The forum was Saturday at the Kent State University Trumbull Campus

By William K. Alcorn


Helping family and friends of drug and alcohol addicts combat the loneliness and isolation, embarrassment and hopelessness they experience was the goal of the “Hope for Recovery from Addiction” forum.

More than 300 people crowded into the Kent State University at Trumbull Education Building at 5:30 p.m. Saturday to hear a recovering addict describe his agonies, the mother of a recovering addict talk about how she got past her guilt and feelings of helplessness, and how they overcame them.

Other speakers were Atty. Rob Kokor, who discussed legal concerns that accompany addicts and their families; Dr. Joseph Sitarik, medical director of Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic, who described the science of addiction; and Karen Vadino, who talked about self-care for the family.

“Tonight is about families,” said Lauren Thorp, director of recovery and youth programs at the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, one of the sponsors of the fifth annual “Hope for Recovery from Addiction” event.

“You feel so alone and isolated and embarrassed and helpless,” said Bonnie Wilson, director of Someplace Safe in Trumbull County.

Wilson, founder and event chairwoman, said her daughter, who is 38 and a recovering addict, was an addict for 20 years.

What she learned, she said, is that “you can’t change the addict, but you can change yourself. You can say ‘I love you, but I don’t like what you are doing.’ For years, I chose to believe the lies. I thought I was an advocate when I really was an enabler,” she said before the program.

“I want to share a message of hope and recovery,” said recovering addict Ted St. John of Windham.

St. John is a former director of operations at First Step Recovery in Warren, a substance addiction detox center. He is now chief operations officer for the California Palms Addiction Recovery Campus in Austintown, which opens Monday.

St. John, 47, said addiction is progressive. He said he was addicted to something since his teens, except for the time he was in Air Force basic training.

“I needed hope to know that recovery is possible. I didn’t know drug users stopped using. So when I saw some who did, I was encouraged,” he said, passing along his story of recovery.

Ron Seginak, who works as a counselor at Glenbeigh, a drug-and-alcohol treatment center in Niles and is a 27-year recovering alcohol and cocaine user, said he was at the event to learn from and work with other people in the field.

Newton Falls Police Chief Gene H. Fixler said he attended with Mayor Lyle A. Waddell to “try and get a handle on anything we can do to help addicts and help others from becoming addicted.”

“We hope to reach Trumbull County residents who have a loved one or friend dealing with substance-abuse issues to let them know that there is hope, people can change, addicts can recover and families can heal,” Thorp said.

The event was sponsored by the Trumbull County Opiate Task Force, a program of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Mercy Health Behavioral Health Institute.

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