Recovering from an addiction may be difficult at best, but it doesn’t always rule out the pursuit of an education.
A common thread between drug addiction and youth are sports injuries. Often a person is prescribed a narcotic for pain for a limited amount of time and becomes addicted long-term.
Angie Graff, a clinical mental health counselor at the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, has been working in the field of addiction recovery for the last 15 years.
“The route we see, especially with the young male group, is they get a sports injury and are prescribed Lortab for a short period of time and find themselves addicted to it,” Graff said. “They can get Oxycodone or Lortab on the street easily and then they transition to heroin.”
Because of the sensitive nature of addiction, people getting sober are encouraged to remain anonymous. An alias has been used in reference to the following Dixie State College student.
John Doe, a sophomore English major from St. George, is a student who enrolled at DSC after graduating from drug court three years ago.
“I was prescribed Ativan for anxiety, and when those stopped working, I moved to Oxycodone and then eventually to heroin,” Doe said.
Addiction often comes with serious consequences such as legal problems, the loss of interpersonal communications, and the death of a loved one.
“It wasn’t until my best friend committed suicide that I took addiction seriously,” Doe said.
Watching younger siblings follow in his footsteps was also an influence in bringing him to recovery.
“They were exhibiting behavior that was close to mine, and it scared me,” Doe said.
It was when he got his first DUI that he was sentenced to drug court.
“I attended group therapy and Prime for Life at Turning Leaf,” Doe said. “It was very useful, because I learned about addiction and myself.”
Getting sober is no easy task. It often means changing everything.
“I knew when I lost the respect and support of my family something had to change,” Doe said.
Being in treatment means studying the effects of getting high and also the personal consequences. It’s an education with textbooks and writing assignments.
It was after learning and studying for six months that Doe knew his ambition and goal-oriented attitude would be helpful in carving out a future in education.
“I realized that I could channel my ambition into something I’m still passionate about,” he said.
Many people getting sober are women with children. Graff oversees an inpatient program for mothers with substance abuse issues.
“We try to give them all the information possible for whatever route they want to take,” Graff said. ”We refer them to Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Workforce Services.”
These resources provide clients with all the information they need to transition into society as productive members. Whether it is finding a job or getting an education, there are resources available.
Though addiction is a large problem in St. George, it is not surprising.
“I had access to as much as I wanted,” Doe said. “I would go to Vegas and straight to the guy who had it.”
St. George is viewed as a gateway to larger metropolis such as Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Often the traffic stops here and the residual effect is viral.
“It’s not so much that it gets worse, it just changes,” Graff said. “In the 15 years I have been here, our program has doubled in size, but so has our population. Has the problem gotten worse or do we just have a bigger population?”
Being on the front lines of recovery it’s easy to see the problem.
“I wear substance abuse goggles, so I think that we have a problem here, because I am around it all the time. Other people might not think that,” Graff said.
Getting clean and sober is attainable. An honest approach to recovery is what’s needed in order to succeed.
Drug addiction exists in St. George, but so do the resources for recovery.