Calendar showcases people who have overcome addiction

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published February 6, 2018

METRO DETROIT — Henry Ford Macomb Hospital recently partnered with CARE of Southeastern Michigan and Project Vox to produce the 2018 Faces of Recovery calendar, celebrating those who have maintained long-term sobriety from drug and alcohol addiction.

The first calendar debuted in 2007, spotlighting residents around metro Detroit who offer hope and encouragement to those who are currently battling addiction. Approximately 7,500 copies of the calendar are distributed locally. The hospital also makes copies available for its behavioral health patients.

Project Vox, a recovery advocacy group, is an entity of CARE. In Latin, vox means “voice,” which program coordinator Mark Kilgore said lends itself to the mission of the group: being a recovery community organization that works with policymakers to end discriminatory practices against addicts; celebrating sober-friendly events for people in recovery, be it “Sober Bowl” parties or cruises on the Detroit River; and getting out in the community and showing people the true meaning of recovery.

As Kilgore noted with the opioid epidemic, the focus tends to be on the death counts and not always on those who actually beat their addictions.

“The premise is to get out in the community so people will see, that person looks just like me,” Kilgore said. “It’s to reduce the stigma. … You’ll find out that people in recovery have a special unspoken bond. You just get that sense. I can’t explain it; we’re like one big family.”

Individuals in this year’s calendar, like Marty Kraut, 55, of Eastpointe, and Natalie Urso, 36, of Madison Heights, are part of that group.

Kraut’s ex-wife was actually in the calendar before him. He has been in long-term recovery since 1991, while his ex-wife has been in recovery since 1996.

“I think it’s important because of coming out and letting people know that hey, I had a problem and I’m not like that anymore and I have nothing to be ashamed of,” Kraut said.

He said he grew up with family members who used alcohol and drugs, making the substances accessible at home. Kraut began smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol in high school, and then he moved on to cocaine and mescaline. 

“I really took a turn for the worst and was unable to work,” he said. “It just spiraled downhill. I didn’t want to be around my family and became a slave to do drugs all the time.”

After living a life of shame and guilt, of remorse and regret, he was tired of living the way he was — robbing, cheating, stealing and taking advantage of those closest to him. His brother and sister-in-law helped him get treatment. He never relapsed once.

Urso knew of the calendar as well, through a friend who was featured in it a few years ago. When asked if she wanted to participate, it was an easy choice.

“I’m pretty vocal and open about my recovery,” Urso said. “I want people to know about my history with drug abuse because I want them to know it’s not a death sentence. … That doesn’t have to be the rest of your life.”

She became enveloped in substance abuse at 16. She was spending time with older kids, and broke up with her boyfriend. Her addiction unraveled.

“A big thing was that things got so out of control,” she said. “It pretty much came down to, I was going to die doing this or I was going to get my (stuff) together for my kids, who were at a distance and shielded and watching.”

She went to a methadone clinic, staying on a low dose from the beginning. Like Kraut, she never relapsed. As she explained, “When I was done, I was done.” She wishes more addicts realized that their lives matter, and that they need to take control.

“It’s weird to me, and people don’t understand it: I don’t have things that trigger me,” she said. “It’s literally like thinking about a different person it happened to. … It boils down to the day you decide your life means more to you.”

Kraut wanted others to see that he’s not ashamed of the way he used to live. Now, he’s an active member of society and his family, owning his own construction business and putting a smile on his customers’ faces with the work he does. He plays golf and volleyball, attends concerts, does photography and is an avid bird watcher.

While embracing positivity, he aims to help others who can’t overcome their addictions. It’s why he volunteers at the Macomb County Jail.

To request a free copy of the calendar, call (586) 541-2273.