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2019 KAY SHEEHAN SPIRIT OF THE COMMUNITY AWARD
In the three years since opening their doors, Northampton Recovery Center has become a vital regional resource in the fight against addiction and for recovery. They have grown quickly, starting at Edwards Church before moving into their own space in downtown Northampton that has allowed them to provide more services, longer hours, and increased visitations.
Their peer-to-peer counseling and support for individuals, their families, and allies is nothing short of life changing.
By LAURIE LOISEL For the Gazette
Please see below for audio from an interview with Bob Flaherty at WHMP regarding the Recovery Center's Grand Opening!
by Laurie Loisel
NRC provides refuge, support and hope for this member
Enjoying a quiet moment at the Northampton Recovery Center while his 2 ½-year-old daughter, Alianna, played nearby, Tom Rozene reflected on why he is a member and regular participant at NRC events.
It’s a place where he finds support for his recovery, something he hopes never to take for granted. And it’s a source of hope that his daughter’s life will follow a different path. Ever since the day Rozene walked in the doors about a year and a half ago when the NRC was housed in a borrowed room at the Edwards Church, he said he felt welcomed and accepted.
Rozene, 59, feels he’s being given a second chance in his recovery and as a father and he doesn’t want to miss any of it.
“Never a day do I wake up and not appreciate what I have,” he said.
He says he’s been in recovery for about 15 years, though he was “in and out” of recovery rooms for nearly four decades. There were many years, he says, when he was not using, but also, not really in recovery.
This time around, with the help of medication assisted treatment, he says his recovery feels more solid, and the NRC is a part of that strength.
“There’s not so much stigma with MAT, and also the peer to peer – a safe place to be really resonates with me,” he said.
Rozene, who moved around throughout his life, now lives in Leeds. He stops by the NRC with regularity, sometimes for a specific activity or meeting, and other times simply to connect with others working on their recovery.
He said he appreciates the variety of opportunities the NRC offers, in addition to recovery meetings, including art classes and writing groups.
Rozene volunteers at the NRC by staffing the front desk, taking on odd jobs like using his truck to help move furniture when the center moved into its 2 Gleason Plaza quarters, and other assorted needs.
“I try and help whenever asked if someone can’t show up,” he said. “I think being part of it is a big part of it working.”
Rozene, who has struggled with addiction since he was a teenager, said he appreciates the evolution in the way medical providers now view addiction, even if there are still stigmas to confront.
“Now that the issue hit the mainstream, people are starting to accept that it’s a disease,” he said.
Meantime, he cares for his daughter, and appreciates the simple fact that he can care for her. He brings her to the NRC, where he hopes she gains compassion and understanding.
“I want her to hear about recovery and understand that if people have a problem, there’s a solution and a place to go,” he said.
Supportive community at Northampton Recovery Center
By JULIE HARRINGTON
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Walking into the Northampton Recovery Center, members are welcomed with open arms whether it is their first or 50th meeting.
For those struggling with substance abuse, finding a supportive community to be part of is essential to their recovery, say members of the center.
The opioid epidemic is a problem so widespread it has touched the lives and loved ones of too many — nearly half of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center — and the recovery center is one of the local organizations stepping in to provide help and support to those who need it.
I first visited the center for a University of Massachusetts class project this spring, and I met with some incredible people who felt they had benefited hugely from their time with the center. With my own personal experience of having a family member go through various treatment facilities and recovery programs, some far better than others, hearing such overwhelmingly positive things about the Northampton center was impactful and inspiring to me.
Robert Wronski, a peer coordinator and member at the center, is outspoken about what makes it a special place for someone in recovery.
“There was something magical about that first time I went to the NRC that I just kept coming back and I have only missed about two or three meetings in the past year,” Wronski said.
Wronski’s history with substance abuse began at a young age. He described how he started drinking when he was a teenager and his habits progressed and became problematic over the years until his 30s.
“I ended up going from drinking socially to being a solo drinker,” he said. “I lost a marriage, I lost my closest friend for some time, although he’s back in my life now. It was really difficult, and towards the end I got hooked on opioids as well. Prescription opioids, though not always my prescription.”
Wronski explained that the first time he went to the center he was struck by what made it different than meetings he had been to before.
“There were guys there from the jail that I had seen before at AA meetings that would sit in the back and never share, but at this meeting they were opening up so deeply and personally,” he said. “They were serious about their recovery and about not making the same mistakes … and that sincerity and honesty from a group I had seen be so closed in AA really struck me. This was a place they felt safe.”
The center has undergone a transformative journey to become this inclusive environment, Wronski said. “There was a time where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue to be part of the NRC because they weren’t so sure about who they wanted to welcome and who they didn’t want to welcome.”
He explained that there had been a fear of welcoming in people who were still active users because it could upset the safe recovery environment.
“Instead of just fighting about it, we decided to sit down together and write out a code of ethics … I’m so glad I stayed around to be part of that conversation because I would have missed that magical thing. We as a community grew and changed by working together,” Wronski said.
As the center’s community grows, the offerings for wellness activities do as well. Along with weekly recovery meetings, the center offers yoga, meditation, life skills classes, social events, family support groups and more.
Another aspect that sets the center apart is the focus on empowering its members. While Lynn Ferro, the interim director, oversees the center, the advisory committee is made up of members and most of the groups and wellness activities are member-run.
“To feel like we have a voice and that it matters … we are not just attendants, we are all creating the NRC,” Wronski said. “It doesn’t matter if you have been here since the very first day, or if you’re there for the very first day today, you’re contributing to the NRC, which is really powerful.”
Despite the pervasiveness of substance abuse issues across the country, the stigma for people in recovery is still a harsh reality. The center has made it a priority to make people understand that there is nothing wrong with seeking help and working toward a better life.
Until the center moved to 2 Gleason Plaza on May 1, it had used space at the Edwards Church.
“Whenever I tell people to come to the Edwards Church ... they often go to the back door to go into the basement where AA meetings usually are, and I’m like, ‘Oh no, we are on the top floor like respectable people,’ ” Wronski said.
“We aren’t hiding in the basement anymore. We’re right up here on the main floor with windows and light … come into the front door and you’ll find us. We don’t need to hide, and that’s one of the powerful messages from the NRC,” he said.
Julie Harrington is a journalism student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who worked with the Northampton Recovery Center during the spring semester of her sophomore year.
by Julie Harrington
Deb Wyand looked around at the familiar faces she sees at the Northampton Recovery Center weekly and started the meeting.
“Hi everyone, my name is Deb and I’m in recovery.”
She opened the floor for any of the members in the circle around her to share their experiences and talk about what they are going through. Due to her short stature, this group of people, including several inmates from the Hampshire House of Correction, might be expected to overpower her, but her colorful personality and encouraging smile gives her a large presence that invites the members to contribute.
Wyand works as a recovery coach at the Northampton Recovery Center, opened in 2016, and will soon begin working at the Franklin Recovery Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts. In response to the growing opioid epidemic facing the country, these recovery centers are in higher demand than ever before, and have an increasing presence in the Pioneer Valley area.
After struggling with substance abuse issues for the greater part of her life, Wyand has been in recovery for two years and devotes her time to helping other people who are struggling the same way she did. She helps facilitate the various group meetings the center holds, as well as working with members individually to provide the guidance and support they need at all stages of their journey with recovery.
“I am an alcoholic. It’s in my genetics,” said Wyand. From her childhood into her adult life, alcoholism was always present. She was always going to be “addicted to something,” she explained.
As a child, growing up in Maine, Wyand was exposed to her father’s alcoholism and found herself following a similar path from a young age.
“I remember when I was a kid, Christmas time was always big, everyone would always be drunk,” Wyand said.
“I would say the first drink I had was probably 10 years old,” She said. Early use of alcohol combined with an abusive relationship in her teen years brought out a pattern of “self-medication” in her life, she said.
“15 and 16 years old is huge for your development and I was partying pretty hard then. I was also in an abusive relationship. That kind of formed a lot of things and fed the fire for me as an alcoholic,” Wyand said. “For instance, I had guns put to my head. It was bad and my family never knew. My parents were clueless and I don’t think my mother has ever gotten over that when I told her about it many years later.”
About seven years ago, Wyand went to a doctor for pain she was having and received opiates. From there, her pattern of addiction transferred to this new substance, which she used after not using drugs while going to school.
“From there it kind of went downhill. In between it all, I went to school and I received my BA from Westfield State in special education and my minor was psych, and then I got my masters from Smith College to teach the deaf and here I am,” she said.
Wyand’s goal had been to become a special education teacher, but she ultimately did not pass the MTEL, the certification exam she needed.
“That was my dream, and when that came to an end, I really fell off the wagon. I was clean for 5 or 6 years; I would have never gotten my masters if I was drinking like I used to,” said Wyand.
Wyand has been married for 31 years and has two college-age children. Her son is a senior at Emerson College in Boston, and her daughter is an under-classman at Regis College. Wyand is proud of them and gushes about their involvement on campus and achievements at school.
Wyand made many attempts to get sober throughout her life, and upon trying to quit alcohol “cold-turkey,” she had a seizure and ended up in the hospital. She said she received little help because the doctors didn’t know why it happened or how to properly treat her.
She said, “I decided then that I wasn’t going to take opiates anymore, and I relapsed a year later. If it wasn’t for my husband…I almost lost my family. I am lucky. My husband, honest to God, if it wasn’t for him, I would be dead.”
Wyand’s struggle to remain sober and avoid relapse put a strain on her relationships with her family.
“[My husband] had about had it with me too, and I almost lost my daughter. She is finally coming around. I work my ass off to keep that relationship,” Wyand said.
With two years of sobriety, Wyand now hopes to make a career out of being a recovery coach. She recently graduated from a certificate program at Westfield State for people who are in recovery to become recovery coaches. The program is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and allows people to attend without tuition.
“I learned ethics, motivational interviewing, and more skills to become a recovery coach at Westfield State,” said Wyand.
Wyand’s position at the Northampton Recovery Center allows her to become involved in helping other people who are also in recovery follow the right path for them.
“When you’re a recovery coach, you kind of give support, but you also might drive someone to appointments, you are available to listen, you try to prevent barriers and obstacles for people in their recovery,” she said.
Wyand said she is excited to be pursuing this path, despite it being different than what she had originally set out to do.
“Now I’m doing what I think I was supposed to do. I’m using my degree in another way,” said Wyand.
No doctors, no police or prosecutors, no experts...just real people who have been affected by opioid addiction. Join us for a special WHMP Community Forum. Join us at the Parlor Room in Northamton, or listen to the live broadcast on WHMP 96.9FM or online at WHMP.com. Re-broadcast Thursday 1/25 from 7-9 a.m.
We've put together a great panel, with Khadijah Tuitt, Kali Baba McConnell, Deb Wyand & Henry Brown, who's son Patrick, 28, died from a heroin overdose in 2016. Henry, who wrote a courageous column in the Gazette after Pat's death, is the inspiration for this forum & gave people like me, who've come perilously CLOSE to losing a child to this scourge, the guts to come out & get real.
The New York Times, November 4, 2017
NRC Celebrates One Year Anniversary!
Check out all the love and local press:
HOPE, REMEMBRANCE and RECOVERY, June 15, 2017
Sam, Bob and Lynn at the Candlelight Vigil, First Churches Thursday night, a memorium for those lost to opioid overdose death. Very dynamic speakers there, proponents of ending the shame, isolation and stigma those challenged with substance use feel; proponents of safe injection sites, and invitations to all to visit the NRC.
See editorial in Gazette about two recent articles: the challenges that a family faces when there are terrifying challenges with substance use, mom Jill Panto presented on May 22 at the NRC about SOAAR (Speaking Out About Addiction & Recovery), the organization she co-created in Belchertown and the second about Craig Stevens, owner of LandScapes, a Northampton design and build business. Sober now for nearly 17 years, Stevens hires mostly those recovering from drug addiction. He recently rented out the Academy of Music in downtown Northampton and screened the film "Generation Found".
By LYNN FERRO
For the Daily Hampshire Gazette
It all started when...
Listen to Northampton Recovery Center members talk about where they've been, and how far they've come. The NRC is a significant resource in their lives. Interim Director, Lynn Ferro gives the background and current status of the Center. Interview held April 5, 2017.
To listen to the podcast, see link below:
"Finally an approach to addiction and alcoholism that not only is supportive while offering valuable tools for my recovery, most importantly serves as a bridge into the local community."
– Ebon Graves