FRC, other organizations try to increase awareness of substance use disorders

By Yuchen Zeng

A group of people wearing the same blue T-shirts gathered at Depot Park on Saturday. Some were running, while others were walking around the exhibition highlighting practical ways to recover from addiction.

“I was an alcoholic for about 35 years. I lost my house, my wife (and) my job. I lost everything. I was homeless for three years,” said Wade D., a participant of the running race. Wade D.’s full name is being withheld to protect his anonymity. Anonymity is a core tenet of his recovery program. “We are here to raise social awareness for the issue because it’s been stigmatized and shamed, and we’re trying to remove that shame and make it part of our culture to be aware of this issue and so that people know where to go to get help.”

Wade D. has been in recovery for five years.

“Recovery can happen for anybody. You just have to be willing to ask for help and to check your ego at the door. You can’t be in charge of your own recovery. You have to let somebody else help you,” he said.

“I teach kids to stay off drugs, tobacco, alcohol and other deviant behavior,” said Melody LaFlam, a coordinator at Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, a non-profit organization that provides addictions treatment, mental health treatment and educational activities.

“We’re going to help her get off drugs and help her get her baby back,” LaFlam said about a Meridian program dedicated to assisting mothers with addictions. “She’s got her baby, (then) we’re going to help her stop drugs.”

In addition to organizations like Meridian, which offer a wide range of services, other organizations focus on youth education. Amy Patrick and LaShay Johnson are project coordinators at Alachua County Health Promotion and Wellness Coalition. Patrick said they educate and help youth by talking and working with parents. They also do speeches and presentations at schools. Patrick said some teenagers only think vapor is cool and fun but don’t think about its addictive and risk.

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