A year ago, as she went into the final week of organizing and planning for the inaugural “Hijacked” addiction and recovery summit, Jan McCoy would have been elated had 50 people showed up.
She’s a worrier, you see — not out of any vainglorious desire for recognition, but because she believes so passionately, so fervently, in the advocacy of addiction recovery.
The disease, after all, claimed her son’s life in 2014, and in emerging from the oppressive fog of grief, she’s spent the last nearly six years doing everything she can to ensure other young men and women don’t lose their lives to overdose and the other fatal trappings of addiction.
In putting together that first “Hijacked: How Addiction Rewires the Brain and Poisons the Spirit,” McCoy (along with a dedicated group of friends and fellow attendees of Celebrate Recovery Maryville) just wanted to get the word out and introduce the Blount County community to the concepts of recovery.
She wanted to peel back the curtains that often shroud addiction in mystery and stigma, share some knowledge from experts in the field and give attendees an opportunity to ask questions and seek help from available resources.
Fifty people, she thought, would be a godsend. The first “Hijacked” drew more than four times that number. I remember hugging Jan as the day came to a close, and her eyes glittered with tears — of joy, of relief and of hope, that maybe a life or two might be pulled back from the edge of an abyss over which so many young people have tumbled in recent years.
Needless to say, the planners were overwhelmed, and a high bar was set for year two. The second “Hijacked” conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at First United Methodist Church of Maryville, 804 Montvale Station Road, where Celebrate Recovery Maryville meets every Wednesday evening.
It’s free to attend (organizers kindly request you register at www.crmaryvilletn.com/hijacked, however, so they can get a headcount for the free lunch that will be provided; if you don’t use the internet, call Jan at 865-384-7307), and the keynote speaker is Tim Hilton, one of the highlights of last year’s seminar.
Hilton is a recovery advocate who combines neuroscience, psychology and personal testimony in a presentation titled “The Addicted Brain.”
It’s a powerfully informative segment that demonstrates just how big of a role actual physiological components play in the disease concept of addiction and alcoholism.
As he told the assembled crowd last year: “This has nothing to do with how much they love you, or with moral fiber. It’s a disease. An actual disease,” he said.
Hilton is but one of the presenters on tap for Friday. Also slated to speak: Dr. Curtis Markham, an addiction medicine specialist with years of experience here in East Tennessee; Dr. Keith Bailey, the training director for Harmony Family Center, who will speak on the role trauma plays in shaping addiction; Dr. Monty Burks, the director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the State of Tennessee; Jeremy Graham, the pastor and leader of the Blount County faith-based recovery program True Purpose Ministries; and Bill Lee, an assistant program director and interventionist at Cornerstone of Recovery in Louisville.
(Full disclosure: Yours truly will serve as master of ceremonies, and the Rev. Matt Hall of First UMC and the worship leader of Celebrate Recovery Maryville, will be on hand to welcome everyone and take part as needed.)
In addition, a number of community vendors and resources will have tables and booths set up to offer information on their various services. In addition: Narcan (the overdose reversal drug naloxone) kits will be distributed free of charge, and recipients will be trained in how to use them.
It will be, without exaggeration, one of the biggest clearinghouses of information on addiction and recovery in Blount County all year.
The wonderful thing about this event?
It’s open to the public.
You don’t need to be an addict still struggling, although if you are one, people will be on hand to help you.
You don’t have to have a family member struggling with addiction or alcoholism, although you’ll find a great many men and women who are walking in your shoes.
You don’t have to have any connection to addiction whatsoever to attend.
But, you may be wondering, if I don’t, then why would I go?
I’ll tell you: Because you’re a citizen of a county, a state and a country that’s in the middle of the biggest public health crisis since the Spanish flu epidemic more than a century ago.
Consider this: In 2017 alone, more people died of drug overdoses (72,000) than those who died in combat during the entirety of the Vietnam War (58,000).
During the decade that just ended, overdoses killed roughly 467,000 Americans — more than the total number of servicemen and women who gave their lives in World War 2.
If you have no ties whatsoever to addiction, then you’re a rarity.
You’re also on deck, I’m afraid, because those numbers mean that it’s coming for someone you love, sooner or later.
That may sound harsh, but that’s the nature of the crisis we’re dealing with.
So why not do everything you can to be forewarned, forearmed and prepared?
Please, come join us on Friday.
A life may depend on it, whether you realize it now or not.