One local heroin recovery story provides hope for a new year

For a region and a nation continuing to confront the opioid addiction crisis and resulting overdose deaths, the story of George Walker provided an appropriately uplifting message to begin a new year.

For the past several years, this newspaper has unblinkingly confronted this public health problem with personal stories of heroin addiction that ended in death. It has published the data showing a steady rise in overdose fatalities, while highlighting the continuing gap between the need and the availability of adequate treatment programs.

But The Day has also reported the remarkable stories of families who turned their own suffering into crusades to make changes so fewer other families have to experience such loss and pain.

Day Staff Writer Lee Howard’s Jan. 2 reporting of the story of George Walker, 67, reminded us that hope for recovery persists even in the grimmest of circumstances. As Walker noted, “Hope is the most powerful force in the universe.”

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, and particularly from heroin, is an imposing journey. For most, relapse is part of the process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of drug addicts will relapse, many multiple times.

Yet the NIDA also reminds us addiction is a disease, and that its failure rates are comparable to relapse rates for people who suffer from high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes, when it comes to sticking with diet and lifestyle treatment plans.

In the Jan. 2 story, Walker talks of an addiction that stretched across most of his adult life, of 13 years spent in prison for crimes committed to support his addiction, and of repeated failures at recovery before finally turning the corner in his rehab efforts in 2000.

Walker subsequently completed a college degree he began in the 1960s, earning a doctorate in the field of recovery treatment and working as a clinician with the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. His plan is to open a private practice providing family and marriage therapy.

Walker’s story also shows the self-inflicted burden the recovered addict confronts, the damaged, even severed, relationships tied to years of substance abuse, and the guilt of having failed family members.

In recovery, however, Walker said he found peace and the chance to try to make amends, even if it can’t ever be enough.

But he has moved forward, one day at a time, as have millions like him. That’s the hope of a new year.

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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