Scheduled at the Hiwassee Mental Health Center from 9 a.m. to noon, the informational public forum is also intended to promote community awareness, and to provide direction and resources.
The seminar is free and open to the public. It is being brought to Cleveland by a partnership between HMHC and Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors, the latter of which is known to most as the GRAAB Coalition. The duo are hosting the forum through a Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant.
HMHC, whose offices are located at 940 South Ocoee St., operates under the umbrella of Volunteer Behavioral Health Center, according to Tanya Southerland, GRAAB Coalition executive director. Southerland urged area residents to attend Saturday’s workshop whether they are there simply for the information or if they might be impacted as individuals or family members to addictions involving inhalants, OTC medications or prescription drugs.
Saturday’s primary presenter will be David Webb, LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) at Hiwassee Mental Health Center. He is also the contact for additional information about the seminar. Questions may be directed to Webb at 423-643-9279.
“There will be presentations by people in recovery and speakers will be providing education about the causes and nature of addiction,” Southerland explained. “There will also be representatives from numerous treatment and recovery programs who will be there as well to answer questions about how and where to find help.”
One speaker will be area resident James Giles, who was formerly addicted to drugs, and whose abuses led to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. The trauma of his near-death experience left a devastating impact on his family and led to his commitment to overcome his addictions.
Giles’ personal testimonial, some of which will be covered in his presentation Saturday, was published on the Editorial Page of the Cleveland Daily Banner as a guest column in Wednesday’s edition. It is titled, “My Own Prison.”
In his testimony, Giles wrote of his trek toward addiction.
“I started using drugs and inhalants at the age of 14,” he wrote. “I used them to escape the problems of my life so I wouldn’t have to think about how messed up my life really was.”
He added, “I didn’t really understand at the time how serious it was and that there was a different way of dealing with my problems.”
His addictions led to hallucinations, some of which, he said, were “good ones” but these eventually turned “... bad, very bad.” Giles blamed the hallucinations on “huffing paint and doing drugs.”
Giles credited his family with trying to help him, but his denial was deep and he repelled their efforts. He paid the price for his denial in the long term.
“I started getting in trouble — a lot of fights, a lot of going to jail, plus a lot of broken bridges with family and friends,” he stressed. “To be honest, I spent 18 years going through this, but ‘No, I didn’t have a problem; everyone else had the problem!”
His first day of reckoning came when he realized he was alone, living under a bridge in the middle of winter with a 6-inch layer of snow surrounding his weeklong home. “Only God knows how I survived,” he said. “No food, no water, no money and no one to turn to.”
He tried rehab programs, but for the wrong reasons. His participation was for the food and shelter. It didn’t curb his desire for getting high. Giles said he “tried,” but his inconsistent attitudes toward recovery doomed his credibility among friends and others who tried to help. So they lost interest.
And this led to his second day of reckoning. Using money given him by “... one person who thought they were helping me out,” Giles said he walked into a department store, bought “... some stuff to get high on” and journeyed into the country, climbed a utility tower and got even higher on his legally-purchased inhalants.
“[I] sat up on the top of [the tower], got high, read some of the Bible and then asked God to have mercy on my soul,” Giles explained.
Then he jumped.
Waking up a couple of days later in the hospital with two broken ankles, a fractured lumbar vertebrae, a broken orbital socket and additional injuries, it was then that he understood the impact of his reckless life on those around him, especially his loved ones.
Giles will retell much of his story Saturday.
The first 30 people who arrive for the seminar will receive a free copy of the book, “Why Don’t They Just Quit?” It was written by Joe Herzanek. Saturday’s forum goes by the same title.
The Drug-Free Communities Support Program Grant is directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The DFC program was created by the Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, and was reauthorized by Congress in 2001 and 2006. Since 1998, the White House ONDCP has awarded approximately 1,600 Drug-Free Communities grants to organizations at the community level.