Fighting addiction: What that looks like during the holidays and beyond

Group members supporting upset woman with drug addiction in rehab center

The holidays can be joyous for many, but a tough time for some. The stress that comes along with this holly jolly time of year leaves Americans feeling depressed and overwhelmed.This is even more so for recovering and active addicts.

“Generally between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years we see an uptick in suicides or overdoses,” Randolph County sheriff, Robert Elbon said.

This time of year is something both Erica Bennett and Markie Jeffries, who are both recovering addicts and now peer recovery support specialists said they know how hard it can be.

“When I was in active addiction one of the hardest things was family get-togethers,” Bennett said. “When we’re getting high we tend not to feel those emotions, with the guilt, shame and remorse of the things that we’ve done, so you really just have to relearn,” she said.

However, even past the holidays, Sheriff Elbon said this problem doesn’t just disappear. It’s seen in Randolph County and across West Virginia on a daily basis.

“Between 85 and 95 percent of the cases we work, whether it’s simple break-in or right down to arresting people for selling drugs, it all involves drugs,” he said.

The CDC stated in November that the U.S. surpassed 100,000 drug overdose deaths in a 12 month period for the first time, and in West Virginia, it was the second state to see the biggest increase in overdose deaths at 62 percent.

Knowing what addicts are facing during this time of year and beyond, both Bennett and Jeffries say the road to change starts with being there for those who are struggling with addiction or even recovering.

“Love them anyway,” Bennett said. “Even if you have to love them from a distance.”

Doing so may bring about the right message that could be life changing.

“You have a purpose in life,” Jeffries said. “There’s a reason that you’re still here, and we just want to help. If we can save one out of ten, that’s better than nothing,” she said.

This is the goal of the newly formed task force on Addiction and Homeless Resources, put together by Mayor Jerry Marco, to be a helping hand to those who are willing to receive help.

It’s a passion he’s had before even becoming mayor. Years ago, he heard from a child he coached in basketball about a fishing trip that opened his eyes to the reality of addiction in the area.

“He said he had to stay in the river because there were so many needles on the bank, and that just painted an image in my head that I haven’t been able to shake,” Marco said.

Now he’s working to provide that solution with the help of the community.

“These are citizens that have an addiction and we need to help out our neighbors,” Marco said. “We all make mistakes, we all have issues and problems, but we can’t keep pushing people down.”