Twenty-three million Americans are in long-term recovery. But only one out of 10 who struggle with some form of addiction will get the help they need for recovery.
Those startling facts and more were brought to light at a recovery symposium held at Connection Church on Saturday. With a theme of "Freedom through Recovery," the event was open to anyone in recovery from addiction, representatives of entities that provide recovery resources and those who have been touched by recovery in any way.
Prior to the event, lead organizer Robert Bohler, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University and employee at the Center for Addiction Recovery, said, "The goals of the symposium are to create a positive message for recovery in the community, to recognize all pathways of recovery and, most importantly, to establish relationships between the people that provide recovery resources in town."
With 27 local vendors, mostly non-profits, represented at the event, more than 300 participants preregistered, and many walk-ins showed up as well. A panel of guests discussed the various pathways of recovery including Celebrate Recovery, 12-step programs, medication-assisted treatment, faith-based treatment and youth recovery, and a panel of speakers shared long-term recovery stories. State and local recovery officials, local law enforcement personnel and a huge showing of community support offered free food and refreshments.
June DiPolito, CEO of Pineland Behavioral Health/Development Disabilities, was the opening speaker.
"Our main goal was to have community engagement," she said. "We have achieved community engagement."
DiPolito pointed out that there are multiple paths to recovery, with many resources available in the area, but it is important for the community to join together to find solutions for those who need help.
Panelists reiterated that emphasis when asked, "What has recovery done for you?"
Bubba Lewis, Celebrate Recovery representative, said: "Recovery made my whole life better - with my wife, my family, my friends, my co-workers. There's always some bad days in recovery, but it's made my life worth living; it's given me my life back. I have a better outlook on life all the way around."
The 12-step recovery panelist, Raymond Scott, said: "Recovery restored me back to the giving man my mom and dad set out for me to be. It's given me other ways and means to deal with life. It's given me a sense of self, of who I am - to be helpful and useful to other people; to be for God's good, rather than my good."
Donald Atkinson represents faith-based treatment through his experiences with the Christian Residential Recovery Program he heads up with his wife, Jo Anna. The program is called New Beginnings in Christ and is located in Garfield.
"Recovery has given me my salvation, given me eternal life and given me back my life here on earth," he said. "Jesus set me free, and I am free indeed. Recovery has given me a purpose: to help others. When we share hope with others, it sets us free."
Panelist Dr. Jerry Scott, speaking on behalf of medication-assisted treatment, said: "Recovery gave me a different path in life. After I got my life together, I had another career. I became a pastor. And when I get the opportunity to help others change their lives, I can't tell you how much they change mine."
The last panelist, 17-year-old Nick Loughlin, represented youth recovery.
"Everything about my life has changed - it blows my mind," he said. "Recovery has given my family back to me and given me endless opportunities. And I think recovery in Statesboro has made Statesboro a better place."
Neil Campbell, executive director for the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, said she couldn't have agreed more. She began her talk with these words: "I'm a person in long-term recovery."
"I haven't had a drink or illegal substance in 26 years," Campbell said.
She noted that the opposite of addiction is not necessarily sobriety.
"It's human connection," she said. "We don't always get it the first time, but we should have the opportunity to come back and get the help we need."
She said the symposium was a great start but encouraged those in attendance to "keep talking. This is not the end, it's the beginning."
DiPolito affirmed afterward that it wouldn't be the end, most certainly, as the community partners that participated in the event will soon start planning recovery month for September.
"Many people in recovery sought me out and thanked me for what the event meant to them," she said. "Many said this rejuvenated their resolve to continue in their sobriety. That was so rewarding and made it all worthwhile."
Event organizers included the Bulloch County Alcohol and Drug Council, Capstone Technology, Celebrate Recovery, the Center for Addiction Recovery at Georgia Southern University, Connection Church, Eastern Heights Baptist Church, the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, the Georgia Southern University Psychology Clinic, LifeSpring, Overcomers, Pineland BHDD, Reliance Treatment Center and Willingway, with a grant sponsorship from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities.