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Dreams of recovery

Group forms to discuss drug treatment in Alpena

News Photo by Julie Riddle People animatedly share ideas after a meeting addressing how Alpena can better help people through addiction recovery.

ALPENA — People kept coming.

It was the second meeting of a group who think there’s something missing in Alpena. Recovery Alliance, they are calling themselves.

When they first got together, 13 people showed up to discuss addiction recovery in Alpena. They talked about why recovery is hard. And they had some ideas of what might make it better.

Another meeting was planned. Maybe they could fill a few more chairs, pull in a few more people.

When they met again Thursday morning, the room they’d reserved in a coffee shop wasn’t big enough, so they paraded to a bigger room a block away.

The room filled. The extra chairs filled. The walls and doorway filled. People kept coming.

They wanted to talk. They wanted to listen.

They wanted to find a way to make things better.

All kinds of people came. Recovering addicts. Attorneys. Doctors. Addiction treatment center employees. Mental health advocates.

Each one spoke, telling a personalized story of what addiction recovery looks like and sharing a dream of what it could be.

Alpena is rich with recovery resources, those in attendance said. They see people trying to help, organizations offering guidance and support.

Still, they agreed, there are gaps.

Finding a safe, drug-free place to live can be nearly impossible for someone trying to kick an addiction, they said.

When he got out of residential treatment, a man shared, the last place he wanted to go was back to the environment from which he came, full of the same triggers and temptations.

Many nods affirmed the group’s dream of creating transitional housing, an accessible, affordable, and drug-free living space for people breaking their addictive habits.

Physician Jason Beatty, who attended the meeting via a phone camera, at one time worked with a residential recovery home downstate. Beatty said the biggest problem he encountered there was the fear of an uncertain community who thought a home for recovery meant danger.

“These people already live amongst you,” he said.

It’s when people don’t have a safe and supportive environment that they go back to drug use, he added.

Dale Hull, the director of a recently formed recovery assistance group in Petoskey, told the group what’s been working on the other side of the state. He described his organization’s coordinated efforts to help addicts find jobs and housing immediately after they are released from jail.

“We don’t cure anything,” Hull said. “Except maybe a bit of ignorance.”

Jesika Brown, who has fought off a heroin addiction, voiced the frustration of someone who will always bear the scars of an addiction. She will never qualify for food stamps and will always struggle to find a place to live or a job because of her record, she said.

“I consider myself a good person now,” the energetic young woman said. “But I can’t get any respect.”

Another younger woman told the group about the recovery support group she’s starting, one at which children are welcome. Child care costs money, she said — money people in recovery don’t always have.

As the conversation circled the room, treatment experts and recovery professionals talked of new programs in progress.

Experts in recovery — those who have been through it, those who are living it — talked of hope, of their dreams to make the hard job easier for others walking in their shoes.

Brown said she “did the jail thing” and saw firsthand the power of people helping each other through one of the toughest fights of their lives.

Like many of the other people in the room, she hopes to be certified as a recovery coach.

“I just want to help, dude,” she said.

As the conversation drew to an end, someone asked if they wanted to meet again, to talk some more, to listen some more. To see if things could get better.

Yes, they all said. Yes, they wanted to meet again.

Next time, they would get a bigger room.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Dr. Jason Beatty and Jesika Brown attended the Recovery Alliance meeting in Alpena Thursday. Their names were spelled incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.

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