Seen in: The Post Star
Saturday, June 19, 2021
Recovery resource fair aims to break down stigma of substance abuse
SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Brendan Norton was three years into his recovery before he told those closest to him he was having substance-use issues.
When he finally came clean, Norton said he was overcome with a sense of relief and received an outpouring of love and support from everyone around him. It’s a response that set him down a new path in life, he said.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking at first because I have never done anything like that before, but the more I talked about it and the more I shared — I say now that I recover loudly so people don’t die silently,” he said.
Norton, now a family counselor for Healing Springs — a Saratoga Springs-based recovery network that provides support services to those in recovery and their families throughout Saratoga County — was one of around two dozen people representing 18 organizations during a recovery resource fair hosted at the Moreau Community Center on Saturday.
The fair comes amid a surge in overdose deaths nationwide over the past year.
More than 81,000 overdose deaths were reported in the U.S. in the year preceding May 2020, the most in a 12-month period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overdoses are continuing to trend upward both locally and on the national level, according to Judy Moffitt, a recovery coach for families and co-chair of Friends of Recovery — Warren and Washington.
“We have lost a lot of friends,” she said.
Moffitt, who lost a son to an overdose, said there’s still a stigma attached to what she referred to as substance-use disorder (words like “addiction” and “addict” add to the stigma, she said). The stigma can only be overcome by education that starts on the grassroots level.
“We know education is so needed. This isn’t people go to treatment and then they’re done. This is a lifelong struggle that many people have,” she said.
But the pandemic has pushed recovery resources to the brink, said Katherine Chambers, director of restorative practices at Hope & Healing, a Hudson Falls-based recovery network that services Warren and Washington counties.
The recovery community, she said, often relies on those in recovery who have firsthand experience in battling substance issues and navigating the recovery process.
But with a growing number of stressors triggered by the pandemic, Chambers said many in the community are struggling to maintain their own recovery, which has made it difficult for others seeking to begin their own journey in finding help.
“These are individuals that are trying to maintain their own recovery in a really strong healthy way and being sort of bombarded in this vicarious way with this trauma of other experiences,” Chambers said.
“Then you compile that with COVID and isolation and mental health stressors … and you have sort of a snowball effect.”
Chambers added resources are still available locally, and she urged anyone dealing with substance-use disorder to reach out.
Lillian McCarthy, director of Healing Springs, agreed, adding it’s important for people to be open about their struggles.
Not only will the honesty be beneficial to a person’s own health, but it will help eliminate the stigma associated with substance-use disorder, which keeps so many from seeking help, she said.
“The way we’re going to break down that stigma is by being open and honest. Sharing experiences and not being afraid to,” McCarthy said. “The more we’re afraid and the more we keep it to ourselves, the more it is an issue.”