Milwaukee resident tells story of journey from addiction to social work

Wisconsin resident Michelle McKenna stood in front of several strangers telling her story about battling alcohol and substance addiction. When she believed she had hit rock bottom, she actually had further to go. McKenna spoke at an event that kicked off Recovery Month in Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel stated.

National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month

Recovery Month is a national promotion for drug prevention, treatment and recovery for people dealing with substance and alcohol abuse and addiction. McKenna spoke alongside Mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett, County Executive Chris Abele and Common Council President Michael Murphy.

McKenna finally chose to seek help after being convicted of her second felony and losing custody of her son. Today, McKenna works at Rogers Memorial Hospital as a licensed social worker and a drug and alcohol counselor. She has been sober for 13 years and now hopes to encourage others with her message.

McKenna noted one of the biggest hurdles in addiction recovery is dealing with the societal stigmas that surround addiction.

“If I identify myself as a drug addict, an alcoholic, that’s what you see. You see who I was. You don’t see who I am,” McKenna said in the news conference.

Eliminating the stigmas of addiction

Murphy stated how difficult it can be to fully recover from addiction and return to a normal life. He noted that those in recovery are people we know, such as neighbors or co-workers. Murphy also announced the introduction of drop-off bins for unused prescription drugs. The Milwaukee Police Department, the County Substance Abuse Coalition and the County Behavioral Health Division are working together to set up the bins. People can drop off the pills at any time, 24 hours a day. They can also drop them off anonymously.

Since the correlation between prescription pills and heroin use is strong and overdoses are on the rise, law enforcement believes this may be a step in the right direction. They are also hoping to create a system where people can drop off heroin and prescription drugs without being legally punished.

Murphy and others believe that this is a good idea to get people to come forward and pull the drugs off the streets in an honest manner.

The prevalence of opioid addiction

The Wisconsin Epidemiological Profile on Alcohol and Other Drug Use from 2012 reported that in 2010, the number of drug-related deaths in Wisconsin exceeded 500 in four of the past five years. The number of drug-related deaths that involved heroin more than doubled from 2005 to 2010. Those that mentioned opioids, such as prescription drugs, increased 33 percent.

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