The Board of County Commissioners last week proclaimed September as “Recovery Month” in Multnomah County.
The annual observance, started in 1989, raises awareness about recovery from mental health and addiction issues in a state that ranks among the highest in the nation for rates of mental illness and substance abuse.
David Hidalgo, director of Multnomah County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division, introduced the proclamation. He spoke to the diversity of experiences in the recovery community and the value of each person’s story. “Recovery is a very individual experience,” Hidalgo said. “There are some very common needs people have, but each and every individual story is unique and important.”
Shane Wilson, a community member who testified alongside Hidalgo, told the Commissioners his own story of recovery.
Wilson focused on the moment his life changed — for the better. It was a drizzly day in September, 2015. He was homeless and addicted to heroin and meth. For some reason that day was different. He was done. And he wanted into Hooper Detoxification Center.
It was his 15th try at getting clean, and it didn’t start off well; he was 30 minutes late for his appointment. But the staff gave him a chance. “I knew at that moment that was my escape from everything I had created for myself,” he told the board.
After that, Wilson said, he did everything he could to stay sober. He entered a transitional housing program through Central City Concern. After graduating from there, he landed a job with Transition Projects, Inc. He also secured permanent housing. Today he has almost two years clean and sober, and that has allowed him to clean up the rest of his life.
“After 20 years of devastation, my bills are paid,” he said. “I’m productive, my work likes me, I just got certified as a peer support specialist. There are all these things I never thought.”
Others also told stories of what it was like, what happened and what it is like now.
Anthony Jordan, addictions manager for the county, told about how he earned 26 years of sobriety. Alton Harvey spoke about serving stints in jail before overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Commissioner Sharon Meieran is also an emergency physician, and she said she sees addiction first hand, when she treats people for drug overdoses. It’s important for medical providers and people struggling with addiction to hear the stories of people who came out the other side.
“It’s incredibly powerful to hear those stories,” Commissioner Meieran said. “Today what stands out is the element of hope and that recovery is possible.”
The speakers also inspired Chair Deborah Kafoury. “I’m really glad that we are building this strong recovery community where your life experiences are valued, and you can use those life experiences to help others as well,” she said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing addiction, there is hope and help is available. Call the 24/7 Multnomah County Crisis Line at 503-988-4888. Help is free and confidential.