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Cornerstone of Recovery lends expertise to East Tennessee addiction seminar


Cornerstone of Recovery will be well represented on Friday, Jan. 11, at an addiction summit to be held in Maryville, Tenn.

“Hijacked: How Addiction Rewires the Brain and Poisons the Spirit” is the brainchild of Jan McCoy, who lost her son, Dane, to an overdose in 2014. The loss of a child is a profound one for any parent, and in the aftermath, Jan began to throw herself into addiction education and recovery advocacy to ensure his loss wasn’t in vain.

She became active in Celebrate Recovery at First United Methodist Church Maryville, where the Jan. 11 seminar will be held. She became a confidante to other parents, particular mothers, who have endured similar losses. She became a surrogate mom for the men of True Purpose Ministries, a Christian-based rehabilitation organization in her hometown.

Now, she’s brought together a number of experts in the field of addiction and recovery to address a potential crowd of more than 100 people. The summit, she told The Daily Times newspaper of Maryville recently, “is intended for families or loved ones of those struggling with addiction, and for those in the process of recovery themselves.”

It’s a complex problem with no easy answers, she acknowledges, but the power of community, combined with the promise of recovery – that with the proper resources, any addict can stop using, lose the desire to use and find a new way to live – those who struggle as her son once did can get help.

“It’s not because the addict is immoral or doesn’t care,” she told The Daily Times. “They do care. If they could stop, a lot of them would.”

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that around 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, and in 2016, the deadly painkiller fentanyl took the top spot as the drug that contributed more to overdose deaths than any other. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, drug abuse costs the nation more than $120 billion per year in lost productivity, more than $61 billion in drug-related crimes and criminal justice costs and more than $11 billion in health care costs.

Those figures point to an epidemic that stretches far beyond just the addicts themselves, and the assembled speakers on Friday will discuss ways in which communities can come together to offer support to those afflicted, and in turn improve the quality of life for everyone in the places where those addicts live and work.

The keynote speaker is Tim Hilton, a recovery advocate (and recovering addict with 12 years clean) who delivers talks nationwide about how addiction changes the brain. Other speakers include:

  • Phil LaFoy, co-owner of Blount Discount Pharmacy in Maryville, who will talk about the pharmaceutical side of the issue and the use of Naloxone in preventing overdose deaths.
  • Pastor Jeremy Graham of True Purpose Ministries, who will talk about issues of faith and spirituality as they relate to addiction.
  • Dr. James Choo of Pain Consultants of East Tennessee, who will discuss the issues of chronic and acute pain and ways to manage them without the risk of addiction to opioids.

Cornerstone will be represented by:

  • Sara Ridner, a trauma therapist at Cornerstone, who will discuss the emotional toll that trauma plays in addiction;
  • Bill Lee, assistant program director and on-staff interventionist, who will offer tips on how loved ones can help those who suffer from addiction seek the help they need; and
  • Steve Wildsmith, media content developer with Cornerstone’s marketing department and an addiction/recovery columnist with The Daily Times, who will serve as the events emcee.

Tables also will be set up with resources from various local groups, including the Blount County Health Department, the Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team (SAPAT) and others. Lunch will be provided, and the seminar is free and open to the public. Interested participants can register on the Celebrate Recovery website.

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