The Dorchester Alcohol and Drug Commission (DADC) is the county’s lifeline to anyone battling substance abuse. When someone takes hold of that lifeline they are met by a staff of experienced counselors, some of them have personally overcome the disease of addiction.

Vinnie Russell, 65, works as a certified peer support specialist at the DADC, she even came out of retirement to take on the role because she feels led to help others defeat addiction. The journey through recovery is familiar to her because she was once addicted to alcohol and opioids. “My life was in a downward spiral and I couldn’t stop the compulsion and obsession to use,” Russell said.

In that moment many people feel ashamed, embarrassed and confused. Russell said the worst part is that most people think they can overcome the addiction on their own. She learned the hard way that everyone needs support to get sober again.

After inpatient treatment followed by a twelve step program at a recovery center in Baltimore, where she was living at the time, Russell was finally clean. Her story has a happy ending but Russell’s greatest regret is that she missed out on much of her daughter’s childhood due to those years of battling addiction.

After restoring her health she was able to reconnect with her daughter and today they have a great relationship. She’s also able to be a loving grandmother for two granddaughters and one great-grandson. Now she guides others through their journey by helping them attend intensive outpatient programs and motivational recovery groups offered here at the DADC.

The Low Country, like all other communities across the United States, is facing a serious public health crisis due to the abuse of opioids including prescription drugs and heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 there were more than 63,300 drug overdose deaths in the United States. In 2016, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths was more than three times the rate it was in 1999.

The DADC also works to prevent addiction long before it can become a problem. Prevention services offered include risk reduction programs such as Life Skills Training for middle school students and the PREP (Palmetto Retailers Education Program) designed for businesses and their employees. These programs help youth and adults identify risk factors that might trigger the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

The Dorchester Alcohol and Drug Commission is located at 500 N Main Street in downtown Summerville. For information on resources go to 211.org or call 843-871-4790or 843-871-4793.