Fa­ther shares per­sonal strug­gles with ad­dic­tion

Town-hall event at King’s Col­lege fo­cused on break­ing the cy­cle of ad­dic­tion.

The Citizens' Voice - - Local - BY JAMES HALPIN STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: jhalpin@cit­i­zensvoice.com 570-821-2058

WILKES-BARRE — As Marty Henehan stood be­fore the crowd, he de­tailed the down­ward spi­ral his life had taken: 67 ar­rests, 39 con­vic­tions and 15 years be­hind bars.

All of it was the re­sult of the drugs and al­co­hol he was con­sum­ing to self-med­i­cate an “emo­tional toothache,” he said.

“I’m not a crim­i­nal. I’ve never com­mit­ted a crime,” said Henehan, co-founder of the Scran­ton-based ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery group For­ever Sammi. “I’ve never hurt any­body when I was sober. So the ad­dic­tion is not a crime, but I will say this: I had to be held ac­count­able for my be­hav­iors be­cause what I did was com­mit crimes to sup­port that.”

Henehan was speak­ing be­fore dozens of peo­ple who braved the icy streets Satur­day af­ter­noon to at­tend “Break­ing the Cy­cle: Com­mu­ni­ties Against Ad­dic­tion,” a town-hall event hosted at King’s Col­lege by Blueprints for Ad­dic­tion Re­cov­ery, Inc., an El­iz­a­beth­town-based re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­cov­ery ad­vo­cacy pro­gram.

The event comes on the heels of a record-set­ting year for drug over­doses in Luzerne County. Ac­cord­ing to the county coroner’s of­fice, more than 150 peo­ple of over­doses in 2017, a nearly 60-per­cent surge in just two years.

The surge in over­doses is in line with a statewide trend, a trend that prompted Gov. Tom Wolf last week to de­clare a state of emer­gency and out­line a strat­egy to in­crease ac­cess to treat­ment.

The event Satur­day was in­tended to in­crease aware­ness about ad­dic­tion and the men­tal health is­sues that of­ten go along with it. Kayla Kressler, clin­i­cal su­per­vi­sor at Blueprints for Ad­dic­tion Re­cov­ery, talked about the im­por­tance of early ed­u­ca­tion, not­ing that the av­er­age age of the ad­dicts she sees is about 24.

John Fabis­eski, a re­cov­ery spe­cial­ist who is also in re­cov­ery, said the peo­ple at the high­est risk for over­dos­ing are be­tween 18 and 24 years old.

“We’re los­ing our kids,” Fabis­eski said.

Henehan knows all too well the im­por­tance of early in­ter­ven­tion. The au­di­ence was spell­bound as Henehan de­scribed his own down­fall — and then watch­ing his daugh­ter have hers.

When Sammi Henehan was born, Marty Henehan planned to sober up, he said.

“She was go­ing to change my life,” he said.

But Marty Henehan didn’t get sober and con­tin­ued to “cause chaos” to those around him, he said.

Then when Sammi Henehan was 13 years old, she be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing, Marty Henehan told the crowd. She was in and out of re­hab be­fore Marty Henehan de­cided to have a friend who was a cop ar­rest her, he said.

Marty Henehan de­scribed tears flow­ing down his cheeks as his daugh­ter yelled and called him names.

“I did that be­cause I loved her,” Marty Henehan said. “I did not want her to be­come a statis­tic.”

But in April 2016, not long af­ter be­ing re­leased from jail, Sammi Henehan stopped an­swer­ing her phone. Marty Henehan said he went to a ho­tel where she had been stay­ing and found her dead of an opi­oid over­dose at age 23.

Sammi Henehan’s obit­u­ary an­nounced to the world that she had died of a drug over­dose, and her name­sake foun­da­tion now helps home­less al­co­holics and drug ad­dicts get into re­cov­ery.

Marty Henehan said that dur­ing the course of his own re­cov­ery, he learned he hadn’t been hon­est with him­self. But now he knows the truth.

“The truth is: My name is Marty Henehan, and I’m an al­co­holic,” he said.

‘I did that be­cause I loved her. I did not want her to be­come a statis­tic.’ MARTY HENEHAN On hav­ing his daugh­ter ar­rested

CHRISTO­PHER DOLAN / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Martin Henehan, founder of the For­ever Sammi Foun­da­tion, speaks about his daugh­ter’s over­dose death and his own ex­pe­ri­ences with ad­dic­tion dur­ing a con­fer­ence on ad­dic­tion at King’s Col­lege in Wilkes-Barre on Satur­day.

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