by John P. Evans III
Jewell Bedwell has lived – and recovered from – the cycle of drug abuse and what it did to her life. Sober and drug-free for eight years, Bedwell’s dependence on drugs was so strong it eventually led her afoul of the law, not just for abuse but also for a violent act that resulted from that abuse and from the people she became associated with.
Now, she is again seeing firsthand the effects of drug abuse, in her fiance’s mother’s fight against dependence and the subsequent assignment to a drug treatment and addiction recovery center in Easton.
One issue Bedwell still says is a major one that affects negatively the efforts to “cure” people of the habit is the lack of residential treatment centers on the Eastern Shore, and especially in Bedwell’s home county of Caroline.
“There are three recovery houses in Talbot, but none in Caroline County,” said Bedwell, who lives in Denton. Bedwell said she would like to see that change, but in the meantime she would like to see the ones which exist be better funded so they can help more of those in need.
Bedwell said there are currently plans in the works for starting a permanent recovery house in Caroline County.
“To my knowledge it would be the first in Caroline,” she said, adding that she had to go to Chestertown, then to the Western Shore, to find the recovery facility she needed.
Thus, the reason why Bedwell is planning an event from 10 AM to 2 PM on April 14 at the Caroline County 4-H Park. The event, she said, is designed to publicize organizations which offer assistance to recovering addicts, while at the same time to raise money to support local organizations.
“The plan is to have different vendors and information booths for organizations that deal with substance abuse. Currently, I plan to call it “A MARCH TO RECOVERY,” added Bedwell.
Bedwell said there will also be a 50-50 raffle and a silent auction, the proceeds of which will also go to local organizations. There will also be inflatable “rides” and crafts for kids.
“I have a background in event planning, so I thought I would see if I could put on an event that would help others who are going through what I went through,” Bedwell said.
Bedwell said her “drug of choice” was heroin, though she was caught with other illegal drugs in her possession on at least two occasions.
“I will be eight years clean in August, but last October my (future) mother-in-law went to a recovery house. They are giving her the help she needed. Unlike many of the other recovery houses, this one is a non-profit. The houses I was in, made money, but this one is different,” said Bedwell.
Bedwell said her drug abuse began when she was 18 and spun out of control for several years until 2009 when she was involved in an incident “that made all the newspapers” and ultimately she was sentenced to jail. But the judge reduced her sentence to three months for time served and she was instead placed on two-years probation and ordered to go through rehab. She was 22 at the time.
“When I was busted, I was given the opportunity to go to Whitsitt in Chestertown,” she added. “There, I got the help I needed. But not everyone gets to go to Whitsitt.”
The A.E. Whitsitt Center is a state-funded treatment center for persons suffering from serious substance abuse issues and is a facility where addicts who have committed a drug-abuse related crime can go to rather than going to jail, or as a condition to their probation after they have served a jail sentence.
“I went there for 30 days, but I only went because I would have gone to jail otherwise,” said Bedwell.
Bedwell also went to another rehab center in Edgewood for six weeks.
“It was a turning point for me,” she added. “Now, I’m 30 years old with a fiancé. I am a stay-at-home mom with two children, six and two years old, and I’ve been clean for eight years.
“I no longer have urges, no longer need the drugs,” she added. “I got started because I had friends who took drugs. So I took them, too. It became unmanageable.”
Bedwell works out of her home as an events coordinator, so she thought she could “pay it forward” by putting on a fundraiser.
Bedwell said her experiences in rehab and her “rebirth” have convinced her that counseling and treatment work. And with the addiction of her “mother in law” she is once again looking for a way to increase the number of rehab centers in the region.
She said she has heard of plans to turn the old hotel in Greensboro into a residential drug treatment center. “Having lived in Caroline County for 21 years, I would love to see the county get such a facility,” she said. “This is the first recovery event I’ve done, but If it is successful and plans for a place in Greensboro continue, I’d love to put on an event next year to support a recovery house in this county.”
Proceeds from this year’s event will go to Women In Recovery, one of the organizations with a mission to battle addiction in women and help them to recover from drug use.
The guest speaker for the program part of the April 14 event will be Bonnie Scott. Scott is an addiction recovery activist who founded Recovery from Disease and who is also the director of the RAD house in Easton, a six-bed women’s recovery house which opened in November 2016. Its purpose is to provide a place for women to live while they are beginning their recovery from addiction.
Bedwell’s future “mother in law” is now undergoing rehab at the RAD house. “Now, she is trying to recover and we’re supporting her in her recovery,” she said.
Bedwell said several community leaders involved in drug rehab programs are backing her fundraising efforts and will help her in the distribution of the funds raised.
For more information or to learn how you can be involved as a vendor or volunteer, call Bedwell at 410-924-2819.