Fighting addiction, promoting recovery in Southern Utah; community events and resources

ST. GEORGE – September is National Recovery Month, celebrating victory over addiction. A societal problem seemingly as old as civilization itself, addiction plagues not only individuals, but families and communities. Support exists, however, to help addicts transform from addiction to recovery.

Event flyer
Event flyer for Southwest Utah Recovery Day

Addiction takes many forms and is a widespread issue that negatively impacts not only the addict, but those around them. Whether you’re battling alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, pornography, overeating or any other compulsive behavior, if that compulsion is controlling your day-to-day life, you need help. If you aren’t an addict, chances are that at least one person in your life is and you may be able to help them. Or, you may need help discovering what you are doing that contributes to a person’s addiction cycle.

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of addiction is that it knows no boundaries. Addicts are of every age, gender, race, religion, socio-economic status, and background. They live in every community. More than likely there is at least one in every family or extended family.

“Most individuals are struggling with some form of addiction; it is a common human experience,” said Clint Dalley, a clinical medical health counselor at TurningLeaf Wellness Center in St. George. “All forms of addiction cause pain and destruction.”

Due to the social stigma attached to nearly every type of addiction, many addicts hide their problem and slip further into denial and depression until they feel trapped, often resulting in violent and destructive behavior, continued abuse, even suicide.

“We are not immune as a community to have problems with addiction,” said Angi Graff, substance abuse program manager for the Southwest Behavioral Health Center. “People are afraid of having ‘those people’ anywhere near them, but they don’t understand that ‘those people’ are their neighbors, friends, business associates, family and schoolmates already.”

The most common addictive substances in Southern Utah are alcohol, opiates (including prescription drugs and heroin), methamphetamines and marijuana, she said, which roughly follows the state trend.

Recovery is the solution to addiction. It involves not only learning how to effectively stop a compulsive behavior, Graff said, but also to improve overall health, live a self-directed life and strive to reach full potential. The process is not easy, but it is worth the effort for lifelong wellness.

“Based on my own experience, recovery is different for every person. There are many paths to recovery and I try not to judge someone else’s path just because it may look different from mine,” Graff said. “What is most important is that people have the opportunity to have fulfilling lives and be responsible, productive members of society.”

Recovery only becomes possible once an addict realizes they have a problem and accepts help to deal with it. This is a difficult step to take on the road to healing, and support goes a long way.

Addiction is a silent killer, but recovery has a voice. In Southern Utah, many community resources are available to help those who are struggling with addiction, along with those who want to understand it.

Screening of “The Anonymous People”

The Southwest Behavioral Health Center will host a screening of “The Anonymous People” Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the St. George Cinema 6. Tickets cost $10 and are available online or by calling 435-634-5600.

According to its synopsis, “The Anonymous People” is a feature-length documentary film about the estimated 23.5 million Americans living in long-term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Deeply entrenched social stigma and the massive success of anonymous recovery groups have kept the voices of those dealing with addiction mostly silent for decades. As a result, the public commonly views only the dysfunctional side of what is a very preventable and treatable health condition.

But now, recovery advocates are starting to emerge from the shadows. “The Anonymous People” tells the courageous stories of the community leaders, volunteers, corporate executives and celebrities who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others like them. This new movement is fueling a conversation that aims to transform the public opinion of addiction from “problems” to “solutions.”

Fun Walk/Run for Recovery and Southwest Utah Recovery Day

The community is invited to celebrate recovery and join the fight against addiction at Southwest Utah Recovery Day on Thursday from 4-7 p.m. in the St. George Town Square. The event is free and participants will be treated to food, refreshments, games, prizes, live music from The Psychotropix, family activities, speakers from the local community and an informational fair.

“Recovery Day is a community celebration for individuals, families, friends and agencies supporting recovery from substance abuse,” Graff said.

Recovery Day is an educational awareness event for all ages, though parents of school-age children and teenagers are especially encouraged to attend. Despite the serious nature of the topic, information will be presented in a family-friendly way and uplifting stories of the challenges of addiction and the triumphs of recovery will be shared.

Sponsors include the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, the Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Southwest Prevention, “My Last Call with Dan Murphy,” the Washington County Prevention Coalition, the City of St. George and St. George Mayor Dan McArthur, who signed a proclamation declaring the last Thursday of September as “Southwest Utah Recovery Day” in 2012.

Also hosted by the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, the Fun Walk/Run for Recovery will be held Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. at the Dixie Center. It is a casual event promoting fitness, health and togetherness and is also free to attend, though the first 50 participants to preregister online will receive a commemorative T-shirt. Walkers/runners can choose between a 5K and 5-mile course along the Mayor’s Loop, with views of the Virgin River Basin.

“My Last Call with Dan Murphy”

Dan Murphy got drunk for the first time at age 11 and partied heavily through his youth, leading to a full-blown alcohol addiction by the time he landed his dream job as a radio host in Los Angeles. His life began spiraling out of control and into a dark period of unemployment, DUI arrests, jail time, fights and more mindless drinking to numb the pain of his mistakes. But after entering treatment with the help of his sister, he saw a whole new world open up. He got clean in 1986 and made his life’s mission helping heal others suffering from addiction.

Today, Murphy serves as both host and producer of “My Last Call with Dan Murphy,” a radio talk show dedicated to helping people with addictions and finding recovery solutions, that celebrated 15 years of steady broadcast in June. A licensed counselor, Murphy has worked with the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, helps run sober living homes for men in the early stages of recovery and visits the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility every week to facilitate support groups for inmates without access to treatment. He is known as a champion for recovery awareness in Southern Utah and has touched the lives of many.

“This show is a labor of love,” Murphy said. “Once I found sobriety and embraced God, I realized my calling was to do this.”

The show features not only Murphy but counselors, law enforcement, attorneys, recovering addicts, families of addicts, medical professionals and authors as guests. Join the discussion every Saturday from 5-7 p.m. on Fox News KZNU 1450 AM/93.1 FM and via online live stream. Listeners are encouraged to share questions, comments and opinions during the show. Free podcasts of past shows are available here.

“Been There Done That Show”

Marsha Stafford and R. Cord Beatty host the “Been There Done That Show,” a Southern Utah-based free radio program. Drawing from their own experiences with the trials of addiction and recovery, they aim to be the voices of “recovery on radio,” dealing with life on their own terms. The show has broadcast online since December 2012 and reaches out to listeners across the nation to share a message of hope and help.

“One of the things that’s very important to myself and (other) people in recovery is that we know when we’re drinking or using, we’re not contributing to society. This show is a way for (us) to turn that around and maybe help other people,” Stafford said. “Been There Done That is important because we show a part of recovery that people don’t get to see on TV, in the news or anywhere else. It’s a beautiful side of recovery and it’s about real people and real stories.”

The show is about far more than these issues, however. Each week, different guests, who range from medical and legal professionals to authors and motivational speakers, will discuss topics including compulsive behavior, law, self-help, religion, family, work and relationships. Stafford and Beatty aim to help all of their listeners make the most out of both challenges and opportunities and live a more fulfilling life.

“These are topics we believe are important for people in recovery and families to talk about,” Stafford said.

Listeners can join Stafford and Beatty every Saturday at 6 p.m. via their online live stream and call in to let their voice be heard on-air. Upcoming shows will focus on effective communication in relationships and everyday life with guest Dr. Pat Allen (Sept. 28), matchmaking and re-inventing your love life with author Renee Piane (Oct. 5) and the law of man vs. the law of God and justice vs. mercy with Pamalua Sayers (Oct. 12).

On Sept. 21, the show guest-hosted Graff to discuss the upcoming Recovery Day events in St. George and Southwest Behavioral Health Center’s role in fighting addiction locally and on Sept. 14, shared the recovery stories of Ann Marie McCullough, co-founder of Recovery Day Canada and a nationwide leader for recovery advocacy and Tasha Ray, a St. George woman with three and a half years sobriety. Free podcasts of both episodes are available here.

Recovery is possible. No matter how hopeless your situation may seem, there are educated professionals and helping hands waiting to give you the support you need. And for those who want to know more about addiction, the people who suffer from it, the problems it can cause and the ongoing effort to transform addiction into recovery, resources are available. For no matter what role you play in the issue of addiction, understanding the problem is the first step towards finding a solution.

“If you want to help someone, open your mind,” Dalley said. “I think our society could help a great deal in reducing the problem (of addiction) by being more accepting instead of needing to be better than one another. Adopting values that are more supportive and less exclusive might be a start.”

Resources

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Email: avmorgan@stgnews.com
Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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6 Comments

  • Dan Murphy September 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

    What an absolutely awesome article! So thoroughly informative, comprehensive and accurate, in the depiction of the devastating carnage associated with this rampant social illness, and the portrayal of the obvious solutions available. I was very impressed. It would seem the writer is in possession of intrinsic knowledge and understanding and displays much empathy for this tragic societal malady.

    Dan Murphy

    • Betty September 25, 2013 at 4:04 am

      How’s the Freedom House project coming along?

    • Utah Rehab Center February 8, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      As a recovering addict and alcoholic, I love to see education into this affliction taking center stage. For many, the thought of living life without substance is as perplexing as living life on life’s terms itself. But I think we can also be fooled, drugs and alcohol are not the problem, nor is the moral fortitude of those who struggle with addiction. You will find in the bardic text of The Big Book of AA, “alcohol was but a symptom; we had to get down to causes and conditions”. When we seise fighting everyone and everything, we find solace in understanding, true surrender does not make us weak, it makes a powerful beyond measure. Life is beautiful, recovery exists and most important, it’s possible.

  • Angi Graff September 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you so much for your hard work, research, and interest in this topic that is so fraught with stigma. I hope this community takes the opportunity to read your article, get informed, and get involved. Thanks!
    Angi Graff

  • Thank you for writing such a thorough article about substance use addiction and Recovery Month activities being held this week. Your contribution to raising awareness about this serious public health issue in St. George and other Utah communities is vital to countless individuals and families who are suffering and are in need of both help and hope.

  • Sande Morgan September 25, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Alexa is a terrific writer and puts a lot of thought and effort into her articles. She is only 17 years old and as her grandmother I am looking forward to even more reasons to be proud of her.
    Sande Morgan

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