By MARY CATHERINE BROOKS
OCEANA, W.Va. — Craig Rhodes knows what it’s like to spend months in an intense drug recovery program only to come home and find there is no support system in place.
“In Wyoming County, you’re on your own,” Rhodes emphasized.
It should not be difficult to find a support group for recovering addicts; that group should be in place and ready, Rhodes believes.
Now a licensed recovery coach and peer support specialist, he began Recovery In Wyoming County, a 12-step program, two years ago.
He already meets with recovering addicts regularly in Pineville, in Mullens, and in Gilbert. On Thursday, he officially kicked-off Recovery In Wyoming County in Oceana.
“I’ve found my purpose,” he told those attending.
For three decades, Rhodes was addicted to heroin and cocaine. He’s been clean for nearly three years now, but addicts are never completely recovered, he said.
Support from friends and family, from organized support groups is essential to keep a recovering addict on the right path.
“I’m allergic to benzos and opiates… and it usually ends in shackles and handcuffs for me,” he told the group jokingly.
Three of the recovering addicts attending shared their stories. Though they came from different places and their reasons for turning to drugs varied, their stories were basically the same. They included time in jail and God moving in their lives.
One young man said he had been addicted for 20 years and has been in recovery several times. Without continuing support, however, he always returned to the drugs, sleeping in his car, stealing from his family.
“Nobody wanted to see me, except my dog,” he said.
He is now about to begin work at an area rehab facility.
Another young man said he’d been an addict for 10 years and finally got “tired of the lifestyle.”
“I was tired of the lying. I was tired of the cheating. I was tired of stealing.
“I prayed to God for help,” he said.
Within a couple of days, he was in a rehabilitation center.
“God is good,” he said. “My wife trusts me again; I can’t believe that…
“Addicts need help; they don’t need people to turn their backs on them. They’re not bad people; they’re just people that have made bad choices.”
A young woman said she turned to drugs when her ex-husband took her kids.
“That ripped my heart out,” she said. “I turned to drugs.”
Eventually she was arrested and sent to jail for operating a meth lab.
“Going to jail was the best thing that could have happened to me. I found God while I was in jail.”
For nine months she has been sober and is well on her way to getting her children back.
Rhodes told the group he grew up in Baltimore and he’d had a bad life. Both of his children are addicts. His son was one of the first graduates of the Wyoming County Drug Court and the two now work together in Rhodes construction company. He hasn’t seen his daughter, however, for awhile.
“I had so much hate in my life,” he emphasized of the addiction.
“I’m not perfect now,” he added, “but I want to help people.”
Rhodes said he was upset when he first found out he was being sent to a faith-based rehab center in Huntington. He questioned the separation of church and state, and threatened a lawsuit.
The drugs had caused his thinking to become negative; he thought everyone was against him.
“But, I was against myself…
“The human body refuses to be empty,” he said, adding people will “fill” their bodies with drugs, women, prostitution, whatever is available.
“But if you heal the spiritual side of yourself, the mind and body will follow.”
Addiction is a disease, Rhodes noted.
When he was in rehab, he was elated to learn “addiction is a fatal disease that is 100 percent treatable.”
He’s also learned about the science of addiction, the chemical changes it creates in the body and in the mind.
Until the pain is greater than the fear, an addict won’t seek help, Rhodes said.
“Everything is good on this side of the fear,” he emphasized of being sober.
Those interested in “Recovery In Wyoming County” can find it on Facebook.
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