The Leader Staff

BATH – Addiction is having your body lock itself in a fetal position for two weeks during withdrawal – and then return to drugs a few weeks later.

Addiction is hating yourself and hating what you’ve become. Those were some of the recollections of two youthful recovering addicts speaking Thursday night at the Steuben County Drug Awareness Forum at Bath Haverling High School before scores of people from all walks of life.

The former addicts were joined by a panel of professionals from medical, social services, mental and public health, law enforcement, probation, counseling and education brought together with one goal:

To end the raging epidemic that is killing Steuben residents each year and destroying the lives of hundreds of others. The session was moderated by Teresa Haight of Addiction Awareness of Steuben County.

The first step in fighting substance abuse is recognizing it is disease, like diabetes or cancer, worsened by changes to the brain damaged by drugs substance abuse counselor Julie Haar said.

“These are not bad people doing bad things,” Haight said. “Nobody gets up out of bed when they were 10 and says ‘I hope I’m a junkie by the time I’m 25.’”

The disease begins with changes in character, denial, isolation, as loved ones struggle for solutions, Haight said.

Those solutions are as varied as the addicted individual, ranging from filing a complaint with the police to talking to a school counselor, social services caseworker, probation officer, mental health worker.

Panelists said if the addict continues to deny the illness, loved ones need to find support for themselves.

Stemming the tide of abuse can begin with dropping off unused prescriptions at local police stations or county drop boxes, said Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard and Bath Village Police Chief Chad Mullen.

Prescriptive medications, and some over-the-counter drugs, are major factors in opioid abuse, panelists said.

Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker told participants anyone discovering paraphernalia and reporting it to law enforcement are exempt from prosecution – as long as they are not drug dealers.

Prevention can begin with something as fundamental as teaching kindergarteners to make good choices and to value themselves.

Communication is key.

“Talk about it openly, stop whispering,” Haar said. “Don’t hide it. Talk about it.”

Panelists included: Brooks Baker, Steuben County District Attorney; Craig Pomplas, Steuben County Probation Department; Stacey O’Dell, Steuben Council on Addictions; Loyola Recovery Foundation; Darlene Smith, Steuben County Public Health Director; Dr. Kathleen Hallinan, Physician; Dr. Erica Verkleeren, Physician; Dr. Peter Parken, Physician; Mark Recktenwald, Bath Central School Director of Guidance; Kathryn Muller, Steuben County Department of Social Services; Jack Wheeler, Steuben County Manager; Teresa Haight, Event Facilitator; Norman Cumiskey, Steuben Prevention Coalition Program Coordinator; Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard, Bath Village Police Chief, Chad Mullen; Julie Haar, Substance Abuse Counselor; Marissa Haight, Speaker; DJ Hatch.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE CONTACTS:

INDIVIDUALS:

* Medical Emergency: Call 911

* Steuben County Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services: 664-2156 (Bath); 937- 6201 (Corning); 324-2483 (Hornell)

* Loyola Recovery Services: (877) 519-7705

* General Information: Call 211

* Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aacny.org

* Narcotics Anonymous: www.na.org

FAMILY/CAREGIVERS

General Information: Call 211

Support Groups:

* Addiction Awareness of Steuben County – 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday; Addison Fire Hall, Addison.

* Local Al-Anon meetings: 8 p.m. Tuesdays; at Christ Episcopal Church; 39 E. First St., Corning, 7:30 p.m. Sundays: at the Lighthouse Wesleyan Church, 101 S. Lackawanna St., Wayland Steuben