Sevier County Stories
I am the Director of Alcohol and Drug Programs for Sevier County. Many families in Sevier County have a simple understanding of addiction and its heartbreaking struggles. Some think it happens only to dysfunctional families. Our addicted population has spread to every segment of society: wealthy, poor, educated, white, black, Hispanic, all ages and all backgrounds.
On April 3, 2016 at the age of 42 my Uncle died of a heroin overdose. He battled a prescription opioid addiction for many years. My uncle was the “fun uncle,” the one who told jokes at the dinner table and always found a way to make an adult conversation comical. The stories he told were often fabricated to amuse the children in our family. What we didn’t know was the internal battle he faced daily with his addiction. Our family lost our “Big Fish” that year, and my grandmother buried her youngest child.
In 2011 our family faced yet another tragedy. I lost my childhood best friend and first cousin to an opioid overdose. Stephanie had her degree in special education. Often putting others first, she gave into her addiction, lost her sense of self-worth and lost her life alone in her room.
Over the past two years I have worked as a Prevention Specialist and Executive Director of Sevier County C.A.R.E.S. (Coalition for Addiction Recovery and Educational Services). Our federally funded coalition hopes to reach individuals prior to substance use through evidence-based prevention education and offering recovery resources to those who have been affected by the crisis.
Our county has set ambitious goals with our local law enforcement, the Sevier County Government, School Board, Sevier County Health Department and many others that share our vision to confront this opioid crisis head on. It’s our commitment to our community to remember people like my uncle, cousin and many others lost in our community. We commit to staying vigilant and working hard to making a difference.
These are human beings. They are people who are someone’s child, brother, sister, son, daughter, uncle, cousin, friend.