More than 40 years ago, Cathy Napier broke her back in a horse-riding accident. She was administered morphine and oxycodone, sending her down a years-long struggle with addiction.
Since her recovery, Napier serves as an advocate for those suffering from addiction and the families who suffer with them.
Now 72, Napier is the executive director of Recovery Works London, an addiction recovery center offering "a full continuum of care for the treatment of substance use disorders and dual diagnosis."
In her new book, "Addiction: From Bondage to Freedom," Napier explores how addiction affects the family, and how familial healing can help everyone. She recounts her own struggles with addiction and what lead her to where she is now.
"I wrote 'From Bondage to Freedom' because I saw the families suffering at a loss of what to do about their loved one who was either addicted or had been lost to addiction. There's a lot out there for the addict, but there's very little for the families," Napier, an Ashland, Kentucky, native explained.
Her book explores how intervention can get their loved ones into treatment. It looks into proven family-therapy methods and includes tips regarding how a life therapist or treatment facility can help.
In 'From Bondage to Freedom,' Napier remembers the experiences of Debbie Williams, a friend who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose. She discusses what Williams did to make it through loss, including how she forced herself out of bed each day.
"The title 'From Bondage to Freedom' reflects that addiction is like being in jail," said Napier. "Addiction keeps you captive 24/7. The mind is on nothing but the substance. Once the addicted or the alcoholic gets into recovery, there's a feeling of freedom to it. There's freedom of no longer having to spend every day, day-in and day-out, trying to obtain your substance."
Napier's book speaks from personal experience, in suffering from addiction and in helping others work through it. Napier said her own battle was a difficult, years-long process.
"I've been in recovery many, many, many years," remembers Napier. "I had a problem with alcohol and opioids and went through treatment just like anybody else. I believe getting out there and helping others is what has brought me recovery. I've been doing that for 40 years now, and I haven't relapsed once. That's been my life's work."
Napier broke her back more than four decades ago riding a horse while under the influence of alcohol. She went through an eight-hour operation in Lexington and was given morphine and Percodan to deal with the crushing bone pain.
For the next 10 years, Napier continued to abuse alcohol and pain medication until intense stomach pain forced her to consult a doctor. The doctor informed her it was pancreatitis.
"The doctor said I got it from drinking. I said, 'I barely drink,' and he told me I'm drinking right now. He was right. I had to go into treatment because I was going to die. I went to Saint Mary's in West Virginia and detoxed and did therapy," said Napier.
The detox left her feeling sick. Napier felt de-conditioned, lacking the energy to do anything but lay around. She admitted the detox was hard partially because she lied about abusing pain medication. When Napier told the truth about her drug abuse, she was given more appropriate detoxification that left her feeling less ill.
During her treatment, Napier was able to spend a weekend seeing a movie with her husband. They went to the Keith Albee Theater in Huntington to see the movie "Norma Rae." In the film, Sally Field plays an advocate for flint mill unions in the Carolinas. In one scene, Napier recalled, Fields climbs a table and tells the workers they shouldn't work in such poor conditions for cents in pay.
"In my head, I said 'dear god, if I can ever get through this therapy, I will do what she's doing for the unions, advocating for alcoholics.' I remember it like it was yesterday," Napier reminisced.
In 1981, following Napier's treatment, she and her husband moved to Texas to find work. While in Texas, Napier volunteered with the Jewish Federation in Fort Worth and later other Jewish causes. Israel had always been one of her favorite places, for both its people and its spirituality.
"There was a woman that I had met; she was elderly and a shut-in. She was the daughter of a Rabbi. She encouraged me to go back to school. I wanted to work with people who had similar problems with addiction that I had. She said, 'what's stopping you? Go do it.' So I did," Napier added. She's been an advocate in the addiction field ever since.
After her husband passed away, Napier thought about Eastern Kentucky, where her family comes from. She knew the drug epidemic was bad, and she thought it was the perfect time to return to Kentucky to help.
Van Ingram, executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, mentioned Recovery Works to Napier. After looking into its parent company, Pinnacle, she applied for and received the position of executive director of Recovery Works London.
"I was able to institute my own programs within the facility, taking care of families, making sure we had a good Bible program, instituting the bridge program between profit and non-profit. We made sure that the program was disease-specific," said Napier.
Recovery Works London boasts a bridge program connecting patients with various facilities in and around Kentucky. Patients can get an additional 15 months of treatment from multiple non-profits after their 15 months at Recovery Works. Napier stresses that one must find what other illnesses an individual might be suffering from to overcome addiction.
"We were able in the assessment for a young man or young woman, asses that 'hey wait a minute, this isn't just drugs. This is something else.' We were able to then look at mental illness. Depression is the primary sometimes. The secondary was they were medicating for the mental illness. So then we're able to get them on that kind of treatment."
Recovery Works often finds trauma in its patients, sexual and otherwise, in both men and women. If, for example, sexual trauma is discovered, Recovery Works can connect that patient with Victory House in Paducah or The Well House in Alabama.
"In other patients, we discovered domestic violence, so we were able to get them down to Merryman House in Paducah. We also got special treatment for women who came in pregnant and on heroin. We aim to give the client everything they need for success, then the rest is up to them," said Napier.
With the bridge program, she's noticed a difference in the clients. Napier thinks it may be the first time these individuals have had treatment for their mental illness. And with that treatment, the recovery for these patients becomes easier.
"Kentucky and West Virginia both are being more innovative than the rest of the country," said Napier. "They're really doing more than just Band-aid this. A lot of the other for-profits across the country are about the money, and I have to say that Recovery Works is not about the money. We've never been about the money. It's for the client."
Napier hopes this initiative can eradicate the addiction epidemic. She believes depression, both mentally and fiscally, coupled with the saturation of drugs and the lack of financial opportunities in rural areas, perpetuate addiction. With a drug-free workplace and the involvement of family, Napier says those with addiction can get the help they need.
"What I've found with most of the addicts I have dealt with is that these are good, good, legitimately decent people," said Napier. "It's just getting that substance out. Not everybody has to steal or be a bad person to use drugs."
Napier has experience working in psychiatric hospitals and was the director of the chemical dependency program for a hospital in Dallas. She also served as the director for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) substance abuse programs for the state of New Mexico.
Napier has a master’s degree in counseling and attended Rutgers University for her post-graduate studies in addiction.
Her first book, "Operation Daughters Addicted," is being used to teach and educate those who have a secondary diagnosis of disordered eating.
"Addiction: From Bondage to Freedom" can be ordered from Target, Barnes & Noble and Amazon