“There’s no greater agony,” the late memoirist and poet Maya Angelou once observed, “than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Throughout human history, stories have always been important, and those who have faced addiction in particular can benefit from telling them. Sharing facilitates healing, but it also offers hope to those facing a similar path.
Now, KET’s documentary Journey to Recovery — which recounts the personal anguish, confusion, heartbreak, and the ultimate success of people whose lives have been touched by substance abuse — has become an important outreach tool for Operation UNITE.
“Every time Journey to Recovery is viewed, it gives people such hope,” said Nancy Hale, CEO of UNITE, one of several agencies featured in the cornerstone program of KET’s ongoing Opioid Initiative.
“It helps people understand some basic truths about recovery: it’s a way of life, it’s about healing, it’s a process — and there are many people in recovery,” she said. “It means you’re not alone — millions have gone down this road before you and they are now happy, productive, and sober.”
Hale’s own story began as she and her husband, John, both Rockcastle County educators, were confronted with the addiction problems of their son, Joshua, and nephew Eddie Hale. Her experiences mirror numerous others’ in Eastern Kentucky and beyond.
“I’m also a mom,” Hale noted. “I’m an educator, a neighbor, a volunteer, a church member, and a friend. In every one of those roles, I have known the pain and tragedy of addiction and substance abuse.”
Produced by KET in 2017, Journey to Recovery brings its message to audiences at UNITE county coalition meetings, at its summer camps for middle schoolers, its clubs at area high schools, and at local colleges.
A non-profit, Operation UNITE was formed in the 1990s at the direction of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers when it became apparent that Eastern Kentucky in particular was facing a monumental battle against drugs. Now, after initially focusing on law enforcement, it has turned toward helping people find the tools they need to overcome addiction, including understanding the physical changes that occur within the body — also a main theme of Journey to Recovery.
“Scientists have discovered that repeated use of drugs and alcohol can actually change the structure of your brain and how it works,” notes Hale. “However, the good news is that many now believe that the same process happens in recovery. In time, the brain can be molded around recovery and heal.”
With its emphasis on the importance of connections and community, it is not surprising that Journey to Recovery has become an instrument to facilitate community among people providing addiction and recovery services statewide, Hale noted.
She also points to KET’s reputation as a quality provider of informative and educational programming as a key to Journey to Recovery’s success in community outreach.
“I think it’s good KET has taken a step in promoting not only awareness of the problem but promoting solutions to the problem: providing hope, and facilitating recovery,” she said.
“There are all kinds of documentaries out there on the opioid epidemic and how many lives are being lost. But this one is different. This one gives you hope.
“And that is so important today.”