Together We Can recovery walk celebrates victories over drug addiction

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Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter
Participants in the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission recovery walk make their way down Main Street in Washington Saturday morning.
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Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter
Participants of the recovery walk make their way down Main Street in Washington Saturday. Order a Print
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Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter
Ashlee McHenry, who has been in recovery for almost two years, shares her story of addiction and her path to recovery with those in attendance at the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission recovery walk. Order a Print
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Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter
Danny Bradwell speaks of his time as an addict and his path to recovery before the start of the recovery walk in Washington Saturday. Order a Print
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Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter
State Sen. Camera Bartolotta reads a proclamation from Washington Mayor Scott Putnam before Saturday’s walk. Order a Print

Amid the national opioid crisis, there are stories of successful recoveries.

At the fifth annual Together We Can recovery walk in Washington Saturday morning, about 100 recovering addicts and their friends, families and community leaders gathered to celebrate personal victories over substance abuse.

The event, sponsored by Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, began with activities at LeMoyne Community Center before participants made a one-mile trek through the city. “Today is a day of celebration. We want to celebrate that fact that treatment really works, that recovery is possible, and the people here today are a testament to that,” said Cheryl Andrews, executive director for the commission. “Today, we also want to recognize their hard work, because recovery is hard, and to acknowledge the support they get from the community, which is fully behind them.”

Before the walk, two recovering drug addicts shared their experiences and challenges along their journey to recovery.

Ashlee McHenry, a mother of two, said she began drinking and taking drugs at age 15, while her father was battling a terminal illness.

McHenry said her mother began using drugs after her father died, and McHenry’s four younger siblings were placed in the foster care system, while she lived with a relative.

She considered committing suicide after her mother died of a drug overdose, thinking her children’s lives would be better without her.

“That’s when I decided to get clean,” she said.

She completed the drug treatment program at Turning Point in Washington, a residential treatment facility, before she went to Resurrection House for Women to continue her recovery.

“I don’t really want to spend too much time on my past because my past is not who I am today,” said McHenry, who will celebrate two years of being drug-free in October. “I never in a million years thought (staying clean) would happen. I feel blessed and happy and I’m proud of myself, but it’s still new and new is scary. I’m grateful for where I am today.”

McHenry visits her children on weekends, and said she is content they are happy and in a safe environment.

Recovering addict Danny Bradwell said he began drinking when he was eight years old and was shooting heroin by the time he was 15.

He landed in jail in 2016, but with the assistance of Washington County treatment programs, and support and guidance from his probation officer, Bradwell recently marked a year of remaining clean.

“I wouldn’t change the life I have today. Only I can make the decision to keep going and going. If I wasn’t clean and sober, I wouldn’t have any of the things I have in my life now,” said Bradwell. “I found a new way of life, and the opportunities are endless for me. But if I start taking drugs again, everything’s out the window.”

The recovery walk coincides with National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, which recognizes mental and substance use disorders and the recovery process.

Other groups that attended the event included Allied Addiction Recovery and Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Also participating in the walk were Canonsburg Mayor David Rhome, a member of Communities Moving Forward, a coalition group formed to address the drug crisis in Washington County, and state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, whose legislation to hold drug dealers more accountable for the bodily injuries caused to a user was approved by the Senate in June.

Andrews also said the drug and alcohol commission is sponsoring a bus Tuesday to the state capitol in Harrisburg for Recovery Advocacy Day, which aims to raise awareness of substance use disorders, celebrates individuals in long-term recovery and acknowledges the work of prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

“It’s a wonderful day,” said Andrews.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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