‘There is a way out’: HGTC hosts series aimed at erasing stigma surrounding addiction recovery

Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 4:49 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College said it’s time for our culture to erase the stigmas surrounding recovery for substance abuse disorders.

Casey King, a professor of physics, said those actions will motivate more people who are battling addictions to reach out and get the help they need.

King knows a thing or two about being in recovery. That’s because he’s been in long-term recovery for about 16 years.

“My overall goal is to reduce the stigma, to improve the image we have of people in recovery,” King said. “Show people in recovery work, pay taxes, do pretty good things. My worst day in recovery is better than my best day when I was not in recovery.”

King started the annual HGTC Addiction & Recovery Lecture Series in 2008, as a way for people to see others who have entered a successful life of recovery.

This is the 15th year the college is hosting the event and it’s taking place virtually. The sessions are happening every Thursday during the month of February.

King said the program is meeting a need for many trying to beat addictions, especially those who may not want to reveal they’re struggling with any substances.

“When I designed these events, especially the ones that are virtual online, the intent is to reach the person who’s at home who may have a problem. Who is not going to get in the car and go in-person and go out in public. But they might be willing to listen on the computer,” Kings said. “It’s the ability to relate, to show anyone can be addicted and also anyone can be in recovery. The main speakers are celebrity types, whether it be the film industry or athletes or authors. They come and demonstrate they have stories just like everyone else does. But they also got into recovery a similar way. No one is exempt.”

Some organizations are advocating for these types of recovery services now more than ever because more lives are being lost due to substance abuse disorders.

The CDC estimates nationwide, there were nearly 100,00 drug overdose deaths during the 12-month period ending April 2021.

When it comes to Horry County, the coroner’s office confirmed 245 people died from an overdose in 2021. That’s up 35 deaths from 2020.

“It just continues to grow and grow. At the rate it’s growing is very concerning.,” said Nicole Criss, executive director for The Peer Connection, formerly known as Favor Grand Strand.

Criss’s organization is staffed with peer support specialists who support someone with getting the resources they need to sustain long-term recovery.

Criss said she understands how challenging it is to overcome substance use disorders. She’s been in long-term recovery for almost eight years.

“I am the person who got prescribed opioid medication because of a back issue and that’s how I ended up in an active addiction. I had lost all hope, I thought the best years of my life were behind me. That was eight years ago. I come from a family which is generations deep with substance use disorder and I was able to find recovery. I’ve made this life that I couldn’t even imagine, I’m so close to finishing my doctorate degree in college. I get to do something I love, help people who have suffered from the same thing I suffered from. Give people hope there is a way out and you can get to the other side of it,” Criss said.

She added that the need to help people beat addiction is great, so much so, that The Peer Connection has now extended its recovery meetings to Georgetown County.

“Georgetown much like Horry County has experienced a lot of tragedy around substance use disorder and opioid deaths,” Criss said. “We want to do all we can to help. If we change the stigma, we have more of an opportunity to reach people who are out there, who are struggling and don’t know where to turn and have lost all hope. Changing the culture of our society to shift and focus on the fact substance use disorder is an actual brain disorder. When people become addicted to substances, there are chemicals in the brain that change and people don’t understand that I think. When you lose all hope, you experience intentional overdoses and things like that.”

For more information about the Addiction & Recovery Virtual Lecture Series, contact King via email at casey.king@hgtc.edu.

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