The disease of addiction has hit Franklin County hard and we are ready to recover. We know that recovery won’t happen overnight. It isn’t a one-time thing we get over and move on from, it’s a constant ongoing battle. That’s why we’re in this for the long haul, helping our residents recover to save their lives and stay in recovery for life. Together, we are recovering from opioid addiction as well as recovering from the stigma that surrounds this disease.


Our perceptions of addiction fail to paint a complete picture. Everyone is more than their addiction. And everyone should have the opportunity to become the person they want to be. These profiles chronicle the recovery journey and paint a picture of a person’s identity even through the struggles of addiction.


My name is Gambit Stuart Aragón III. I’m originally from Nicaragua, but today I live in Columbus, Ohio. These days, I’m working as a case manager for an MS medication, and I’m a member of the Civilian Review Board.


There was political unrest in Nicaragua when I was growing up, and I experienced a lot of trauma. And in our culture, that kind of trauma is often not addressed. Your mental health and self-care were not things people really discussed. In addition, I was taught that if you worked hard, you could have all these things. But that isn’t always true. And when it didn’t happen for me, it gave me low self-esteem. So in my twenties, I started to use substances to mask the trauma and my feelings of low self-worth. That combination put me through some really low years when I felt like I was trying to kill myself slowly.


My journey with recovery started through a realization. I had been through so much – sexual trauma, civil war, living in the '90s as a queer person – that I wasn’t about to let a substance take me out. It was from that realization and that sense of confidence that I found the momentum I needed to find recovery.


A few things have influenced me along the way. First, I saw how badly people struggling with addiction need to be welcomed regardless of their gender, skin color, or orientation. And I learned how important it was for loved ones to accept people where they were along the recovery journey. I think these two things influence what I’m passionate about these days and my future goals.


I want to help others to have it easier than I had it. I want to break down fences and hold them for others to cross, creating more inclusivity within treatment and recovery but also across our political system. I’m even interested in working on inclusivity and equity legislation, especially for the LGBTQIA+ community.


If you’re still struggling with addiction, don’t compare yourself to others. Every journey is different, so just keep trying. To the families of those struggling, I urge you to keep the door open. That doesn’t mean enabling, but always leave room for that day they are ready to change. And to those with misconceptions about addiction, I would challenge you to see the humanity in everyone.



My name is Kevin, and I’m from Dublin, Ohio. Currently, I'm a peer supporter on the react team for Southeast Healthcare.


My experiences with addiction started in college when I was first introduced to cocaine. For the next fifteen years, substance use was all I cared about. It made me selfish, and I often neglected people who mattered. I think I liked getting high because it took me out of my element and allowed me to feel comfortable. During those years of addiction, I know I put a lot of people through a lot of hurt, especially my family. And in many ways, I didn't know what being in a relationship was supposed to look like. My first real turnaround came after violating probation. The Bell Center, where I went, had me focus on underlying behaviors rather than just on drug use. That place saved my life. It taught me about myself and helped to break down some of that ego that stands in the way of self-reflection. I admitted my shortcomings in front of a group of 20 other men. And they lifted me up and accepted me. Since that day, I haven't looked back.


My time in recovery has helped me to uncover the person I had the potential to be. It's helped me discover and fuel my passions. Those passions? Well, there's my family: being a good father and a good husband are so important to me. And then there's growth, which is just so crucial. I value my own growth, it’s why I'm finishing a bachelor's in psychology. And I love music. These days, I'm blending gospel and rap to make music that inspires me and hopefully others. Part of growth is knowing that I'll continue to find new passions and ways to contribute to the lives of others.


I don’t just value my own growth; I value the growth of others, especially those recently entering recovery or still struggling in active addiction. I care about these people; I love waking up every day and knowing I get a chance to show them what recovery did for me. To those struggling with addiction, I remind them that it can be overcome. To the families, understand that those struggling with addiction are not themselves, so be patient. And to those struggling to be empathetic toward people with addiction, remember they are still people, and we shouldn’t judge them, especially because no one is perfect.



My name is Alex, I’m originally from California, but spent most of my childhood in Pittsburgh and Charleston. I’m on the board of Lower Lights Christian Health Center. 


From a young age, I knew my father was an alcoholic. And I was determined not to be like him. However, a childhood trauma pushed me toward negative coping skills, and I started drinking around the age of 16. In college, it just felt like normal partying, but I never really turned that partying off. I dropped out of college and continued to drink heavily. When it came to work, I was always really successful, which somehow masked the problems. Because I continuously received promotions and new opportunities, and second chances. My ability to succeed masked many underlying problems – things from my past I wasn’t ready to face. 


I knew I had to change when I found myself in a parking lot on the phone with my partner talking about how I didn’t want to live anymore. I gave myself a year to find reasons to keep going. That moment, dark as it was, acted as the start of my transformation. Despite my troubles, I’d been really lucky when it came to legal trouble or physical harm. And I found myself thinking there has to be a reason I’m not in jail or dead. I must have some purpose. And I had my learned experiences, ability to communicate my story, and a desire to bring something to the world. 


That feeling, a desire to help others and my ability to be able to, is really important to me. Sitting on the Board of LLCHC, I can bring a voice of change to the table. In addition to providing a unique perspective, I want to implement initiatives that will help the organization remain diverse and inclusive. It isn’t just through my role on the board. I want to carve a more inclusive road for younger kids, my own family included, so they can live in a better world than the one I was brought up in. Of course, it isn’t all intense; when I’m not looking to make the world more inclusive, I love yoga and, most of all, my three dogs.



My name is Devon. I’m originally from Florida, now living in Columbus, Ohio. I’m a Care Coordination Supervisor for Franklin County Public Health, and I’m getting ready to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree in public health. 


My earliest experiences with substance use came around middle and high school. I was a bit of an awkward kid. Drugs and alcohol gave me an easy in with a certain group of friends and made me feel more comfortable in my own skin. 


I served in the military and after I got home, I was still the same person as I was before I joined, only now I had a lot of money saved up. I used that money to party with friends. When it ran low, I turned to more desperate measures. My behavior eventually made my family uncomfortable around me, and in some cases, unwelcomed. They kept me at arm’s length, but they never gave up on me. Over the years, they helped me find treatment, but I wasn’t ready until I hit a low when my spouse left me because of my addiction. My family had a place lined up for me here in Columbus. This time around, I was ready for the self-reflection and responsibility that leads to growth. Everyone’s recovery journey is different, but I found strength through my faith. My faith and my self-reflection pushed me to do the work on myself and gave me the opportunity to rebuild relationships – which I’m so grateful for. 


Life now is so rewarding, full of a lasting joy that never fades. That feeling inspires me to take my recovery and use it to serve others. Service is something I’m passionate about, and it’s fueling my career and my decision to pursue a master’s in public health. 


To those still struggling, I want you to know that there are people who still care about you, even when it doesn’t feel like it. To the families, I want to reiterate that the person struggling with addiction still needs you even when it feels like they’re pushing you away. And to those with misconceptions about addiction, if you look closely, addiction may not be far from you. So remember to be empathetic and open-minded.



My name is Lianne, I’m originally from Oswego, Illinois but I’ve lived in Columbus since 2002. When I’m not looking after my two kids, I manage a yoga studio and teach hot yoga.


My father didn’t drink when we were kids because of his own struggles with alcohol. It wasn’t discussed openly, just sort of whispered about. My first experiences with alcohol came when I was maybe 15 years old drinking with friends, a pretty familiar story. Drinking was big in my high school and it’s something I continued doing into college, where I also got into drugs. I had some scary run-ins when using harder drugs and I was able to stop using drugs in the early 2000s. But I continued to drink and as the years went on, the drinking got heavier. Eventually, I started to put myself in some scary scenarios. Finally, I felt like I was putting myself and my kids in a bad situation. I reached out to a friend who was in recovery. And she was there for me, she helped me feel like I could do this.


Since then, I’ve been learning about myself. And finding that I am a badass and I can do this. Recovery is hard, but it also feels amazing. Yoga and meditation have been huge for me. Those are two things I’m really grateful for. I’m also so excited to watch my children become adults. I’m also really passionate about genuine connections. I think we’re all here to connect – so I’m focusing on the joy of connections and getting to know who people really are.


When you’re struggling with addiction, you often feel alone. To those who are feeling that way, you should know you’re not alone. For families, that honesty – sometimes brutal honesty – is really important to the recovery process. For the people struggling to understand why someone can’t stop using, I would urge them to remind themselves that it’s not about them. Those labels and stigmas push people further into addiction. Leaving the judgment at the door can go a long way.




My name is Matthew, I'm from Columbus, and I'm the Care Coordination Division Supervisor for Franklin County Public Health.


My struggles with addiction started in my mid-twenties. I'd taken opioids before, both prescribed and from friends, and hadn't felt a strong desire to keep going because overall, I felt confident and happy with my life. But I hit a point where I thought I was underachieving, and some of that confidence was gone. So, I started taking opioids again because they allowed me not to focus on the parts of my life where I was unhappy. Taking opioids was really common at the time, especially among my friends. I went from taking them to selling them as well. I still felt like I was taking these to party and that it wasn't that serious. But eventually, I noticed withdrawal symptoms and realized how serious it was. I quit cold turkey, went through withdrawals, and made it a few months. But you know how the story goes. Outside stressors and life events would lead to a relapse. And I went through that cycle for a while. I'd quit on my own, get a few months along, and then relapse. I'd been so self-reliant when it came to quitting, but I saw myself repeating this cycle and finally knew I was ready for some professional help. After that, I went through a long treatment program with the help of my family, and I haven't looked back.


Recovery is awesome. My life has so much more in it than I could have ever imagined. I have a family I love and a job I find fulfilling. I find it exciting that I have no limitations, no boundaries, and I'm experiencing life by being present. A huge passion of mine is food. I love to cook, but I also love to garden and to grow my own ingredients. Learning about food and nutrition and bringing those things to the table is exhilarating. Feeding my family and others is so rewarding.


If you're still struggling with addiction, be honest and keep the dialog open. It's the silence that kills people. And for those families, don't give up. There are ways to still be present and helpful without enabling. Lastly, to all those with misconceptions about addiction, those negative labels and stereotypes stick with people, and eventually, they start to believe they are true, which only drives them further into addiction.



My name is Tyler, I'm originally from Troy, Ohio, and these days I'm working in customer advocacy.


Heavy drinking was something that was always around in my family to the point where it was completely normalized. So, by age 14, I was sneaking drinks with older relatives. I also had intense mood swings, which led to my parents sending me to a psychiatrist who put me on medications. When I came out at 16, all these people told me what I should be, and I lost myself. I found comfort in pills and alcohol. My time in active addiction is a blur; I was in and out of treatment and legal trouble, but manipulating the system was easy for me, and nothing stuck. Eventually, I landed in drug court, and the program resonated. It held me accountable because I had to get up and be there. And there were group therapy sessions where I found other people who understood what I was going through, even if they came from different walks of life.


Recovery feels surreal, like a dream. But recovery is full of immense gratitude. In some ways, I've had to re-learn how to be an adult. So every step feels like an achievement. I feel grateful to have a chance to get to know myself and learn about who I am. I'm also thankful for the opportunity to share my story, provide hope, and show myself and others that it's possible to have fun without substances.


Yoga has been so important to me. Addiction can put you in a state of chaos where you lack emotions and good relationship skills. Yoga has helped me be present in the moment so that I can focus on myself. I love frisbee golf, new restaurants, and going to shows when I'm not doing yoga.


If addiction still has a grip on you, don't be afraid to be uncomfortable. It's the only place where progress happens. If you have a family member struggling with addiction, don't give up on them. Learn how to love them, even if it's from afar. Everyone has addictions, even if they aren't substances. So I challenge people with misconceptions to think about addiction beyond just drugs and alcohol.



Talking about and understanding opioid addiction is the first step.
Franklin County has the resources to help you start your recovery journey.

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      At least one Franklin County resident dies from an opioid overdose every day.
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