Four men in recovery from drug addiction told a local drug abuse prevention coalition that the key to their sobriety was deciding once and for all that they wanted to get well.
William Penix, Wade Stratton, Eli Bray and Joshua Brannon, all of whom have completed treatment or are currently enrolled at a 16-bed men’s recovery facility in the Buford area, shared their personal experiences with recovery and fielded questions from coalition members about addiction.
The discussion was the main event at the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition’s monthly meeting on Thursday. Erin Holsted of Massie House, the recovery facility, moderated the discussion.
Bray, 27, said he was “gifted with a desperation” to get well when he overdosed on drugs and was arrested. With no friends or family to turn to, Bray enrolled at Massie House. He celebrated one year drug-free on April 26.
Bray, who now works in construction, said his child is one of his top motivators to stay clean.
“I’m loving life lately,” he said. “So far, so good.”
Brannon, 37, said he is from Clinton County but has “caused trouble” throughout the area.
“Drugs will find you no matter where you’re at,” he said.
Brannon’s battle with addiction began when he was 15. He said feelings of abandonment were what made him turn to drugs. Brannon said he is currently enrolled at Massie House for the second time. He said his first time at the facility was not successful because he had reservations about recovery.
Stratton, 31, had used drugs for 15 years and been in and out of rehab until his time at Massie House. He said it was a need to fit in at school that led him to drug use. He will be seven months clean on June 6.
Stratton said he decided he needed help when he took an acquaintance to the hospital after she overdosed. He was on probation at the time, and when the cops showed up at the hospital to investigate the overdose, he was arrested.
“You get tired,” he said. “I’ve built a good social network… I think that’s what keeps me sober.”
Penix, 35, said he couldn’t recall exactly how long he had used drugs, but he said he remembers being ordered to complete treatment at Massie House last year.
“I went kicking and screaming,” he said.
Now, like Stratton, he has built a community of supportive people who help him stay sober. He will be 10 months clean on May 28.
All four men said it takes honesty and an open mind — in Bray’s words, a laying aside of “foolish pride” — to successfully recover from drug addiction.
Stratton said when people are forced into recovery treatment, it’s likely they will not be successful, since sobriety takes a level of commitment that the addicted person can only find in themselves.
“You’ve got to be 100-percent ready,” Penix said.
For Penix, it was severe health problems brought on by addiction that woke him up to recovery. He said that was the type of “drastic event” that is necessary for people to change their minds about recovery.
Holsted asked what keeps the men sober long-term, and Brannon said Narcotics Anonymous meetings, support groups and a strict routine help him avoid drug use.
Bray also said a heavy schedule keeps him out of trouble, commenting that his construction job is often so demanding of time and energy that he only eats and sleeps at home.
Stratton said he advocates for harm reduction techniques, plays music and makes art.
The group also discussed what Holsted called a “desperate need” for transitional housing in Highland County. Currently, the only transitional housing available is through a local ministry, and that has space limitations.
The Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition is a group of mental health and drug treatment service providers, law enforcement officials, people of faith and concerned citizens who meet monthly to exchange ideas on how to prevent drug abuse in Highland County.
The group meets at noon every fourth Thursday of the month in the main conference room at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro.
The coalition can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/HCDAPC.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.