Kentucky is one of the top five states in the nation for drug overdose deaths. Leaders in law enforcement, medicine and mental health are struggling to find ways to slow the pace of this tragic epidemic. An addiction recovery residence for women in Henderson is adding creative expression – including dance - on the path to a healthier lifestyle.
In a bright community room at the Women’s Addiction Recovery Manor in Henderson, Kentucky, dancer Tim June is choreographing a story.
“I decided to choreograph the piece more towards the future rather than the past,” said June. He is one of one of 10 dancers from the Indianapolis troupe Dance Kaleidoscope collaborating with residents at the recovery center in a program called Turning Points.
He stretches his arms, turns and reaches toward the sky. June is interpreting part of a life story written by 49-year-old Sandy Thomas of Morganfield. Thomas says the dancer is expressing her new vision of the future.
“Freedom, peace of mind, safety and hope.”
Thomas says feeling the hopeful emotions of the dance helps her leave her past behind.
“At 28 years old I got involved with drugs, methamphetamine. At the age of 36 years old I had a mild heart attack and the doctors had told me if I did not quit using at that time, it would kill me. Well, it did not stop me,” said Thomas.
She says her time at the recovery center has finally given her the skills to create the future she imagined - and it begins now. She’s going home to her husband, four grown children and five grandchildren.
Another resident who’s learned to re-imagine her future during her months at the recovery center is 33-year-old Kelly Furnish of Louisville.
“I really needed help a long time ago and I didn’t know about the steps. I didn’t know there was a program.”
Furnish said she knows she’s at a crossroad.
“Even if, you know, I leave and I go get high, I’m probably not even going to make it to prison. I’ll probably be dead. You know, so it’s not even like there’s a prison sentence keeping me here. There’s a death sentence keeping me here. So it’s either get better or die.”
Furnish is graduating to transitional living. She’ll stay with family, get a job, go to AA meetings and find a sponsor to help her stay on track.
“I want to have a life. I want to make people proud of me and show people you can do this. If I can do it, you can do it. You hear that all the time, but it is really true. Because I went down to some dark places and I can’t believe I can see the light now.”
The dance project, sponsored by the Henderson Area Arts Alliance, gives women at the recovery center a chance to see something beautiful created from a one-page story they’ve written about part of their life.
Thirty-six-year-old resident L’Erin Twitty chose the song Rise Up as the soundtrack for her story. She grew up with an alcoholic stepfather, was bullied in school and looked for acceptance with people who used drugs.
Twitty says seeing her story told through dance is a reminder for her, and for others struggling with addiction, that they can create a better life.
“The message is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and if you just work really hard to get to there, you’re gonna have peace at the end,” said Twitty. “It’s all about giving back and hopefully helping someone else in the long run. Hopefully my story will touch someone in the crowd.”
Another resident who offered the dancers her story is 34-year-old Krista Riggs of Rockport, Indiana. Riggs didn’t need to choose recorded music. She sang her own song – Amazing Grace.
For WKU Public Radio, I’m Rhonda Miller.