Shreeta Walden

Addiction does not discriminate. Its victims cross all demographic and socio-economic lines, live in every part of our city, and are members of every age group and gender.

Thankfully, the number of available beds for rehab treatment in Louisville has been increasing, but it is still not enough to match demand. Heroin may be the drug most likely to send someone looking for help today, but other substances – including alcohol – have the capacity to ruin lives.

The number of overdose deaths in Louisville has been on the rise in recent years, with more than 400 recorded in 2017, an 87 percent increase over the past two years, according to an Insider Louisville story.

The good news, though, is that many more people are realizing that the life of an addict has no good outcome. More individuals are asking for help, and they are more likely to find the resources they need.

A $29 million expansion at The Healing Place – which offers addiction and treatment services for men – is expected to be completed this year. That will double the capacity of the facility which had been turning away more than 200 people a month.

For Shreeta Waldon, a licensed chemical and drug counselor at House of Ruth in Old Louisville, the key is for people to acknowledge an issue exists in the first place.

“First you have to tell me that you believe that there’s a problem,” she said. “You can’t create a new life, or replace that old life with a new one, if you don’t think you had a problem with it.”

At House of Ruth, Waldon sees adult patients who are HIV-positive. Many times, the stigma associated with that diagnosis can adversely affect a person’s susceptibility to addiction.

“When people come to see me, they’re coming with already a heavy issue, an illness that’s loaded with stigma and so many other concerns,” she said. “People who also deal with this diagnosis find it difficult to just go in to a regular treatment center and sit down in a regular outpatient group and talk about their issues.

“When people come see me, as their alcohol and drug counselor, they’re usually in a place where they do want something. That want some help.”

Once someone makes the commitment to get help, that’s when the work really begins. While there are many stories of success, treatment doesn’t always work. That’s why counselors and experts say that staying in recovery is a lifelong challenge.

“I’m not saying that it’s easy to do the work, because addiction is addiction,” Waldon said. “It’s a disease and it’s difficult to treat at times. People don’t understand that.”

Of course, treatment and getting on the path to recovery is only a part of the journey to a healthy, addiction-free life. For many, being able to do simple tasks such as cooking, finding their own place live, and finding work can be a victory.

“Recovery is not an endpoint. It’s not somewhere you get to,” Waldon said. “Recovery is living. It’s how you live. It’s an ongoing process. If my clients can get that, I believe they will maintain sobriety. They will maintain the abstinence, one day at a time.”