Personal experience led to drug awareness walk

By on October 14, 2010

By J.C. Towler

I first met Brenda Thacker as I meet many people on the Outer Banks: while serving a warrant at her home. The warrant was not for her, but for her son.

Unlike many parents whose initial reaction is some version of “my child is an angel who does no wrong,” Brenda came right out and said, “What’s he done now?” From that point, I knew we were going to get along just fine.

Brenda was open about her son’s problems with addiction, but she didn’t use it as an excuse for his behavior. Having overcome her own substance abuse demons in the past, she knew what her son was up against.

She confided in me her frustrations about the lack of resources and help available to people with addiction problems in Dare County. She expressed exasperation over the lack of awareness about the breadth of the problem and people’s unwillingness to talk about it.

The idea to organize an awareness program wasn’t even a glimmer in her eye back then, but she struck me as a high-energy woman, with two gears: fast and faster. If somebody was going to take action, she would be the one leading the charge.

Time passed, and Brenda started bouncing around ideas with friends about raising awareness through some sort of public event. Her central goal was to spread the message that addiction is a treatable disease and not something to be ashamed of. If more people felt that way, more people might seek help. It became a reality on Sept. 15 with the 1st Annual OBX Walk Against Addiction.

The turnout was far beyond what Brenda had hoped: more than 130 participants and almost $2,000 raised. During the event, a young man decided it was time to get help. He was referred to New Horizons and put in a substance abuse program within 24 hours.

I interviewed Brenda about her impressions post-walk, her inspiration and her goals for the future.

JT: So what exactly was the spark that got this thing going, Brenda?

BT: I was at an Al-Anon meeting and discussions about the disease (addiction) came up, and part of the conversation was “Gee, cancer has a Relay for Life, Downs Syndrome has the Buddy Walk, what do we have?” That’s when I decided to organize a walk for the disease of addiction. My main goal was to educate the public that addiction is a disease and it is treatable; that there is hope for the addict. Addicts are not “pieces of crap,” they’re just sick.

JT: What are the most important steps on the road to overcoming addiction?

BT: Realizing that you are an addict, realizing that you are powerless over your drug of choice (DOC) and taking that proverbial first step in asking for help. That was another reason for the walk, trying to show people there is no shame in asking for help. If you had cancer, you’d certainly go to a physician. If you’re an addict, you need to be brave enough to ask for help without the negative stigma attached to addiction.

JT: Are there other awareness events currently planned?

BT: I’m already hearing from people who couldn’t participate and want to be part of the next endeavor. I actually received a donation last week from a person in Rodanthe who saw an ad for the event. There are no other events planned at the moment, but I do wish to get into whatever “loop” is out there to set up a way to get information to the public. Anybody who is willing to help out with that can reach out to me.

JT: Thanks for your time. Anyone special you want to acknowledge?

BT: I could not have done it without loads of help from Tori Peters, Anne Griffin, Mighty Wind United Methodist Church, Sandy and Butch Snyder, Julie Walters, Lynn Capogrossi, Ed and Mary Kitchen, Joanne Hummer, Eileen Lowery, and Tom Roman.

I want to express my gratitude to all of those involved. It’s the first step toward awareness and it created a positive environment for understanding this deadly disease.

Contact Brenda Thacker at (252) 202-1100; e-mail
All donations go to “The Awareness that Addiction is a Disease Fund”

J.C. Towler is a Kill Devil Hills police sergeant.

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