Recovering addicts gather to share stories of hope, extend help to others

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — We were part of the problem but now we are part of the solution is how one recovering addict told the audience how she felt about the Story of Hope gathering Monday morning in Charleston.

Dozens came together for the event, where recovering addicts who have been clean for at least one year told their stories and offered a helping hand for anyone struggling with addiction.

The event took place at the Mezzanine Conference Room inside Charleston City Hall.

“We are here to help others,” recovering addict Joe Deegan said. “We are here to reach out to family members who may struggle and know they have a loved one who is trying to get into recovery. We will reach out to people who are not ready and try to get them to be ready.”

Deegan is in long-term recovery of 10 years from marijuana and alcohol and currently works at the St. Francis Hospital Addiction Healing Center. He spoke for the majority of the group to begin the event as the individuals in recovery lined the front of the room behind him.

He stressed that recovery works, treatment works and that they are all in it together. While this was the first meeting of its kind, he said they plan to do more and work with Charleston mayor Amy Goodwin to hold more recovery events.

“We’d like for people to join us in stepping forth and saying that there are faces and voices in recovery in the Charleston community and Kanawha County,” he said.

Braxton County native Autumn McCraw shared her story in front of the crowd Monday. She said her drug use started out small and then graduated into more serious use as she was in active addiction for nearly 20 years. McCraw was also a victim of human trafficking and is a two-time convicted felon.

She said she has been clean for one year now, but the road to this point has been tough.

“Not only was I an avid user, but I was also a two-time convicted felon,” she said. “I felt like there was no use in trying to get clean and sober. I mean what kind of life is a two-time convicted felon going to have after recovery?”

McCraw said the kind of life she is living now, clean and sober, has been rewarding.

“I’m building my relationships back,” she said. “I am still currently in a treatment center. I am employed now. I have hopes and dreams for school again and relationships with my family are becoming incredible.”

Deegan talked about the Quick Response Teams that go out three nights a week to try and help addicts. The team of a city police officer, city fire official and a person in recovery go out together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“This is to reach out to those who overdosed,” Deegan said. “To try and get them to turn their lives around, give them an opportunity to get into recovery and join us, and be happy, joyous and free.”

A number of others shared there stories while being surrounded by peers. The stories were taken in by representatives from various recovery centers, numerous city officials and loved ones of the recovering addicts.

“There is not a lot of hope out there right now,” McCraw said. “It’s like a hopeless situation and we need to get involved to build the community back up.”

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