ADDICTION TOP ISSUE IN CLEVELAND
SANDUSKY ARTISANS RECOVERY COMMUNITY CENTER’S JOEY SUPINA
FROM: Tom Jackson SANDUSKY REGISTER NEWSPAPER
CLEVELAND — Comedian and actor Gary Owen, who lost a brother to heroin addiction, and Sandusky’s Joey Supina, a leader in the recovery movement, were among the speakers Tuesday at a Caucus for Addiction Solutions, held Tuesday afternoon the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association in downtown Cleveland.
Republican officials involved in the convention mingled with recovery specialists for a program that drew about 100 people and was broadcast live in Facebook, reaching about 1,400 viewers. Facing Addiction, a prominent recovery group, put the event together and broadcast it.
Owen, a busy movie actor and successful comedian, said he used to assume that addicts were weak people. “Two years ago, I wouldn’t be here,” he told the crowd.
But in January 2014, his brother Dallas phoned and said, “Gary, I can’t stop myself.
“He’s about to stick the needle in his arm,” Owen said. “I heard him shoot up.” Owen and his mother got Dallas into rehab. He had several overdoses and then died on May 20, 2015. “It’s still tough for me to speak publicly about it,” said Owen, who broke down several times but managed to get off several jokes, complaining to the moderator that no tissues had been supplied for the panelists. He said that he’s been going to addiction meetings and trying to publicize the issue.
Supina spoke on the five essentials of recovery — hope, health, home, purpose and community.
People need a sense of hope or they won’t begin treatment, and they need healthy bodies and minds. A home is critical, he said. “Do you know how difficult it is to get clean and sober on a sidewalk?” he asked. People need “a safe and secure place where people love you.”
As for purpose, Supina pointed to himself as a person who has long been in recovery and now helps others. “I get up every morning and I have a purpose,” he said. And he said people need community. “Addiction is isolation,” he said. “It walls the person off from those who love them.”
Several Republican officials associated with the convention spoke, including Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., who co-authored the Comprehensive Addiction and Revovery Act with Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. Sensenbrenner said parents with prescription painkillers ought to lock them up, just as they should keep any guns they own safe. “The easiest place for kids to get their hands on opioids is Mom and Day’s medicine chest,” he said.
Cindy Koumoutzis, state development director for Change Addiction Now in Ohio, talked bitterly about the stigma of addiction. “I’m one of ‘those people’,” she said. “I’m a bad parent.” Her daughter, the addict, is a member of the “herd who needs to be thinned out.”
Addiction is a relapsing chronic disease that affects the brain, Koumoutzis said.
“At what point do we realize these are human beings?” she asked.
Craig DeRoche, senior vice president for advocacy and public policy at Prison Fellowship, is a former speaker of the Michigan House. “We’re trying to punish the addiction out of people,” he said. When an addict breaks into a house, “that’s not their problem, that’s their solution to their problem,” he said. Using jails to deal with addicts is like having “hospitals that make people sicker, schools that make people dumber,” he said. DeRoche was arrested twice in 2010 in alcohol related incidents. The media depicted him as a train wreck, he said. “Quite frankly, I WAS a train wreck,” he said. “They portrayed me fairly.”