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To be addicted can be described as being on a merry go round. At first, it’s fun, then it takes more and stronger drugs to keep the merry go round spinning. Eventually it starts spinning so fast, it’s all but impossible to get off. Some fall off permanently and die from overdose. The lucky few manage to get off and get help, praying and doing all they can to stay clean. 

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind. A small group of individuals met in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse to offer support to anyone passing by and to appreciate the blessing that sobriety brings.

With a long history of drug abuse which began with prescribed pain killers, Roger Patrick managed to find help through the Lincolnton office of Integrated Care of Greater Hickory. He’s currently residing at one of the program’s sober houses in Lincolnton.

“I took pain killers when I was 16 years old for a foot injury,” he said. “That led to more drugs. I started to get clean this past year, but I knew I couldn’t do it by myself. I knew that my way of doing things wasn’t working. I got into ICGH in April and got off the hard drugs. I tried to go back into the workforce and started dabbling with weed, so I quit my job and am taking more time for my recovery.”

Patrick has spent a good bit of time in jail and even after being incarcerated for as many as 98 days, the tools weren’t available to him to quit the drugs.

“There’s drugs in jail which a lot of people don’t know,” he said. “I was a very bad person – someone you wouldn’t want to be around. I would steal from you and do whatever it took to get my next hit. I’m a better person now. I’m honest and you can trust me around your stuff. I go to six meetings a week.”

Patrick was one of the lucky ones. In April 2021, the Centers for Disease Control has estimated that the number of people in the U.S. who had died from overdose in the 12-month period to the end of September 2020 was 90,237. In Lincoln County alone, there were 138 overdoses from August 2019 through July 2020 and 180 for the period of August 2020 through July 2021, according to Lincoln County Emergency Medical Services Manager Kimberly Campbell.

Nikki, whom Times-News interviewed during Black Balloon Day in March, who suffered almost two decades of active abuse, was at the event on Tuesday and she’s still clean. 

Also in attendance was Susan Stevens who founded Tealdrops which is a nonprofit organization formed to provide resources for addiction research and post treatment relapse prevention programs through global fundraising campaigns that build unity, reduce stigma and support mind, body, spirit wellness for recovery from Opioid-Abuse.

“I lost my daughter to an overdose on Jan. 22, 2018,” she said. “I knelt down by her side, kissed her goodbye and told her that I promise that she wasn’t going to die in vain. I don’t know why I said that because it was weird. Since then, I have been an advocate for the opioid epidemic.”

Prior to her daughter’s death, Stevens was going to go to law school, but instead, she completed a master’s degree in addiction counseling.

“My daughter, Toria, was a superstar,” she said. “She was academically gifted and an athlete. She had four wisdom teeth taken out at once and that was her touch of opioids. Then she was violently sexually assaulted which resulted in PTSD. From that point on, she started self-medicating.”

Tealdrops is an icon to represent both tears of pain and of joy. 

“I’m looking at the joy in celebrating Toria’s life through helping other people,” Stevens said. 

ICGH offers medical, behavioral, pharmacy, transitional housing, transportation, and comprehensive toxicology services. Part of ICGH’s services include transitional housing which has been arranged through funding from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and City of Lincolnton Police Department. If patients continue to be in treatment, they are able to utilize the free housing. 

ICGH Lincolnton is located at 1228 North Flint Street in Lincolnton. Their telephone number is (828) 322-5915 extension 180.

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