Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:32 PM on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Support key to living clean, clear



By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

On March 16, 2006, 19-year-old Bethany Woodworth, the daughter of Shane and Julie Woodworth of Homer, was found unconscious and not breathing.

Her death, caused by a drug overdose, stirred community discussion about how widespread the use of methamphetamines was in Homer. Conversations between law enforcement, social workers, school personnel and families of meth users revealed the use of meth was all too prevalent on the southern Kenai Peninsula.

"I sure hope this helps some families out there," Shane said at the time. "If there are any families out there going through rough things, or suspicious ... we're not experts, but we've lived through it."

That same year, the mayors of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Municipality of Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough formed the Alaska Meth Education Project. Julie became involved in the project and continues to serve on the project's statewide advisory committee.

This month Julie is helping with One Love One Life, the effort of a loosely formed group to offer alcohol- and drug-free activities each Friday during April. It culminates April 29 with a bonfire and an opportunity for people to take a one-day pledge as a sign of support for individuals striving to live clean, clear lives one day at a time.

Ask Julie about the importance of support from others and she is momentarily at a loss for words.

"I don't think there are words to describe the support I received," she said.

Some support came "from users who were friends of my daughter. You take a drug or alcohol component away and these are just good people that are struggling with a tough battle." Other expressions of support came from co-workers, hospital personnel, emergency responders and strangers. Sometimes it was simply a squeeze of the hand. Sometimes it was someone saying, "I've been down that same road. Maybe not the same outcome, but a similar path."

"No one should ever think they're alone in that journey," said Julie. "Unfortunately, it's a well-traveled road."

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

"In support of safe and healthy recreation in Homer and in solidarity with those in recovery, I pledge to stand in sobriety with the Homer community on April 29th."

April 15

4M open mic (tentative)7-9 p.m. Midtown Café,

Special Friday edition of regularly scheduled Monday event, enjoy local talent as an audience member or show off your own talent (music, spoken word, poetry, etc.).

April 22

Drama Slam8-9 p.m.HCOA,

Calling all actors and tech people. Show up to join a writer-director team, discuss and plan for Saturday's performance. Writers go home and write a play in one night.

April 23

Drama Slam8 p.m.HCOA,

Groups rehearse all Saturday. Come enjoy the talent and fun of this 24-hour creative marathon. Admission $5.

April 29

Pledge Period

Fireweed Gallery offers 10 percent off to anyone who takes the pledge.

Jubilee Youth Arts PerformanceMariner Theatre, 7-9 p.m.

Closing bonfireBishop's Beach, music, 9-11 p.m.

Participating Businesses

Fireweed Gallery: 10 percent off on April 29 to anyone who takes the pledge.

Damselfly Salon: Donates $1 of every sale of a product line to Homer Prevention Partnership.

It wasn't that Julie was unaware of her daughter's involvement with drugs. At one point she considered what Bethany was experiencing was "normal teenage stuff and it, too, would pass, but my daughter's first drink was much different than my first drink," said Julie, referring to individual reactions to alcohol and drugs. "That is why I think it was tough for me to comprehend her struggle. I hadn't walked in those shoes. I didn't understand it. Nor did she."

As Bethany's struggle with addiction continued, so did her and her family's awareness of what that struggle involved.

"Maybe you see yourself as someone not having a problem, but then someone puts a mirror in front of you and you understand. We knew there was a problem and she did, too," said Julie.

Recognizing the problem and doing something were two different things, the latter having no quick fix.

"Recovery is a journey, a long journey. Our society likes quick fixes, and I think that's maybe another thing that's tough to grasp," said Julie.

Bethany participated in a number of treatment programs, each one offering something. Julie also was learning. In a presentation she gave to students at Chapman School in 2007, Julie recalled how she would tell her daughter the solution to the problem was simple: Don't use. But that was before Julie understood how strong the trap was. Hearing a counselor describe it as a disease offered a new perspective. So did the words of a friend.

"It was so naive of me because I'd never dealt with addiction," she said. "And this wise woman who was a dear friend of mine said, 'Do you really think it (addiction) is a decision?' That's when I became educated. I felt like using was a decision, but nobody decides to be an addict. ... My daughter knew it, but I was all about accountability, making good choices and everything will work out."

There were times Julie questioned what she, as a parent, could do differently. Again, it was support from others that proved invaluable.

"Just to have someone say 'we're here for you' had such a huge impact," said Julie.

Five years after her daughter's death, Julie speaks of Bethany's loving nature, her humor and her sense of family.

"One of the struggles is trying to make sure people see my daughter for what she really was, which was an awesome, funny, caring, compassionate person," said Julie.

The people who have crossed her path since Bethany's death continue to offer Julie insights, strength and hope.

"After we lost our daughter, I had this perception that this was a teenager issue and, boy, I was immediately proven wrong," she said. "The one thing I have learned over the past five years is that it's very difficult to meet someone who hasn't been impacted by substance abuse. It's funny because people don't talk about it, but there's nothing more effective than friends, family and community members in dealing with this."

The vision behind One Love One Day — clean, clear living in Homer — is a vision Julie hopes is long-lasting.

"Having a month kind of forces folks to take some time to think about it. I hope that the process extends far beyond a month," she said.

From her experience, Julie has advice on what it means to be supportive.

"Listen. Don't ignore someone. If you know someone is struggling, whether they're a user or family, reach out and say, 'I know you're going through tough times and I'm here for you in all capacities.' It's a great opportunity to have a positive impact on someone's life that they'll remember forever," said Julie. "More people beat (addiction) than not. If you can be part of that, take every opportunity to do so."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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