Northern Alabama Addiction: Understanding Addiction


Many people feel the effects of drug addiction or addiction.

Whether it is their own fight or that of a loved one.

“Nobody wakes up and says, I want to be addicted,” Julie Coleman said.

Once you are there, it is almost impossible to get out. This is how Julie Coleman describes her addiction. Her drug use began when she was just a teenager.

“I was never going to take meth, you never know, but I ended up doing it and then it was like the grim reaper, it just took me,” Coleman said.

For over a decade, Coleman abused methamphetamine. She lost her job, her home, and cycled in and out of Morgan County Jail.

As her addiction grew, her role in the epidemic increased, eventually leading her to sell the same drug she had abused.

“It’s not because you are trying to get rich, it’s because you are trying to survive,” Coleman said.

Despite the odds, Coleman eventually fought his demons. Thanks to long-term recovery, she has been sober for over 12 years.

Olivia Ikerd has also been sober for over a decade and now runs a women’s rehabilitation center, A New Beginning, in Florence.

“About four years after I got sober the girls started coming in and you know it was the heroine,” Ikerd said.

The opioid epidemic hit Alabama hard in the 2000s, with overdose deaths soaring 82% from 2006 to 2014.

Turn the page until 2021, Ikerd notices a surprising trend.

“A lot of our customers come in, they’ve tested positive for fentanyl and they don’t even know they’ve used it,” Ikerd said.

Rendell Drummond runs a men’s recovery center, Living Free Recovery, in Morgan County. He sees the same trend.

“It’s basically what kills them, it’s fentanyl,” Drummond said. “Eight years ago, I didn’t know what Narcan was.”

The two centers have something in common. Their treatment plan lasts more than 30 days. They say it’s a crucial weapon to help those who think there is no end in sight.

“I went to treatment four times before I got sober and the first three times it was short term,” Ikerd said.

Ikerd said recovery is not just about choosing to say no to drugs, but about learning to live soberly.

“When we use our behaviors, it feels more like a survival instinct,” Ikerd said. “So we just help them develop new life skills, to live life according to the conditions of life without the cushion of drugs and alcohol.”

Drummond’s program helps over 50 men on two campuses. But he knows that is not enough. Many drug addicts cannot afford to get sober, even with more than 40 state-funded drug addiction programs in Alabama.

“It’s hard to access treatment, it’s hard to access drug rehab in our state because there isn’t a lot of publicly funded drug rehab, so we’re just doing our best,” Drummond said. .

Julia Rowland was able to find a treatment center through an organization in Huntsville, Partnership For a Drug Free Community. It offers a recovery resource center to direct drug addicts to an establishment.

Rowland has now been sober for 15 months from IV methamphetamine.

“Being able to have the resources in the local community, just being able to come in and feel comfortable, I think that’s the best part,” Rowland said.

It might seem as easy as stepping through a door for Rowland, but it took rock bottom to ask for help.

“Right before I went for treatment, I was in an RV near someone’s grandparents’ house at 7 a.m., drugging me,” Rowland said.

“I look around and people pass out from the heroin and all kinds of stuff and I’m just like, is that what I’m doing?” it’s my life? It is with them that I surround myself and I cannot do it anymore. “

Rowland knows she’s not the same person she was 15 months ago.

“I had to change my people, my places and my things, I had to change everything, but the support group was the biggest part of my early sobriety,” Rowland said.

His recovery continues, as with each addict, each in their own way. Even years after his last drug use, Coleman is constantly reminded of why it is important to stay clean.

“People are losing everything, all of their friends and family,” Coleman said. “I had a mother who, I don’t want to cry, but she held on all the time and prayed for me and her prayers were answered.”

About Rhonda Lee

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