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March 12, 2018

 

My name is Whitney and I am a person in recovery. I’ve been in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction since December 25, 2008.

I grew up in a small town east of Lexington with my grandparents as my caregivers; I called them Mom and Dad. Both my parents worked, my dad was in the Army and later to be in the Army Reserves. Both my parents cared for me as if I were their own. My life seemed pretty normal to me. We went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights and my Mom cooked dinner every night. I grew up for the biggest part of my childhood not really sure who my biological father was. My mother lived near-by for some of my childhood and I remember spending time with her, I just didn’t live with her. As I got older I remember I started feeling different from other people. Not because anyone told me that, I just felt different because most of my friends grew up with their parents and I remember having to explain that my mom and dad were actually my grandparents and my sister was actually my aunt, and at some point I felt separated from others because my family dynamic wasn’t the same as my friends. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I think this began my journey into distorted thinking patterns. I compared myself to others and didn’t understand why I was different. I don’t remember ever telling anyone how it made me feel, instead I just stuffed it down and went on with life.

At a young age I got into cheerleading and gymnastics and I remember feeling “a part of.” I was good at it, I had friends that were on my team, and it gave me a sense of purpose. That feeling didn’t last long and in the 8th grade I decided I was going to smoke pot before I went to cheer at a basketball game. Once again, I had that grandiose feeling of “this is it,” this is the feeling I had been looking for that I didn’t even know I was missing. I immediately started separating myself from others and started smoking cigarettes and drinking anytime I had the chance. I became “that friend.” I would sneak cigarettes every time I could and take them to my friends’ houses and get them to smoke too. Little things I look back on now I realize are signs of my addiction; my family and I just didn’t know that at the time.

When I was a freshman in high school I made it on the boys’ varsity cheerleading squad, once again giving me that sense of belonging. That year was a struggle. I wanted so badly to maintain that positive reputation but my actions just couldn’t quite line up. Cheerleading was a lot of work and soon began to interfere with this other lifestyle that I began to live. As I went on to be a sophomore I left cheerleading behind, also lying as to why I no longer wanted to cheer, and began a downward spiral that would soon come crashing down several times. At this point in my life, my biological father had been in and out a few times and I wasn’t ever really able to form a relationship with him because I was in the beginning stages of my addiction and my brain began to be too fogged to form any real relationship with anyone. My parents were naïve and I was quite the liar and manipulator and hid, for the most part, what was really going on.

I don’t remember when or how, but I do remember the feeling when I began using opiates. Once again, I found exactly what I was looking for. The feelings of not belonging and being different from others faded as I began using pain pills and continued to drink. At age 17 I was arrested for the first time. I had been out with friends, drinking, using a concoction of pills and decided to drive a friend home. Most of that night was a blur. I don’t remember wrecking my car but I do remember an ambulance coming to take my friend to the hospital and riding in the police cruiser to what I would come to learn as the local regional jail. I was oblivious as to what was going on. I literally just thought I was getting a ride from a police officer. It wasn’t until sometime later that I realized what happened. I had hit a tree head on, flipped my car a few times, landed upside down, and had to crawl out of the car while it was upside down. I walked away with no real injuries, as did my friend. I don’t remember even being scared. I just remember wanting to get right back to what I was doing and it never even occurred to me that I could have died or killed someone. My brain did not function like a “normal” person. I was delusional and didn’t know it.

This began my journey to several other arrests due to my addiction. My parents didn’t know what was wrong with me and thought that by getting me out of the small town it would somehow fix me. After I graduated high school I got a one way plane ticket to Florida and moved in with my biological father. This was supposed to be a new beginning for me. It wasn’t long before I met people just like me and began a whole new life. I was no longer using pills; I had switched to cocaine and ecstasy. What I, or my family, didn’t know at the time was wherever I went, there I was. The location and people weren’t the problem. I was the problem. Without any form of intervention or treatment, I didn’t know how to change. I only knew how to feed my addiction that at the time I didn’t even know was an addiction. I just thought this was the life I was meant to live, feeding an obsession and craving that I didn’t even know existed.

It didn’t take long for the drugs to quit working and I thought the only way out was to kill myself. I attempted, it didn’t work. I remember feeling tired. I was tired of the way I was living and just felt worthless so I just wanted it all to end. Not once did I think “I need help.” My thinking was so distorted that I thought the only way to overcome my feelings was to just end it all. Soon after the suicide attempt I moved back to Kentucky. It didn’t take long and I was right back in with people who used and drank just like me. My addiction weeded out people that weren’t like me, they just didn’t fit into the lifestyle that I was living.

Over the next five years or so I was in and out of jail, stealing from my family, sleeping on people’s couches, in and out of unhealthy relationships, and clueless as to what my problem was. By the age of 21 I had been arrested for four DUI’s and was a twice convicted felon for drug possession. I spent a little time in treatment, never really completely off drugs and alcohol. I manipulated the system and functioned the best I could. I became a shell of a person. There was no real life inside me, I only existed.

Near the end of 2008 my life was about to change drastically. I was coming up on the end of a four year probationary period that I had been barely skating by each month when I reported to a probation officer. I used every manipulation tactic I knew to try and stay out of jail. Eventually, that all caught up to me. I was arrested in November of 2008 and taken, once again, to the local regional jail. I had ZERO desire to change the way I was living but the moment prison was brought up, I knew I needed something different. I still didn’t really want help but the thought of prison didn’t seem too appealing either. I was given the opportunity to go to treatment and I took it. In December of 2008 I was released from jail and court ordered to Liberty Place Recovery Center for Women in Richmond, Kentucky. I had no idea what was in store for me.

With still no real desire to change, the beginning of treatment was difficult but I had also learned to be a chameleon so adapted to whatever I needed to. I was immediately expected to get up in the morning, attend classes, eat when they told me to, go to bed where they told me to, and all without drugs or alcohol. This was a new concept to me. I was still going through some withdrawal symptoms and didn’t have any real concept of what my life had become. I was very much in a fog for months to come.

At Liberty Place it was led by people just like me that knew I was delusional and knew every tactic to avoid responsibility there was. I couldn’t fool anyone there. They knew what I was thinking before I even did. Over the next few months I sat in classes that began to teach me that I suffered from a disease, not a moral failing, that I had been driven by a mental obsession to feed an addiction that was caused by a physical allergy and phenomenon of craving. That once I put any mood or mind altering substance in my body, all bets were off. I was not like a “normal” person. My body didn’t process substances adequately and my brain didn’t function appropriately. Finally, I had answers that I didn’t even know I was looking for. Now, I understood that even on days when I wanted to do something different, and wanted to quit stealing from my family, I couldn’t because I was being driven by an obsession that was out of my control. I learned that the alcohol and drugs were just a symptom of the disease, that once the alcohol and drugs were removed I was still left with the same thinking and unless I treated my disease, nothing would ever change. I was introduced, again, to a 12 Step fellowship of people that had recovered from that same hopeless state of mind that I was once in. They were just like me. They taught me things like “you can’t do this alone,” “your thinking will kill you,” “you have to rely on something greater than yourself,” “you need to get out of yourself and help others,” “this is where the real work begins.”

I didn’t realize it at the time but I was recovering from a disease that had ahold of me for the majority of my life. I had been driven by fear and emotions that I didn’t know how to deal with and turned to drugs and alcohol as a solution. I was a sick person, not a bad person.

For the months to come, I was taught discipline, accountability, what it meant to be a daughter, a friend, a sister, a woman. I was taught the difference between right and wrong growing up but my disease had taken me to places that I never imagined. I no longer lived by ethics and morals when I was using and drinking, I lived by whatever my addiction drove me to live by.

In 2010 I transitioned out of Liberty Place and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. I was employable again, I became a college student, I had a driver’s license, I was a daughter again, and I was mending past relationships that I had destroyed. My family was learning to trust me again. Everything they taught me at Liberty Place and all the work I put in gave me a solid recovery foundation to be able to live life on life’s terms without drugs and alcohol.

Today, over nine years from the first day I stepped foot into Liberty Place, I remain drug and alcohol free. Not by chance, but by the grace of God and the ability to follow simple suggestions. There was a reason behind every rule, guideline, suggestion, homework assignment, accountability contract, everything at Liberty Place now makes perfect sense. I thank God for every day I spent at Liberty Place because they gave me the opportunity to work on myself and learn how to live again, as a person in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Today, I’m employed at a community mental health center as a peer support specialist. I get the opportunity to work with women with children that suffer from substance use disorders. I get to use my personal experience, education, and training to help others better their lives. The obsession to use and drink has been long removed. Every day I take action to treat my disease so it doesn’t treat me. I get to live life today. I continue to learn and grow and make mistakes but every day I stay clean and sober I have the opportunity to continue to become a better person.

My name is Whitney, and I am a person in recovery.

My aha moment:

For me, I don’t think there has been one single “aha moment.” I think I continue to have them and I refer to them as spiritual experiences. The first one I remember having was about halfway through my journey at Liberty Place and I had that feeling of trust in a power greater than myself. I remember feeling sure, like I was right where I was supposed to be. That was a moment I needed. I was really starting to work on myself and needed that moment of clarity. It gave me what I needed to continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Feelings and emotions in active addiction:

The majority of time in active addiction it was hard to feel anything because I was in such a fog. I remember have brief moments when I would feel shame, hopeless, worthless, and dead. I didn’t feel any sense of connection to others and felt isolated in my own mind.

The driving force that keeps me going when times get tough:

I would say faith and other people keep me going when times get tough. The obsession to drink and use has been removed but life continues to show up. I know that God doesn’t place things in my path that aren’t meant for me. I can rely on prayer and meditation to keep me focused, and other people to help me see clearly. I get the opportunity to work with women just like me and seeing those little moments when they “get it” keep me going, even on the hard days.

Advice for the addict still struggling:

There is a way out. Even during the times when you feel hopeless and like there is no way out, I promise you there is. There are many pathways to recovery and sometimes it takes several attempts to find what works for you, but there is a solution. Don’t give up, let someone help you and show you the way until you can see it for yourself. Recovery takes action and it won’t always be easy but it will be worth it.

What obstacles or roadblocks have you faced in your recovery?

I am my biggest obstacle. For me, when things have been difficult it was because I was running on my own self-will and not following the path that God chose for me. My experience has been that some days are hard but returning to drugs and alcohol will never make things better. Life has many obstacles but through recovery I’m taught how to handle tough situations so that no matter what happens, I can remain a person in recovery and successful work through whatever comes my way.

What is something you want people who never struggled with addiction to know?

That addiction is a disease, not a moral issue. People choose to put alcohol and substances in their body but they don’t choose how their body will react to it. Addiction can be treated, and just because someone doesn’t get it the first time doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it, and sometimes it takes several attempts before someone is able to grasp a solution. I had a friend say one time that just because antibiotics don’t work 100% of the time doesn’t mean we say they don’t work at all. It’s the same concept with treatment. Everyone deserves a chance and there are many pathways for people to recover. Sometimes it takes trial and error to find what works for each person.

What advice do you have for family members of a person in addiction?

Families suffer when they have a loved one suffering from addiction and a lot of times they need help too. For families it is important to know that the person addicted is feeding the disease and needs help. Understanding addiction is pertinent to understand how to treat it. Families get sick right along with the person that is addicted and often need help of their own, so much so, that there are fellowships and organizations to support families and people that have loved ones that are addicted. Don’t give up, get educated, and get help.

Closing thoughts:

Addiction is a complicated disease but people do recover. Don’t ever give up hope. The people that are caught in the grips of addiction are somebody’s brother, sister, mom or dad, husband or wife. We are people just like everyone else, and deserve a chance at life. There is a solution and just because you feel hopeless, doesn’t mean you are hopeless. Please, if you or someone you know, is suffering from addiction, please reach out.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call Addiction Recovery Care at 606.638.0938 or visit them on the web at www.arccenters.com.

 

There is hope. There is help.

 

 

March 8, 2018

Louisa loses a friend and a great businessman

Harold 'Squeak' Frazier passed this morning  with his family close to his hospital bed.

He was a beloved man by all who knew him. Many neighborhood examples were set by 'Squeak' who was fair and honest to all.

He was full of conversations and never turned down anyone seeking his help.

March 7, 2018

The story of Randall Craft

 A few years ago, Randall Craft couldn’t imagine his life without drugs, but today not only is he two years clean, he’s also helping others find their way out of addiction.

“I grew up on Middle Fork and everyone in town knew my father,” Craft said. “I looked up to him and learned from an early age to hustle and con. My mom did the best she could to raise us – seven of us – but she struggled. I don’t know how she did it, but it’s hard for a woman to be a mom and a dad both.”

Craft told the Independent that he was taught from a young age to hustle, con and steal, and that he thought that was what men were supposed to do.

“I played ball in school and people tried to lead me, but every time Dad got out of jail, I fell back,” Craft remembered. “That was my role model and I looked up to him in a negative way, but I didn’t realize it.”

At the age of 16, Craft’s grandmother, who lived next door to him and he had stayed with a lot growing up, passed away in his arms. Not knowing how to deal with the loss, he said he turned to drugs.

“From that point on, I was in and out of jails,” Craft said. “I was just a lost man. I wasn’t living, I was just existing. I had no soul.”

Craft spent eight years locked up in either jail or prison, some juvenile stints, stayed in five rehabs and was a three-time convicted felon. He went to several detox centers, but nothing was sticking.

“The last time I went to jail was in 2014,” Craft said. “They got me for stealing a car and intimidating a witness and I was on the run.” 

Craft was caught in Pikeville and he entered into a six-month substance abuse program in jail.

After being released, he met Alysia. She had been his sister’s best friend growing up. His sister, Coco, who had only tried drugs a time or two, overdosed at the age of 18 while a senior in high school.

“I held a grudge against myself for years over that,” Craft said about his sister’s death.

About Alysia, Craft said, “When we got together, she was the first good girl I had had in my life.”

Craft had a daughter from a previous relationship and Alysia had two kids from her first marriage. During this period of being clean, Alysia got pregnant with their son.

“It got good for a while and I was clean, but I hadn’t changed who I was,” Craft said. “I was still hustling and stealing.”

In 2015, before his son’s birth, Craft relapsed.

“I put her through hell,” he remembers. “We fought, I would beat her. I would steal from the kids. I would take the diapers we had set up for our son, take toys. It was pitiful and she would just sit and cry, but she was so strong.”

Craft inevitably went to jail on a theft charge, but she still stayed with him.

In November 2015, their son was born, but he said he almost missed it.

“I had to get a shot of dope first,” Craft said. “It took me a long time to get over the fact that I almost missed his birth to get a shot of dope. It was hard to accept it.”

Christmas Eve 2015 the couple got into another bad fight and the next morning, when the kids were wanting to open presents, he said he left to get pills. 

“When I came back, she was gone,” Craft said. “She was packing up and her dad was there with a shotgun. She got an EPO on me and I ended up going to jail to start off 2016.” 

She inevitably dropped the EPO on Craft, but wouldn’t have anything to do with him, including keeping the kids from seeing him.

“Without her and my kids, I had no life,” Craft said. “I would just sit at my sister’s grave every day and ask God why I wasn’t in that grave instead of her. I blamed God, but it wasn’t his fault, it was my own fault. I thought he had left me in this world to punish me and my sister was the only person I could relate to.”

Social workers assigned to his case would tell him he wouldn’t be able to see his kids if he didn’t get clean, but he said he would just shoot up and cry about it.

He went into detox on February 17, 2016, but only after spending the last of his money to get drugs before checking in.

“I had money that day and could have left that for my family, but I got a shot of dope,” Craft said.

He sat in the hospital for 10 hours and said he wanted to leave, but something told him to stay.

His blood pressure dropped and he ended up having five seizures during detox.

“I woke up five days later, and got out and could have got a bed at Belle Grove,” Craft said. “The good thing about ARC (Addiction Recovery Care) is they can get you in quick – within 24 to 48 hours and when you’re on the verge of death, hours matter.”

Thinking he was clean now, he said he went back to the streets, but he didn’t use drugs. Alysia still wouldn’t talk to him, so he finally went into Belle Grove Springs, a residential treatment center in Wallingford, Kentucky, on March 17, which would have been his grandmother’s birthday.

“I snuck a phone in and got caught,” Craft said. “It’s crazy how God works. I was only half in there and half in the world, still staying on Facebook.”

Pastor Kyle Burchett sat down with Craft and had a very frank conversation with him.

“He said, ‘What if you take how you hustle and con and use it to help people for the good? Change your ways. Quit being a punk,’” Craft remembers. “And for once in my life, I actually listened. All I had ever been was a punk. I wanted to be like Dad, but that just kept me in jail, hurt my family, my kids. I had a spiritual awakening and I never looked back.”

Craft quit trying to get his family to come see him. He didn’t try to use the phone. He spent every waking hour working on himself.

“I finally learned acceptance and I worked on Randall Craft,” he remembers.

During that time, he said he learned to respect his surroundings, picking up garbage and taking care of things. He started listening to people and learned to stop being prideful.

“I stayed 43 days, but I could have left on the 42nd day,” Craft recalls. “I didn’t want to be there when I got there, but by that point I didn’t want to leave, so I stayed one more day, going to Christ Temple Church in Huntington. It was something I didn’t know I was going to do.”

The sermon that day, preached by Todd White, a former addict, was about how sins can be forgiven and letting go of yourself to move forward.

“I got saved that day and I moved forward,” Craft said. “I went home, staying with my mom, but I didn’t talk to Alysia at first. I enrolled in Prestonsburg’s ARC outpatient and I put my trust in Him.”

Craft made sure to go to all of his meetings, and started going to church in Morehead. 

“I knew if I didn’t have Randall Craft together, I couldn’t be good for anyone, so I didn’t try to reach out to Alysia and the kids. The true definition of patience is love.”

After a month, he started going around his kids, again, taking them to church. 

“I never said sorry because I knew my actions would have to speak for themselves,” Craft said. “My life had to be the message, and Alysia saw the change in me I didn’t even know about, yet.”

Alysia started going to church with him, as well, and was also saved. In June 2016, the two tied the knot.

“I had a conversation with the pastor who told me I can change the generational thing,” Craft said. “My dad learned that lifestyle, and I learned from him, but my family is all in church. My two-year-old prays for us. My kids have an opportunity I never had. Mom tried her hardest, but I’ve had people I work with reach out to help us out and I don’t know what I would do today without them. It’s amazing how God works and restores us.”

Today Randall Craft says he puts his faith in God and not let the world, the negative comments, the tough times lead him away from that path.

Craft now works as a pastoral counselor and peer support specialist at the same residential treatment center that he attributes to turning around his life, Belle Grove Springs, a branch of Addiction Recovery Care (ARC). ARC works to get people into treatment quickly, helping them get insurance if they’re uninsured, includes job training, and after 12 months of sobriety they can be hired by the same company.

He encourages anyone struggling with drug addiction to give them a call, and said they are also preparing a training to be held in Magoffin on Casey’s Law, which helps loved one’s of those battling with drug addiction to get them court-ordered involuntary treatment (potentially at no cost). 

On top of working full-time and taking care of his family, he is also going to school full-time, about to receive his Associate’s degree and then going on to Morehead for his Bachelor’s in social work. 

“I just want people to know there’s hope for them,” Craft said. “You have to put it out of yourself and come and get help. I’ve slept outside, ran around in misery, robbed people – done it all. I try to make amends when I can, but I can’t change all of that. I just have to change my life and help people along the way, and everyone else can do it, too, but it takes them to do it.”

As for working with people battling addiction, he said, “I love to see the hope in their eyes and I know they can do it. I was in the same seat a little over two years ago and I wish I could save everyone, but without the love of Christ, without God in my life, I can do nothing, and I really mean that. I never thought I could do it, but it took finding spirituality in my life.”

When the Independent talked with Craft’s wife, Alysia, Ministry Leader for Celebrate Recovery Scotty Halsey, retired trooper Warren Meadows, they’ve all noticed a change in Craft. 

Alysia Craft said, “He’s changed everything about himself and he’s humble about life. He doesn’t take anything for granted. He’s changed his whole perspective and taken responsibility for things. He works hard to fix the things he does wrong. If Randall can change – and he’s done it all – anyone can. He’s very strong-willed and you have to have to be strong-willed to want this. Recovery is hard, but he works every day to stay clean.”

Meadows, a retired trooper who holds bible studies at Belle Grove Springs, said Craft didn’t trust him – or any law enforcement – when he arrived there, but after he accepted God, everything changed and he’s been involved in his life ever since.

“He’s done a complete 180 and he’s bringing his family with him,” Meadows said. “His mother loves him dearly, but Randall is living a different kind of life now that will make a difference in his kids’ future. He’s changed his whole family tree. He made a lot of wrong decisions, but that’s all history and God takes our messes and He’ll make a message. He’s taken Randall’s messes and made a message and prepared him for where he’s at now.”

Scotty Halsey now sees Craft regularly, often working overtime to bring 20 or 30 men to Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step recovery program. 

“These men would not be able to come without Randall and it’s not uncommon to see four or five gentlemen on a Friday night give their life to Christ,” Halsey said. “He knows addiction can be beat and he’s a soldier for Christ, a warrior against addiction.”

Craft asked the Independent to highlight the Addiction Recovery Care treatment centers: Beth’s Blessing, in Annville, KY (women); Karen’s Place, in Louisa, KY (women); Lydia’s House, in Harlan, KY (women); Belle Grove Springs, in Wallingford, KY (men); Lake Hills Oasis, in Somerset, KY (men); Sanibel House, in Catlettsburg, KY (men); and Karen’s Place Maternity Center, in Louisa (women). Outpatient opportunities include: Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Outpatient (OP) treatment centers: Crestview Hills, Lexington, Louisa, Mt. Sterling, Prestonsburg.

By Heather Oney
The Salyersville Independent

For more information about any of the programs, those interested can call 606-638-0938 or visit www.arccenters.com.