Marshall, Huntington Community Present Addiction Stories

Sep 8, 2016

  People in addiction recovery came out Wednesday night in Huntington at Marshall University, to tell their story on how it’s affected their lives.

Nick Pauken speaks as part of the "Addiction in Appalachia: Our Stories," program at Marshall University.
Credit Clark Davis / WV Public Broadcasting

  Nick Pauken was part of the Marshall University program “Addiction in Appalachia: Our Stories”. In collaboration between the Marshall Student Health Education Program and the English Department, those in addiction recovery worked with English professors to write a monologue about their story. It was a chance for those in recovery, family members and significant others to tell how addiction impacted their lives.

Pauken is from Huntington. He says he was addicted to everything from alcohol to pain medication to heroin. Eight years sober, Pauken says he appreciates opportunities to show the personal side of those with addictions. 

"Essentially I was still operating, I mean from the outside things probably looked fairly normal, I wouldn’t say everything was perfect by any means you know," Pauken said. "Everything was still going ok outwardly, but I was a total and complete wreck inside."

The program offered a unique opportunity for families to discuss how addiction is affecting those that live in the same house as an addict.

Frances Quesenberry grew up with a father who was addicted to pain pills. She said things haven’t changed much since her childhood. 

"Back in the early 70’s he actually got put in alcohol rehab and in order to get him off alcohol. [In rehab] they put him on pills and he stayed on them," Quesenberry said. "Different pills throughout the years, but that’s how his addiction started and he’s never really came off of them. I’ve never known my dad not to be on them."

Kristin Steele is a professor involved in the program. 

"I think that’s why events like this are essential to add to that existing narrative, so that people understand it is a human condition," Steele said. "These aren’t just animals who make bad decisions, that’s not the way it is and I think it’s important to build a story around the individual humans effected by addiction and not the addiction as a monster."

This is the first year of the addiction stories program. 

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.