BONIFAY - Three local sheriffs, churches, and the Department of Children and Families stood in solidarity Saturday to encourage members of the community who are living with drug addiction to take advantage of resources available to help overcome addiction.
The inaugural Celebration of Recovery Expo was held at the Holmes County Agricultural Center with booths set up to offer resources and information on recovery and with keynote speaker Bernie Carbo telling his story of how drugs led to the end of his professional baseball career before he overcame addition through faith, forming Diamond Club Ministry in 1993.
Carbo played for six major league teams, batting .264 and having 358 RBIs in a little over 1,000 games. He also boasted 96 home runs in his 12-year career, including a three-run homer for the Boston Red Sox in 1975.
But Carbo said his addiction ended his career.
“I threw away my career,’’he said. “If I knew Jesus Christ was my savior at 17, I would have been one heck of a ballplayer, a near Hall of Famer. Instead, I wanted to die.’’
Carbo praised organizers for the event, stating he is heartened to see public officials and the community as a whole coming together in a proactive approach to the recovery process, rather than just locking addicts up as they are caught with drugs.
"It's good to see this kind of support, the encouraging of people to seek help," he said. “Baseball doesn’t say, ‘This guy’s in trouble, let’s get him into rehab'; they just trade you.’’
Those in recovery were also invited to speak.
Nick Angerbrandt was emotional as he began to address those in attendance, taking a moment to stem his tears before recalling a time when he was known as not only an addict - but one of Holmes County's most prolific drug dealers.
"I have no idea why God spared me, why I'm even still alive," he said. "I lived in addiction most of my life, have even been arrested by Sheriff Tate. I was on a path marked for death."
Angerbrandt and his wife, Rachel - also a recovering addict - now help lead others to recovery, drawing largely on their experiences.
Jared Baker of Holmes County says he also lived much of his life in addiction and now hopes he can help others.
"Through faith, I was finally able to overcome those chains," he said. "I hope that I can inspire others to do the same."
Missy Lee and Shanta Sapp of Department of Children and Families say they hope the event will help break the stigma of addiction - and mental health issue, which often play a role in addiction.
"Substance abuse and mental health are issues that affect more people than we can imagine," said Sapp. "No one talks about it because it carries such a stigma. Hiding it, denying it, or running from it benefits no one. If you have ever battled addiction or experienced mental health issues, you know that can be a struggle like diabetes or cancer. (As with those diseases,) you need to seek appropriate treatments and support."
"This event is to being awareness to specific treatments and supports for those battling addiction or mental health issues in our own community and to celebrate those who have overcome these battles."
Sheriff John Tate told the crowd the time has come to change the way law enforcement approaches addiction.
"There was a time in my career I would just arrest you, put you in jail, and forget about you," said Tate. "But over time, I came to understand that isn't going to work. I've noticed that reaching out and helping people get into rehab and correct their lives has already done a world of good in Holmes County."
Sheriff Roberts and Sheriff Crews agree.
"I am so happy for the turnout today and to see the people who have beat this," said Sheriff Roberts. "The three of us can stand here all day long and tell you what we think you should do, but we've never been there. Still, addiction affects everyone. Sometimes we are the last hope because people would rather see their loved ones in jail than the grave."
"Sheriff Tate said a mouthful when he said this is not a law enforcement problem; it's a community problem," said Sheriff Kevin Crews. "By helping those struggling with addiction to recover, we will see a positive effect in our community."
The expo is expected to become an annual event, with Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford telling Sheriff Roberts he hopes to participate next year.
Those who would like more information on local recovery resources may call Sheriffs Crews, Tate, or Roberts at their respective offices or contact a local recovery support program listed here.
Here are some local substance abuse and mental health support group meetings and other resources:
Resources Substance Abuse and Mental Health office 850-401-6061
If you are thinking about suicide, please call: 1-800-273-8255
Additional online recovery resources can be found through DCF by visiting: http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/substance-abuse/treatment-and-detoxification
8 p.m.: Alcoholics Anonymous meeting - board room at Graceville-Campbellton Hospital in Graceville.
6-7:30 p.m.: Salvation Army Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program (SADVP) hosts a domestic violence support group at the SADVP Rural Outreach office. For more information, call Emma or Jess at 415-5999.
5:30 p.m.: Chemical Addiction Recovery Effort group; Caryville Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, For more information, call 850-326-0886.
6 p.m.: 12-Step Addiction Recovery Program at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, located on North Ride Lane off State Road 79 in Bonifay.
7 p.m.: "A Drop of Faith" Narcotics Anonymous meeting; Blessed Trinity Catholic Church.
7 p.m.: Depression and Bipolar Support Group meets at First Baptist Church educational annex building in Bonifay. Call 547-4397.
Noon to 2 p.m.: Holmes County Tobacco Cessation Classes fourth (first Thursday of every month) at Holmes County Health Department. For more information, call James Lewis at 850-224-9340
1 p.m.: Care Givers Support group, third Thursday of each month at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Street in Chipley. For more information, call Recie Culpepper at 850-566-2553.
5:30 p.m.: Chemical Addiction Recovery Effort group Caryville Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. For more information, call 850-326-0886.
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Washington County Tobacco Cessation Classes (second Thursday of each month) at Washington County Health Department. For more information, call James Lewis at 850-224-9340
7 p.m.: Narcotics Anonymous meeting at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church on County Road 177A
8 p.m.: Alcoholics Anonymous open meeting at Chipley Presbyterian Church.