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Recovery Angels Key to EB HOPE Drop-In Center Helping Others Address Substance Use Disorders

Back in the spring of 2015 when EB HOPE began to create the plan for the EB HOPE Drop-In Center in East Bridgewater, MA, it recruited and partnered with the region’s professional organizations specializing in helping others seeking treatment and recovery by bringing them to the table. But EB HOPE knew that the key to this unique and innovative model, in addition to the professionals, would be to recruit individuals from the Recovery Community who could provide peer to peer mentoring to those suffering from substance use disorders. The Recovery Community looks out for all those in need and is willing to bare its soul and share its personal stories to give hope to those suffering through this current epidemic.

EB HOPE has been able to recruit dozens of “Recovery Angels” who give their own time and sacrifice to help others at the EB HOPE Drop-In Center and beyond. Two of EB HOPE’s initial and key “Recovery Angels” are Shawn Salisbury and Lindsay Atkins. They are not alone, as the EB HOPE team of Angels has grown with each month since the Drop-In Center opened its doors in November of 2015. Shawn and Lindsay’s dedication to the Recovery Community has led the way in working as part of a community solution to solving his community problem.

Lindsay, who grew up in Bridgewater and Shawn, who grew up in East Bridgewater, along with the Team of Angels have been willing to share their personal trauma in order to help their fellow man in defeating not only the current substance use epidemic, but to defeat the stigma that attaches to substance use disorder individuals, their families, friends and loved ones. Family members, friends, and loved ones of those suffering from SUDs suffer from this stigma as much as the person who is actually suffering from SUDs.

Lindsay began using drugs at a very young age, smoking pot, which progressed to her wanting to try alcohol to help her with “fitting in”.  This eventually led to her never being home and missing out on building healthy relationships with her family. At age 17, she became involved with a young man and before she knew it she was addicted to heroin and became an IV user pretty much overnight.  Lindsay did not experiment with pills and escalated directly to heroin very quickly from marijuana and alcohol use.

Shawn’s substance use started with his actively drinking on weekends in the 9th grade because that was the “thing to do” in high school to fit in.  By 10th grade he was introduced to other hard drugs but really had no interest in doing them but eventually peer pressure got him to begin experimenting with cocaine, which eventually led to every weekend use. Shawn’s drinking and recreational drug use resulted in him being asked to leave the East Bridgewater school system and his substance use followed him into his mid-20’s.  For a brief period of time Shawn stopped using and enjoyed a successful business career.  In his late 20’s Shawn renewed his drug use and within 15 months his life was out of control.  He was using daily, sometimes $500 worth of drugs in a day.

Lindsay went into her first detox within 3 months of using heroin, but her substance use would last for years. Lindsay would go in and out of a total of ten Detox treatments, feeling as though she lost all of her morals and values, lost the trust with her family, missing out on birthdays, mother’s and father’s day.  A short out of state move to Texas resulted in her relapsing “hard on Heroin” and forcing her to move back to Massachusetts.

Shawn started to bounce in and out of detoxes on a regular basis, eventually he sold everything he owned to support his drug habit. He tried to get clean on numerous occasions but he continued to fail because he didn’t understand about his addiction. Shawn’s drug use affected everyone in his life especially anyone having his last name.  It didn’t matter at the time to Shawn if his family loved him or if they wanted to help him get clean. He just couldn’t stop using even if he wanted to.  He was helpless even at times he thought about ending his own life. Shawn remembers his substance use overtook his life. On one occasion his daughter, Sierra, who was 3 at the time, wanted her dad to build a snowman with her. During the entire time while out in the snow all Shawn could think about was getting high.  It did not matter how beautiful his daughter was or how much she loved her dad. All he could think of was using drugs.

By 2006, Lindsay’s move back to Massachusetts did nothing to change her substance use. In 2006, another 3 trips to detoxes led her to feel there was no hope for her future. Lindsay spent her first holiday, Christmas, in rehab and her life would be changed forever during that particular rehab stay. During this time, she was scared, still suffering from SUDs and also found out she was pregnant.

In 2007, after being on Methadone for almost one year, Lindsay gave birth to a son and hoped everything would be ok, but she still couldn’t stop using. This led her parents to give her an ultimatum; either she had to get clean or she would never see her child again. Confronted with that ultimate fork in the road in her life, she chose to be a mother and started going to meetings, which helped her focus on her inner difficulties, which helped her love herself. Lindsay soon found a woman who believed in her and brought her through the steps that led to the beginning of her journey to recovery. She met other people, especially women who saw something in her that she could not see in herself. Her support group loved her and taught her how to be a responsible adult and how to be a mom to her son, and most important, they helped her cope with her past and her pain.  Lindsay has not touched heroin since 2010, and she came off of Methadone successfully in March of 2012. She has been in the 12 Step Program for seven years and credits it with saving her life. She started the program when her son was around 2, after one last painful relapse.  He will be 9 in November.

Shawn would put small amounts of clean time together but eventually he would use again. It wasn’t until he used on Christmas Eve in 2004. He could not stop and used for 7 days through the holiday. Shawn knew that his kids and nieces and nephews were celebrating the holiday without out him that year and he was devastated that he had done this to his family again.

His family ended up having an intervention on January 8, 2005 with his two brothers, sister, mother, father, nieces and nephews all telling Shawn how his substance use was negatively and tragically affecting them. He decided that day the pain was too much and he was finally going to do something about it. Shawn went to treatment for 14 days, then to a sober house because no one would take him in. He went to several support meetings a day, and day after day his life improved, as well as his families.  Shawn hasn’t used any substances since January 1, 2005, clean and sober since.

While Shawn and Lindsay have continued to lead clean and sober lives, they both feel it is important to give back to others who are experiencing similar tragedies that substance use disorder impacted on their own lives. Shawn credits the 12 Step Program with helping him stay sober and through the program he found it helped him to stay sober by also helping others work to get sober. Shawn first heard about EB HOPE around 2012 or 2013 by a town employee who was involved with the group. Knowing that Shawn was active in the Recovery community (7 years sober at that time), EB HOPE hoped Shawn could help the organization help others suffering from SUDs. Shawn is now the EB HOPE Team Leader of the Recovery Angels and a key leader at the Drop-In Center. His phone constantly rings day and night from persons suffering from SUDs looking for help or from parents and family members seeking his advice on how to help a loved one.

Shawn believes the EB HOPE Drop-In Center helps people like himself because there’s always someone at the Drop-In that has first-hand experience and understands how someone in active addiction feels without judgement. Shawn wishes that the Drop-In Center was available when he was struggling through SUDs. Shawn states, “There’s so many caring people in recovery there (at the Drop-In) and others not in recovery willing to do anything to help.”  Shawn feels the Drop-In offers SUDs individuals a safe place with no judgements, where everyone there is so willing to help anyone suffering from SUDs and just as importantly to offer help to a family member or friend with a loved one suffering from SUDs.

Lindsay believes EB HOPE can help our community and those suffering from SUDs in so many ways, “the fact that they want to help you and they don’t even know you.”  Lindsay sees the stigma attached to SUDs as being so extreme in some cases, that it literally keeps people from talking about it and getting the help that they need. From Lindsay’s experience, she remembers how hard it was to pick up that phone to call a detox, and it was even harder for her parents to learn about her disease with no resources available for her parents. Back when Lindsay was suffering through SUDs, there were not very many support groups other than Learn to Cope and there were no community outreach Drop-In Centers.

Lindsay believes a Drop-In Center would have helped her to get help in many ways. She believes the love, and understanding that emulates from EB HOPE’s group of volunteers gives people suffering from SUDs and the families hope and support that you may not always get by going to a meeting.  Lindsay believes the Drop-In Center of EB HOPE supports everyone and lets them know that they are not alone.

Lindsay feels that, “as a human race, we need to stick together and love one another without judgement and without stigma or negativity.  The Drop-In means that no matter what you may be struggling with, we are here to help you. It is my duty and my passion to help those afflicted by SUDs.”

Shawn believes that as a community, we are battling a huge epidemic and the EB HOPE Drop-In is capable of answering all questions or helping someone find a treatment or recovery program that offers them hope.

One of the unique partnerships that Shawn is proud to be able to experience is his and the other Recovery Angels working alongside at the Drop-In Center with police officers from East Bridgewater, Bridgewater, West Bridgewater and Whitman.  In the earlier days of Shawn’s SUDs life, his perception of law enforcement wasn’t necessarily positive, but today he is proud to work alongside as a partner with police officers on a daily basis, working as a team to help those suffering from SUDs.  Lindsay is also proud to be partners with her local law enforcement officers as well as with the entire team at EB HOPE, which includes representatives from all sectors and individuals within the region.

EB HOPE Director Susan Silva remarked about Shawn, Lindsay and the Angels, “When sitting with a family whose lives have been torn apart due to substance use disorder, having someone like Shawn and Lindsay there to help the family understand just what is happening with their loved one and at the same time be an example of HOPE to them is what makes our outreach initiative different than any other that is out there. I truly believe that the outreach drop in wouldn’t be the success it is without our Team of Recovery Angels!”

The next EB HOPE Drop-In Center is open this Thursday, October 6th at the EB Community Covenant Church, #400 Pleasant Street, East Bridgewater, from 5 pm to 9 pm.  The Drop-In Center is open to anyone, regardless of where you live.  The Drop-In Center takes on a regional approach, helping individuals and families throughout the greater Brockton area and beyond.  It is an open house style setting and visitors can come anytime during the open hours, staying for as long as they want to and/or need to.  There is always a “meal of the night” at the church gymnasium.

More information can be found at www.ebhopes.net or on Facebook EbsHope or Twitter @EBHope.