An event at Bismarck Event Center Tuesday offered many resources for addiction recovery and suicide prevention while inspiring hope.
Recovery Reinvented was started three years ago, North Dakota's First Lady Kathryn Burgum said, based on three words: Dream. Hope. Act.
"Everyone is entitled to dream of a life free of the disease of addiction," she said. "There is so much hope for recovery. Everyone has the ability to take action, and it can be as simple as someone using their voice."
Those words were part of a communal shattered glass mural activity. Each piece had on it an inspiring message as the image was made whole again by many hands.
Not only is it a fun activity, Bismarck artist Karen Ehrens said, but a reassuring effort.
"For the people who are here, many of whom have struggled with some addiction in their lives, it may seem like there's no hope and you'll never become whole, but being part of a community and knowing there are people here who want to help put the pieces back together, that makes all the difference," she said.
The annual event aims to eliminate the stigma around drug addiction. Nearly 40 nonprofit and support organizations, as well as government agencies, participated, openly offering resources to help in recovery.
Among the inspiring voices featured were Olympian Riley Salmon, 2008 USA men's volleyball team.
While traveling the world to compete, Salmon first recognized the signs of addictive drinking, which grew to include drug addiction.
His career and family life were damaged. After failing so many programs, recovery seemed impossible.
When he needed money, telling himself it was to try recovery again, he sold his Olympic ring and gold medal for about $3,000, and spent it on drugs and alcohol.
His thoughts turned to suicide. One attempted involved vodka and bottle of Xanax.
"I didn't want to wake up, and I'd had that feeling for some time," he said. "I hoped God would take me, because my wife and kids would be better off without me."
He added, "I was thinking of ways to off myself."
His journey of recovery, now at 22 months, brought him to University of Jamestown, where he is the men's volleyball team coach.
Awards were also given to community members for their outstanding efforts.
Bismarck District Court Judge David Reich was given the Phoenix Award for Running Against Destructive Decisions, a program he started five years ago.
"I'm so proud of the runners that run with us," Reich said. "We have a saying. The miracle isn't that I finished. It's that I had the courage to start."
Such grassroots programs are needed, Reich said.
"One in seven people in North Dakota are affected with drug or alcohol addiction. There are 700,000 people in this state," he said. "And addiction directly affects another four people, so over half the people in our state are directly affected by addiction."
State Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (D-46, Fargo) was awarded for her work in promoting legislation that provides second chance opportunities for people coming out of the criminal justice system.
Teliea Baker, peer support specialist and The Door director, was recognized for her work in New Town using her experiences with addiction to empower others toward recovery.
Michael Dulitz, Grand Forks Public Health Opioid Response Project coordinator, was awarded for his innovative work in implementing programs, for increasing access to treatment and peer support, and changing the conversation around the disease of addiction.
The day's final speaker, Leander "Russ" McDonald, United Tribes Technical College president, has been in recovery for 25 years.
While in the U.S. Army, serving abroad, McDonald said he tried nearly every drug except for heroin. He favored marijuana and hashish, and was drinking heavily.
Returning home, the party, as he called it, continued.
"I would quit drinking and smoke weed until I thought beer would go good with the high and I'd end up drunk again," he said. "I would drink in the morning to knock off the shakes."
Treatment was difficult, especially in dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Nothing seemed to work. His longest stretch was 8 months before "falling off" again.
"I decided I'm unable to quit and I'm just stuck this way," McDonald said. "I truthfully tried my best, but eventually I would feel miserable."
McDonald found strength in his religious beliefs and those offering their support.
"God works with us where we are in our sobriety," he said. "I believe God has put the people I needed in place to get me where I was going."
Most important for his recovery, McDonald said, is sharing his story with others.
"This is a spiritual walk. Drug addiction doesn't care about the color of your skin or your tax bracket," he said. "We're here to share our story with that one person in the audience who needs to hear that story."