Recovery Centers of America hosted an opioid awareness forum.

Recovery Centers of America at Bracebridge Hall hosted a forum where three people shared their stories about opioid addiction and recovery March 5 at Volunteer Hose Company in Middletown.

Former Middletown resident Justin Lockhard, poet Michael Lee and actor Brian Gallagher spoke about how they became addicted to opioids and how their passions helped them get clean.

Domenica Personti, former RCA chief executive officer, said people don’t get to hear enough stories that celebrate people who are clean. She hoped the attendees — many who are also in recovery — would feel inspired by the journeys of these three men. 

Lockhard, an Appoquinimink High School graduate, said he was a student who was involved in sports and had good grades, but he would use these to fill a void in his life. 

He said an injury during his senior season left him with few options for college, so he ended up at Delaware Technical Community College. Eventually, he was introduced to prescription opiates to fill the same void in his life.

“I found something that made me feel whole,” he said. “It felt like there was nothing else to worry about in the world.”

After being on probation and living in halfway houses, he found a recovery group that taught him how to manage his problem. He used his past of sports and school to relate to the process.

“You didn’t learn how to hit a curveball without a coach, you didn’t learn how to do algebra without a teacher and you’re not going to learn how to get clean without a sponsor,” he said.

Lee, nationally known poet and author, said his best friend was murdered when he was 13 years old. The trauma from that he considers the root of his addiction.

He became obsessed with writing, but mostly exercising.

“I would wake up at 6 a.m. and run sprints in the yard until I threw up. I would skip lunch to lift weights,” Lee said.

By the time he was 15 years old, physical injuries required him to take opiates. He would take them to sleep at night, which led to addiction.

While he was trying to get clean, Lee said the one he felt like he didn’t lose during his struggles with opioids was his writing.

“I gave up on everything else, but I always had poetry,” he said. 

Now, Lee uses poetry to tell his story. 

“The power of being able to tell your own story can’t be understated,” he said.

Lee shared a few of poems with the attendees.

Gallagher, who is best known for his roles in “The Upside” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” said he started acting because of his time in rehab at 18 years old.

He said the center he stayed at played the same movie on loop, which was Michael Keaton’s “Clean and Sober.”

“There was something powerful about seeing that movie over and over again,” he said. “We saw one of us portrayed in the movie and that has carried forward.”

It was this experience that influenced him to make movies that matter.

Gallagher made 15 short films in different genres about addiction.

“We wanted to hit addiction from every angle,” he said. 

His goal was to destigmatize conversations around the national crisis.

“If we can’t talk about it, we can’t heal,” Gallagher said.