Former addict aims to bring recovery house to Ocean City
In the living room of his apartment in midtown Ocean City, Zach Klina who is a bearded and soft-spoken man. He describes his struggle with heroin addiction.
“Whatever responsibility I had went out the window when I was high,” Klina said. “It made me OK with myself.”
Now 26 and sober, Klina aims to bring a recovery house to West Ocean City — the first in Worcester County.
The proposed facility dubbed “New Beginnings” on Klina’s GoFundMe page. They would offer addicts a sober living area, complete with drug tests, access to treatment. The facility what Klina deemed the most crucial aspect, solidarity through living with fellow recovering addicts.
Klina regaled his life path and his treacherous road down the path of addiction from beginning in his childhood. He lived as a child in a loving and caring home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Klina describes himself as a shy and introspective youth. He camouflaged himself into different social scenes. He found solace in his first sip of alcohol at the age of 12.
“It was like, with that first drink, all of that anxiousness went away,” Klina said. “I knew this was the answer.”
From there Klina moved his way up the intoxicant ladder. He started from dabbling in prescription pills at the age of 16 to finding heroin at the age of 17. From there, Klina said heroin became the only priority in his life. He inevitably dropped out of Delaware County Community College and losing every job he started.
A lack of options
Dr. Deni Carise is chief clinical officer for Recovery Centers of America. He said that the benefit of the recovery house is the network of solidarity that exists within them.
“They say it takes 90 days to break a habit. There’s no habit with a greater conflict in the brain than with addiction,” Carise said. “With a place like a recovery house or sober living, where you’re there everyday. Everyone in the house is committed to staying sober and helping each other stay sober. You’ve greatly increased the chances of them being OK.”
Recovery houses, as well as being a means for assisting addicts in recovery to better shake their addiction, double as a way to reintroduce addicts to real life, and to provide them the tools to function sober in the world.
Jay Youtz, an interventionist for Recovery Centers of America, who has owned several recovery houses in the past, echoed Carise’s sentiments, saying that the camaraderie found in recovery houses and treatment centers is invaluable for helping reintroduce addicts into the real world.
“For so many addicts or alcoholics, they just aren’t equipped to handle life on life’s terms,” Youtz said. “Having that network of people who are going through the same thing can be very helpful, where they can come home and say ‘today I felt like using’ and having someone there to talk about it.”
While recovery houses are common in Philadelphia and other larger cities, Worcester County does not have any such facilities, despite a growing heroin problem.
Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
According to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, deaths by heroin overdose have risen dramatically since 2007. Between 2007 and 2012, overdose deaths numbered between one and two annually. In 2013, that number rose to four, then six in 2014, then 11 in 2015. For instance, In the first six months of 2016, there were seven reported heroin deaths.
Heidi McNeely, of the activist group Worcester County Warriors Against Opiate Addiction, said that the need for some sort of treatment facility is dire for the county.
“Additionally, I’m on the side of whatever we can do to help, we need to do,” McNeely said. “But the problem isn’t just that it’s hard to find help, it’s that when people want to help, they often don’t know what to do.”
Recovery House experience
Klina relocated to Ocean City along with his parents after spending a year in the Levittown facility, where he eventually began to manage the building, and the lack of resources available in Worcester County came as a shock.
“In Philadelphia, there’s at least one on just about every block,” Klina said.
While Wicomico County hosts several recovery and halfway houses, including Second Wind in Salisbury, Klina said the availability of treatment is scarce. This often forces addicts to journey abroad to receive the treatment they need.
“I had a friend stay with me after getting out of jail to try and get clean,” Klina said. “Further more every time he tried to get into a place, he’d be put on a waiting list or be told they were full. It got to the point where he had to travel to Wilmington to receive treatment.”
While in its infancy, with just over $500 in donations and no official location picked, Klina hopes his recovery house will bring a much needed addition to Ocean City.
“West Ocean City itself is such a perfect place for this,” Klina said. “There’s jobs, there’s a sense of community and the town itself, with the ocean and everything, is therapeutic in and of itself.”
In the community
For neighbors of the recovery house, in Carise’s experience, recovery houses can offer a valid benefit to people in the community, she said.
“The goal, again, is to get people in recovery active and to take part in the world around them,” Carise said. “We’ve had neighbors of a recovery house that didn’t even own a lawnmower anymore because our residents would be there every week to do it.”
Mathias said he hopes that the community, which could prove to be skeptical, would learn to embrace the recovery house.
“At least I just have to be realistic, and I know that there have been outcries in the past for things of all sorts of different natures,” Mathias said. “What I hope is that he does what needs to be done, and if he does, I am here to offer my full support.”
As the holiday season hits full swing, Klina said the need for a recovery house and the network that it could offer is greater than ever, as addicts wallow in guilt and shame.
“The holiday season is always hard for an addict,” Klina said. “Certainly, There’s so much self-loathing and guilt, and this just pushes you to use more.”
Klina said that, when in the throes of addiction, the holidays were just another gateway to getting high.
Worcester Warriors fighting back against opioid epidemic
“As a matter of fact, When I was present, I wasn’t really present,” Klina said. “I’d end up just pawning my gifts. Your family becomes just people to screw over. Because they probably won’t call the cops on you. In other words, Being an addict, it’s all just self-centered.”
Despite the benefits of a recovery house, there is no one size fits all solution. Where some addicts, such as Klina, have found their road to sobriety through like-minded friends and 12 step programs. Others find theirs through chemical treatment, such as methadone or Suboxone.
Yet, Klina believes that if recovery houses and their amenities saved him, they can save others from a lifestyle he sees as nothing but a pit of despair.
“If I’m here. I’m able to go back to a life with a job and responsibilities. This can help other people too,” Klina said. “I’m just grateful to be here. I spend the holidays with my family and the people I care about, and not only to receive gifts. But I have something to give.”