SOUTH FORSYTH -- Addiction can be awkward to talk about. But we have to.
That’s what Edward Bailey thinks, and it’s why he has been trying to help increase the conversation about drug and alcohol awareness over the past year or so, all while running a men’s in-house recovery program.
No Longer Bound has been in the community for some time, but has recently gained more of a spotlight as various groups work to promote drug awareness.
Though formed as a nonprofit in 1991 by Michael Harden, No Longer Bound is now run by Bailey, and he wants to keep helping men overcome their addictions.
Each year, about 82 men come to No Longer Bound’s one-year program in hopes of finding freedom from their addiction. Currently, 43 are in the program, not including an additional 20 who have graduated and are serving as interns.
Normally, about 75 percent will graduate.
Bailey puts much of his time and effort into the organization, and he knows what truly matters the most to him.
Question: Tell me a little about what No Longer Bound does for the community and why you’re trying to increase awareness.
Answer: “Well, we focus on rescuing addicts, regenerating men and reconciling families. That’s the motto we go by and the primary focus of what we do. We serve men — adult males — for a year that are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol.
“From an awareness standpoint, the big effort has been to help the people outside our program. It’s easy for us to get inwardly focused and just serve the people in here.
“But we’re really the back end of a three-pronged approach: prevention, intervention and treatment. Or what we would call regeneration. We’re trying to get people in the county working on the prevention and intervention side.
“That’s what has really been happening with the Drug Awareness Council. And the drug summits do a good job at pulling together the school system, the courts, the police officers and the media to get everyone together.
“Everyone is honestly seeing the crisis increase and the epidemic ramping up. You’ve heard the statistic used before that there are 900,000 people in Georgia who are addicted, and just 3 percent are going to make it into treatment.”
Q: Is there a stigma in talking about addiction?
A: “It’s definitely gotten better over the years. One of the challenges, especially in this county, is the challenge that you’ve got influential people and also, by comparison, wealthy people.
“Sometimes with that, you have social pressures inside of those circles to deny how bad your family’s problem is. Especially with heroin making a big comeback.
“It’s one thing to say, hey I’ve got a drinking problem or someone in my family has a drinking problem. But when people think of heroin, they think of homelessness, dirty street people, the inner city. So although the stigma has gotten better, there’s still a challenge.”
Q: What are you doing to fight that stigma?
A: “I always say to be as transparent and vulnerable as possible. The thing about living in the dark, as we call it, is you’re fighting something that’s always going to win when you’re fighting it in the shadows. The thing you’re fighting is the dark.
“As with a lot of things in life, when you bring it out to the light, you become dangerously vulnerable and transparent. You’re sharing it with people around you and the people you trust. And you learn that you don’t have to fight it alone. You’ve got a chance at winning when you bring that out.
“A stigma is that you’re the only one. That there’s something wrong with you or you’re a worse person because of this addiction. When you’re brave enough to bring that out and start talking about it, you realize it’s not just you.”
Q: What have you been doing in the past year or so to really increase awareness and fight that stigma?
A: “We’re really starting to publicly communicate our vision. When we look around at what we’re doing and the problem we’re solving of addiction, we feel it’s important work.
“We look around and hear the statistics and see the surveys, and we feel like we’re doing well at it and we see the lives we’re changing. So that leaves us with the responsibility to spread what we’re doing, to work toward doubling our impact, at least in this county.
“We have residents from all those counties [in north central Georgia]. But we’re also writing our curriculum. We have full-time writers who are creating a curriculum and writing out our process.
“We’re writing it in a way so that we will be able to bring people in from across the state and country and actually train people in what we’re doing. So they can be their own organization but operate under a No Longer Bound model.”
Q: What’s something about yourself people may find fascinating or surprising?
A: “Well, I’m a graduate of the program, so that’s pretty unique in this line of work. And if you look at my personal values, they line up with our core values.
“We have seven core values that are up on our website. One of those is that family comes first and foremost. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. It’s my highest calling.
“I’m passionate for what we do here, and the need for that is to do it great. But I’ll lay all this stuff down at any given moment to be with them.”