Celebrating recovery never ends for professionals

LOCK HAVEN — Ed Hosler, Deputy Chief of Clinton County Probation Services, has encountered the wreckage of substance use disorders on a daily basis in the 13 years he has been with the department. While many might suspect he would become jaded by the experience, evidence is much to the contrary.

“I continue to strive in the progress of educating the public and our department on the stigma of this disease by co-chairing the Advocates for a Drug Free Tomorrow. I look forward to seeing these individuals improve their lives while living with this disease. That’s what is the most rewarding part of my job,” said Hosler.

Hosler went on to say, “Since I’ve started I’ve seen a big increase in community awareness of addiction. We as probation officers continue to learn techniques on how to better serve this unique population of individuals.”

“I really didn’t know how much of an impression I made as a P.O.” Hosler reported, “until I heard one of my past parolees state at a public meeting that I changed his life by believing in him. I simply gave this individual permission to go on a ‘recovery camping trip.’ This was a pivotal point in the recovery process for him.”

Jennifer Reeder, assistant director for the West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission, reports she is proud and yet humbled to say that she has been employed with The Commission for 21 years. “I recently saw a saying, ‘Hustle and heart sets us apart.’ That’s West Branch inside and out,” said Reeder.

With three years’ experience in providing outpatient counseling before joining The Commission she professes she still genuinely loves what she does. She suggests it was in January of 2018 that another professional asked her why. “I had never really thought about it in that way before, but in that moment I realized that I love having the opportunity to believe in people who don’t believe in themselves, whose relationships are lacking, broken by trust.”

She recalls a few years ago when Advocates for a Drug Free Tomorrow aired a public showing of “Anonymous People” for the first time in the community. “Afterward, I was caught totally unaware when a young woman came up to me from behind, in tears, hugged me and simply said ‘thank you.'” Reeder reports she had known this young woman from approximately age 16 as an outpatient student. “Today she is a pivotal figure in the recovery community, works as a healthcare professional and is simply beautiful.” Reeder indicates she took a moment to reflect on what small role she played in this young woman’s life before responding and realized it really only came down to one thing. She saw then the woman she would become. “Someone in the throes of a substance use disorder can be so beaten down they can’t imagine life could be different or even that they deserve any better. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Reeder asserts.

Reeder recalls another young woman who came to her willing to voluntarily turn her children over to the care of Children & Youth Services while she went through detoxification in order to have them join her immediately thereafter in a long-term placement at a women with children’s facility. “Women tend to be incredibly fearful that, once their children are placed, they won’t get them back. For her to take that step was purely incredible to me.” That willingness was rewarded.

Reeder recalls a year later when her executive director went to visit the facility. Still tied in to services with that program on an outpatient basis, she heard The Commission’s director was coming. “She sought her out to send home to me her one year’s sobriety NA keychain – as if I had done the work.” Reeder suggests not every story has a happy ending but there are far more than people know, and those fuel her to serve The Commission in its never ending efforts to do more and do it better.

Likewise, Denise Feger has been doing this work since 2001. In that time she has provided counseling in both inpatient and outpatient settings as well as case management. Her passion has led her so far as to achieve a doctorate in philosophy in non-profit administration. She continues to stay very hands-on with clinical work while she now serves as Vice President of Operations for Crossroads Counseling, Inc. Crossroads currently serves four counties with licensure for both substance use disorder and mental health treatment.

“Why do I continue to do what I do?” Feger asks. “The answer to that is pretty simple from my perspective. The only way I can answer it is with a question back: Why on earth would I want to do anything else?”

Feger explains, “I’m fortunate enough to watch the celebration of recovery every single day! The bravery and courage I’ve seen in those I’ve served for the last 18 years leaves me speechless and in awe in so many ways. Our agency has evolved; the field has evolved. We feel more equipped, but the disease isn’t going away. It won’t be cured; all we can do is continue to work together to fight it. I am to be reminded nearly weekly that people can recover, people do recover. Being able to witness that transformation has changed me as a clinician, as a professional in the community, as a human being.”