When he went to McKinley Hall 18 months ago, he didn’t think treatment counselors would let him stay for the appointment – but he knew he had to try again.
“I was smoking crack all day, and I was late,” Sowards said. “I hadn’t showered in a week, and I stunk pretty bad.”
RELATED: Springfield native living clean, successful after prison, addiction
After a tough discussion, Sowards was admitted into treatment for the ninth time a week later.
He was introduced to treatment at the West Central Community Correctional Facility at 18 after being charged with aggravated burglary, he said.
“I didn’t really pay attention,” Sowards said. “I thought I had it figured out.”
After later finding McKinley Hall, he was told to attend meetings and get a sponsor, he said.
“The first time I didn’t do anything,” Sowards said. “I said, I’m cool. I got this.”
MORE: ‘Perfect’ Springfield couple battles addictions, finds recovery
Slowly, he found his way to recovery. He has a sponsor, attends meetings and is still in the Vivitrol program, a medication that blocks blocks opioid receptors in the brain for one month at a time.
“I’ve just been doing what I was told to do,” Sowards said. “My way didn’t work.”
He’s currently attending Clark State Community College and has been able to get his license back and hold a job, he said. He’s also rebuilding his relationship with his children, he said.
“Life’s good,” he said. “It’s great.”
While more than 80 people have died this year due to the opioid epidemic in Springfield and Clark County, many more have found their way out of active addiction, McKinley Hall Chief Executive Officer Wendy Doolittle said.
RELATED: Springfield ex-addicts: Recovery possible
“I get to see people get better every day,” she said.
Clark County is one of the best counties in the state for its collaboration to end the drug problem, Doolittle said. The community is working hard to fill the gaps in coverage, including multiple new programs such as the warm hand-off and a $213,000 safe house program, she said. The Families of Addicts group also recently received at $28,000 grant to operate a support center, while the Springfield Police Division also received a $100,000 grant.
“All these different sectors are fighting,” Doolittle said.
Keynote speaker and McKinley Hall board member Carey McKee spoke about how she coped with a family member who struggled with addiction. Until the Springfield resident understood how the brain worked, she didn’t understand the problem, she said.
“Addiction is a disease and those affected need support and treatment to get well,” McKee said.
Addicts are survivors who deserve respect similar to people who have battled other diseases, she said.
“(Addiction) is life-threatening also,” McKee said.
Addiction should be a priority similar to mental health, she said.
“I only ask that we support those suffering with addiction, educate ourselves and do the right thing,” McKee said. “Society will be a better place for it.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
New program seeks to reach Clark County overdose patients, save lives
pringfield churches unite to open recovery house for addicts
ouses for Springfield overdose patients might save lives
Drug epidemic wreaking havoc on Clark County businesses, economy
Drug crisis traumatizing children in Clark County, state
Money used to fight Clark County drug crisis at risk
More than 100 Clark County law enforcement officers to get Narcan kits
Springfield examines officer, medic safety after Ohio police overdose
Demand for, debate over Narcan soars in Springfield
20 more overdoses in Clark County during 25-hour stretch
Clark County sees another big spike of at least 40 overdoses in 5 days
Clark County leaders pledge to fight addiction stigma, OD crisis
Clark County to charge addicts who OD and don’t seek treatment
Overdose epidemic spreads, strains Springfield first responders
Clark County drug overdoses double in 24-hour spike
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s drug epidemic and what local leaders are doing to solve the problem. Coming Sunday, the News-Sun will feature multiple people have to recovered from illegal and prescription drug abuse as part of National Recovery Month.
BY THE NUMBERS
2.6 million: Opioid addicts are in the United States
74: Percentage of people in McKinley Hall's vivitrol program who are recovered.
$100,000: Grant money to be used to hire a police officer with work with a local safe house for addicts.
$28,000: Grant monty used to open a support center for addicts and their family members.
MORE RECOVERY STORIES ONLINE
For more recovery stories, log on to SpringfieldNewsSun.com.