September marks National Recovery Month, a recognition of those who have successfully overcome their addictions. One local program who works with addicts is hosting its own Recovery Day Friday in Williamsville.
Cazenovia Recovery Systems will celebrate their Recovery Day at the Main-Transit Fire Hall on Main Street, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The event will include educational demonstrations, including Narcan/Naloxone training, guest speakers and also an art show, cookout lunch, music and children's activities.
The general public is welcome, and families and friends of those currently in recovery are especially encouraged to attend. In addition to celebrating victories over addiction, those planning Friday's event hope it will relay a message of hope and support to those who are still in the grip of addiction and in need of taking a first step towards treatment.
"People have to see that they're not going to be looked down upon," said Scotty Burt, a relapse prevention specialist with Cazenovia Recovery Systems. "With some people, you get the stigma. They think people in recovery are all homeless, addicts looking down and out. The face of recovery are smiling faces, people who are happy, people who want to get jobs, go to school, they want to work and stay positive. That's a recovering person."
The statistics of fatal overdoses in Erie County alone show the diversity of backgrounds of those who succumb to their addictions. They come from different home situations, different ethnic backgrounds, different ages, and different income levels. Health officials have stated repeatedly that many of the opioid addictions tales we hear of do not begin as people simply choosing to try heroin, but rather are people who became hooked on prescribed painkillers given to them for legitimate medical cases including surgeries or injuries.
Ricky admits he turned to drug use as a means to escape stress after serving 12 years in the military. Currently a resident in Cazenovia Recovery Systems' housing program, Ricky has graduated from Erie Community College and will enroll in Buffalo State College to complete a degree in computer information systems.
He cited a turn to religious faith as playing a big part in his turnaround but he says the most important step was being willing to change. It's easier said than done, given the physical nature of addiction - health officials say it's a legitimate disease - but Ricky says if an addict is to get help, he or she must make that first move.
"You can definitely succeed. You can overcome that. But you have to make a determination, make a conscious decision, inside of yourself that enough is enough and you don't have to die that way," Ricky said. "People will give up on you, but you can't give up on yourself."