- Published: Friday, 01 July 2016 07:42
- Written by Martha Trese
By Chase Strawser, KnoxPages.com Reporter
GAMBIER - The Knox County Addiction Conference finished up Thursday after a two day event at the Kenyon College campus focused on educating the public about addiction and the devastation it can have on individuals, families, and communities. The conference, coordinated by the Knox Substance Abuse Action Team, also aimed to clear up any misconceptions about addiction by showing how everyday people can succumb to substance abuse under volatile circumstances.
Day two of the conference began with powerful testimonies from individuals who's lives were altered by addictive lifestyles. Adam Brenneman spoke to conference members about how he spiraled from alcohol use to drug use despite a level upbringing and productive formative years of good grades and athletics. While in college, initial caution towards addictive substances caved in to frequent use and even dealing illegal substances. While getting sober, Brenneman talked about the importance of focusing on one's self when fighting addiction. He said, "I need to stay sober for myself so I can be there for them [his family]. Recovery from addiction needs to be self-motivated to be effective rather than just a process of giving in to the pressures of others.
Jessi Clinger confided to the conference her addiction to alcohol and battle with an eating disorder. Along with impairing her ability to function in her everyday life, Jessi's addiction also adversely affected those close to her, inhibiting her ability to take care for her son. Jessi commented on how far a person can let addiction deteriorate them before they seek help. In a powerful statement she said, "I had to give up in order to live." Meaning she had to let go of addiction's hold on her as a sign of strength and acceptance rather that weakness. Jessi's has found strength in spirituality while rebuilding her life in the wake of addiction. She said, "Without my faith, I would not be who I am today."
Kristina Foreman gradually fell into an addictive lifestyle despite having drug free examples in her parents. Experimentation with alcohol when she was younger snowballed into heavier substance use with heroin. She commented about the false sense of self-security drug abuse can provide. She said, "What I thought was the solution to the problem became even more of a problem for me." Having completed a nursing degree, but rendered unable to pursue it while controlled by addiction, she went on to complete a Master's in Social Work from The Ohio State University. She counsel's people with drug dependency with The Freedom Center in Knox County, being able to sympathize with patients having been in a similar position.
These testimonies have shown that even people from solid family backgrounds can develop addictive habits. Courtney Decosky also had a supportive family grounding before alcoholism became prevalent in her life. Decosky described herself as being able to maintain a high functioning, busy life while her alcohol consumption compromised her health behind the scenes. Decosky mentioned a warning her mother gave her about her consumption. She said," My mother took me aside and said, 'Courtney, you are playing Russian roulette.'" Her mother, friends at her job, and outpatient treatment in Richmond, Virginia were instrumental in her recovery process. While still living an active life with theatre, music, and her Administrative Assistant to the Office of the President at Kenyon College, she warned that anything can be an addiction, even seemingly harmless things like caffeine and the need to always stay busy.
Of the many important presentations, Kay Spergel's presentation, The Impact of Untreated Depression and Anxiety, pointed out the connection between mental health problems and substance abuse. Many people with undiagnosed mental illnesses resort to self medicating with drugs and resulting in inadvertent dependency. Spergel also discussed how mental illnesses need to be treated with the same importance and immediate care as more obvious physical health problems. Substance abusers would benefit from recommendations to adequate professional sources of healthcare rather than self-medication.
Mark Hurst's presentation, Creating Environments of Resiliency and Hope, showed the correlation between early childhood trauma and risk factors later in life, like substance abuse. Similar to Spergel's presentation, the factors in developing drug dependency may not be immediately obvious and require more extensive evaluation than what can be perceived on the surface.
The many topics of the conference aligned with the purpose of substituting any misinformation and insufficient information on addiction the public may have with enlightening facts.