As Scott Countians sit down for the traditional Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, all will have something to be thankful for. Good health, a job, family, or just the food that’s on the table and the roof that’s over it are among the many things to feel grateful for this time of year.
But, for some, Thanksgiving takes on a little extra meaning.
On Tuesday night, Scott County’s All Recovery Group met at Thrive Church — just as they do every Tuesday night. It’s a small but growing group of people who have battled their way back from the grip of substance abuse. All of the images on this page represent members of that group — each of them holding signs to illustrate how long they’ve been clean … how long they’ve been in recovery.
Those pictures may represent a small group of people, but they illustrate a movement that’s gaining momentum in Scott County — a movement that threatens to break the bonds of addiction. And if anyone understands what those images mean, it’s the group’s leader, Randy Byrge of S.T.A.N.D. He’s pictured, too, because he’s one of them. He’s walked in their shoes. He just celebrated his eighth anniversary of recovery — November 11, 2012 — and his life’s work is now to help others find their way down the same pathway he found that leads to hope and redemption.
For thousands of Scott Countians, sitting down with family and friends this Thanksgiving will be an afterthought, something that’s often taken for granted. But for those who’ve been to the brink of losing it all — including their family — and then fought their way back, Thanksgiving takes on new meaning. Perhaps that’s best illustrated by the picture of Ember Sexton, who is joined by her two young children.
“People ask me what makes me happy, and I tell them when I see a person in recovery shopping for groceries with their family, that makes my heart smile,” Byrge said.
There’s more healed than the individual when recovery is achieved. Families are healed, too.
The faces on this page — by people who were brave enough to own their past and proclaim their achievements — are familiar to Scott Countians. They’re friends, family, colleagues, or mere acquaintances … and if they aren’t, some have been in this newspaper before.
“These people have never been in the paper unless they had been arrested,” Byrge said. “Our county only sees the bad side, but when I look at these people I think of the kids that have parents again. Most of them are back holding full-time jobs, paying taxes, and helping give back to our community.”
And like 5-star athletes who immediately go from recruited to recruiters when they commit to the colleges of their choice and set about the task of convincing others to join them, Byrge hopes the recovery group can help give momentum to the efforts that are being made.
“If each of these warriors reach one person and they choose recovery, then we will make a big impact on our community,” he said. “The more people we reach, the more jobs we will fill, the more kids get their parents back, the more families are restored.
“We do not believe we have the only answer to recovery but represented here are 17 different people with one common goal: to love the broken and share our experience, strength and hope.”
That’s the purpose of the photos on this page. Many of those pictured here have shared their testimony in Byrge’s Monday night Facebook Live videos. Those videos can be found on Youtube under BUTGODARMY.
Byrge hopes that as the group goals, additional meetings can start — like a family support meeting, and Bible study groups for both men and women.
“We want to help give back to the community we took from and be a light to a beautiful county,” he said. “We still have many, many people to reach, but as long as we all try and work together, we can make a difference.”
Tuesday night All Recovery Group meetings begin at 6 p.m. at Thrive Church and are open for all. “You don’t have to be in recovery to come to an All Recovery meeting; simply all that is required is respect,” Byrge said.