Apryl journeys into Pathways and stays
Hampshire County Pathways, the addiction recovery program that’s moving so it can expand, is a lifeline for some victims of the opioid epidemic that has ravaged West Virginia.
Just ask Apryl Dawson. She grabbed that lifeline 3 years ago and now she’s helping orchestrate the program and the move.
“It was exactly where I needed to be,” the 1994 Hampshire grad said. “It’s not everyone’s story, but it’s definitely mine.”
Dawson thought she hit rock bottom when she went back to jail in Winchester in 2017 after being busted for drugs. She was staying in a hotel there with her children.
But she had further to sink.
“Having my children taken was my rock bottom,” she says now.
She was not only charged with possession, but also child neglect and endangerment.
During her 7 months behind bars her children were taken for adoption by another family. Dawson couldn’t have any contact with them until she left jail and finished probation this April.
Now, she says, she’s rebuilding a healthy relationship with the kids, who, she says, are in a good place.
“It saved my life at the same time it saved theirs,” she said.
Once released from jail, Dawson arranged for her probation to be supervised here rather than Virginia and started attending meetings at Pathways.
And she found work — as a sealcoater.
“Sealcoating is only seasonal,” she noted. One day near the end of the season, she stopped by Pathways to say hi, only to be offered a job.
So she went to work in Pathways’ Lighthouse program, which provides residential placement for 8 women in recovery. Along with her Lighthouse work, Dawson also found time to attend 8 to 10 meetings a week “downstairs.”
That’s where Pathways hold sessions for NA and AA, peer counseling, free lunch, open computers, a dress-for-success clothing closet.
After a couple of years, Pathways sent her downstairs and up a notch as program director overseeing the different aspects.
Monday, she was at 134 W. Sioux Lane amid the drywall dust and paint helping reorganize the downstairs of the building that Pathways will rent as of Oct. 1.
“We’re trying to get everything done,” she said, “to open it up and make sure it’s perfect.”
Dawson wants to put as much into helping others with recovery as she has gotten herself.
“Working in the recovery field and being able to give back keeps me sober, keeps me clean,” she says.
She had gotten clean before, but it never stuck. Drugs became part of Dawson’s life when she was 20 or 21, she says.
Her drug of choice? “Heroin, opiates. The sad thing is I really didn’t discriminate.”
Clean now for 3 years and 3 months, battling heroin is a focus for her life and Pathways.
Sadly, it’s a growth business. After the move, Lighthouse can expand from 8 beds to 12. They’re needed, she says, because “the epidemic is as bad as it is.”
So Pathways grows in the number of people visiting the drop-in center and attending meetings. That makes the program’s reach “a beautiful thing because it’s a terrible epidemic and so many lives are being lost.”
She calls her life an open book, particularly to Pathways’ clients.
“In order for me to help people they need to understand this is what I’ve been through,” she explains.
“Once you choose recovery, things do get better.”