RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The past month, 8News has been sharing the horror of heroin and prescription drug addiction, from lives lost to others forever altered. 8News has also exposed long waits for rehab.
But despite the obstacles there is hope over heroin, says recovering addict Mary Akbar.
“I started young using heroin, I started at the age of 16,” Akbar told 8News. “I have been in recovery now 19 years, clean and sober from heroin addiction.”
This Richmonder is now helping others like herself. She is a peer recovery specialist here at the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA). There, she leads and listens to others struggling to stay clean and shares her road to recovery.
“It was always I use and I stop. It was an on and off process for me, several years,” Akbar explained.
Like many others struggling with addiction, Akbar found herself in and out of jail, and it took several tries before she finally stopped the abuse.
“Until one day I decided I wanted something different, my life deserved more,” Akbar said.
Dr. Jim May with RBHA says most with an opioid addiction, whether it is heroin or prescription painkillers, don’t recover their first try.
“The average person takes six or seven attempts in their lifetime before they are ever successful in stopping,” May said.
Yet he says a stumble is just a bump in the road to recovery. Medically assisted treatment like methadone is usually needed.
Both May and Akbar agree true success often requires the addict making a change in the people and places they associate with.
“If you continue to look forward and not look backward, you can start your process,” Akbar said.
Looking forward is precisely what Ortalay Pope is doing.
“This is my last group so I can move on in life,” Pope announced during her last group session at RBHA.
The Richmond mom is now clean and graduating rehab.
“Thank you everyone else who is in my corner,” Pope said.
“There is hope,” Akbar added. “Just make a phone call.”
Click here to learn more about resources for help.
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.