Safford man works to treat Valley’s drug problem

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SAFFORD — What awaits those who manage, through treatment, to break the “horrible cycle” of addiction to heroin or other narcotics? According to Chris Taylor, executive director of Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery & Consulting, they can still face a hard road.

Chris Taylor

Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery & Consulting executive director Chris Taylor

“Addicts get to the point where they’re clean and sober and want to have a better life. They come back here (from out-of-town drug rehabilitation facilities) and have no transition,” Taylor said. “They’re just directly back into society and most of them fail because they don’t have that halfway point. Other cities that have the drug problem we have, have many options for people; we have almost zero.”

Taylor hopes to change that by opening a sober living facility in Safford.

“It’s a very key part of anybody’s recovery, or lack of recovery; that midway point, to be able to put into practice things they’ve learned,” he said.

A combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, he has firsthand experience with the struggle against addiction.

“Due to a back injury that I suffered in combat, I was prescribed Oxycodone for the pain. I began to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress and rather than seeking help immediately I chose poorly to self-medicate my emotional pain with the Oxycodone.”

Taylor finally sought help, successfully undergoing treatment in Phoenix. He has been “free from the bondage of the evil disease of addiction” for more than three years, and said drug dependency is a type of illness.

“Addiction is a disease . . . characterized by accelerating compulsive drug use despite worsening personal, physical, social and psychological consequences. Failing to stop isn’t driven by a mere lack of willpower,” he said.

He believes the growing problem must be tackled on more than one level.

“It is unacceptable to think that law enforcement strategies alone are the answer to our drug problem. In fact it is but a fraction of what should be an overall comprehensive strategy to curb drug addiction and bring healing to our community. We need to be there for those people that are struggling instead of continuing to beat them down. I think we have an obligation to reach a hand out; not a free handout but a helping hand up to get them the help that they need. Once someone does achieve meaningful long-term sobriety we must be willing to truly give him or her another chance at life,” he said.

“The primary mission of Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery & Consulting is to provide low cost, high quality addiction recovery options in the Gila Valley. By opening these facilities we will be providing a much-needed service that will better the community. The goal is to get them self-sufficient so they can become contributing members of society again or for the first time.”

His first attempt to establish a sober living facility ran up against zoning and economic issues. Open from Oct. 2014 until this February, the house was limited to five residents; Taylor’s goal was to house 10.

“The problem they had was that it was in a single-family residential zone, but that’s where all these types of houses are in other cities,” Taylor said. “It’s just the steps that I needed to take to get a zoning permission (obtaining a conditional use permit), I just wasn’t ready to do that yet.”

Taylor said, and Safford Planning & Community Development Director Dustin Welker confirmed, no complaints were made against the facility. Its closure, according to Taylor, was due to economic issues. With only five residents, expenses proved too great to continue operating. If it had housed eight to 10, he said, it “would have been fine and perfect.”

The setback did not discourage Taylor, who is looking into options for another facility.

“I’ve been doing some behind the scenes things and kind of just getting it ready to where we can set something up like that and be more successful. I look at this experience as a sort of pilot program that had much success and some failure. What certainly resulted were many lessons learned to aid me in future endeavors with Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery,” he said.

Taylor had this message of encouragement for anyone battling addiction: “It’s OK to ask for help and, if you don’t know how to go about that, simply come to me and I can do that for you and help at no charge.”

Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery & Consulting can be reached at 928-322-9787.

This is the third in a multipart series on heroin in the Gila Valley. See Part 4 in the Aug. 12 edition of Eastern Arizona Courier.

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