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Former addict speaks from experience
Boone offers advice on tackling substance abuse issues in area
Sunday, September 9, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Just because someone is a former felon or an addict doesn’t mean that their life will never be anything, Delbert Boone said at a Recovery Day gathering Saturday.
Anyone can recover, he said, adding, “I’m living proof.”
Boone, a motivational speaker who travels across the country talking about overcoming addiction, spoke at Patrick Henry Community College on Saturday as part of Recovery Day.
Recovery Day was hosted by the Community Recovery Program of Piedmont Community Services and Drug Free Martinsville Henry County to mark September as National Recovery Month. The day also celebrates those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse and mental illness.
People “can recover and become productive members of society,” said Valerie Blevins, coordinator of Drug Free Martinsville Henry County.
Boone admitted to the crowd of about 50 people on Saturday that he used to be an addict, was sent to the penitentiary four times and was a 13-time convicted felon.
By the time he went to the penitentiary, he was homeless, his utilities had been turned off and “I was living like a refugee,” he said.
But 34 years ago when he was in St. Louis, a group of people intervened and got him help. He had believed there was nothing wrong with him and people were just picking on him; that no one liked him because he was black, or it was because he was from Detroit or they just didn’t understand him, he said.
But the group in St. Louis understood that he was an addict “and it’s a good thing they knew it when they saw it because they saved my life,” Boone said.
“They knew what was wrong with me ... and knew I could pull myself together,” he added.
When he started in recovery, he didn’t want to hear anything about his addiction and didn’t want help. But “the more I listened, the clearer it got” and now he can see the signs of addiction, he said.
While seeking sobriety, Boone kept being told to take one day at a time and then watch life “open up in front of you,” he said. At first he didn’t believe in that, but he decided to hang in there and slowly but surely, his life started coming back together, he added.
Sixty years ago, people wouldn’t admit to being a part of a recovery group, but times have changed and people must “stand up and let the world see us ... because seeing is believing,” Boone said.
Those in recovery and the public must know that addiction is “not a death sentence, not a moral weakness and not a character defect ... it’s a disease” and people can recover, he said.
Since being clean, he has been able to notice the signs of addiction. He sees the signs in child abuse, homicides, copper pipe thefts, traffic accidents and teen pregnancies — most are a result of someone being under the influence of substances, he said.
“Addiction is dangerous” and no one should turn away from the signs, but instead “look to what’s going on,” Boone said.
In today’s society, the goal is to cut off the flow of drugs. In his opinion, that will not solve the drug issue. The only way to confront the issue is “to shut down the demand,” Boone said.
He discussed components that he said could help tackle the substance abuse issue. They are:
• Awareness. Boone noted how the number of smokers has decreased over the years due to more advertisements and notices that raise aware of the dangers of smoking. The same must be done with substance abuse, he said.
• Education. The more people are educated on mental illness and addiction, the more people will be able to identify the signs.
Children should be taught about substance abuse starting in kindergarten because by “fifth grade, it’s too late,” he said. By the time a child is six years old, he/she has already been bombarded by alcohol advertisements so it could be “an accident waiting to happen,” he added.
• Policies. Boone feels that a drug court should be established in the area and a student assistance program should required in every school system to intervene in mental health situations, he said.
• Identification and intervention. People should be educated on how to identify the signs and once they see them, one should intervene and get the person proper help before it is too late, he said.
“Just because you suffer from the illness doesn’t mean it has to take you out,” he said.
• Referral. All communities need resources that help people to recover. From what he has seen while visiting Martinsville last week, the area has plenty of assistance available, he said.
• Statistics. It’s important for agencies to keep proper records and statistics to show the progress of those in recovery. The more statistics, the more likely an agency is to receive grants, he said.
Also on Saturday at the event, singer Amanda Joyce performed and motivational rapper Young Timothy performed. A balloon artist, face painter and CHILL members also entertained children.
The Community Recovery Program works with people in early recovery (three months clean of drugs and/or alcohol).
The staff assesses each individual’s needs and develops a recovery plan.
Plans include getting a job, getting involved in a 12-step program or getting an education, according to Lisa Smith, program manager for the Community Recovery Program.
With everyone, the main goal is to hold a stable job, and the program partners with other area agencies to get people back into the workforce, Smith said.
Drug Free Martinsville Henry County is a coalition of community leaders and concerned citizens who work to come up with ways to rid the area of the drug and alcohol problem, Smith said.