughout the day; and kids were given access to a bounce house, face-painting table and more.

Some people took part in games of football or corn hole, while others just lounged.

"I am having a great time," Lorrain Raymond said. "This event means that I can do something different with my life. Before, I did not do anything — just sit around and use. But now, I can come out here with my granddaughter to the park and have fun because I'm sober."

"I got sober 11 years ago," Autumn Altamirano said. "When I was using and drinking, my husband left and took our child. But during the process of sobriety, we were remarried and have had two more kids. So sobriety and recovery, to us, is a family event. And we enjoy doing all sorts of fun celebrations like this."

Organizers of the event said the reception to the day's festivities was overwhelmingly positive.

Friday was the first time Willingway and Pineland have come together to host one large celebration at Mill Creek. In previous years, the events were smaller.

"People have had a wonderful time," said Betsy Zimmerman, a substance abuse counselor at Pineland. "It has been a great turnout. We've had a lot of great feedback and people want to see us back out here next year."

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.


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