MEXICO — Members of the River Valley community gathered Thursday night at Mountain Valley Middle School to share stories of their addictions to opioids and other drugs and how they became free of those addictions.

One young woman told of the horror of having to be the one to tell doctors to end life support after her husband was brain dead from an overdose of cocaine and fentanyl.

A sister told of the tears and feelings of embarrassment brought on by losing a brother to those drugs.

Gary Dolloff, manager of the Greater Rumford Community Center and a sports coach at the center and at Mountain Valley Middle School and High School, spearheaded the drug abuse forum for the community to hear how and why some younger people in the community have turned to drugs.

Dolloff also wanted former drug abusers “to tell their story to others and just show them there are people out there who care very much,” he said.

Three of the speakers grew up being coached in sports by Dolloff during their high school years. They all spoke of how his caring ways have helped them.

Ben Matthews was a wrestler during his high school years. After he was prescribed Vicodin for an injury at 14 he said he “didn’t feel pain as much” and “could do things a little bit quicker” by taking the drug.”

“Over time, my brain just developed to just want it, no matter what the consequences were,” he said.

Matthews said he is still struggling with addiction but is getting better and receiving the help he needs.

Ashley Morissette earned high honors at Mountain Valley High School and went away to college for a year. She then returned home, after which her mother died in a car accident.

“I kind of felt a little bit like a failure when I (dropped out of college), and I ended up meeting up with a girl I became really good friends with, and she introduced me to Percocet 30s, which was what I used at the time,” Morissette said.

Morissette quickly became addicted to the drug and ended up losing everything she had, including the care of her child, who was taken from her by the state Department of Health and Human Services following her arrest.

“I stole from my family, from places I worked,” she said. “I was lazy, messy. It turned me into somebody that I’m completely not. I’m not any of those things.”

Even after having gone through drug rehabilitation numerous times, she still continued to use drugs.

Morissette finally got into a program called Family Treatment Drug Court, “which is the most amazing program,” she said. However, the program only treats drug abusers who have children.

Through the program, she was able to find a counselor who has been there for her through her “entire journey,” and who was someone she could talk to without judgment. The program also kept her accountable in her actions, and she received random drug testing and parenting classes.

With the help of the program and the support of her family, Morissette was able to regain custody of her daughter and has been sober for 4 1/2 years and off of drugs.

Michael Hansen, another speaker at the forum, said he has been sober for two years. Hansen said he suffered from depression throughout his life but was unable to be honest about his feelings.

After taking Percocet following surgery for his wisdom teeth, he found the drug helped him forget about his depressed feelings. He was also involved with a group of friends who abused Percocet. He soon found he was addicted to the drug.

To get over his drug abuse, Hansen decided to join the U.S. Army, where he was free of drugs. Once he returned home, however, he resumed using drugs.

“It was hard for me to be honest about anything because of my shame and the guilt,” Hansen said.

Hansen said the help and support of his parents helped him become free from drugs. They told him he could live in their basement — his high school bedroom — while he worked on his recovery. They set goals together — a month at a time — to help free him from drug use.

For information on substance-abuse treatment resources in the River Valley area, see rivervalleyrising.org or Oxford County Mental Health Services at ocmhs.org.

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Members of the River Valley community gather Thursday night at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico to hear speakers from the area who have suffered from drug addiction. Gary Dolloff, director of the Greater Rumford Community Center and a coach at Mountain Valley Middle School and High School, organized the forum. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Marianne Hutchinson)


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