'It's raw, man'

Turning Point presents 'A Beautiful Journey' storytelling event

BRATTLEBORO — Turning Point of Windham County will host “A Beautiful Journey,” an annual storytelling event to showcase the journeys of people who've lived with substance-use disorder and how they relate to the healing and transformative process of recovery.

The event will be livestreamed on Turning Point's Facebook page,, on Wednesday, March 31, at 7 p.m. A link to view the recording will subsequently be available there.

“We all have our own stories about our lives, some of which we like to share and others that we prefer to keep to ourselves,” event organizers said in a news release. “For people in recovery, those stories involve the struggle with addiction and how it harmed their life, interrupting their ability to thrive. These stories can be intense, even terrifying. But time and time again, when these stories are spoken out loud and shared with others, people are transformed. Hope emerges.”

Much has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic started one year ago - the disappointment and frustration of losing habits and traditions, getting together with friends and family, and suffering financial stability. Some have experienced the grief of losing someone to COVID-19.

However, event organizers say that the pandemic has not taken away the power of storytelling,

“Stories have been a favorite pastime for humans since our beginnings. They take our minds off the pressure and stress of our lives. They pass down essential information, meaning, and history through generations. They provide entertainment, teach us life lessons, and allow us to see things from another's point of view. Storytelling is universal and helps us understand and navigate our lives.”

They say storytelling helps maintain the connection and sense of community that are so key to the recovery process. The isolation many have experienced over the past year proved especially challenging and painful for people with substance use in their past or present. Virtual groups and phone supports helped many, but often, people lacked devices or service to participate.

The pandemic has overshadowed a health emergency that has not gone away. Opioid overdoses are rising in Vermont, and in the United States as a whole, and alcohol use has increased dramatically. As a result, people in recovery from addiction need more support than ever.

Turning Point says it created “A Beautiful Journey” so that these stories can be heard by the community, an audience of people who are either directly or indirectly impacted by substance use.

“A Beautiful Journey showcases these stories: the painful aspects of living life shackled by addiction and the overwhelming shame that keeps people from seeking help,” the organizers say. “Most of all, the storytellers share how they found their own path to wellness or recovery and the hope for a life they despaired of ever having. They share how they've developed resilience and gratitude, how they've become beacons of hope for others.”

J.R. Layne, a participant in the inaugural event in 2019, shared about his experience as a storyteller.

“What I found was, after I got up and told my story to an audience of maybe, I don't know, 75 to 100 people, something like that - it was so cathartic. It was the beginning of change, for me, probably the most significant step that I took in my early recovery. And, you know, that allowed me to just really look into myself - look within myself and find the truth of my story.”

The process of crafting their story also provides growth and healing.

“That process [of writing and sharing my own story] is a raw process,” said Laine, who has since become a recovery coach who uses his experience to help others gain freedom from addiction. “It's raw, man; it pretty much splays your emotional body open and just exposes it to the world. And I was carrying a lot of anger and a lot of hurt and a lot of pain.”

For the audience, people still struggling with addiction get reassurance that they are not alone in their experience and a piece of hope for their own recovery. For those who don't have experience with addiction, “A Beautiful Journey” naturally confronts the discrimination that surrounds addiction.

The storytellers each work alongside a writing coach, and they often develop a special bond that, for some, lasts long beyond the event. Layne said that he was initially resistant to the idea of working with a coach, but he was paired with a woman named Sue who made all the difference.

“She fortunately had so much patience with me. She treated me almost as if I was her son. That's how gentle and loving she was. And to this day, we're friends.”

In the end, organizers say, “everyone benefits, and these benefits reverberate through the community.”

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