Kathy's Story: Hope after Addiction

Addiction.  It could happen to any of us.  Like it happened to Kathy Zeller of Bellefontaine.  But recovery can happen too.  

After seven dark years of dependence, Kathy now serves as a bright beacon of hope for those struggling with substance abuse and their families.  Kathy helps others who are battling addiction through her work at Recovery Zone, a peer-support center on Bellefontaine's west side and United Way's newest Funded Agency.

"Not only have I seen healing for me.  I see the healing in my family.  I see it in my children," Kathy said.  "Recovery doesn't just happen to you. It happens to everyone you love."  

The numbers are staggering.  There were 69 documented opioid overdose cases in Logan County as of June 30 this year, after 46 occurred in all of 2016.  11 of the overdoses resulted in death.  Substance abuse impacts more than just the person addicted.   

That's why United Way is joining the fight against Logan County's opioid epidemic in a big way.  In addition to funding Recovery Zone and Consolidated Care's wrap-around services, we awarded a $26,150 grant to the Logan County Community Coalition for Opiate Relief Efforts (CORE) earlier this year.  The money will be used to help CORE take action on five strategies coalition members have developed.  

"We hear so many of the negative things about the overdoses, but there are so many stories to share about treatment and success that this money is going to put into place to give people hope again," said Steve Marshall, Kroger Pharmacist and Co-Chair of CORE.  

"Before I became dependent on substances, I was someone who went to work everyday," Kathy said.  "I put the needs of my children first.  I was a Mom who went to every event and every game.  My children didn't initially realize there even was a problem."

The problem started with a prescription medication.  Kathy had recently had surgery.  She was going through a divorce and remembers needing a boost to get through the day.

"I was up late one evening, now a single mother with two children.  I needed to be at work the next day.  I needed to pack lunches and clean house.  I'd just gotten the kids to bed.  And I remember that I also got this sense of energy when I took the pain relievers.  And so the first time it happened, it was just to give me some energy to fulfill my responsibilities."

Before she knew it, she needed the pills just to get out of bed.  Just to go to work.  She would buy medications online and overseas, then on the street.  Then illicit drugs.  For seven years, Kathy was dependent on drugs.  Finally the right combination of consequences and help came along to motivate Kathy toward recovery.

"My daughter told me that if she had children, if I had grandchildren, she wouldn't let me watch them," Kathy said.  "That was my first realization about how bad things had gotten for me, because I couldn't see it."  

"Something else that woke me up was an arrest.  Realizing just how much of a danger I was to myself, to everyone around me.  I was forced to have a period of time of not taking any substances where my mind got clear and I made a resolution to God. I just let God know I didn't want to live this way anymore.  And I was OK with leaving this earth if that was necessary.  I was ready to die."

But God had plans for Kathy.

Kathy has been clean for two years and now works at Recovery Zone, facilitating support groups and classes to help others who are working their way to recovery.     

"It's near impossible to do on your own," she said.  "It wasn't just wanting the help, but the right help being there at the right time.  And for me, it was having the support, the family, the friends, a place like Recovery Zone that I could come where there were meetings here on the weekend.  There were people here just talking.  There was a place for me to volunteer.  Places for me to be a part of.  People who understood and cared and kept reaching out to give me help."  

We need more resources in Logan County to help people like Kathy.  

United Way's grant to CORE has resulted in the creation of a local response team that will provide outreach to overdose victims and their families.  Approximately one week after a nonfatal overdose, a team comprised of a law enforcement officer, case worker, and a recovering addict will visit the home of the victim to give information about available resources and support to the opioid user and other family members.  Kathy is participating on this team.  The approach is mirrored on successful programs conducted in other communities in which 70 percent of overdose victims enter into treatment programs after receiving follow-up visits from local response teams.

A drug-free youth coalition with student representation from each Logan County school district in grades 7-10 is forming so teens can to plan peer-led strategies and activities to prevent youth substance abuse.

The Search Institute's 40 Developmental Asset Survey will be conducted in all 8th, 10th, and 12th grade classrooms next school year to measure data and trends on teens' drug use and behaviors.

Billboards promoting a no-tolerance message to drug dealers will be posted.  And additional dollars will be spent to maintain CORE's website (www.logancountycore.com) and promotional materials.

"We realize that it's not just one area that needs addressed," said Marshall.  "It takes everybody.  And our strategic teams have been working hard these last several years to come up with plans.  This money means we're going to be able to put things in place for the first time and really make an impact."