In the fall of 2018, Dave and Karen Packhem learned of their adult son’s alcohol use disorder. Initially, they did not understand the disease model of addiction. They immediately began reading everything they could about addiction and recovery. With a basic understanding of the science behind the disease, and a growing appreciation for the recovery community in Portland, Maine, they were motivated to share what they learned.
Reducing stigma associated with substance use disorder (SUD) was a primary objective. While all substance use begins as a voluntary act, for many people the disease process is unmistakable and clearly evident on brain scans. If more people are educated about addiction, perhaps those suffering with this disease will be more willing to seek recovery. Consequently, sharing recovery resource information is vital, because the window of opportunity for initial stages of healing can be very brief. The diseased brain overrides critical thinking.
After meeting with former Scarborough Police Chief and longtime friend, Robbie Moulton, Dave began a quest to create a documentary that could be used in classrooms to educate students, and to serve as a catalyst for discussion about the use of chemicals and the potential, unforeseen consequences. Research shows delayed first use is associated with reduced risk of chemical dependency. Ninety percent of all people suffering from SUD began using in their teens.
In the summer of 2020, Dave was introduced to Reggie Groff of Groff Video. He then met journalist Tory Ryden and editor Andrew Reed. These three professionals agreed to join the team and the project was under way.
Recognizing the importance of gaining the perspective of young people, Dave reached out to local high school administrators to solicit the involvement of students. The non-profit SEED (Students Empowered to End Dependency) was created in 2020. Initially, five schools (this number continues to grow) agreed to participate. Students have helped with interviewing, filming, editing, website creation, transcription, and social media updates. Students have said that the experience of meeting and working with people in recovery makes SUD more relatable. In 2021, SEED hired recent Gorham HS grad, Kathryn Morin, who contributes tremendous energy and a youthful perspective.
Notwithstanding the efforts of all those mentioned above, the real spirit for the project comes from the recovery community. Dave first met with Justin Reid, who owns a sober house and is the statewide Recovery Coach Coordinator for Portland Recovery Community Center. Justin believed in the project and told his story without reservation. Many other brave souls came forward, including Dave and Karen’s son, Chris. It is with great admiration that the entire SEED team gives thanks to these truly inspiring Voices of Hope.
Season 1 of Voices of Hope…The Rugged Road to Recovery was completed in 2021. Twelve 30-minute episodes were shown on Maine stations WAGM-TV, WGME CBS 13 and WABI TV5. Edited versions of some of the episodes are currently being used as educational videos in classrooms and recovery treatment centers.
Season 2 of Voices of Hope…The Rugged Road to Recovery, consisting of six 1-hour episodes, aired on Maine Public TV in the Spring of 2022. They began re-airing in January, 2023, and will be followed by new episodes.
Recently, SEED hosted a panel discussion about the dangers of high-potency cannabis at Yarmouth High School. Similar events will take place in Scarborough, Sanford, Rumford, Brunswick, and Windham in 2023.