WINNSBORO — Fairfield Behavioral and Health held a luncheon this past Friday to recognize their efforts within the county.
September was National Recovery Month, a national observance that educates Americans that addiction treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorders to live a healthy and rewarding life.
In its 23rd year, National Recovery Month gives organizations the chance to highlight individuals who have reclaimed their lives and are living in long-term recovery. It also honors the prevention, treatment and recovery service providers who make recovery possible.
Thousands of prevention, treatment, recovery programs and services around the country celebrate their successes and share them to educate the public about recovery, how it works, for whom and why.
Fairfield Central High School sophomore Valerie Keller won the award for best essay titled “What does recovery mean to me.”
Principal Tracie Swilley read the essay to an assembly of nearly 200 people with Keller by her side.
“This a very touching essay and I am going to try my best to get through it,” Swilley told the crowd before reading the essay.
Keller’s essay was an emotional testimony of how drug use and addiction has affected her immediate family.
“I hate drugs. I have never had such a strong hatred for anything in my life. I hate how much of a negative affect drugs can have on a family,” Swilley read directly from the essay. “Recovery to me means my parents will be there for me. I will wake up one day and they will back at home with me and they will never leave my side again. They will not miss out on my award ceremonies or even my softball games. It means that they will spend time with me and not make up excuses. Recovery means that I will have a long life with my parents. It means I will not have to stay up those long nights worrying. Recovery means everything to me.”
As the last line was read, Keller’s essay received a lengthy standing ovation.
Fairfield Behavioral and Health director Vernon Kennedy was congratulatory of Keller’s thoughts and efforts.
“Thank you for doing that,” Kennedy told Keller. “I know it was a lot to put all that on paper, and not only to put it all on paper but to share it with so many people as well.”
Local author Virginia Schaffer shared a heartfelt tribulation of losing her son to alcohol abuse. In March her 38-year old son fell from a 25-foot embankment on the Los Angeles expressway.
Living homeless in Los Angeles for the past 10 years, he died as a “John Doe” without a penny in his pocket. Despite being raised by an affluent family, Schaffer believes her son chose the life of an alcoholic.
“Alcohol is an addiction that can affect anyone anywhere,” she said. “It affects everyone. My heart breaks for those in addiction. I always take the opportunity to tell people my story in the hopes that it may affect someone’s life.”
James Wilson spoke about his personal experience of being in recovery for the past 29 years. Wilson has worked as a substance abuse counselor since 1986.
“I am truly blessed with each day of sobriety,” he stated.
Wilson said his greatest fear was his son falling into alcoholism, because his grandfather and father were alcoholics.
“My family has a legacy of alcoholism,” Wilson noted. “The three things I’ve learned over the years is that we did not cause the addiction, we cannot control the addiction and we cannot cure the addiction.”
Robert Toomey, director of the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, emphasized that addicts move to and through recovery with the help of family, friends or a higher power.
“I do need to say that recovery is a gift and without help none of this is possible,” he said. “There is a lot of love in the hearts of those who are addicted and there is an awful lot of love in the hearts of those who love someone who is addicted. But love is not quite enough. We need help to get through recovery.”
Whether it is alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, gambling or behavioral problems, Fairfield Behavioral Health Services is available to help those in need. Kennedy recognized over 200 partners and organizations that have contributed throughout the years.
“All of this would not have been possible without your support,” he told the assembly. “Recovery can and does happen.”
For more information about the services offered by Fairfield Behavioral and Health call 803-635-2335 or visit www.fairfieldbhs.org.