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Embrace Recovery SC: Changing the stigma around those battling substance abuse

Approximately 378,000 people in South Carolina are recovering from a substance abuse disorder.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new campaign is working to change the way many view people recovering from substance abuse. 

It's called Embrace Recovery SC.

"It's been over 24 years now and as I went through this journey one of the biggest things I realized is I could not do it by myself," said Gregory Jacobs, Recovery Services Coordinator with the SC Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS).

Credit: Embrace Recovery SC (Instagram)

Jacobs knows firsthand what it takes to overcome the pain and suffering of a substance use disorder.

"You're afraid where you don't know what the next day is going to bring, where you don't know if you're going to live or die the next day," he said.

Now in long-term recovery, Jacobs is paying it forward by helping others get the help they need.

"To have someone who you've never met before look you straight in the eye no matter how you look or how you feel and they say, 'Hello. Welcome. How can I help you?' That means a lot," said Jacobs.

Embrace Recovery SC, the agency is trying to change the narrative and the stigma sometimes associated with people in recovery. 

"We just want folks to know that people in recovery are ordinary, every day folks," said Jacobs. "People recover from things every day but that doesn't mean they have to be looked at as different. They just have to be looked at as a human recovering from a human condition."

According to DAODAS, approximately 378,000 people in South Carolina are recovering from a substance abuse disorder.

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A key element in the new campaign is teaching the language of recovery that can help this population understand they aren't at fault.

"Even using the word 'addict'. Avoid using the word 'habit', 'junkie', 'clean' or 'dirty'," Jacobs explained. "Those terms suggest that the person is the problem."

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DAODAS is teaming up with providers across the state to host a series of events to help teach more people about how they can help.

Governor Henry McMaster says this campaign serves as a reminder that people from across the state are eager to lend a hand.

In a statement, he said, "I urge South Carolinians to seek out resources if they or a loved one are in need and to always remember that you are never alone."

DAODAS is supporting a bill they're hoping to pass in possibly next legislative session that would certify "recovery residences". These are places where people in recovery can stay if they can't go back home. This bill would make sure the living conditions are good and vital services are provided.

"Unfortunately, there are some bad actors who will open up a place for someone to just lay their head, but that's it," said Jacobs. "They won't get any vital services unless they venture out on their own. Some of the living conditions may be sub standard."

To learn more about Embrace Recovery SC, click here. The drop down menu has options to help connect you or loved ones to organizations and providers near you.