Recovering addicts bolster case for ‘New Beginnings’ opioid treatment

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‘The shot saved my life!’ say all. Gut-wrenching statements in public forum.

Pamlico County, HOPE Clinic attempt to resolve liability concerns

BAYBORO – Mere words cannot possibly describe the emotions on display Thursday night, Dec. 7, as a half-dozen individuals – all of whom willingly described themselves as ‘recovering addicts’ – stood one-by-one behind a podium to address a crowd of more than 200 people. Labeled a ‘Community Information Session,’ the two-hour experience had the intensity of a well-crafted TV production – only this was real life, featuring young people who are currently undergoing treatment in the New Beginnings program for opioid and alcohol addiction.

HOPE Clinic is a Pamlico County nonprofit that has offered free or low-cost medical care for almost 20 years. Recently, in cooperation with Dr. Roger Merrill and his wife Sandy, the clinic’s executive director, Sheri Rettew, has forged New Beginnings on a shoestring budget. “We’re doing this pretty much on a wing and a prayer,” Rettew told the audience.


As a way of demonstrating the new program’s potential for combating opioid abuse, nothing could have been more effective than hearing the heartfelt, unscripted remarks from Jeremy Bell, Adrienne Hall, Phillip Pipkin, Camren Laughinghouse, and Ashley Swindell. – labeled ‘patients’ in the printed handout.

Dr. Richard Merrill

Bell, first up, surprised many, when he pulled out a small notebook. Then, fighting tears, he read a self-penned poem. The last stanzas even crediting New Beginnings and a crave-reducing shot known as Vivitrol for his new outlook on life. “From the Ground Up” might be the title of this little book,” said Bell. “I got tired of being a slave (to drugs).”

Adrienne Hall seemed to speak for her fellow patients when she said: “It’s brave of us to stand up her and admit our faults. The Vivitrol shot saved my life. I always wanted to hide. Now, I like the way I look. I like the way I feel. I have to remind myself to take one step at a time.”

Phillip Pipkin admitted “I OD’d one night, and they had to hit me with Narcan, but thanks to New Beginnings and the grace of God, I am now in recovery.” Pipkin later added, “the doctor (Dr. Roger Merrill) doesn’t lie to you, and Vivitrol does not make you high.”

Camren Laughinghouse, now 23, said “when I was 11, I started with weed. I’ve been in and out of rehabs all my life. The urges, I don’t have them anymore. I’ve got a job now. I’m happy. This has changed my life drastically. I can’t imagine not having this program right now. It really saved my life.”

Like the others, Ashley Swindell admitted his addiction, but praised his mother, Doris Dunn, for her efforts at recovery. “She’s the strongest person I’ve ever met. She’s my hero.”

Normally, $1,500 per dose – the Vivitrol shot is available free of charge to recovering addicts enrolled in the New Beginnings program.

Swindell credited New Beginnings “for giving me my mom back” and he later cited her success as the inspiration for his decision to seek treatment. “At 9:20 tomorrow, I’m showing up in the morning and getting my first Vivitrol shot.”

Earlier this month, Pamlico County officials released a letter from the county attorney, which hinted that the New Beginnings program might be in jeopardy, due to concerns over potential liability. (See actual letter on front page of this newspaper.) However, over the past week, behind-the scenes negotiations between the two parties appear to have closed much of the gap. On Tuesday, Dec. 12, Rettew released a brief statement, which read in part:

The Board of Health wants to fully support Hope Clinic, in its entirety, operating in the Health Department. To that end, the County Attorney will draft a resolution indicating such to present to the County Commissioners at the January commissioners’ meeting. . . . the County Attorney believes the resolution and additional documentation will address the majority of their concerns.

By Jeremy Bell

17 years as an addict I’ve lived.

From weed to crack, acid and ecstasy, meth, drinking.

Leading to head-on collisions, and numerous DUI’s.

Leading to snorting pills and heroin.

Looking back at where I’ve been,

Started out fun, but oh does the party end.

From losing jobs and my loved ones’ heart, and money robbed.

Couldn’t count the tears their shirt sleeves wiped up as they sobbed.

The Worst? — Years wasted with my kids.

Oh, if I weren’t an addict, the life we could have lived!

Now they stand distant while I pick up the pieces,

Learning how I ended up here and what this disease is.

Even living in a tent and days I spent praying and counting pocket lint.

In withdrawal cause all the money’s spent.

Everyone wanna brag, saying:

‘Oh, I do 2 grams a day, overdosed 5 times’ … and stilling living this way.

Instead of figuring out what makes ‘em dis way.

That’s why to this day, I go to N.A. cause I was tired of being a slave.

So why not for once stop dropping the ball?

Stand up to your addiction and get this shot called Vivitrol.

And do normal things like get a job,

Stead of coming up with ways to lie and rob.

So instead of taking, start giving back to your loved ones,

Like the money to you they kept sending.

And, if you think what I’m saying is lame,

Then go ahead, walk outta that door with your life of regret, misery and shame.

But for me, that day is done. I will no longer give in to addiction or succumb.

Not any more will I curl up on the floor,

Hoping God himself would walk through the door,

And save me once more!

We all get clean and end up tripping.

The moral of this is:

If you’re tired of seeing your life ending,

Step up, grab it back, and have a New Beginning.

It’s your choice, your life, and only you can change.

The only thing lame is continually making excuses, pointing the finger and blame.

Recovery is like a flame.

Once it grows, it’s hard to contain.

You get addicted to that and your life will never be the same!


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