Eye of Hope Recovery Advocates hosted the first annual Recovery Rally and 5K run Saturday, September 11, in Westville Park.
The community event was held to help raise awareness and provide resources and support for those currently dealing with or recovering from not only substance or alcohol addiction, but also domestic violence and sexual abuse. The event also helped raise suicide awareness and break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Event chair Samantha Peacock and co-founder of Eye of Hope has been sober for seven years and says she wants to help prevent others from going down the path from which she spent so many years trying to escape.
“After leaving my hometown to focus on my own recovery and building a life I was proud of, I realized just how much I had missed in my addiction,” said Peacock. “I noticed arrest after arrest for the very thing I allowed to steal ten years from not just myself, but from my children as well. I realized there was a need. People needed hope. I’ve always stood strong on the fact that addiction isn’t an addict problem or a family problem, but it’s a community problem.”
Peacock went on to say that Eye of Hope was created with the goal of educating youth on the dangers of addiction, as well as advocating for those struggling with life trauma.
“We advocate and support, whether it’s addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide or mental health issues. We also hope to inspire the community to rally together, and let’s face this epidemic together.”
The event was open not only to those struggling, but also to members of the community who just wanted to show their support. The event offered a 5K and a 2K run for children, as well as a waterslide, music, food grilled by the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, vendors, and guest speakers.
The motivational speaker was TikTok personality Landon Odum, also known XXO, who shared his story of recovery. Musical guests included Kalan Miller and Cody Boyette and worship team.
Other guest speakers included Bill Zorn, Laura Sparks, Natasha Wright, Leah Georgia, and Steve Taylor.
58-year-old Taylor, a Wausau resident, said he spent nearly 30 years in meth addiction.
“I battled a meth addiction for 27 or 28 years,” he said. “I’ve been married to [my wife] for 35 years. I drug her through the mud for all of it. I drug family through it, raised two boys in the middle of it. They didn’t ever know if I was coming home, if I’d come home mad and cussing, raisin’ cane, or if I’d come home at all. I destroyed my relationship with my mother. She is 92 years old, and when she heard the sirens coming down the road, she didn’t know if they were coming to arrest me or scrap me up off the highway. But I told her I loved her. I told my wife I loved her. But what I loved was methamphetamine … I would tell you anything or do anything to get it.”
Taylor said he was in and out of jail and would short times of sobriety, but it “wouldn’t stick.”
Until one day, it did.
“I went to the Washington County Jail in February 2016,” he said. “Thank God for the last time. The state of Florida offered me five years of prison. My wife hadn’t answered the phone in two months. She was done. Finally one night, I was laying on my bunk, and I cried out to God … At that point, I knew it wasn’t the law that put me in jail. It wasn’t the drugs that put me in jail. It wasn’t the violation of probation that put me in jail. It was me that put me in jail, me and the things I had done. I had to start taking responsibility for my character. The next day, my wife answered the telephone.”
Taylor was able to be placed in the drug recovery program at The F.A.R.M (Faith-Based Addiction Regeneration) in Bonifay, where after a rough start, he was able to graduate and find success in recovery.
“I was given a new marriage with the same woman,” said an emotional Taylor. “Over the last five or so years, the Lord has blessed every step I’ve taken.”
Vernon resident Raechel Williams is new to recovery and says her turning point was when she discovered she was going to be a mother.
“I was an addict most of my teenage years and all of my adult life,” said Williams. “I found out I was pregnant with my son, Colton Williams, approximately five months ago. The instant I found out I was pregnant, I knew I had to change my life. My poor decisions no longer were only affecting me, but my son too.”
Williams says in addition to sobriety, she has also found her faith and hopes her friends and family who are still battling addiction can as well.
“Through my recovery I’ve met my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I’ve rekindled broken relationships with family and friends and mended healthy relationships with people that truly love me. I’ve found myself again! I’ve found happiness.”
Members of Eye of Hope say they want the community to know they “aren’t going anywhere.”
“We want everyone to know they are worthy – no matter how they may feel – and that as long as there is breath in their lungs there is hope for a better tomorrow,” said Webster. “Saturday’s event was more than we ever expected to experience. We are forever grateful for that, but we are extremely humbled by the blessings we were a part of and we can’t wait until next year. God is so, so good to us.”