Recovering addicts, supporters and those who have lost loved ones to addiction will come together this Friday for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of those who have lost their lives and in support of those who have been able to overcome their addictions.
Organized by the Smyth County Recovery Court, the vigil will be held on the steps of the Smyth County Court House and is open to anyone who’s been affected by addiction and anyone who wishes to show their support for recovery.
“Anyone who in any way has been touched by addiction, come out and support us,” said Jennie Bostic. “If you’re in recovery, come out and show our strength in numbers.”
Bostic, known to her friends and peers as “Jennie B,” works as the recovery court’s peer community engagement specialist. She completed the recovery court program in February after being in active addiction for 27 years and hopes to use her experiences and support to help people like her live better lives.
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As peer community engagement specialist, Bostic organizes monthly activities for program participants and its alumni. For September, which is National Recovery Month, Bostic wanted to hold a special event to remember those lost and demonstrate that recovery is possible by recognizing those who have achieved it.
“We’ve had a lot of overdoses with fentanyl,” she said. “It’s really rising and, with young people, the numbers are really coming up.”
But as fentanyl use and drug overdoses trend upward, Bostic said the recovery movement has also continued to grow.
“There are so many people that are getting clean now and it’s phenomenal,” Bostic said.
Large communities of people in recovery are cropping up in places like Asheville and Wilmington, North Carolina, but Bostic said, “I want people to know that recovery is here, too. And we are changing lives. Not just ours, but our families’, our kids’, our parents’.”
She recalled her own journey to recovery, saying “I never knew this life existed.” She’d used drugs, mostly meth and marijuana, more than half her life and had been arrested five times within a three-year period before she applied for the recovery court program.
At the time, she said, “I really thought that only old people and ‘squares’ really didn’t do drugs, because everybody needs something to get through daily adult life, right? Well, no, you don’t. But I totally thought you did.”
With addiction, she said, comes a very dark place. As addicts, she said people sometimes feel like they’re already dead. “And if you don’t, then you feel like you have no will to live. And you don’t realize it at the time, but it’s a very dark and scary place and, to you, that’s just part of daily life.”
She remembers her mother telling her once, “’Jennie, I don’t know what you’re doing.’ And, I said, ‘Avoiding. Avoiding all my adult responsibilities.’”
Like other program participants, Bostic entered the program after her last drug-related arrest. She remembered Deputy Landon Smith planting the seed of recovery during her arrest.
“He said, ‘Jennie, have you ever thought about recovery court or anything like that?’ and I said, ‘Really, I just want ya’ll off my back.”
But while in jail, Bostic’s mother became ill.
“And it was really a struggle for me, because my 16-year-old daughter was working, holding me down, putting money on my books and taking care of my mom,” she said. “My mom was in and out of the hospital like 10 times in three months, and my daughter was holding everything together while she was falling apart.”
“I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said.
Bostic described the beginning of her experience in the recovery court program as “overwhelming,” pointing out that the intensive program is designed to keep its participants busy.
“Because an idle mind and boredom is an addict’s worst enemy.”
Although she was clean, Bostic said she didn’t fully buy into the program at first. It wasn’t until she’d gotten sanctioned by the court for missing her community service that it began to fully click with her.
“I was getting idle with it and it was getting to the point where I either had to move forward or all of this was for naught,” she said.
She said Recovery Court Coordinator Michelle Ward told her it was like seeing a light switch flip when Bostic fully bought into a life of recovery.
“And I was like, ‘OK, this is not just for the course of the program. This is my life now and it’s just amazing,’” she said.
Along the way, Bostic said she had a lot of support, both inside the program and out. A close friend with whom Bostic used to use drugs and who was already in recovery reached out a helping hand to her.
“My friend, she took me to meetings and she did everything she could to help and support me,” Bostic said. “It was just a bond that was never broken through addiction.”
Not all participants are fortunate enough to have that kind of outside support. Bostic hopes to help fill that gap through her position with the recovery team.
“I really hope through my position now with recovery court that I can be that for these participants too, because I think it’s imperative that you have the support of maybe people you’ve used with, definitely people you know around town and the county and you knew them from using, or at least knew of them.”
Recovery, she said, has a trickle-down effect.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, if Jennie B. can get clean, then I can get clean. If so-and-so can get clean, then I can get clean. If she can do it, then I can do it.’”
A part-time member of the recovery team, Bostic also still holds a second job at the Marion Minit Mart. Working in the public setting allows her to keep contact with people she knows who are still in active addiction as they shop at the store and from there, sow her own seeds for recovery.
“I see people come in there and I’m like, ‘come to this activity, or just come talk to me. If you want out of this, just come talk to me,’” she said. “There’s a lot that aren’t anywhere near ready yet, but just planting that seed and them knowing what their friends are doing, it is tremendous. They may not be ready now, but hopefully, at some point in time, they will be. And, when they are, there will be a slew of us ready to welcome them into this life.”
All that need be done, she said, is to reach out.
“They don’t have to do it alone,” Bostic said. “If they don’t have support, they have support now. I promise you, a recovering addict will reach their hand out and pull someone out of that.”
At the vigil, attendees will hear from a local pastor who fought his own battle with addiction and from Judge Deanis Simmons, who oversees the Smyth County Recovery Court.
Bostic encourages those who attend to wear purple, the color which symbolizes the recovery movement.
“To see a sea of purple and to know that’s for recovery, for people like us, it would be amazing,” she said.
The vigil is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30.