BY SHERI TRUSTY
There was a time when Ryan Clifton’s life was spinning out of control. He was without a home, a job or family connections. He was told he was, “a junkie, a loser and a failure.”
Clifton had not only turned his life around, but on Thursday, Aug.31, served as the master of ceremonies for Port Clinton’s Overdose Awareness Day event. He was a visible reminder that recovery is possible and that a life of purpose and dignity is within reach.
His recovery came, Clifton said, through the support of friends and help in Ottawa County, including Light House Sober Living, Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters, local counseling services and the county’s supportive recovery community.
“This is a ‘we thing.’ We do this together,” Clifton said. “With help, I’ve achieved the impossible. We recover together.”
Overdose Awareness Day was organized by the Ottawa County Prevention Coalition and its director, Michelle Veliz, to honor the lives of those lost to overdose and to provide hope and help to those still struggling with addiction.
Displayed in front of the stage where Clifton spoke were five silhouettes representing the five people who died of overdose in Ottawa County in the last 12 months. For Winters, a foundational support to the local recovery community, the silhouettes were a tangible reminder of why he offers help through programs like the Drug Addiction Treatment Alliance Program, commonly known as Drug Court, instead of simply sending offenders to prison.
“I’m sick of seeing these silhouettes every year. That’s the reason I do what I do,” Winters said. “Addiction is a disease that has a genetic component, and it’s something that has a cure.
“People ought to have the opportunity to do the right thing. I am not without sympathy for the people who appear in my court. I think, ‘Except for the grace of God, there go I.’”
Light House Sober Living Executive Director, Kenn Bower, Jr., further addressed the judgment that creates barriers for the recovery community, including the misconception that people struggling with addiction “are worthless, don’t want to get better, and like the life they’re living.”
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. When I was using, I definitely didn’t like the life I was living,” Bower said. “When I got sober, I realized I wasn’t worthless. When people get sober, they become some of the kindest, hardest working people I know.”
As the event’s keynote speaker, Matt Snyder shared his story of becoming addicted to drugs through prescription Vicodin when he was 15. He continued to struggle until he entered recovery at age 31. Now, he wants to help others find their way out of addiction.
“For somebody out there still struggling — the drugs don’t love you. Your friends love you. Your family loves you. There’s a way out. You don’t have to live like that,” he said. “There’s hope. There are people who want to help.”
Clifton, Snyder and Bower shared the message that recovery isn’t just a life without drugs. It’s a life with purpose and joy.
“There’s a whole different life that’s possible, even if you don’t feel like it’s possible,” Bower told the crowd. “This life of recovery far exceeds all of our wildest dreams, and it’s just a couple steps away.”