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 Columnist Julie Harrington: 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.

Columnist Julie Harrington: 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.

  On Ramp: Songwriters in the Round Benefit for the NRC   Friday, April 13, 2018  8:00 PM - 10:00 PM  The Parlor Room  On Ramp: Songwriters in the Round is a benefit for The  Northampton Recovery Center . In response to the epidemic of opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths that has continued to ravage communities across Western Massachusetts, local songwriter Mikey Sweet teams up with the Northampton Arts Council, Signature Sounds Presents, and other local organizations to present an intimate evening of story and song to help end the stigma of addiction and give inspiration to those affected.   Two acclaimed singer-songwriters, Mikey Sweet and Peter Newland who have experienced the horrors of addiction and found a way out, will share a message of hope through story and song. In concert with the local musical community, these musicians will bring to light the disease of addiction, an illness that has impacted the lives of countless neighbors, friends, and family.  All proceeds from ticket sales will go to The Northampton Recovery Center, a peer-driven community organization on the front lines of the fight against the opioid crisis.

On Ramp: Songwriters in the Round Benefit for the NRC

Friday, April 13, 2018

8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

The Parlor Room

On Ramp: Songwriters in the Round is a benefit for The Northampton Recovery Center. In response to the epidemic of opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths that has continued to ravage communities across Western Massachusetts, local songwriter Mikey Sweet teams up with the Northampton Arts Council, Signature Sounds Presents, and other local organizations to present an intimate evening of story and song to help end the stigma of addiction and give inspiration to those affected. 

Two acclaimed singer-songwriters, Mikey Sweet and Peter Newland who have experienced the horrors of addiction and found a way out, will share a message of hope through story and song. In concert with the local musical community, these musicians will bring to light the disease of addiction, an illness that has impacted the lives of countless neighbors, friends, and family.

All proceeds from ticket sales will go to The Northampton Recovery Center, a peer-driven community organization on the front lines of the fight against the opioid crisis.

 

 

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NRC Profile

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.


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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.

http://whmp.com/podcasts/it-wont-happen-to-me-a-whmp-community-forum/

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Article

Let’s Open Up About Addiction and Recovery

The New York Times, November 4, 2017

 

NRC Celebrates One Year Anniversary!

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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.


 Interview with Kim Deshields, Tim Lovett of  Comedy as a Weapon  and Sam Jackson from the Northampton Recovery Center. Thanks Bob Flaherty for the opportunity to get the word out!

Interview with Kim Deshields, Tim Lovett of Comedy as a Weapon and Sam Jackson from the Northampton Recovery Center. Thanks Bob Flaherty for the opportunity to get the word out!




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".

http://www.gazettenet.com/Editorial-Blend-of-compassion-and-boundaries-help-people-shake-chemical-dependency-10293214


Article

OPIOIDS: THE COMMUNITY RESPONDS
Recovery support as essential as treatment

By LYNN FERRO
For the Daily Hampshire Gazette


Podcast photo.png
 

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:

http://whmp.com/morning-news/northamptons-peer-driven-recovery-center/

Congratulations to Bob Flaherty for his wonderful, knowledgeable, and, surprisingly in-depth interview in such a short amount of radio time. Also, a big congrats to the 3 men who spoke so honestly and articulately about their own histories and recovery process. Sounds like Lynn Ferro has done a great job, too, in getting the peer-led Recovery Center started. There’s been such a gap in this area from treatment to recovery support. This is one of the toughest diseases around to manage and have support for. I was very moved by how much “giving back” has not only helped these men in sticking with their own recoveries, but also in helping others. They have faced their fears and brought themselves into the light. They have also been courageous to put themselves out there in a public way—making the face of those who have been trapped in addiction human. Good luck, guys, and I hope that you, Bob, will do other interviews around the subject of addiction and the efforts locally to deal with the current opioid crisis.
— Tanyss Rhea Martula Hadley, MA
 NRC group with Adam Bartlett, our Speaker Meeting guest. Wednesday May 3, 2017.

NRC group with Adam Bartlett, our Speaker Meeting guest. Wednesday May 3, 2017.

This place has impacted me in the following ways. I can talk about my drug problem more openly. I have given people advice on how to deal with their problems as a drug user without resorting to drugs. I feel uplifted and motivated to stay clean. I have a great support network through their social events.

I have also gotten great information on positive outlets to stay clean when I’m feeling the need to use. As a man, I feel more open-minded to ask for help when I am struggling. I also feel accepted as a drug addict in recovery. I have met people that have been clean for a number of years that are willing to help other addicts. If they can do it, we can too. I am inspired as a man in recovery to stay clean through what I have learned through this program. I am now open to new ideas and have realized how great life is in recovery.

I am currently incarcerated, but through the grace of God I can come to the recovery center. I am locked up but thanks to programs like this one, my mind is free. Thank you for blessing me with the opportunity to be a part of this.
— Jesse Phillips

"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


The NRC is a resource that was greatly needed in Northampton. It is a place to connect and share with others who have experienced addiction issues. The NRC offers many wellness activities such as yoga, writing groups, mindfulness meditation, Refuge Recovery plus many others. The “All Recovery Meetings” are very helpful to me and I have benefited from everything I have participated in. Opening myself up to new experiences, different methods of healing and learning new skills has had a tremendous impact on my recovery. We also have fun here! Friday evening social events have a different feel than the day programs, and we really have a good time.

Recovery is so enriched when the community comes together to heal. It’s inspiring to witness the strength of other members.

As a young woman in recovery, I appreciate all of the program offerings, and the women at the center who continue to support me.
— Mari

 
 

Yoga at the NRC