People from a variety of disciplines met at the Andrews Center Wednesday to participate in a focus group designed to improve the success of alcohol and drug abuse interventions in East Texas. The meeting was hosted by the East Texas Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (ETCADA), the East Texas Recovery Institute and the Texas State Department of Health Services.
The question of recovery is a complicated one. Sobriety is easily defined, but moving past the physical consequences of drugs and alcohol can be a much tougher battle.
"If I had to explain, you wouldn't understand," Bernie Hutson said during the meeting.
Hutson told this group of law enforcement, medical workers and counselors he's done it all.
"I got to running with the wrong kind of people, of course, and you know the drugs and alcohol and everything was included in it," he said.
He was in the meeting to advocate for openness toward parole-sanctioned, faith-based addiction recovery--which he credits with saving his life.
"It was controlling me and I was ready to commit suicide," Hutson said. "My mother actually had me locked up in jail."
"We're good at getting people sober. We're good at getting people stable," Joyce Weiss said. "What we're not so good at is keeping them there long term."
Weiss, the Chief Clinical Officer for ETCADA, organized the meeting.
"It's been a challenge to get people to the table," she said.
Weiss said the Affordable Care Act--commonly known as Obamacare--changed addiction treatment funding and now promotes a long-term approach that goes beyond sobriety.
"[We have to] identify the strengths that we have there," Weiss said. "[We also need to] identify maybe gaps in services that we have or weaknesses where we could do better."
For Hutson, the gaps are where God comes in.
"As long as I trust god and have faith in him, I know he'll get me through the day," he said.
ETCADA held a similar workshop two months ago in Longview.
The organization is looking for people to train as recovery peer support coaches to help alcohol and drug abusers navigate the road back to long-term sobriety.