Expressions of Recovery

GLOVERSVILLE – The HFM Prevention Council and ASAPP’s Promise are observing Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery Month with an exhibit of artwork and poetry by people turning their lives around and fellow artists who support them.

The exhibit opened with a reception Thursday afternoon in the lobby gallery at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2 N. Main St.

Stephanie Cook, who organized the exhibit for the Prevention Council, said dozens of artists and poets participated, and the event seems to have grown since its inception last September.

“They work very hard at their recovery, and I think their art and poetry are a means of expressing what’s going on inside them,” Cook said.

Dave Hayes of Gloversville, who paints fantastical scenes and Chinese dragons on glass, attended Thursday’s reception.

After serving prison time and years of using crack cocaine, Hayes cleaned up his act, going through the Fulton County Drug Court program in 2007. Now, he speaks to school and youth groups to share the message that abusing drugs and alcohol has hard consequences. He also leads classes and meetings via the Prevention Council, where he offers advice to other people on their own paths to recovery.

Hayes says he started using drugs as a way to fit in, but he’s learned to ignore peer pressure and developed confidence and independence as he moves forward with his drug-free life.

“I am no better than anybody else, but nobody is better than me,” he said. “It’s a good day today, and hopefully tomorrow will be just as good.”

Fulton County Drug Court Coordinator Sara Luck said many of her program’s graduates chose to participate in the art show, either sharing their artwork and poetry or agreeing to appear on the Recovery Wall, a collection of photos and messages in the exhibit. Participating in a public display such as an art show, Luck said, is a great way for people who have had addictions to “live their recovery out loud.”

And the show of support from the public at Thursday’s reception sends a positive message as well, she said: “It shows the whole community is behind you.”

Several people at Thursday’s reception are residents of Victorian Manor, a halfway house for men dealing with addictions. The 20-bed facility is part of the Fulton Friendship House organization and funded by the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

Doreen Ashabranner, director of Victorian Manor, said about half the residents of her Gloversville facility are participating in this year’s exhibit. She said for many, recovering from addiction is a process similar to grieving, and writing poetry about one’s experiences with addiction can be cathartic.

“I think poetry is a way to release that – kind of a letting-go process,” she said. “It helps to quiet their minds.”

Perry Frasier, a Perth native who recently lived and worked in the Lake George area, came back to Fulton County this spring to undergo a serious effort to turn his life around after struggles with alcoholism. Getting in trouble with the law and seeing a close friend die of liver disease helped convince him it was time to make a change.

“It’s not been easy,” Fraiser said. “It takes a lot of focus and perseverance and support – which I’ve been getting.”

Prevention Council programs have introduced him to a lot of good role models, he said, noting it was good to see so many people from the community attending the reception and showing their concern.

“It’s awesome and inspiring,” he said. “There are a lot good people here.”

Ron Bilka of Albany and Darren LaRose of Middleburgh, who both are living at Victorian Manor, talked Thursday about their willingness to participate and appear on the Recovery Wall.

“When it’s time to admit you have a problem, you really don’t care what other people think,” Bilka said. “If me being up on that wall could help other people, that’s a good thing. Helping other people is part of the process.”

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