As Quincy Brown shares a laugh with passers-by, he’s the first to admit he’s lucky to be alive.
“Many of us addicts and alcoholics, we relapse,” he said. “I came very close to death. I overdosed. I had too many chemicals in my system and it shut down. The doctor said that I could’ve died.”
It was the proverbial rock bottom he needed to jump start his journey into recovery.
Now, Brown and others struggling with addiction are selling raffle tickets in conjunction with a run/walk being organised by the Hope Foundation, the privately run West Bay halfway house that assists addicts and those recently released from prison. The run/walk is being held on 29 Sept., as part of National Recovery Month, sponsored every September by the US-based Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration.
“This month is Recovery Month and I would like to see the community come together,” said George Dexter Evans, a Hope Foundation resident who says substance abuse led to problems with the law and his family. “Don’t care who you are – whether he or she – there’s no excuse. Show the love. Bring back the love for the people of this country, the Cayman Islands, and let’s build a foundation.”
Forty-three percent of students in Years 9‑12 have tried marijuana, according to a 2016 National Drug Council survey that polled 768 students. The average age of first use is 15 years old for girls and 14 years old for boys, according to the survey.
It’s during this stage of his life, Brown says his addiction began.
“Started drinking at age 17,” he said “I thought it was the thing to do. I felt like a man. I started to drink. I started as a social drinker but at some point in my life I crossed the line of being a social drinker, became a problem drinker and then eventually a hard, chronic alcoholic.
“At age 31, I thought I’d try cocaine. And then for five years after that – that really, really took me to rock bottom. So I admit I am a drug addict. But I am thankful I’m getting help.”
Brown has been in and out of rehabilitation facilities for years. He says it’s difficult for recovering addicts in a small community like Cayman where personal information is hard to keep personal.
“People are very judgmental,” Brown said. “You apply for jobs and you don’t get the job because of your history. You have a history of being a crack addict or a weed head or an alcoholic and you just don’t get the job. Even if you’re trying to make positive changes.
“We need to change that.”
There are several options in Cayman for those struggling with substance abuse.
Cayman Islands Alcoholics Anonymous holds daily meetings around Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands. Infinite Mindcare offers counselling and therapy for those struggling with substance abuse and their families. The Department of Counselling Services offers residential treatment, a withdrawal management unit, prison counselling services and an intervention unit. The Hope Foundation halfway house assists residents by keeping recovering addicts with those also trying to get their lives back on track, and the Beacon Farms facility in Frank Sound offers recovering addicts a chance to work with those who have been through similar struggles.
Government earmarked $3.4 million in 2019 for counselling and support services, according to 2018/19 budget documents. It budgeted another $50,000 for canine support to combat drugs in schools, and estimates 375‑475 drug rehab court cases this year. The National Drug council also is budgeted to receive $637,000 this year.
Many of those still struggling to stay clean, however, say more needs to be done.
“Maybe you’re not an addict but chances are you have a sister, a cousin, a brother, a parent who is,” Brown said. “Today I want to live. I want to be healthy. I want to be healthy physically and mentally and that starts by staying clean and sober.”
The Department of Counselling Services is organising an number of events throughout September, which is Recovery Month. For more information, visit www.dcs.gov.ky.