DUNDALK, Md. — Addiction impacts about 20 million people in the United States every year, according to the American Addiction Centers. Therefore, many families are also impacted by the disease.
Tuesday, CCBC Dundalk held an addiction forum the community and their students. It stemmed from a communications class assignment where students where told to pick a cultural impact. A handful of students spoke about different forms of addiction and that's how the community forum was created.
Students shared their stories, connecting through the struggle of watching their loved ones gripped by the disease.
"It takes a weight off your chest a little bit because it shows that you're not alone and there are other people around you with similar experiences," said Ryan Bland, a 16-year-old full-time CCBC student and a full-time Sparrows Point High School student.
He said he's been to 22 funerals in his life, eight of them because of an opioid overdose. The most recent one was his cousin earlier this year.
Bland's mother is a recovering alcoholic and a recovering addict.
"I grew up going to AA meetings with her," he said.
Now, Marguerite Bentley is 13 years sober from alcohol. She still has a prescription for some medication. She explained that when her niece died earlier this year her son controlled her medication daily so she wouldn't overdose too.
"One day at a time, sometimes you gotta take it a minute at a time. He's my rock," said Bently.
Another student spoke about how he found his neighbor, who was like an uncle to him, dead in his home because of a heart attack from cocaine. He said it happened in 2017 and was only comfortable talking about it now because of this community.
Kalei Files felt the same way.
"There’s always a way to turn something around," Files said. "This experience with my mom was really bad for me. Tonight is turning it into something that can help someone else so I'm turning something bad into something good."
Files left home when she was 15 because she said her mother was addicted to heroine.
"One night something just like clicked in my head. I don't know what it was or what triggered it but I was like I need to get out of this house. That same night, I packed up some of my stuff and I moved out and I haven’t been back since," said Files.
A few other students shared their stories. Toni Torsch shared her story of how she went from a grieving mother, after her son died from a drug overdose, to an advocate.
She said the hope is recovery and that the solution to the problem is treatment and education.