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Community Outreach – Establishing Unity in Confronting Addiction

Encouraging activism in the fight against drug and alcohol abuse, A Forever Recovery sponsored the 135th Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention

As we constantly search for solutions to the problems presented to us by daily life, we realize that every person in every community across our nation, from the largest cities to the smallest rural populations, is affected in some way by many different things. But, perhaps no issue is as widespread and destructive to the fabric of modern society as addiction. Substance abuse runs rampant in every aspect of our culture. From the entertainment industry, including as actors, musicians, professional athletes, stand-up comics, and more, to the business and professional world, to even our young students and educators, drugs and alcohol take a daily toll on the lives of millions, and their loved ones are not immune to those effects.

It is for this very reason that A Forever Recovery is always in search of different ways to reach out to other groups and organizations that endeavor to improve our society, spreading our message of building a healthier and safer world for all of us. Throughout the year, we seek out various ways that we can help make a difference in the lives of others. Our main priority is always the treatment of individuals that are struggling with addiction, but, if we wish to truly be an effective force in the battle against drug and alcohol abuse, we realize that there are many more opportunities for us to make a difference in the world. Community outreach has long been a part of our philosophy, and we strive to help as much as we can wherever help is needed.

In early September of 2015, representatives from A Forever Recovery, including AFR founder Per Wickstrom, traveled to Memphis, TN, to participate in the 135th Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention. Held mainly at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, this conference, which focused on building strong communities and ensuring the future of our nation’s youth, lasted for 5 days, stretching from September 7th-11th. Hundred of people attended the conference each day, discussing some of our culture’s most pressing issues, from health initiatives to social equality and everything in between, and examining some of the potential solutions to the problems posed by these matters. Our participation in the convention concentrated primarily on raising awareness about the state of substance abuse in our nation today and educating the public on the dangers of drug abuse and alcoholism, as well as informing people about the options available to them in treatment.

AFR was also a sponsor of the Baptist Convention conference, which gave Mr. Wickstrom the opportunity to address conference attendees on a couple of different occasions. Since overcoming his own substance abuse issues, he has made it his life’s work to help others in finding the path to recovery from addiction. This includes doing all that he can to educate people on drug and alcohol abuse at every opportunity, and Mr. Wickstrom took full advantage of this opportunity. He spoke at the conference Welcoming Luncheon on the first day of the event, and hosted a seminar at the nearby Methodist University Hospital on the second. He also had the opportunity to sit with some of the leadership of the National Baptist Convention for some one-on-one discussion about addiction, recovery and education.

At the Welcoming Luncheon on September 7th, the first day of the conference, Mr. Wickstrom shared some of his passion and the reasons for choosing substance abuse rehabilitation as his life’s work. “As a young man who had a problem, I was shown the light, and I was able to get off of drugs,” he told the audience. His own victory over addiction gives him hope that our society can overcome our drug and alcohol problems, because, as he sees it, if he can do it, anybody can do it. “We have 200 individuals a day die from addiction,” Mr. Wickstrom continued, further emphasizing the need for people to reach out for help. “Last year, we had 44,000 people die from opiate addiction, from pills and heroin.” He also talked about a campaign called S.A.F.E. – Stopping Addiction with Family Education. Over the years, we have discovered that no tool is more effective in overcoming drug and alcohol abuse than education.

September 8th saw Mr. Wickstrom speaking at a substance abuse health initiative seminar held at the Methodist University Hospital in downtown Memphis, not far from the Cook Convention Center. This time, he concentrated more on sharing statistical information and encouraging people to raise awareness in their communities about the state of addiction in today’s culture, particularly with our youth. “People don’t know that in the 5th grade, you have heroin addicts,” he said, surprising many of those in attendance. “Our FDA just approved oxycodone for 11 year olds. There’s 250 million prescriptions written for Xanax every year.” Often, especially in the case of drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor, the general public does not view medication as a possible source of substance abuse. However, in recent years, we have seen a tremendous upswing in the number of cases being admitted into A Forever Recovery that either abuse prescription drugs or began down the path to addiction with medications. “As a society, we have kind of closed a blind eye to it, and it needs to be brought up in the public viewpoint so that people realize that we’ve got to do something about it,” Wickstrom continued, encouraging community outreach and prevention education. “The youth is where we need to concentrate, on the 7-12 year olds, because in the time they’re age 7 to the time they’re age 12, they will have tried marijuana. They will have tried alcohol.”

At A Forever Recovery, we have made a commitment to promoting education on addiction, the many factors that may cause it, and the possible solutions to these problems, including effective substance abuse treatment programs at professional rehabilitation centers. As we fight for a safer and more positive world, encouraging community outreach and activism in standing against drugs and alcohol, the need for unity among those organizations that seek to empower our youth and preserve our nation’s future becomes more apparent than ever. We aim to be a part of building a more productive society today, and a source of light for a brighter tomorrow.

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