By Carole Townsend
Substance addiction and abuse have a death grip on families in the United States, and nowhere is that fact more evident than in Gwinnett County. They are diseases that, by their very nature, grow and metastasize under the cover of shame, denial and secrecy. No longer a condition relegated to stereotypical inner city poverty and closet alcoholism, addiction has moved in and made itself home in the suburbs. Heroin, alcohol and methamphetamine use, and now rampant prescription pill abuse, threaten adults and children as young as elementary school age. The mushrooming disease can no longer be ignored. The treatment, according to those who have overcome the sickness and accompanying disgrace of addiction, must come from the entire community, not just from isolated and desperate family members.
When Farley and Susan Barge talk about the burgeoning problem of addiction in Gwinnett County, their passion is palpable. The Dacula husband/wife team know first-hand how addiction ravages not just individuals but also their families; backed up by recent studies aimed at changing the way addiction is treated, they founded Navigate Recovery Gwinnett with one simple, game-changing goal. The disease of addiction must be dragged out of the shadows, the stigma and shame must be removed, and the entire community must treat this unique malady on several fronts, because the entire community is infected with it.
“We want to involve the health care community, law enforcement, courtrooms, the faith community and businesses in Gwinnett County in the treatment of addiction,” Farley Barge said in a recent planning meeting for Navigate Recovery Gwinnett (NRG). According to the organization’s founders, it is a disease that cannot be treated like any other, because the cure is a journey, and it’s entire families that are stricken with it.
“Think of Navigate Recovery Gwinnett as a clearinghouse for resources,” Barge said. Right now, when a family member rushes a loved one to the emergency room because of yet another prescription pill overdose, health care professionals stabilize the patient and send him home. Loved ones, desperate for help, take the patient home and wait in fear and desperation for the cycle to repeat itself. They don’t know where to turn; they are alone and ill equipped to deal with the disease eating away at their family.
NRG’s goal is to make resources and trained recovery coach navigators - located at hospitals, schools, courthouses, businesses – available wherever and whenever the need occurs. Families are under tremendous stress when a loved one is caught up in the relentless cycle of substance abuse; these coaches, their knowledge and experience help them find proven resources for treatment, coping and healing.
Barge sums up the organization’s vision and goals in a simple, yet sweeping, statement. “Navigate Recovery Gwinnett is changing the way we treat addiction in our community. We’re removing the stigma associated with recovery by raising our voices as people in long term recovery, to show the community that recovery is not only possible, it’s productive and life changing …We’re building a continuum of care across the entire community that says, ‘If you or a family member is struggling with addiction, Gwinnett County cares.’”
For more information about Navigation Recovery Gwinnett, or the Sept. 12 “Run for Recovery” 5K in Lawrenceville, visit www.navigaterecoverygwinnett.org.