Stomping out stigma to help those with substance use disorder

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:36 AM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - We know the pandemic is hitting people suffering from substance abuse disorder extra hard. Many are struggling with their sobriety and others are using alone with no one to call for help if it’s needed.

Overdoses skyrocketed in 2020; 198 people lost their lives in Vermont. The year before, it was 142. That’s almost a 40% increase. Most of those people are dying from opioids.

But the Turning Point Center in Rutland is trying to normalize the conversation about addiction to try to lessen the stigma.

“Life is so much better!” said Ray Phillips of Fair Haven.

Phillips began working with a recovery coach at the Turning Point Center Rutland and was so inspired, he became a recovery coach himself.

Before that, he was in and out of recovery for more than 20 years. He says the positive encouragement from Turning Point is what made the difference for him.

“It’s where it’s at, man. Everyone wants to hear something positive and when you keep getting the stigma of, ‘You’re no good,’ ‘You’re not this and that,’ you start to believe it,” Phillips said.

The Turning Point Center of Rutland is hosting Stomping Out Stigma to raise awareness of the stigma often associated with substance abuse.

Kyle Burditt, the recovery resource coordinator at the Turning Point Center, says substance use is often talked about quietly and not in a positive light, but their mission is to change the discussion.

“We want to bring that conversation right out into broad daylight and be having it as if it is a normal topic because it really is,” Burditt said.

Executive Director Tracie Hauck says Turning Point works with other recovery partners to eliminate judgment and blame.

“What’s inside just makes them feel like they’re not worth anything, so if they get that feedback from other people in the community, they aren’t going to do anything different. It takes a lot of strength to get through and to get into recovery,” Hauck said.

Across the state, there are more than a dozen recovery centers.

Turning Point Center of Rutland is creating satellite offices across the county and hopes to expand even farther, not just to those in recovery, but their families, too.

“A lot of times, family members feel it’s their fault, that they had something to do with it, that they don’t know how to help and they are ashamed,” Hauck said. “How can anybody get better if they are so afraid to ask for help?”

Phillips has been in recovery for about 19 months now. His advice is to love yourself and remember recovery is not easy, but it is easier than living in active addiction.

“Don’t listen to the stigma of people saying that you’re no good, you’re not worth it,” he said. “Everybody is worth it.”

You can find more information about The Turning Point Center and resources here.

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