Recovering addict shares story of struggle, survival

By WVUA 23 Student Reporter Emily Benito

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 80,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2021. On Wednesday at the Bryant Conference Center, Stephen Hill shared his experience with substance abuse, saying he hopes the lessons he’s learned can save others from what he endured.

Hill said he’s been in recovery for more than 10 years, but hitting rock bottom was a long road, too.

“I started using drugs when I was 13 with nicotine and alcohol,” Hill said. “Then marijuana eventually progressed into harder drugs. As time went on (I used) cocaine and Xanax, and the one that really took me down was opioid pain killers which led to heroin.”

Substance abuse laws are in place for punishment or treatment, but Hill said the threat of jail isn’t enough. Prevention is even more important.

“We want to prevent this from ever happening in the first place, especially when we are dealing with young people,” said Hill.

He said he thinks schools should implement procedures focused on health and recovery instead of doling out harsh punishments for transgressions.

“Instead of just suspending somebody, give them extra school work,” said Hill. “Give them a project to do on their own health and wellness. Instead of getting kicked off the team, they still have to attend practice.This way, there is a consequence but they’re still involved in the healthy activity.”

Hill said the most important thing for addicts during their recovery is support. Addicts face a lot of stigma and often lose jobs, friends, family and their homes before truly wanting to change.

Like Hill, many addicts don’t begin recovery in earnest until they enter an extended-care treatment program. After 180 days in treatment in 2012, Hill said he made a big decision: He gave himself a second chance.

That shift in thinking was how he finally began recovery in earnest, he said. Since then, he’s started a speaking and coaching company, gotten a bachelor’s degree and a law degree.

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