PINE BELT (WDAM) - The State of Mississippi stands up against the opioid epidemic, touching families of all socioeconomic statuses and races.
The addiction does not discriminate. Town hall meetings within communities, conferences with state representatives, and a prescription monitoring program are put in place to crack down on the crisis.
Seven On Your Side took a closer look at the lives of those fighting to keep a straight path on the other side of addiction.
There was an explosion of applause at a Hattiesburg graduation, but upon a closer look, it wasn't the typical ceremony.
"Now, the graduates are about to face life. They are about to face life everyday," said Jeff Chapman, a recovering addict.
He took time to share his past struggles and recent success.
It was bittersweet. It's the celebration of the beginning of a hard fight. The graduates will be avoiding a return to the roads that lead down a path of destruction and heartache.
"They've hit rock bottom. They've lost everything...their families, any material things. They've lost everything chasing that high," said Judge Bob Helfrich. He described the state a lot of the graduates were in when they started the three year program.
"All the mistakes, all the families crying and begging. It takes a while to gain that trust from your family," Chapman said.
Chapman knows the woes of addiction all too well, but on that day, he returned to the drug court graduation. It was the same stage he crossed thirteen years ago. He was there delivering a message of hope.
"A lady hugged me a while ago and said thank you so much. I just hope my son or nephew can come back and say the same thing," Chapman said.
"We celebrate their successes, and the failures crush us," Helfrich said.
The opioid problem in Mississippi is well known.
According to the Mississippi Board of Pharmacy, the state ranks number five in the country for prescribing opioids.
Hydrocodone and Tramadol are the top two most prescribed opioids. Over four years, the state has reported 583 overdose deaths; 85 percent of those were related to opioids.
The part of opioid addiction rarely touched is what happens once you do decide to put that pain in the past. It takes dedication, support, and time.
"When I saw that, it clicked. This isn't a halfway road," Chapman said. "It's all or nothing. I'm blessed."
"Treatment is the very beginning of the process, and a lot times when family members send their family here they think oh they're going to get out of here and be fixed. That is not the case at all," said Leah Claire Bennett, Director of Clinical Operations.
Bennett sees the other side of addiction every day at Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg. It's a place dedicated to helping former addicts and their families through a life-changing process.
"Yes, your loved one is in treatment, but there is a lot of work for the person or the family back home because the whole system has to shift for recovery to be successful," Bennett said.
Bennett said Pine Grove offers continuous classes and sessions after the fact to piece together a sense of self-love shattered by trauma. The trauma affects not only the recovering addict, but also the family members who spent many moments blaming themselves or worrying about their loved ones' safety.
"There's a grieving process often times that will come along with that. Recovery doesn't mean misery for life," Bennett said.
Chapman said it was his sponsor and consistent meetings that helped him stay afloat after crossing that stage. He agreed that people, places, and things had to change.
"All this didn't mean anything before. I wanted it, but I didn't want to put in the effort. I couldn't. Drugs took over all that," Chapman said.
"One of the things really difficult especially for lots of people, is that they can't go back to the life they had before," Bennett said. Pine Grove their patients to acknowledge this.
Regardless of the avenue one takes to conquer that need to numb the nervous system, making it to the other side of addiction isn't the end.
It's a never ending journey. They need their families clapping as they make the climb.
"Every day is a struggle….not really a struggle. Every day, I just have to ask God to go with me and help me on decisions," Chapman said. "Every day is different."
According to the drug addiction library online, relapses to opioid addiction are higher than any other addiction, but Bennett says there is hope. If you need to start the process, you can call 1-888-574-HOPE.
Judge Helrich at the drug court said they are proud to have graduated 325 people from the program since it's beginning in 2003.
Chapman has since moved out of the area, married, and started his own business.