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Family addiction recovery event focuses on positive aspects of sobriety

  • From left, AJ Diciccio, Sherry Guyer-Woods, Silas Euvard-Labonte, 4, Teagan Chapman, 8, and Jen Pierson decorate cookies during the “Loving Your Recovery” event Saturday afternoon at the Athol Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Annie Parkinson creates a drawing during the “Loving Your Recovery” event Saturday afternoon at the Athol Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Annie Parkinson creates a drawing during the “Loving Your Recovery” event Saturday afternoon at the Athol Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Gianna Ramos, 9, decorates a valentine-themed bag during the “Loving Your Recovery” event Saturday afternoon at the Athol Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Silas Euvard-Labonte, 4, from left, Teagan Chapman, 8, and Jen Pierson decorate cookies during the “Loving Your Recovery” event Saturday afternoon at the Athol Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The “Loving Your Recovery” event, hosted in part by the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, held Saturday afternoon at the Athol Town Hall to strengthen community bonds and celebrate the positive aspects of recovery. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2020 1:37:34 PM

ATHOL — Families and friends gathered at Athol Town Hall Saturday for “Loving Your Recovery,” an event hosted in part by the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, to strengthen community bonds and celebrate the positive aspects of recovery.

“It’s all about the community,” said Jamie Woods, volunteer peer leader and president of the North Quabbin Recovery Center Advisory Board. “We’re getting together and having a good time. When you come out here and connect with each other, you realize you’re not just in this alone.”

Saturday’s free, family-friendly event was held thanks to a collaborative effort from the Opioid Task Force, The North Quabbin Recovery Center, the North Quabbin Community Coalition and the RECOVER Project. Families from Athol and neighboring communities came together to play hacky-sack, create their own Valentine’s Day cards, snack from a light buffet and decorate their own cookies.

Woods said it takes time to recover, and it’s important to “love the whole process” of recovery and “embrace that you’re trying.” The goal of the community events is to build a network of strong relationships as a community, to make it more inviting for those struggling with addictions to be honest and find the help they may need.

“When I was at my lowest point, my community was there for me,” said Woods, who struggled with an alcohol addiction since he was a teenager.

Now 45 years old and “three years abstained” from alcohol, Woods gives as much of his time back to the community as possible. “Loving Your Recovery” is the eighth of a series of recovery-focused events offered in the Franklin County and North Quabbin region that began in fall 2017.

“It all came out of community-based conversations about the importance of recovery events,” said Debra McLaughlin, coordinator of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region. “You come make connections and build the community.”

The events welcome everyone, not just those directly impacted by addiction. She said the North Quabbin Region is a “very active recovery community” and it is important for those going through recovery, or who want to learn more and help those recovering, to have this network. A.J. Diciccio, a volunteer with the Carl E. Dahl House at Cass Farm, said he was invited to work at the “sober living” and “therapeutic farming” center after meeting Kyle Rooney, another volunteer.

“It helped save my life,” Diciccio said. “I’m 99 days sober today.”

A peer-volunteer with the RECOVER Project Saturday, Zach Desjardins, said he has been volunteering for a year and half while working through his own recovery process. Now 24 years old, he struggled with his addiction since he was 12 years old.

“I was hit by a car and that’s how opioids came into my life,” he said.

Thanks to The RECOVER Project, Desjardsin said he is “finally getting a hold of” his addiction and has been in active recovery for most of the last year. He encouraged anyone seeking help to attend the RECOVER Project’s “All Recovery Meetings,” held every Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. at 68 Federal St., Greenfield. Desjardins said the project works to build a plan that is right for each person.

Another volunteer, Penny Davis, agreed with Desjardins. She said it’s important for the community to help create these pathways to recovery, and shake the stigma of shame around addiction that can prevent many from sharing their struggle or asking for help.

“Some people can pull themselves up by their boot straps, but some people don’t have any boots,” Davis said.

Participating organizations in Saturday’s event included: AED Foundation, Inc./Alyssa’s Place; Gardner Athol Area Mental Health Association; North Quabbin Community Coalition; North Quabbin Recovery Center; Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region; ServiceNet; and The RECOVER Project.

One of the next events from the Opioid Task Force will be a bowling event in West County this spring.

On Feb. 19, Greenfield Community College will be holding a “Recovery Summit” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The college is inviting students, community members and those in active recovery or seeking allies, for lunch and a discussion about different recovery paths and resources.




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