Road to Recovery: Man overcoming drug abuse works to fight stigma

Michigan

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — Some people never make it out of drug abuse. In 2019 alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 70,630 deaths due to drug overdoses in the United States.

For those who stop using, the road to recovery is a long one.

Russell Beaudry has fond memories of his childhood in the Marquette area.

“We were a happy family, and we did what Yoopers did, we fished, we hunted, we played sports, things like that but alcohol was part of the picture. It was part of the activities,” he said.

But he said there was a culture of acceptance around drinking that wasn’t always healthy.

“I started using and experimenting with alcohol and marijuana in high school, like any people do, I suppose,” Beaudry said. “It was part of the culture. It was a way of life, is what it was. It wasn’t necessarily a problem until years later. I went into adulthood using alcohol and marijuana and experimenting with other drugs that came along, but it wasn’t necessarily a problem.”

As Beaudry went through college at Northern Michigan University, his drug use worsened. It was there he started to use opioids. He described his relationship with opioids as a light that “went on when the feeling, the physical feeling, the psychology and mental feeling that takes you over.”

“It’s similar to alcohol, but it seems to be more convenient,” he continued. “It’s in a smaller package and it works quickly. You can hide it better than drinking sometimes and it really works. It does what it’s supposed to do. It’s a painkiller, it kills psychological pain, it kills physical pain, and it was very attractive to me.”

Substances began to control his life.

“My priority was getting the substance. I still had family that I cared about, I still had school studies I cared about. I still had that employment that I cared about, but when I put my substance of choice at the top of the hierarchy of my priorities, that’s when things start to suffer because if my drug is at the top of my priorities, everything is secondary, right? Family, school, employment, it all becomes secondary, and without that drug I’m not attending to any of those responsibilities whatsoever,” he said.

He recalls manipulating situations to keep his habit alive:

“I would have dental procedures or other procedures, anything from major dental surgery sort of thing or a simple earache or things like that. Doctors in the late ’80s, early ’90s would freely provide they would give out free samples of hydrocodone and other painkillers or opioids,” he said. “If you said the right thing, and you knew the right doctor you would get what you needed, and again with the addiction, the amount is rarely enough and really never is enough so between doctors and now I’m in the black market of obtaining stuff so now I’m dabbling in breaking the law.”

That was in his 20s and 30s. At 45, he finally received help for his addiction. After legal troubles, At his breaking point, Russell got a shot at a second chance. He enrolled in treatment at Phoenix House in Michigan.

“It was presented to me as an option as an alternative to jail was to attend a residential treatment facility,” Beaudry said.

He spent 120 days at the treatment facility and found new strength in recovery.

During his recovery, Beaudry felt inspired by those at the center who helped him recover. They also were recovering from addiction and the connected shared experience moved Russell through his treatment.

Now in his final step of treatment, Bearudry works for Great Lakes Recovery Centers as a case worker and will start his work in a sober house.

“We need all the support we can get,” he said. “We need to fight the stigma of addiction, and start to treat it as the disease that it is. It is a disease of mind, body and soul and the more that we can support people in this process, the more successful and the chances they have of succeeding will be greater.”

Beaurdy is set to get married and his new goal in life is to aid those in recovery.

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